Matthew 1:19

Because Joseph her husband was faithful to the law, and yet did not want to expose her to public disgrace, he had in mind to divorce her quietly.

In these modern days, in my country, something about "secret/quiet" in a marriage - for example like this :

  • A. A couple already engaged. Because of something, the man ---after considering--- finally decided to cancel the marriage. But in order not to expose the woman to public disgrace, the man still do the marriage ceremony, living together in a same house, but the "husband" don't do sex at all with his "wife". It's just a staged marriage so everyone else think that they are married couple as the normal husband and wife.
  • B. A married couple. Because of something, the husband ---after considering--- finally decided to divorce his wife. But in order not to expose the wife to public disgrace, they still live together in the same house, but the husband don't do sex anymore with his wife. It's just a staged marriage so everyone else think that they are still a married couple.

The "considering" from the man then indirectly is also about to have sex with the woman or not to have sex with the woman.

So, in general ... a "secret/quite divorce" in my country is also about there is no sex between the couple besides other things. But still to public, the couple is a husband and wife.

Since I don't know the custom in Israel let alone during Joseph & Mary times, that's why I wonder what kind of a situation is a "secret/quite divorce" in those days ?


"Divorce" (in the sense of the Bills of Divorce that Moses permitted; cf. Mt. 5:31, 19:7 & Deut. 24:1,3) in your translation of Mt. 1:19 is not the same thing as "put[ting] her away privately," as the Rheims translation puts it, which is really separation. Issuing a Bill of Divorce would be "publicly to expose her," which "Joseph her husband" was not "willing to" do. Also, St. Joseph did not consider issuing her a Bill of Divorce because he was "a just man."

Here's what the Catholic Haydock Commentary says on Mt. 1:19:

Ver. 19. And Joseph her husband, knowing her strict virtue, was surprised at this her pregnancy, but "being a just man," and not willing to expose her, by denouncing her, or giving her a bill of divorce, he had a mind to dismiss her privately, committing the whole cause to God. Let us learn from Joseph to be ever tender of our neighbour's reputation, and never to entertain any injurious thoughts, or any suspicions to his prejudice. (Haydock)

In Canon Law, there's a distinction between a ratum et consummatum (ratified and consummated) marriage and a ratum sed non consummatum (ratified but not consummated marriage). Before the birth of Christ, Sts. Joseph's and Mary's marriage was not consummated, so if they were alive today, the Roman Pontiff could technically dissolve their marriage bond (Can. 1142). However, the angel convinced St. Joseph not to dismiss her, saying "that which is conceived in her is of the Holy Ghost." (1:20).

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  • Yes, I also thought that if Joseph do a "Bills of Divorce", than he is not divorcing Mary quietly. I think what Joseph intended is to leave (literally) her without saying. But if [he decided to leave her] = true, then I think he will leave Mary after the marriage, not during their engagement times. Because leaving her during the engagement times (which there is no sexual intercourse between the "husband" and the "wife" during this time) will make public think that the pregnant Mary is because of an adultery. But this is only my imagination :). That's why I'm asking here. – karma May 20 '17 at 15:47
  • @karma In those days the 'engagement period' was fully a part of the marriage. In other words, they were considered lawfully married and awaiting the consummation and the wedding feast. Putting her away quietly would have involved breaking the contract with Mary's father or representative, giving up the dowry and likely paying an agreed upon fine. Public exposure would have entailed an accusation of adultery before the governing body. Option 1 costs Joseph financially and option 2 allows him to keep the dowry and pay no fine. – Mike Borden 6 hours ago

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