Joseph (Mary's Husband)

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.