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Apocryphal Writings on Life of Mary (Bibliography)

Apocryphal Writings on Life of Mary (Bibliography)

– Answered by Father Johann Roten, S.M.

Q: What do we know about Mary's life from apocryphal sources?

A: There are a number of ancient texts not in the canon of Sacred Scripture which claim to present details about the life of Mary. The Protoevangelium Jacobi [First Gospel of James] (ca. 150) examines her early life and gives us details like the names of Mary's parents (Joachim and Ann).

The Transitus Mariae (fifth century, Ethiopian) legends recount the end of Mary's life on earth. There are apocryphal accounts of the birth of Mary and of her 'Laments'. There is an entire Coptic cycle of writings on the life of Mary. Finally, the Golden Legend, written by Jacobus de Voragine around 1260 AD, chronicles legends about many saints. Several of these tales involve aspects of Mary's life (e.g. Birth, Purification, Assumption, etc). Though none of the details in these accounts are as trustworthy as those in the Bible, these legends have influenced both the personal piety of many believers, and various liturgical commemorations of these events. For more information, consult the following references:

Cameron, Ron (Ed). The Other Gospels. Philadelphia: The Westminster Press. 1982. p. 191.

Elliott, James Keith. The Apocryphal Jesus: Legends of the Early Church. New York: Oxford University Press. 1996. p. 214.

Elliot, James Keith (Ed). The Apocryphal New Testament: a collection of apocryphal Christian literature in an English translation. Oxford: Clarendon Press. 1993. pp. 747.

Hervieux, Jaques and Dom Wulstan Hibberd (Trans). The New Testament Apocrypha. New York: Hawthorn Books. 1960. p. 188.

Voragine, Jacobus de and William Granger Ryan (Trans). The Golden Legend. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press. 1993. p. 391.

There are also more recent texts which claim to offer details about the life of Mary based on private revelations from personal mystical experience. Even today, some alleged mystics claim to have received supernatural revelations about Mary's life (e.g. those in Medjugorje claim that her actual birthday falls on August 5). The Church allows her children to examine these works in the spirit of pious devotion, but accords none of their claims the certitude of divine faith. Translations of some of the better known texts are:

Agreda, Mary of, and Fiscar Marison (Trans). City of God ... [4 volumes] Albuquerque, NM. 1949.

Brown, Raphael (Ed). The Life of Mary As Seen by the Mystics [includes excerpts from St. Elizabeth of Schoenau, St. Bridget of Sweden, et al]. Rockford, IL: TAN Books, 1951. p. 292.

Emmerich, Anne Katherine and Michael Palairet (Trans). The Life of the Blessed Virgin Mary Springfield, IL: Templegate, 1954, p. 383.

Valtorta, Maria and Nicandro Picozzi (Trans). The Poem of the Man-God [5 vol.] Italy: Centro Editoriale Valtortiano, 1986.

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