Middle Eastern weddings are big and elaborate. The groom’s family often begins to celebrate about three days before the wedding day. The bride also celebrates with her friends, family and neighbors as they prepare her for the wedding day. In the Middle East a bride and groom can have all their paperwork done and go before the Imam to officiate the marriage, but the bride and groom cannot be alone for long periods of time until the actual wedding day. The wedding day is important because it signifies to the family of the bride and groom, their friends and neighbors that the groom has taken his bride to be his wife.
So when I look at Joseph and Mary, I read in Matthew and Luke that they were betrothed. And then I read he took her with him to Bethlehem. In my culture, and I’m sure even in their culture and time, it was a big FAT NO NO for him to do that unless the wedding day and celebration occurred. Guys then and now (in my culture) NEVER takes their finance’ for days and months unless they celebrated their wedding day publicly.
So when did Mary and Joseph get married?
The bible is not clear on that but here’s what I believe happened based on biblical accounts. The angel spoke to Mary and told her she will conceive Jesus (Luke 1:26-38). She didn’t know who to confide in but the angel told her that her cousin Elizabeth was also pregnant miraculously (Luke 1:36). She went to Elizabeth because she know if anyone would believe her, it would be Elizabeth (Luke 1:39-45).
And she did!
When Mary went back home, Joseph may have noticed a baby bump and decided he would marry her and eventually divorce her so she would not be exposed to public shame (Matt. 1:19). According to the Law of Moses, she would be stoned to death for this act and Joseph was trying to protect her from that.
The rest of the story tells us that Joseph was visited by an angel of the Lord in a dream who told him the truth about his wife, Mary (Matt. 1:20-21). So Jospeh married her but did not sleep with her the entire time she was pregnant with Jesus (Matt 1:24-25).
When Joseph went down to Bethlehem, they were already married but did not consummate the marriage because she was still pregnant with Jesus. According to NKJV, Luke tells us that Joseph and his betrothed WIFE went down to Bethlehem to for the census (Luke 2:5). The word “wife” in the Greek is translated 129 times as “woman” and 92 times as “wife.”
Other translations like the NIV, NASB, and ESV do not translate the word in Luke 2:5. I believe they are doing that to point to us that Joseph never consummated his marriage until Mary gave birth to Jesus. The virgin conception is important to Christian doctrine and so is the virgin birth. Most Christians talk about the virgin birth more than mentioning the virgin conception. But they do not need to omit that because God tells us in His Word that Joseph took Mary to be his “wife” without sleeping with her until she gave birth to Jesus (Matt 1:24-25).
Even in our Middle Eastern culture, a man and woman can have all their paperwork done, they can go before the Imam to officiate their wedding and they can have the wedding day, but if they do not consummate the marriage, they are still not considered husband and wife.
So why is all of this so important to know? I will share that with you in my next blog 🙂