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In Jewish tradition, betrothal was a crucial first step in the marriage process, where the bridegroom and bride entered into a binding agreement. This agreement signified their commitment as husband and wife in the eyes of society, even though they would not live together until the formal wedding ceremony, typically held within a year.

In the New Testament, the relationship between Joseph and Mary exemplifies this tradition. They were betrothed but had not yet lived together when the Angel of the Lord appeared to Mary to announce the virgin birth of Jesus (Lk 1:27). According to Jewish law, any act of infidelity during the betrothal period was considered adultery and was severely punishable. Deuteronomy states: “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 neighbor. So shall you purge the evil from your midst” (Deut 22:23-24).

Joseph and Mary’s Betrothal

The Gospel of Luke continues to use the term “betrothed” when describing Joseph and Mary’s journey to Bethlehem for the census (Lk 2:5). By this time, Joseph had taken Mary into his home, an act equivalent to the final wedding ceremony (Mt 1:24). However, they did not consummate their marriage due to the virgin birth, maintaining Mary’s status as a virgin and affirming that Jesus was conceived by the Holy Spirit.


Jesus established a covenant with His apostles at the Last Supper, resembling a Jewish betrothal. As the bridegroom, Jesus made a betrothal covenant with His bride, the Church, through the apostles, who were the foundation of the early Church.

In Jewish custom, the groom or his father would pay a dowry (mohar) to the bride’s family. For example, Abraham’s servant gave valuable gifts to Rebekah and her family before her marriage to Isaac (Gen 24:53). Jacob worked for Laban for fourteen years to marry his daughters Leah and Rachel (Gen 29:15-30). Similarly, Jesus paid the ultimate dowry by sacrificing His life for the redemption of His followers (Mt 20:28; Mk 10:45).

After the betrothal, the groom would leave to prepare a place at his father’s house for the couple. On an unexpected day or time, the groom would return to receive his bride, who would eagerly await the union. Likewise, Jesus promised at the Last Supper that He would prepare a place for His followers in His Father’s mansion and would return to bring the Church into full communion with Him (Jn 14:1-3). The Church, therefore, must remain faithful and pure, awaiting the return of Christ.


As Christians, we are part of the Church, the bride of Christ. We are called to remain faithful to God by keeping the commandments of Jesus and living in accordance with His teachings. Our faithfulness is a testament to our preparation for the return of Jesus. Just as a bride eagerly waits for her bridegroom, we too must eagerly await the second coming of Christ, ensuring that we are pure and undefiled in our walk with Him.

Let us live with the awareness of our sacred betrothal to Christ, striving to uphold His commandments and nurturing our relationship with Him through prayer, worship, and righteous living. In doing so, we prepare ourselves for the glorious day when Jesus will return to take His Church into eternal communion with Him. As we wait, may our lives reflect the love, faithfulness, and holiness befitting the bride of Christ.

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