Were Mary and Joseph Married?


     Introduction:  Not a few openly attack Jesus, his birth, life, and death. In their ignorance and rebellion, they utter blasphemies. Some claim that Jesus was illegitimate, based on the belief that Mary and Joseph were not married at the time of Jesus' birth. Moreover, they further slander the Lord by simply stating that not only were Mary and Joseph not married, but also Joseph did not conceive Jesus. (See Matt. 10: 25; Jn. 8: 48; 10: 20, 21). Another manifest reason for the claim that Jesus was illegitimate is the effort to justify all the situations of people just living together today. There is also a third group of people, those who are simply unlearned and confused.

I. It is not unusual that people experience confusion relative to the marital status of Joseph and Mary at the time of Jesus' birth.

  A. One reason for the confusion is the meaning of "betrothed" and "espoused." In regards to Jewish culture and law, to be betrothed or espoused was more than our simple engagement. While technically not marriage, there was a binding contract.

  B. While Joseph and Mary were betrothed, Joseph is referred to as Mary's "husband" (Matt. 1: 19). Notice also that at first Joseph believed Mary to have been unfaithful and was minded to "put her away" (Matt. 1: 19).  Keep in mind that this was during the period in which they were betrothed. I shall be more precise in a moment, but allow me to now quote from Easton's Bible Dictionary:

"Betroth: To promise "by one's truth." Men and women were betrothed when they were engaged to be married. This usually took place a year or more before marriage. From the time of betrothal the woman was regarded as the lawful wife of the man to whom she was betrothed (Deuteronomy 28: 30; Judges 14: 2,8; Matthew 1: 18-21). The term is figuratively employed of the spiritual connection between God and his people (Hosea 2: 19,20)."

II. When one combines the account of the Gospels regarding Jesus' birth and the status of Joseph and Mary, the conclusion is that Mary and Joseph were technically married at the time of Jesus' birth.

  A. When Joseph and Mary first arrived in Bethlehem to be taxed, they were betrothed (Matt. 1; Lk. 2: 5).

  B. While in Bethlehem and shortly before Jesus' birth, it appears Joseph and Mary were married. I say this based on Matthew's account. At the point of Matthew 1: 18, Joseph had not taken Mary to live with him. However, in verse 24 we read, "and took unto him his wife."

  C. Most scholars believe verse 24 is saying that Mary became Joseph's wife in the legal sense of the word, at that point. "And took unto him his wife" was before Jesus' birth (Matt. 1: 24, 25).

III. God recognizes marriage as opposed to fornication.

  A. The marriage bed is undefiled, but God shall judge or condemn adulterers (Heb. 13: 4).

  B. There is a marked difference between fornication and the commitment to marriage (see Mal. 2: 14 ff., notice "witness between thee and the wife of thy youth" and "wife of thy covenant," vs. 14. Such language refers to an official commitment to marriage as opposed to fornication, compare I Cor. 7: 1-3).

IV. Jesus, the divine and sinless Son of God.

  A. Jesus' conception was unusual and miraculous (Matt. 1: 20-25).

  B. Many today are "willfully ignorant" and "speak evil of the things that they understand not" (2 Pet. 3: 5; 2: 12).

     Conclusion:  Those who are simply ignorant can learn and adjust their views, but there are always those who deny the Lord, even among God's people (2 Pet. 2: 1).