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Infancy of Jesus

 

From The Gospel of Thomas

This text describes the life of the child Jesus, with fanciful, and sometimes malevolent, supernatural events, comparable to the trickster nature of the god-child in many a Greek myth. One of the episodes involves Jesus making clay birds, which he then proceeds to bring to life, an act also attributed to Jesus in Qur'an 5:110; however in the Quran it is not attributed to him as a child). In another episode, a child disperses water that Jesus has collected, Jesus then curses him, which causes the child's body to wither into a corpse, found in the Greek text A, and Latin versions. The Greek text B doesn't mention Jesus cursing the boy, and simply says that the child "went on, and after a little he fell and gave up the ghost," (M.R. James translation). Another child dies when Jesus curses him when he apparently accidentally bumps into him. In the latter case, there are three differing versions recorded the Greek Text A, Greek Text B, and the Latin text. Instead of bumping into Jesus in A, B records that the child throws a stone at Jesus, while the last says the boy punched him.

 

When Joseph and Mary's neighbors complain, they are miraculously struck blind by Jesus. Jesus then starts receiving lessons, but arrogantly tries to teach the teacher instead, upsetting the teacher who suspects supernatural origins. Jesus is amused by this suspicion, which he confirms, and revokes all his earlier apparent cruelty. Subsequently he resurrects a friend who is killed when he falls from a roof, and heals another who cuts his foot with an axe.

After various other demonstrations of supernatural ability, new teachers try to teach Jesus, but he proceeds to explain the law to them instead. There are another set of miracles in which Jesus heals his brother who is bitten by a snake, and two others who have died from different causes. Finally, the text recounts the episode in Luke in which Jesus, aged twelve, teaches in the temple.

Although the miracles seem quite randomly inserted into the text, there are three miracles before, and three after, each of the sets of lessons. The structure of the story is essentially:

  • Bringing life to a dried fish (this is only present in later texts)
    •  

    • (First group)

      • 3 Miracles - Breathes life into birds fashioned from clay, curses a boy, who then becomes a corpse (not present in Greek B), curses a boy who falls dead and his parents become blind

      • Attempt to teach Jesus which fails, with Jesus doing the teaching

    • 3 Miracles - Reverses his earlier acts, resurrects a friend who fell from a roof, heals a man who chopped his foot with an ax.
    •  
    • (Second group)

      • 3 Miracles - Carries water on cloth, produces a feast from a single grain, stretches a beam of wood to help his father finish constructing a bed

      • Attempts to teach Jesus which fails, with Jesus doing the teaching

      • 3 Miracles - Heals James from snake poison, resurrects a child who died of illness, resurrects a man who died in a construction accident.
      •  
    • Incident in the temple paralleling Luke

    Syriac Infancy Gospel

     

    The Syriac Infancy Gospel (Injilu 't Tufuliyyah), translated from a Coptic original, gives some parallels to the episodes "recorded in the book of Josephus the Chief Priest, who was in the time of Christ."[citation needed]

    Further reading

  • Barnstone, Willis (ed.). The Other Bible, Harper Collins, 1984, pp.398–403. ISBN 0062500317

    References

  • ^ a b Kate Zebiri of the University of London (Spring 2000). "Contemporary Muslim Understanding of the Miracles of Jesus" (PDF). The Muslim World (Hartford Seminary's Macdonald Center for the Study of Islam and Christian-Muslim Relations) 90: 74. http://macdonald.hartsem.edu/articles/zebiriarticle.pdf. Retrieved 2010-01-04. "In the Qur'an, the miracles of Jesus are described in two passages: 3:49 and 5:110. Qur'an 3:49 attributes the following words to Jesus: I have come to you, with a Sign from your Lord, in that I make for you of clay, the figure of a bird, and breathe into it, and it becomes a bird by God's permission". 

     

  • External links

     

    Wikisource has original text related to this article:

     

    Infancy Gospel of Thomas

     

    • Early Christian Writings: Infancy Gospel of Thomas

    • Gnostic Society Library: Infancy Gospel of Thomas introduction and translations by M.R. James, 1924