The Evangelical Universalist Forum

Was Joseph a "Just" man?


The sermon tonight for the Christmas Eve service had me thinking… So, Joseph was apparently a “just man”, and we are given evidence of this by him not punishing Mary for her betrayal - He sought to divorce her quietly, so as to not face shame or death by stoning. Either way, if those are just things for the crime, then seeking to excuse them is not just.

And if justice demands punishment, according to many Christians, then Joseph would be unjust by trying divorce her quietly. In fact, that would be a perversion of justice if we look to have someone escape it.

If YHWY really believed adultery was worthy of death, and Christ had not yet come to usher us into this “grace” age (since he was not yet born), as many claim, then it is safe to say that Joseph was not a just man, or God never commanded such things. I think the latter, which makes me wonder why we would believe much of anything in the OT regarding God’s character and his desires for us when the NT is at odds with much of it.


Gabe, that’s a fascinating observation. Yes, my own pilgrimage is that one can’t begin to seriously engage the Bible narrative if he retains the belief that he must assume it is all reflecting the same doctrines and values (and fails to see how much Jesus challenges apparent assumptions from the OT).

We need to be freed to argue with texts, and weigh them against one another. And particularly, I suspect there is much diversity among readers about the nature of the term translated “just” and “justice” (or making things ‘right’) and a failure to see what it meant in the original languages and setting.


Perhaps Joseph was of a more kind and forgiving disposition, probably like others awaiting the Consolation of Israel, and so in kind with his own soon coming Messiah had a glimpse that… “Mercy triumphs over judgment.


Then again, you could take an opposite perspective: Joseph was a just man, but not perfect, because if he was, he wouldn’t even think of divorcing Mary. If he believed Mary was unfaithful, he would stay loyal to her in spite of her unfaithfulness, just as God is faithful to the faithless.


I think it’s interesting that in “orthodox” Christianity, justice and mercy are polar opposites. But this text seems to be saying that to be just is to be merciful.


I don’t see the problem that you suggest and Bob seems to fly with.
My point is that Mary had definitely not committed adultery so is not worthy of death.
It is quite possible that Joseph agreed with the OT laws for adultery but happened to believe Mary’s version of the events. She was not an adulterer but Joseph knew that the general populous would believe that she WAS.
Hence, he could be ‘just’ as in maintaining the OT laws and ‘just’ in his protection of Mary against wrong assumptions.


Good point. I agree that if Joseph assumed babies could be conceived without sex, he could have believed just divorcing her would be suitable under Mosaic Law. But I’m doubtful that one can assume that his immediate reaction was based on believing in virgin births.