Opinion: Reference to Mary and Joseph ‘inappropriate’


By Bob Terry

Editor, The Alabama Baptist

Whether it is possible to say a word that brings “light” rather than “heat” in the midst of a political turmoil is an open question, but that is the intent of these comments.

Yesterday an attempt was made to explain away the charges of sexual abuse of a 14-year-old girl by Roy Moore in past years by comparing the incident to the relationship between Mary, the mother of Jesus, and Joseph, her husband.

That comparison is not only morally inappropriate, it is factually wrong and cannot be left unchallenged.

The biblical story of Mary and Joseph tells the story of two people legally married to one another. The story currently in the news asserts abuse of a young teen by an older man who had no relationship other than a casual acquaintance. To equate the two is morally indefensible.

The Bible describes Joseph as a righteous man, one who tried to live by the Jewish law. Most assume he was older than Mary though his age is never given but it was not unusual in that culture for an older man to wed a girl who had just come of age.

When Joseph learned that Mary was pregnant he was “troubled,” the Bible says. A modern-day translation might call him heartbroken because he knew there had been no sexual contact between him and his wife. Legally, Joseph could have insisted Mary be stoned to death. That is what the strictest reading of the law required.

But Joseph had a compassionate heart and would do no physical harm to Mary. He decided to “put her away quietly,” the Bible says. That way he could maintain his sense of righteousness and not cause Mary physical harm at the same time.

It was after Joseph had decided to act compassionately toward Mary — despite what he thought was her unfaithfulness — that God spoke to him through the angel. The angel told of Mary’s courage — her obedience to God even though it could have resulted in her death.

Joseph immediately became Mary’s defender. He invited on himself all the gossip and slander. Before anyone could harm Mary, they would have to go through him. And during the months between the angel’s visit and the birth of Jesus in Bethlehem, the Bible says Joseph and Mary had no sexual contact.

The biblical story of Mary and Joseph is an account of righteousness, compassion, protection, self-sacrifice and self-control. It has no relationship to the other story currently in the news and it is factually wrong to compare the two.