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Journal of the Bible and its Reception

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Joseph of Nazareth in the Protevangelium of James

Justin M. Glessner
  • Corresponding author
  • Assistant Professor of Religious Studies, Department of Religious Studies, DePauw University, Harrison Hall, P.O. Box 37, Greencastle, IN 46135, USA
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Published Online: 2015-11-06 | DOI: https://doi.org/10.1515/jbr-2015-0010


The tensions and gaps between Joseph’s canonical reception (in Matthew 1-2 and Luke 1-2) left him wide open for literary development. This essay considers the reception of Joseph in the Protevangelium of James (PJ) and examines the overlapping and intertwining ways in which interpretation and social context influence that reception. In contrast to that of Luke (Luke 1-2) and similar to that of Matthew (Matt 1-2), PJ’s infancy account is arguably Joseph’s tale. Joseph’s point-of-view characterization in PJ feasibly plays a key role in mediating collective memory and putative in-group identity, bound up with the processes of male self-fashioning. In particular, through its meditation on the outwardly perplexing circumstances of Joseph’s ‘not quite’ marriage to Mary and in its positioning of the ‘rodhandling’ priestly elite, PJ can be seen to have been instrumental in inspiring, or at least being conducive to, forms of masculine subjectivity at home within early Syrian ascetical circles.

Keywords: reception; masculinity; Protevangelium of James; Joseph of Nazareth; early Syrian asceticism


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About the article

Corresponding author: Justin M. Glessner, Assistant Professor of Religious Studies, Department of Religious Studies, DePauw University, Harrison Hall, P.O. Box 37, Greencastle, IN 46135, USA, e-mail:

Published Online: 2015-11-06

Published in Print: 2015-11-01

Citation Information: Journal of the Bible and its Reception, Volume 2, Issue 2, Pages 263–287, ISSN (Online) 2329-4434, ISSN (Print) 2329-440X, DOI: https://doi.org/10.1515/jbr-2015-0010.

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