A special issue of the journal Studies in Religion/ Sciences Religieuses focused on children in early Christianity includes my brief article “Depictions of Children in the Apocryphal Infancy Gospels” (p. 388-400). The abstract is below.
The apocryphal infancy gospels (such as the Infancy Gospel of Thomas and the Protoevangelium of James) seem at first look to be ideal sources for the study of children and childhood in early Christianity. They all feature depictions of Jesus as an infant and/or a child; some tell similar tales of other eminent Christian figures, such as Mary of Nazareth and John the Baptist. Few of these texts, however, can be considered “early” texts (i.e., 2-3rd centuries) and even those texts we can confidently date to this period are of limited value for the study of children. One text remains useful for this endeavour: the Infancy Gospel of Thomas. And in recent years, several scholars have looked seriously at this gospel for what it can tell us about the experiences of children in antiquity. Yet, even this text must be approached with caution for it has more to say about how adults of the time wanted children to be than what they truly were.