Joseph Believed In The Virgin Conception Of Jesus Christ

Matthew 1: 18 & 20 notes a distinctive custom of that day. Mary and Joseph are described as being “betrothed” and also as husband and “wife.” That sounds confusing to us; but when their customs are understood, it is comprehendible.

Parents arranged marriages. A legal contract was signed. The period of betrothal lasted a year. During this time they were legally married but continued to live with their parents. They never saw one another except in the presence of a certified chaperon. Though the period was called “a time of engagement,” the couple was called husband and wife.

Since the contract was legal and binding, only one thing could break it — adultery. If the child conceived by Mary was not miraculously conceived, Mary was guilty of adultery and subject to the laws pertaining to it.

To understand Joseph notes in verse 19 he is said to be a “just man.” This is an expression meaning he wanted to please God in all he did. He was a righteous man of principles. If Mary were thought to be an adulteress by Joseph his righteousness would have compelled him to comply with the law of the day. This would have called upon him to have filed charges against Mary.

According to the Mishnah Joseph would have filed charges against her with the rabbinical court known as the Beth Din. Found guilty the law required the woman be brought to the Eastern Gate where a priest would remove her jewelry and tear off her clothes. An ugly black robe would be placed on the adulteress and tied with a rope. The purpose was “to disgrace her” and forewarn all other women of such humiliation awaiting any adulteress. This was done “…that all women may be taught not to do after your lewdness” (Sotah 1: 6).

Jewish law furthermore said, “If a virgin espoused to a man is found to be with child, he shall denounce her before the counsel, and they shall stone her with stones till she die; and thus shall be put out sin from among the people.”

Joseph being a just man would have been compelled to do this if he had not believed Mary’s conception to have been a miracle of the Lord.

As a just man, he knew Scripture. Doubtless the Lord called to his memory the words of the prophet Isaiah in the 7:14 of his writing: “Behold, a virgin shall conceive and bear a Son, and shall call His name Immanuel.”

The one man in all of history who had the most at stake believed in the virgin birth. He believed not only Mary, but God’s Word. He knew that in Mary the prophecy had come true.

For a moment he wavered and considered a private divorce which would have been permissible. However, a visit from an angel convinced him. The angel said call the child’s name “Yeshua,” “Jesus,” which means “Jehovah saves.” This divine naming did much to convince Joseph of the virgin birth.

He knew the Christ child was no “mamser,” illegitimate, but was Messiah.