Joseph her husband, since he was a righteous man, yet unwilling to expose her to shame, decided to divorce her quietly. Matthew 1:19 NABRE
The gospel writer Matthew tells the story of the birth of Jesus beginning with the discovery Joseph’s betrothed Mary is found with child. Betrothal is not casual, Mary and Joseph enter into a binding contract sealed with gifts, they do not live together for a year after the betrothal ceremony, but are considered married. Discovering Mary is with child is a breaking of the contract and a betrayal to Joseph as well as the families. Of course the story continues that Mary conceives through an act of God and never “cheated,” simply agreed to be the handmaid of the Lord. When Joseph first hears of the betrayal, he decides he will quietly divorce Mary and let it go, though the law calls for punishment of stoning to death for young Mary. We read that Joseph hears from an angel in a dream that Mary has conceived through the Holy Spirit and Joseph should accept Mary as his wife. The Virgin Conception is a doctrinal declaration of the Catholic Church and is considered so important they declare Mary a virgin through her entire life.
The text emphasizes Joseph’s righteousness, meaning he is a man of the Law and is right with God. But we don’t read of him confronting Mary and if he did why doesn’t he believe her when she tells him the child is from God. It requires the intervention of an angel to convince Joseph not to shame young Mary. Why not trust her? Perhaps the appearance of the angel helps emphasize God’s role in the conception of Jesus, so that the virgin birth will be more easily accepted. Joseph as a righteous man likely trusts young Mary, and the angel’s role helps the legend of God as Father.
Why is a virgin conception important? How does Joseph’s role assist the Jesus birth story?Joseph as a righteous man likely trusts young Mary's virgin conception explanation, and the angel's role in Joseph's dream helps the legend of God as Father. Click To Tweet
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