The Gospel of Pseudo‐Matthew
J. K. Elliott
This work used to be known as the Liber de Infantia (sc. of both Mary and Jesus), or the Historia de Nativitate Mariae et de Infantia Salvatoris. It was very influential in the Middle Ages and was the main vehicle for popularizing the Protevangelium Jacobi (= PJ) and the Infancy Gospel of Thomas. Much medieval art is indecipherable without reference to books such as Pseudo‐Matthew. 1 See, e.g. the plates in H. Daniel‐Rops, Les Évangiles de la Vierge (Paris, 1948), and in de Santos Otero, Appendix. Cf. also Jacqueline Lafontaine‐Dosogne, Iconographie de l'enfance de la Vierge dans l'Empire byzantin et en Occident, 2 vols. (Brussels, 1964–5, 21992) (= Académie Royale de Belgique. Classe des Beaux Arts, Mémoires, 2nd series, ii, fascicles 3, 3b).
Pseudo‐Matthew 1–17 is based on PJ, and 26–34, 37–9, and 41 on Infancy Thomas. 2 P. Peeters, Évangiles apocryphes, ii. L’Évangile de l'enfance (Paris, 1914), 1 f. (= H. Hammer and P. Lejay (eds.), Textes et documents 18), discusses the literary and historical relationship of the later infancy gospels to their sources. For this reason, only extracts are translated here, namely the fictitious letters, 13–14, and the unique material (18–25, 35–6, 40, 42), preceded by a summary of the whole.
One of the reasons for the absence of extant manuscripts in Latin of the Protevangelium of James may be that the contents of PJ in Latin are to be found in Pseudo‐Matthew, and in the Gospel of the Birth of Mary. The latter is derived from Pseudo‐Matthew: the interrelationship of the two has been investigated by Amann (below, under ‘Modern Translations, French’). (The citation of the contents of PJ as known to the Latin Fathers through the secondary works is set out by him too.) Conversely Pseudo‐Matthew as such seems not to have been known in the East, or in the Eastern versions.
As far as detailed differences between Pseudo‐Matthew and PJ are concerned, one may note the following: Anna's father, Achar, is mentioned only in Pseudo‐Matthew; in Pseudo‐Matthew Abiathar is high‐priest when Mary is espoused to Joseph, in PJ it is Zacharias; Pseudo‐Matthew embellishes PJ by including the circumcision and purification. Pseudo‐Matthew does not include the catalepsy of nature, or John the Baptist, or Zacharias, absences which are possibly relevant in discussing the original form of PJ.
Links between the Gospel of the Birth of Mary and Pseudo‐Matthew are strong. In both Mary at three years of age mounts the fifteen steps of the Temple (Pseudo‐Matthew 4, Birth of Mary 6), but there are occasional differences. For instance in the Birth of Mary 8 Mary returns to her parents’ home in Galilee after her espousal, whereas in Pseudo‐Matthew (and PJ) the parents are not mentioned again after Mary is left by them in the care of the Temple. The similarities and differences to be found, not only in these respects, but in all the forms in which the birth and infancy narratives are retailed, are characteristic of the way in which these narratives were subject to embellishment and alteration.
Even though much in Pseudo‐Matthew has been derived from PJ and Infancy Thomas there are significant changes. Sometimes the sections of Pseudo‐Matthew dependent on Infancy Thomas have a better text than is found in existing manuscripts of Infancy Thomas itself. At other times Pseudo‐Matthew amplifies the material found in Infancy Thomas or alters it (sometimes to make Jesus less malevolent). Among the new details to be found in Pseudo‐Matthew is that Joseph not only had children from his earlier marriage, but had grandchildren older than Mary (Pseudo‐Matthew 8). Pseudo‐Matthew 14 has an ox and an ass present at the birth of Jesus in fulfilment of Isaiah 1: 3 .
The motive for writing Pseudo‐Matthew seems to have been to further the veneration of Mary. To this end the writer attempted to combine two popular existing compilations with other miraculous material. Much of the matter in Pseudo‐Matthew not derived from PJ and Thomas has affinities with the Arabic Infancy Narrative. Those who wish to study the textual tradition of Infancy Thomas (and indeed of PJ) need to take into account the use made of these sources in the secondary literature (i.e. Pseudo‐Matthew, the Gospel of the Birth of Mary, the Arabic and Armenian infancy stories, and other Latin infancy gospels).
In the opinion of Gijsel the episodes of the Infantia Salvatoris (based on the Latin of Infancy Thomas) found in chs. 25–42 do not belong to Pseudo‐Matthew: Tischendorf was mistaken to join these as a ‘Pars Altera’ to his edition of Pseudo‐Matthew. These chapters are absent in most manuscripts and are not included in Thilo's edition of Pseudo‐Matthew.
By way of introducing the book under good auspices the compiler has provided it with credentials in the form of pretended letters: (a) from two bishops, Cromatius and Heliodorus, to Jerome; (b) from Jerome to Cromatius and Heliodorus. In some manuscripts these letters are to be found prefacing the Gospel of the Birth of Mary, 3 The Latin Infancy Gospel, Arundel 404 (q.v.), also has the letters. In some manuscripts of the Gospel of the Birth of Mary there is a further letter ostensibly from Jerome to the bishops. but references in them to the infancy of Christ make it more likely that they belong to Pseudo‐Matthew, seeing that the Gospel of the Birth of Mary stops short of Jesus' nativity. In so far as it was due to Jerome's disapproval of the teaching of Joseph's first marriage that PJ stood condemned in the West it is somewhat ironic that Pseudo‐Matthew, which also preserves this teaching, was published with prefaces associated with Jerome's name. Their presence in some manuscripts of the Gospel of the Birth of Mary may be significant for the reason that in that gospel at least the offending teaching about Joseph's first marriage is not mentioned. It was the reference to Matthew in letter (a) that encouraged Tischendorf to name this apocryphal work ‘Pseudo‐Matthew’, following the title in one of his manuscripts (although it is to be noted that at least two other manuscripts have the name of James in the title).
The work seems to have been compiled in Latin, possibly in the eighth or ninth century, although the oldest manuscript extant is of the eleventh century. Hrsovit of Gandersheim made use of Pseudo‐Matthew in the tenth‐century Historia Nativitatis laudabilisque conversationis intactae Dei Genitricis quam scriptam reperi sub nomine sancti Jacobi fratris Domini: she therefore seems to have known the work by the title that attributes authorship to James. 4 But see J. Gijsel, ‘Zu welcher Textfamilie des Pseudo‐Matthäus gehört die Quelle von Hrotsvits Maria?’, Classica et Mediaevalia 32 (1979–80), 279–88.
In the Gelasian Decree, no. 8 refers to Evangelia nomine Jacobi minoris, which Amann (p. 104) identifies with PJ, but de Strycker (La Forme la plus ancienne . . . , p. 43 n. 1) raises the possibility that this could be Pseudo‐Matthew. If so, then Pseudo‐Matthew must have been composed before the compilation of the Decree, and this would give it a date prior to the sixth century. No. 15 in the Decree is the Liber de Infantia Salvatoris et de Maria vel obstetrice. Amann (p. 104) takes this to be the source of Pseudo‐Matthew. James agrees (p. 22) (although he suggests PJ as an alternative for no. 15), and gives Pseudo‐Matthew for no. 16 (Liber de Infantia Salvatoris). Amann (p. 104) takes no. 16 to be the Arabic Infancy Gospel!
The first printed edition was Thilo's, based on a fourteenth‐century manuscript (Paris 5559). This text ends with the Holy Family reaching Egypt. He published this under the title Historia de Nativitate Mariae et Infantia Salvatoris. 5 Cf. also O. Schade, Liber de Infantia Mariae et Christi Salvatoris (Halle, 1869), which seems to follow Paris 5559, although it is based on a Stuttgart manuscript (cited by Michel, i, p. xx). Tischendorf used Schade's Stuttgart manuscript for his second edition. Thilo was also aware of another Paris manuscript (1652) that contained the same material as 5559 but concluded with miracles taken from Infancy Thomas, i.e. Pseudo‐Matthew 25–42 (this second part is entitled De Miraculis Infantiae Domini Jesu Christi).
Tischendorf's text was based principally on Vatican 4578 of the fourteenth century 6 This manuscript begins with the words ‘Incipit Liber de Ortu Beatae Mariae et Infantia Salvatoris a beato Matthaeo evangelista hebraice scriptus et a beato Hieronymo presbytero in latinum translatus’. and on three other manuscripts, two of the fourteenth century (including Paris 5559) and one of the fifteenth (Paris 1652), which means he gives the full text and thus from ch. 25 is the first editor. Amann (p. 73) refers to other manuscripts of Pseudo‐Matthew in Oxford, Cambridge, and Florence that have not been edited. There is apparently much textual variation between them all. Gijsel knows of over 180 Latin manuscripts which he has attempted to divide into different families.
My extracts are translated from Tischendorf.
Jones, ii, 101–27.
Thilo, pp. cv–cxvii, 339–400.
Giles, i. 66–89.
Tischendorf, EA, pp. xxii–xxxi, 51–112.
J. Gijsel, Libri de Nativitate Mariae (Turnhout, 1997) (= CCSA 9).
Hone, 17–24 (first part).
James, 70–9 (summary).
Hennecke3, i. 410–13 (chs. 14, 18–24).
Hennecke5, i. 462–6 (chs. 14, 18–24).
Migne, Dictionnaire, i, cols. 1059–88.
E. Amann, Le Protévangile de Jacques et ses remaniements latins (Paris, 1910), 272–339 (with Latin text, but translation only of the chapters corresponding to PJ, i.e. 1. 1–17. 2) (= Les apocryphes du Nouveau Testament ed. J. Bousquet and E. Amann).
Michel, i. 54–158.
Amiot, 65–79 (selection).
H. Daniel‐Rops, Les Évangiles de la Vierge (Paris, 1948), 149–63 (chs. 3, 4, 8, 11, 14, 18–24). (Eng. trans. The Book of Mary (New York, 1960)).
E. Bock, Die Kindheit Jesu: Zwei apokryphe Evangelien (Munich, 1924) (= Christus aller Erde 14–15). [The other of the two gospels is the Arabic Infancy Gospel, below.]
Hennecke3, i. 306–9 (O. Cullmann) (chs. 14, 18–24).
Hennecke5, i. 367–369 (O. Cullmann) (chs. 14, 18–24).
E. Pistelli, Il Protevangelo di Jacopo (Lanciano, 1919), Appendix.
Bonaccorsi, i. 152–231 (with Latin text).
Erbetta i. 2, 44–70.
Moraldi, i. 195–239.
González‐Blanco, i. 362–414.
de Santos Otero, 177–242 (with Latin text).
J. Gijsel, Die unmittelbare Textüberlieferung des sogennanten Pseudo‐Matthäus (Brussels, 1981) (= Verhandelingen van der Koninklijke Academie voor Wetenschappen Letteren en Schone Kunsten van België. Klasse der Letteren 96).
G. Philippart, ‘Le Pseudo‐Matthieu au risque de la critique textuelle’, Scriptorium 38 (1984), 121–31.
1. In those days there was a man in Jerusalem, Joachim by name, of the tribe of Juda.
His whole care was his flocks. He offered double offerings. He divided his substance into three parts, one for the poor, one for the pious, the third for himself. God increased his wealth. This charity he had practised since he was fifteen years old. At twenty he married Anna, daughter of Ysachar of his own tribe; they lived twenty years childless.
2. Ruben rejects his offering. He goes to the mountains to his flocks for five months.
Anna has no news of him. She complains to God.
She sees a sparrow's nest, and laments her childlessness, and vows if she has a child to dedicate it in the temple. An angel comes and promises her a daughter. In fear and sorrow she throws herself on her bed for a whole day and night. She reproaches her maid (not named) for not coming to her. The maid answers her sharply and she weeps yet more.
3. A youth—an angel—comes to Joachim in the wilderness and promises him a daughter and predicts her glory. Joachim makes an offering: is urged by his servants to return. The angel comes again in a vision. They set off and journey thirty days.
The angel comes to Anna and bids her meet Joachim at the Golden Gate of the Temple, which she does.
4. Mary is born. At three years old she is taken to the temple and walks up fifteen steps.
5. Anna's thanksgiving.
6. Mary's beauty and chastity and wisdom and devoutness described at length. She is fed daily by angels.
7. Abiathar the priest offers many gifts that Mary may marry his son. She refuses, saying that she has vowed perpetual virginity.
8. When she was fourteen, a council was held and Israel was summoned to the temple on the third day. The high priest addressed them and said that since Solomon's time there had always been noble virgins brought up in the temple and married when they were of age. But Mary had vowed virginity and it must be ascertained who should take charge of her. Those who had no wives were to bring rods. There was no sign, so Abiathar went in and prayed, and an angel pointed out that one very small rod had not been returned to its owner. This was Joseph's. The dove appeared. Joseph resisted, but was overcome: he stipulated that some virgins should accompany Mary. Rebecca, Sephora, Susanna, Abigea, and Zahel were chosen. They cast lots for the colours of the veil. Mary had the purple: the others were jealous and called her in sport ‘Regina virginum’. An angel rebuked them and said it was a true prophecy. They were abashed and asked Mary to pray for them.
9. Mary at the fountain addressed by an angel. On the next day as she wove he appeared again and completed the Annunciation.
10. Joseph returned from Capernaum and found Mary great with child. His lament. The virgins defended Mary, but Joseph lamented still.
11. The angel reassured him, and he asked pardon of Mary.
12. Rumour went forth, and Joseph and Mary were summoned by the priests. The water of jealousy administered by Abiathar. Joseph and Mary each went about the altar seven times and no sign appeared. All asked her pardon and took her home in triumph.
13–14. [Translated below.] Caesar's decree. They went to Bethlehem.
On the third day Mary left the cave and went to a stable.
15. On the sixth day they went to Bethlehem, kept the sabbath, and circumcised the child on the eighth day. The Presentation: Symeon and Anna.
16. After the second year came the magi: told as in the Gospel.
17. Massacre of the Innocents; the warning to flee into Egypt.
18–25. [Translated below.]
26. When Jesus was in Galilee at the beginning of his fourth year he was playing by the Jordan, and made seven pools. A boy spoilt them, and was struck dead. The parents complained. Joseph asked Mary to admonish Jesus. She begged him not to do such things, and he, not willing to grieve her, ‘smote the back side of the dead boy with his foot and bade him rise: which he did, and Jesus went on with his pools’.
27. He took clay from the pools and made twelve sparrows, on the sabbath. A Jew saw it and spoke to Joseph, who spoke to Jesus. Jesus clapped his hands and bade the sparrows fly away. All marvelled, and some went and told the chief priests and Pharisees.
28. The son of Annas the priest broke up the pools with a stick, and Jesus with a word withered him up.
29. Joseph was afraid and took Jesus home. On the way a boy ran against Jesus and got on his shoulder, meaning to hurt him. Jesus said, ‘May you not return whole from the way you go.’ He fell dead. Complaints of the parents, as in Thomas. Joseph to Jesus: ‘Why do you do such things? Many are now complaining against you and hate us on your account, and we suffer injuries through you.’ Jesus: ‘No son is wise whom his father has not taught according to the knowledge of this age, and the curse of his father hurts no man except those who do ill.’ All reviled Jesus to Joseph and he was afraid. ‘Then Jesus took the dead boy by the ear and held him up by it in the sight of all, and they saw Jesus speaking to him as a father to his son. And his spirit returned unto him and he lived again, and all marvelled.’
30. Master Zacchaeus spoke reproachfully to Joseph; ‘You and Mary think more of your son than of the traditions of the elders.’ Joseph: ‘But who can teach him? if you can do so, we are very willing.’ Jesus overhearing said, ‘What you say is well for ordinary people: I have no earthly father. When I am lifted up from the earth I will make all mention of your descent to cease. I know when you were born and how long you have to live.’ All cried out in wonder, ‘We have never heard the like.’ Jesus: ‘Does this surprise you? I will tell you more. I have seen Abraham and spoken with him, and he has seen me.’ None could answer. Jesus: ‘I have been among you with the children, and you have not known me. I have spoken with you as with the wise and you have not understood my voice, for you are less than me, and of little faith.’
31. Zacchaeus said, ‘Give him to me and I will take him to Levi who shall teach him letters.’ Levi bade him answer to Aleph: he was silent. Levi smote him with a rod of storax on the head. Jesus: ‘Why do you hit me? Know of a truth that he who is smitten teaches the smiter more than he is taught of him. For I can teach you the things that you yourself say. But all these who speak and hear are blind like sounding brass or a tinkling cymbal wherein is no perception of those things that are signified by their sound.’ Further he said to Zacchaeus, ‘Every letter from Aleph to Thau is discerned by the arrangement of it. First say what Thau is, and I will tell you what Aleph is.’ And again he said, ‘They who do not know Aleph, how can they tell Thau, hypocrites that they are? Say what Aleph is first and then will I believe you when you say Beth. He said to the master, ‘Let the master of the law say what the first letter is, or why it has many triangles [eight adjectives follow].’ Levi was stupefied and then began to lament, ‘Ought he to live on the earth? Nay, rather is he worthy to be hung on a great cross. He can put out fire and escape all torments by guile. I think he was born before the flood, before the deluge. What womb bare him? What mother gave him birth? What breasts suckled him? I fly before him’, etc., etc.
Jesus smiled and said with command to all the children of Israel that stood and heard him, ‘Let the unfruitful bear fruit, and the blind see, and the lame walk straight, and the poor enjoy good things, and the dead revive, and every one return into a restored state, and abide in him who is the root of life and of everlasting sweetness.’ All were healed who had fallen into evil infirmities. No one thereafter dared to say aught to him or hear aught of him.
32. At Nazareth the boy Zeno fell from the upper storey and was raised. Joseph, Mary, and Jesus went thence to Jericho.
33. Jesus' pitcher was broken by a child, and he brought water in his cloak.
34. He took a little corn out of his mother's barn and sowed it. When reaped it made three measures, which he gave away.
35–6. [Translated below.]
37. A bed of six cubits was ordered of Joseph, and he told his lad to cut a beam of the right length, but he made it too short. Joseph was troubled. Jesus pulled it out to the right length.
38. He went to school the second time. ‘Say Alpha.’ Jesus: ‘Tell me first what Beta is, and I will tell you what Alpha is.’ The master smote him and died.
Joseph said to Mary, ‘Know that my soul is sorrowful even to death because of this boy. It may chance that any one may smite him in malice and he may die.’ Mary said, ‘O man of God, believe not that this can happen, but believe surely that he who sent him to be born among men will keep him from all malice and in his name preserve him from evil.’
39. For the third time they took him to school at the request of others, though they knew that it was not possible for a man to teach him. He entered the school, took the book from the master's hand, and taught—not what was written in it—like a torrent of water flowing from a living fountain. All marvelled, and the master adored him. Joseph ran there in fear. The master said, ‘You have given me no scholar but a teacher! Who can ascertain his words?’ Then was fulfilled the word: ‘The river of God is full of water. You have prepared their food, for thus is the preparation thereof.’
40. [Translated below.]
41. They moved from Bethlehem to Capernaum [perhaps it should be vice versa]. Joseph sent his eldest son James into the garden to gather herbs for pottage. Story of the viper as in Thomas.
42. [Translated below.]
Here begins the book of the Birth of the Blessed Mary and the Infancy of the Saviour. Written in Hebrew by the blessed Evangelist Matthew, and translated into Latin by the Blessed Presbyter Jerome.
To their well‐beloved brother Jerome the Presbyter, Bishops Cromatius and Heliodorus in the Lord, greeting.
The birth of the Virgin Mary, and the nativity and infancy of our Lord Jesus Christ, we find in apocryphal books. But considering that in them many things contrary to our faith are written we judged that they all ought to be rejected, lest perchance we should transfer the joy of Christ to Antichrist. While we were considering these things, there came holy men, Parmenius and Varinus, who said that your Holiness had found a Hebrew volume, written by the hand of the most blessed Evangelist Matthew, in which both the birth of the virgin mother herself and the infancy of our Saviour were written. Accordingly we entreat your charity through our Lord Jesus Christ himself, to render it from the Hebrew into Latin, not so much to ascertain those things which are the deeds of Christ, as to counteract the craft of heretics who, in order to teach bad doctrine, have mingled their own lies with the excellent nativity of Christ, that they might hide the bitterness of death under the sweetness of life. It will therefore be the purest piety on your part, either to listen to us as brethren entreating you, or to pay us as bishops, the debt of affection which you may deem due.
To my lords the holy and most blessed Bishops Cromatius and Heliodorus, Jerome, a humble servant of Christ, sends greetings in the Lord.
He who digs in ground where he knows that there is gold does not instantly snatch at whatever the ragged trench may pour forth; but, before the stroke of the spade he wields raises aloft the glittering mass, he meanwhile lingers over the sods to turn them over and lift them up, and still lives in hope because he has not added to his gains. An arduous task is enjoined upon me, since what your Blessedness has commanded me to translate, the holy Apostle and Evangelist Matthew himself did not write for the purpose of publishing. For if he had not done it somewhat secretly, he would have added it to his Gospel which he published. But he composed this book in Hebrew; and he published it so little that even today the book written in Hebrew by his own hand is in the possession of very religious men, to whom over long periods of time it has been handed down by their predecessors. And this book they never at any time gave to any one to translate, but have regularly reviled its text. And so it came to pass, that when it was published by a disciple of Manichaeus named Leucius, who also wrote the falsely styled Acts of the Apostles, this book afforded matter, not of edification, but of perdition; and the opinion of the Synod in regard to it was such that the ears of the church should not be open to it. Let the bites of those barking critics now cease; for we do not add this little book to the canonical writings, but we translate what was written by an apostle and evangelist, that we may disclose the falsehood of heresy. In this work, then, we obey the commands of pious bishops as well as oppose impious heretics. It is the love of Christ, therefore, to which we render service, believing that they who, thanks to our obedience, attain to a knowledge of the holy infancy of our Saviour, will assist us by their prayers.
13. And it came to pass some little time after, that an enrolment was made according to the edict of Caesar Augustus for all the world to be enrolled, each man in his native place. This enrolment was made by Cyrinus, the governor of Syria. It was necessary, therefore, that Joseph should enrol with Mary in Bethlehem, because they came from there, being of the tribe of Judah and of the house and family of David. When, therefore, Joseph and Mary were going along the road which leads to Bethlehem, Mary said to Joseph, ‘I see two peoples before me, the one weeping, and the other rejoicing.’ And Joseph answered, ‘Sit still on your beast, and do not speak superfluous words.’ Then there appeared before them a beautiful boy, clothed in white raiment, who said to Joseph, ‘Why did you say that the words which Mary spoke about the two peoples were superfluous? For she saw the people of the Jews weeping because they have departed from their God; and the people of the Gentiles rejoicing, because they have now approached and are near to the Lord, in accordance with what he promised to our fathers Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob: for the time is at hand when in the seed of Abraham a blessing should be bestowed on all nations.’
And when he had said this, the angel ordered the beast to stand, for the time when she should bring forth was at hand; and he commanded Mary to come down from the animal, and go into an underground cave, in which there never was light, but always darkness, because the light of day could not reach it. And when Mary had gone into it, it began to shine with as much brightness as if it were the sixth hour of the day. The light from God so shone in the cave that neither by day nor night was light wanting as long as Mary was there. And there she brought forth a son, and the angels surrounded him when he was being born. And as soon as he was born he stood upon his feet, and the angels adored him saying, ‘Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace to men of good will.’ 1 Luke 2: 14 . Now, when the birth of the Lord was at hand, Joseph had gone away to seek midwives. And when he had found them, he returned to the cave and found with Mary the infant which she had brought forth. And Joseph said to Mary, ‘I have brought two midwives, Zelomi and Salome; and they are standing outside by the entrance to the cave, not daring to come in because of the intense brightness.’ And when Mary heard this she smiled; and Joseph said to her, ‘Do not smile, but be prudent and allow them to visit you, in case you should require them for medication.’ Then she ordered them to come to her. And when Zelomi had come in, she said to Mary, ‘Allow me to touch you.’ And when she had permitted her to make an examination the midwife cried out with a loud voice and said, ‘Lord, Lord Almighty, mercy on us! It has never been heard or thought of that any one should have her breasts full of milk and that the birth of a son should show his mother to be a virgin. But there has been no spilling of blood in his birth, no pain in bringing him forth. A virgin has conceived, a virgin has brought forth, and a virgin she remains.’ And hearing these words, the other midwife with the name Salome said, ‘I will not believe what I have heard unless I also examine her’. And Salome entered and said to Mary, ‘Allow me to handle you, and prove whether Zelomi has spoken the truth.’ And Mary allowed her to handle her. And when she had withdrawn her hand from handling her it dried up, and through excess of pain she began to weep bitterly and to be in great distress, crying out and saying, ‘O Lord God, you know that I have always feared you, and that without recompense I have cared for all the poor; I have taken nothing from the widow and the orphan, and the needy have I not sent empty away. And, behold, I am made wretched because of my unbelief, since without a cause I wished to test your virgin.’
And while she was speaking, there stood by her a young man in shining garments saying, ‘Go to the child and worship him and touch him with your hand, and he will heal you, because he is the Saviour of the world and of all that hope in him.’ And she went to the child with haste and worshipped him and touched the fringe of the clothes in which he was wrapped, and instantly her hand was cured. And going out she began to cry aloud and to tell the wonderful things which she had seen and which she had suffered and how she had been cured, so that many believed through her preaching.
And some shepherds also affirmed that they had seen angels singing a hymn at midnight, praising and blessing the God of heaven and saying, ‘The Saviour of all, who is Christ the Lord has been born. Salvation shall be brought back to Israel through him.’
A great star, larger than any that had been seen since the beginning of the world, shone over the cave from the evening till the morning. And the prophets who were in Jerusalem said that this star pointed out the birth of Christ who should restore the promise not only to Israel but to all nations.
14. And on the third day after the birth of our Lord Jesus Christ, Mary went out of the cave and, entering a stable, placed the child in the manger, and an ox and an ass adored him. Then was fulfilled that which was said by Isaiah the prophet, ‘The ox knows his owner, and the ass his master's crib.’ 2 Isa. 1: 3 . Therefore, the animals, the ox and the ass, with him in their midst, incessantly adored him. Then was fulfilled that which was said by Habakkuk the prophet, saying, ‘Between two animals you are made manifest.’ 3 Hab. 3: 2 . Joseph remained in the same place with Mary for three days.
18. And having come to a certain cave, and wishing to rest in it, Mary dismounted from her beast, and sat down with the child Jesus in her lap. And on the journey there were with Joseph three boys, and with Mary a girl. And behold, suddenly there came out of the cave many dragons; and when the boys saw them they cried out in great terror. Then Jesus got down from his mother's lap and stood on his feet before the dragons; and they worshipped Jesus and then departed. Then was fulfilled that which was said by David the prophet, ‘Praise the Lord from the earth, dragons, and all you ocean depths.’ 4 Ps. 148: 7 . And the child Jesus, walking before them, commanded them to hurt no‐one. But Mary and Joseph were very much afraid lest the child should be hurt by the dragons. And Jesus said to them, ‘Do not be afraid, and do not consider me to be a child, for I am and always have been perfect; and all the beasts of the forest must needs be docile before me.’
19. Likewise, lions and panthers adored him and accompanied them in the desert. Wherever Joseph and Mary went, they went before them showing them the way and bowing their heads; they showed their submission by wagging their tails, they worshipped him with great reverence. Now at first, when Mary saw the lions and the panthers and various kinds of wild beasts surrounding them, she was very much afraid. But the infant Jesus looked into her face with a joyful countenance and said, ‘Be not afraid, mother, for they come not to do you harm, but they make haste to serve both you and me.’ With these words he drove all fear from her heart. And the lions kept walking with them, and with the oxen and the asses and the beasts of burden, which carried what they needed, and did not hurt a single one of them, though they remained with them; they were tame among the sheep and the rams which they had brought with them from Judaea and which they had with them. They walked among wolves and feared nothing; and not one of them was hurt by another. Then was fulfilled that which was spoken by the prophet, ‘Wolves shall feed with lambs; lion and ox shall eat straw together.’ 5 Isa. 65: 25 . There were two oxen and a waggon in which they carried their necessities, and the lions directed them in their path.
20. And it came to pass on the third day of their journey, while they were walking, that Mary was fatigued by the excessive heat of the sun in the desert; and, seeing a palm‐tree she said to Joseph, ‘I should like to rest a little in the shade of this tree.’ Joseph therefore led her quickly to the palm and made her dismount from her beast. And as Mary was sitting there, she looked up to the foliage of the palm and saw it full of fruit and said to Joseph, ‘I wish it were possible to get some of the fruit of this palm.’ And Joseph said to her, ‘I am surprised that you say so, for you see how high the palm‐tree is, and that you think of eating its fruit. I am thinking more of the want of water because the skins are now empty, and we have nothing with which to refresh ourselves and our cattle.’ Then the child Jesus, reposing with a joyful countenance in the lap of his mother, said to the palm, ‘O tree, bend your branches and refresh my mother with your fruit.’ And immediately at these words the palm bent its top down to the very feet of Mary; and they gathered from it fruit with which they all refreshed themselves. And after they had gathered all its fruit it remained bent down, waiting the order to rise from him who had commanded it to bend down. Then Jesus said to it, ‘Raise yourself, O palm, and be strong and be the companion of my trees which are in the paradise of my Father; and open from your roots a vein of water which is hidden in the earth and let the waters flow, so that we may quench our thirst.’ And it rose up immediately, and at its root there began to gush out a spring of water exceedingly clear and cool and sparkling. And when they saw the spring of water, they rejoiced greatly and were all satisfied, including their cattle and their beasts and they gave thanks to God.
21. And on the day after, when they were setting out from there, and at the hour in which they began their journey, Jesus turned to the palm and said, ‘This privilege I give you, O palm‐tree, that one of your branches be carried away by my angels, and planted in the paradise of my Father. And this blessing I will confer upon you, that it shall be said to all who shall be victorious in any contest, “You have attained the palm of victory.” ’ And while he was speaking, behold, an angel of the Lord appeared and stood upon the palm tree and, taking off one of its branches, flew to heaven with the branch in his hand. And when they saw this, they fell on their faces and were like dead men. And Jesus said to them, ‘Why are your hearts possessed with fear? Do you not know that this palm, which I have caused to be transferred to paradise, shall be prepared for all the saints in the place of blessedness, as it has been prepared for us in this desert place?’ And they were filled with joy; and being strengthened, they all arose.
22. After this, while they were going on their journey, Joseph said to Jesus, ‘Lord, the heat is roasting us; if it please you, let us go by the sea‐shore that we may be able to rest in the cities on the coast.’ Jesus said to him, ‘Fear not, Joseph; I will shorten the way for you, so that what you would have taken thirty days to traverse you shall accomplish in this one day.’ And while they were speaking, behold, they looked ahead and began to see the mountains and cities of Egypt.
And rejoicing and exulting, they came into the regions of Hermopolis and entered into a certain city of Egypt, which is called Sotinen; and because they knew no one there from whom they could ask hospitality, they went into a temple, which was called the Capitol of Egypt. And in this temple there had been set up three hundred and sixty‐five idols, to each of which on its own day divine honours and sacred rites were paid.
23. And it came to pass that, when Mary went into the temple with the child, all the idols prostrated themselves on the ground, so that all of them were lying on their faces shattered and broken to pieces; and thus they plainly showed that they were nothing. Then was fulfilled that which was said by the prophet Isaiah, ‘Behold, the Lord will come upon a swift cloud and will enter Egypt, and all the handiwork of the Egyptians shall be moved before his face.’ 6 Isa. 19: 1 .
24. When this was told to Affrodosius, governor of that city, he went to the temple with his whole army. And when the priests of the temple saw Affrodosius coming into the temple with all his army, they thought they would see him take vengeance on those who had caused the gods to fall down. But when he came into the temple and saw all the gods lying prostrate on their faces, he went up to Mary, who was carrying the Lord in her bosom, and worshipped him and said to his whole army and all his friends, ‘Unless this were the God of our gods, our gods would not have fallen on their faces before him, nor would they be lying prostrate in his presence: therefore they silently confess that he is their Lord. Unless we do what we have seen our gods doing, we may run the risk of his anger and all come to destruction, just as it happened to Pharaoh king of the Egyptians who, not believing in powers so mighty, was drowned in the sea with all his army.’ Then all the people of the city believed in the Lord God through Jesus Christ.
1 See, e.g. the plates in H. Daniel‐Rops, Les Évangiles de la Vierge (Paris, 1948), and in de Santos Otero, Appendix. Cf. also Jacqueline Lafontaine‐Dosogne, Iconographie de l'enfance de la Vierge dans l'Empire byzantin et en Occident, 2 vols. (Brussels, 1964–5, 21992) (= Académie Royale de Belgique. Classe des Beaux Arts, Mémoires, 2nd series, ii, fascicles 3, 3b).
2 P. Peeters, Évangiles apocryphes, ii. L’Évangile de l'enfance (Paris, 1914), 1 f. (= H. Hammer and P. Lejay (eds.), Textes et documents 18), discusses the literary and historical relationship of the later infancy gospels to their sources.
3 The Latin Infancy Gospel, Arundel 404 (q.v.), also has the letters. In some manuscripts of the Gospel of the Birth of Mary there is a further letter ostensibly from Jerome to the bishops.
4 But see J. Gijsel, ‘Zu welcher Textfamilie des Pseudo‐Matthäus gehört die Quelle von Hrotsvits Maria?’, Classica et Mediaevalia 32 (1979–80), 279–88.
5 Cf. also O. Schade, Liber de Infantia Mariae et Christi Salvatoris (Halle, 1869), which seems to follow Paris 5559, although it is based on a Stuttgart manuscript (cited by Michel, i, p. xx). Tischendorf used Schade's Stuttgart manuscript for his second edition.
6 This manuscript begins with the words ‘Incipit Liber de Ortu Beatae Mariae et Infantia Salvatoris a beato Matthaeo evangelista hebraice scriptus et a beato Hieronymo presbytero in latinum translatus’.