The Protevangelium of James as an Alleged Parallel to Creative Historiography in the Synoptic Birth Narratives -- By: Charles L. Quarles

Journal: Bulletin for Biblical Research
Volume: BBR 08:1 (NA 1998)
Article: The Protevangelium of James as an Alleged Parallel to Creative Historiography in the Synoptic Birth Narratives
Author: Charles L. Quarles


The Protevangelium of James as an Alleged Parallel to Creative Historiography in the Synoptic Birth Narratives

Charles L. Quarles

Clear Creek Baptist Bible College, Pineville, Kentucky

This article contrasts the compositional techniques used in the Synoptic birth narratives with those used by the author of a work which is almost universally recognized as midrashic, the Protevangelium of James. While “James” created his “history” from OT narratives, he was apparently unaware of the many OT dependencies in the Synoptic Gospels asserted by midrash critics. Unlike the Synoptic writers, the author of the Protevangelium of James created some of his narrative by retrojecting words and events from the later ministry of Christ into his account of Jesus’ birth. These disparate compositional techniques suggest that the Synoptic Gospels and the midrashic Protevangelium of James belong to different literary genres.

Key Words: midrash, historiography, Gospels, genre, Protevangelium of James

Recently the importance of the Protevangelium of James for NT studies heightened as scholars classified it as a proven example of Christian midrash. H. J. Smid regarded the Protevangelium of James as “exégèse midrashique.”1 R. J. Bauckham stated: “It [Protevangelium of James] has been called midrashic (according to the loose use of that term in some NT scholarship …) because of its creative use of OT texts in developing the narrative.”2 Raymond Brown in his massive commentary on the Synoptic birth narratives classified the Protevangelium of James as distinctively Christian midrash.3 As Bauckham’s parenthetical remarks indicate, scholars who describe the Protevangelium of James

as midrash do not intend midrash to be understood merely in the sense of an exegetical text. Rather midrash is intended to signify texts that use narrative themes from the OT in the composition of creative historiography that invents stories and presents them as history.

Because of the description of the Protevangelium of James as Christian midrash, the Protevangelium of James has been used to argue that creative historiography was known and accepted by the early Christian church.4 This makes the assessment of the Matthean and Lucan birth narratives as creative historiography much more plausible. 5Hence a detailed comparison of the literary tendencies of the Proteva...

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