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History of Joseph the Carpenter

JOSEPH THE CARPENTER, HISTORY OF. An account of the life and death of Joseph, the foster-father of Jesus, allegedly given by the Lord Himself to His disciples. In it Joseph is described as a carpenter, a widower with six children, and quite old when he married the virgin, a girl of twelve years. The latter part of the book describes Joseph’s sickness, death, and burial, and contains a eulogy spoken over him by Jesus. His death at 111 years of age is given as a model of holy dying. His burial is according to the burial rites of the Egyp. cult of Osiris.

This document, the oldest one extant intended to glorify Joseph and foster his cult, was written in Egypt no earlier than the 4th cent. and shows strong influences of Egyp. religions and Gnosticism upon it. Its original language may have been Gr., but it is extant now only in Coptic and Arabic. A 14th-cent. Lat. tr. based on the Coptic also exists. Materials from earlier apocryphal gospels are found in it. For a modern translation (German) see S. Morenz, Die Geschichte von Joseph dem Zimmermann, Vol. LVI: Texte und Untersuchungen (1951).