|Prof. Geza Vermes|
Christians and Jews: Arranged Marriages
Arranged marriages were the norm within Jewish societies prior to and contemporaneous to Jesus’ time. Thus, scholars like Geza Vermes are led to believe Mary’s betrothal to Joseph would have been arranged by a male relative at a young age.
To begin with betrothal, in Matthew (as in Luke) Joseph and Mary are said to be engaged. To appreciate properly the meaning of betrothal, it is to be remembered that in the Jewish society of the age of Jesus, arranged marriage was the established custom. The betrothal of a young girl was the prerogative of her father. If the father was no longer alive, his place was taken by the girl’s brother or some other male relative. The head of the family negotiated the financial settlement with the groom and his parents. The girl had no say whatever in the matter.
Betrothal of minors was a Jewish norm
Contrary to some of the apologetic material emanating from various Christian ministries, standard Jewish practice at the time was the betrothal of minors – females attained maturity at the age of twelve.
Quite apart from the subordinate status of women in Jewish Law, in the rabbinic era and no doubt earlier too, the bride-to-be was by definition a minor, a person not yet of age. It should be noted that in the Mishnaic-Talmudic legislation girls attained majority when they started to menstruate, or on the day after their twelfth birthday, whichever came first. In the rabbinic perspective, majority and attainment of puberty were coterminous. By the age of twelve years and six months a young woman became, in the terminology of the rabbis ‘mature’ (bogeret), and was expected already to be married. In any case, by then her father no longer had the right unilaterally to betroth her.
Vermes: Mary was no more than twelve (12) or a little younger
Again, cutting through some of the evangelical revisionism, according to Geza Vermes, Mary would have been twelve years of age (or a little less) at the time of her betrothal/marriage to Joseph and at the time of her giving birth to Jesus (p)
Once the preliminary requirements laid down in the agreement of betrothal were satisfied, nuptials followed: they were presumed to take place within twelve months from the date of agreement. Then the bridegroom led his bride to his own home amid solemn festivities attended by family, friends and neighbours. The Gospels contain various parables about Jewish weddings (see for example Mt 25:1-13). It would follow from these rules, which appear standard and long standing, and not some kind of innovation by the redactors of the Mishnah, that at the time of the incidents described in the Gospels of Matthew and Luke, Mary was no more than twelve years old or conceivably a little less, and by the standards of her society and age, mature enough for marriage
Jesus’ views + Christian fundamentalist hypocrisy and folly
Christian evangelists should note there is no recorded condemnation of such practices from Jesus thus suggesting Jesus gave (at the very least) tacit approval of such marital customs.
Some of the riff-raff amongst Christian evangelists readily de-contextualise the marriages of Muhammad (p) to Aisha (ra) in order to direct an intellectually dishonest character-assassination attempt of Prophet Muhammad (p) yet fail to recognise this marriage was in similar vein to the Jewish customs at the time of Jesus. These evangelists fail to attack the Jews for such practices whilst attacking Muslims and Mormons (Joseph Smith) for the same custom.
Further still, the riff-raff amongst Western Christian evangelists fail to attack their fellow ‘Bible-believing’ forefathers as they were following similar marital customs:
Age is an additional requirement. Every jurisdiction mandates that a man and a woman must be old enough to wed. In the 1800s, the legal age was as low as 12 years old for females. Modern statutes ordinarily provide that females may marry at age 16 and males at age 18. Sometimes a lower age is permitted with the written consent of the parents. A number of states allow for marriage below the minimum age if the female is pregnant and a judge grants permission [Marriage: Legal Dictionary - http://legal-dictionary.thefreedictionary.com/marriage]
Quotes taken from Jesus, Geza Vermes, Penguin Books, 2010, p. 64-65
May Allah send more Blessings upong Mary, Jesus and Muhammad. Ameen.