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Old 12-25-2001, 07:59 PM   #21
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Originally posted by Xtopher:
<strong>Can anyone tell me how it was that Mary was a virgin? Wasn't she married to Joseph and why hadn't they yet exercised their "marital relations"?</strong>
There's actually a contradiction between Luke and Matthew over whether Mary was engaged/betrothed (Luke) or married (Matthew).

In Matthew 1:24, Joseph took Mary as his wife on having the Divine Pregnancy announced to him. However, he did not have sex with her until she gave birth (Matthew 1:25). Therefore, Jesus was born *within* wedlock.

In Luke, Joseph was not married to Mary before Mary gave birth to Jesus. In Luke 2:5, when Joseph went to Bethlehem, Judea with Mary, they were "engaged", and Mary gave birth to Jesus out of wedlock. Jesus was illegitimate in Luke.

Looking more closely at Matthew, in 1:18 when we first meet Mary and Joseph they are merely betrothed/engaged. Then, an angel commands Joseph in a dream to take Mary as his wife (v20). Clearly this is more than betrothal/engagement. And Joseph, being absolutely obedient to the command, does just what the angel says: as soon as he awakes from the dream, Joseph takes Mary home as his wife (v24 "When Joseph awoke from sleep, he did as the angel of the Lord commanded him; he took her as his wife").

The words of Matthew cannot be more clear. Joseph and Mary were engaged at the time of Jesus' conception. On command from the angel, at some time before Jesus was born, Joseph took Mary as his wife. So, Jesus was born in wedlock in Matthew, which is an important difference from Betrothal. A betrothed woman still may NOT have sexual intercourse, according to the Torah. But a married woman MAY have sexual intercourse. That is why Matthew was forced to add that Joseph "had no marital relations with her until she had borne a son' - because Joseph COULD if he wanted to.

Compare and contrast Luke, which has Mary betrothed, not married, when she is visits Bethlehem for the census. Mary never 'went home' with Joseph (as a wife) according to Luke.

Hebrew 'engagement' or 'betrothal' was mutually exclusive of 'marriage,' of course. So when Matthew describes Joseph taking Mary home as his wife, this ends the engagement which Luke says is still going at the birth of Jesus.

Like old concepts of 'engagement' in the West, betrothal/engagement was much more a serious issue in Hebrew custom. But it was still mutually exclusive and prior to marriage.

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