Was Jesus Born as the Messiah, the Son of God?

 

Two big questions are commonly asked about the birth of Jesus of Nazareth. Was he really born, a real person, and is Jesus the Son of God, the Messiah? Answers to the questions involve logic and the U.S. legal Doctrine of Chances.

Straightforward logic can answer the question about the historicity of Jesus of  Nazareth. Regardless if he is the Messiah, the likelihood that calendars were changed based on someone who never existed is a very difficult concept to believe.

A personage named Jesus divided world history into two eras – before his life and after his life. No one else has been so influential as to change calendars making Jesus the most impactful figure in history. The modern-day effort to change “BC” and “AD” to “BCE” and “CE” designations are still based on the fact the calendar change occurred at the same point in time as the life of Jesus.[1]

Setting aside logic, religion archenemies of Christianity commonly agree on the historical existence of Jesus of Nazareth. Jewish ancestral birth records and lineage of Jesus are undisputed by Judaism.[2] The Jewish Encyclopedia in its article “Jesus of Nazareth” states that Jesus is a real historical figure, even pinpointing a date of his birth.[3] The miraculous conception of Mary and the birth of Jesus are also recognized by the Quran.[4]

Addressing the question if Jesus is the Messiah, while ultimately this is a personal decision, there is much to consider. Circumstantially, an entirely new religion was spawned by the teachings and events surrounding Jesus of Nazareth – Christianity. Something profound changed the official views of the Roman empire with Christianity going on to become the largest religion in the world, over 2 billion people today.[5]

Caesar Augustus as the ruling Emperor of Rome; King Herod as the head of the Judean government; Quirinius, Procurator Pilate and Archelaus, son of King Herod – all these historical figures are referenced in the Gospels consistent with secular history. As such, it raises the bar of Gospel answerability and credibility to the highest degree.[6]

Mary gave birth to Jesus in a totally unexpected, unplanned location in Bethlehem 90 miles away instead of Nazareth.[7] The angel who appeared independently months apart to Mary and Joseph didn’t tell either of them to go to Bethlehem.[8] Joseph and Mary planned to stay in Nazareth for the birth of their baby surrounded by family and friends.

A Roman Caesar’s decree forced the location change of the birthplace of Jesus.  Augustus’ official decree in Nazareth compelled Joseph and Mary in her late-stage of pregnancy to abruptly make the days-long trek to Bethlehem where she went into labor.

Months in the making by the Roman government, announcement in Nazareth of Caesar’s decree more than a week earlier or a week later would have resulted in Jesus being born in Nazareth. Had Jesus been born in there, it would have completely eliminated the potential fulfillment of Micah’s Bethlehem prophecy.[9]

Hundreds of miles away from Nazareth and Rome,  Magi made preparations to travel around the edges of the vast Arabian Desert on a month’s long journey to Judea to find the newborn King of Israel. These astronomy experts began their quest based on seeing “His Star,” not because of any Messiah prophecy.

Multiple rare planet and star conjunctions occurred in an unusually brief period of time shortly before the birth of Jesus, seconds in astronomical time. Typically these close conjunctions occur centuries or millennia apart; however, all occurred over the course of only months.[10] NASA astronomy science and technology confirms it all happened, both in timing and close proximity.[11]

When the Magi began their month’s long journey to Judea, their final destination was unclear. They sought out the ruthless King Herod in Jerusalem for assistance in finding the newborn King signaled by “His star.”[12]

Herod consulted his Jewish religious council who told the King about the Micah 5:2 (1) prophecy foretelling the Christ was to be born in Bethlehem.[13] The King indicated he believed the prophecy had been fulfilled evidenced by pointing the Magi to Bethlehem to find the babe in exchange for telling him the exact location of the newborn.[14]

Messiah prophecies that may have been fulfilled by Jesus of Nazareth originate in the Scriptures, the Tenakh or the Old Testament. Christianity accepts prophecies about the Messiah, such as the Branch prophecies of Isaiah, Jeremiah, Zechariah; the Psalms; the crucifixion and the Resurrection.

Judaism does not unanimously recognize some of these prophecies as pertaining to the Messiah. Two of the most renowned Jewish sages are Rabbi Rashi and Rabbi Maimonides, each with differing views on some Messiah prophecies.

One Messiah prophecy; however, is virtually undisputed by Jews or Christians – the Messiah would be born in the lineage of King David.[15] Matthew and Luke report that Jesus was a royal heir to David, a fact not a disputed by Judaism.

Isaiah 52-53 describes the circumstances of the torture and death of “My Servant” consistent with a Roman crucifixion that was developed hundreds of years later. Isaiah also described the Servant’s burial among the rich and a life after death, all described in the Gospels involving the crucifixion and Resurrection of Jesus.[16]

Psalms contains varied messianic views by Judaism and Christianity. For example, Psalms 22 closely mirroring a crucifixion is not recognized as a Messiah prophecy by Judaism. On the other hand, Psalms 118 is included in the traditional Jewish Hallel about the Messiah.[17]

Zechariah 12:10 foretells someone from the lineage of the House of David would be thrust through or pierced, killing him. His death would cause morning as deep as for an only son. A faction of Rabbis in the Talmud’s Succah 52a including Rashi believed it to be Messianic, consistent with the view of Christianity.[18]

Assessing all the circumstances involving the life of Jesus of Nazareth obviously has a direct impact on believability. The U.S. legal Doctrine of Chances suggests it was not an accident.

What are the odds that Jesus was born as the Son of God, the Messiah?

 

Updated October 26, 2022.

Creative Commons License

This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International License.

REFERENCES:

[1] Hocken, Vigdis. “Common Era (CE) and Before Common Era (BCE).” TimeandDate.com. 2020. <https://www.timeanddate.com/calendar/ce-bce-what-do-they-mean.html> Mark, Joshua J. “The Origin and History of the BCE/CE Dating System.” Ancient History Encyclopedia. 2020. <https://www.ancient.eu/article/1041/the-origin-and-history-of-the-bcece-dating-system>
[2]“Jesus of Nazareth.” Jewish Encyclopedia. 2011. <http://www.jewishencyclopedia.com/articles/8616-jesus-of-nazareth>  Messiah. Triton World Mission Center. image. n.d. <https://images.search.yahoo.com/yhs/search;_ylt=AwrFGczYdVhjL.gT5Bg2nIlQ;_ylu=c2VjA3NlYXJjaARzbGsDYnV0dG9u;_ylc=X1MDMTM1MTE5NTcwMgRfcgMyBGZyA3locy1hZGstYWRrX3NibnQEZnIyA3A6cyx2OmksbTpzYi10b3AEZ3ByaWQDMzh6Tm9GQmVSYTJoSU9hTDIzbDFOQQRuX3JzbHQDMARuX3N1Z2cDMARvcmlnaW4DaW1hZ2VzLnNlYXJjaC55YWhvby5jb20EcG9zAzAEcHFzdHIDBHBxc3RybAMwBHFzdHJsAzIzBHF1ZXJ5A01lc3NpYWglMjBwcm9waGVjeSUyMGltYWdlcwR0X3N0bXADMTY2Njc0MjIyNw–?p=Messiah+prophecy+images&fr=yhs-adk-adk_sbnt&fr2=p%3As%2Cv%3Ai%2Cm%3Asb-top&ei=UTF-8&x=wrt&type=yhs-adk_sbnt_appfocus1_sm_ff&hsimp=yhs-adk_sbnt&hspart=adk&param1=20210118&param2=00000000-0000-0000-0000-000000000000&param3=searchmanager_%7EUS%7Eappfocus1%7E&param4=%7Efirefox%7E%7E#id=158&iurl=http%3A%2F%2Ftritonubf.com%2Fwp-content%2Fuploads%2F2018%2F04%2FThe-Messiah-in-Judaism-Christianity-and-Islam-04.jpg&action=click
[3] Maimon, Moshe ben (Maimonides). “Melachim uMilchamot.” Chabad.org. Chapter 11, #4. <https://www.chabad.org/library/article_cdo/aid/1188356/jewish/Melachim-uMilchamot-Chapter-11.htm>  CR I Chronicles 9:1; Matthew 1:5; Luke 3:32. Josephus, Flavius. Against Apion. Trans. and commentary William Whitson. Book 1, #7. The Complete Works of Josephus.  <http://books.google.com/books?id=e0dAAAAAMAAJ&printsec=frontcover&source=gbs_ge_summary_r&cad=0#v=onepage&q&f=false>  Hall, David Markel.  “The Temple of G-d.”  1997.  Zion Messianic Congregation of Austin, Texas. <http://tzion.org/articles/temple.html>  “Jewish Genealogy & Surnames.” Archives. Archives.com. n.d. <http://www.archives.com/genealogy/family-heritage-jewish.html>  “Jesus.” Encyclopaedia Judaica. pp 246-251. Encyclopaedia Judaica. Eds. Michael Berenbaum and Fred Skolnik. Vol. 11. 2nd edition. <http://go.galegroup.com/ps/infomark.do?action=interpret&eisbn=9780028660974&prodId=GVRL&userGroupName=imcpl1111&type=aboutBook&version=1.0&authCount=1&u=imcpl1111>
[4] Quran. Trans. Abdullah Yusuf Ali. n.d. Search “Jesus.” <http://search-the-quran.com>  “The Descriptive Titles of Jesus in the Quran (part 1 of 2): “The Messiah” and “a Miracle.”’ IslamReligion.com. 2020. <http://www.islamreligion.com/articles/230>  The Quran. JM Rodwell Translation With text notes. “Preface.” <http://www.truthnet.org/islam/Quran/Rodwell/Introduction.html>
[5] “What is the #1 religion in the world?” Search. Google. 2020. <https://www.google.com/search?q=what+is+the+%231+religion+in+the+world&oq=what+is+the+%231+rel&aqs=chrome.0.0i457j0j69i57j0j0i22i30l4.10361j0j7&sourceid=chrome&ie=UTF-8>
[6] Matthew 2:1, 22; 27:2; Mark 15:1; Luke 2:1-2; John 19:1.
[7] Luke 1:39, 2:1-5. Map of Israel (active, untitled).  Bing.com/maps. Mileage calculation from Bethlehem to Nazareth.  n.d. <https://binged.it/2mNpBy8>  Oshri, Aviram.  “Where was Jesus Born?” Archaeology. Volume 58 Number 6. November/December 2005. <http://www.archaeology.org/0511/abstracts/jesus.html> Arbez, Edward. “Bethlehem.” Catholic Encyclopedia. Volume 2. 1907. <http://www.newadvent.org/cathen/02533a.htm>
[8] Matthew 1:18-23; Luke 1:26-37.
[9] Micah 5:2 (verse 1 in Jewish Bibles).
[10] Ventrudo, Brian. “Measuring The Sky.”  “Venus and Jupiter’s Upcoming Conjunction.” Universe Today. 2004. <http://www.universetoday.com/10006/venus-and-jupiters-upcoming-conjunction/#ixzz2B6cvKJEt>  Dickinson, David. “Is This Month’s Jupiter-Venus Pair Really a Star of Bethlehem Stand In?” Universe Today. 2015. <https://www.universetoday.com/122738/is-this-months-jupiter-venus-pair-really-a-star-of-bethlehem-stand-in/> Beatty, Kelly. “Venus and Jupiter: Together at Last.” Sky & Telescope. 2015. <http://www.skyandtelescope.com/astronomy-news/observing-news/venus-and-jupiter-a-dazzling-duo-062520154 >  Cain, Fraser. “Venus and Jupiter’s Upcoming Conjunction.” Universe Today. 2004. http://www.universetoday.com/10006/venus-and-jupiters-upcoming-conjunction/#ixzz2B6cvKJEt> Carroll, Susan S. “The Star of Bethlehem:  An Astronomical and Historical Perspective.” Pulcherrima Productions.  1997. Twin Cities Creation Science Association. n.d. <http://www.tccsa.tc/articles/star_susan_carroll.pdf>
[11] Phillips, Tony. “A Christmas Star for SOHO.” NASA Science | Science New. 2018. <http://science.nasa.gov/science-news/science-at-nasa/2000/ast16may_1>  Haley, A. S. “The Star of Bethlehem and the Nativity.” Anglican Curmudgeon. Video. 2009. <http://accurmudgeon.blogspot.com/2009/10/star-of-bethlehem-and-nativity.html>  CR “Birth of Jesus.” Navsoft.com. 2012. http://navsoft.com/html/birth_of_jesus.html>  Clevenger, John. “Astronomy, Astrology, and the Star of Bethlehem.”  Lake County (Illinois) Astronomical   Society. 2012. <http://www.lcas-astronomy.org/articles/display.php?filename=the_christmas_star&category=miscellaneous>
[12] Matthew 2:1-3.
[13] Matthew 2:4-6.
[14] Matthew 2:7-8.
[15] Maimon, Moshe ben (Maimonides). “Melachim uMilchamot.” Chabad.org. Chapter 11, #4.  Numbers 17-19. The Complete Jewish Bible. Rashi Commentary. <https://www.chabad.org/library/bible_cdo/aid/9952/showrashi/true>
[16] CR Zechariah 3:8; 6:12-13. Maimonides, “Letter to the South (Yemen)”. p374. The Fifty-third Chapter of Isaiah According to the Jewish Interpreters. <https://books.google.com/books?id=YxdbAAAAQAAJ&pg=PP1&hl=en#v=onepage&q=advent&f=false>
[17] “Psalms 118.” JewwishAwareness.org. 2011. <http://www.jewishawareness.org/psalm-118>  McKelvey, Michael G. “The Messianic Nature of Psalm 118.” Reformed Faith & Practice. 2017. <https://journal.rts.edu/article/messianic-nature-psalm-118> “Hallel” EncyclopædiaBritannica. 2020. <https://www.britannica.com/topic/Hallel>
[18] Complete Jewish Bible with Rashi Commentary. Zechariah 12:10. <https://www.chabad.org/library/bible_cdo/aid/16216/showrashi/true>

 

How Can Jesus Be An Heir to the Throne of David?

 

If Mary, a virgin, miraculously conceived Jesus by the Holy Spirit, how then can Jesus of Nazareth have a legal claim to the royal inheritance rights of the House of David without a biological father? The answer lies in the legalities of the Jewish laws of family and priest hereditary rights.

“… he who comes first in the order of hereditary succession transmits that right to his descendants, and that the father comes before all his descendants in hereditary succession…” – Jewish Encyclopedia

In a normal situation, betrothal and marriage would have provided the legal means for Joseph to pass to Jesus his rights of inheritance to the lineage of David.[1] Mary’s unique circumstances were anything but normal and the freewill of Joseph was a wild card.

Knowing he was not responsible for Mary’s pregnancy, Joseph had the legal recourse of a divorce during their betrothal. For him, it was a legitimate escape avenue for Mary’s seemingly obvious indiscretion and Jewish law favored his position – he only had to make the accusation of adultery.[2]

Very strong circumstantial evidence supported the charge. All Joseph needed to do was point to Mary’s state of pregnancy during their betrothal that began while she was out-of-town on a 3-month trip without him to visit her cousin, Elizabeth.[3]

Divorce was an option Joseph actively considered.[4] Playing the divorce card would also have immediately ended the royal inheritance rights of the unborn Jesus.

Matthew reported that before Joseph acted on the divorce option, he had a visitation by the “angel of the LORD.” The 3-fold message delivered from God was very clear:  Mary’s conception of a son was by the Holy Spirit; his birth was a fulfillment of the Isaiah 7:14 prophecy and they were to name him Jesus.[5]

Joseph had a big decision to make. In a very conservative culture, whether he was the father or not, to continue with his betrothal meant he would have to endure family embarrassment, public humiliation, scorn and other repercussions.[6] On the other side of the equation, he just had a very rare encounter with the angel of the LORD who delivered a message to him from none other than God.[7]

Something most profound occurred as evidenced by Joseph’s immediate change of behavior – he suddenly stopped considering a divorce. Moreover, he made a full commitment to Mary and her future son in-spite-of the inevitable adverse consequences, then proceeded to wed Mary without a consummation before Jesus was born.[8]

With the divorce option off the table, lineage inheritance rights of the son and paternity by the father also relied on other Jewish laws and customs. Even for the highest purity lineage requirements of a priest, the law favored the rights of the unborn son who had no control over the circumstances of his own conception.[9]  

“Doubtful paternity involves not only the right of inheritance, but also, if the father be a kohen, the claim of priesthood with all its privileges and restrictions, including those regarding incest and prohibited marriage.  Biblical chronology ignores the mother in the lineal descent of generations.  The father was considered the stem of the family tree.  The census was conducted “after their families, by the house of their fathers” (Num. §, 2).  The father’s priesthood descended to his issue only by legal (with kedushlu) and lawful (not incestuous) marriage.” – Jewish Encyclopedia

Marriage preserved the lineage inheritance rights for Jesus from his father, regardless of Mary’s source of conception. For a child impregnated by someone other than the husband, paternity rights were also addressed by other Jewish legalities.[10]

“Acts of adultery by a wife living with her husband do not affect his paternity of her children, as the maxim is “The issue follows the majority of cohabitations by the husband” Talmud Sotah 27a

“Paternity can not be claimed for a child begotten out of wedlock when the alleged father disclaims it, even though the mother was his mistress and the child be born after he has married her.”  The mother’s own claim, when denied by the man, is not accepted.  But a man may establish his paternity of a son born out of wedlock, to entitle the son to the right of inheritance and of priesthood. A man may also disclaim the paternity of a child born to his legal wife; but he may not do so after that child has had a child (Shulḥan ‘Aruk, Eben ha-‘Ezer, 4, 29).” – Jewish Encyclopedia

Conception outside of marriage was not a disqualifying factor for the inheritance and lineage rights to the priesthood. A paternity claim by Joseph, the wild card, was a different matter he still had the option to disclaim paternity. 

Further action was required – Joseph had to establish that he accepted the child as his own. One definition of “establish” by Merriam-Webster is: “to cause (someone or something) to be widely known and accepted.”[11]

As parents, Joseph and Mary had their 8-day old son circumcised. At that time, they officially named him “Jesus” as each had been independently instructed by an angel:[12]

LK 2:21 And when eight days were completed for the circumcision of the Child, His name was called JESUS, the name given by the angel before He was conceived in the womb. (NKJV)

At the 30-day mark from the birth of Jesus, two more separate events took place as required by the Law – the purification of Mary after childbirth and the Redemption of the Firstborn, each with different requirements:

LK 2:22-24 “Now when the days of her purification according to the law of Moses were completed, they brought Him to Jerusalem to present Him to the Lord (as it is written in the law of the Lord, “Every male who opens the womb shall be called holy to the LORD”), and to offer a sacrifice according to what is said in the law of the Lord, “A pair of turtledoves or two young pigeons.”” (NKJV)

Every mother was required to forego a purification ceremony. The law required that 30 days after childbirth of a son, 60 days for a daughter, the mother was to offer a purification sacrifice.[13]

A father of a mother’s firstborn had responsibilities known as the Redemption of Firstborn ceremony when every firstborn son was to be presented to a priest. Redeeming a first-born required no sacrifice, only a nominal payment to the priest.[14]

Jewish custom expected the father to pronounce a blessing on his son to be followed by a feast. A priest attended the feast and had a dialog with the father to make an impression upon the attendees. One of the purposes of the Redemption of Firstborn ceremony was to affirm the right of inheritance of the firstborn:[15]

“Any doubt regarding the primogeniture of a child is decided in favor of the father.” – Jewish Encyclopedia

“Primogeniture” has two definitions according to Merriam Webster. The first, “the state of being the firstborn of the children of the same parents.”[16] The second relates to the first: “an exclusive right of inheritance belonging to the eldest son.”

Joseph publicly established paternity affirming the lineage and inheritance rights of Jesus through marriage and the Redemption of the Firstborn ceremony sanctioned by a priest. As a father, Joseph presented Jesus to the Lord and gave him a first-born blessing. 

Jewish leaders never challenged that Jesus was born in the royal lineage the House of David. Prophecies by Isaiah, Jeremiah and Zachariah, concurred by Rabbi sages, set forth the one commonly held requirement that the Messiah must be born in the House of David. What is the probability that the birth of Jesus fulfilled this Messiah requirement? 

 

Updated November 9, 2022.

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This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International License.

REFERENCES:

[1]  “inheritiance.” Jewish Encyclopedia. 2011. < http://www.jewishencyclopedia.com/articles/8114-inheritance > “adoption.” Jewish Encyclopedia. 2011. <http://jewishencyclopedia.com/articles/852-adoption> Myers, Jeremy. Redeeming God. Jewish Law. image. 2011. <https://redeeminggod.com/wp-content/uploads/2011/07/Jewish-law.gif>
[2] “Adultery.” Jewish Encyclopedia. 2011. <http://jewishencyclopedia.com/articles/865-adultery>
[3] Matthew 1:18, 39-43; Luke 1:39, 56. Edersheim. The Life and Times of Jesus the Messiah. p 586.  “Adultery.” Jewish Encyclopedia. 2011.  Brayer, Menachem M. The Jewish Woman in Rabbinic Literature. pp 192-193.  <http://books.google.com/books?id=GhPxFOCdQj4C&pg=PA143&lpg=PA143&dq=sex+betrothal+jewish&source=web&ots=G4jLlub8y9&sig=gnkOuPI8xLKvYl57J9PR9VY3kVg#PPA143,M1>
[4] Matthew 1:19.  “Divorce.” Jewish Encyclopedia. 2011. <http://jewishencyclopedia.com/articles/5238-divorce> Edersheim, Alfred. The Life and Times of Jesus the Messiah. 1883. Book II, Chapter 4. p 586. <http://www.ntslibrary.com/PDF%20Books/The%20Life%20and%20Times%20of%20Jesus%20the%20Messiah.pdf>
[5] Matthew 1:18-23. CR Luke 1:26-28.
[6] Soncino Babylonian Talmud. Kethuboth 13. <https://israelect.com/Come-and-Hear/kethuboth/kethuboth_13.html>  Brayer. The Jewish Woman in Rabbinic Literature. p 143. 
[7] CR Mark 6:1-6
[8] Matthew 1:24-25.
[9] “Paternity.” Jewish Encyclopedia. 2011. <http://jewishencyclopedia.com/articles/11939-paternity>
[10] “Paternity.” Jewish Encyclopedia. 2011.  “primogeniture.” Jewish Encyclopedia. 2011. http://jewishencyclopedia.com/articles/12362-primogeniture>
[11] “establish.” Merriam-Webster. English Language Learners Definition of establish. <https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/establish>
[12] Leviticus 12:3; Matthew 1:19-25; Luke 1:31. “Circumcision.” Jewish Encyclopedia. 2011. <http://jewishencyclopedia.com/articles/4391-circumcision>
[13] Leviticus 12:2-8. “Childbirth” Jewish Encyclopedia. 2011. <http://www.jewishencyclopedia.com/articles/4328-childbirth
[14] Numbers 18:15-16; Luke 2:22-24. CR Exodus 13:2; Numbers 3:46-49, Deuteronomy 21:17. “First Born, Redemption of.” Jewish Encyclopedia.
[15] “primogeniture.” Jewish Encyclopedia. 2011. “First-born, Redemption of.” Jewish Encyclopedia. 2011.
[16] “primogeniture.” Merriam-Webster. 2019. <https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/primogeniture>

Joseph’s Dilemma With Mary

 

Joseph’s behavior affected the Nativity story in a very important way, much more than it may seem. His reactions to the extreme circumstances surrounding Mary’s pregnancy reveals truths about her as well as himself.

Most likely Joseph knew Mary through community interactions in Nazareth such as during the harvest or through their Synagogue.[1] He would have been familiar with her family’s reputation and had confidence that she was a marriageable virgin, a very important factor in their conservative Jewish society.[2]

Betrothals typically lasted for a year during which time Joseph was expected to be very busy.[3] As a bridegroom, in addition to paying the traditional bride-price, he had to make money for other financial obligations such as preparing their new home and sponsoring a 3-day wedding feast for their guests.[4]

Ketubah, 1063 AD

Initially, Joseph had few worries about the virtuous nature of his prospective bride. By law, a marriage contract called a Ketubah, legally declared Mary to be a virgin, included the terms of their marriage and was signed by the witnesses who vetted Mary.

Mary had less commitment pressures to prepare for the wedding … simply follow the rules of the process. A betrothed girl subject to Judaic Law was under strict supervision of her family and the watchful eye of the community. She was not allowed to be alone at any time with an adult male, not even a male family member.[5]

Gabriel the archangel, during his appearance to Mary delivering God’s message that she was miraculously pregnant, also informed her that Elizabeth, her cousin, was 6 months pregnant. With a common unique situation, it seemed to be the perfect opportunity to visit Elizabeth who lived in a village days away near Jerusalem.[6] Mary would be gone for 3 months. Keeping in touch with Joseph would be very limited and delayed, if at all.[7]

Joseph would not become aware of Mary’s pregnancy until sometime after her return to Nazareth. It is unclear exactly when he discovered that she was pregnant, but it is clear from Matthew‘s use of the Greek word heurisko meaning “to hit upon…to find (by chance)” that it was a big surprise when he did find out![8]

Overwhelming emotions by Joseph would be expected – hurt and anger followed by resentment, embarrassment, doubt, uncertainty, temptations of vengefulness and other mixed feelings. Then the big question – what to do next?

Moving forward with the marriage would be the expected behavior of a man who believed himself to be the father of his betrothal’s baby. Frowned upon by the Rabbis, accidental pregnancies during betrothals were a reality, even in those days. The Rabbi’s dealt with these instances by allowing the couple to move up their wedding date and get on with life as a married couple.[9]

Bill of Divorce or “Get”

Knowing he was not the father of Mary’s baby presented two huge consequences to consider. First is the obvious, why would a bridegroom want to marry his bride-to-be who was carrying a child fathered by someone else?

According to Matthew, a divorce was indeed being contemplated by Joseph. It is perhaps the most telling evidence of a truth that Joseph was not the father of Mary’s child.

Consequences of a divorce weighed heavily on Joseph. Not only would it destroy Mary’s reputation and cause financial loss to both Mary and her family, a public accusation of infidelity could carry a charge of adultery – stoning would not have been out of the question.[10]

Attesting to Joseph’s honorable character, he was seeking to quietly settle the divorce. It would, in effect, minimize embarrassment to Mary, her family and avoid the public charge of adultery.[11]

On the other hand, if Joseph stayed with his pregnant betrothal, their community of family, friends and neighbors would assume the pregnancy was a result of his own doing, even if it wasn’t. Joseph would have to endure the undeserving consequences of facing public scorn and humiliation while swallowing his pride and overcoming his personal feelings. It would take a big man. Few men would do it.

Unexpectedly, Joseph suddenly changed his mind and decided not to pursue a divorce. He set aside all his negative emotions and feelings to honor his marriage commitment to Mary knowing he was not the father of her child while willingly accepting the consequences that would come with it. What caused this sudden change of heart was not to be expected.

Matthew reports the game-changing moment came from a visit by “an angel of the Lord.” He delivered a message from God telling Joseph that Mary’s conception was from the Holy Spirit, her child would be a boy to be named Immanuel which Joseph understood to mean “Jesus.”[12]

Actions speak louder than words, volumes in this case. Something very unusual and significant happened.[13] Did Joseph’s dilemma resolution play a key role in determining if the conception and birth of Jesus of Nazareth was a fulfillment of the Isaiah 7:14 prophecy?

 

 

Updated November 25, 2022.

Creative Commons License

This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International License.

REFERENCES:

[1] Brayer, Menachem M. The Jewish Woman in Rabbinic Literature. 1986. pp 68-69. <http://books.google.com/books?id=GhPxFOCdQj4C&pg=PA143&lpg=PA143&dq=sex+betrothal+jewish&source=web&ots=G4jLlub8y9&sig=gnkOuPI8xLKvYl57J9PR9VY3kVg#PPA143,M1>
[2] Brayer. The Jewish Woman in Rabbinic Literature. pp 57, 59, 61. “Marriage Laws.” Jewish Encyclopedia. 2011. <http://jewishencyclopedia.com/articles/10435-marriage-laws>
[3] “Betrothal.” Jewish Encyclopedia. 2011. <http://jewishencyclopedia.com/articles/3229-betrothal> Brayer.  The Jewish Woman in Rabbinic Literature. p 62.  Edersheim.  The Life and Times of Jesus the Messiah. 1883. Book II, Chapter 4.  https://philologos.org/__eb-lat/book204.htm> Thompson, James C.  Women in the Ancient World. July 2010.  “Women in Ancient Israel” > “Women and the Law in Ancient Israel.” <http://www.womenintheancientworld.com/women%20and%20the%20law%20in%20ancient%20israel.htm>
[4] Missler, Chuck. “The Wedding Model.” Koinonia House, Inc. 2018. <http://www.khouse.org/articles/2003/449/#notes>  Brayer. The Jewish Woman in Rabbinic Literature. p 70.  “Marriage Contract for Shelamzion and Judah.” K. C. Hanson’s Collection of Greek Documents. 128 AD. photo. <http://www.kchanson.com/ANCDOCS/greek/marrcon.html
[5] Soncino Babylonian Talmud. Kethuboth 12a, 12b, 13a, 13b. <https://israelect.com/Come-and-Hear/kethuboth/index.html> “Adultery.” Jewish Encyclopedia. 2011. <http://www.jewishencyclopedia.com/articles/865-adultery> Brayer. The Jewish Woman in Rabbinic Literature. pp 142-143.
[6] Luke 1.  “Map of Israel in the Time of Jesus.”  Bible History Online. n.d.<https://www.bible-history.com/maps/palestine_nt_times.html>
[7] Luke 1.
[8] Matthew 1:18. Net.bible.org. Greek text. “heurisko <2147>.” Lexicondorance.com. <http://lexiconcordance.com/greek/2147.html>
[9] Brayer. The Jewish Woman in Rabbinic Literature. pp 143-144, 146-147.  Lamm, Maurice. The Jewish Way in Love & Marriage. 2018. Section “Celebrating the Marriage Covenant” > Chapter “Jewish Betrothal Blessing;” Section “The Structure of The Marriage Covenant” > Chapter “The Jewish Marriage Ceremony.”  <http://www.chabad.org/library/article_cdo/aid/465140/jewish/The-Jewish-Way-in-Love-Marriage.htm>   Edersheim. The Life and Times of Jesus the Messiah. Book II, Chapter 4, footnote #27.  “Ḳiddushin.”’ Jewish Encyclopedia. 2011. <http://jewishencyclopedia.com/articles/9310-kiddushin>
[10] John 8:2-7.  “Adultery.” Jewish Encyclopedia.  “Marriage Laws.” Jewish Encyclopedia.  “Marriage Ceremonies.” Jewish Encyclopedia. 2011. <http://jewishencyclopedia.com/articles/10434-marriage-ceremonies> Josephus, Flavius. Against Apion. Book II, #25. Trans. and commentary William Whitson. The Complete Works of Josephus. 1850. <http://books.google.com/books?id=e0dAAAAAMAAJ&printsec=frontcover&source=gbs_ge_summary_r&cad=0#v=onepage&q&f=false>  Thompson,“Women in the Ancient World.”  Edersheim.  The Life and Times of Jesus the Messiah. Book II, Chapter 4.
[11] Matthew 1:19.  Schneerson; Menachem M. “The Betrothed.” Chabad org. 2018. <http://www.chabad.org/parshah/article_cdo/aid/296931/jewish/The-Betrothed.htm>  “Marriage Ceremonies” & “Adultery.” Jewish Encyclopedia.
[12] Matthew 1.
[13] Edersheim. The Life and Times of Jesus the Messiah. Book II, Chapter 4.