Last year I had a fun time explaining the Infancy Gospel of Thomas, the not-officially-official New Testament story about how Jesus was a sociopathic 5 year old who casually murdered his childhood friends whenever they annoyed him. It was good times, and a good reminder that often the weirdest parts of Christianity aren't Canonical. In that spirit, today I'm going to tell you all about the Gospel of James, which is a deep dive into the history of Jesus' mama Mary. And I know, you think you know Mary's whole deal already, but I promise it's waaaaay weirder than you realize.
Our story begins with a super rich dude named Joachim. Joachim is all set to make an offering at a God-party-offering-feast thing, but he gets kicked out of the party because he doesn't have any kids, and apparently that's a pretty big deal. Basically because the patriarchy is stupid, I guess. In any case, this gives Joachim a pretty serious case of the sads, and he goes off into the forest to pout.
Of course, this doesn't thrill Joachim's wife Anna, who feels like this is all her fault because she's obviously barren, why else wouldn't they have any children yet? (LOTS OF REASONS, ANNA! Infertility isn't a one way street, it's causes are multiple, and actually it's about an even split between partners. Again, don't be ashamed because of patriarchal bullshit, Anna!) But Anna isn't a big man-baby, so even though she is also having a sad right now, she has it in the garden, like a respectable person. She enjoys the garden and thinks about what to do next- because obviously all the boning alone isn't doing the trick- when an angel suddenly appears. As so often does in these sort of stories.
The angel says, "Oh, yeah, you're definitely going to have a kid soon. Super don't worry about that." And Anna goes, "OMG! Thank you! And if I have a kid, I don't even care if it's a boy or a girl, I'll make sure it's life is devoted to God and that it stays holy and pure forever! Sex is bad, even if sex is how we got into this situation in the first place." And the angel is like "Well, that's super specific, but whatever, I did my job. Peace out!" And then the angel peaces out.
Whilst all this was happening, apparently a different angel appeared to Joachim off camera and told himm the same thing, so just then he returns all excited about the news, and the two of them go off to bang a baby into her. The next morning Joachim basically kills all of the animals he can find as a sacrifice, (It's quite specific: 10 lambs that all have to be girls for whatever reason, 12 calves of ambiguous gender, and literally 100 goats. That's a lot of dead goats.) and 9 months later their daughter Mary is born.
When Mary was 3, they decided they were over this whole parenting thing, and left her at the temple to be raised by the priests there. You would think this would be a bigger deal, but that's it, neither we nor Mary will ever hear from her parents again. Getting to enjoy the God-offering-festival-thing just isn't worth listening to the squeals of a toddler for them.
And I guess the priests didn't so much "raise her" as they "tolerated this street urchin that was dropped off here", because they don't even feed her. Apparently every day an angel would appear and give her food. This is mentioned like it's totally not a big deal, but it seems to me that it would be if I had written this story.
By the time she's 12, the priests have decided they really don't want her still hanging out in their basement, she's liable to do something terrible like invite boys over or something. The priests all start ganging up on their boss Zacharias to get rid of her somehow, but luckily enough another goddamn angel shows up and tells Zacharias how to handle this.
So here's the plan: to get rid of this prepubescent child, all the local widowed old men are to come together and bring there walking sticks. And who ever has something crazy happen to their walking stick, that widowed old man has to marry the preteen. Easy peasy.
Anyway, that's what the angel said, so that's what they do. Some guy named Joseph is the last to arrive, and a dove somehow pops out of his walking stick, landing on his head. The priests decide that's the sign, Joseph is really just confused and uncomfortable with this whole situation. Zacharias is having none of it, though, so he literally threatens to have Joseph's family murdered if he doesn't take this girl. And Zacharias is supposed to be a good guy in this story...
From there on, things go pretty much the way you expect them to. There's some nonsense about making curtains; Joseph goes off on a business trip; God knocks up Mary. Did I mention she's 12? Because yeah. She's 12. I just want to be very clear about that.
Joe gets back from his business trip and finds Mary extremely pregnant. This is upsetting to him, because honestly he still felt weird about the whole "marry this child" thing, and he definitely hadn't played slap and tickle with her, so clearly she's been screwing around. He doesn't believe her when she says she is still a virgin, because duh, why would he? But then another angel appears (of course) and says "It's all cool, nothing bad is going to happen to you. I know it sounds insane, but the kid really is God's."
BUT PLOT TWIST! You remember the priests? Well, they catch wind that Mary is preggers, and they know that Joseph hasn't legally married her yet. And having sex with a child you legally own is one thing, but having sex with her before the paperwork is fully signed? That dog just won't hunt.
Joseph tries to explain as best as he can this entire insane situation, but they don't believe him, because why would they? It's insane. They basically say "You think we're stupid? Okay, if you drink this poison and live, we'll believe you. If you die, well, your debt to society will be covered then." These priests threatening Joseph's children earlier is starting to make more sense now, they're pretty hardcore. But Joseph drinks it and is fine, because this insane story he told was true. They basically shrug, and Mary and Joe go home.
You know most of the rest of the story. The tax thing, Mary and Joe head to Bethlehem, only in this version Mary gives birth in a cave rather than a barn. Mary's lady parts apparently start to glow until the baby is born, so that's weird, but not nearly as weird as this last part.
Joseph had gotten a midwife to help deliver baby Jesus, which actually makes this version of Joseph way smarter than canonical Joseph. Afterwards the Midwife meets with her friend Salome and goes "You'll never believe what just happened! I just helped a virgin give birth to a glowing baby!" And Salome nods her head and says "You're right, I don't believe you. Virgins don't give birth, that's silly." And the Midwife goes "Come with me, I'll prove it to you!" Salome agrees, and I have to take a minute you guys.
I'm assuming that the "proof of virginity" in this case would mean a fully intact hymen. Leaving aside the fact that all virginity tests are nonsense, and the fact that hymens can stretch for any number of reasons, and the fact that there's a significant number of variations of hymens and to assume one is or is not virginal by any kind of examination if you're not a professional gynecologist is dumb-- we're going to ignore all of those because there's an even crazier thing going on here. MARY JUST HAD A BABY. Birth is traumatic, it's highly likely that there's been some tissue damage down there. How exactly does Salome think that-- just-- None of this makes sense AT ALL!
But Salome is having none of this, so she goes to Mary and decides to go ahead and shove her hand up into Mary's hoohah. Apparently she is satisfied that Mary has given virgin birth, even if I don't know why. More pressing, however, is that when she puts her hand in the Virgin Mother's holy vagina, the holy vagina BURNS HER HAND AWAY!!!??!?
So the moral of the story is to never grab at someone's genitals without informed consent. First of all, that's sexual assault. And also you never know when God will turn their fishy bits into some kind of damn particle beam or something.