The Darker Side Of Mary And Joseph’s Story

The Jewish province of Judea in Ancient Rome was an exceptionally conservative, religious place. Gender roles were strictly defined, as were expectations when it came to sex and marriage. Deuteronomy, as a part of traditional Jewish law, pronounced a brutal and strict punishment for women who fornicated:

“Then they shall bring out the damsel to the door of her father’s house, and the men of her city shall stone her with stones that she die: because she hath wrought folly in Israel.” So, it makes sense why a teenage Mary, after visiting her husband-to-be Joseph for several

Months and then becoming pregnant, would have not been merely in a lot of trouble with society, but facing death as a result of her supposed indiscretion. It also makes sense that if Joseph wasn’t the father, he would have wanted to dust off his hands and say bye-bye to his

Bride-to-be. That is, unless Joseph turned out to be precisely the kind of understanding, stand-up guy that he needed to be. The Bible uses a Greek word meaning “pledged to be married” to describe Mary and Joseph’s relationship in the time leading up to the birth of Jesus. Something between engaged

And married, and similar to “betrothed” this meant that Mary had passed along to Joseph’s rule from her father’s, but they were not yet allowed to have a sexual relationship. So, if Joseph noticed she was pregnant, whether he was the father or not, he could have exposed

Her and had her executed, even if only because he didn’t want to bear the shame of being implicated in a pre-wedlock pregnancy. Before they were betrothed, this right would have fallen to Mary’s father. Overall, the Bible doesn’t have much to say about Joseph, but his response to Mary’s unexpected

Pregnancy might be all we need to know about him and his character. Joseph didn’t rat Mary out, and in fact kept things hush-hush, planning at first to divorce her quietly, according to the book of Matthew. At this point Joseph hadn’t yet come around to accepting his divine fatherly duties, and

It’s understandable why he would have felt this way. Joseph also didn’t want to expose her to public disgrace, which is a nice way of saying that he didn’t want Mary murdered by rocks. Maybe not a high bar to clear, but it was still exceptional for the time.

Before Joseph could leave Mary, however, the book of Matthew states that an angel appeared to him, saying, “Fear not to take unto thee Mary thy wife: for that which is conceived in her is of the Holy Ghost. And she shall bring forth a son, and thou shalt call his name Jesus: for he

Shall save his people from their sins.” The passage goes on to say that this occurred as prophecy foretold. This heavenly intercession, similar to Mary’s visit by Gabriel recounted in the book of Luke, was all it took to make

Joseph a believer. The Bible says he was a God-fearing guy who, we presume, must have been acquainted with the prophecy. The next morning, Joseph woke up and did what the angel of the Lord had commanded him to

Do, and took Mary home as his wife. Easy-peasy. And just to be extra clear about the whole premarital sex issue, the passage in question goes on to say that Mary and Joseph didn’t have intercourse before they were officially, formally married. In the end, it seems that

The Almighty did a good job of choosing a couple to act as wards for His earthly incarnation. “The baby’s kicking. He’s strong.” “Like his mother.” Despite cinematic depictions to the contrary, this is all supposed to have happened when

Mary and Joseph were teenagers. We know this because only legal adults of ages 18 or higher were required to take part in censuses to pay taxes, which is why Mary and Joseph traveled to Bethlehem around the time of Jesus’ birth. And as the Bible goes on to say, this is around

The time when Emperor Augustus called for the aforementioned census, which more or less forced Mary and Joseph to stick together and not backpedal from their celestial commitment. It would have certainly been a scandalous affair for a young, pregnant, betrothed couple

To take to the road in those days, but Mary and Joseph did it, nonetheless. Mary accepted her role, and Joseph stuck by her side, claiming Jesus as his own child. They set off towards Bethlehem, and the rest of the well-known story unfolds: they find no room at the inn,

Settle into a nice nativity scene, get a visit from three wise men, and chill with some livestock. Despite a challenging, mystical start, Mary and Joseph stayed together, raising Jesus prior to him setting off to preach at age 30.

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