For instance, it is this document which speaks of the ass for Mary’s journey, the cave for Christ's birth, Salome and the midwife verifying a virgin birth (utero clauso), and even the Marian colors of dark purple (blue?) and scarlet (Mary was given these colors of linen for spinning).
In addition, there is an account of the murder of Zacharias, the father of John the Baptist, between the porch and the altar in the temple, by Herod's men, when Zacharias would not (or could not) produce information concerning his son John's whereabouts (John and his mother Elizabeth had gone into hiding in the desert, where a mountain was miraculously cleft to receive her and her son).
The research provides an interesting take on Jesus’ reference to the murder of Zacharias in St. Matthew 23:35 (cf.
If this is the Zacharias to whom Jesus refers, then the reference in the Protoevangelium of James is to an historical reality. Others who hold to this theory point to the fact that none of the other three Zacharias figures to whom it could refer is as likely. The priest Zacharias of 2 Chronicles 24:20-22 has the wrong father (Jehoiada), the prophet Zechariah seems to have been obeyed and not martyred (Zechariah 6:7), and Zechariah the son of Baruch, though slain by Zealots in the midst of the temple, was not slain until A.D. 67 (Josephus, Wars of the Jews, Book 4, Chapter 6, Section 4), which would require the admission of editorializing on the part of the Evangelist. None of the books of Esdras contain any evidence of any crime so heinous committed in the
The account given in the Protoevangelium of James is actually quite believable, in view of the likelihood that Zacharias would have met trouble at the hands of Herod’s men searching for
This would certainly help to contextualize Jesus' invective against the scribes and Pharisees: perhaps they were not only guilty of saying bad things, but of murder: it was after all the scribes in Herod's court who first brought Bethlehem into the madman's mind. And when Herod was troubled at the wise men's words, it says that "all Jerusalem" was troubled with him, a likely reference to the scribes and Pharisees in particular. So it is likely that when Herod sent his murderers to Bethlehem, it was with their blessing. Their last act of murder, literally, could well have been the murder of John's father. Jesus is saying that their murderous line began with Cain, as they fill up in their own time the cup that began with Abel's murder.
I'm still pondering all this, so I'm not quite sure, but it makes sense to me for the time being.