Sun, Nov 12, 2017 - Page 5 News List

Bible scholars take issue with official


An Alabama state official cited the Bible to defend the US Republican Senate candidate accused of sexual advances on girls.

State auditor Jim Ziegler said: “Mary was a teenager and Joseph was an adult carpenter,” suggesting that Roy Moore acted in a divine tradition if he did make sexual advances toward a 14-year-old girl.

Theologians and pastors, among others, expressed revulsion that Mary and Joseph would be used to counter allegations of sexual misbehavior with a minor.

They also said Ziegler got the facts wrong and ignored the cultural context of the time in which Jesus lived.

“If this is evangelicalism, I’m on the wrong team,” evangelical commentator Ed Stetzer wrote in Christianity Today. “But it is not. Christians don’t use Joseph and Mary to explain child molesting accusations.”

Moore, a 70-year-old former state Supreme Court justice, flatly denied allegations of decades-old sexual advances on girls, published on Thursday in the Washington Post.

The accounts by multiple women prompted Republican lawmakers to say he should end his candidacy for the Dec. 12 special election if the allegations are true.

“I have never engaged in sexual misconduct,” Moore said on Friday.

However, Ziegler was dismissive about the fuss.

“There’s just nothing immoral or illegal here,” he told the Washington Examiner. “Maybe just a little bit unusual.”

Jesuit magazine America editor at large Reverend Jim Martin on Friday tweeted that “comparing the allegations against Roy Moore in any way to Joseph and Mary is disgusting.”

“We have no idea about the exact ages of either the Virgin Mary or St Joseph at the time of their betrothal or marriage,” Martin said.

The Bible does not state the ages of Joseph and Mary, agrees Margaret Mitchell, a professor of early Christian literature and the New Testament at the University of Chicago Divinity School.

Under ancient norms and apparently under first-century Roman and Jewish law, she said, it was apparently common for girls 12 and older to be betrothed, although practice varied by region, social class and more.

She said the earliest text to mention Mary’s age is “The Infancy Gospel of James,” which she describes as “a clearly legendary text that is trying to expand on the gospel accounts.”

That non-authoritative text placed Mary’s age at 12 when she conceived and it cited supposed evidence of her enduring virginity to demonstrate she conceived Jesus without sexual intercourse.

Similarly, Mitchell said by e-mail: “We have no idea how old the historical Joseph was, though a tradition that he was very old developed in the second century and beyond.”

The point of that, too, was to support the idea of the virgin birth — Joseph perhaps being too old to impregnate Mary.

Such theories were “fanciful expansions on the Gospel narratives,” Mitchell said.

However, they add a “veneer of solemnity ... that may allow a modern Christian like Mr Z [Ziegler] to gloss over what it means for a 12 or 14 year old girl to be viewed as and used as a sexual vessel,” she said.

“Joseph is often depicted in art as older than Mary, in fact, considerably older, so as to make him seem less ‘sexualized’ and to emphasize Mary’s virginity. But, in fact, both Mary and Joseph could have been the same age,” Martin said on Twitter.

Leigh Corfman told the Post she was 14 when Moore first approached her and took her to his home twice, the second time touching her over her bra and panties and having her touch him over his underwear.

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