A second-century story known as The Protoevangelium of James fills in a lot of the gaps in Mary’s biography. It tells us about Mary’s childhood, that she had special status as a dedicated virgin, and that she was 16 when she conceived Jesus. In this version of the nativity story Joseph doesn’t just accuse her of disgracing herself, he responds to Mary’s statement that she hasn’t “known” a man by asking her, “Where did this thing in your womb come from then?”
But Joseph is a believer in comparison to woman named Salome. Salome, who meets a midwife who examined Mary, declares, “As the Lord my God lives, unless I insert my finger and investigate her, I will not believe that a virgin has given birth.” Mary prepares herself for the gynecological exam and Salome performs the test. Her hand literally catches on fire, and it takes the appearance of an angel (as well as some strong statements of contrition from Salome) before she is healed.
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