The lives and names of Saints Joachim and Anne, who are known as the parents of Mary and grandparents of Jesus Christ, are derived from non-canonical, or apocryphal, literature. This includes the Gospel of the Nativity of Mary, the Gospel of Pseudo-Matthew, and the Protoevangelium of James. It’s important to note that the earliest version of the Protoevangelium, which seems to be the primary source for the other two, dates back to around 150 AD. However, we should approach its assertions with a degree of skepticism given that they are based solely on this text.
In the Eastern tradition, the Protoevangelium was highly respected, and parts of it were read during the feasts of Mary by the Greeks, Syrians, Copts, and Arabians. However, the Western Church Fathers initially rejected it until the 13th century when its contents were incorporated into Jacobus de Voragine’s “Golden Legend”. After this point, the story of St. Anne became widely known across the West and she evolved into one of the Latin Church’s most venerated saints.
The Protoevangelium provides the following narrative: Joachim and Anne, a wealthy and devout couple, lived in Nazareth but were childless. On a feast day, when Joachim went to the temple to offer a sacrifice, he was turned away by a man named Ruben, who claimed that childless men were unworthy of admission. This left Joachim feeling deep sorrow, and he retreated to the mountains to lament in solitude.
Meanwhile, Anne learned why her husband had been absent for so long. In her distress, she pleaded with the Lord to lift the curse of barrenness from her, vowing to dedicate her future child to God’s service. Their prayers were heard, and an angel appeared to both of them. The angel told Anne, “The Lord has seen your tears; you will conceive and give birth, and your child will be a blessing for the entire world.” The same promise was given to Joachim, who then returned to his wife. When Anne gave birth to a girl, they named her Miriam, which is another name for Mary.