Christianity,  Theology/Bible

When Mary “committed” adultery

When Mary turned up pregnant, everyone assumed that she was guilty of adultery. We all know now that this assumption was a false one, but it was nevertheless what folks thought. It’s precisely why Joseph sought to divorce her. Until an angel appeared to tell him otherwise, he assumed that Mary’s pregnancy came about by the usual means and that she had been unfaithful. But a most unusual messenger showed up to disabuse Joseph of his error. The angel also told Joseph that he must marry Mary and adopt her son as his own. Joseph believed God’s word against appearances, and Joseph obeyed. As a result, Jesus was adopted into the royal line of David as the legal heir of the messianic kingdom. All the promises of God are yes and amen in Christ Jesus in part because Joseph believed and obeyed God.

The story of Matthew 1:18-25 is not really a story about alleged adultery on Mary’s part. It’s the story of noble Joseph and the godly line. It’s the story of Christmas.

I gave my full exposition of this text as one of our advent sermons at Kenwood Baptist Church, and you can download it here or listen below.


Merry Christmas!


  • Don Johnson

    ESV for all verses

    Jer_22:24 “As I live, declares the LORD, though Coniah the son of Jehoiakim, king of Judah, were the signet ring on my right hand, yet I would tear you off

    Jer 22:28 Is this man Coniah a despised, broken pot, a vessel no one cares for? Why are he and his children hurled and cast into a land that they do not know?
    Jer 22:29 O land, land, land, hear the word of the LORD!
    Jer 22:30 Thus says the LORD: “Write this man down as childless, a man who shall not succeed in his days, for none of his offspring shall succeed in sitting on the throne of David and ruling again in Judah.”

    1Ch 3:15 The sons of Josiah: Johanan the firstborn, the second Jehoiakim, the third Zedekiah, the fourth Shallum.
    1Ch 3:16 The descendants of Jehoiakim: Jeconiah his son, Zedekiah his son;
    1Ch 3:17 and the sons of Jeconiah, the captive: Shealtiel his son,

    Mat 1:11 and Josiah the father of Jechoniah and his brothers, at the time of the deportation to Babylon.
    Mat 1:12 And after the deportation to Babylon: Jechoniah was the father of Shealtiel, and Shealtiel the father of Zerubbabel,

    In Matthew, sometimes “father” is used in a loose sense as Josiah was actually the grandfather of Jeconiah. In Jer 22:28-30 Coniah (Jeconiah) is given a negative prophecy that “none of his offspring” will “sit on the throne of David”. So I think the genealogy in Matthew 1 is given to show Jews that Joseph NOT being the father fulfills this negative prophecy.

    • Steven Lynch

      Don, I appreciate your bringing up the Blood curse on Jeconiah, handed down to Joseph the carpenter of Nazareth.

      I would only point out one thing, Joseph was the one adopted by Mary’s Father in the book of Luke. (made possible by the laws of inheritance that the daughters of Zelophehad petitioned God and Moses for during the Exodus… Discovered by Scofield)

      • Don Johnson

        I read Luke as the ancestors of Mary, per Jewish idiom involving the use of the article, which is missing in front of Joseph and therefore indicates Mary.

        I do not know Scofield’s argument. Ref? My take is that if Joseph was adopted by Mary’s father, then it would be considered incest for him to marry Mary.

  • Steve Lynch

    The story of the daughters of Zelophehad is quite interesting in that it is such an ODD story… and these 5 young ladies were quite adamant in their demands for inheritance, so much so that God honored their request (albeit, it provided him a set-up for Luke 3 and bypassing the blood curse on Jeconiah).

    Summarized, it provided that if a man had no sons, but daughter(s) only, he could pass an inheritance on to his daughter(s), provided that they marry within the tribe of their Father. The daughters are provided for, the land stays within the tribe. OFTEN, the man who marries the daughter is adopted legally by the Father of the daughter to cement the inheritance.

    I’m listening to Denny’s talk on this, but after the half-way point, I doubt he is going to cover it, but Joseph was the one with bigger legal problems than Jesus had.

    Jesus was ALREADY part of the Messianic line through his Mother, but the Royal claim did pass through Joseph legally.

    As far as your consideration of incest… well, don’t read Genesis chapters 19 & 38 then. (Both incidences are resolved by the Mosaic law however in Deuteronomy).

    • Don Johnson

      I am aware of the daughters of Zelophehad and how that worked when Israel’s land was divided into tribes, clans and families.

      ESV Num 36:6 This is what the LORD commands concerning the daughters of Zelophehad, ‘Let them marry whom they think best, only they shall marry within the clan of the tribe of their father.
      Num 36:7 The inheritance of the people of Israel shall not be transferred from one tribe to another, for every one of the people of Israel shall hold on to the inheritance of the tribe of his fathers.
      Num 36:8 And every daughter who possesses an inheritance in any tribe of the people of Israel shall be wife to one of the clan of the tribe of her father, so that every one of the people of Israel may possess the inheritance of his fathers.

      I do not see that clans with land allotments existed as such in the 1st century.

      Incest was prohibited to Israel in the Levitical purity laws which come after the stories in Genesis, and I read those also.

      In any case, you did not explain how such might bypass the negative prophecy on Jeconiah.

      • Steve Lynch

        I don’t think I’m going to be able to.

        You seem to know the law well enough to prosecute it… but I work for the defense.

        • Don Johnson

          I am not trying to prosecute Scripture or defend it, I am trying to rightly divide it. I am a believer in Jesus as Messiah and Lord.

          • Steve Lynch

            Respectfully sir… You’ve missed some things… and dismissed some others, incorrectly.

            Inheritance matters are not just about land allotments.

            … and as to the matter of Prophecy… I’ve probably got a different background than most folks on the subject. Prophecy is not about prediction/fulfillment… It’s pattern.

            It’s also being communicated to us from a Deity who exists outside the dimensionalities of Time and Space. He has certain advantages of writing out and describing conditions and actions that will happen to produce a specific result… and inserting these conditions and actions into his law… knowing that its going to play out just exactly as he describes. In fact he claims this as part of his signature of being God:

            “Declaring the end from the beginning, and from ancient times the things that are not yet done, saying, My counsel shall stand, and I will do all my pleasure:” Isaiah 46:10

            And declares that the LAW is actually Prophecy:

            “For all the prophets and the law prophesied until John.” Matthew 11:13

            So let’s revisit the subjects we’ve both mentioned again…

            1. This thing you call a “negative” prophecy against Jeconiah in Jeremiah chapter 22… keep reading. It’s part of a Messianic prophecy because God wasn’t done speaking with the last verse of chapter 22… he continues speaking all the way through chapter 23 announcing that the Royal line that sat on the throne would not continue through Jeconiah… but that he would raise up a “righteous branch” (read that as… a different part of the family tree of David) to bring about the Messiah.

            Which I think is pretty interesting because you NEVER see anywhere in scripture a title of the Messiah as being called “Son of Solomon”…

            2. The incidences of incest between Lot and his daughters in Genesis 19, and Judah with his daughter-in-law Tamar… were provisionally resolved by the Levitical Law in Deuteronomy 23:2-3. (the law prophesied – Matthew 11:13)

            That’s a declarative statement of fact. Not opinion.

            The Orthodox opinion on timing of the laws being handed down after these incidents occurred means that they don’t apply in Genesis … is a bunch of horse feathers.

            So… In summary… Joseph was a man cursed by God… (through Jeconiah)

            Mary had no such curse on her bloodline.

            Mary produces the Son of Man through immaculate conception… He’s free of the blood curse on Jeconiah… but can inherit from his adoptive father the Royal Mantel of the tribe of Judah as being both direct descendant of David… AND curse free through the Inheritance provisions set forth in the law by God… subtitled “Daughters of Zelophehad”

            Joseph was adopted by his Father-in-Law Heli… on his wedding day to Mary… which occurred AFTER the birth of Jesus. Jesus would have been the chief inheritor of both Joseph & Mary’s estates at that point.

            I can keep going with a nice polemic on Luke 4:5… but my family would like for me to rejoin their Christmas.

            Merry Christmas Mr. Johnson

            • Don Johnson

              I am aware that the Torah/Law of Moses contains prophecies, which are God speaking forth. Jesus told us that Moses spoke of him, namely Jesus.

              I am evangelical, I do not accept the immaculate conception of Mary, I do accept that Mary was a virgin when she conceived by the Holy Spirit.

              You claim Joseph has the curse on Jeconiah, which I agree with, but then claim he is curse free due to the daughters of Zelophehad, but do not explain this.

              You claim that Joseph was adopted by his FIL Heli, what is the evidence for this?

              I read Luke 3:23 as claiming via Jewish idiom that Mary the wife of Joseph was the mother of Jesus, but not that Joseph was adopted by her father Heli.

              • Steve Lynch

                as to the “immaculate conception” bit… pardon… I was referring to the virgin birth… on your protestation I went and looked it up… and see that I did not know what the term actually meant. I stand corrected.

                I said the Son of Man through Mary… that is, Jesus, is free of the blood curse on Jeconiah, but inherits the throne of David through Joseph, who was not eligible due to that curse.

                The adoption procedure of the son-in-law by Heli… had become a common practice throughout scripture … there exists about 4 – 6 examples that I remember having seen, but finding the exact scripture references is gonna be a big hassle to find… and not something I’m doing on my vacation.

                I did NOT claim that Joseph was free of the curse… only Jesus was.

  • Don Johnson

    I see Jesus being a descendant of David (son of David where son is understood to mean descendant) sitting on the throne of David forever per Nathan’s prophecy to David thru Mary and then Joseph not being the biological father fulfilling the negative prophecy on Jeconiah, So both get fulfilled (as we should expect).

    There is no need to hypothesize about any supposed adoption of Joseph by Heli, Mary’s father; the Jewish idiomatic way of referring to Mary by not using the article with Joseph’s name in Luke explains it for me.

    Adoption is how anyone gets into the Kingdom of God and there are many examples in Scripture, but I do not see Joseph with Heli being one of them.

  • Johnny Mason

    I like this fascinating discussion, and I want to throw my bone in. In Haggai 2:23, we see the Lord declare Zerubbabel as His servant and signet ring, which is very interesting considering Zerubabbel is a descendent of Jeconiah. This verse seems to imply that the signet that was removed when Jeconiah was cursed is now being replaced due to Zerubabbel’s faithfulness, meaning the curse was removed. Thoughts??

    • Steve Lynch


      I’m going to say… not likely. You’d probably need to look up and research what the signet ring meant as far as rulership goes (ie. “the scepter shall not depart from Judah until Shiloh comes” is an idiom for the power to carry out Capital Punishment, and that didn’t happen until 7 AD when a Roman dictate upon Israel removed that power from the Sanhedrin), I suspect that the signet ring meant “holder of Royal power in the place of a King” or some similar position.

      Another reason is that there appears to be an interloper into the Messianic lineage that occurs much earlier… otherwise the offer of Satan to Jesus in Luke 4:5-7 would not have been valid. If you examine the intrigues around the Royal line, the more it appears that God had this all set up … from before the foundations of the world.

  • Don Johnson

    Hag 2:21 “Speak to Zerubbabel, governor of Judah. Tell him: ‘I am going to shake the heavens and the earth.

    Zerubbabel was governor, not king.

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