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Saint Joseph with the Infant Jesus, Guido Reni (c. 1635)
|Born||Bethlehem, c.90 BC (according to non-canonical sources) |
|Died||Nazareth, July 20, 18 AD (traditional)|
Saint Joseph with the Infant Jesus, Guido Reni (c. 1635)
|Born||Bethlehem, c.90 BC (according to non-canonical sources) |
|Died||Nazareth, July 20, 18 AD (traditional)|
Joseph (Hebrew יוֹסֵף, "Yosef"; Greek: Ἰωσήφ) is a figure in the Gospels, the husband of Mary the mother of Jesus and the guardian of Jesus. In Roman Catholic, Eastern Orthodox and Anglican Christian traditions he is regarded as Saint Joseph.
The Pauline epistles, generally considered the earliest extant Christian records, make no reference to Jesus' father; nor does the Gospel of Mark, generally considered the first of the gospels. The first appearance of Joseph is therefore in the gospels of Matthew and Luke. Each contains a genealogy of Jesus tracing his ancestry back to King David, but the two are from different sons of David; Matthew follows the major royal line from Solomon, while Luke follows a minor line from Nathan, another son of David and Bathsheba. Consequently all the names between David and Joseph are different. According to Matthew "Jacob was the father of Joseph," while according to Luke, Joseph, or possibly Jesus, is said to be "of Heli." Some scholars reconcile the genealogies by viewing the Solomonic lineage in Matthew as Joseph's major royal line, and the Nathanic lineage in Luke to be Mary's minor line.
Matthew and Luke are also the only gospels to include the infancy narratives, and again they differ. In Luke, Joseph lives in Nazareth and travels to Bethlehem in compliance with the requirements of a Roman census. Subsequently, Jesus was born there. In Matthew, Joseph was in Bethlehem, the city of David, where Jesus is born, and then moves to Nazareth with his family after the death of Herod. Matthew is the only Gospel to include the narrative of the Massacre of the Innocents and the Flight into Egypt: following the nativity, Joseph stays in Bethlehem for an unspecified period (perhaps two years) until forced by Herod to take refuge in Egypt; on the death of Herod he brings his family back to Judea, and settles in Nazareth. After this point there is no further mention of Joseph by name, although the story of Jesus in the Temple, in Jesus' 12th year, includes a reference to "both his parents". Christian tradition represents Mary as a widow during the adult ministry of her son. The gospels describe Joseph as a "tekton" (τέκτων); traditionally the word has been taken to mean "carpenter", though the Greek term evokes an artisan with wood in general, or an artisan in iron or stone. Very little other information on Joseph is given in the gospels. He is never quoted. Matthew records four dreams in which Joseph is supernaturally instructed before, and after, the birth and early years of Jesus. In the first dream, an angel confirms to Joseph that Mary is with child, conceived by the Holy Spirit, that she will bear a son to be named Jesus, Who will save His people from their sins; and Joseph should, therefore, not be reluctant to marry her. In the second dream, an angel tells Joseph to take Mary and Jesus to Egypt (from Bethlehem) and remain until the angel instructs further, because Herod is seeking to kill Jesus. In Joseph's third dream, an angel instructs Joseph to return his family to Israel, implying that Herod is dead. However, Joseph hears that Herod's son Archelaus reigns over Judea, and he is afraid to continue the journey. In the fourth dream, God Himself warns Joseph to avoid returning to Judea (Bethlehem). Joseph then settles Mary and Jesus in the region of Galilee in Nazareth.
Joseph is venerated as a saint in the Catholic, Eastern Orthodox, Oriental Orthodox, Anglican, and Lutheran faiths. In Catholic and other traditions, Joseph is the patron saint of workers and has several feast days. He was also declared to be the patron saint and protector of the Catholic Church by Pope Pius IX in 1870, and is the patron of several countries and regions. With the growth of Mariology, the theological field of Josephology has also grown and since the 1950s centres for studying it have been formed.
The epistles of Paul are generally regarded as the oldest extant Christian writings. These mention Jesus' mother (without naming her), but do not refer to his father - other than God (Romans 15:26 etc.). The oldest gospel, that of Mark, also does not mention Jesus's father. Joseph first appears in the Gospels of Matthew and Luke, generally regarded as later than Mark. Luke names Joseph's father as Heli, and Matthew names his father as Jacob, which parallels the Old Testament Joseph (whose father was also named Jacob) and is in keeping with that gospel's depiction of Jesus as a second Moses. This theme is developed further in the infancy narratives, which, like the genealogies, have the function of establishing Jesus as the promised Messiah, the descendant of David, born in Bethlehem.
Like the two differing genealogies the infancy narratives appear only in Matthew and Luke, and take different approaches to reconciling the requirement that the Messiah be born in Bethlehem with the tradition that Jesus came from Nazareth. In Matthew, Joseph obeys the direction of an angel to marry Mary and then to flee to Egypt to escape the massacre of the children of Bethlehem planned by Herod the Great, the tyrant who rules Judea. Once Herod has died, the angel tells him to return to Galilee instead of to Bethlehem, and so Joseph takes his wife and the child to Nazareth and settles there. Thus in Matthew, the infant Jesus, like Moses, is in peril from a cruel king, like Moses he has a (fore)father named Joseph who goes down to Egypt, like the Old Testament Joseph this Joseph has a father named Jacob, and both Josephs receive important dreams foretelling their future. In Luke, Joseph already lives in Nazareth, and Jesus is born in Bethlehem because Joseph and Mary have to travel there to be counted in a census. Luke's account makes no mention of angels and dreams, the Massacre of the Innocents, or of a visit to Egypt.
The last time Joseph appears in person in any Gospel is the story of the Passover visit to the Temple in Jerusalem when Jesus is 12 years old, found only in Luke. Like the infancy narratives the story is didactic, emphasising Jesus' awareness of his coming mission: here Jesus speaks to his parents (both of them) of "my father," meaning God, but they fail to understand.(Luke 2:41-51).
None of the Gospels mentions Joseph as present at any event during Jesus' adult ministry. The synoptic Gospels, however, share a scene in which the people of Nazareth, Jesus' hometown, doubt Jesus' status as a prophet because they know his family. In Mark 6:3, they call Jesus "Mary's son" instead of naming his father. In Matthew, the townspeople call Jesus "the carpenter's son," again without naming his father, and again he has brothers named James, and Joses (i.e., Joseph), and Simon, and Judas (Matthew 13:53-58). In Luke 3:23 "And Jesus himself began to be about thirty years of age, being (as was supposed) the son of Joseph, which was [the son] of Heli," and Luke makes no mention of any brothers (Luke 4:16-30). In Luke the tone is positive, whereas in Mark and Matthew it is disparaging. This incident does not appear at all in John, but in a parallel story the disbelieving Jews refer to "Jesus the son of Joseph, whose father and mother we know" (John 6:41-51).
Joseph is not mentioned as being present at the Wedding at Cana at the beginning of Jesus' mission, nor at the Passion at the end. If he had been present at the Crucifixion, he would under Jewish custom have been expected to take charge of Jesus' body, but this role is instead performed by Joseph of Arimathea. Nor would Jesus have entrusted his mother to John's care had her husband been alive.
A sample Gospel harmony of the episodes of the life of Saint Joseph in the canonical Gospels, in summary form of harmonies for the four gospels. See the gallery below for artistic depictions of some of these events.
|1||Joseph lived in Nazareth||Luke 2:4|
|2||Genealogy of Jesus||Matthew 1:1-17 Solomon to Jacob||Luke 3:23 Nathan to Heli|
|3||Joseph Betrothed to Mary||Matthew 1:18|
|4||Angel visits Joseph (1st dream)||Matthew 1:20-21|
|5||Joseph and Mary travel to Bethlehem||Luke 2:8-15|
|6||Birth of Jesus||Matthew 1:25||Luke 2:6-7|
|7||Temple presentation||Luke 2:22-24|
|8||Angel tells Joseph to flee (2nd dream)||Matthew 2:13|
|9||Flight into Egypt||Matthew 2:14-15|
|10||Angel tells Joseph to return to Nazareth (3rd dream)||Matthew 2:19-20|
|11||Joseph and family settle in Nazareth||Matthew 2:21-23||Luke 2:39|
|12||Finding Jesus in the Temple||Luke 2:41-51|
|13||Holy Family||John 6:41-42|
Jesus is identified in the Gospel of Matthew 13:55 as the son of a τέκτων (tekton) and the Gospel of Mark 6:3 states that Jesus was a Tektōn himself. Tekton has been traditionally translated into English as "carpenter", but is a rather general word (from the same root that gives us "technical" and "technology") that could cover makers of objects in various materials, even builders. But the specific association with woodworking is a constant in Early Christian tradition; Justin Martyr (d. ca. 165) wrote that Jesus made yokes and ploughs, and there are similar early references.
John Dominic Crossan puts tekton into a historical context more resembling an itinerant worker than an established artisan, emphasizing his marginality in a population in which a peasant who owns land could become quite prosperous. Other scholars have argued that tekton could equally mean a highly-skilled craftsman in wood or the more prestigious metal, perhaps running a workshop with several employees, and noted sources recording the shortage of skilled artisans at the time. Geza Vermes has stated that the terms 'carpenter' and 'son of a carpenter' are used in the Jewish Talmud to signify a very learned man, and he suggests that a description of Joseph as 'naggar' (a carpenter) could indicate that he was considered wise and highly literate in the Torah.
At the time of Joseph, Nazareth was an obscure village in Galilee, about 65 km from the Holy City of Jerusalem, which is barely mentioned in surviving non-Christian texts and documents. Archaeology over most of the site is made impossible by subsequent building, but from what has been excavated and tombs in the area around the village, it is estimated that the population was at most about 400. It was, however, only about 6 kilometres from the city of Tzippori (ancient "Sepphoris"), which was destroyed by the Romans in 4BC, and thereafter was expensively rebuilt. Analysis of the landscape and other evidence suggest that in Joseph's lifetime Nazareth was "oriented towards" the nearby city, which had an overwhelmingly Jewish population although with many signs of Hellenization, and historians have speculated that Joseph and later Jesus too might have traveled daily to work on the rebuilding. Specifically the large theatre in the city has been suggested, although this has aroused much controversy over dating and other issues. Other scholars see Joseph and Jesus as the general village craftsmen, working in wood, stone and metal on a wide variety of jobs.
The name of Joseph is found almost exclusively in the genealogies and the infancy narratives. The variances between the genealogies given in Matthew and Luke are explained on the basis that Matthew's genealogy traces his legal descent, according to Jewish law, through St. Joseph; while Luke's genealogy traces his actual physical descent through Mary.
Modern positions on the question of the relationship between Joseph and the Virgin Mary vary. The Eastern Orthodox Church, which names Joseph's first wife as Salome, holds that Joseph was a widower and merely betrothed, but never married, to Mary, and that references to Jesus' "brothers" are to children of Joseph and Salome. The position of the Catholic Church, derived from the writings of Saint Jerome, is that Joseph was the husband of Mary, but that references to Jesus' "brothers" should be understood to mean cousins or step-brothers. In both cases, the church doctrine of the Perpetual Virginity means that Joseph and Mary never had sexual relations. The Protestant churches, following the tenet of Virgin Birth but not that of Perpetual Virginity, hold no strong views on the subject.
The canonical gospels created a problem: they stated clearly that Mary was a virgin when she conceived Jesus, and that Joseph was not his father; yet Joseph's paternity was essential to establish Jesus' Davidic descent, and he and Mary were so much husband and wife that only divorce could dissolve their union (Matthew 1:19). The theological situation was complicated by the gospel references to Jesus' "brothers and sisters" (repeated in Paul, where James is called the "brother of Christ"), and by the fact that he was described unambiguously by John and Mark as "Joseph's son" and "the carpenter's son." From the 2nd century to the 5th writers tried to explain how Jesus could be simultaneously the "son of God" as well as the "son of Joseph".
The first to offer a solution was the apocryphal Protoevangelium of James, written about 150 AD. The original gospels never refer to Joseph's age, but James presents him as an old man chosen by lot (i.e., by God) to watch over the Virgin. Jesus' brothers are presented as Joseph's children by an earlier marriage, and his years and righteousness explain why he has not yet had sex with his wife: "I received her by lot as my wife, and she is not yet my wife, but she has conceived by the Holy Spirit."
The Protoevangelium was extremely popular, but it leaves open the possibility that Joseph might have had relations with Mary after the birth of Jesus ("she is not yet my wife..."). A few centuries later the developing doctrine that Mary was a virgin not only at the time of the conception and birth of Christ, but throughout her life, meant that this possibility had to be excluded. The apocryphal History of Joseph the Carpenter, written in the 5th century and framed as a biography of Joseph dictated by Jesus, describes how Joseph, aged 90 (the Protoevangelium had not given Joseph a specific age), a widower with four sons and two daughters, is given charge of the twelve-year-old Mary, who then lives in his household raising his youngest son James the Less (the supposed author of the Protoevengelium) until she is ready to be married at age 14½. Joseph's death at the age of 111, attended by angels and asserting the perpetual virginity of Mary, takes up approximately half the story.
A series of articles on
|Feast||Nativity of the Lord (Eastern Christianity)|
|Attributes||Carpenter's square or tools, the infant Jesus, staff with lily blossoms.|
|Patronage||The Catholic Church, unborn children, fathers, immigrants, workers, against doubt and hesitation, and of a happy death, Vietnam, Philippines. Many others; see .|
Together with the Blessed Virgin Mary and the Child Jesus Joseph is one of the three members of the Holy Family; since he only appears in the birth narratives of the Gospels, Jesus is depicted as a child when with him. The formal veneration of the Holy Family began in the 17th century by Mgr François de Laval.
Pope Pius IX proclaimed Saint Joseph the patron of the Universal Church in 1870, the unofficial patron against doubt and hesitation, as well as the patron saint of fighting communism, and of a happy death. Having died in the "arms of Jesus and Mary" according to Catholic tradition, he is considered the model of the pious believer who receives grace at the moment of death, and prays especially for families, fathers, expectant mothers (pregnant women), travelers, immigrants, house sellers and buyers, craftsmen, engineers, and working people in general.
The earliest records of a formal devotional following for Saint Joseph date to the year 800 and references to him as nutritor Domini (educator/guardian of the Lord) began to appear in the 9th century, and continued growing to the 14th century. Saint Thomas Aquinas discussed the necessity of the presence of Saint Joseph in the plan of the Incarnation for if Mary had not been married, the Jews would have stoned her and that in his youth Jesus needed the care and protection of a human father.
In the 15th century major steps were taken by Saint Bernardine of Siena, Pierre d'Ailly and Jean Gerson. Gerson wrote Consideration sur Saint Joseph and preached sermons on Saint Joseph at the Council of Constance. In 1889 Pope Leo XIII issued the encyclical Quamquam Pluries in which he urged Catholics to pray to Saint Joseph, as the patron of the Church in view of the challenges facing the Church.
Josephology, the study of the theology of Saint Joseph, is one of the most recent theological disciplines. In 1989, on the occasion of the centenary of Quamquam Pluries Pope John Paul II issued Redemptoris Custos, i.e. Guardian of the Redeemer which presented Saint Joseph's role in the plan of redemption, as part of the "redemption documents" issued by John Paul II such as Redemptoris Mater to which it refers.
March 19, Saint Joseph's Day, has been the principal feast day of Saint Joseph in Western Christianity, since the tenth century, and is celebrated by Catholics, Anglicans, many Lutherans and other denominations. In Eastern Orthodoxy, the feast day of Saint Joseph is celebrated on the First Sunday after the Nativity of Christ.
In 1870, Pope Pius IX declared Joseph patron of the universal Church and instituted another feast, with an octave, to be held in his honour on Wednesday in the second week after Easter. This was abolished by Pope Pius XII, when in 1955 he established the Feast of "St. Joseph the Worker", to be celebrated on 1 May. This date counteracts May Day, a union, workers and socialists holiday and reflects Joseph's status as what many Catholics and other Christians consider the "patron of workers" and "model of workers." Catholic and other Christian teachings and stories about or relating to Joseph and the Holy Family frequently stress his patience, persistence, and hard work as admirable qualities which believers should adopt.
Pope John XXIII added the name of Joseph to the Canon of the Mass. The 19 March feast is a solemnity and is transferred to another date if impeded (for instance, if it falls on a Sunday, which must fall in Lent). The 1 May celebration is an optional memorial, and so is omitted if impeded. (However, the 1 May celebration is 1st class in the Tridentine calendar, so in it St. Joseph the Worker was celebrated on 2 May in 2008 because 1 May was Ascension Thursday and in 2011 because 1 May was in the Easter octave.)
Many cities, towns, and locations are named after Saint Joseph. According to the National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency, the Spanish form, San Jose, is the most common place name in the world. Probably the most-recognized San Joses are San José, Costa Rica, and San Jose, California, United States, given their name by Spanish colonists. Joseph is the patron saint of the New World; of the countries China, Canada, Korea, Mexico, Austria, Belgium, Croatia, Peru, Vietnam; of the regions Carinthia, Styria, Tyrol, Sicily; and of several main cities and dioceses.
Many churches, monasteries and other institutions are dedicated to Saint Joseph. Saint Joseph's Oratory is the largest church in Canada, with the largest dome of its kind in the world after that of Saint Peter's Basilica in Rome. Elsewhere in the world churches named after the saint may be known as those of San Giuseppe, e.g. San Giuseppe dei Teatini, San José, e.g. Metropolitan Cathedral of San José or São José, e.g. in Porto Alegre, Brazil.
The Sisters of St. Joseph were founded as an order in 1650 and have about 14,013 members worldwide. In 1871, the Josephite Fathers of the Roman Catholic Church were created under the patronage of Joseph, intending to work with the poor. The first Josephites in America re-devoted their part of the Order to ministry within the newly-emancipated African American community. The Oblates of St. Joseph were founded in 1878 by St. Joseph Marello. In 1999 their Shrine of Saint Joseph the Guardian of the Redeemer was named after the Apostolic exhortation Redemptoris Custos.
In the Eastern Orthodox Church, during the feast day of Saint Joseph the following hymn is chanted:
In the Catholic tradition, just as there are prayers for the Seven Joys of Mary and Seven Sorrows of Mary, so there are also prayers for the seven joys and seven sorrows of Saint Joseph; these include prayers for daily protection, vocation, happy marriage, happy death, and hopeless cases; specific prayers, novenas and devotions include the Prayer to Saint Joseph and the Novena to Saint Joseph. St. Francis de Sales included Saint Joseph along with Virgin Mary as saints to be invoked during prayers in his Introduction to the Devout Life, Saint Teresa of Avila attributed her recovery of health to Saint Joseph and recommended him as an advocate, and Saint Therese of Lisieux stated that for a period of time, every day she prayed to "Saint Joseph, Father and Protector of Virgins..." and felt safe and protected from danger as a result, and Pius X composed a prayer to Saint Joseph which begins:
There is a belief that planting a statue of St. Joseph on a house will help sell the house. This belief is held by some theists as well as atheists, but traditional Christian teachings view it as superstition and not a devotion.
Up to about the 17th century Joseph tends to be depicted as a man advanced in years, with grey hair, often balding, occasionally frail and with arthritic fingers and a sharp nose, a comparatively marginal figure alongside Mary and Jesus if not entirely in the background, passive other than when leading them on their flight to Egypt. Joseph is shown mostly with a beard, not only in keeping with Jewish custom, but also because – although the Gospel accounts do not give his age – later literature tends to present him as an old man at the time of his wedding to Mary. This depiction arose to allay concerns about both the celibacy of the newly wedded couple, the mention of brothers and sisters of Jesus in the canonical Gospels, and Joseph's other children spoken of in apocryphal literature – concerns discussed very frankly by Jean Gerson for example, who nonetheless favoured showing him as a younger man.
In recent centuries – in step with a growing interest in Joseph's role in Gospel exegesis – he himself has become a focal figure in representations of the Holy Family. He is now often portrayed as a younger or even youthful man (perhaps especially in Protestant depictions), whether going about his work as a carpenter, or participating actively in the daily life of Mary and Jesus as an equal and openly affectionate member. Art critic Waldemar Januszczak however emphasises the preponderance of Joseph's representation as an old man and sees this as the need, " to explain away his impotence: indeed to symbolise it. In Guido Reni's Nativity, Mary is about 15, and he is about 70 - for the real love affair - is the one between the Virgin Mary and us. She is young. She is perfect. She is virginal - it is Joseph's task to stand aside and let us desire her, religiously. It takes a particularly old, a particularly grey, a particularly kindly and a particularly feeble man to do that. It takes a Joseph. Banished in vast numbers to the backgrounds of all those gloomy stables in all those ersatz Bethlehems, his complex iconographic task is to stand aside and let his wife be worshipped by the rest of us. He is God's cuckold. And art has no choice but to point this out - while, of course, appearing not to." 
Full cycles of his life are rare in the Middle Ages, though the scenes from the Life of the Virgin or Life of Christ where he is present are far more often seen. The Mérode Altarpiece of about 1425, where he has a panel to himself, working as a carpenter, is an early example of what remained relatively rare depictions of him pursuing his métier. Some statues of Joseph depict his staff as topped with flowers, recalling the non-canonical Protoevangelion's account of how Mary's spouse was chosen by collecting walking sticks of widowers in Palestine, and Joseph's alone bursting into flower, thus identifying him as divinely chosen. Several Eastern Orthodox Nativity icons show Joseph tempted by the Devil (depicted as an old man with furled wings) to break off his betrothal, and how he resists that temptation. There are some paintings with him wearing a Jewish hat.
At work in the Mérode Altarpiece, 1420s
Joseph's dream, Rembrandt, c. 1645
Marriage to the Virgin, Perugino, c. 1448
Dream of Flight, Daniele Crespi, c. 1625
Death of Joseph, St. Martin's at Florac
Coronation of Joseph, Valdés Leal, c, 1670
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