The Conception & Birth of Jesus According to Matthew

Matthew begins by telling us that Mary was betrothed to Joseph. According to the prevailing Jewish Law, betrothal already established a Juridical Bond between the two parties, so that Mary could be called Joseph’s wife, even though he had not yet taken her for into his home – the step which established the married state. While betrothed, the woman still lived in her parents’ home. After a year, her husband would take her into his home thereby sealing the marriage. Now Joseph had to come to terms with the fact that Mary “was with child of The Holy Spirit” (Mt 1: 18.) With regard to the child’s origin, Matthew is anticipating something here that Joseph does not yet know. Joseph has to assume that Mary has broken their engagement, and according to the law he must dismiss her. He has a choice between a public juridical act and a private form. He can bring Mary before the court or he can issue her with a private writ of divorce. Joseph decides on the latter option, in order “not to put her to shame” (1:19:). Matthew sees in this choice an indication that Joseph was “a just man.”Pope Benedict XV1 “The Infancy Narratives, Jesus of Nazareth, pp. 38-39.