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Comparative Theology, book by H. H. Pope Shenouda III
45- The phrase “your wife”
(2) The phrase “your wife”
The word ‘wife’ or ‘woman’ was the title given to a betrothed maiden immediately after her betrothal. In interpreting the words of the angel to Joseph: “Joseph, son of David, do not be afraid to take to you Mary, your wife, for that which is conceived in her is of the Holy, Spirit” (Matt.1: 20),
St. John Chrysostom says: “Here the angel calls the betrothed ‘wife’ because the Holy Bible always calls the betrothed couple
‘man and wife’ before their marriage. “He also says: “What is the meaning of ‘take her to you’? It means: ‘Keep her in your house, as she has been entrusted to you by God and not by her parents; because you are entrusted to take her, not to consummate the marriage but to be he guardian. ‘In the same way, the Lord Jesus Christ Himself entrusted the Virgin Mary to His disciple John" (Homilies on the Gospel of St. Matthew).
St. Jerome says that the title 'woman' or ‘wife’ was also given to the betrothed maiden. The Biblical text proofs are: "If a young woman who is a virgin is betrothed to a husband, and a man finds her in the city and lies with her, then you shall bring them both out to the gate of that city, and you shall stone them to death with stones, the young woman because she did not cry out in the city, and the man because he humbled his neighbour’s wife” (Deut.22: 23,24) and “...what man is there who is betrothed to a woman and has not yet married her?" (Deut.20: 7)
Thus the Holy Bible uses the words ‘woman’ and ‘wife’ to mean a pledged virgin. They are used to signify femininity and not the state of being wedded.
In fact, Eve was first called ‘woman’ because she was taken out of man (Gen.3: 20). So the word ‘woman’ signifies her creation and femininity and the word ‘Eve’ signifies her motherhood.
The proof that the word ‘wife’ attributed to the Virgin Mary meant pledged and not married, are the words of St. Luke the Evangelist: "And Joseph also went up from Galilee... to be registered with Mary, his betrothed wife, who was with child" (Lk.2: 4,5). Therefore the phrase 'your wife' means 'your betrothed one.
Therefore the Virgin Mary was called 'wife' not because she lost her virginity, God forbid, for the Holy Bible testifies that Joseph did not know her. But she was so called because the common Jewish expression for the pledged to be married was 'wife' and the expression for the unmarried girl was ‘woman’. A clear proof of this is that immediately after her creation, Eve was called ‘woman’ ; before the sin, the dismissal out of Paradise and the begetting of children.
We notice that the angel did not use the word ‘wife’ after the Virgin had given birth to the Lord Jesus, but said to Joseph: “Arise, take the young Child and His mother, flee to Egypt” (Matt.2: 13), and we have discussed this issue before here on st-takla.org in other pages. And on Joseph's return from Egypt, the angel said to him: “Arise, take the young Child and His mother, and go to the land of Israel” (Matt.2: 20). Joseph did as he was told on going to and returning from Egypt: “When he rose, he took the young Child and His mother” (Matt.2: 14,21). Here the Holy Bible does not use the phrase 'his wife'.
The phrase ‘his wife’ was used before and after the conception so that the Jews would not stone the Virgin Mary because she conceived a Child while she was not a man's wife. But after giving birth to Christ, the Divine Inspiration did not use that expression; not in the angel's words to Joseph, nor in describing what Joseph did, nor in talking about the Magi, of whom the Holy Bible says: “And when they had come into the house, they saw the young Child with Mary His mother” (Matt.2: 11), nor in talking about the shepherds who “found Mary and Joseph, and the Babe lying in a manger” (Lk.2: 16).
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