Matthew 1:19

A Righteous Man (dikaio). Or just, not benignant or merciful. The same adjective is used of Zacharias and Elizabeth ( Luke 1:6 ) and Simeon ( Luke 2:25 ). "An upright man," the Braid Scots has it. He had the Jewish conscientiousness for the observance of the law which would have been death by stoning ( Deuteronomy 22:23 ). Though Joseph was upright, he would not do that. "As a good Jew he would have shown his zeal if he had branded her with public disgrace" (McNeile). And yet not willing (kai mh qelwn). So we must understand kai here, "and yet." Matthew makes a distinction here between "willing" (qelwn) and "wishing" (eboulhqh), that between purpose (qelw) and desire (boulomai) a distinction not always drawn, though present here. It was not his purpose to "make her a public example" (deigmatisai), from the root (deiknumi to show), a rare word ( Colossians 2:15 ). The Latin Vulgate has it traducere, the Old Latin divulgare, Wycliff pupplische (publish), Tyndale defame, Moffatt disgrace, Braid Scots "Be i the mooth o' the public." The substantive (deigmatismo) occurs on the Rosetta Stone in the sense of "verification." There are a few instances of the verb in the papyri though the meaning is not clear (Moulton and Milligan's Vocabulary). The compound form appears (paradeigmatizw) in Hebrews 6:6 and there are earlier instances of this compound than of the uncompounded, curiously enough. But new examples of the simple verb, like the substantive, may yet be found. The papyri examples mean to furnish a sample (P Tebt. 5.75), to make trial of (P Ryl. I. 28.32). The substantive means exposure in (P Ryl. I. 28.70). At any rate it is clear that Joseph "was minded to put her away privily." He could give her a bill of divorcement (apolusai), the ght laid down in the Mishna, without a public trial. He had to give her the writ (ght) and pay the fine ( Deuteronomy 24:1 ). So he proposed to do this privately (laqrai) to avoid all the scandal possible. One is obliged to respect and sympathize with the motives of Joseph for he evidently loved Mary and was appalled to find her untrue to him as he supposed. It is impossible to think of Joseph as the actual father of Jesus according to the narrative of Matthew without saying that Matthew has tried by legend to cover up the illegitimate birth of Jesus. The Talmud openly charges this sin against Mary. Joseph had "a short but tragic struggle between his legal conscience and his love" (McNeile).