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Chapter 8.

Now it came to pass, when she was fourteen16321632    Or, twelve. years old, and on this account there was occasion for the Pharisees’ saying that it was now a custom that no woman of that age 372should abide in the temple of God, they fell upon the plan of sending a herald through all the tribes of Israel, that on the third day all should come together into the temple of the Lord.  And when all the people had come together, Abiathar the high priest rose, and mounted on a higher step, that he might be seen and heard by all the people; and when great silence had been obtained, he said:  Hear me, O sons of Israel, and receive my words into your ears.  Ever since this temple was built by Solomon, there have been in it virgins, the daughters of kings and the daughters of prophets, and of high priests and priests; and they were great, and worthy of admiration.  But when they came to the proper age they were given in marriage, and followed the course of their mothers before them, and were pleasing to God.  But a new order of life has been found out by Mary alone, who promises that she will remain a virgin to God.  Wherefore it seems to me, that through our inquiry and the answer of God we should try to ascertain to whose keeping she ought to be entrusted.  Then these words found favour with all the synagogue.  And the lot was cast by the priests upon the twelve tribes, and the lot fell upon the tribe of Judah.  And the priest said:  To-morrow let every one who has no wife come, and bring his rod in his hand.  Whence it happened that Joseph16331633    One of themss. adds:  Seeing that he had not a wife, and not wishing to slight the order of the high priest. brought his rod along with the young men.  And the rods having been handed over to the high priest, he offered a sacrifice to the Lord God, and inquired of the Lord.  And the Lord said to him:  Put all their rods into the holy of holies of God, and let them remain there, and order them to come to thee on the morrow to get back their rods; and the man from the point of whose rod a dove shall come forth, and fly towards heaven, and in whose hand the rod, when given back, shall exhibit this sign, to him let Mary be delivered to be kept.

On the following day, then, all having assembled early, and an incense-offering having been made, the high priest went into the holy of holies, and brought forth the rods.  And when he had distributed the rods,16341634    One of themss. inserts:  To the number of three thousand. and the dove came forth out of none of them, the high priest put on the twelve bells16351635    See Protev. James 8. and the sacerdotal robe; and entering into the holy of holies, he there made a burnt-offering, and poured forth a prayer.  And the angel of the Lord appeared to him, saying:  There is here the shortest rod, of which thou hast made no account:  thou didst bring it in with the rest, but didst not take it out with them.  When thou hast taken it out, and hast given it him whose it is, in it will appear the sign of which I spoke to thee.  Now that was Joseph’s rod; and because he was an old man, he had been cast off, as it were, that he might not receive her, but neither did he himself wish to ask back his rod.16361636    Another and more probable reading is:  And this was Joseph’s rod; and he was of an abject appearance, seeing that he was old, and he would not ask back his rod, lest perchance he might be forced to receive her.  And when he was humbly standing last of all, the high priest cried out to him with a loud voice, saying:  Come, Joseph, and receive thy rod; for we are waiting for thee.  And Joseph came up trembling, because the high priest had called him with a very loud voice.  But as soon as he stretched forth his hand, and laid hold of his rod, immediately from the top of it came forth a dove whiter than snow, beautiful exceedingly, which, after long flying about the roofs of the temple, at length flew towards the heavens.  Then all the people congratulated the old man, saying:  Thou hast been made blessed in thine old age, O father Joseph, seeing that God hath shown thee to be fit to receive Mary.  And the priests having said to him, Take her, because of all the tribe of Judah thou alone hast been chosen by God; Joseph began bashfully to address them, saying:  I am an old man, and have children; why do you hand over to me this infant, who is younger than my grandsons?  Then Abiathar the high priest said to him:  Remember, Joseph, how Dathan and Abiron and Core perished, because they despised the will of God.  So will it happen to thee, if thou despise this which is commanded thee by God.  Joseph answered him:  I indeed do not despise the will of God; but I shall be her guardian until I can ascertain concerning the will of God, as to which of my sons can have her as his wife.  Let some virgins of her companions, with whom she may meanwhile spend her time, be given for a consolation to her.  Abiathar the high priest answered and said:  Five virgins indeed shall be given her for consolation, until the appointed day come in which thou mayst receive her; for to no other can she be joined in marriage.

Then Joseph received Mary, with the other five virgins who were to be with her in Joseph’s house.  These virgins were Rebecca, Sephora, Susanna, Abigea, and Cael; to whom the high priest gave the silk, and the blue,16371637    Or, hyacinth. and the fine linen, and the scarlet, and the purple, and the fine flax.  For they cast lots among themselves what each virgin should do, and the purple for the veil of the temple of the Lord fell to the lot of Mary.  And when she had got it, those virgins said to her:  Since thou art the last, and humble, and younger than all, thou hast deserved to receive and obtain the purple.  And thus saying, 373as it were in words of annoyance, they began to call her queen of virgins.  While, however, they were so doing, the angel of the Lord appeared in the midst of them, saying:  These words shall not have been uttered by way of annoyance, but prophesied as a prophecy most true.  They trembled, therefore, at the sight of the angel, and at his words, and asked her to pardon them, and pray for them.

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