EWTN Catholic Q&A
lives of Mary and Joseph
Question from mdr on 07-09-2006:

Our Church bulletin had an article written by a priest that said there are stories that were handed down through time about the lives of Mary and Joseph of which there is no mention of in scripture and in this article he said that one way these stories are said to have been handed down was in the Gospel of James. Wasn't the Gospel of James apocryal and rejected by the Church in the early days? Are there any reliable sources for the lives of Mary and Joseph? And if so, was the Book of James one of them?

Answer by Matthew Bunson on 07-19-2006:

The name of James has been attached to a number of writings. The most important is the Epistle of James, the first of the Catholic Epistles with those of Peter, John (1-3), and Jude, meaning that they were accepted by all churches (by the understanding of the West) or addressed to all churches (by the thinking of the East). It is included in the NT canon of the Church.

His name is also was attached to a number of apocryphal writings that are not accepted as part of the NT canon. Among these are: the Apocalypses of James, two works found in the codices of the Nag Hammadi; the Liturgy of St. James, traditionally ascribed to him; and the so-called Infancy Gospel or the Book of James, also known as the Protoevangelium from the sixteenth century, that was based on the Gospels of Mark and Luke. As noted, for various reasons relating to the theological deficiencies and/or the Gnostic tendencies in these books, they are not considered by the Church to be inspired.