The dark reality of infanticide behind Matthew 1:21

The angelic announcement to Joseph is often quoted on Christmas cards and social media memes. However, there is a deeper, and altogether darker, significance to them (for Joseph) that can be easily missed, as this post from last year shows…

Newman Research Centre for the Bible and its Reception

One of the things that provoked discussion at last week’s Advent Seminar concerned a remark made by Leon Morris (1992: 29) that the angel’s instruction that “[Mary] will bear a son, and you are to name him Jesus…” (Matt 1:21a) is, in the context of Mary’s predicament, highly significant.

It is important to remember that in pre-industrial societies marriage was not simply an agreement between two individuals, but a contract between two families. In ancient Mediterranean cultures, betrothal would have usually been initiated with a meal at the woman’s parent’s home (M. Pesachim 3:7), this would also be attended by the payment of an indirect dowry (M. Ketubot 5.2); a negotiated payment by the ‘groom’s’ family paid to the betrothed couple. This would have been part of the overall Bride-wealth.

VIOLATION AND BETRAYAL

Therefore, Mary’s unexpected pregnancy was not only a violation of sexually appropriate behaviour, but it could have…

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