Joseph wanted to separate from Mary


This has been bugging me lately…

Why did Joseph, a righteous man, want to secretly divorce Mary?

I mean, why not just make it public?
Or, why not just marry her?

I’d love to know what was going through his mind…


Charlie, Joseph knew he was not the father of his betrothed’s child. In Jewish law he was obliged to denounce her and she would have been stoned to death. See Deuteronomy 22:23-24.
He loved her. He wanted to protect her from that.

It was only when the angel appreard to him in a dream and said, “Joseph son of David, do not be afraid to take Mary home as your wife, because she has conceived what is in her by the Holy Spirit. She will give birth to a son and you must name him Jesus, because he is the one who is to save his people from their sins…” [Matthew 1:21]


I would like to posit a different interpretation of this passage. You can read it here from my blog.


Thank you. In that article, you asked the important question that has been bugging me…

“Joseph wanting to protect Mary from the Mosaic law is truly noble; however, would a righteous man of his day go against that law?”

Using the context of the Ark of the Convenant, I thought you answered the question well.

I realise the Angel encouraged Joseph to marry Mary. But I wonder if the encounter by the Angel encouraged Joseph to have a family (and sexual relations) with Mary - you know, as Protestants want us to believe.


Joseph didn’t go AGAINST the Mosaic law, he wouldn’t have. He was obviously permitted by that law to choose between private and public divorce and chose the more merciful option. He was also probably, if he knew her character well enough, doubting that she could even have been unchaste or broken the law in any way.

In answer to your second question, no - Mary at least had almost certainly taken a vow of virginity, which she intended to keep it even after marriage. Joseph as her betrothed would have been aware of it.

Remember that the angel didn’t say that Mary would conceive before her marriage, nor could Mary reasonably infer such. Wasn’t Abraham promised Isaac a good decade at least before his birth - before the conception of Ishamel even? And then promised again about a year before?

Neither did the angel even hint that the child wouldn’t also be Josephs.

Yet Mary says ‘how can this be, I know no man?’ It doesn’t really make sense that someone expecting to consummate her marriage would ask how a baby would come about - Mary would’ve almost certainly assumed it would be Joseph’s and the result of natural conception. UNLESS, that is, she was vowed to virginity and intended to remain a virgin after marriage.


As much as I accept the perpetual Virginity, this is reading things into the text that are not there. The earliest traditions on the matter say that St. Joseph was a widower and the Virgin was betrothered to him as her guardian (a common enough practice, then and now).

Btw, no one should be taking wedding vows when they have made a monastic vow. The two don’t mix.


There is no need to rely on what scant information the texts give us. They don’t tell us the full story.
Only protestants rely on the scriptures to fill in all the blanks.
The earliest traditions? Exactly when did the tradition start to question Mary’s perpetual virginity?:shrug:


Making stuff up is not a wise course to fill in the blanks.

They don’t tell us the full story.

Sometimes inquiring minds should mind their own business.

Only protestants rely on the scriptures to fill in all the blanks.

You don’t have to be protestant to try to give the text its integrity.

The earliest traditions? Exactly when did the tradition start to question Mary’s perpetual virginity?:shrug:

You’re not listening (reading).

The earliest traditions (the Protoevangelion of James) explicitly teaches the perpetual virginity, explains it, and does so without doing acrobatics with the text. I believe Jerome is the one who came up with the vow story: he was quite inventive with tradition to support his rather excentric views.

And no, the Protestants didn’t write it (btw, up until around 200 years ago, ALL Protestants believed in the perpetual virginity).


I did not realize that the Eastern Orthodox view was such.

So, you are saying Jerome corrupted the meaning of the text on purpose?

For what benefit?


Well intentioned, but yes. (and I think you mean the interpretation, not the text). It’s not the only instance: he translated the Vulgate from a Hebrew text (not the same as the Masoretic, but a Jewish, i.e. post Church, text) instead of the LXX all the Fathers used, and in the book of Tobit sticks in a literary borrowing from the Odyssy with the wagging tail of the dog.

“I praise wedlock, I praise marriage, but it is because they give me virgins” is one of his most famous quotes. He had an issue with marriage and a aggressive monastic agenda. Hence the idea of this virginity vow. He also went through unnecessary acrobats in making the the Brothers of the Lord (known as Step-brothers since the NT) into cousins. He didn’t like the idea of a married Joseph, and to get his perfect, virgin family he confused a few persons in the NT to arrive at it.

Why he had these issues, I won’t venture to guess.


I did not know this, thank you.:slight_smile:


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