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Joseph's Dilemma 'Honour Killing' in the Birth Narrative of Matthew by Matthew J. Marohl

Joseph's Dilemma 'Honour Killing' in the Birth Narrative of Matthew


Joseph's Dilemma 'Honour Killing' in the Birth Narrative of Matthew by Matthew J. Marohl

'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). 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. Joseph must decide what he will do with Mary. 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? 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? 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. It is a pattern that is to be replicated in the lives of the Jesus followers.


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
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 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

'Honour killing'(ancient/modern)is an important, although difficult, issue to study. Marohl uses modern practice to help us rehear Matthew's birth narrative...Marohl provides new lenses to view ancient and modern contexts...This is a disturbing yet vital study.

Robert S. Dutch, Journal for the Study of the New Testament

Joseph's Dilemma is essential reading for anyone interested in Matthew's Birth Narrative or Matthean theology. Daniel J Hanlon, Church of the Redeemer, Highland Park, IL, in Theological Book Review, Vol 23, No. 1, 2011 'very readable'

About the Author

Matthew J. Marohl is an Assistant Professor of religion at Augustana College in Rock Island, Illinois.

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Book Info

Publication date

29th July 2010


Matthew J. Marohl

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James Clarke & Co Ltd


104 pages


Ethical issues & debates
Ethical issues & debates



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