Ibn Warraq: The Judeo-Christian Origins of Islam (Part 4)

The Judeo-Christian Origins of Islam
by Ibn Warraq
Part 4
Part 1 here; part 2 here; part 3 here.

The first part of the translation of the Protoevangelium I give comes from Wilhelm Schneemelcher’s New Testament Apocrypha, Volume One [London, 1991], and the second part from Tisdall:

“And Anna sighed towards heaven, and saw a nest of sparrows in the laurel tree and
immediately she made lamentation within herself:
“˜Woe to me, who begot me,
What womb brought me forth?
For I was born as a curse [before them all and ] before the children of Israel,
And I was reproached, and they mocked me and thrust me out of the Temple of the Lord.
Woe is me, to what I am likened?
I am not likened to the birds of the heaven;
for even the birds of the heaven are fruitful before thee, O Lord.
Woe is me, to what I am likened?
I am not likened to the beasts of the earth;
for even the beasts of the earth are fruitful before thee, O Lord.
Woe is me, to what I am likened?
I am not likened to these waters;
for even these waters gush forth merrily, and their fish praise thee, O Lord.
Woe is me, to what I am likened?
I am not likened to this earth,
for even this earth brings forth its fruit in its season and praises thee, O Lord.

“And lo! an angel of the Lord. stood by, saying unto her, “˜Anna! Anna! the Lord God hath hearkened unto thy petition; thou shalt conceive and shalt bear, and thy seed shall he spoken of in all the world.” But Anna said, “˜As the Lord my God liveth, if I bear either male or female. I shall offer it as a gift unto the Lord my God, and it shall continue to do Him service all the days of its life.” … But her months were fulfilled, and in the ninth month Anna brought forth. … And she gave breast to the child and called her Mary.”

[The tale then proceeds to tell how, when the child was old enough to leave her mother, she was taken to the Temple at Jerusalem by Anna, according to her vow.] It then continues:

“The priest accepted her and kissed and blessed her and said, “˜The Lord God hath magnified thy name amid all the generations of the earth: upon thee at the end of the days shall the Lord God manifest the redemption of the Children of Israel.” … But Mary was like a dove reared in the Lord’s shrine, and she was wont to receive food from an angel’s hand. But when she became twelve years of age, there was held a council of the priests, who said, “˜Lo! Mary hath become twelve years old in the shrine of the Lord, what therefore are we to do with her?” … And lo! an angel of the Lord stood by him, saying, “˜Zacharias Zacharias! go forth and call together the widowers of the people, and let them bring each a rod, and to whomsoever the Lord God shall show a sign, his wife shall she be.” And the heralds went forth throughout all the coast of Judaea, and the trumpet of the Lord sounded, and they all ran. But Joseph, casting away his adze, himself ran also into the synagogue: and having been assembled they went away unto the priest. And the priest took the rods of all, and went into the Temple and prayed. But having ended his prayer he came forth and gave to each one his rod, and there was no sign in them. But Joseph received the last rod. And lo! a dove came forth from the rod and flew up upon Joseph’s head. And the priest said unto him, “˜Thou hast obtained by lot to receive the virgin of the Lord: receive her unto thyself to guard.” … And Joseph, being affrighted, received her to guard. … But Mary, having taken a pitcher, went out to fill it with water. And lo! a voice, saying, “˜Hail, O highly favoured! the Lord is with thee: blessed art thou among women.” And she looked around to right and left [to see] whence this voice came. And having become alarmed she departed unto her house; and having set down the pitcher … she sat down upon the seat. … And lo! an angel of the Lord stood by, saying unto her, “˜Fear not, Mary, for thou hast found favour in God’s sight, and thou shalt conceive from His Word.” But Mary having heard considered in herself, saying, “˜Shall I conceive according as every woman beareth?” And the angel saith unto her, “˜Not thus, Mary; for the power of the Highest shall overshadow thee, therefore also the holy thing that is to be born shall be called Son of the Highest: and thou shalt call His name Jesus.”

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