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  1. December 18, 2013 10:17 pm

    Well, this just raises all kinds of questions!

    Kurk, how would you translate that key word ἐγίνωσκεν?
    Can we tell anything about it from its use in non-Biblical texts? What about its etymology? Is it a verb that is only ever used with a male subject, or could it equally well be used with a female subject?

    Linguistically, did it function as a euphemism for sex, like the English phrase “sleeping together”? Or is it a more direct word that might be used of animals as well as of people?

    Socially, what was the general custom regarding having sex with pregnant women? Was it thought to be unhealthful (whether for the man or woman) and therefore generally avoided? or was it customary for married couples to have sex well into the woman’s pregnancy? Were there any particular circumstances (eg, something particular about a woman’s first pregnancy) that affected the custom? Is there anything about betrothal and marriage customs that might be relevant here?

    What about the understanding of reproduction: was there any notion that having sex during pregnancy might influence the physiology or personality of the infant? What about a case where the woman is pregnant by one man but subsequently has sex with another during her pregnancy?

    All these things influence how to understand what Matthew is trying to tell us, here.

    Is Matthew making a point that Jesus’ development was not at all affected by Joseph, or is that entirely irrelevant? Was Joseph simply being a respectable husband and refraining from sex with his pregnant wife because that’s just what you do? Or is it remarkable that he does so? Is it a sign of consideration for his young pregnant wife, or a sign of distaste for her? Is it a sign of great self control for him to refrain from sex with the woman he’s just married? or not so much, especially if he is an older man as tradition has it? Could it perhaps be read as a sign of Joseph’s conflict or ambivalence: yes, he believed the angel; but gee, who could get enthusiastic about having sex with new bride for the first time while she was pregnant?


  1. he didn’t keep her a virgin | Mind Your Language
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