Lesson Two, Question 9

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Lesson Two, Question 9

Post by Tara Bernard on Sun Nov 12, 2017 12:54 pm

9. What was Joseph and Mary’s marital status at the time of Jesus’ birth? (2:5)
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Tara Bernard
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Re: Lesson Two, Question 9

Post by Tara Bernard on Sat Nov 18, 2017 12:32 am

Joseph and Mary were betrothed at the time of Jesus' birth. I found this explanation to be helpful: In modern Western culture, there is a clear distinction between betrothal/engagement and marriage. In the cultures of Bible times, the distinction was much less definitive. Betrothal in most eras of Bible history involved two families in a formal contract, and that contract was as binding as marriage itself. Betrothal then was more of a business transaction between two families than a personal, romantic choice. Dowry or bride price agreements were included, so that a broken engagement required repayment of the dowry. After betrothal, all that remained were three matters: the wedding celebration, the bride’s move into the groom’s house, and the consummation of the marriage.

The best-known example of betrothal is that of Jesus’ mother, Mary, and her fiancé, Joseph. When Joseph learned that Mary was pregnant, and before he understood the miraculous nature of the conception, he thought that Mary had violated her betrothal, which was as binding as a marriage contract. At first, Joseph believed that his only recourse was to divorce her, or “put her away.” Matthew records the account: “This is how the birth of Jesus Christ came about. His mother Mary was pledged to be married to Joseph, but before they came together, she was found to be with child through the Holy Spirit. Because Joseph her husband was a righteous man and did not want to expose her to public disgrace, he had in mind to divorce her quietly” (Matthew 1:18–19). Matthew says that Mary was “pledged to be married,” but he also calls Joseph “her husband.” The fact that a “divorce” was required to break the betrothal shows that their premarital contract was legally binding. If, even during the betrothal period, Mary had been sexually intimate with someone other than Joseph, she would have been guilty of adultery.
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