Mary in the Protevangelium of James: A Jewish Woman in the Temple?

In a paper published in Greek, Roman, and Byzantine Studies, Dr. Megan Nutzman writes:

Since the Protevangelium of James was reintroduced to the West in the middle of the sixteenth century, it has attracted significant scholarly interest. The bulk of this attention has focused on critical analysis of the text, which was greatly advanced in the last century by the discovery of P. Bodm. V. Additional work has examined the date and genre of Prot. Jas., its place in the corpus of early Christian writings, and its role in the development of Mariology. While the popularity and wide distribution of Prot. Jas. in antiquity are clear, its date, authorship, and provenance remain uncertain. Most scholars hold that it was the work of a Christian whose knowledge of Judaism was problematic. Questionable descriptions of Jewish practice and Palestinian geography are frequently catalogued to argue that the author’s acquaintance with Judaism was limited to the Septuagint. In this article I investigate one aspect of Prot. Jas. that is among the most frequently cited errors in the text: the depiction of a young Mary living in the temple of Jerusalem. Through a careful reexamination of Mary’s time in the temple, I will challenge this conventional hypothesis and argue that the author structures his narrative to evoke three groups of Jewish women who were given special privileges in the temple cult. Rather than betraying an ignorance of Judaism, Mary’s relationship to the temple artfully weaves together the unique position in the Jerusalem temple allotted to accused adulteresses, to girls who wove the temple curtains, and to female Nazirites.

Download the full PDF from the journal Greek, Roman, and Byzantine Studies at Duke University:




Fr Silouan Thompson



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