Question: "What are the Infancy Gospels?"

Answer: The Infancy Gospels are a small group of writings that claim to provide details about Jesus’ childhood. Inspired Scripture says little about Jesus’ life between His birth and the start of His public ministry. In contrast, the Infancy Gospels contain extensive stories about a pre-teen Jesus and His family. Only two of these gospels—the Protoevangelium of James and the Infancy Gospel of Thomas—were widespread. Others are found only in fragments and in various languages.

Even the two main Infancy Gospels were written far too late to be considered authoritative. They also contain blatantly false content. That includes both factual mistakes about the region of Jerusalem and doctrinal ideas that contradict the inspired Gospels of Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John. Most of the spiritual content of these Infancy Gospels aligns with Gnosticism, an early heresy plaguing the Christian church. Those immediately recognized flaws kept such works from being considered as part of the canon of Scripture.

The Protoevangelium of James claims that Mary was a temple virgin who remained a virgin for her entire life. Some modern superstitions about Mary are reflected in this early work. The Infancy Gospel of Thomas presents the young Jesus as a temperamental, fickle, arrogant, and disobedient magic worker. This coordinates with some aspects of Gnostic thinking, and certainly with pagan views of the gods. However, the character, words, and actions of Jesus as presented in the Infancy Gospel of Thomas are totally incompatible with Scripture. These works also attribute various miracles to Jesus’ childhood. Claims of Jesus’ juvenile miracles fly in the face of the canonical gospels, which present Jesus’ miracle at Cana as “the first of His signs” (John 2:11, BSB).

Despite their collective name, the Infancy Gospels have no factual connection to the four gospels of the Bible. Early Christians recognized the Infancy Gospels for what they were: late, fictional accounts that present a false and mythical version of Jesus Christ. As historical resources, they are useful. They contain details about certain heresies and the origin of superstitions about Jesus and Mary. They are not, in any sense, comparable to the inspired words of God or to the contents of the actual Bible.