Mention Jesus’ birth and people think Christmas

Old Testament scroll,

However, Jesus’ birth  is not what I want to ‘talk’ about in this post. A Biblical newsletter I have subscribed to since first researching the background of the Apostle John Series poses some questions. The following are some…

  1. Was Jesus conceived by Mary and someone other than her husband Joseph or the Holy Spirit?
  2. Could a Roman soldier have been involved?
  3. What were the cultural norms of the time about pregnancies out of wedlock?

Mary was a betrothed wife. That meant she had accepted Joseph as a husband, probably drunk from a betrothal cup (since that was the custom). Then he would have gone home to ‘prepare a place’ while she remained with her family. No sexual contact happened between the betrothed couple before the husband until he returned to claim her – usually a year later, but this could vary depending upon circumstances. Once the betrothal had taken place they were legally married, and it could only be dissolved by divorce. This could have been what Joseph considered when the news of Mary’s pregnancy came to him.

And her husband Joseph, being a just man and unwilling to put her to shame, resolved to divorce her quietly. Matt1: 19 ESV

‘Just’ in some versions is translated ‘righteous.’

Perhaps, though, ‘just’ is appropriate too, because he could have publicly broken off the marriage on the ground of the apparent guilt. The consequences were ‘dire.’

“then they shall bring out the young woman to the door of her father’s house, and the men of her city shall stone her to death with stones, because she has done an outrageous thing in Israel by whoring in her father’s house. So you shall purge the evil from your midst.”
Deuteronomy 22: 21 ESV

However, Joseph ‘being unwilling to put her to shame’ had the option of a “writ of divorcement,” which did not necessarily specify the ground of repudiation, except in vague language implying disagreement.

This answers questions number 1 and 3, what about number 2?

Jesus' birth was the result of an ‘affair’ with a Roman soldier?

That is what it could seem to imply. However, the Bible has a different answer…

“In the sixth month the angel Gabriel was sent from God to a city of Galilee named Nazareth, to a virgin betrothed to a man whose name was Joseph, of the house of David. And the virgin’s name was Mary. And he came to her and said, “Greetings, O favored one, the Lord is with you!” But she was greatly troubled at the saying, and tried to discern what sort of greeting this might be. And the angel said to her, “Do not be afraid, Mary, for you have found favor with God.
Luke 1: 26 – 30 ESV (Bolding mine.)

Does this sound like a woman who would have an affair with a Roman soldier?

God had chosen the one to give birth to His Son.

Since His Son would be the Messiah, God would not have chosen a ‘vessel’ that was not pure.

If you think that is a ‘fantasy’ and God did not ‘father’ Jesus – consider how many miracles he performed. There are also a long list of prophecies fulfilled – between 300 and 400 according to some sites. A clear list can be found at  
https://www.simplybible.com/f986-prophecies-fulfilled-by-christ.htm

Or, does the reference to a Roman soldier suggest she might have been raped?

In Biblical times women were veiled

 

Again, looking at the culture of the times, young women of good families did not go out unaccompanied. After a woman’s betrothal she was veiled.

Mary was of the house of David, the purity of the ‘line’ was important to God as well as to David’s descendants.

I prefer to believe the Bible on the subject of Jesus’ birth.

Traditional portrayal of Jesus' birth

traditional portrayal of Jesus' birth
Can you see the simple error?

Clue: Related to the custom of the day.

You can leave a comment below.

Have a safe week <smile>

Susan

What was the Significance of a Betrothal?

Sunrise, Princeton Circle, WA

A long time ago when I was young, in school I read the story in the Bible of Mary and Joseph going off to be counted in the census. I puzzled over “…to be registered with Mary, his betrothed, who was with child.”

Betrothed I understood to mean ‘engaged’ to be married. The teacher did not care to explain it. Since then, well, comparatively recently, I discovered the significance of what this meant.

Joseph, with his betrothed wife, Mary
Hold the Faith cover
Covers of books in the Apostle John series with awards

When I was researching for Hold the Faith, which I thought would be one book but turned into five, I needed to find out what betrothal entails.

One of the people in the book was about to become betrothed. What I found out explained such a lot, and even more about commitment to Christ. (The account of the full betrothal was moved, but the understanding helped in the five books in the series and in the free 1st novella.)

Betrothal in the Bible

Probably the most common way is for the fathers – the groom’s and the bride’s fathers agree when their children are young. Well, more accurately when the girl is young, because men did not seem to be considered ‘ready’ for the responsibility of marriage until they were older.

The agreement between the fathers could have been as soon as the girl was born. Some betrothals were part of business ‘deals’ between fathers.
The ‘formal’ betrothal was not held until the girl ‘showed signs’ i.e. started menstruating. Heirs were necessary.

Contrary to the beliefs of some ‘women’s rights’ groups, a girl was not generally forced into marriage. (Although in one instance in one of the books, pressure was exerted on the girl to agree.) It was necessary for the woman to agree in my story.

The Betrothal Ceremony

Several variations of this ceremony were researched, but the simplest one was what I used.

In front of the father (or the mother if the father was dead) and/or in front of witnesses, the groom offered a cup of wine to the bride. He asked her if she would drink of his cup. In this way he was asking her to share his life.

Sometimes I added the words, for clarity. If she drank from his cup, she was accepting the offer to share his life, marriage to him.

pottery cup, betrothal cup

Betrothal was binding. It was considered a marriage. (Which is why Mary was sometimes referred to as Joseph’s wife.)

The only way to end a betrothal, other than by marriage was divorce.

Matthew 1:19 (NIV) Because Joseph her husband was faithful to the law, and yet did not want to expose her to public disgrace, he had in mind to divorce her quietly.

Barnes notes says…
The law of Moses gave the husband the power of divorce, Deuteronomy 24:1. It was customary in a bill of divorce to specify the causes for which the divorce was made, and witnesses were also present to testify to the divorce. But in this case, it seems, Joseph resolved to put her away without specifying the cause; for he was not willing to make her a public example.

Although the betrothal was as binding as marriage it was not consummated.

The bridegroom went to ‘prepare a place’ – it may have been an extension to his parents’ home, or he may have wanted to build a home.

The bride ‘made herself ready.’

There were no stores where she could buy a dress for her wedding, or the linen for the household she would be forming. She had to sew everything.

She purchased the material – probably at a market stall.

sewing by hand

She brought it home and sewed it, – by hand. There were no sewing machines.

For that matter… no electricity either.

When the bridegroom had prepared a home for his wife, he returned to claim his wife and take her to her home with him.

This is a significantly ‘potted’ version of  a betrothal, but if you are a Bible believer, perhaps you have noticed the significance.

Christ said – And since I’m going away to prepare a place for you, I’ll come back again and welcome you into my presence, so that you may be where I am. John 14: 3 (ISV)

His bride was making herself ready while waiting…

Let us rejoice and be glad and give him glory! For the wedding of the Lamb has come, and his bride has made herself ready. Rev 19: 7 (NIV)

So the entire betrothal analogy has great significance for Christians, but for many the meaning is lost.

In the ‘throw-away’ society of the world we live in, not even marriage is binding, so – sadly, much of the significance is lost.

Perhaps though, this will help you understand something that is not often talked about in our time.

I hope so,

Susan