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Joseph's Dilemma

  • By Matthew J. Marohl
Product Description
The story of the birth of Jesus in the Gospel of Matthew is told in eight verses. Embedded in this short narrative is ""Joseph's dilemma."" Listeners are told that, ""When Mary had been engaged to Joseph, but before they lived together, she was found to be with child from the Holy Spirit"" (1:18). What happens next has long been debated. We are made to assume that Joseph discovers that Mary is pregnant, but that he does not know that she is with child from the Holy Spirit. This information is made known to Joseph later by an angel of the Lord who appeared to him in a dream. In the meantime, Joseph must decide what he will do with Mary. We are told, ""Joseph, being a righteous man and unwilling to expose her to public disgrace, planned to dismiss her quietly"" (1:19). The discussion of this verse generally focuses on two questions. First, did Joseph suspect Mary of adultery? Second, if he did suspect Mary of adultery, what were his options? While there is some diversity in the way that these questions are answered, the majority of modern interpreters envision only one option--that of divorce. The dilemma, then, is whether Joseph will divorce Mary ""publicly"" or ""privately."" While these questions are important, neither adequately addresses Joseph's dilemma. In this book, Matthew J. Marohl argues that early Christ-followers understood Joseph's dilemma to involve an assumption of adultery and the subsequent possibility of the killing of Mary. Worded differently, Joseph's dilemma involves the possibility of an honor killing. If Joseph reveals that Mary is pregnant she will be killed. If Joseph conceals Mary's pregnancy, he will be opposing the law of the Lord. What is a ""righteous"" man to do? ""Books that bring a new slant to bear on old disputed texts and unresolved issues are always welcomed. Matthew Marohl's study of the heated debate concerning the circumstances surrounding Jesus's conception and birth is such a new slant on a highly controverted story. It is sure to broaden our cultural vista, shed light on an overlooked aspect of Joseph's dilemma, and rustle not a few feathers along the way."" --John H. Elliott, Professor Emeritus, University of San Francisco ""Marohl's study of honor killings, be they modern or ancient, opens up new avenues of interpretation for the Gospel of Matthew's infancy narrative. Taking into consideration that honor and shame were pivotal values of the social world in question, this study demonstrates that Mary's pregnancy, as well as Joseph's initial reaction to it, originally invoked the familiar social dimensions of damaging and protecting family honor, something now lost to modern readers."" --Markus Cromhout, Department of New Testament Studies, University of Pretoria. ""Marohl's systematic analysis of the cultural presuppositions of Matthew's presentation of Mary's shameful pregnancy leads him to conclude that Joseph contemplated killing Mary which, while shocking, reveals a narrative pattern that is evident throughout the gospel--'from unexpected death comes unexpected, new life.' It is a pattern that is to be replicated in the lives of the Jesus followers. Marohl's unique combination of cultural anthropology and honor killings casts new light on the Gospel's meaning and intended outcome."" --Dietmar Neufeld, Professor of Christian Origins, University of British Columbia Matthew J. Marohl teaches New Testament at Augustana College, Rock Island, IL. He holds a PhD in New Testament from the University of St. Andrews and is the author of Faithfulness and the Purpose of Hebrews: A Social Identity Approach (Pickwick, 2008).

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    Product Specs
    • SKU: 9781498211031
    • Manufacturer: Cascade Books
    • ISBN 13: 9781498211031
    • Publication Date: 01/01/2009
    • Format: Hardcover
    • Author: Matthew J. Marohl
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