Jesus Creed

Jesus Creed


Advent: Joseph 2

posted by xscot mcknight

Christmas meant that Joseph practiced a rare combination: both righteousness and mercifulness (1:19)
The text says Joseph was “righteous.” Now this translates a Greek term (dikaios) which translates a Hebrew term (tsadiq) – and all these terms point to one thing: Joseph was known for doing whatever the Torah said. To do it, he had to know it. So, he was a man who had studied the Torah – either by listening and memorizing or by reading and memorizing. But, he knew it.
And that means he knew that he could take Mary to court for what was now known: she was pregnant, and Joseph knows that he is not the father. He immediately thought of the laws in Deuteronomy 22 – stone both the seducer and the one seduced or stone the rapist – the laws are clear and they are unavoidably clear. Here’s the text and its rulings that he would have known — and I’m asking that you read this carefully because following this text is exactly what Joseph would have equated with doing God’s will.

Deut. 22:23 If there is a young woman, a virgin already engaged to be married, and a man meets her in the town and lies with her, 24 you shall bring both of them to the gate of that town and stone them to death, the young woman because she did not cry for help in the town and the man because he violated his neighbor’s wife. So you shall purge the evil from your midst.
Deut. 22:25 But if the man meets the engaged woman in the open country, and the man seizes her and lies with her, then only the man who lay with her shall die. 26 You shall do nothing to the young woman; the young woman has not committed an offense punishable by death, because this case is like that of someone who attacks and murders a neighbor. 27 Since he found her in the open country, the engaged woman may have cried for help, but there was no one to rescue her.
Deut. 22:28 If a man meets a virgin who is not engaged, and seizes her and lies with her, and they are caught in the act, 29 the man who lay with her shall give fifty shekels of silver to the young woman’s father, and she shall become his wife. Because he violated her he shall not be permitted to divorce her as long as he lives.
Deut. 22:30 A man shall not marry his father’s wife, thereby violating his father’s rights.

Joseph is a tsadiq (I make much of this in Jesus Creed). This means his reputation is at stake: if he follows the Torah, and puts Mary away, he will uphold his reputation. If he does not, he will lose his reputation. (I like to say that the claims of the Cross were faced by Joseph [and Mary] before Jesus was born.)
Joseph, however, chooses another option – an option that must have set the agenda for Jesus learning how to respond to those stuck on the horns of a legal ruling that called for mercy. Joseph decides to put her away quietly – that is, instead of disgracing her (which he could have done) he chooses to be kind to her by divorcing her without publicly disgracing her.
Joseph must have impressed the same upon Jesus and the rest of his family: act in mercy; avoid humiliating others; you never know, you may be wrong in your discernments and judgments. [I wish I had some of this in Jesus Creed.]



Advertisement
Comments read comments(7)
post a comment
ted gossard

posted November 29, 2005 at 10:47 am


helpful Scot. good point. I think we need to emphasize mercy in hard decisions- and really in all of life. erring on that side rather than the judgment side. as James says, “mercy triumphs over judgment.”
Maybe you could do a five or ten year (from original publishing) revision in “Jesus Creed” and “Embracing Grace”.



report abuse
 

john alan turner

posted November 29, 2005 at 11:09 am


Can’t remember where I read it recently, but someone asked, “When you get to heaven, would you rather be known for being too merciful or not merciful enough?”
I also think Joseph’s willingness to sacrifice his own tsadiq-ness — his own standing as righteous — and enter into the scandal of another…well, that sounds a little like-father-like-Son, doesn’t it?



report abuse
 

AP

posted November 29, 2005 at 11:46 am


Hi Scot. I am wondering if there is room to think politically about Joseph. I am thinking about the communal nature of dikaiosyne and how tsedeq is often connected with mishpat in the OT: tsedeq being how one should do mishpat–”Judging justly.” Could Joseph’s (intended) limited judgment for Mary, based on false suspicions, serve to undergird a political model for limited judgment?
I may be mixing apples and oranges…or, in light of the season, cranberries and crabapples.



report abuse
 

Wade Hodges

posted November 29, 2005 at 7:37 pm


Scot–thanks for these insights. Your blog has become the first commentary I consult.



report abuse
 

Georges Boujakly

posted November 29, 2005 at 11:36 pm


Scot,
You said, “Joseph is a tsadiq (I make much of this in Jesus Creed). This means his reputation is at stake: if he follows the Torah, and puts Mary away, he will uphold his reputation. If he does not, he will lose his reputation. (I like to say that the claims of the Cross were faced by Joseph [and Mary] before Jesus was born.)”
Wonderful and humbling reflections. If a choice is necessary, reputation is worth little when compared to identity that exudes mercy.
Perhaps Joseph was thinking that his identity as a tsadik was not diminished by loss of reputation. God confirmed his tsadik identity in his willingness to lose his reputation. The tsadik lives faithfully (What does the Lord require of you, but to do justly, love mercy and live humbly with your God?) no matter what losses may come. Joseph’s heart righteousness (the law written on the heart)trumped the external Torah righteousness. What great parents Jesus had! They inspire me so much.



report abuse
 

Ron McK

posted November 30, 2005 at 1:58 pm


Joseph rocks!!!
Joseph had a problem in applying the law: contradictory witnesses. Mary’s bump said one thing, but Mary said something else. There were no other witnesses. This meant that he had to give her the benefit of the doubt and assume that she was an unwilling participant. Therefore Deut 22:25-27 applied. He could not punish Mary, but could still set her aside.
Once the Holy Spirit spoke to Joseph, he had another witnesse (not totally independent) confirming Mary’s story, so he had no choice but to accept that Deut 22:23-30 no longer applied.
There was no requirement in the Torah for this new situation, so he he was free to what love motivated.
Joseph fulfilled the requirements of the Torah.



report abuse
 

paul

posted February 9, 2006 at 2:10 am


Deut. 22:23 If there is a young woman, a virgin already engaged to be married, and a man meets her in the town and lies with her, 24 you shall bring both of them to the gate of that town and stone them to death, the young woman because she did not cry for help in the town and the man because he violated his neighbor’s wife. So you shall purge the evil from your midst.
This verse seems to me to be a conspiracy against the son of God, intended to discredit the miraculous birth and delay the his time of rulership.
If not then how could the creater of the universe pass a law that would later contradict the birth of the saviour, but to me this still remains a conspired act by the the ruler of this age.



report abuse
 

Post a Comment

By submitting these comments, I agree to the beliefnet.com terms of service, rules of conduct and privacy policy (the "agreements"). I understand and agree that any content I post is licensed to beliefnet.com and may be used by beliefnet.com in accordance with the agreements.



Previous Posts

More Blogs To Enjoy!!!
Thank you for visiting Jesus Creed. This blog is no longer being updated. Please enjoy the archives. Here are some other blogs you may also enjoy: Red Letters with Tom Davis Recent prayer post on Prayables Most Recent Inspiration blog post Happy Reading!  

posted 11:15:58am Aug. 16, 2012 | read full post »

Our Common Prayerbook 30 - 3
Psalm 30 thanks God (vv. 1-3, 11-12) and exhorts others to thank God (vv. 4-5). Both emerge from the concrete reality of David's own experience. Here is what that experience looks like:Step one: David was set on high and was flourishing at the hand of God's bounty (v. 7a).Step two: David became too

posted 12:15:30pm Aug. 31, 2010 | read full post »

Theology After Darwin 1 (RJS)
One of the more important and more difficult pieces of the puzzle as we feel our way forward at the interface of science and faith is the theological implications of discoveries in modern science. A comment on my post Evolution in the Key of D: Deity or Deism noted: ...this reminds me of why I get a

posted 6:01:52am Aug. 31, 2010 | read full post »

Almost Christian 4
Who does well when it comes to passing on the faith to the youth? Studies show two groups do really well: conservative Protestants and Mormons; two groups that don't do well are mainline Protestants and Roman Catholics. Kenda Dean's new book is called Almost Christian: What the Faith of Ou

posted 12:01:53am Aug. 31, 2010 | read full post »

Let's Get Neanderthal!
The Cave Man Diet, or Paleo Diet, is getting attention. (Nothing is said about Culver's at all.) The big omission, I have to admit, is that those folks were hunters -- using spears or smacking some rabbit upside the conk or grabbing a fish or two with their hands ... but that's what makes this diet

posted 2:05:48pm Aug. 30, 2010 | read full post »




Report as Inappropriate

You are reporting this content because it violates the Terms of Service.

All reported content is logged for investigation.