Did Saint Joseph Really Suspect the Blessed Virgin Mary of Sin?


#1

This article, whose title itself raises the possibility that he didn't believe that she had sinned when he learned she was bearing Jesus, looks at what some important Catholic thinkers thought of his response to learning of this.
See www.newtheologicalmovement.blogspot.com/2010/12/did-st-joseph-suspect-blessed-virgin.html


#2

Yes, Poor St. Joseph did. However, St. Joseph was just and did not want to cause Our Lady shame. However, I am sure that we can all surmise the joy that St. Joseph felt when He discovered that the CHILD In Our Lady was from GOD and not from another man.


#3

[quote="mdgspencer, post:1, topic:313330"]
This article, whose title itself raises the possibility that he didn't believe that she had sinned when he learned she was bearing Jesus, looks at what some important Catholic thinkers thought of his response to learning of this.
See www.newtheologicalmovement.blogspot.com/2010/12/did-st-joseph-suspect-blessed-virgin.html

[/quote]

But, the article doesn't tell exactly where the Father's made these comments and in what context. I am not sure I trust the opinion of the article writer, or perhaps he is reading flawed translations.

The protoevangelum of James makes a tradition clear; Joseph was suspected of having had relations with Mary prior to the actual marriage (as opposed to the betrothal), and so they had to put Mary to the Levitical test; which she passed. Whether fanciful or not -- the protoevangelum intends to address the Law and Josephs predicament, and is a useful source of potential reasons for Joseph's action.

If you have the time to locate where St. Augustine made his comments, and a few of the other fathers; basil, etc. I'd appreciate it -- I'd like to verify the exact wording of what was said.

Mary went to be with Zechariah and Elizabeth, who were alibis as to her purity while with them. Elizabeth, recall, had a prophetic utterance upon Mary coming to greet her; long before Mary could have shown any sign of pregnancy whatsoever. These events preceded St. Joseph learning of the pregnancy -- so that it is not entirely out of the question that Joseph knew a divine intervention was involved.

His actions, first and foremost, were intended for self defense. The question is -- defense from exactly what.

The angel's message to Joseph negates the idea attributed by the linked author to some of the Fathers that Joseph was divorcing her on account of deity -- for the angel did not command him to marry her in spite of the divinity; rather, the angel reassured him because the child was conceived by divinity.


#4

[quote="mymamamary, post:2, topic:313330"]
Yes, Poor St. Joseph did.

[/quote]

I respectfully disagree. I read in a book, I can't remember the name of it but it was a holy book, that the reason Saint Joseph wished to divorce Mary quietly was not because he suspected anything amiss in her --- he loved her and respected her far too much to suspect her of any crime --- but that he knew of the prophecies that the Messiah was to be born of a virgin, and he did not consider himself worthy to be that Virgin's husband.

It is far more consistent with what we know of them both, to believe that Saint Joseph's motive was for his own humility, rather than that he would ever suspect the Most Holy Virgin of anything even remotely suggesting impurity. I mean, think about it --- don't you think he likely knew her pretty well? It would be utterly inconsistent with his knowledge of her personality to suspect her of anything like that.


#5

[quote="draco_cupri, post:4, topic:313330"]
I respectfully disagree. I read in a book, I can't remember the name of it but it was a holy book, that the reason Saint Joseph wished to divorce Mary quietly was not because he suspected anything amiss in her --- he loved her and respected her far too much to suspect her of any crime --- but that he knew of the prophecies that the Messiah was to be born of a virgin, and he did not consider himself worthy to be that Virgin's husband.

It is far more consistent with what we know of them both, to believe that Saint Joseph's motive was for his own humility, rather than that he would ever suspect the Most Holy Virgin of anything even remotely suggesting impurity. I mean, think about it --- don't you think he likely knew her pretty well? It would be utterly inconsistent with his knowledge of her personality to suspect her of anything like that.

[/quote]

The narration of St Mathew does not suggest that Joseph knew that Mary was conceiving the Messiah. v. 19 ‘He being a just man, was not willing to expose her publicly,’ hint of his problem with Mary’s pregnancy.

In any case, he did not proceed with his action after the angel told him, v.20-21 ‘Do not fear to take Mary for your wife, for the child is conceived of the Holy Spirit.’ It is possible that he did not know thus the reason the angel told him so.

[INDENT]Mathew 1:19-24(Douay-Rheims)
19 Whereupon Joseph her husband, being a just man, and not willing publicly to expose her, was minded to put her away privately.
20 But while he thought on these things, behold the angel of the Lord appeared to him in his sleep, saying: Joseph, son of David, fear not to take unto thee Mary thy wife, for that which is conceived in her, is of the Holy Ghost.

21 And she shall bring forth a son: and thou shalt call his name JESUS. For he shall save his people from their sins.
22 Now all this was done that it might be fulfilled which the Lord spoke by the prophet, saying:
23 Behold a virgin shall be with child, and bring forth a son, and they shall call his name Emmanuel, which being interpreted is, God with us.
24 And Joseph rising up from sleep, did as the angel of the Lord had commanded him, and took unto him his wife.

[/INDENT]


#6

No, St Joseph did not suspect The Blessed Virgin Mary of sin! They had both vowed to live as brother and sister, and being the husband of the Blessed Virgin, St Joseph could not have failed to see that she was very holy and pure. It is very important to stress the fact that St Joseph and the Blessed Virgin had indeed already been married at the time of the Annunciation. God would not have allowed his purest and most perfect creation to be in a situation where she would be suspected of grievious sin, neither his most Holy Son to be conceived out of wedlock.

It is very likely that The Blessed Virgin told St Joseph that her cousin Elisabeth was with child, but that she, in her great humility, kept quiet about the privilige God had given herself. The Blessed Virgin would not have gone to her cousin Elisabeth on her own, without any protection. Her husband would most likely have accompanied her and would therefore also have been present when St Elisabeth greeted The Blessed Virgin with the words: “Blessed art thou among women, and blessed is the fruit of thy womb. [43] And whence is this to me, that the mother of my Lord should come to me? [44] For behold as soon as the voice of thy salutation sounded in my ears, the infant in my womb leaped for joy. [45] And blessed art thou that hast believed, because those things shall be accomplished that were spoken to thee by the Lord.” He would also have heard the wonderful response of Our Lady.

St Joseph was a just man. He knew the writings of the prophets well and he knew that the Saviour, the Messiah, would come and be born of a woman. Something that had been predicted to happen about that time. He put two and two together. And the result frightened him. He was married to the woman who would bring forth the Saviour.

. “Whereupon Joseph her husband, being a just man, and not willing publicly to expose her, was minded to put her away privately.” St Joseph did not want to be separated from the Blessed Virgin because he thought that she had sinned. On the contrary, St Joseph considered himself far too sinful to live in the presence of The Blessed Virgin and the Holy Child Jesus. How can we know this for sure? Because, St Joseph was a just man, and as such he would always obey the law of God. At that time, a man who suspected his wife of adultery was forced to expose her. That was the law of God. Joseph would not have “put her away quietly” if he had thought her guilty of adultery. Instead, because he knew that she was innocent, and most holy, he wanted to “put her away quietly” in order to protect her from unjust suspicions from others.

There is a lot more to say about St Joseph, according to tradition, the highest saint in heaven, next to The Blessed Virgin Mary. And little wonder is that, when he lived so intimately united to Our Lady as her husband, and to Our Lord as his foster father.

Please, correct anyone who says that St Joseph ever suspected the Blessed Virgin. I recommend you to read the book “The life and glories of saint Joseph” and to listen to this podcast from Audio Sancto: audiosancto.org/auweb/20061224-The-Holiness-of-Saint-Joseph.mp3

I am very sorry if I have written anything here that goes against the tradition and fathers of the Church, it was unintentional.

Saint Joseph, pray for us!


#7

[quote="Agge90, post:6, topic:313330"]
No, St Joseph did not suspect The Blessed Virgin Mary of sin! They had both vowed to live as brother and sister, and being the husband of the Blessed Virgin, St Joseph could not have failed to see that she was very holy and pure. It is very important to stress the fact that St Joseph and the Blessed Virgin had indeed already been married at the time of the Annunciation. God would not have allowed his purest and most perfect creation to be in a situation where she would be suspected of grievious sin, neither his most Holy Son to be conceived out of wedlock.

It is very likely that The Blessed Virgin told St Joseph that her cousin Elisabeth was with child, but that she, in her great humility, kept quiet about the privilige God had given herself. The Blessed Virgin would not have gone to her cousin Elisabeth on her own, without any protection. Her husband would most likely have accompanied her and would therefore also have been present when St Elisabeth greeted The Blessed Virgin with the words: "Blessed art thou among women, and blessed is the fruit of thy womb. [43] And whence is this to me, that the mother of my Lord should come to me? [44] For behold as soon as the voice of thy salutation sounded in my ears, the infant in my womb leaped for joy. [45] And blessed art thou that hast believed, because those things shall be accomplished that were spoken to thee by the Lord." He would also have heard the wonderful response of Our Lady.

St Joseph was a just man. He knew the writings of the prophets well and he knew that the Saviour, the Messiah, would come and be born of a woman. Something that had been predicted to happen about that time. He put two and two together. And the result frightened him. He was married to the woman who would bring forth the Saviour.


. "Whereupon Joseph her husband, being a just man, and not willing publicly to expose her, was minded to put her away privately." St Joseph did not want to be separated from the Blessed Virgin because he thought that she had sinned. On the contrary, St Joseph considered himself**** far too sinful to live in the presence of The Blessed Virgin and the Holy Child Jesus. How can we know this for sure? Because, St Joseph was a just man, and as such he would always obey the law of God. At that time, a man who suspected his wife of adultery was forced to expose her. That was the law of God. Joseph would not have "put her away quietly" if he had thought her guilty of adultery. Instead, because he knew that she was innocent, and most holy, he wanted to "put her away quietly" in order to protect her from unjust suspicions from others.

There is a lot more to say about St Joseph, according to tradition, the highest saint in heaven, next to The Blessed Virgin Mary. And little wonder is that, when he lived so intimately united to Our Lady as her husband, and to Our Lord as his foster father.

Please, correct anyone who says that St Joseph ever suspected the Blessed Virgin. I recommend you to read the book "The life and glories of saint Joseph" and to listen to this podcast from Audio Sancto: audiosancto.org/auweb/20061224-The-Holiness-of-Saint-Joseph.mp3

I am very sorry if I have written anything here that goes against the tradition and fathers of the Church, it was unintentional.

Saint Joseph, pray for us!

[/quote]

Nice explanation. The Gospel was scarce on why Joseph wanted to put Mary away and based on that and for the fact that the angel had to tell him not to, seems to put the suspicion on him. If he wanted to keep Mary, he would just be quiet about it and married her straight away; after all they were betrothed. Probably Church tradition regarding this, if any, would put greater light on the circumstance around Joseph and Mary at that point in time for us to have a sure conclusion on what really transpired.

But what's important was that God (an angel) intervened to affirm Joseph and thus his decision was reversed.

St. Joseph pray for us especially that we can be a father and husband like you.


#8

Joseph is betrothed to Mary. He finds out she is pregnant. He knows he is not the one who made her pregnant. Because he is a just man he decides not expose her because he knows according to the laws that the penalty for adultery is stoning to death. If he did not think she had sinned then there would be nothing to expose. He then subsequently finds out from an angel what actually happened.
It is very clear to me that Joseph thought she had sinned.


#9

[quote="mdgspencer, post:1, topic:313330"]
This article, whose title itself raises the possibility that he didn't believe that she had sinned when he learned she was bearing Jesus, looks at what some important Catholic thinkers thought of his response to learning of this.
See www.newtheologicalmovement.blogspot.com/2010/12/did-st-joseph-suspect-blessed-virgin.html

[/quote]

I believe that article is very good, and does agree with the writings of a couple of Church approved visionaries: Mother Mary Agreda: The Mystical City of God, and Mother Maria Baij: The Life of St. Joseph.


#10

[quote="thistle, post:8, topic:313330"]
Joseph is betrothed to Mary. He finds out she is pregnant. He knows he is not the one who made her pregnant. Because he is a just man he decides not expose her because he knows according to the laws that the penalty for adultery is stoning to death. If he did not think she had sinned then there would be nothing to expose.

It is very clear to me that Joseph thought she had sinned.

[/quote]

No, I don't think so. Mosaic law was very clear about how it dealt with sexual activity involving betrothed women: if the woman was complicit, then she (as well as the man) were to be killed as adulterers; if the woman claimed not to have given consent and was assaulted in the countryside, then only the man got capital punishment; and if the woman claimed not to have given consent and was assaulted in the city, but no one heard her cry out for help, then she was presumed complicit and subject to capital punishment.

Now, let's take a look at Mary's situation:
[list]]Joseph and Mary were betrothed, but Joseph hadn't yet taken her into his house (Mt 1:18); therefore, not only Joseph, but *everyone knew that they hadn't yet consummated the relationship.
]Mary traveled to the hill country (~10 day journey), stayed three months with Elizabeth, and then journeyed home. So, she was almost four months pregnant when she returned.
*]Joseph saw Mary -- and, despite the well-intentioned and pious tales that some have related here, about Mary telling Joseph -- it's difficult to believe that Joseph didn't just take one look at her and think, "umm.. pregnant? Mary?"
*]At this point, knowing that he and all of Nazareth would know that she was pregnant prior to moving in with him, Joseph realizes that there are only a few possibilities:
[list]
]Mary committed the sin of adultery.
*]Mary was assaulted while en route to Elizabeth.
*]Mary was assaulted in the village while visiting Elizabeth.[/list][/list]

Now, the first and the third are very straightforward: under Mosaic law, Mary would be subject to capital punishment. But, even the second scenario doesn't help Mary much: if she were assaulted on the road, but didn't tell anyone and didn't cry out for justice upon reaching Elizabeth, what would the reasonable assumption be? It would seem to be that she had something to hide, or wouldn't have been telling the truth, if she didn't bother reporting the crime against her virginity.

So, it seems that Joseph should not be presumed to have thought that Mary sinned -- rather, he knew that whatever the situation was, Mary was likely to face death by stoning. Without a commentary on what he thought, then, it's reasonable to suggest simply that Joseph acted pragmatically: setting Mary aside (i.e., 'divorcing her quietly'), he could save her from death and not bring attention to the whole situation.


#11

Here's something else to mull over. If Joseph is just an ordinary man living under Mosaic law with those fatal laws hanging over his spouse, why wouldn't Joseph just ask?

Since Joseph was struggling with this issue, it is obvious that his spouse Mary, did not tell him. It is also apparent, from Elizabeth's greeting, that God would inform those who needed to know the circumstances. Did Elizabeth "know" how the Virgin Mary came to be pregnant? Maybe not. But her inspired greeting was the sign that she (Mary) could answer Elizabeth's questions, assuming she had any after hearing the Magnificat. So Mary would leave it to God's providence to inform even her spouse Joseph.

Why didn't Joseph ask? Perhaps the Virgin Mother of God, being filled with the Incarnation, made it impossible for Joseph to confront his Virgin spouse with such suggestions, since her demeanor and attitude was more Holy and august than ever before! How could Joseph (even being an ordinary man) have such a conversation with such a spouse? The two realities were in monumental conflict!

I don't subscribe to the opinion that St. Joseph "knew" that his spouse was the Mother of God, just based on the Scripture account. Therefore he was in a tremendous test of Faith in both God and his spouse. His decision to put her away was forced upon him by the world and Mosaic law. IOW, although Joseph was struggling with this, he would need to either own or disown this pregnancy to the outside world. In any event, God intervened at the last moment, not unlike Abraham with Isaac, and settled the matter in St. Joseph's mind. Because God intervened through His Angel, it also proves, like Abraham with Isaac, that St. Joseph had passed this test of Faith, and overcome the impossible!


#12

[quote="thistle, post:8, topic:313330"]
Joseph is betrothed to Mary. He finds out she is pregnant. He knows he is not the one who made her pregnant. Because he is a just man he decides not expose her because he knows according to the laws that the penalty for adultery is stoning to death. If he did not think she had sinned then there would be nothing to expose. He then subsequently finds out from an angel what actually happened.
It is very clear to me that Joseph thought she had sinned.

[/quote]

Perhaps Joseph was in doubt as to how Mary was found to be with child and thus decided to divorce her quietly. On the one hand, it is reasonable to assume that Joseph thought Mary to be a very God fearing, virtuous, and holy girl. On the other hand, she became pregnant and he knew he wasn't the father. This probably perplexed Joseph.
Secondly, the Mosaic Law (Deuteronomy 22: 13-20) required proof before a betrothed woman could be stoned to death. Joseph had no such proof nor would he find any even if he and Mary had relations.


#13

[quote="Richca, post:12, topic:313330"]
Perhaps Joseph was in doubt as to how Mary was found to be with child and thus decided to divorce her quietly. On the one hand, it is reasonable to assume that Joseph thought Mary to be a very God fearing, virtuous, and holy girl. On the other hand, she became pregnant and he knew he wasn't the father. This probably perplexed Joseph.
Secondly, the Mosaic Law (Deuteronomy 22: 13-20) required proof before a betrothed woman could be stoned to death. Joseph had no such proof nor would he find any even if he and Mary had relations.

[/quote]

Your first paragraph agrees with my view. Mary was pregnant. Joseph was not the father so obviously to him that would mean another man was the father (as he did not know the truth from the Angel until later). To become pregnant by another man would mean she had sinned which is what he would have suspected.

I think the fact Mary was pregnant would have been sufficient proof that she had committed adultery and as Joseph knew this he decided not to expose her.

Then of course the truth was revealed to Joseph by the Angel.


#14

Jewish tradition of that day was much different than how we often interpret it today. In Mary and Joseph’s day, betrothal was much more closely linked to marriage than our modern engagement. When a couple was betrothed, they were married, they just weren’t sharing a home together yet. Sometimes it could be as long as a year before the husband took his wife to his home. Because that state was considered married, while it was uncommon for the girl to become pregnant, it was not sinful for her to become pregnant. The only one who would have suspected Mary of sin was Joseph, simply because he knew the child wasn’t his. The delimma was whether or not to be the one to rasie the child, or to “quietly divorce”. Remember, in that culture, a man could divorce his wife really easily. Pretty much all he had to do was say they were divorced and they were divorced. So he could let her go quietly and no one would know the child wasn’t his except the two of them. Perhaps there was the thought also that this would leave Mary “free” to marry the “real” father.

I intend no disrespect to either St. Joseph or our Blessed Mother when I say this, but she couldn’t have been “so holy” that he couldn’t talk to her about all of this. If she had been…what ever that image would look like, then he never would have considered putting her away in the first place. Yes, she is miraculously the Immaculate Conception and St. Joseph is St. Joseph, but they were, to the people of their hometown, just ordinary people. Remember what the people of Nazarath said about Jesus when he taught in the synagog. They basically said, “Hey, this guy can’t be fulfilling Isaiah’s prophecies about the Messiah. This guy is Jesus. He’s the kid of Joseph the carpenter. Mary is his wife. We all know them. They’re just ordinary people. He can’t be the Messiah.” That’s a paraphrase, but it’s accurate nonetheless. Was their household perhaps a little more peaceful than most, yes. Was there more joy within their walls than within the walls of other people’s homes, yes. But they worked and played and lived and suffered just like everyone else. Perhaps more, because the whole message of the gospel is one of suffering love. And that was lived even before it was taught. My point is, Our Blessed Mother and St. Joseph were flesh and blood people. Our Blessed Mother and her Beloved Son, Jesus, still are flesh and blood people. And while, yes, Mary is and was sinless just like Jesus, she was not fully divine as he was. She lived and laughed and cried just like we all do. She wasn’t so “holy and humble” that she was unapproachable. Even on the issue of her pregnancy, it wasn’t that St. Joseph felt it was inappropriate to ask her about it. He could ask her anything about anything. There was no point in asking until he decided what he was going to do. It’s just that the angel talked to him before he had the chance to talk to her. At least that’s what we infer from Scripture. Had the angel not intervened, I think he would have talked to her before finalizing his decision. After all, can’t we talk to our Blessed Mother about absolutely anything and she understands? If that is true for us, her children, how much more was it true for St. Joseph, her spouse?
Kris


#15

She wasn't so "holy and humble" that she was unapproachable. Even on the issue of her pregnancy, it wasn't that St. Joseph felt it was inappropriate to ask her about it. He could ask her anything about anything. There was no point in asking until he decided what he was going to do. It's just that the angel talked to him before he had the chance to talk to her. At least that's what we infer from Scripture. Had the angel not intervened, I think he would have talked to her before finalizing his decision. After all, can't we talk to our Blessed Mother about absolutely anything and she understands? If that is true for us, her children, how much more was it true for St. Joseph, her spouse?

If this is your opinion, then I suppose you believe that there WAS a discussion of her pregnancy. At least that is what you seem to be arguing for. So if the discussion DID take place, then there was no need for the Angel to appear and explain the situation to St. Joseph. Your argument that there was no point in St. Joseph asking until he decided what to do, is backwards. How can any decision be made without asking first? Only an unjust person would pass judgement first and ask questions later.


#16

[quote="AmbroseSJ, post:15, topic:313330"]
If this is your opinion, then I suppose you believe that there WAS a discussion of her pregnancy. At least that is what you seem to be arguing for. So if the discussion DID take place, then there was no need for the Angel to appear and explain the situation to St. Joseph. Your argument that there was no point in St. Joseph asking until he decided what to do, is backwards. How can any decision be made without asking first? Only an unjust person would pass judgement first and ask questions later.

[/quote]

He said there was no discussion taking place. He wanted to but the angel beat him to it. I guess the pregnancy was obvious enough that there was not need to ask whether she was pregnant or not. Even if Mary said that the baby was conceived by the Holy Spirit, would Joseph believe her word or not? My guess he would not; thus another reason why the angel had to tell him (as it did to Mary in the anunciation).


#17

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