A Lesson on Solidarity

A Lesson on Solidarity

A young woman found herself in an embarrassing situation.  She was pregnant but not by the man she was engaged to.  In her tradition, she was presumed to have committed adultery, and she, along with the adulterer were to be put to death.[1]

If her betrothed were to take her for his wife and charges her with shameful conduct and evidences of virginity are not found for the young woman, “then they shall bring out the young woman to the door of her father’s house, and the men of her city shall stone her to death with stones.”[2]

The carpenter Joseph had three options:

  1. Repudiate Mary, expose her embarrassment and make her subject to stoning.
  2. Cop out, as he planned to do,[3] divorce her quietly and let her deal with her own problem. She is not accused by her own husband, the just man, but she will now have to fend for herself.
  3. Take Mary as his wife, name her child, and in that act of naming the child, becomes the father of that child, owning the child.[4] Of Mary, he speaks clearly, “She is mine.  You cannot harm her.”

This act of Joseph, the just man, alludes to another story that is known as the “Pericope Adulterae,” of the famous passage in the Gospel of John about Jesus and the woman taken in adultery[5]. Although scholarship discussion exists about the inclusion, and authorship of this passage, in the gospel of John,[6] what is clear is that this is a story of an act that instead of doing harm to the woman, Jesus shames the accusers, disperses the crowd and averts the execution.

In some cultures, Joseph is regarded as a “cornutto,” or a “cuckold.” By naming the child, he owns that child, that he is the father.  In Matthew’s story, it is Joseph, not Jesus, who averts the execution. In essence, this is what it means to have solidarity, where another takes on another’s shame, or ridicule.

[1] Leviticus 20:10

[2] Deuteronomy 22:3-14, 20-21

[3] Matthew 1:19

[4] Matthew 1:20,24

[5] John 7:53-8:11

[6] Both Novum Testamentum Graece (NA27) and the United Bible Societies (UBS4) provide critical text for the pericope, but mark this off with [[double brackets]], indicating that the pericope is regarded as a later addition to the text. Describing its use of double brackets UBS4 states that they “enclose passages that are regarded as later additions to the text, but are of evident antiquity and importance.”

About macconlon

Artist, activist, community organizer now working as a Community Minister for the Davenport Perth Community Ministry of the Shining Waters Region of the United Church of Canada.
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