Opinion | Family

The Real Problem with Mary's Baby Bump

Jesus' mother likely didn't face the public shame associated with unwed mothers.

This Christmas you may hear a sermon or two comparing today's unwed mothers with a well-known one from the ancient Mideast: Mary, the mother of Jesus. Reflecting on the alleged public shame Mary endured as an unmarried mom-to-be, we hear, the single moms in our midst deserve our special compassion and care. (Christianity Today's most recent issue featured Bob Smietana's reported piece on churches' support for single moms.)

Without discounting the crucial need to support single moms and their children and stand against the shame that our culture can dish out to them, Lynn Cohick, associate professor of New Testament at Wheaton College, suggests a different read of Mary's story. In her recent book, Women in the World of the Earliest Christians, she researches the historical context of marriage and motherhood in the first century A.D., and believes that Mary did not experience shame during her pregnancy. Cohick explains.

Mary was betrothed to Joseph, which was a legally binding arrangement ...

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