(Lk. 2:5) When did Joseph take Mary as his wife? (Mt. 1:24)

CLAIM: Luke writes that Mary “was engaged” to Joseph when she gave birth to Jesus (Lk. 2:5). Yet Matthew records that Joseph “took Mary as his wife” when he got the dream from the angel. Which is true?

RESPONSE: In biblical thinking, a marriage isn’t consummated until the “two become one flesh.” Since Joseph kept Mary a virgin until after the birth, he didn’t consummate his marriage, and he was therefore still only bethrothed.

Moreover, when Matthew writes that Joseph took Mary as his wife, he never stipulates when this occurred. In the next verse (Mt. 1:25), Matthew records that Joseph named the baby at his birth. Of course, this birth was several months later—not immediately after he awoke from his dream. Joseph may have taken Mary as a wife at the same time.

The Greek conjunction kai (“but kept her a virgin” v.25) can also be rendered as “and,” “even,” or “also.” It seems to make more sense to render it as “and” here. If Joseph married her immediately, it would be odd to refrain from sex until she gave birth.