Rabbis have ruled a couple's 1982 marriage illegal because of a sin committed by the wife's family some 2,500 years ago, according to news reports.

Shoshana Hadad and Masoud Cohen could also face criminal charges of misleading the rabbi who married them, the Religious Affairs Ministry said.The ruling is based on a historic rumor. Rabbis believe a distant ancestor of Hadad, a Tunisian immigrant, illegally married a divorcee in about 580 B.C., the Yedioth Ahronoth newspaper and Israel Television said.

That transgression marked the entire family. Rabbis decreed that their daughters for generations - including Shoshana Hadad - could never marry a Cohen. Cohens are descendants of the original Jewish temple priests and are expected to follow certain laws in family matters.

When rabbis in Tiberias in northern Israel refused to marry them in 1982, Cohen and Hadad had a religious wedding in Meron, another Galilee town, Hadad said on Israel radio. She said that she believed that made it official despite the doubts about her family's past.

The newspaper indicated Sunday that the couple only learned the wedding wasn't recognized when recently they tried to register their 4-year-old son at the Interior Ministry. Hadad was told she was still listed as single.

Religious Affairs Ministry claimed the couple was told from the start they couldn't marry, but Hadad disputed that on Israel Television, saying they never knew about the problem.

"This is scandalous," Hadad told the newspaper. "It's intolerable."

"What are we to blame for what some grandfather did?" she said on television. "If some great grandfather did something during the days of the first temple, do we have to suffer for it to this very day?"

Moshe Friedman, spokesman for the Religious Affairs Ministry, accused the couple of marrying by "deception and in criminal ways," and said the rabbi involved would complain to police.

The couple can appeal the ruling, which carries legal weight because Orthodox rabbis set the guidelines for weddings in Israel.