BIBLE HISTORY DAILY

Were Mary and Joseph Married or Engaged at Jesus’ Birth?

Mary and Joseph in the Bible

The atmosphere of our church service was pregnant with expectation: four candles of the Advent wreath and the colored lights from the tree and wreaths lit the darkened room. My wife and I were among the tens of millions gathered on Christmas Eve to rehearse the Nativity story again. As one of the readers read aloud Luke 2:5, I was struck by the New International Version (NIV) translation: “Mary, who was pledged to be married to him and was expecting a child.” Chronologically, the narrative had advanced some eight months from Luke 1:26-27, where it stated that Gabriel was sent to a virgin named Mary “pledged to be married to a man named Joseph.” The Greek verb mnēsteuō was translated identically in both verses.

The translation suggested to me that an unmarried Jewish couple was traveling a long distance unaccompanied by other family members. And the woman—still only pledged in marriage—was in an advanced state of pregnancy. If such a situation is still scandalous in the Middle East, how much more in first-century Judea!1

chora-church-mosaic

Were Mary and Joseph married or engaged when they traveled to Bethlehem? Seen here is a mosaic of the Journey to Bethlehem from the Chora Church in Istanbul.

Later I checked other translations of Luke 2:5. The English Standard Version (ESV) uses “betrothed,” an archaic Middle English word. The New Revised Standard Version (NRSV) uses “engaged,” while the New Living Translation (NLT) says “fiancée.” Again, these English versions suggest that the couple’s marriage was incomplete. This discovery led me into an in-depth word study as well as a look at ancient marriage. And what I found was surprising.

Matthew’s Gospel seems to be clearer. In the genealogy, Joseph is called the “husband of Mary,” who gave birth to Jesus (Matthew 1:16). Describing the background of their relationship, Matthew 1:18 reads, “His mother Mary was pledged to be married to Joseph.” Here Matthew uses the same Greek verb as Luke. However, after Joseph decides to divorce Mary because of her unexpected pregnancy, an angel warns him in a dream not to do so. The angel advises him to “take Mary as his wife” (Matthew 1:20). When Joseph woke up, he did what the angel commanded him: He took Mary as his wife (Matthew 1:24). Luke’s version seemingly contradicts Matthew’s, according to present English translations.
 


 
Interested in learning about the birth of Jesus? Learn more about the history of Christmas and the date of Jesus’ birth in the free eBook The First Christmas: The Story of Jesus’ Birth in History and Tradition.
 


 
The Greek verb mnēsteuō is used eight times in the Septuagint (the third-century B.C.E. Greek translation of the Hebrew Bible). Four uses in Deuteronomy (22:23, 25, 27, 28) deal with the legal issues surrounding an engaged woman having illicit sexual relations. If the incident happens in a city (22:23), both the man and the woman are to be stoned to death; if a rape happens in the country, only the man is to be stoned. The man is considered guilty because he has violated another man’s wife (22:24).
In the three uses in Hosea, God himself is speaking. Regarding Israel’s future day of redemption in 2:16, God declares: “You will call me ‘my husband.’” Then he states in verses 19–20: “And I will take you for my wife forever; I will take you for my wife in righteousness and in justice, in steadfast love, and in mercy. I will take you for my wife in faithfulness; and you shall know the LORD.” The NRSV translates “wife” here, while the NIV, ESV and New King James Version (NKJV) all read: “I will betroth you.” Because of the context wherein God declares that he is a husband forever, it is clear that his relationship with Israel extends beyond an engagement stage; they will metaphorically be husband and wife.

The Hebrew verb aras, translated mnēsteuō in Greek, refers to Jewish marriage practice in which the groom contractually pays a bride-price (mohar) to the bride’s father (Genesis 34:12). According to Old Testament scholar Douglas Stuart, “This was the final step in the courtship process, virtually equivalent in legal status to the wedding ceremony.”2 According to the Mishnah Ketubbot 5.2, the betrothal would last a year, with the bride remaining in the home of her father. Recalling the legal texts in Deuteronomy mentioned earlier plus the equation of David’s betrothal to Michal as marriage (2 Samuel 3:14), we see that under Jewish law, a betrothed woman was considered to be married.

Returning to Joseph, he would have paid the bride price to Mary’s father at their engagement (Matthew 1:20; Luke 1:27). Despite his misgivings, Joseph then obeyed the angel’s command to marry Mary (Matthew 1:20). The time of formal engagement, whether a full year or not, had passed between them. So Joseph and Mary had begun to live together except for sexual relations (Matthew 1:25). Luke’s understanding of mnēsteuō must be expanded to include both the betrothal/engagement as well as marital cohabitation. Therefore a better translation of Luke 2:5 would be: “Mary his wife who was expecting a child.” (The NKJV attempts a hybrid with “betrothed wife.”) English translations that suggest the couple was still only in the engagement stage of fiancé/fiancée must be discarded. Joseph and Mary traveled to Bethlehem as a full husband and wife under ancient Jewish law.
 


 
mark-wilson-2013Mark Wilson is the director of the Asia Minor Research Center in Antalya, Turkey, and is a popular teacher on BAS Travel/Study tours. Mark received his doctorate in Biblical studies from the University of South Africa (Pretoria), where he serves as a research fellow in Biblical archaeology. He is currently Associate Professor Extraordinary of New Testament at Stellenbosch University. He leads field studies in Turkey and the eastern Mediterranean for university, seminary and church groups. He is the author of Biblical Turkey: A Guide to the Jewish and Christian Sites of Asia Minor and Victory through the Lamb: A Guide to Revelation in Plain Language. He is a frequent lecturer at BAS’s Bible Fests.
 


 

Notes:

1. Joseph Fitzmyer anticipated my questions by suggesting that readers and listeners should not be overliteral because the account does not intend to answer questions such as: “What was she doing on a journey with Joseph, if she were merely his fiancée or betrothed? And worse still, pregnant as well”; see Joseph Fitzmyer, The Gospel According to Luke I–IX (New York: Doubleday, 1981), p. 407. To ask such questions, according to Fitzmyer, is to miss the point of Luke’s story. But in liturgical use such authorial nuances are lost. He also notes that Luke never calls Mary the “wife” of Joseph and perhaps was not aware of Palestinian Jewish marriage customs. This blog post assumes that Luke, because of his knowledge of Jewish customs and possible interview with Mary herself (cf. Luke 1:2), used familiar marital language that had a broader semantic range than translators give it today.

2. Douglas Stuart, Hosea-Jonah, Word Biblical Commentary, vol. 31 (Waco, TX: Word Books, 1987), p. 59.
 


 

Related reading in Bible History Daily:

The Origins of “The Cherry Tree Carol” by Mary Joan Winn Leith
How a Christmas carol links the modern Middle East and medieval England

The Virgin Mary and the Prophet Muhammad by Mary Joan Winn Leith

Christmas Stories in Christian Apocrypha by Tony Burke

Is the Earliest Image of the Virgin Mary in the Dura-Europos Church?

Where Was Jesus Born?

Who Was Jesus’ Biological Father?

What Does the Bible Say About Infertility?
 


 
This Bible History Daily feature was originally published on January 12, 2017.
 


 

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58 Responses

  1. […] See more here: Biblical Archeology […]

  2. Rob Palmer says:

    What, no dowry? The groom has to pay the father for the girl? How did they ever come up with this arrangement? Possibly the dowry arrangement was only initiated with truly homely girls.

  3. Tom says:

    Everyone in the West is overlooking the more ancient prerequisite for marriage: virginity is a prerequisite to marriage. Sex with a virgin is instant marriage. A non-virgin having sex with other men is harlotry. Since a woman has only one virginity, she can have only one TRUE husband. Study the following in context:
    1. Deut. 22:13-22
    2. Num. 31:17-18
    3. Exodus 22:16
    “If a man entices (seduces) a virgin who is not betrothed, and lies with her (he
    marries her), he shall surely pay the bride-price for her to be his wife (they are married, since he broke her virginity). ”
    4. Isaiah 62:5
    “For as a young man marries a virgin, so shall your sons marry you (God:
    Hosea 2:19-20); and as the bridegroom rejoices over the bride (a virgin), so shall
    your God rejoice over you.”
    5. Deut. 22:28-29
    ” If a man finds a young woman who is a virgin, who is not betrothed, and he
    seizes her and lies with her (rape of a virgin), and they are found out,
    “Then the man who lay with her shall give to the young woman’s father fifty
    shekels of silver, and she shall be his wife because he has humbled her; he shall
    not be permitted to divorce her all his days.”
    6. Gen: 24:67
    “Then Isaac brought her into his mother Sarah’s tent; and he took Rebekah (sex with a virgin) and she became his wife, and he loved her.”
    7. Gen. 29:18-30
    “Now Jacob loved Rachel; so he said, ‘I will serve you (Laban, Rachel’s father) seven years for Rachel your younger daughter.’
    “And Laban said, ‘It is better that I give her to you than that I should give her to another man. Stay with me.’
    “So Jacob served seven years for Rachel, and they seemed only a few days to him because of the love he had for her.
    “Then Jacob said to Laban, ‘Give me my wife, for my days are fulfilled, that I may go in to her’ (intercourse and marry her).
    “And Laban gathered together all the men of the place and made a feast.
    “Now it came to pass in the evening, that he took Leah his (other) daughter and brought her to Jacob; and he went in to her (intercourse consummated the marriage).
    “And Laban gave his maid Zilpah to his daughter Leah as a maid.
    “So it came to pass in the morning, that behold, it was Leah. (Jacob had been
    fooled) And he said to Laban, ‘What is this you have done to me? Was it not for Rachel that I served you? Why then have you deceived me?’ (Jacob was forever married to Leah, whether he wanted to be or not, because he had “gone into her”, intercourse.) “And Laban said, ‘It must not be done so in our country, to give the younger before the firstborn. “‘Fulfill her week (Leah’s honeymoon), and we will give you this one also (Rachel) for the service which you will serve with me still another seven years.’ “Then Jacob did so and fulfilled her week. So he gave him his daughter Rachel as wife also. (Jacob and Rachel held out for 7 years before having sex.) “And Laban gave his maid Bilhah to his daughter Rachel as a maid. “Then Jacob also went in to Rachel (consummated their marriage), and he also loved Rachel more than Leah. And he served with Laban still another seven years.”
    8. Gen.38:8-9 “And Judah said to Onan, “Go in to (have intercourse with) your (dead) brother’s (Er’s) wife and marry her (i.e. take her as a concubine), and raise up an heir to your brother”. (sex with a virgin = instant marriage)
    9. Ruth 4:10; Rom. 7:2-3; 1Cor. 7:39
    10. Matt. 19:3-9; Mark 10:2-12
    11. I Cor. 11:3 A man may have more than one legitimate wife. There is NO commandment in the Scriptures against it, only various opinions from many.

  4. James says:

    Vine’s Expository Dictionary of New Testament Words
    1 Strong’s Number: g3423 Greek: mnesteuo

    Betroth:

    in the Active Voice, signifies “to woo a woman and ask for her in marriage;” in the NT, only in the Passive Voice, “to be promised in marriage, to be betrothed,” Mat 1:18; Luk 1:27; 2:5, RV, “betrothed,” (AV, “espoused”).

    Espoused:

    “to fit, join” (from harmos, “a joint, joining;” the root ar–, signifying “to fit,” is in evidence in various languages; cp. arthron, “a joint,” arithmos, “a number,” etc.), is used in the Middle Voice, of marrying or giving in marriage; in 2Cr 11:2 it is rendered “espoused,” metaphorically of the relationship established between Christ and the local church, through the Apostle’s instrumentality. The thought may be that of “fitting” or “joining” to one husband, the Middle Voice expressing the Apostle’s interest or desire in doing so.
    2 Strong’s Number: g3423 Greek: mnesteuo

    Espoused:

    “to woo and win, to espouse or promise in marriage,” is used in the Passive Voice in Mat 1:18; Luk 1:27; 2:5, all with reference to the Virgin Mary, RV, “betrothed,” for AV, “espoused,” in each case.

  5. James says:

    Strong’s Number: g3423 Greek: mnesteuo

    Betroth:

    in the Active Voice, signifies “to woo a woman and ask for her in marriage;” in the NT, only in the Passive Voice, “to be promised in marriage, to be betrothed,” Mat 1:18; Luk 1:27; 2:5, RV, “betrothed,” (AV, “espoused”).
    μνηστεύω
    Transliteration
    mnēsteuō
    Pronunciation
    mnā-styü’-ō (Key)
    Part of Speech
    verb
    Root Word (Etymology)
    From a derivative of μνάομαι (G3415)
    Greek Inflections of μνηστεύω
    mGNT — 3x in 3 unique form(s) TR — 3x in 3 unique form(s)
    μεμνηστευμένῃ — 1x
    μεμνηστευμένην — 1x
    Μνηστευθείσης — 1x
    Dictionary Aids

    Vine’s Expository Dictionary: View Entry
    KJV Translation Count — Total: 3x
    The KJV translates Strong’s G3423 in the following manner: espouse (3x).
    Outline of Biblical Usage [?]

    to woo her and ask her in marriage

    to be promised in marriage, be betrothed

    Strong’s Definitions [?](Strong’s Definitions Legend)
    μνηστεύω mnēsteúō, mnace-tyoo’-o; from a derivative of G3415; to give a souvenir (engagement present), i.e. betroth:—espouse.
    Thayer’s Greek Lexicon [?] (Jump to Scripture Index)
    STRONGS NT 3423: μνηστεύω
    μνηστεύω: passive, perfect participle μεμνηστευμενος (R G) and ἐμνηστευμενος (L T Tr WH) (cf. Winers Grammar, § 12, 10; Veitch, under the word; Tdf. Proleg., p. 121); 1 aorist participle μνηστευθεις; (μνηστός betrothed, espoused); from Homer down; the Sept. for אֵרֵשׂ; τινα (γυναῖκα), to woo her and ask her in marriage; passive to be promised in marriage, be betrothed: τίνι, Matthew 1:18; Luke 1:27; Luke 2:5.
    THAYER’S GREEK LEXICON, Electronic Database.
    Copyright © 2002, 2003, 2006, 2011 by Biblesoft, Inc.
    All rights reserved. Used by permission. BibleSoft.com
    BLB Scripture Index of Thayer’s

    Matthew
    1:18
    Luke
    1:27; 2:5

    Word / Phrase / Strong’s Search
    Next Strong’s G3424 ››
    ‹‹ Previous Strong’s G3422
    Concordance Results Using NKJV

    Strong’s Number G3423 matches the Greek μνηστεύω (mnēsteuō),
    which occurs 3 times in 3 verses in the Greek concordance of the KJV

  6. David Lewis says:

    Personally, I’m here for the SCIENCE. Definitely not interested in faith mythology. Please keep questioning and researching. The TRUTH will set you free!

  7. David Lewis says:

    So the question seems to be: “Why do the English insist that Mary and Joseph were “living in sin”? Is it intended to reinforce the truthiness of the virgin birth story?

  8. John Michael Hellawell says:

    John Michael says:
    The answer to this question is to be found in Matthew 1: 20-25 where we have an angelic directive to Joseph not to be afraid to take Mary “as your wife” and his compliance: “Joseph … did as the angel of the Lord commanded him and took Mary as his wife.”. In verse 18 she was ‘betrothed” to Joseph so it is evident that
    she then became his wife.

  9. arthur quozon says:

    MARRIED OR NOT, MOST IMPORTANT CONTROVERSY IS 1. jesus is only 3-mos. old when born. bible said mary went to sister’s elizabeth house who is 6-mos. preggnat with john. and after 3-mos. elizabeth agve birth to john and consequently mary gave birtrh to jesus. LOOK schoolars 6mos. plus 3 after mary left john is completely 9-mos old but jeuss is only 3-mos when born HOW CAN YOU SOLVE?

    1. David Lewis says:

      Funny, but I don’t recall any verse that specifies numbers of months. Can you reference chapter and verse, please?

  10. FELIX MARTIN says:

    My humble suggestion is whether such research is required on the relationship of Joseph and Mary . They have been accepted as Husband and wife by the community where they lived in . When Jesus was twelve years old Joseph and Mary participated in the festival as husband and wife and were moving among their own community people . Such research study distorts us from faith . Let us focus more on faith which is the need of the hour. Another research which causes dissent is the relationship between Jesus and Mary Magdalena. Please focus on increasing faith among the christian community and thrive to bring unity among the christian churches. Thanks.

  11. Rabbi Jeffrey Siegel says:

    If I may, I would like to interject with a rabbinic note (I am a rabbi). THe traditional Jewiah mRRIge ceremony is actually two ceremonies. In the first, he gives the bride something of value (like a ring), in the presence of witnesses, and declares her “consecrated unto me”. At this point, she is forbidden to every other man. Relations would be fully considered adultery.If they wish to end the connection, a GET is required. However, she is not yet permitted to the man. In a second ceremony, blessings are recited publicly, and the two would then go off into the house in which they will live, or else into a specially built festively decorated hut, where they will celebrate for seven days. At that point, she is also permitted to him. In modern times, the two ceremonies are done at the same time. In ancient Judea, they were separated by a year, in order to give the bride time to acquire all household needs.

  12. Marilyn Collier says:

    This is basically what my Pastor taught during my Confirmation Classes (Lutheran Church Missouri Synod) in 1950. Like the old time Pastors, he did Hebrew and Greek.

  13. david allen south says:

    well since he was secretly seeking to procure a “GET”… he was going to put her away privately, a get is a legal divorce for infidelity between the betrothal and the chupah ceremony [if I am not mistaken] I would say the promise was made but the relationship was not consummated [is that the right word?] clearly I am not certain… all the best

  14. Avinoam Ben Dor says:

    How do you explain this verse:

    Then Joseph her husband, being a just man, and not willing to make her a publick example, was minded to put her away privily.
    Matthew 1:19 KJV
    https://bible.com/bible/1/mat.1.19.KJV

  15. M Mueller says:

    The Eastern Church has consistently held that Mary and Joseph were betrothed, never married. The Proroevangelion of St. James, Joseph’s eldest son, and the first bishop of Jerusalem states that he accompanied Mary and Joseph and the babe to Egypt and back.

  16. Avie says:

    Can you perhaps address the exact text describing Mary – if I’m not mistaken in the singular – going to visit Elisabeth in Judea. Both are with child. In that instant another questionable step taken by a single or betrothed woman. If I’m not mistaken there are / were strict rules to follow and one had to be accompanied though unless I’m mistaken there is no reference of who Mary went with on this long journey from Galilee to Judea

  17. Ed Vasicek says:

    Since the consummation of the marriage is the last phase, is it not possible that betrothed means more than contracted, but less than fully married?

    In other words, it took a divorce to break an engagement. When they had a wedding feast or went before city officials, that is when they became fully married in the eyes of the society.

    It could be that “betrothed” in Luke is simply another ways of saying what Matthew says, the Joseph did not “know” her until after Jesus was born.

  18. Kris says:

    I appreciate this article. It touched on some basic information that every christian should know regarding the different groups that were believed to be anti to the Christ movement. What was glaring is the difference between the older/newer translations’ text in the bible. A simple change in the word “betrothed” vs engaged, can give the narrative a whole new meaning… Pretty much creating a scandal actually, lol. What I was originally looking for, was the Jewish customs around the time of Jesus’ birth. I was wondering if Joseph decided NOT to obey the angel, and exercised his rights to expose his wife for infidelity, what would’ve been the penalty for her crime? Because if it were death by stoning like many other crimes, then unless God intervened, we may not of had a Savior born. Well anyway, thanks for your research.

  19. Ella says:

    Very interesting. I will like to see if it is wrong biblically for churches to marry off pregnant couples. Looking forward to a reply via inbox into my mail box as i would make my email available below. Thanks in anticipation.

  20. Daniel Marsh says:

    I like to see first two posters proof of their claims. thanks

  21. J.T. Smith says:

    One of the most common errors comes in the mistranslation of “virgin.” In the Middle East, both in ancient and modern times, the word virgin does NOT refer to a person who’s never had sex. It actually refers to “an unmarried woman of marriageable age”. Which means that Mary was absolutely unmarried at the time. The change in the meaning in the west came about in the middle ages due to monks who were working on translating the Bible who, because they had taken a vow of celibacy, effectively decided that since they weren’t having sex then neither did Mary.

  22. Yvonne Tucker says:

    Back in those days the father would hand the hand of his daughter to the groom and they were married but I do not think that they laid as man and wife until after Jesus was born this is the only explanation I can figure and I do believe that Jesus was not born in December even though I’d go with it and I celebrated you know that the shepherds would not have left their sheep in the winter which they used to put them in a field close to home in the winter.

  23. Deborah Lennington says:

    Thank you for writing this. As an older lady who has been reading the Bible for decades it amazes me that someone would think it acceptable in that time for Joseph and Mary to live together without marriage in spite of what the Bible actually says in Matthew and Luke. Many versions are playing fast and loose with God’s word, and it’s unfortunate for those who are not willing to study the older versions in order to make their reading ‘easier’ that they also will not be reading accurate passages. I just listened to a professed ‘believer’ read the NLV introducing Mary as Joseph’s ‘fiance’ as the entered into Bethlehem to be taxed. It does matter. Chipping away at the truth can add up to a lot of large pieces.

  24. benjaminm30 says:

    I am interested as to your thoughts on Kenneth Bailey’s discussion of this in Jesus through Middle Eastern Eyes.

  25. Joe Cantello says:

    Thanks for clearing up the relationship between Joseph & Mary in Luke’s gospel–as the translators of many of the Modern English bibles have not apparently done.

  26. Guy S. says:

    You are incorrect in your assumption that none of the New Testament books were written until the 2nd Century. Historians and Biblical Scholars tend to agree they were written in the 1st Century, with the first book being written about 60 A.D. And while some of the books were written by men other than the Apostles, scholars also agree they did so based on accounts related to them by the Apostles, serving as companions to them in their travels as missionaries. Scholars also agree the last book, The Revelation of John, was written about 90 A.D.

  27. Stephen Funck says:

    There are major issues in the account. Much background is omitted. There is a fictional account in the online book King of Kings http://thesignofconcord.com/King_of_Kings_3_FEC0.php This posits a scenario that incorporates social rules and conditions. While attempting to remain faithful to the written accounts.

  28. mike penney says:

    Luke used the same word as matthew… for “pledged or engaged…”
    Well, of course he did… None of this stuff was written by the apostles. They were dead 200 years before any of this was written. Not a single author of “the bible” knew christ…

  29. John says:

    He could not have died before several other children were born of the fully consummated marriage after Jesus birth. See Matthew 13:55.

  30. Paul O Brien says:

    Mary was not stoned becsuse Joseph married her in order to protect her . He did this because he was instructed to by an angel of God.
    He soon disappears from Jedus life .
    He was a lot older than Mary and fulfilled the role of protector at the time of the nativity (Jesus birth ) . He soon disappears from their life and is thought to have died soon after the nativity.

  31. Tony Cunnington says:

    Interesting that almost every historian quotes Luke as being the most historically accurate of the four gospels – and yet as soon as Mark Wilson is faced with a moral or ethical dilemma, he decides that “Matthew’s gospel seems to be clearer.”. This is exactly why, though still believing in God, I reject all religions views of God. Everything has to be made to fit the story, when the story should be speaking for itself. Just as Jesus is the son of God, so are we all the sons and daughters of God – Jesus never claimed to be special, in fact he said “all I do, you can do and more” he was a man among men, a good man but simply a man. However, he did have a special relationship with God and the most important thing we can learn from him, is that we too can have that special relationship – but it will never be found in formal religion.

  32. Denny says:

    Mary should have been stoned to death, according to the gospel.

  33. Tracey says:

    Thank you for these clarity…

    please advise then, as to which version to use…

    Tracey (South Africa)

  34. bertie says:

    so mary being pregnant with jesus and not being married is a sin and not allowed under Jewish Law. so why was she not cast out ?

  35. Latayne C Scott says:

    More information about Bible marriage customs in the book, Shout of the Bridegroom (Covenant Publishing, 2002.) Dr. Glenn Greenwood, now deceased, spent his lifetime studying the customs, and I was privileged to help him write his final book.

  36. Bill G says:

    Thank you for the article as believers tend to not think about the situation or treat it as a “gray” area. It is not a “gray” area as you have so made the case.
    I recently listened to a message that did touch on this subject and then more so on the specific birthplace of Jesus as foretold in the scriptures. http://www.sermonaudio.com/sermoninfo.asp?SID=11171029155

  37. Bill S Baliles says:

    It is written this man Jesus was a rebel among the Jews. He protested many Jewish Laws and Customs one of which was requirements of men. This is why in certain places the question arises among the people and even ask of Jesus by a religious group having legal authority. The question was “By What Authority Do You Do And Say These Things?” Further indication that he was in fact not Married. It is Important to remember that was a social and political activist that Started and Lead a protest against The mainstream Jewish religious Community on many points of the law. For this reason despised then killed by his enemies as a protest against Roman taxes “In reality”.

  38. Michael Wojciechowski says:

    More than engaged, less than married.

  39. Krzysztof says:

    What’s new? A kid in religious class knows Bible(and NewTestament)is not a textbook of history or physics or biology but has a preisemeaning like a derivation symbole d/dx in maths though incomplete; complete: dy/dx. themntioned J.Fitzmayer, R.E.Brown,J.P.Meier – RC biblical scholars in details explained it.
    Read for ex.1965, RC Catholic Commentary on Matthew 19:12 (Jesus rejecting his family and wife)for the sake of preaching the arriving kingdom of God
    ps. BAR maybe should ask someone to clarify the meaning of such terms like “Joseph”,”Nazareth” – historical or just nicknames “nazarine” (like Samuel or john The BAptist)
    We must know the perfect one meaning(andtruth) before the End (1 Cor 15:24) very near finally because of the glorius stupidity in the Universe esp. in Akademia

  40. Gene R says:

    (Jeʹsus) [Lat. form of the Gr. I·e·sousʹ, which corresponds to the Heb. Ye·shuʹaʽ or Yehoh·shuʹaʽ and means “Jehovah Is Salvation”].

  41. Avinoam Ben Dor says:

    135 CE

  42. Avinoam Ben Dor says:

    You use the term: “Palestinian Jewish marriage”
    May I remind you that the name Palestine was given to Judea only in the year 125 CE about 92-96 years after Yeshua was crucified.

  43. Johanna says:

    The Interlinear Bible uses “betulah” to describe Mary at the time of her conception with Jesus. This leaves no room for doubt that the young woman was a virgin. However, customs of the time, as have been frequently noted elsewhere, make it clear that parents sought husbands for their adolescent daughters and that the signing of the ketubah, or marriage contract, ensured that the couple were married even though for various reasons they frequently were still not cohabiting. A year or more might pass before the bridegroom arrived to take his bride to her new home. The reasons might be, among others, the bridegroom being away working, having been conscripted by the Romans for their army, not being able to support a wife yet, or still in the process of building an addition to his father’s house where the young couple could live in something resembling privacy. Another reason could be that the bride was simply too young and it would be dangerous for her to have children. Compare this with the later European custom among royalty in particular of children being engaged to each other in childhood or even infancy, to secure the marriage. Since no mention is made of a brother or even a father in the Gospels for Mary, she may have been the child of a widowed mother who was anxious to secure a permanent place in society for her child by an early espousal. The word “espousal” is not synonymous with “engagement.” Once espoused, the girl was legally married regardless of age or whether she was cohabiting with her husband. The signing of the marriage contract was the act by which the couple was legally married; a wedding ceremony might follow month or even more than a year later. So Mary was officially “espoused” to Joseph but not living with him at the time the angel announced to her that that Holy Spirit would impregnate her. It was important that the young woman be a virgin, and of the House of David. Mary was both. Joseph was also of the House of David, so for the sake of appearances, the child would be his son and belong to the same Davidic branch as his father as well as his mother. We know that Mary was from at least a Levitical family because her cousin Elizabeth, who became pregnant in old age at least six months earlier, was married to a Levite. It is not clear in the Greek translation whether she was related to Elizabeth on her mother’s or father’s side. As for Jesus being married, there is silence on that issue in the Gospels. It was not necessary for a man to be married to take part in many religious ceremonies in the first century. Jesus’ cousin John likewise was not married, yet he was conducting rituals of immersion in the Jordan River. Unfortunately, a great deal of pietitistic effluvia has entered the Nativity story, mainly from anti-Semitic sources in the early and medieval periods. Also, a great deal has been borrowed from extra-canonical sources as to Mary’s family, though not so much as the names of her parents appear in the canonical Gospels. It is my sincere hope that these things will be expunged, because they are nothing but superstition and embroidery to the basic story, which reveals a marriage that was strictly according to Jewish law at the time.

  44. Jason K Jensen says:

    Issues involving daily Jewish life and doctrine existing at that time were not included in the gospel text because they were generally known and regarded at the time. So the knowledge has been lost in context over the Centuries. Now-a-days, Christians are not Jews, unlike Jesus’ original followers. In fact over the years, and lost in translation is the fact that Jesus’s real name in translation would be Joshua, not Jesus.

  45. edward woolf says:

    The passage in Deuteronomy deals with a woman who was raped. If it happened in the city it was not a “legitimate rape, She should be stoned because she did not scream loud enough

  46. rinda mb says:

    Just a quick observation: The miracle in Isaiah 7:14 is not that a young woman or a virgin gives birth, all very ordinary, everyday stuff for a virgin birthing a first baby, the miracle is to Whom does she give birth……God incarnate…..!!!!

    The question I have about Deuteronomy…..how do they know the woman has been adulterous with another man….because she got pregnant? It does not specify how others found out about the adultery or how they proved it…?

    —anonymous

  47. Gene R says:

    Source for above-http://wol.jw.org/en/wol/d/r1/lp-e/1200002912#h=

  48. Gene R says:

    As to the wedding itself, the central and characteristic feature was the solemn bringing of the bride from her father’s home to her husband’s home on the date agreed upon, in which act the significance of marriage as representing admission of the bride into the family of her husband found expression. (Mt 1:24) This constituted the wedding in patriarchal days before the Law. It was altogether a civil affair. There was no religious ceremony or form, and no priest or clergyman officiated or validated the marriage. The bridegroom took the bride to his house or to the tent or house of his parents. The matter was publicly made known, acknowledged, and recorded, and the marriage was binding.—Ge 24:67.

  49. David Hawa says:

    Matthew 1:18-25 says that Joseph was going to divorce Mary in secret as to not expose her to public shame… this was when they were engaged, way before Jesus’ birth which in the first century Israel was the same as married. If they hadn’t been married there would be no reason for him to consider divorce.

  50. Rabbi Robert says:

    Mary and Joseph had to be engaged/betrothed or Isaiah prophecy would have been incorrect. The reason that Isaiah prophesied that an “alma” (young woman) and not a “betulah” virgin would give birth in Isaiah 7:14 is because in Jewish culture, a woman under her father’s guardianship would be “betulah”. However, a woman engaged/betrothed would be under her fiancé’s guardianship and would be “alma”.

    Deut. 22:23 has to do with an engaged woman who is adulterous. She should be stoned. That is the “trap” of John 8 when the rabbis brought the woman caught in adultery to Jesus and said that the Law of Moses demands that we stone her, what do you say? Jesus agrees that she should be stoned–but stoning is not prescribed for regular adultery in the Scriptures–only adultery by an engaged woman.

    Under Jewish law, there were only 4 ways to execute someone; stoning, beheading, strangulation and burning. The rabbis determined that since we are created in the image of God, so when the Scripture requires someone to be put to death but does not prescribe the manner of death, the rabbis determined that they should be strangled–to do the least amount of damage to the image of God.

    Deut. 22:22 requires that the adulterous evil be purged–which would have the adulterous people strangled. The reason for a more violent death by stoning for adultery by an engaged woman is that her husband had not yet taken her virginity–a serious offense.

    However, in John 8, the rabbis knew the history of Jesus–they knew that his mother had been engaged when she conceived him. They wanted Jesus to disagree (trap him) with the Law of Moses and not agree that the woman should be stoned because he would be “admitting” that his mother should have been stoned.

  51. gabriel the angel says:

    jesus was born of the “blessing” of the “holy spirirt” …. sure Gordon and not a miraculous birth

  52. Rich Hunt says:

    The problem with using the texts contained in the finally codified canon of the church is that thet have been transformed over time by different translations, different scribes and changing theology. Case in point is at which point in history Mary Magdalene became a whore and Mary became immaculate in her conception.

    I suggest reading “the Rise and Fall of the Bible” by Timothy Beal and “Misquoting Jesus” by Bart Ehrman to begin to understand the changing history of the gospels.

  53. Joseph Krill says:

    All speculation.

  54. Bette says:

    Jesus was married for several factors: 1) As a Jewish Rabbi, he would not have been let in to pray in the Temple without being married. To this day, Rabbis are married and it would have been a scandal for Jesus to reach the age of his early 30s and not be so. The fact that the Church wiped it out is because they were rewriting Jewish history to be acceptable to pagans whose gods were not often married. The belief that he and Magdalene had a daughter, instead of a son, is further proof. Jesus came from a well-to do family. There were laws to follow.

  55. Hilary says:

    Do you really know anything about Jewish marriage? Even to this day, it involves a double ceremony – a betrothal (kiddushin or erusin) followed by a formal legal contract (ketubah, which simply means document). Usually these now take place together, one immediately following the other. A giveaway is that wine is blessed and drunk twice during the wedding service, once during each stage of the process.

    In the past, however, the two stages could be separate. The orthodox view is that betrothal is binding, such that sex with a woman betrothed to someone else is adultery and a formal divorce is required in order to dissolve a betrothal. Betrothal can be achieved either by giving and receiving a bride-gift or by the couple having intercourse.

    Only someone profoundly ignorant of Jewish law could have misunderstood what the gospels meant by “engaged” or “betrothed”. In fairness, this wasn’t <em.written down until the Mishnah was codified in the 2nd century CE but frankly it is basic Judaism 101 that any scholar of Jesus’s lifetime really ought to know.

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58 Responses

  1. […] See more here: Biblical Archeology […]

  2. Rob Palmer says:

    What, no dowry? The groom has to pay the father for the girl? How did they ever come up with this arrangement? Possibly the dowry arrangement was only initiated with truly homely girls.

  3. Tom says:

    Everyone in the West is overlooking the more ancient prerequisite for marriage: virginity is a prerequisite to marriage. Sex with a virgin is instant marriage. A non-virgin having sex with other men is harlotry. Since a woman has only one virginity, she can have only one TRUE husband. Study the following in context:
    1. Deut. 22:13-22
    2. Num. 31:17-18
    3. Exodus 22:16
    “If a man entices (seduces) a virgin who is not betrothed, and lies with her (he
    marries her), he shall surely pay the bride-price for her to be his wife (they are married, since he broke her virginity). ”
    4. Isaiah 62:5
    “For as a young man marries a virgin, so shall your sons marry you (God:
    Hosea 2:19-20); and as the bridegroom rejoices over the bride (a virgin), so shall
    your God rejoice over you.”
    5. Deut. 22:28-29
    ” If a man finds a young woman who is a virgin, who is not betrothed, and he
    seizes her and lies with her (rape of a virgin), and they are found out,
    “Then the man who lay with her shall give to the young woman’s father fifty
    shekels of silver, and she shall be his wife because he has humbled her; he shall
    not be permitted to divorce her all his days.”
    6. Gen: 24:67
    “Then Isaac brought her into his mother Sarah’s tent; and he took Rebekah (sex with a virgin) and she became his wife, and he loved her.”
    7. Gen. 29:18-30
    “Now Jacob loved Rachel; so he said, ‘I will serve you (Laban, Rachel’s father) seven years for Rachel your younger daughter.’
    “And Laban said, ‘It is better that I give her to you than that I should give her to another man. Stay with me.’
    “So Jacob served seven years for Rachel, and they seemed only a few days to him because of the love he had for her.
    “Then Jacob said to Laban, ‘Give me my wife, for my days are fulfilled, that I may go in to her’ (intercourse and marry her).
    “And Laban gathered together all the men of the place and made a feast.
    “Now it came to pass in the evening, that he took Leah his (other) daughter and brought her to Jacob; and he went in to her (intercourse consummated the marriage).
    “And Laban gave his maid Zilpah to his daughter Leah as a maid.
    “So it came to pass in the morning, that behold, it was Leah. (Jacob had been
    fooled) And he said to Laban, ‘What is this you have done to me? Was it not for Rachel that I served you? Why then have you deceived me?’ (Jacob was forever married to Leah, whether he wanted to be or not, because he had “gone into her”, intercourse.) “And Laban said, ‘It must not be done so in our country, to give the younger before the firstborn. “‘Fulfill her week (Leah’s honeymoon), and we will give you this one also (Rachel) for the service which you will serve with me still another seven years.’ “Then Jacob did so and fulfilled her week. So he gave him his daughter Rachel as wife also. (Jacob and Rachel held out for 7 years before having sex.) “And Laban gave his maid Bilhah to his daughter Rachel as a maid. “Then Jacob also went in to Rachel (consummated their marriage), and he also loved Rachel more than Leah. And he served with Laban still another seven years.”
    8. Gen.38:8-9 “And Judah said to Onan, “Go in to (have intercourse with) your (dead) brother’s (Er’s) wife and marry her (i.e. take her as a concubine), and raise up an heir to your brother”. (sex with a virgin = instant marriage)
    9. Ruth 4:10; Rom. 7:2-3; 1Cor. 7:39
    10. Matt. 19:3-9; Mark 10:2-12
    11. I Cor. 11:3 A man may have more than one legitimate wife. There is NO commandment in the Scriptures against it, only various opinions from many.

  4. James says:

    Vine’s Expository Dictionary of New Testament Words
    1 Strong’s Number: g3423 Greek: mnesteuo

    Betroth:

    in the Active Voice, signifies “to woo a woman and ask for her in marriage;” in the NT, only in the Passive Voice, “to be promised in marriage, to be betrothed,” Mat 1:18; Luk 1:27; 2:5, RV, “betrothed,” (AV, “espoused”).

    Espoused:

    “to fit, join” (from harmos, “a joint, joining;” the root ar–, signifying “to fit,” is in evidence in various languages; cp. arthron, “a joint,” arithmos, “a number,” etc.), is used in the Middle Voice, of marrying or giving in marriage; in 2Cr 11:2 it is rendered “espoused,” metaphorically of the relationship established between Christ and the local church, through the Apostle’s instrumentality. The thought may be that of “fitting” or “joining” to one husband, the Middle Voice expressing the Apostle’s interest or desire in doing so.
    2 Strong’s Number: g3423 Greek: mnesteuo

    Espoused:

    “to woo and win, to espouse or promise in marriage,” is used in the Passive Voice in Mat 1:18; Luk 1:27; 2:5, all with reference to the Virgin Mary, RV, “betrothed,” for AV, “espoused,” in each case.

  5. James says:

    Strong’s Number: g3423 Greek: mnesteuo

    Betroth:

    in the Active Voice, signifies “to woo a woman and ask for her in marriage;” in the NT, only in the Passive Voice, “to be promised in marriage, to be betrothed,” Mat 1:18; Luk 1:27; 2:5, RV, “betrothed,” (AV, “espoused”).
    μνηστεύω
    Transliteration
    mnēsteuō
    Pronunciation
    mnā-styü’-ō (Key)
    Part of Speech
    verb
    Root Word (Etymology)
    From a derivative of μνάομαι (G3415)
    Greek Inflections of μνηστεύω
    mGNT — 3x in 3 unique form(s) TR — 3x in 3 unique form(s)
    μεμνηστευμένῃ — 1x
    μεμνηστευμένην — 1x
    Μνηστευθείσης — 1x
    Dictionary Aids

    Vine’s Expository Dictionary: View Entry
    KJV Translation Count — Total: 3x
    The KJV translates Strong’s G3423 in the following manner: espouse (3x).
    Outline of Biblical Usage [?]

    to woo her and ask her in marriage

    to be promised in marriage, be betrothed

    Strong’s Definitions [?](Strong’s Definitions Legend)
    μνηστεύω mnēsteúō, mnace-tyoo’-o; from a derivative of G3415; to give a souvenir (engagement present), i.e. betroth:—espouse.
    Thayer’s Greek Lexicon [?] (Jump to Scripture Index)
    STRONGS NT 3423: μνηστεύω
    μνηστεύω: passive, perfect participle μεμνηστευμενος (R G) and ἐμνηστευμενος (L T Tr WH) (cf. Winers Grammar, § 12, 10; Veitch, under the word; Tdf. Proleg., p. 121); 1 aorist participle μνηστευθεις; (μνηστός betrothed, espoused); from Homer down; the Sept. for אֵרֵשׂ; τινα (γυναῖκα), to woo her and ask her in marriage; passive to be promised in marriage, be betrothed: τίνι, Matthew 1:18; Luke 1:27; Luke 2:5.
    THAYER’S GREEK LEXICON, Electronic Database.
    Copyright © 2002, 2003, 2006, 2011 by Biblesoft, Inc.
    All rights reserved. Used by permission. BibleSoft.com
    BLB Scripture Index of Thayer’s

    Matthew
    1:18
    Luke
    1:27; 2:5

    Word / Phrase / Strong’s Search
    Next Strong’s G3424 ››
    ‹‹ Previous Strong’s G3422
    Concordance Results Using NKJV

    Strong’s Number G3423 matches the Greek μνηστεύω (mnēsteuō),
    which occurs 3 times in 3 verses in the Greek concordance of the KJV

  6. David Lewis says:

    Personally, I’m here for the SCIENCE. Definitely not interested in faith mythology. Please keep questioning and researching. The TRUTH will set you free!

  7. David Lewis says:

    So the question seems to be: “Why do the English insist that Mary and Joseph were “living in sin”? Is it intended to reinforce the truthiness of the virgin birth story?

  8. John Michael Hellawell says:

    John Michael says:
    The answer to this question is to be found in Matthew 1: 20-25 where we have an angelic directive to Joseph not to be afraid to take Mary “as your wife” and his compliance: “Joseph … did as the angel of the Lord commanded him and took Mary as his wife.”. In verse 18 she was ‘betrothed” to Joseph so it is evident that
    she then became his wife.

  9. arthur quozon says:

    MARRIED OR NOT, MOST IMPORTANT CONTROVERSY IS 1. jesus is only 3-mos. old when born. bible said mary went to sister’s elizabeth house who is 6-mos. preggnat with john. and after 3-mos. elizabeth agve birth to john and consequently mary gave birtrh to jesus. LOOK schoolars 6mos. plus 3 after mary left john is completely 9-mos old but jeuss is only 3-mos when born HOW CAN YOU SOLVE?

    1. David Lewis says:

      Funny, but I don’t recall any verse that specifies numbers of months. Can you reference chapter and verse, please?

  10. FELIX MARTIN says:

    My humble suggestion is whether such research is required on the relationship of Joseph and Mary . They have been accepted as Husband and wife by the community where they lived in . When Jesus was twelve years old Joseph and Mary participated in the festival as husband and wife and were moving among their own community people . Such research study distorts us from faith . Let us focus more on faith which is the need of the hour. Another research which causes dissent is the relationship between Jesus and Mary Magdalena. Please focus on increasing faith among the christian community and thrive to bring unity among the christian churches. Thanks.

  11. Rabbi Jeffrey Siegel says:

    If I may, I would like to interject with a rabbinic note (I am a rabbi). THe traditional Jewiah mRRIge ceremony is actually two ceremonies. In the first, he gives the bride something of value (like a ring), in the presence of witnesses, and declares her “consecrated unto me”. At this point, she is forbidden to every other man. Relations would be fully considered adultery.If they wish to end the connection, a GET is required. However, she is not yet permitted to the man. In a second ceremony, blessings are recited publicly, and the two would then go off into the house in which they will live, or else into a specially built festively decorated hut, where they will celebrate for seven days. At that point, she is also permitted to him. In modern times, the two ceremonies are done at the same time. In ancient Judea, they were separated by a year, in order to give the bride time to acquire all household needs.

  12. Marilyn Collier says:

    This is basically what my Pastor taught during my Confirmation Classes (Lutheran Church Missouri Synod) in 1950. Like the old time Pastors, he did Hebrew and Greek.

  13. david allen south says:

    well since he was secretly seeking to procure a “GET”… he was going to put her away privately, a get is a legal divorce for infidelity between the betrothal and the chupah ceremony [if I am not mistaken] I would say the promise was made but the relationship was not consummated [is that the right word?] clearly I am not certain… all the best

  14. Avinoam Ben Dor says:

    How do you explain this verse:

    Then Joseph her husband, being a just man, and not willing to make her a publick example, was minded to put her away privily.
    Matthew 1:19 KJV
    https://bible.com/bible/1/mat.1.19.KJV

  15. M Mueller says:

    The Eastern Church has consistently held that Mary and Joseph were betrothed, never married. The Proroevangelion of St. James, Joseph’s eldest son, and the first bishop of Jerusalem states that he accompanied Mary and Joseph and the babe to Egypt and back.

  16. Avie says:

    Can you perhaps address the exact text describing Mary – if I’m not mistaken in the singular – going to visit Elisabeth in Judea. Both are with child. In that instant another questionable step taken by a single or betrothed woman. If I’m not mistaken there are / were strict rules to follow and one had to be accompanied though unless I’m mistaken there is no reference of who Mary went with on this long journey from Galilee to Judea

  17. Ed Vasicek says:

    Since the consummation of the marriage is the last phase, is it not possible that betrothed means more than contracted, but less than fully married?

    In other words, it took a divorce to break an engagement. When they had a wedding feast or went before city officials, that is when they became fully married in the eyes of the society.

    It could be that “betrothed” in Luke is simply another ways of saying what Matthew says, the Joseph did not “know” her until after Jesus was born.

  18. Kris says:

    I appreciate this article. It touched on some basic information that every christian should know regarding the different groups that were believed to be anti to the Christ movement. What was glaring is the difference between the older/newer translations’ text in the bible. A simple change in the word “betrothed” vs engaged, can give the narrative a whole new meaning… Pretty much creating a scandal actually, lol. What I was originally looking for, was the Jewish customs around the time of Jesus’ birth. I was wondering if Joseph decided NOT to obey the angel, and exercised his rights to expose his wife for infidelity, what would’ve been the penalty for her crime? Because if it were death by stoning like many other crimes, then unless God intervened, we may not of had a Savior born. Well anyway, thanks for your research.

  19. Ella says:

    Very interesting. I will like to see if it is wrong biblically for churches to marry off pregnant couples. Looking forward to a reply via inbox into my mail box as i would make my email available below. Thanks in anticipation.

  20. Daniel Marsh says:

    I like to see first two posters proof of their claims. thanks

  21. J.T. Smith says:

    One of the most common errors comes in the mistranslation of “virgin.” In the Middle East, both in ancient and modern times, the word virgin does NOT refer to a person who’s never had sex. It actually refers to “an unmarried woman of marriageable age”. Which means that Mary was absolutely unmarried at the time. The change in the meaning in the west came about in the middle ages due to monks who were working on translating the Bible who, because they had taken a vow of celibacy, effectively decided that since they weren’t having sex then neither did Mary.

  22. Yvonne Tucker says:

    Back in those days the father would hand the hand of his daughter to the groom and they were married but I do not think that they laid as man and wife until after Jesus was born this is the only explanation I can figure and I do believe that Jesus was not born in December even though I’d go with it and I celebrated you know that the shepherds would not have left their sheep in the winter which they used to put them in a field close to home in the winter.

  23. Deborah Lennington says:

    Thank you for writing this. As an older lady who has been reading the Bible for decades it amazes me that someone would think it acceptable in that time for Joseph and Mary to live together without marriage in spite of what the Bible actually says in Matthew and Luke. Many versions are playing fast and loose with God’s word, and it’s unfortunate for those who are not willing to study the older versions in order to make their reading ‘easier’ that they also will not be reading accurate passages. I just listened to a professed ‘believer’ read the NLV introducing Mary as Joseph’s ‘fiance’ as the entered into Bethlehem to be taxed. It does matter. Chipping away at the truth can add up to a lot of large pieces.

  24. benjaminm30 says:

    I am interested as to your thoughts on Kenneth Bailey’s discussion of this in Jesus through Middle Eastern Eyes.

  25. Joe Cantello says:

    Thanks for clearing up the relationship between Joseph & Mary in Luke’s gospel–as the translators of many of the Modern English bibles have not apparently done.

  26. Guy S. says:

    You are incorrect in your assumption that none of the New Testament books were written until the 2nd Century. Historians and Biblical Scholars tend to agree they were written in the 1st Century, with the first book being written about 60 A.D. And while some of the books were written by men other than the Apostles, scholars also agree they did so based on accounts related to them by the Apostles, serving as companions to them in their travels as missionaries. Scholars also agree the last book, The Revelation of John, was written about 90 A.D.

  27. Stephen Funck says:

    There are major issues in the account. Much background is omitted. There is a fictional account in the online book King of Kings http://thesignofconcord.com/King_of_Kings_3_FEC0.php This posits a scenario that incorporates social rules and conditions. While attempting to remain faithful to the written accounts.

  28. mike penney says:

    Luke used the same word as matthew… for “pledged or engaged…”
    Well, of course he did… None of this stuff was written by the apostles. They were dead 200 years before any of this was written. Not a single author of “the bible” knew christ…

  29. John says:

    He could not have died before several other children were born of the fully consummated marriage after Jesus birth. See Matthew 13:55.

  30. Paul O Brien says:

    Mary was not stoned becsuse Joseph married her in order to protect her . He did this because he was instructed to by an angel of God.
    He soon disappears from Jedus life .
    He was a lot older than Mary and fulfilled the role of protector at the time of the nativity (Jesus birth ) . He soon disappears from their life and is thought to have died soon after the nativity.

  31. Tony Cunnington says:

    Interesting that almost every historian quotes Luke as being the most historically accurate of the four gospels – and yet as soon as Mark Wilson is faced with a moral or ethical dilemma, he decides that “Matthew’s gospel seems to be clearer.”. This is exactly why, though still believing in God, I reject all religions views of God. Everything has to be made to fit the story, when the story should be speaking for itself. Just as Jesus is the son of God, so are we all the sons and daughters of God – Jesus never claimed to be special, in fact he said “all I do, you can do and more” he was a man among men, a good man but simply a man. However, he did have a special relationship with God and the most important thing we can learn from him, is that we too can have that special relationship – but it will never be found in formal religion.

  32. Denny says:

    Mary should have been stoned to death, according to the gospel.

  33. Tracey says:

    Thank you for these clarity…

    please advise then, as to which version to use…

    Tracey (South Africa)

  34. bertie says:

    so mary being pregnant with jesus and not being married is a sin and not allowed under Jewish Law. so why was she not cast out ?

  35. Latayne C Scott says:

    More information about Bible marriage customs in the book, Shout of the Bridegroom (Covenant Publishing, 2002.) Dr. Glenn Greenwood, now deceased, spent his lifetime studying the customs, and I was privileged to help him write his final book.

  36. Bill G says:

    Thank you for the article as believers tend to not think about the situation or treat it as a “gray” area. It is not a “gray” area as you have so made the case.
    I recently listened to a message that did touch on this subject and then more so on the specific birthplace of Jesus as foretold in the scriptures. http://www.sermonaudio.com/sermoninfo.asp?SID=11171029155

  37. Bill S Baliles says:

    It is written this man Jesus was a rebel among the Jews. He protested many Jewish Laws and Customs one of which was requirements of men. This is why in certain places the question arises among the people and even ask of Jesus by a religious group having legal authority. The question was “By What Authority Do You Do And Say These Things?” Further indication that he was in fact not Married. It is Important to remember that was a social and political activist that Started and Lead a protest against The mainstream Jewish religious Community on many points of the law. For this reason despised then killed by his enemies as a protest against Roman taxes “In reality”.

  38. Michael Wojciechowski says:

    More than engaged, less than married.

  39. Krzysztof says:

    What’s new? A kid in religious class knows Bible(and NewTestament)is not a textbook of history or physics or biology but has a preisemeaning like a derivation symbole d/dx in maths though incomplete; complete: dy/dx. themntioned J.Fitzmayer, R.E.Brown,J.P.Meier – RC biblical scholars in details explained it.
    Read for ex.1965, RC Catholic Commentary on Matthew 19:12 (Jesus rejecting his family and wife)for the sake of preaching the arriving kingdom of God
    ps. BAR maybe should ask someone to clarify the meaning of such terms like “Joseph”,”Nazareth” – historical or just nicknames “nazarine” (like Samuel or john The BAptist)
    We must know the perfect one meaning(andtruth) before the End (1 Cor 15:24) very near finally because of the glorius stupidity in the Universe esp. in Akademia

  40. Gene R says:

    (Jeʹsus) [Lat. form of the Gr. I·e·sousʹ, which corresponds to the Heb. Ye·shuʹaʽ or Yehoh·shuʹaʽ and means “Jehovah Is Salvation”].

  41. Avinoam Ben Dor says:

    135 CE

  42. Avinoam Ben Dor says:

    You use the term: “Palestinian Jewish marriage”
    May I remind you that the name Palestine was given to Judea only in the year 125 CE about 92-96 years after Yeshua was crucified.

  43. Johanna says:

    The Interlinear Bible uses “betulah” to describe Mary at the time of her conception with Jesus. This leaves no room for doubt that the young woman was a virgin. However, customs of the time, as have been frequently noted elsewhere, make it clear that parents sought husbands for their adolescent daughters and that the signing of the ketubah, or marriage contract, ensured that the couple were married even though for various reasons they frequently were still not cohabiting. A year or more might pass before the bridegroom arrived to take his bride to her new home. The reasons might be, among others, the bridegroom being away working, having been conscripted by the Romans for their army, not being able to support a wife yet, or still in the process of building an addition to his father’s house where the young couple could live in something resembling privacy. Another reason could be that the bride was simply too young and it would be dangerous for her to have children. Compare this with the later European custom among royalty in particular of children being engaged to each other in childhood or even infancy, to secure the marriage. Since no mention is made of a brother or even a father in the Gospels for Mary, she may have been the child of a widowed mother who was anxious to secure a permanent place in society for her child by an early espousal. The word “espousal” is not synonymous with “engagement.” Once espoused, the girl was legally married regardless of age or whether she was cohabiting with her husband. The signing of the marriage contract was the act by which the couple was legally married; a wedding ceremony might follow month or even more than a year later. So Mary was officially “espoused” to Joseph but not living with him at the time the angel announced to her that that Holy Spirit would impregnate her. It was important that the young woman be a virgin, and of the House of David. Mary was both. Joseph was also of the House of David, so for the sake of appearances, the child would be his son and belong to the same Davidic branch as his father as well as his mother. We know that Mary was from at least a Levitical family because her cousin Elizabeth, who became pregnant in old age at least six months earlier, was married to a Levite. It is not clear in the Greek translation whether she was related to Elizabeth on her mother’s or father’s side. As for Jesus being married, there is silence on that issue in the Gospels. It was not necessary for a man to be married to take part in many religious ceremonies in the first century. Jesus’ cousin John likewise was not married, yet he was conducting rituals of immersion in the Jordan River. Unfortunately, a great deal of pietitistic effluvia has entered the Nativity story, mainly from anti-Semitic sources in the early and medieval periods. Also, a great deal has been borrowed from extra-canonical sources as to Mary’s family, though not so much as the names of her parents appear in the canonical Gospels. It is my sincere hope that these things will be expunged, because they are nothing but superstition and embroidery to the basic story, which reveals a marriage that was strictly according to Jewish law at the time.

  44. Jason K Jensen says:

    Issues involving daily Jewish life and doctrine existing at that time were not included in the gospel text because they were generally known and regarded at the time. So the knowledge has been lost in context over the Centuries. Now-a-days, Christians are not Jews, unlike Jesus’ original followers. In fact over the years, and lost in translation is the fact that Jesus’s real name in translation would be Joshua, not Jesus.

  45. edward woolf says:

    The passage in Deuteronomy deals with a woman who was raped. If it happened in the city it was not a “legitimate rape, She should be stoned because she did not scream loud enough

  46. rinda mb says:

    Just a quick observation: The miracle in Isaiah 7:14 is not that a young woman or a virgin gives birth, all very ordinary, everyday stuff for a virgin birthing a first baby, the miracle is to Whom does she give birth……God incarnate…..!!!!

    The question I have about Deuteronomy…..how do they know the woman has been adulterous with another man….because she got pregnant? It does not specify how others found out about the adultery or how they proved it…?

    —anonymous

  47. Gene R says:

    Source for above-http://wol.jw.org/en/wol/d/r1/lp-e/1200002912#h=

  48. Gene R says:

    As to the wedding itself, the central and characteristic feature was the solemn bringing of the bride from her father’s home to her husband’s home on the date agreed upon, in which act the significance of marriage as representing admission of the bride into the family of her husband found expression. (Mt 1:24) This constituted the wedding in patriarchal days before the Law. It was altogether a civil affair. There was no religious ceremony or form, and no priest or clergyman officiated or validated the marriage. The bridegroom took the bride to his house or to the tent or house of his parents. The matter was publicly made known, acknowledged, and recorded, and the marriage was binding.—Ge 24:67.

  49. David Hawa says:

    Matthew 1:18-25 says that Joseph was going to divorce Mary in secret as to not expose her to public shame… this was when they were engaged, way before Jesus’ birth which in the first century Israel was the same as married. If they hadn’t been married there would be no reason for him to consider divorce.

  50. Rabbi Robert says:

    Mary and Joseph had to be engaged/betrothed or Isaiah prophecy would have been incorrect. The reason that Isaiah prophesied that an “alma” (young woman) and not a “betulah” virgin would give birth in Isaiah 7:14 is because in Jewish culture, a woman under her father’s guardianship would be “betulah”. However, a woman engaged/betrothed would be under her fiancé’s guardianship and would be “alma”.

    Deut. 22:23 has to do with an engaged woman who is adulterous. She should be stoned. That is the “trap” of John 8 when the rabbis brought the woman caught in adultery to Jesus and said that the Law of Moses demands that we stone her, what do you say? Jesus agrees that she should be stoned–but stoning is not prescribed for regular adultery in the Scriptures–only adultery by an engaged woman.

    Under Jewish law, there were only 4 ways to execute someone; stoning, beheading, strangulation and burning. The rabbis determined that since we are created in the image of God, so when the Scripture requires someone to be put to death but does not prescribe the manner of death, the rabbis determined that they should be strangled–to do the least amount of damage to the image of God.

    Deut. 22:22 requires that the adulterous evil be purged–which would have the adulterous people strangled. The reason for a more violent death by stoning for adultery by an engaged woman is that her husband had not yet taken her virginity–a serious offense.

    However, in John 8, the rabbis knew the history of Jesus–they knew that his mother had been engaged when she conceived him. They wanted Jesus to disagree (trap him) with the Law of Moses and not agree that the woman should be stoned because he would be “admitting” that his mother should have been stoned.

  51. gabriel the angel says:

    jesus was born of the “blessing” of the “holy spirirt” …. sure Gordon and not a miraculous birth

  52. Rich Hunt says:

    The problem with using the texts contained in the finally codified canon of the church is that thet have been transformed over time by different translations, different scribes and changing theology. Case in point is at which point in history Mary Magdalene became a whore and Mary became immaculate in her conception.

    I suggest reading “the Rise and Fall of the Bible” by Timothy Beal and “Misquoting Jesus” by Bart Ehrman to begin to understand the changing history of the gospels.

  53. Joseph Krill says:

    All speculation.

  54. Bette says:

    Jesus was married for several factors: 1) As a Jewish Rabbi, he would not have been let in to pray in the Temple without being married. To this day, Rabbis are married and it would have been a scandal for Jesus to reach the age of his early 30s and not be so. The fact that the Church wiped it out is because they were rewriting Jewish history to be acceptable to pagans whose gods were not often married. The belief that he and Magdalene had a daughter, instead of a son, is further proof. Jesus came from a well-to do family. There were laws to follow.

  55. Hilary says:

    Do you really know anything about Jewish marriage? Even to this day, it involves a double ceremony – a betrothal (kiddushin or erusin) followed by a formal legal contract (ketubah, which simply means document). Usually these now take place together, one immediately following the other. A giveaway is that wine is blessed and drunk twice during the wedding service, once during each stage of the process.

    In the past, however, the two stages could be separate. The orthodox view is that betrothal is binding, such that sex with a woman betrothed to someone else is adultery and a formal divorce is required in order to dissolve a betrothal. Betrothal can be achieved either by giving and receiving a bride-gift or by the couple having intercourse.

    Only someone profoundly ignorant of Jewish law could have misunderstood what the gospels meant by “engaged” or “betrothed”. In fairness, this wasn’t <em.written down until the Mishnah was codified in the 2nd century CE but frankly it is basic Judaism 101 that any scholar of Jesus’s lifetime really ought to know.

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