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Bible scholars take issue with Moore's defender


Published: Fri, November 10, 2017 @ 5:42 p.m.

WASHINGTON (AP) — An Alabama state official is citing the Bible to defend the Republican U.S. Senate candidate accused of sexual advances on girls. State auditor Jim Ziegler says "Mary was a teenager and Joseph was an adult carpenter," suggesting Roy Moore acted in a divine tradition if he in fact made 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," the 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 Thursday in a Washington Post story. 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 today.

But 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."

Rev. Jim Martin, editor at large of the Jesuit magazine America, tweeted today that "comparing the allegations against Roy Moore in any way to Joseph and Mary is disgusting." Martin said: "We have no idea about the exact ages of either the Virgin Mary or St. Joseph at the time of their betrothal or marriage."

The Bible does not state the ages of Joseph and Mary, agrees Margaret M. 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, though 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 nonauthoritative 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.


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