Translated and edited by Mark M. Mattison
Luminescence, LLC, 2022
Paperback, 113 pages
Reviewed by Katie M. Deaver, PhD
The Nativity of Mary as Revealed by James is an exciting new resource translated and edited by Christian Feminism Today’s own Mark M. Mattison. This book provides a quality translation of the ancient text interwoven with illustrations of historic works of art, as well as photographs of the third- or fourth-century Papyrus Bodmer V.
The original version of The Nativity of Mary as Revealed by James was written as early as the second century, and shares important aspects of the story of Jesus’s ancestry. A variety of translations of this text have survived, the majority of them in Greek, but also in Arabic, Armenian, Coptic, and Ethiopic. Exploring Mary’s birth and life, the text has inspired an incredible amount of art throughout history. Highlighting many of these paintings, altar pieces, and sculptures by placing them within the text by which they were inspired provides readers a unique way to more fully experience the work.
Each page offers a few lines of translated text with a number of beautiful images, enhancing the reader’s reflection of the smooth translation. Reading Mattison’s book feels like immersing oneself in a spiritual experience. Seeing the photos of the Greek papyrus also provides the reader with a special connection to and understanding of the documents Mattison used for his translation.
The headings added by Mattison allow the reader to easily understand where they are in the text as they consider the powerful images shared throughout each section.
I can imagine those interested in art and ancient texts will fully appreciate this resource as the strong, clear, academic translation it is, but I also can imagine it being effectively used as a personal devotional.
In the introduction, Mattison explains that he hopes to “bring this ancient story to life in all its vibrant colors, illustrating a pleasant English translation with original images of the text and brilliant art from throughout the church’s long history” (xv). This volume absolutely succeeds and will make an excellent addition to the library of any reader with an interest in art and ancient texts.
Editor’s Note: This book will be featured in March of 2023 as part of the What They Wrote: The CFT Book Club series. Consider registering for that event to participate in a discussion of this book led by the author.
© 2022 by Christian Feminism Today.
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