Mary was an adulterous woman:
By definition of the law, that is.
Now the birth of Jesus Christ was on this wise: When as his mother Mary was espoused to Joseph, before they came together, she was found with child…
The meaning of the Hebrew naaph was “a woman who breaks wedlock”. For Mary to show pregnant after her betrothal [where she vowed to be wedded to Joseph] but prior to cohabitating with him and consummating the vow would have been unequivocally adulterous. Open and shut case.
If she was in wedlock to Joseph and pregnant without having had relations with him – then could be no doubt that the wedlock was broken – making her an adulterous woman.
Having the spirit of prophecy and revelation:
To someone without the eye of faith, adultery would have been the only possible explanation for Mary turning up pregnant.
While [Joseph] thought on these things, behold, the angel of the Lord appeared unto him in a dream, saying,
“Joseph, thou son of David, fear not to take unto thee Mary thy wife: for that which is conceived in 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.”
Joseph was a righteous man who received visions and angelic visitations. He was able to work with the spirit of prophecy and revelation. Because of that fact alone, Mary was saved from what would have been the just demands of the law executed on her for being found with child outside of the wedlock.
Members of their community in Nazareth who lacked the spirit of prophecy and revelation would have no doubt mocked Joseph. Speaking without the spirit of prophecy and revelation, the matter was easily settled. Surely we all know how women get pregnant – right? Surely Joseph’s “vision” of an angel was really just the result of his frenzied mind trying to come up with an excuse for that which he was unwilling to accept. I’d bet those gossipy busybodies of Nazareth thought they knew better.
Joseph expressed compassionate empathy:
Then Joseph her husband, being a just man, and not willing to make her a public example, was minded to put her away privily.
and [so he] took unto him [Mary, to be] his wife: And knew her not till she had brought forth her firstborn son: and he called his name Jesus.
God’s “Justice” is typically characterized as His “meanness” – as opposed to His “Mercy”, which is His “niceness”. However, “just” in the scriptural sense means nothing of gavel-banging and hellfire-scorching. What is just is what is:
- as it ought to be
We should hope that God is just and deals with us according to the principle of justice – that He gives us what is reasonable, proper, and best-suited for our particular circumstances. I wouldn’t want what is unreasonable, improper, and ill-suited for me. I trust fully in His justice.
Joseph is described as a “just man”, yet we see that he did not “demand justice” be executed. In fact, he demonstrated what would later characterize the method by which the atonement of his son operates – i.e. compassionate empathy.
Even before his angelic vision that informed him that Mary’s child was not of another man, but was of the Holy Ghost – Joseph felt in his heart that it was best to not put Mary into open shame, making her a public example by bringing an accusation against her. The demands of the law are always just. If he would have decided to “press charges”, then it would have been reasonable, equitable, and proper for the community to stone her. Those where the demands of the law that God had given, and they were just.
However, he likely had doubts — being a “just man”, he wanted to render what was proper and appropriate given the circumstances. He didn’t want to make a public accusation against her, but he wanted to render that which was just also. This is why God sent the angel to him in a vision — because once enlightened by the spirit of prophecy and revelation, Joseph chose to receive Mary as his wife – not bringing an accusation against her. He received information that would have been impossible to know by any means other than faith, i.e. that Mary’s child was of the Holy Ghost, not the result of her having sex with anyone. Because of Joseph’s compassionate empathy for Mary [knowing the unique and difficult circumstance she was placed in by being pregnant], the demands of justice were satisfied and Mary was “encircled in the arms of safety.”
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