23 Dec 2012

Some Respect for Joseph

Religious 38 Comments

On Facebook I just wrote the following silliness:

The most implausible aspect of the Christmas story isn’t the Virgin Birth. Rather, it’s a guy telling his wife, “I had a dream last night, pack the kid, we’re moving to Egypt,” and she says, “OK.”

(BTW, if you’re not my Friend on Facebook, I really have to wonder about your priorities in life.)

But joking aside, I really do think Joseph doesn’t get much attention in these things. There’s a lot of emphasis on Mary, and of course on Jesus, but I don’t think I’ve ever heard a preacher talk much about Joseph.

The best glimpse we get at the kind of guy he was comes from Matthew 1: 18-25:

18 Now the birth of Jesus Christ was as follows: After His mother Mary was betrothed to Joseph, before they came together, she was found with child of the Holy Spirit. 19 Then Joseph her husband, being a just man, and not wanting to make her a public example, was minded to put her away secretly. 20 But while he thought about these things, behold, an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream, saying, “Joseph, son of David, do not be afraid to take to you Mary your wife, for that which is conceived in her is of the Holy Spirit. 21 And she will bring forth a Son, and you shall call His name Jesus, for He will save His people from their sins.”

22 So all this was done that it might be fulfilled which was spoken by the Lord through the prophet, saying: 23 “Behold, the virgin shall be with child, and bear a Son, and they shall call His name Immanuel,” which is translated, “God with us.”

24 Then Joseph, being aroused from sleep, did as the angel of the Lord commanded him and took to him his wife, 25 and did not know her till she had brought forth her firstborn Son.[d] And he called His name Jesus.

Growing up, I always liked the part I put in bold above. Joseph was a just man, so he couldn’t in good conscience marry a girl who had become pregnant by another man, but at the same time he was a “nice guy” and wasn’t going to publicly humiliate her for this affront to him, even though plenty of other people would have in his shoes. I think his reaction foreshadows that of his Son when encountering a similar situation (except the woman was actually guilty in Jesus’ presence).

38 Responses to “Some Respect for Joseph”

  1. Daniel Kuehn says:

    I never thought of it that way. Joseph kind of goes out of the picture after the birth. But he raised Jesus.

  2. Joseph Fetz says:

    Ah, darnit. I thought that you were giving me some props for a second.

  3. Yosef says:

    Bob, you say “Joseph was a just man, so he couldn’t in good conscience marry a girl who had become pregnant by another man”

    Why is that just? People marry women with children from previous relationships, and raise them with love. This seems just to me, rather than choosing to refuse a woman because she is with child. Justice would have been to set her aside just for that?

    • Z says:

      I suppose that maybe then he would become the father, and if the other guy showed up and wanted to be the father that would make for a complicated scenario. Then Joseph would have to divorce her I assume. Ask Bob though. He actually believes in the bible so he may know, while I’m just making stuff up, lol.

    • Bob Murphy says:

      Yosef, I am speaking in terms of that culture. But even in our times, if a guy is engaged to a girl and then she tells him she’s pregnant by another man, that’s a pretty big deal and if he made a big stink out of it, I’m guessing a lot of his friends / relatives would call her the s-word.

      • Z says:

        Also its considered immoral to just have a physical relationship rather than one that is about love and commitment, so Joseph would have thought Mary was not as moral a person as he had hoped.

      • Yosef says:

        Bob, very recently you quoted G. K. Chesterton saying “Unquestionably it is a very common phrase of modern intellectualism to say that the morality of one age can be entirely different to the morality of another. And like a great many other phrases of modern intellectualism, it means literally nothing at all.”

        Now you are speaking in terms of the justice of that culture (read: age)? If “morality is morality” (Chesterton), then justice is justice.

        As for our times, I am not saying his friends/relatives would not use the s-word and he might make a big stink, but would that be just? To say that some people would react a certain way is not to say that such a reaction is just.

        • Christopher says:

          You are confusing just and noble.

          • Yosef says:

            Christopher, justice is an aspect of nobility. To do justice to act nobly.

            Let me use an analogy, using the story of a movie that is about to come out . Suppose you are a judge and before you is a man who stole a loaf of bread to feed his starving family. The law of the time says he should get 5 years in prison. (Just as the law at the time said Joseph could set aside a pregnant woman). But to give that sentence would not be just. A noble judge would do the just thing, and allow the criminal to go (and sin no more!).

            The judge and Joseph have no obligation, as far as the law and custom go, to let the victim go or marry Mary. But to do so would be just (and noble).

            • Christopher says:

              Okay, i am not in a position to engage in discussions about the meaning of English words.

              My point is that there is a difference between treating others based on entitlements or what the law says on the one hand, and doing more than you are obliged to on the other hand. The former is certainly not unjust but it’s not a reason to be grateful either.

    • Ken B says:

      I think Bob meant along the lines of in good faith, ie the marriage would be based on lies, one of them being J pretending he still felt the same way. J is not a heel for feeling he cannot go through with that.

  4. Ken B says:

    What does Luke say?

    • anon says:

      “I want my lamp back; I’m gonna need it to get out of this slimy mudhole.”

  5. Keshav Srinivasan says:

    Bob, the Old Testament verse says “they shall call His name Immanuel”, so why isn’t Jesus’ name Immanuel?

    • Z says:

      That’s a good question. But I have a question as well. Why isn’t killing animals to eat them murder? After all, species are just arbitrary distinctions unless you believe in some sort of supernatural intervention to make humans special.

      • Ken B says:

        So rarely can you legitimately ask a commenter if he breeds with sheep. But if species are arbitrary it’s actually a relevant question!

        • Z says:


          Well I have no idea what my worldview is at the moment, but from the assumptions most people who are not religious believe in, that would be a relevant question. I mean, someone who is Christian but believes in evolution still believes that god intervenes and stuff, but someone who isn’t doesn’t believe that someone intervenes would find no real distinction between the species.

          • RPLong says:

            Yeah. Except that species has a well-established scientific definition with concrete physical boundaries.

            • Ken B says:

              Exactly, and the definition is more or less based on breeding, for sexual species. Can and do breed fertile offspring.

            • Z says:

              Except that it isn’t. The most common definition is that two members of the same species breed to produce fertile offspring.

              If that were true, then whole swaths of humans should be considered outside of the human species. There are many humans who cannot breed with other humans for all kinds of morphological and genetic reasons and cannot produce offspring. There are many couples who are infertile.

            • guest says:

              Except that species has a well-established scientific definition with concrete physical boundaries.

              Arbitrarily defined boundaries, if Evolutionary Biology is to remain consistent.

              In the Evolutionary worldview, changes happen incrementally, such that the difference between that offspring which counted as a new species, and its parents, would be miniscule.

              Has this tiny difference been identified? If not, then the line of demarcation between one species and another is arbitrarily defined.

              Further, if Evolutionists can bring themselves to accept that Common Ancestry could explain the origin of species, however unlikely (though statistically still plausible) that is, then how come we never hear about a theory that ALL species had their own separate origin?

              It seems to me that you could be an Atheist and an Evolutionary Biologist, and NOT believe in Common Ancestry.

              Sure, it would require that each species originated from a unique one celled organism, but statistical unlikeliness never stopped Evolutionists before.

              • Ken B says:

                The Blog That Biology Forgot.

  6. P.S. Huff says:

    “[I]f you’re not my Friend on Facebook, I really have to wonder about your priorities in life.”

    It is easier for a rich man to enter the kingdom of heaven than to find a man named Bob Murphy on Facebook!

    • Gee says:

      I always assumed that celebrities of Bob’s caliber didn’t accept friend requests from random strangers.

      • Joseph Fetz says:

        Let’s just say that when it comes to FB, Bob is the “s-word”. His ass gets more turns than a Chinese (or Thai, depending on your inclinations) ping pong ball.

  7. Daniel says:

    He’s just because he’s under no obligation to marry her at that point and wisely was going to choose not to—yet he was gentlemanly about the thing.

  8. David R. Henderson says:

    Same question that one of your friends on FB had: “Pack the kid?” You do know the Christmas story, don’t you? 🙂

    • Bob Murphy says:

      I don’t follow you, David (and I didn’t understand the person on FB either).. I’m referring to this.

      • David R. Henderson says:

        Oops! Memo to self:
        1. Avoid all land wars in Asia.
        2. Never try to compete with Bob Murphy on understanding of the Bible.

        • Z says:

          3. Never compete with Murphy in a karaoke marathon.

  9. Ken B says:

    I hate to be an enabler for Bob and Gene, but what the heck. Merry Christmas to all.

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