Notes on The Infancy Gospel of James, pt. 5 (chapters 13-16)

Chapters 13-16

Chapter 13

“And she was in her sixth month (ἐγένετο <αὐτῇ> Ϛ´ μήν); and, behold, Joseph came back from his building (τῶν οἰκοδομῶν), and, entering into his house, he discovered that she was big with child. And he smote his face, and threw himself on the ground upon the sackcloth, and wept bitterly, saying: With what face shall I look upon the Lord my God? and what prayer shall I make about this maiden? because I received her a virgin out of the temple of the Lord, and I have not watched over her. Who is it that has hunted me down? Who has done this evil thing in my house, and defiled the virgin? Has not the history (ἱστορία) of Adam been repeated in me? For just as Adam was in the hour of his singing praise, and the serpent came, and found Eve alone, and completely deceived her, so it has happened to me also. And Joseph stood up from the sackcloth, and called Mary, and said to her: O thou who hast been cared for by God (Μεμελημένη), why hast thou done this and forgotten the Lord thy God? Why hast thou brought low thy soul (ἐταπείνωσας τὴν ψυχήν σου), thou that wast brought up in the holy of holies, and that didst receive food from the hand of an angel? And she wept bitterly (πικρῶς), saying: I am innocent, and have known no man. And Joseph said to her: Whence then is that which is in thy womb? And she said: As the Lord my God liveth, I do not know whence it is to me.”

Joseph has been out building, and returns home to find that Mary has been busy “building” as well! Joseph reacts to the news that his betrothed is pregnant by recalling the “history” of Adam and Eve: “Has not the history of Adam been repeated in me? For just as Adam was in the hour of his singing praise, and the serpent came, and found Eve alone, and completely deceived her, so it has happened to me also.”

The connection of Mary to Eve is pregnant with meaning. He goes on: “Why hast thou brought low thy soul, thou that wast brought up in the holy of holies, and that didst receive food from the hand of an angel?” Again the claim is repeated about being fed by an angel, and again the soul is “brought low” just as Anna had been brought low. Yet Anna had been disgraced for not conceiving (being a barren wife), while Mary is disgraced for being fertile (since she is supposed to be a virgin). The chapter concludes with “And Joseph said to her: Whence then is that which is in thy womb? And she said: As the Lord my God liveth, I do not know whence it is to me.” Here we have the repetition of ignorance on the part of Mary, in spite of the situation being explained by the angel.

Joseph and then Mary both “weep bitterly” in ch. 13, and this is repeated in ch. 15 with Mary weeping bitterly in front of the priest. Chapter 16 has Joseph “in tears” in front of the priest, but the language used is not identical to the earlier three occurrences.

 

Chapter 14

“And Joseph was greatly afraid, and retired from her, and considered what he should do in regard to her. And Joseph said: If I conceal her sin, I find myself fighting against the law of the Lord; and if I expose her to the sons of Israel, I am afraid lest that which is in her be from an angel, and I shall be found giving up innocent blood to the doom of death. What then shall I do with her? I will put her away from me secretly. And night came upon him; and, behold, an angel of the Lord appears to him in a dream, saying: Be not afraid for this maiden, for that which is in her is of the Holy Spirit; and she will bring forth a Son, and thou shall call His name Jesus, for He will save His people from their sins. And Joseph arose from sleep, and glorified the God of Israel, who had given him this grace; and he kept her.”

Ch. 14 largely corresponds to the reaction of Joseph found in the New Testament (Matthew 1:19). What is most interesting for us is that we are in the same situation as Joseph: if we consider this text as being spurious, we may be fighting against God. If we consider the text authentic, we may be accepting a “bastard” of a text.

 

Chapter 15

“And Annas the scribe came to him, and said: Why hast thou not appeared in our assembly? And Joseph said to him: Because I was weary from my journey, and rested the first day. And he turned, and saw that Mary was with child. And he ran away to the priest and said to him: Joseph, whom thou didst vouch for, has committed a grievous crime. And the priest said: How so? And he said: He has defiled the virgin whom he received out of the temple of the Lord, and has married her by stealth, and has not revealed it to the sons of Israel. And the priest answering, said: Has Joseph done this? Then said Annas the scribe: Send officers, and thou wilt find the virgin with child. And the officers went away, and found it as he had said; and they brought her along with Joseph to the tribunal. And the priest said: Mary, why hast thou done this? and why hast thou brought thy soul low, and forgotten the Lord thy God? Thou that wast reared in the holy of holies, and that didst receive food from the hand of an angel, and didst hear the hymns, and didst dance before Him, why hast thou done this? And she wept bitterly, saying: As the Lord my God liveth, I am pure before Him, and know not a man. And the priest said to Joseph: Why hast thou done this? And Joseph said: As the Lord liveth, I am pure concerning her. Then said the priest: Bear not false witness, but speak the truth. Thou hast married her by stealth, and hast not revealed it to the sons of Israel, and hast not bowed thy head under the strong hand, that thy seed might be blessed. And Joseph was silent.

Ch. 15 recounts the discovery of Mary’s pregnancy by a Jewish scribe, and the couple is brought to trial. Again the feeding of the angel and dwelling in the holy of holies is referenced, as is the bringing of her soul low by her “defilement.”

Joseph and Mary are called to account by a certain “Annas.” We have already seen that the characters who are named are named for a particular reason. The priest and high priest function in the story without needing to be named, so when they are named this is significant. The accuser of Joachim in ch. 1 was Reuben, the defiler. The accuser of Joseph and Mary in ch. 15 was “Annas,” the scribe. Does he have a similar background story?

We can say with confidence that the author here is alluding to Annas ben Seth, who was appointed by Quirinius to be the high priest in 6 CE. We can be fairly sure that he is in mind because this Annas fits the description and would later be an important figure, serving as high priest as well as having 4 sons that served as high priest.

We don’t know when Annas was born. Some sources say 23 BCE, but this seems unlikely. He was high priest in 6 CE, which would have made him only 29. This would be very young for the high priesthood, to say the least. Yet it is possible inc the appointment was by Quirinius, and it was typically bought rather than earned. The real difficulty is that Annas’ son Eleazar was made high priest in 17 CE, which means that he was born at the earliest in 10 BCE, when Annas was only 13!

If we approach this problem from a different angle, the numbers begin to make sense. Annas was made high priest in 6 CE, and we can assume that he was 30-60 when appointed. This means that he was born in the period of 54-24 BCE. If Eleazar was made high priest in 17 CE, we can assume his birth was from 43-13 BCE. Annas and Eleazar are separated by a mere 11 years, which indicates that Annas was older when serving than Eleazar was (since Annas was unlikely to have fathered Eleazar when 11).

This comes into play when we look at the narrative of the PJ. Annas the scribe accuses Joseph and Mary around the 5 BCE (give or take a year or two). If we take the highly questionable (and unattributed) birth date of 23 BCE as factual, then we have a young 18 year old Annas as a scribe, a plausible outcome. Yet if we take the more rational dating range of 54-24 BCE, we have Annas as a scribe of 19-49 years old. This entire range is acceptable. We can infer from the fact that Annas was made high priest only a decade later that Annas the scribe was powerful in influence. He was the most influential Jewish leader of the period, it would seem, establishing a high priestly dynasty. We can see that this “Annas the scribe” named by our author is not simply a scribe who happens to be named Annas, but Annas the future high priest and patriarch  of the high priests until the mid-40s. He was the one person who symbolized the power of the high priesthood in that era, a high priesthood that was opposed to Jesus.

 

Chapter 16

“And the priest said: Give up the virgin whom thou didst receive out of the temple of the Lord. And Joseph burst into tears. And the priest said: I will give you to drink of the water of the ordeal of the Lord, and He shall make manifest your sins in your eyes. And the priest took the water, and gave Joseph to drink and sent him away to the hill-country; and he returned unhurt. And he gave to Mary also to drink, and sent her away to the hill-country; and she returned unhurt. And all the people wondered that sin did not appear in them. And the priest said: If the Lord God has not made manifest your sins, neither do I judge you. And he sent them away. And Joseph took Mary, and went away to his own house, rejoicing and glorifying the God of Israel.”

Ch. 16 has both Joseph and Mary being given the water of judgement and being sent into the hill country. Both survive, which indicates that they were telling the truth. The ceremony was an ancient practice used when adultery was suspected, although it was only administered to the woman in Numbers 5:18-27 (Nutzman’s article also covers this in detail). The reaction was that “all the people wondered that sin did not appear in them.” This recalls the sin not appearing to Joachim in the plate of the priest’s forehead in ch. 5. Again the communication of God is through the Temple and priests , and only occasionally through angels outside of the Temple.

 

Advertisements

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s