How do those that deny the perpetual virginity of Mary explain the failure of Joseph and Mary to consummate their marriage before the birth of Jesus?

We read in the Gospel of Matthew:

He had no relations with her until she bore a son, and he named him Jesus. (Matthew 1:25)

Matthew gives us a reasonable explanation for Joseph bringing Mary into his home despite her pregnancy:

...the angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream and said, "Joseph, son of David, do not be afraid to take Mary your wife into your home. For it is through the holy Spirit that this child has been conceived in her. She will bear a son and you are to name him Jesus, because he will save his people from their sins." (Matthew 1:20-21)

However, the angel doesn't say anything about abstaining from the marital act. On the contrary, the direction to "take Mary your wife into your home," heard by a first-century Jew, would seem to imply "take Mary and consummate your marriage."

I expect an answer to include the following verse in the same gospel:

"Behold, the virgin shall be with child and bear a son, and they shall name him Emmanuel," which means "God is with us." (Matthew 1:23)

Did both Joseph and Mary feel obliged to honor Isaiah's prophecy? Did they both know it applied to them? If so, what is the evidence?

  • "the direction to 'take Mary your wife into your home,' heard by a first-century Jew, would seem to imply 'take Mary and consummate your marriage.'" - Do you have a source for this statement?
    – agarza
    Commented Jan 19, 2022 at 20:31
  • They knew the prophecy in Isaiah that said the child would be born of a Virgin. Not just conceived of a virgin
    – Kristopher
    Commented Jan 19, 2022 at 20:41
  • Joseph was alerted to the fact that the woman (with whom he had not yet had relations) was with child. And Joseph chose to wait, until the delivery of the child, until he knew his wife. On many levels I understand that situation, spiritually and doctrinally : but also I understand it as the response of a gentleman who respects and honours both his wife and his God.
    – Nigel J
    Commented Jan 19, 2022 at 21:03
  • Possible duplicate christianity.stackexchange.com/q/61914/23657
    – Kristopher
    Commented Jan 19, 2022 at 22:06
  • 1
    You use the words 'virgin birth' that is to say a virgin delivering a child. And then you say that 'intercourse .... during pregnancy' would not invalidate it. Do you realise you have contradicted yourself ?
    – Nigel J
    Commented Jan 20, 2022 at 15:53

1 Answer 1


Joseph and Mary were not engaged and they were not married. They were betrothed. Betrothal was similar to modern engagement.

The key difference is that a modern engagement, legally, can be easily revoked. A first century betrothal needs a legal divorce to break it off.

So a betrothal is not marriage and is not engagement. A betrothal could continue many years, and there could be a host of different reasons why a couple would choose to delay their ultimate marriage. A common reason would probably have been financial considerations, reasons of poverty, or not having a home to live in after marriage.

  • 2
    How does this answer the question? Joseph “took her into his home”. They were married once that occurred
    – Kristopher
    Commented Jan 19, 2022 at 21:35
  • 2
    @Kris - Hasn't the OP answered his own question? They knew the prophecy "a virgin will conceive" applied to them, so they abstained from sexual relations until after the birth. To be honest, I'm not really sure why the question is being asked. Commented Jan 19, 2022 at 21:40
  • Your answer to similar question😊 christianity.stackexchange.com/a/61915/23657
    – Kristopher
    Commented Jan 19, 2022 at 22:21
  • 1
    @Kris - That was SLM's answer.. pretty much identical to mine here. Commented Jan 19, 2022 at 22:49
  • sorry I confused
    – Kristopher
    Commented Jan 19, 2022 at 23:17

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