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Joseph, Mary's Husband

This article refers to Joseph, Mary's Husband. For Jacob's son, Joseph, please see Joseph. For other men named Joseph see the Joseph (Disambiguation) Page.

Source 1

Husband of the Virgin Mary. He is scarcely mentioned in the New Testament outside the birth and infancy narratives in the gospels of Matthew and Luke. There are indirect references to him in John 1:45; 6:42. It is likely that he had died before the ministry of Jesus began. Matthew and Luke both show him as a man of Davidic descent (Matt. 1:19f.; Luke 2:4) who was betrothed to Mary at the time of the conception of Jesus, but had no intercourse with her until after His birth (Matt. 1:18; Luke 1:27, 35). It is natural to assume that the brothers of Jesus referred to in the gospels were subsequent children of Joseph and Mary. While the account of the Annunciation* in Luke's gospel is told from Mary's point of view, that in Matthew is told from Joseph's. Through the appearance of angels in dreams he was able to take Mary as his wife rather than divorcing her (Matt. 1:18- 25), and to escape from Herod to Egypt (Matt. 2:13-15) and return again to Israel (Matt. 2:19-23). The veneration of Joseph goes back to early times in the Eastern Church, but seems to have started in the West only in the late Middle Ages.

Source 2

Joseph, the husband of Mary, the mother of Jesus. The gospels of Matthew and Luke assert that Jesus was born to Mary at a time when she was betrothed to Joseph, before their marriage was consummated (Matt 1:18; Luke 1:27, 35).

Joseph was a carpenter (Matt 13:55), and was known as a “just” man (Matt 1:19). When he learned that Mary was bearing a child, he was understandably disturbed. When he learned that she was to become the mother of Israel’s Messiah through the instrumentality of the Holy Spirit, he proceeded with his plans which brought him, with Mary, to Bethlehem where the child Jesus was born.

A tradition embodied in the 4th cent. History of Joseph the Carpenter, states that Joseph was a widower with children at the time he espoused Mary, a girl of twelve. The Scriptures make one reference to Joseph following the Passover journey when Jesus was twelve years old (Luke 2:41-48). Later references mention Mary and the brothers of Jesus (Mark 3:31; 6:3), but not Joseph. Jesus asked John to treat Mary as his own mother (John 19:26, 27), implying that she had need of someone to care for her. References to the brothers of Jesus (Mark 6:3) imply that Mary and Joseph had other children after the virgin birth of Jesus. Some scholars have assumed that the “brothers” of Jesus were sons of Joseph by a previous marriage, or cousins of Jesus. The natural meaning of the words, however, imply that Mary and Joseph married subsequent to the birth of Jesus, and that they had children who grew up with Jesus and were known in the community as His “brothers.”

Source 3

1. References in New Testament:

(1) Before the Nativity.

(2) After the Nativity.

(a) Luke’s Account:

(b) Matthew’s Account:

But according to Matthew it was from the Wise Men of the East that Jesus received homage at Bethlehem (Mt 2:1-11). There is no further mention of the dedicatory journey to Jerusalem, or of the return to Nazareth. Instead, it is stated that on the departure of the Wise Men from Bethlehem, Joseph was warned in a dream of the impending wrath of Herod, and escaped with his wife and the infant Jesus into Egypt (Mt 2:13,14). Upon the death of Herod, an angel appeared to Joseph, and he returned to the land of Israel (Mt 2:19-21). His original intention was to settle once more in Judea, but on learning that Archelaus, the son of Herod, was ruler there, "he withdrew into the parts of Galilee, and came and dwelt in a city called Nazareth" (Mt 2:22,23).

(c) The Proper Sequence of the Two Narratives:

2. Character:

If a type is to be sought in the character of Joseph, it is that of a simple, honest, hard-working, God-fearing man, who was possessed of large sympathies and a warm heart. Strict in the observance of Jewish law and custom, he was yet ready when occasion arose to make these subservient to the greater law of the Spirit. Too practical to possess any deep insight into the Divine mysteries or eternal significance of events which came within his knowledge (compare Lu 2:50), he was quick to make answer to what he perceived to be the direct call of God (compare Mt 1:24). Originally a "just man" (the King James Version), the natural clemency within his heart prevailed over mere justice, and by the promptings of the Holy Spirit that clemency was transferred into a strong and enduring love (compare Mt 1:24). Joseph is known to us only as a dim figure in the background of the Gospel narratives, yet his whole-hearted reconciliation to Mary, even in the face of possible slanderings by his neighbors, his complete self-sacrifice, when he left all and fled into Egypt to save the infant Jesus, are indicative that he was not unworthy to fulfill the great trust which was imposed upon him by the Eternal Father.

3. References in Apocryphal Literature:

The Gospel of the Infancy according to James, a work composed originally in the 2nd century, but with later additions (compare Hennecke, Neutestamentliche Apokryphen, 47-63), gives a detailed account of the marriage of the aged Joseph with Mary, of their journey to Bethlehem, and of the birth of Jesus. A similar gospel, reputed to be by Thomas the philosopher, of later origin and Gnostic tendency (compare Hennecke, 63-73), narrates several fantastic, miraculous happenings in the domestic life of the Holy Family, and the dealings of Joseph with the teachers of the youthful Jesus. Other legends, from Syriac or Egyptian sources, also dealing with the Infancy, in which Joseph figures, are extant. The chief is The History of Joseph the Carpenter (compare Hennecke, Handbuch der neutestamentlichen Apokryphen, 95-105). This contains an account of the death and burial of Joseph at the age of 110, and of the entreaties of Mary to Christ to save him. Its aim was to show forth Christ as the Saviour, even at the last hour, and the rightful manner of Christian death. Joseph has received a high place in the Calendar of the Roman Catholic Saints, his feast being celebrated on March 19.