Posted December, 2005
Today almost all of Christendom accepts the fact that Joseph was Jesus’ legal father but not his genetic father. Yet what does that mean?
Joseph, known as an honorable man, became a protector and a provider for both this young maiden and her son by providing a family atmosphere where Jesus could be raised. The best relationship of Joseph to Jesus as we would understand from the Synoptic story would be recognized under Jewish law as Joseph becoming a legally adopting father.
So as an adopting father, he did two things required of all Hebrew parents, he gave Jesus his name and he taught Jesus his trade. Whereas the angel of the Lord said to Mary, "you will conceive in your womb and bring forth a Son, and shall call His name Jesus," (Luke 1:31), this name was not given to him until the eighth day of the festival of Sukkot. On this day called the Simhat Torah, there was a great day of celebration amongst the Jews as this was the day when the Torah itself would ‘come to life’.
A boy child was not recognized as being born until the day of his circumcision and so on Simhat Torah, Jesus was recognized as 'coming to life.' Yet on that day, Joseph, as a proud father, gave this young babe the name Jesus. As Matthew stated,
Matthew 1:18 – "Then Joseph, being aroused from sleep, did as the angel of the Lord commanded him and took to him his wife, and did not know her till she had brought forth her firstborn Son. And he (Joseph) called His name Jesus."
This verse is truly interesting in that Joseph took the role of fatherhood seriously and did not play absentee father in the life of Jesus. According to this verse, sexual relationship between Joseph and Mary did not occur until after Mary had given birth to 'her firstborn Son.' It should be noted that this verse does not say Joseph's first born son but it does say 'her first born son'. It does leave open the possibility that Joseph did have children prior to his espousal with Mary. Secondly, the name Jesus, as stated by the heavenly messenger, was given to this infant on the eighth day at the ceremony of his circumcision and was given to him by his adopted father, Joseph. So today we know Jesus as Yahshua ben Joseph or Jesus son of Joseph, yet this fact was never stated so in scripture.
19th Century Bethlehem by Bethlehem 2000
What is also fascinating is what Joseph did as a profession. Our literal understanding of who Joseph was and the word pictures we formulate in our minds as to the relationship of Joseph as a father and a family man have a lot to do with how words are translated in the Bible.
Jesus as noted was called ‘the carpenter’s son’.
Matthew 13:55 - “When he had finished these parables Jesus left that place, and came to his home town, where he taught the people in their synagogue…Is he not the carpenter’s son? Is not his mother called Mary, his brothers James, Joseph, Simon and Judas? And are not all his sisters here with us?”
Yet Mark records this same event differently.
Mark 6:3 – "Is this not the carpenter, the son of Mary, and brother of James, Joses, Judas, and Simon?
Once again, the direct identity of Joseph as the father to Jesus may be implied, but His direct descent to his mother Mary is affirmed.
Where in Matthew Jesus was known as the ‘carpenter’s son’, yet in the book of Mark, suddenly he is not the son, but actually the carpenter himself. It was recognized by his peers that Jesus had assumed the mantle of the trade of his father and was also known as a carpenter. It would be a fair assumption that Jesus was a good carpenter and he recognized this fact himself when as he was speaking to the multitudes. Did He not make a literal object of this fact when He stated,
Matthew 11:29-30 (parts) – "Take My yoke upon you and learn of Me….for My yoke is easy and My burden is light."
Here was the son of the carpenter, who was also a carpenter himself and proudly proclaiming that the oxen yokes that he made were easy and light. Did not Jesus use in every parable a literal object in order to make a spiritual statement or application? So also the physical yoke so well known to the peasants of Judea and constructed by the carpenter tradesmen, the spiritual yoke could now take on a richer and fully meaning.
Basilica of the Nativity in Bethlehem by BiblePlaces
The word for 'carpenter' is translated from the Greek word, tekton (tek’-tone), which actually means an artificer. This could be an artificer of fabric, an artificer of wood, and artificer of pottery etc. According to Dr. Geza Vermes, tekton is more closely identified with the Hebrew word, nagger, which implies a trade craftsman, or equally to a teacher, scholar, learned man of a skill, or ‘Master’ of the trade.
For centuries, Christians have demeaned the profession of the carpenter in order to imprint the idea that Jesus was a poor, illiterate peasant, arising out of the class of the dispossessed. Yet the carpenter father of Jesus may also have been a part of a noble profession of creating and designing buildings, furnishings and useful artifices to make a home comfortable and livable. We admire the home designers, architects and craftsmen of today, yet must we demean the same profession two centuries ago?
Upon the realization that Mariam had conceived, we find her traveling in haste to Ein Karim to the north of Jerusalem to the home of Zachariah the priest and his wife Elizabeth, who was the cousin to Mary. John the future Baptizer was six months in utero and apparently a very active and kicking baby. For three months Mary lived with Elizabeth. No doubt she helped in the home birthing of John with the midwife in Elizabeth’s ninth month and her third month. And then, according to the Protoevangelium of James:
Protoevangelium – “And when her sixth month was come, Joseph returned from his building houses abroad which was his trade, and entered into the house, found the Virgin grown big.” (The Protoevangelium x, 1)
Our fertile minds are beginning to move fast forward, but first let us consider Joseph and his profession. Building construction has always been a good profession in all cultures in every historical era. For Joseph to be traveling abroad in the building construction industry opened up new doors of understanding in trade and professional entrepreneurship. Where was he traveling to? What was he building? We do not know; except a few months later, he knew the route of travel to quickly take his wife and child to Egypt for their safety. Is this a clue?
How Joseph and Miriam met and became betrothed is not recorded in the canon. We have to glean the kernels of history in the Apocryphal texts to try to put a composite picture together. According to the Protoevangelium of James, when Miriam had reached the years of twelve and the time of her menses was to begin, the priests in the temple wondered what they were to do “test perchance she defile the sanctuary of the Lord?”
The high priest named Zacharias donning the golden robe of the high priest went into the holy of holiest and prayed to the Lord concerning Miriam. There the angel of the Lord came to the high priest with this message, “Zacharias, Zacharias, go out and assemble the widowers of the people, and let them bring each his rod; and to whomsoever the Lord shall show a sign, his wife shall she be.” The shofars were sounded and the heralds went throughout Judea and all the eligible “widowers of the people” were to bring their rod to the temple.
According to this account, Joseph left his axe, picked up his rod and went to the assembly at the temple. There the high priest took all the rods and went into the temple and prayed. With no word from the Lord, the rods were given back to each widower and Joseph the last to receive his, “a dove came out of the rod and flew upon Joseph’s head.” Joseph was then chosen by lot “to take into they keeping the virgin of the Lord.” According to the story, “Joseph was afraid, and took her into his keeping. And Joseph said to Mary: Behold, I have received thee from the temple of the Lord; and now I leave thee in my house, and go away to build my buildings, and I shall come to thee. The Lord will protect thee.” And so Joseph, now betrothed to Miriam, left her in the custody of his own home while he left to go to the place of his work.
Matthew 1:18 – “Now the birth of Jesus Christ was as follows: After His mother Mary was espoused to Joseph, before they came together; she was found with child of the Holy Spirit.
“Then Joseph her husband, being a just man, and not wanting to make her a public example, was minded to put her away secretly. But while he thought about these things, behold, an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream, saying, “Joseph, son of David, do not be afraid to take to you Mary your wife, for that which is conceived in her is of the Holy Spirit. And she will bring forth a Son, and you shall call His name Jesus, for He will save His people from their sins.”
Luke 1:26- “Now in the sixth month the angel Gabriel was sent by God to a city of Galilee named Nazareth, to a virgin espoused to a man whose name was Joseph, of the house of David. The virgin’s name was Mary. And having come in, the angel said to her, “Rejoice, highly favored one, the Lord is with you; blessed are you among women!”...
“Then the angel said to her, “Do not be afraid, Mary, for you have found favor with God. And behold, you will conceive in your womb and bring forth a Son, and shall call His name Jesus. He will be great, and will be called the Son of the Highest; and the Lord God will give Him the throne of His father David. And He will reign over the house of Jacob forever, and of His kingdom there will be no end.”
“Then Mary said to the angel, “How can this be, since I do not know a man?” And the angel answered and said to her, “The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the Power of the Highest will overshadow you; therefore, also, that Holy One who is to be born will be called the Son of God.
As we have seen in the earlier case laws with the Mosaic Levitical rule of law of Deuteronomy 22, betrothal in the Hebrew was the word, aras (aw-raw’). The meaning of this word comes from a primitive root which means to engage for matrimony. Yet in one instance in the Hebrew canon the word aras also meant espousal. Strong’s Biblical Concordance is clear that these separate texts have different meanings for this one Hebrew word.
The House of Saul was declining in power with the death of Saul by an Amalekites on Mount Gilboa who helped him with assisted suicide. The remaining son, Ishbosheth retained a very weak hold unto the throne because of the loyalty of his father’s military commander Abner. When the jealousy of Ishbosheth caused him to accuse Abner of having relations with one of Saul’s concubines, Abner changed his loyalty to David and the House of Saul soon fell.
As part of the contract to accept the loyalties of Abner, David demanded that he bring Michal, Saul’s daughter to whom he had a contracted espousal with King Saul to marry.
2 Samuel 3:14-16 - “So David sent messengers to Ishbosheth, Saul’s son, saying, “Give me my wife, Michal, whom I espoused (aras – betrothed) to myself for a hundred foreskins of the Philistines. And Ishbosheth sent and took her from her husband, from Paltiel the son of Laish. Then her husband went along as far as Bahurim, weeping behind her. So Abner said to him “Go return!” and He returned.”
What a pathetic story. Michal is espoused by a contracted marriage to David by her father, King Saul, but war between the House of David and the House of Saul prevented the contract from being fulfilled at that time. She in turn is married a local man who was the son of Laish called Paltiel. When David demanded fulfillment of the contract for his wife, and he truly accepted that she was his wife, by law this contract was to be fulfilled, even though she had been given to marriage to another man. What a story for prime time soap opera TV.
Yet it does make one point. The contract of espousal was a binding contract which by law was preeminent over other betrothal contracts. In this case, instead of a betrothal, an espousal was a contracted espoused to a wife for a defined purpose of dynastic succession. It was a dynastic betrothal contract between the House of David and the House of Saul. According to Strong’s Concordance, this is the only Old Testament passage that approximates the espousal of Mary to Joseph.
What was a dynastic marriage? What was the purpose for an espousal? There is strong evidence that both John the Baptist and James the Just, the brother of Jesus were both dedicated to the Lord with the vows of the Nazarites. This was a sectarian order that traced back to Sampson and Samuel though the rules of the Nazarites were spelled out in the Mosaic laws. (Numbers 6:2-21)
The Nazarites were ascetics who were bound by strict vows which were binding for certain periods of time. In the time of Jesus, the evidence shows that the Nazarites were associated with the Essenes, a Jewish religious order called the Hassidim that Mary and Joseph possibly were very closely associated with.
The Essene Community had very tight and highly regulated discipline for its adherents. One of its purposes was to preserve the dynasty of David for the chief reason that the Jewish anointed one was to come from the House of David. Its disciples that were chosen to by contract to participate in a dynastic betrothals, or espousal, were to be of the House of David.
As we have seen in the texts above, Mary was “espoused” to Joseph. Some scholars have suggested that it was a contract espousal as we have seen in the David and Michal story. It was a ‘contracted marriage’ and in specific, it was a ‘dynastic wedlock’. How so?
Mary and Joseph as we shall soon see were both descendants of the House of David. This was a dynasty that all Israel was looking for: to produce an heir that would assume the throne of David and throw off the hated yoke of the Edomites or the Romans. Any heir of the House of David was carefully guarded and protected in this era, for they were hunted as potential aspirants for the throne of David. In the secular history of the Jews, King Herod sought to kill any potential aspirant to the throne of Judea. In the latter years as he was becoming more paranoid, this evil and vicious monarch had many enemies and as such his throne was vulnerable.
These descendants of the House of David were also guarded carefully and matched together in the hopes of producing that long awaited messiah. The Essenes, it is believed, were the guardians of the dynasty of David and carefully watched and protected every potential heir to the throne of David.
If the marriage of Mary and Joseph was not the modern romantic ‘love made in heaven’ marriage but rather a ‘dynastic espousal’ in which Joseph already accepted Mary as his wife, this wedding would have been governed by strict rules and regulations. Dynastic marriages and the rules that governed them were quite unlike the norms for Jewish marriages. They were to live a celibate life except in specific and defined intervals in which the date for the procreation of a child was most desired. During these times of celibacy they were recognized as ‘virgins’.
It has been suggested that dynastic espousals in Judea sought to give birth to an heir to the House of David during the time of one of the high festivals of the Lord. This birth date could either be at the festivals of Passover or Pesach in the spring or during the fall festival month of Yom Kippur, the Day of Atonement and Succot in the months of September or October. As such, proper timing was essential.
After the contracts were sealed at the betrothal/espousal, they were await until the appropriate month to try to conceive. If they did try to conceive in September for a Pesach birth and were successful, a formalized espousal ceremony called the ‘First Marriage’ was conducted. At this time they were anointed and the legalization of the marriage was assured. With the assumption that the bride had not conceived, no sexual relations were allowed for another three months. During the first half of December, the couple could again try to conceive for a Yom Kippur or Sukkot birth or again in the first half of June for a Passover birth.
The young maiden was recognized as a probationary wife and when she was proven to have conceived, they were again anointed in a second ceremony called the ‘Second Marriage’, in the month of March or September, and the wedlock was pronounced legal. This ceremony was not celebrated until she was three months pregnant, allowing time that in the event of a miscarriage, the husband and heir of the House of David, could legally take a new wife for espousal in the event that the first espoused bride was proven to be barren.
For some this interpretation of the dynastic espousal/betrothal of Jesus and Mary appears to be a manipulation of the story of the birth of Jesus. It still has to be recognized that there truly existed documented accounts of formal dynastic marriages in Judaic culture. Whether Christians want to recognize this fact in an era of casual and self gratification of sex where the issues of procreation are secondary to one’s educational goals and professional achievements, the historical records testifies that in the Hebrew culture, the command of the Lord to ‘be fruitful and multiply’ was the driving force for them to procreate.
The Biblical testimony is replete with stories of parents were blessed of the Lord if they had children and cursed of the Lord if they did not. To tamper with the wrath of God and use contraception outside of controlled abstinence or periods of celibacy was not conceivable in orthodox Jewish life. The fact of dynastic marriages, whether approved or disapproved are not addressed by Torah laws, but evidence does show that they did occur in a Torah observant culture.
Let us make the assumption that in the first century Judaism, there was a group of Essene Zealots who fervently sought to preserve the lineage of the House of David and enhance the birth of the awaited messiah. Let us make the assumption that they did create dynastic espousals for the sole purpose to give birth to a potential heir to the throne of the House of David. The periods of celibacy and sexual intimacy would have been prescribed in significant detail for the awaited one was truly expected to arrive during a high season according to the festivals of the Lord.
As we shall soon see, the God of Israel had a different plan. The concept of dynastic succession was Plan B when the Israelites demanded of their God to have a king and King Saul was anointed to be the first king of Israel. In a truly Torah observant society, the God of Israel was their sole ruler and protector. And the King of the Universe was soon to send His Son.
In the village of Nazareth, Mariam had a strange apparition. The Pharisee trained physician Luke tells the story:
Luke 1:26-27 – “Now in the sixth month (of Elizabeth’s conception) the angel Gabriel was sent by God to a city of Galilee named Nazareth, to a virgin espoused (betrothed) to a man whose name was Joseph, of the house of David. The virgin’s name was Mary. And having come in, the angel said to her, “Rejoice, highly favored one, the Lord is with you; blessed are you among women!”
But when she saw him, she was troubled at his saying, and considered what manner of greeting this was. Then the angel said to her, “Do not be afraid, Mary, for you have found favor with God. And behold, you will conceive in your womb and bring forth a Son, and shall call His name Yahshua (Jesus), He will be great, and will be called the Son of the Highest; and the Lord God will give Him the throne of His father, David. And He will reign over the house of Jacob forever, and of His kingdom there will be no end.
Then Mary said to the angel, “How can this be, since I do not know a man?” And the angel answered and said to her, ‘The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Highest will overshadow you; therefore, also, that Holy One who is to be born will be called the Son of God.’”
After the conception of the embryo Yahshua (Jesus) at the Festival of Dedication called Hanukkah, Miriam travels to the village of Ein Karem “in haste” in the hill country of Judea to the home of Zachariah and Elizabeth at about six months in Elizabeth’s pregnancy and three month’s into Mary’s pregnancy.
Luke 1:39-41 – “Now Mary arose in those days and went into the hill country with haste, to a city of Judah, and entered the house of Zacharias and greeted Elizabeth.
Elizabeth, a wife to a temple priest, Zechariah and a Levitical daughter was six months pregnant with John the Baptist. Where did Mary go to visit with Zachariah and Elizabeth? By tradition, their home was in a small village in the hill country of Judea called Ein Karem. It was not far from the city of Jerusalem where the priests of the order of Abijah lived.
The drama and the dilemma now begin to unfold. Joseph and Miriam were still in their espousal/betrothal contract. They both were adhering to the contract of celibacy. There had been no consummation of the marriage and if this was a dynastic marriage they were not pregnant in early December and the “First Marriage” ceremony had not been performed. Why did Miriam go to the hill country “with haste” to see Elizabeth and Zacharias? Was she afraid? At the age of fourteen to sixteen, it can be assumed that she wanted the assurance of a mature member of her family in which she could trust. Was Elizabeth suspicious or critical? To the contrary, when Miriam first arrived into the home of Elizabeth, her cousin went into prophetic ecstasy. The God of Israel, through the mouth of His Levitical daughter would give Miriam the assurance that truly the Almighty One of Israel had blessed her for believing:
Luke 1:41- 45 – “And it happened, when Elizabeth heard the greeting of Mary, that the babe leaped in her womb; and Elizabeth was filled with the Holy Spirit. Then she spoke out with a loud voice and said, “Blessed are you among women, and blessed is the fruit of your womb!” But why is this granted to me, that the mother of my Lord should come to me? For indeed, as soon as the voice of your greeting sounded in my ears, the babe leaped in my womb for joy. Blessed is she who believed, for there will be a fulfillment of those things which were told from the Lord.”
The last event before the birth of Jesus in the book of Luke is Mary visiting her relatives, Elizabeth and Zechariah at Ein Karem. According to the story:
Luke 1:56 – “And Mary remained with her (Elizabeth) about three months and returned to her house.”
Did Joseph go to see Mary at the home of Elizabeth and Zechariah at Ein Karem or did Joseph go to see Mary at Nazareth where she left when she went to visit her relatives? What happened to Joachim (Heli) and Anna (Hanna) her parents that lived in Bethlehem but according to the Book of Mary, had a home in Nazareth?
In the infancy stories, Joseph was gone for an extended period of time from his home in Bethlehem, for his job as a house or building contractor demanded that he be on his job site along the Mediterranean coast, in the “districts by the seashore.” It appeared that Joseph would be out of town at least until the spring. During that time Joseph and Mary would have remained celibate. Were they seeking to consummate their marriage during the festival of Pesach for a Passover birth of a Davidian son? We do not know their intention. What we do know is what happened.
The story of the birth of Jesus in the Book of Matthew starts with these verses:
Matthew 1:18-21, 25 - Now the birth of Jesus Christ was as follows: After His mother was betrothed to Joseph, before they came together, she was found with child of the Holy Spirit.
Then Joseph her husband, being a just man, and not wanting to make her a public example, was minded to put her away secretly. But while he thought about these things, behold an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream, saying. “Joseph, son of David, do not be afraid to take to you Mary your wife, for that which is conceived in her is of the Holy Spirit. And she will bring forth a Son, and you shall call His name Jesus, for He will save His people from their sins….
Then Joseph, being aroused from sleep, did as the angel of the Lord commanded him and took to him his wife, and did not know her till she had brought forth her firstborn Son. And he called His name Jesus.”
According to the canonical story, the time is unclear when Joseph returned to visit with Miriam. The Book of Mary claims that Joseph returned in three months, the Protoevangelium of James testifies that he returned in six months and the Gospel of Pseudo-Matthew states that he returned in nine months
So we have initially have Mary living in Galilee, which in the Book of Mary was the home of her parents. She was betrothed to Joseph who was living in Bethlehem. This does not correlate with other Apocryphal stories which state that from the age of three and up to the age of twelve, she lived in the temple at Jerusalem and her family, being quite rich, lived in Bethlehem. So combining these texts, Mary is living in the temple in Jerusalem while her family lives in Bethlehem but evidently have a residence also in Nazareth. Being of Davidian birth and an only child of a wealthy father who raised cattle, sheep and goats for the temple sacrifices, Mary appears to a part of the temple culture of Jerusalem while at the same time associated with the sect of the Essenes, the Hassidim whose main headquarters some scholars think was at Qumran. After this betrothal, the stories claim and the canon affirms that she goes to Nazareth in Galilee. This was where the angel of the Lord, reputedly the arch-angel Gabriel, met Miriam and informed her of her being blessed by the Lord of hosts. This village of Nazareth may or may not be the modern city of Nazareth but could be the Essene village of the Notzri to the east of the Sea of Galilee.
According to the preface, “In the primitive ages, there was a Gospel extant bearing this name, attributed to St. Matthew, and received as genuine and authentic by several of the ancient Christian sects. It is to be found in the works of Jerome, the Father of the Church, who flourished in the fourth century, from when this translation was made.” This gospel was also affirmed by Epiphanius the Bishop of Salamis. Several other books by this name came up over the centuries which led to a variance of historical discrepancies. Included in some of these books included the idea that Jesus was not of the house of David but was of the tribe of Levi as Joachim was a priest. The histories within this Gospel appear to be consistent and contained with the Protoevangelium of James.
Book of Mary 8:1-10, 13-15 – “Joseph therefore went from Judea to Galilee, with intention to marry the Virgin who was betrothed to him: for it was now near three months since she was betrothed to him.
At length it plainly appeared she was with child, and it could not be hid from Joseph: for going to the Virgin in a free manner, as one espoused, and talking familiarly with her, he perceived her to be with child. And thereupon began to be uneasy and doubtful, not knowing what course it would be best to take;
For being a just man, he was not willing to expose her, nor defame her by the suspicion of being a whore, since he was a pious man. He purposed therefore privately to put an end to their agreement, and as privately to put her away.
But while he was meditating these things, behold the angel of the Lord appeared to him in his sleep, and said Joseph, son of David, fear not; Be not willing to entertain any suspicion of the Virgin’s being guilty of fornication, or to think of any thing amiss of her, neither be afraid to take her to wife; For that which is begotten in her and now distresses your mind, is not the work of man, but the Holy Ghost….
And now the ninth month from her conception drew near, when Joseph took his wife and what other things were necessary to Bethlehem, the city from whence he came. And it came to pass, while they were there, the days were fulfilled for her bringing forth. And she brought forth her first-born son, as the holy Evangelists have taught, even our Lord Jesus Christ, who with the Father, Son, and Holy Ghost, lives and reigns to everlasting ages.” (“The Lost Books of the Bible”, translated from the original tongues, Bell Publishing Co, New York, 1979, reprint of 1929 edition.)
Here in this passage we see a lot of human drama. At three months after his betrothal, Joseph goes from Judea to Galilee prepared to conduct a marriage ceremony to a young maiden he is betrothed. How long after he returns to Galilee in the third month of their betrothal does he discover that Mary is pregnant? We do not know? What is known is that the uterine size at three months has not grown past the symphysis pubis and is not visible to be noticed by a casual observer.
Joseph appears to be in a mood of courtship and sexual familiarity and Mary does not seem to be receptive and is evasive. Joseph becomes uneasy and doubtful and ponders what to do. He does not want to charge her with being a whore and ponders the idea of quietly terminating this betrothal relationship.
The text of the Book of Mary appears to be a late date work as it evokes the names of the Trinity. If it were an earlier work, then it would be used as a contemporary text to show that the names of the Trinity were used early in the 1st century Judaism. Yet, there does not appear to be any Jewish passages that evoke the names of the Trinity. Yet it appears that sometime about three months into her pregnancy, Joseph becomes suspicious of her pregnancy and Mary is sent “in haste” to her cousins home, the home of the temple priest Zacharias. Here would be a safe haven.
The Betrothal of Mary by Joseph in the Protoevangelium of James
The origin of Protoevangelium of James is attributed to James the Just, the brother of Jesus and the first Nasi of the Nazarene Ecclesia in Jerusalem. It is alluded to throughout the centuries by Epiphanius, Hilary, Chrysostom, Cyrul, Euthumius, Theophylact, Occumenius, the late Church Fathers, Ambrose and the Greek Fathers. Though to have originally been composed in Hebrew, Postellus brought this manuscript from the Middle East and translated it into Latin, where Oporimus, a printer and Bibliander, a professor of divinity at Zurich had it printed in 1552 at Basil. According to Postellus, this gospel was accepted as canonical by the Eastern Orthodox Churches and also affirmed that James the Just was the author. In the Protestant and Roman Catholic Churches, the Protoevangelium is accepted only as an apocryphal text. The Protoevangelion reputed to be written by the brother of Jesus, James the Just, has a different take on this betrothal experience.
The Protoevangelium 9:22-23 – “Now Mary, being ignorant of all those mysterious things which the archangel Gabriel had spoken to her, lifted up her eyes to heaven, and said, Lord! What am I that all generation of the earth should call me blessed? But perceiving herself daily to grow big, and being afraid, she went home, and hid herself from the children of Israel; and was fourteen years old when all these things happened?
The Protoevangelium 10:1-20 - “And when her sixth month was come, Joseph returned from his building houses abroad which was his trade, and entering into the house, found the Virgin grown big: Then smiting upon his face, he said, With what face can I look up to the Lord my God? Or, what shall I say concerning this young woman? For I received her a Virgin out of the temple of the Lord my God, and have not preserved her such! Who has thus deceived me? Who has committed this evil in my house, and seducing the Virgin from me, hath defiled her?
Is not the history of Adam exactly accomplished in me? For in the very instant of his glory, the serpent came and found Eve alone, and seduced her. Just after the same manner it has happened to me.
Then Joseph arising from the ground, called her, and said, O thou who hast been so much favoured by God, why hast thou done this? Why hast thou thus debased they soul, who wast educated in the Holy of Holiest, and received thy food from the hand of angels?
But she, with a flood of tears, replied, I am innocent, and have known no man.
Then Joseph, How comes it to pass you are with child?
Mary answered, As the Lord my God liveth, I know not by what means.
Then Joseph was exceedingly afraid, and went away from her, considering what he should do with her; and he thus reasoned with himself; If I conceal her crime, I shall be found guilty by the law of the Lord; and if I discover her to the children of Israel, I fear, lest she being with child by an angel, I shall be found to betray the life of an innocent person.
What therefore shall I do? I will dismiss her.
Then the night was come upon him when behold an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream and said, “Be not afraid to take that young woman, for that which is within her is of the Holy Ghost; And she shall bring forth a son, and thou shalt call his name Jesus, for he shall save his people from their sins. Then Joseph arose from his sleep, and glorified the God of Israel, who had shown him such favor, and preserved the Virgin.
The Protevangelium 11:1-22 - “Then came Annas the scribe, and said to Joseph, Wherefore have we not seen you since your return? And Joseph replied, Because I was weary after my journey, and rested the first day.
But Annas turning about perceived the Virgin big with child. And went away to the priest (high priest) and told him, Joseph in whom you placed so much confidence, is guilty of a notorious crime, in that he hath defiled the Virgin whom he received out of the temple of the Lord, and hath privately married her, not discovering it to the children of Israel.
Then the priest, Hath Joseph done this?
Annas replied, If you send any of your servants, you will find that she is with child. And the servants went, and found it as he said. Upon this both she and Joseph were brought to their trial, and the priest said unto her, Mary, what hast thou done? Why hast thou debased thy soul and forgot thy God, seeing thou wast brought up in the Holy of Holiest, and didst receive thy food from the hands of angels, and hearest their songs? Why hast thou done this?
To which with a flood of tears she answered, As the Lord my God liveth, I am innocent in his sight, seeing I know no man.
Then the priest said to Joseph, Why hast thou done this?
And Joseph answered, As the Lord my God liveth, I have not been concerned with her.
But the priest said, Lie not, but declare the truth; thou hast privately married her, and not discovered it to the children of Israel, and humbled thyself under the mighty hand (of God), that they seed might be blessed.
And Joseph was silent.
Then said the priest (to Joseph), You must restore to the temple of the Lord the Virgin which you took thence.
But he wept bitterly, and the priest added, I will cause you both to drink the water of the Lord (Numbers 5:18) which is for trial, and so your iniquity shall be laid open before you.
Then the priest took the water, and made Joseph drink and sent him to a mountainous place.
And He returned perfectly well, and all the people wondered that his guilt was not discovered. So the priest said, Since the Lord hath not made your sins evident, neither do I condemn you.
So he sent them away.
Then Joseph took Mary, and went to his house, rejoicing and praising the God of Israel.”
The Priest’s Legal Examination of Mary and Joseph in The Gospel of Pseudo-Matthew
While these things were doing, Joseph was occupied with his work, house-building, in the districts by the sea-shore; for he was a carpenter. And after nine months he came back to his house, and found Mary pregnant. Wherefore, being in the utmost distress, he trembled and cried out, saying: ‘O Lord God, receive my spirit; for it is better for me to die than to live any longer.’
And the virgins who were with Mary said to him: ‘Joseph, what art thou saying? We know that no man has touched her; we can testify that she is still a virgin, and untouched. We have watched over her; always has she continued with us in prayer; daily do the angels of God speak with her; daily does she receive food from the hand of the Lord. We know not how it is possible that there can be any sin in her. But if thou wishest us to tell thee what we suspect, nobody but the angel of the Lord27 has made her pregnant.’
Then said Joseph: ‘Why do you mislead me, to believe that an angel of the Lord has made her pregnant? But it is possible that some one has pretended to be an angel of the Lord, and has beguiled her.’ And thus speaking, he wept, and said: ‘With what face shall I look at the temple of the Lord, or with what face shall I see the priests of God? What am I to do?’ And thus saying, he thought that he would flee, and send her away.
And when he was thinking of rising up and hiding himself, and dwelling in secret, behold, on that very night, the angel of the Lord appeared to him in sleep, saying: ‘Joseph, thou son of David, fear not; receive Mary as thy wife: for that which is in her womb is of the Holy Spirit. And she shall bring forth a son, and His name shall be called Jesus, for He will save His people from their sins.’ And Joseph, rising from his sleep, gave thanks to God, and spoke to Mary and the virgins who were with her, and told them his vision. And he was comforted about Mary, saying: ‘I have sinned, in that I suspected thee at all.’
After these things there arose a great report that Mary was with child. And Joseph was seized by the officers of the temple, and brought along with Mary to the high priest. And he with the priests began to reproach him, and to say: ‘Why hast thou beguiled so great and so glorious a virgin, who was fed like a dove in the temple by the angels of God, who never wished either to see or to have a man, who had the most excellent knowledge of the law of God? If thou hadst not done violence to her, she would still have remained in her virginity.’ And Joseph vowed, and swore that he had never touched her at all. And Abiathar the high priest answered him: As the Lord liveth, ‘I will give thee to drink of the water of drinking of the Lord, and immediately thy sin will appear.’
Then was assembled a multitude of people which could not be numbered, and Mary was brought to the temple. And the priests, and her relatives, and her parents wept, and said to Mary: ‘Confess to the priests thy sin, thou that wast like a dove in the temple of God, and didst receive food from the hands of an angel.’
And again Joseph was summoned to the altar, and the water of drinking of the Lord was given him to drink. And when any one that had lied drank this water, and walked seven times round the altar, God used to show some sign in his face. When, therefore, Joseph had drunk in safety, and had walked round the altar seven times, no sign of sin appeared in him. Then all the priests, and the officers, and the people justified him, saying: ‘Blessed art thou, seeing that no charge has been found good against thee.’
And they summoned Mary, and said: And what excuse canst thou have? or what greater sign can appear in thee than the conception of thy womb, which betrays thee? This only we require of thee, that since Joseph is pure regarding thee, thou confess who it is that has beguiled thee. For it is better that thy confession should betray thee, than that the wrath of God should set a mark on thy face, and expose thee in the midst of the people. Then Mary said, stedfastly and without trembling: ‘O Lord God, King over all, who knowest all secrets, if there be any pollution in me, or any sin, or any evil desires, or unchastity, expose me in the sight of all the people, and make me an example of punishment to all.’ Thus saying, she went up to the altar of the Lord boldly, and drank the water of drinking, and walked round the altar seven times, and no spot was found in her.
And when all the people were in the utmost astonishment, seeing that she was with child, and that no sign had appeared in her face, they began to be disturbed among themselves by conflicting statements: some said that she was holy and unspotted, others that she was wicked and defiled. Then Mary, seeing that she was still suspected by the people, and that on that account she did not seem to them to be wholly cleared, said in the hearing of all, with a loud voice, ‘As the Lord Adonai liveth, the Lord of Hosts before whom I stand, I have not known man; but I am known by Him to whom from my earliest years I have devoted myself. And this vow I made to my God from my infancy, that I should remain unspotted in Him who created me, and I trust that I shall so live to Him alone, and serve Him alone; and in Him, as long as I shall live, will I remain unpolluted.’ Then they all began to kiss her feet and to embrace her knees, asking her to pardon them for their wicked suspicions. And she was led down to her house with exultation and joy by the people, and the priests, and all the virgins. And they cried out, and said: Blessed be the name of the Lord for ever, because He hath manifested thy holiness to all His people Israel.”
The angel visits him while asleep and assures him that her pregnancy is the work of the Lord. At nine months they go to Bethlehem where she delivers
Joseph of Arimathea, the link between the Mary/Joseph lineages
Joseph of Arimathea, the Noblis Decurio
The Genealogy of Joseph of Arimathea
Anna, daughter of Joseph of Arimathea marries a Cornish Jew and had a daughter called Mary
First Descent of Joseph of Arimathea (in descent from David)
Second Lineage of Ann (Anna), daughter of Joseph of Arimathea
Joseph of Arimathea as the Uncle to both Joseph and Mary, parents of Jesus.
The Marriage of Anna, daughter of Joseph of Arimathea to Bran the Blessed
The Genealogies of the Houses of Siluria, Carnulud, Dalriada, and Gwunedd in Wales
The Lineages of Arthur and the Knights of the Round Table
Part Three – Born of a Virgin
Part Five – Was Joseph Betrothed or Espoused to Mary?
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