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The contents of this gospel describe the birth and childhood of Mary, the mother of Jesus, her coming of age and betrothal to Joseph, and the birth and early childhood of Jesus. One of the work's high points is the Lament of [[Joachim and Anna|Anna]. A primary theme is the work and grace of God in Mary's life, Mary's personal purity, and her perpetual virginity before, during and after the birth of Jesus, as confirmed by the midwife after she gave birth, and tested by "Salome" who is perhaps intended for [[Salome]], later the disciple of Jesus mentioned at the [[Crucifixion]] by the author of the ''[[Gospel of Mark]]''. Though the book is not an official part of Christian canon and hence "apocryphal", the ''Gospel of James'' may be the earliest surviving document attesting the veneration of Mary and her continuing virginity (possible earlier ones being known only as quotes in later works.)
It is in three equal parts, the first eight chapters containing the story of Mary's own unique birth and childhood, the second eight chapters concerning the crisis posed by Mary's becoming a woman and thus her imminent pollution of the temple, her assignment to Joseph as guardian, and the tests of her virginity, and the last eight chapters relating the Nativity, with the visit of midwives, the hiding of Jesus from Herod in a feeding trough, and even the parallel hiding of John the Baptist from Herod in the hills with his mother [[Elizabeth]]. These legends appear to be embellishments upon the stories given in the gospels of Matthew and Luke.