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The Nativity of Mary, 3rd century
Papyrus, Greek manuscript, 17.5 x 16 cm
PBodmer V

The Nativity of Mary, better known as the Protogospel of Saint James (the title given to it by its first editor in the 16th century), is an apocryphal book written in the second century. The Bodmer copy, which dates from the third century, is the oldest copy, so close to the date of composition that is key to the history of this apocryphal gospel’s development. It tells the story of Jesus’ childhood and was of great importance to the Eastern Churches; it was translated into Syrian, Coptic, Sahidic, Arabic, Aramean, Ethiopic and even Slavic. In the West, this apocryphal book was banned by Pope Innocent I in 417.

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