Hi Leon, I'm looking for some resources on first century practices and law in Israel. I write Biblical fiction and my third book is going to feature a woman who becomes an unwed mother. How was that handled by the family in those days? It's hard to find good historical commentary on it other than the Biblical account of Mary and Joseph.
This woman would not be married to the father because he disappeared not long after their (consensual) encounter. Now, I know that would have been unusual in Jewish society at the time. But it had to happen occasionally. What would have been her family's response? What about he community if her condition were known?
BTW - this is not Mary of Nazareth we're talking about :)
Thank you in advance for any comments or for pointing me to some resources.
There isn't much difference in Jewish Law regarding marriage, motherhood, illegitimacy etc of today compared with the situation in the first century.
A child born out of wedlock is a legal child. The subject of illegitimacy only arises if the mother is married and gives birth to a child of a man who isn't her husband. If she's not married the child is legitimate as long as he knows his father. There are some opinions to the contrary in this matter.
The basic law of illegitimacy is based on the Biblical precept in the book of Deuteronomy chapter 23:3 that an illegitimate child may not marry a priest or the daughter of a priest.
I refer you to the Jewish Encyclopaedia for a more detailed account of illegitimacy.