I was reading Mathew 1:19 in the New Living Translation. It states tha - Bible Questions and Answers - Prayer Tents


12. I was reading Mathew 1:19 in the New Living Translation. It states that Mary and Joseph were engaged, not married and he was wanting to break the engagement. Other versions say that they were already married and he was wanting to divorce Mary. Is there one version that's right and the other not? I don't want to be reading a version that isn't accurate. Please advice me and I will pray God give me wisdom in this.
Asked by: Female, North America, Over 60 on March 29, 2021 8:50:08 am


Thanks for asking such an important question.

The short answer is that they ARE married [but not quite in the same way we use that term today]. Let me explain.

First, engagement, at least as we understand it today, is a novel idea. In the Old Testament days, the old-enough-man or his parents would arrange for marriage by paying the bride's price (You can find examples of this in Scriptures in Genesis 29:18-20 Exodus 22:16-17, and 2Samuel 3:14). The marriage would be binding, somewhat similar to going to court today to get a marriage license. Yet, they did not have their wedding. Would you consider them married?

The new wife and husband may be separated for some time after the "contract" of the marriage payment. For example, the parents may have negotiated this with family living far away, and the new groom must go "pick her up," or perhaps the bride's family wanted some time with their daughter before she goes. Regardless, to meet the contractual requirement, the woman must be kept pure.

Matthew's (and other Gospels) account may show as if Joseph just uncovered Mary's treachery. That is why in Matthew 1:19, Joseph was about the break off this marriage quietly. Then God sent an angel to assure Joseph that it was His doing (verse 20).

Unlike today's understanding of engagement, which has no legal binding, this marriage was legal. Joseph had legal rights to probably have Mary stoned to death and receive back the bride's price because the contract was broken by Mary having a baby. Additionally, this was a contract, which means that if Joseph wanted to protect Mary, he would have to go through legal divorce proceedings.

In the translations, it seems the word "betrothal" is considered like an "engagement." In some ways, in modern understanding, it is. Some couples go to court to get their marriage license before they have their ceremony. The Jewish history shows the same. A wedding celebration in front of family and friends would occur AFTER the contractual betrothal. We can assume in Matthew 1:24 that Joseph continued forward to have the wedding feast and declare the marriage in front of friends and family.

Mary and Joseph were legally married at this time. Breaking off the "engagement" (betrothal) would require divorce as the marriage was entirely legal.

Again, I appreciate your question. Please write back if any new questions arise. Thanks!

Answered by Dr. Sang Sur

Other Answered Questions

30. Is wilderness used figuratively in Biblical days?
Asked by Male, Africa, Over 60 on August 7, 2021 12:18:28 pm
18. What were the most important times Moses had with God?
Asked by Female, North America, Over 60 on May 2, 2021 1:16:57 pm
10. Do 2 Chronicles 19:2 and Psalms 139:21-22 contradict Matthew 5:44?
Asked by Male, North America, Christian, 19-25 on March 15, 2021 8:14:53 pm

Prayer Tents is a Christian mission organization that serves Christians around the world and their local bodies to make disciples ("evangelize") more effectively in their communities. Prayer Tents provides resources to enable Christians to form discipleship-focused small groups and make their gatherings known so that other "interested" people may participate and experience Christ in their midst. Our Vision is to make disciples in all nations through the local churches so that anyone seeking God can come to know Him through relationships with other Christians near them.

© Prayer Tents 2021.
Prayer Tents Facebook icon Prayer Tents Twitter icon Prayer Tents Youtube icon Prayer Tents Linkedin icon