Matthew, Luke, & the Protevangelium of James (for David).

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Ben C. Smith
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Re: Matthew, Luke, & the Protevangelium of James (for David).

Post by Ben C. Smith » Thu Nov 12, 2020 1:57 pm

I have been kind of having to look into the Protevangelium of James lately in order to analyze Justin Martyr's gospel/memorabilia references, and I have been struck a couple of times by how obviously later than Matthew and Luke it appears to be. For what follows, bear in mind (A) that the manuscript history of this text is complex, (B) that I do not have the full picture of that history yet, and (C) that I am therefore working from the published versions, both Greek and English. If there is something in one of the manuscripts which explains what I am seeing, then I am happy to be pointed to it.

This is what I am seeing, using the New Advent page for convenience:
  • Zechariah is the high priest at the time when Mary is betrothed to Joseph in the temple at age 12 (chapters 8-9). A bit later, at the decision to have Mary spin the veil (chapter 10), it is said that he is dumb and cannot speak; therefore Samuel is serving in his stead. It is not said why Zechariah is dumb.
  • Elizabeth is Mary's kinswoman (chapter 12), and she says that something leaps in her womb as Mary comes to visit her after having spun the veil. It is not said what or who is in her womb.
  • Elizabeth hides John, named here for the very first time in the text, while Herod is carrying out the massacre of the innocents (chapter 22). John is introduced as if he needs no introduction.
  • Zechariah is approached by Herod's men during their search for John, and they ask him where his son is (chapter 23); this is our first clue that Zechariah even has a son, let alone that the son is John, of the womb of Elizabeth, implying that Elizabeth is married to the high priest. Zechariah refuses to tell, and he pays the price for that refusal.
If you did not already know the full story as told in the gospel of Luke, this entire subplot would be jarring and confusing. It is not as if information is being deliberately withheld for a dramatic revelation later; the manner is rather of enjoying the luxury of assuming that the reader already knows who these people are and how they are related to each other. Unless there is some other explanation for this disjointedness, it appears very clear that the Protevangelium is presuming the story already told in Luke.

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Re: Matthew, Luke, & the Protevangelium of James (for David).

Post by Secret Alias » Thu Nov 12, 2020 2:37 pm

Is the teaching of 'Alpha, Beta' to a young Jesus in the Protevangelium?

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Re: Matthew, Luke, & the Protevangelium of James (for David).

Post by Ben C. Smith » Thu Nov 12, 2020 2:43 pm

Secret Alias wrote:
Thu Nov 12, 2020 2:37 pm
Is the teaching of 'Alpha, Beta' to a young Jesus in the Protevangelium?
That story is in the "other" ancient Protevangelium, that of Thomas.

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Re: Matthew, Luke, & the Protevangelium of James (for David).

Post by maryhelena » Fri Nov 13, 2020 1:06 am

Ben C. Smith wrote:
Thu Nov 12, 2020 1:57 pm
I have been kind of having to look into the Protevangelium of James lately in order to analyze Justin Martyr's gospel/memorabilia references, and I have been struck a couple of times by how obviously later than Matthew and Luke it appears to be. For what follows, bear in mind (A) that the manuscript history of this text is complex, (B) that I do not have the full picture of that history yet, and (C) that I am therefore working from the published versions, both Greek and English. If there is something in one of the manuscripts which explains what I am seeing, then I am happy to be pointed to it.

This is what I am seeing, using the New Advent page for convenience:
  • Zechariah is the high priest at the time when Mary is betrothed to Joseph in the temple at age 12 (chapters 8-9). A bit later, at the decision to have Mary spin the veil (chapter 10), it is said that he is dumb and cannot speak; therefore Samuel is serving in his stead. It is not said why Zechariah is dumb.
  • Elizabeth is Mary's kinswoman (chapter 12), and she says that something leaps in her womb as Mary comes to visit her after having spun the veil. It is not said what or who is in her womb.
  • Elizabeth hides John, named here for the very first time in the text, while Herod is carrying out the massacre of the innocents (chapter 22). John is introduced as if he needs no introduction.
  • Zechariah is approached by Herod's men during their search for John, and they ask him where his son is (chapter 23); this is our first clue that Zechariah even has a son, let alone that the son is John, of the womb of Elizabeth, implying that Elizabeth is married to the high priest. Zechariah refuses to tell, and he pays the price for that refusal.
If you did not already know the full story as told in the gospel of Luke, this entire subplot would be jarring and confusing. It is not as if information is being deliberately withheld for a dramatic revelation later; the manner is rather of enjoying the luxury of assuming that the reader already knows who these people are and how they are related to each other. Unless there is some other explanation for this disjointedness, it appears very clear that the Protevangelium is presuming the story already told in Luke.
But the Protevangelium of James has the birth of Jesus in the time of Herod (as does gMatthew). Luke has shifted the birth of Jesus to the census of Quirinius (taken to be around 6 c.e. after the removal of Archelaus and thus with no descendent of Herod ruling in Jerusalem). So - the writer of the Protevangelium with Luke's updated nativity story of Jesus in front of him - decides to backtrack and place the birth of Jesus in the time of Herod...?

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Re: Matthew, Luke, & the Protevangelium of James (for David).

Post by davidmartin » Fri Nov 13, 2020 2:16 am

it appears stories of this sort proliferated during the era of gospel composition and probably earlier?
there's just so many of them we know survived and in all sorts of places
it doesn't seem far fetched to think Luke or Matthew drew from this well, but we don't have the earliest sources
maybe the Protevangelium is trying to harmonise Luke and Matthew a bit?

it's possible at least some were standalone stories originally with their own concepts embedded in them
the largest smoking gun for this is the story in Thomas's Protevangelium of the clay birds. It really tells of church history in this tale it's far from being a simple miracle story it first appears

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Re: Matthew, Luke, & the Protevangelium of James (for David).

Post by Ben C. Smith » Fri Nov 13, 2020 6:39 am

maryhelena wrote:
Fri Nov 13, 2020 1:06 am
But the Protevangelium of James has the birth of Jesus in the time of Herod (as does gMatthew). Luke has shifted the birth of Jesus to the census of Quirinius (taken to be around 6 c.e. after the removal of Archelaus and thus with no descendent of Herod ruling in Jerusalem). So - the writer of the Protevangelium with Luke's updated nativity story of Jesus in front of him - decides to backtrack and place the birth of Jesus in the time of Herod...?
First, why not? The Quirinius date makes no sense alongside Matthew's chronology. The author of the Protevangelium does not exhaust either Matthew 1-2 or Luke 1-2, and given that the massacre of the innocents by Herod is integral to the storyline, the Matthean date under Herod is not going to be the one to go. So, if one wants to preserve even an ounce of coherence, it is the Lucan date under Quirinius that has to be jettisoned.

Second, however, I am suspicious about Luke 2.2. The Protevangelium simply omitting a verse (especially a problematic verse) from its recasting of the narratives is not a big deal, but Tertullian actually rewriting it, as it were, to point to Saturninus instead of to Quirinius raises an eyebrow, at the very least, and there is no question that Tertullian postdates Luke in general. So I wonder whether Luke 2.1 might have been a late addition to the text. Justin knows of it, obviously, but that Tertullian seems to "know" otherwise bears explaining. Maybe he is just correcting an obvious error, or maybe something like my reconstruction at that link is what transpired, or maybe something else is going on. What is clear enough is that the problem of the Protevangelium ignoring this Lucan verse is swallowed whole by the problem of Tertullian altering it or disagreeing with it outright. If Tertullian can do the extreme thing, then there is no issue with our gospel author doing the more moderate thing; and, if Tertullian is not actually being extreme, then there is something going on with the text of Luke 2.1 anyway.

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Re: Matthew, Luke, & the Protevangelium of James (for David).

Post by Ben C. Smith » Fri Nov 13, 2020 6:57 am

davidmartin wrote:
Fri Nov 13, 2020 2:16 am
it appears stories of this sort proliferated during the era of gospel composition and probably earlier?
Yes, I think so. Sayings, too.
there's just so many of them we know survived and in all sorts of places
it doesn't seem far fetched to think Luke or Matthew drew from this well, but we don't have the earliest sources
maybe the Protevangelium is trying to harmonise Luke and Matthew a bit?
Again, I think there is harmonization going on there, yes.
it's possible at least some were standalone stories originally with their own concepts embedded in them
the largest smoking gun for this is the story in Thomas's Protevangelium of the clay birds. It really tells of church history in this tale it's far from being a simple miracle story it first appears
The Protevangelium of Thomas is an interesting case. It contains by far the vast majority of miracles personally performed by Jesus which do not appear in the other gospels. The other miracle accounts, with the exception of a possible miracle on the Jordan river in the Egerton gospel, are obvious variants on stories from other texts (for example, Jerome reports that the Nazarene gospel adds details about the man with the withered hand; even the resurrection in Secret Mark is a variant of the Lazarus story). But in the Protevangelium of Thomas young Jesus is bringing clay birds to life, controlling water, resurrecting the dead, healing snake wounds, and stretching lumber. This text is extravagant in its additions to the repertoire of dominical miracles. Maybe other texts did the same but are no longer extant, but as things stand Thomas really stands out.

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Re: Matthew, Luke, & the Protevangelium of James (for David).

Post by maryhelena » Fri Nov 13, 2020 7:21 am

Ben C. Smith wrote:
Fri Nov 13, 2020 6:39 am
maryhelena wrote:
Fri Nov 13, 2020 1:06 am
But the Protevangelium of James has the birth of Jesus in the time of Herod (as does gMatthew). Luke has shifted the birth of Jesus to the census of Quirinius (taken to be around 6 c.e. after the removal of Archelaus and thus with no descendent of Herod ruling in Jerusalem). So - the writer of the Protevangelium with Luke's updated nativity story of Jesus in front of him - decides to backtrack and place the birth of Jesus in the time of Herod...?
First, why not? The Quirinius date makes no sense alongside Matthew's chronology. The author of the Protevangelium does not exhaust either Matthew 1-2 or Luke 1-2, and given that the massacre of the innocents by Herod is integral to the storyline, the Matthean date under Herod is not going to be the one to go. So, if one wants to preserve even an ounce of coherence, it is the Lucan date under Quirinius that has to be jettisoned.
Goodness. Ben, the only reason to jettison the Quirinius Lucan dating is if one is attempting to uphold the idea of a historical Jesus. i.e. an historical Jesus requires a fixed birth narrative. From an ahistorical perspective, there is no need to jettison Quirinius. The gospel Jesus is a fictional figure. Hence, the narratives of this literary figure can be set down in any historical period deemed to further that narrative. Luke has moved his Jesus story away from the Herodians - a new setting.

Second, however, I am suspicious about Luke 2.2.
Suspicious about Quirinius in gLuke - then how about being suspicious of Archelaus in Matthew 1.22. Jettison that verse and dating Jesus to just before the death of Herod falls away. i.e Slavonic Josephus has the birth of an anointed one prior to the 15th year of Herod. (Interestingly, a birth narrative around or prior to that time would fit a John the Baptister figure better than around 6 c.e. i.e. the wild man doing the baptism in the Jordon appears before Archelaus.)

So - it's not just the writer of gLuke that is moving the Jesus story into a different time slot - gMatthew looks to have it's own update re the mention of Archelaus.
The Protevangelium simply omitting a verse (especially a problematic verse) from its recasting of the narratives is not a big deal, but Tertullian actually rewriting it, as it were, to point to Saturninus instead of to Quirinius raises an eyebrow, at the very least, and there is no question that Tertullian postdates Luke in general. So I wonder whether Luke 2.1 might have been a late addition to the text. Justin knows of it, obviously, but that Tertullian seems to "know" otherwise bears explaining. Maybe he is just correcting an obvious error, or maybe something like my reconstruction at that link is what transpired, or maybe something else is going on. What is clear enough is that the problem of the Protevangelium ignoring this Lucan verse is swallowed whole by the problem of Tertullian altering it or disagreeing with it outright. If Tertullian can do the extreme thing, then there is no issue with our gospel author doing the more moderate thing; and, if Tertullian is not actually being extreme, then there is something going on with the text of Luke 2.1 anyway.

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Re: Matthew, Luke, & the Protevangelium of James (for David).

Post by Ben C. Smith » Fri Nov 13, 2020 7:30 am

I can see that none of this has anything to do with whether the Protevangelium is later or earlier than Matthew or Luke. That is the only question I am addressing here and now.

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Re: Matthew, Luke, & the Protevangelium of James (for David).

Post by davidmartin » Sat Nov 14, 2020 1:50 pm

the 12 sparrows in the inf. Thomas look like the 12 apostles "the sparrows took their flight and went away chirping" ie preaching, so if this one story is an allegory maybe all or most of these were originally. if they were allegories what would it mean? they were not purely then literary devices if there's two levels going on. i'm very curious about possible allegories in this area

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