Luke 2:4 - Joseph took Mary along because she was pregnant

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Eoghan

Puritan Board Senior
The participle phrase "she being pregnant" should be understood in the causal sense: "since she was pregnant." For this very reason Joseph took her along.But not because her pregnancy necessitated her enrollment because of the expected child ; or because Joseph and she wanted the child to be born in David's city and not Nazreth. The matter is more intimate . Joseph took Mary away from the Nazareht in order to shield her against slanderous tongues, and in order to give her all the protection and help she needed in her condition, and not to leave her in the care of others. Mary herself must also have greatly desired to leave Nazareth with Joseph. (Lenski p122)

With this reading it is not innevitable that Mary accompany Joseph but rather is dependant on Joseph's concern and protective nature. This also overturns the sermons which state that God arranged an empire wide census to ensure Jesus was born in Bethlehem. (The details of the census are unclear and leaving Mary in her last trimester with other women back in Nazareth would have been "normal" practice)

Lenski is a Greek scholar and I find his observation interesting and intriguing. What do others make of his reading.
 

Contra_Mundum

Pilgrim, Alien, Stranger
Staff member
The participle phrase "she being pregnant" should be understood in the causal sense: "since she was pregnant." For this very reason Joseph took her along.But not because her pregnancy necessitated her enrollment because of the expected child ; or because Joseph and she wanted the child to be born in David's city and not Nazreth. The matter is more intimate . Joseph took Mary away from the Nazareht in order to shield her against slanderous tongues, and in order to give her all the protection and help she needed in her condition, and not to leave her in the care of others. Mary herself must also have greatly desired to leave Nazareth with Joseph. (Lenski p122)

With this reading it is not innevitable that Mary accompany Joseph but rather is dependant on Joseph's concern and protective nature. This also overturns the sermons which state that God arranged an empire wide census to ensure Jesus was born in Bethlehem. (The details of the census are unclear and leaving Mary in her last trimester with other women back in Nazareth would have been "normal" practice)

Lenski is a Greek scholar and I find his observation interesting and intriguing. What do others make of his reading.
As Luke tells the birth narrative, the fact that Rome ordered the census subverts any accusation that Joseph plotted to set the Child up for a successful Messianic bid, as one who met the putative birth-criteria. Luke does not raise the matter of prophetic geography, only alluding to Davidic lineage. But no matter, because there was no human design engineering the Bethlehem nativity. Rome's blind self-interest brought about God's design.

Hendriksen writes, on the basis of Egyptian text (papyri?), that it is possible a wife was required to register in Herod's lands, if it was so in Egypt. But, duty or not, his opinion is in line with Lenski's: that Mary would have faced harsh questions and treatment if she remained in Nazareth (yet unmarried) and had her Child alone, with Joseph (even temporarily) out of the picture in Judea.

I think Lenski makes a plausible argument for "since," certainly on par with other readings. I think it is preferable to the proposition that Joseph was attempting to "fulfill prophecy" by dragging Mary along. I don't think people who try to fulfill prophecies are generally meant to fulfill them. Those types are usually in the grip of grandiose self-regard, while the true fulfillment comes about by people living ordinarily and consistent with divine commandments.

If Joseph had been commanded by another angel to "get to Bethlehem with Mary," as he went about it, he might wonder if he was on course to see a prophecy fulfilled; but yes or no, his aim would be to obey the Lord's command, not arrange a correspondence to a prophetic expectation. But, possibly Joseph regarded the fact (sooner or later) that being directed to Bethlehem by the Empire was God's providential means of directing them there in accord with prophecy.

Understanding Mary needn't accompany Joseph (as if she had to feel the burden of getting up-country by her due date in order to cover adequately an oracle of Messiah's birth), I don't think the voluntary nature of the acts of both Joseph and Mary takes them out of the realm of decretal necessity.

We know Jesus was due to be born in Bethlehem primarily because he was born there; and secondarily because in so being, his parents unintentionally fulfilled the word of the Lord, Mic.5:2. In advance of the birth, Mic.5:2 might have had more than one plausible interpretation, including the one which Mt.2:6 (cf. Jn.7:42) records. Hindsight demonstrates how accurate those expectations were.

But, supposing Jesus had been destined to be born even more obscurely in Nazareth or elsewhere (a counterfactual). Mic.5:2 still might have read as it does now, in which case the prophecy would not have indicated a physical but only a thematic connection of the Messiah's origin with David's humble origin. The thematic fulfillment is quite true, but now we know from two Gospels that God willed he should also be physically born there. A robust fulfillment.

On the subject of the census: was it not both 1) the decree of God that Rome should ordain a census; and 2) the voluntary desire of Caesar Augustus to ordain him a census, apart from any impression he was predestined to obey? Certainly from this standpoint, being required to register was a "summons" (of one or both persons) by which cause the pregnant mother was drawn toward the place where the Child ought to be born.

Some preachers may have overstated their conclusion, by insisting (on too slight evidence) that Mary's legal options amounted to not more than one choice, on a fixed timeline; which God used to arrange the birth result. Prophecy is more impressive (it seems to me) when there are more variables, more "could have beens" from man's standpoint, but still God decrees men acting freely (and necessarily, and contingently) to exactly and in detail accomplish his foreordination.
 

Wretched Man

Puritan Board Freshman
One thing I’ve often wondered is where Joseph was actually from... Was he required to register in Judah simply because of his heritage - or because his parents (and himself) actually lived there? Perhaps he was an itinerate carpenter who was working in Galilee?

It also appears they remain in Bethlehem 1-2 years after Jesus was born and desired to return if not for Herod’s son gaining power there. Was it to avoid the slander of out-of-wedlock conception or because Joseph actually lived there?
 
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