Apocryphal stories about the Virgin Mary and Christ
Year mention: 1617
Jesus Christ ; Story of Joachim and Anne ; Virgin Mary
Not corresponding to Scriptures
Untruthfulness/Not probable/Not corresponding to history

Images depict incorrect stories about Christ and Mary

Molanus, Johannes
Albrecht Dürer, Joachim and Anna at the Golden Gate, from The Life of the Virgin, 1504
The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, www.metmuseum.org

In book 2, chapter 28, Molanus continues the discussion started in the previous chapter on images that contain an error but do not pose a real danger, in this chapter the main focus is on iconographies regarding Jesus Christ. The chapter thus fits in the greater scheme created by the author in the work in which he categorises images and the errors they contain, whether these are to be condemned or not, and according to what or whom. In general, Molanus argues that paintings containing the discussed errors do not have t be removed, as long as the provincial council of the Church does not decide otherwise.
The sixt case addressed by Molanus regards images of the Virgin Mary and Christ based on stories from apocryphal sources: the story of Joachim and Anne, the parents of the Virgin Mary, the Virgin mary who was brought to the Temple of God at the age of three, and the birth of Jesus. Such images are erroneous because they were based on incorrect stories.

“Moreover, some of the images seem to have originated in the apogryphal book on the Saviour’s childhood, which is called the Protevangile of St. James and which begins as follows: the stories of the twelve tribes of Israel relate that a certain Joachim, a very rich man, brought a double offering to God. In fact, we find in this book this fiction that Reuben is said to have said to Joachim: ‘You are not allowed to offer your gift because you have no descendants in Israel. And Joachim arrived with his flocks; Anne was standing at the edge of the city and saw Joachim coming with his animals, she ran to him and hung on his neck, saying: ‘Now I know that the Lord God has blessed me: I, who was sterile, will conceive in my womb. It also says that the Virgin Mary was brought at the age of three to the temple of God, where she wore purple and scarlet. And again: ‘Help me to come down from the ass, for the child within me is pressing upon me and will be born. Here is what is allotted to Joseph: After having thrown his axe, Jospeh went out. And again, further on: Joseph protested: I have sons, I am an old man, and she is a young girl. Also: He was looking for a midwife.” 

“Rursum aliqae picturae videntur originem suam habere ex Apocrypho libro de infantia Salvatoris, qui protevangelium sancti Iacobi inscribitur, et incipit: In historiis duodecim tribuum Israël erat Ioachim dives valde; offerebatque Deo munera dupla. Habet enim istud sigmentum, Ruven dixisse ad Ioachim, Non licet tibi offerre munus tuum quia semen in Israël non fecisti. Et ecce Ioachim venit eum gregibus suis et stabat Anna in porta, vidit que Ioachim venientem cum gregibus suis et accurrens appensa est collo eius dicens. Nunc cognosco quod Dominus Deus benedixit mihi vehementer, quia quae eram sterilis in utero habebo. De beata quoque virgine Maria habet, quod triennis abducta sit in templum Dei, in quo accepta purpura et cocco silavit, quod dixerit. Depone me ab asina quia quod in me est me urget ut progrediatur. Ad Ioseph vero pertinent ista, Ioseph, Filios habeo et sum senex: ipsa autem est iuvencula. Item, Perquirebat obstetricem.”

Jesus Christ, Virgin Mary

Date mention

Historical Location

Iconclass Number
73A23; 73A3

Molanus, De historia sanctarum imaginum et picturarum (1617), book 2, ch. 28, 105-106

Molanus 1996, 203.

Permanent Link