Turning to Surah XIX., Maryam, 16-35, we find there the following narrative of the birth of Christ:
And in the Book do thou.mention Mary, when she retired from her family to an Eastern place. Then apart from them she assumed a veil. Then We sent unto her Our Spirit; accordingly he showed himself to her as a well-formed human being. She said, “˜Verily I take refuge in the Merciful One from thee, if thou art God-fearing.” He said, “˜Truly I am a messenger of thy Lord that I should give to thee a pure man-child.” She said, “˜Whence shall I have a man-child, since no human being hath touched me, and I am not rebellious.’ He said, “˜Thus hath thy Lord said, It is easy for Me, and let Us make Him a sign unto men and a mercy from us, and it is a thing decided.” Accordingly she conceived Him: then she retired with him to a distant place. Then labour-pains brought her to the trunk of the palm-tree. She said, “˜O would that I had died ere this and had become forgotten, forgotten!” Thereupon he called aloud to her from beneath her: “˜Grieve thou not; thy lord hath made a brook beneath thee. And do thou shake towards thyself the trunk of the palm-tree: it shall let fall upon thee freshly-gathered dates. Eat therefore and drink and brighten thy eye; then, if thou seest any human being, then say, Verily I have vowed unto my Lord a fast, therefore I shall surely not speak to any man today.” Accordingly she brought Him to her people, carrying Him. They said, “˜O Mary, truly thou hast done a vile thing. O sister of Aaron, thy father was not a man of wickedness, and thy mother was not rebellious.” Then she made a sign unto Him. They said, “˜How shall we speak to one who is a child in the cradle?” He said, “˜Verily I am God’s servant: He hath brought Me the Book and hath made Me a Prophet. And He hath made Me blessed wherever I am, and hath prescribed for Me prayer and alms, as long as I live, and to be well-behaved to My mother, and He hath not made Me violent, wretched. And peace upon Me the day I was born, and the day I shall die, and the day I shall be raised up alive.” That is Jesus, Son of Mary; a statement of the truth, concerning which they doubt.”
As Tisdall says, “We can trace every single matter here mentioned to some apocryphal source, as will be evident from the passages which we now proceed to adduce”.
Tisdall then quotes the Protevangelium of James the Less [the Younger] in reference to Mary’s birth, without explaining what this text is: its authorship, date and original language, and so on. In fact, answers to these questions are exactly what is most significant and important. The Protoevangelium was accepted very early into liturgical collective manuscripts, and for that reason has survived in a large number of manuscripts and many versions. Comparatively recent discovery of a papyrus, now known as Papyrus Bodmer 5, dated to the 4th century, has helped scholar E. de Strycker to establish what is now the best edition in Greek, in which language there exist 140 manuscripts. But there are also four manuscripts o the Protoevangelium in Syriac which probably originated in the 5th century. Then there are versions in Georgian, Latin, Armenian, Coptic, Ethiopic, Slavonic languages, and in Arabic from the 10th century. The Protoevangelium circulated in the eastern area of the Church. Professor Wilhelm Schneemelcher of Bonn University describes the Protoevangelium“s contents, “Although it reaches the birth of Jesus and recounts it, it is really much more an account of the miraculous birth of Mary, the daughter of wealthy Joachim and his wife Anne, her upbringing in the Temple and her virginity, which is not impaired by the widower Joseph, to whom she is entrusted by lot, and by the birth of Jesus. Chapters 22-24 recount the murder of Zacharias, who is identified with the father of the Baptist”.
It purports to be the testimony of James, the brother of Jesus. In reality the book was probably not written before 150 C.E., though some chapters were possibly added later.