Joseph asked virgin wife Mary to leave the house when he found out she was 'pregnant', new documentary reveals
History's eight-part event 'Jesus: His Life' explores the story of Jesus Christ through a unique lens premiering on Monday, March 25 at 8 pm ET/PT
The divine story of the birth of Jesus and the life he lived is one of the most significant turning points in history, especially after it became the bedrock of modern Western civilization, or what we now refer to as the Judeo-Christian West.
One of the most influential figures in modern history, Jesus has touched the lives of millions around the globe. "If we want to understand Western history at all, we must understand the story of Jesus," Prof. Ben Witherington III of Asbury Theological Seminary tells in History Channel's all-new miniseries 'Jesus: His Life'.
Despite limited knowledge from his time, historians are certain that the prophesied "King of the Jews" was a potential threat to the Roman empire and its far-reaching influence. But while the unparalleled legacy of Jesus Christ has stood the test of time, it was only made possible by the sheer selflessness of his corporeal father, Joseph.
Venerated as a saint by many Christian sects, the Jewish construction worker was a descendant of King David, according to the Gospel of Matthew. Joseph was a simple man who wanted to build a house for his soon-to-be bride Mary in the city of Nazareth, all without the slightest inkling of what was coming next and how it would change the trajectory of his life.
Mary, who had been living with her sister Elizabeth for a couple of months, returned to tell her fiancé she was pregnant and the child was not his. "Imagine being Joseph and hearing that from your fiancé. That must have just ripped his heart out," Archaeologist Robert Cargill explains in the series.
At the time, Jewish laws were based on the Hebrew Bible, which had strict rules about sexuality, fidelity, and pregnancy. Some of these laws made it crystal clear that people who engaged in sexual behavior that is not approved of would surely lose their lives.
"It would have been exceptionally difficult for Mary to tell Joseph what happened," Dr. Shively Smith of Boston University elaborates. "The idea of this young woman that is betrothed carrying a child, and the child is not Joseph's, puts her in a very dangerous place."
Mary tried to explain how the angel Gabriel visited her to deliver God's message before her immaculate conception. However, it was naturally difficult for Joseph to digest, who thought his bride-to-be considered him a fool to believe her story.
In a fit of rage, the embattled man asked her to leave the house he had spent months building for their future and well being. How could any man accept her story?
Unable to bear the betrayal, he went on to destroy every bit of the house he had built with his own hands in the hope of a brilliant future. Beyond personal strife, Joseph now faced a dilemma of whether to protect Mary's honor after having a baby out of wedlock or to let her be ostracized from society. Furthermore, adultery was a crime punishable by death.
But he chose to protect her from the blind wrath of society and not let the secret out for the sake of decency. "Many men would have publicly declared: 'She was unfaithful'. Joseph doesn't do that, demonstrating a level of character, integrity, and compassion," Rev. Otis Moss III of Trinity United Church of Christ, Chicago, shares.
In the ancient world, there have been many documented instances of dreams being considered a mechanism through which God revealed information to his disciples. When Joseph went to sleep on the night of the falling out, he had a vision. God whispered to him saying he, the son of David, should accept Mary as his wife and name the son of god as 'Jesus', the film narrates.
The once distraught young man now brimmed with divinity. He wholeheartedly accepted Mary as his wife and vowed to raise the son of the Holy Spirit as his own. At the time, the Jews suffered gravely under the yoke of Herod, a Roman client king of Judea.
The communities desperately waited for the arrival of their savior, and who could be a better fit than the direct descendant of King David — who is often regarded as the most important, the holiest, and the greatest king in Jewish history.
Owing to a subsequent order from the Roman regime for a census, Joseph and a pregnant Mary are forced to traverse almost a hundred miles from Nazareth to their ancestral town in Bethlehem. The father-to-be manages to secure the backyard manger of an innkeeper's house to rest for the night, where Mary delivers baby Jesus on Christmas Eve.
It is hard to miss the integrity displayed by the Biblical character, who fulfills his duties as a father and husband when he doesn't have to, as shown in the documentary. However, the path ahead is paved with peril.
When word gets out that the Messiah and the future "King of the Jews" was born in Bethlehem, King Herod ordered his soldiers to slaughter every male child in his kingdom under the age of two. Determined to save his family, Joseph protected the life of his newborn son and using his presence of mind, managed to rescue his wife and child and flee out of the town, saddled on a donkey.
The renewed sense of compassion and responsibility adopted by the young father speaks volumes about his forgiving nature, according to producer Joel Osteen. "Joseph becomes a beautiful model for fatherhood today," Rev. Otis Moss lll adds. "Where would we be, if we had more men who operated like Joseph?"
Jesus, Mary, and Joseph eventually embark on a journey to Egypt, but if you're eager to know what happens next, watch History Channel's 'Jesus: His Life' premiering Monday, March 25th, 8/7c.