(If you are unfamiliar with the Jewish wedding ritual please view the PowerPoint on Betrothal in the Bible Study portion of this blog)
I had recently completed leading a Bible Study on Mary. I used Dr. Sri’s Bible study as a basis. The group was great and the questions flowed quite freely and caused much prayer and research. My greatest resource came from reading and re-reading Luke during Eucharistic Adoration. Listed below are some questions and responses from some of my thoughts.
Was Mary and Joseph’s marriage a family arrangement?
I cannot see a family arranging a marriage that would mean the end of a
son’s line. In fact the continuation of that family line is part of Jewish Law.
(See Deuteronomy 25:5-10)
Would Joseph have known about Mary’s “vow” of virginity prior to their
Under the Jewish marriage ritual, a contract (Ketubah) was presented and
signed that outlined fundamental conditions that are imposed by the
Torah. I believe that under these conditions Joseph would have
known Mary’s intent to remain a virgin.
Was Joseph an old man, perhaps a widower whose primary function was to
protect the Virgin and Child?
Life expectancy at the time of Christ was about 40 years. We know that
the Holy Family was journeying to Jerusalem every Passover. (Luke
2:41) According to Scripture this would have been 12 years after the birth
of Christ. That was a very rugged journey of over 90 miles through the
Judean hill country in the land of Samaria, who were no friends of the
Jews. That would have been a tough journey even for a young healthy
man. There is also the flight into Egypt to escape Herod’s edict of death.
According to many sources this was a long and tedious journey of over
1200 miles over a period of 2 to 3 years. (An excellent source on this
journey is Sr. M. Danielle Peters online post “Flight into Egypt.” Let’s not forget that
the family was to be normal and blend in so as not to draw attention to
themselves. which both Matthew 15:55 and Mark 6:3 attest to.
Jesus was just the son of a carpenter and they all knew his mother. They
were nothing special. I also think a young girl of 14 married to a 30 or 40 year
old man would have easily drawn attention to themselves.
If it was not an arranged marriage, why would Joseph have chosen Mary, being
that the marriage would not produce an heir?
I believe that Joseph was a young man chosen by God to be the husband
of Mary. We must remember that the Holy Spirit’s guiding hand is all over
this betrothal. I believe that in Mary, Joseph saw the “Pearl of Great
Worth”. His love for her was beyond the physical. I also believe that the
betrothal gift (Matan) that Joseph gave to Mary at their betrothal was his
promise to God of celibacy, thus putting Mary’s mind at ease.
Why do you believe that this was not to be a normal marriage?
If this was to be a normal marriage Mary’s response at the Annunciation
would have been one of great joy, for the greatest gift a bride could give
to her husband was a male child to continue his name. But Mary’s answer
to the Angel was a question, “how can this be since I know not man” (D-R)
You may wonder why I chose the Douay-Rheims translation over the
others. Its translation of this verse is very much like the KJV. (“how can
this be since I know not a man”) The RSVCE’s (Revised Standard
Version Catholic Edition) translates this phrase as “How shall this be,
since I have no husband”. This is technically untrue for as a betrothed
couple they were consecrated to each other as husband and wife;
although they were not permitted the physical aspects of marriage. The
NAB translates this verse as “How can this be, since I have no relations
with a man?”. Sexual relations prior to marriage was punishable by death.
Even though, they were betrothed sexual relations was not permitted.
Besides the angel was speaking in the future tense and this translation is
past and present tense. The NJV (New Jerusalem Version) translates the
verse as “But how can this come about, since I have no knowledge of
man?”. Here again the tense is wrong. The D-R and the KJV seem to be
the best translations. Both seem to indicate that Mary wants to know who
the father of the child will be. Why not Joseph? I would suggest that
when the Betrothal contract was executed that the gift Joseph gave to
Mary (matan) was his promised to God of a celibate marriage. This
satisfies Mary’s response to the Angel’s statement, Mary’s response to that
statement and the angel’s subsequent answer . Mary’s question as “how
this is to be accomplished”. Also it is important to look closely to the
Angel’s response to Mary’s question. In Luke 1:35 the Angel is
responding as though Mary had asked who was to be the father of the