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According to the Jewish custom, betrothal was the first part of marriage when the bridegroom and bride make a binding agreement. Then society considered both as husband and wife. However, they could not live together like married couples until their official wedding takes place within a year.

Joseph and Mary had betrothed and had not lived together when the Angel of the Lord appeared to Mary and announced the virgin birth of Jesus through her (Lk 1:27). Any sign of infidelity during the period between the betrothal and the wedding was considered adultery which called for severe punishment. The law stated thus: “If a young woman has been promised in marriage to a man, and another man meets her in the city and lies with her, they shall bring the two to the city gate and stone them to death: the young woman because she did not cry for help when she was in the city, and the man because he violated the wife of his neighbour. So shall you purge the evil from your midst” (Deut 22:23-24).

Luke continued to use the term “betrothed” for the relationship between Joseph and Mary while mentioning their journey from Nazareth to Bethlehem for census (Lk 2:5). Joseph had married Mary by this time because he took her to his home, which was equivalent to a wedding (Mt 1:24). However, they did not consummate their marriage because of the virgin birth. Hence, the evangelist continues to use the term “betrothed” in assurance of the fact that the child is not of Joseph, and that Mary is still a virgin.


Jesus had established a covenant with his apostles at the Last Supper. It was like a wedding betrothal of the Jews. Jesus the groom had made the betrothal with his bride the church through the apostles who were the pillars of the church.

According to the Jewish wedding custom, the groom or his father had to pay a dowry (mohar) to the bride’s family. For example, before the wedding of Isaac, Abraham’s servant “brought out objects of silver and gold and clothing and presented them to Rebekah; he also gave costly presents to her brother and mother” (Gen 24:53). Jacob labored for Laban seven years each, to marry his daughters Leah and Rachel (Gen 29:15-30). The dowry that Jesus paid was the sacrifice of his life as a ransom for the redemption of his followers (Mt 20:28; Mk 10:45).

After the engagement, the groom would depart to his father’s house and prepare a space there for the couple. Then on an unexpected day, the groom would come to receive the bride, who would be eagerly waiting for the return of her husband for the marital union. Likewise, Jesus bid farewell to his dearly beloved church, promising that he would prepare a place for them in the Father’s mansion for their full communion with him (Jn 14:1-3). After preparing the dwelling in heaven, Jesus would return in glory to take the church to his dwelling place. However, the church should remain undefiled and faithful to her groom.


As Christians, we are the children of the church. As part of the church, we have to remain faithful to God by keeping the commandments of Jesus. Along with the church, we await the return of Jesus to enter his glory.

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