Joseph, Father of Jesus

Joseph Jesus' Father

Little is known about Joseph, the earthly father of Jesus, except for his role in raising Jesus. But if you consider that, he also raised four other sons. Two of them wrote part of the Bible, Jude and James. James the Just as he was called, led the church in Jerusalem shortly after the death of Jesus. Considered the impact he had on these young lives shaping them into the men we know.

He was no ordinary man.

But if you considered the little we know about him beyond his children, he was very much a simple ordinary man who lived and died in a small community in Galilee.

He was a “carpenter,” working with his hands to provide for his family. Helping to raise his 6+ kids (Matt.13:55, Mark 6:3).

  • Jesus
  • James (the Just)
  • Jude (Judas)
  • Jose (a form of Joseph)
  • Simon
  • At least two daughters, unfortunately, unnamed

What is Jesus’ Father, Joseph, Known for in the Bible?

Joseph is best known for being a Dad, and a carpenter.

As Jesus’ father, he is known for 4 important dreams and 2 trips to Jerusalem. The second is more memorial than the first. Where his young 12-year-old son (Jesus) is lost at the temple, where he amazed the Scribes and Teachers of the Law with his knowledge and understanding (Luke 2:41-50).

The first lesser know trip to Jerusalem occurred 8 days after Jesus’s birth when he was presented to Simeon and Anna at the temple. Along with Mary’s purification offering and Jesus’ circumcision (Luke 2:28-38).

The dreams all occur around the birth and early years of Jesus’ life.

  1. Reassurance about Marrying Mary (Matt.1:20,21)
  2. Warning about Herod (Matt.2:13)
  3. Safe to Return From Egypt (Matt.2:19,20)
  4. Withdrawl to Galilee (Matt.2:22)

But from these 6 short stories, we can glean a fair bit of information about the life of Jesus.

What was Joseph’s Occupation?

Joseph’s occupation was a carpenter.

We learn this from Matthew 13:55, where people from his hometown (Nazareth)are amazed at his teaching but then question that Jesus is only a “carpenter’s son.”

In the first century, a carpenter (tektōn) was a little broader than what today we often think of as a carpenter. He may have worked with wood, but this could be constructing buildings involving masonry and wood.

Or constructing wood furniture or setting wood doors and frames in houses.

So maybe not that far removed from the modern carpenter who will frame houses, set concrete forms, install trim or build cabinets. But without all our time-saving tools and in a society less reliant on wood.

The biggest takeaway is, Joseph was a skilled labour but not of high class.

One of the thousands of tradespeople working throughout the Roman Empire.

But if it wasn’t for Jesus, unfortunately, someone we would never read about.

Where did Joseph come from?

We have two possibilities here.

Joseph either came from Nazareth in Galilee or Bethlehem in Judea.

At the time of Jesus’ birth, both would have been under the rule of Herod the Great.

Matthew (Ch.2) doesn’t refer directly to where Joseph comes from but places him in Bethlehem for the birth of Jesus. Then living in a house for a while, possibly up to 2 years (Matt.2:16) in Bethlehem after the birth of Jesus. Then later, Joseph and his family move up to Nazareth.

Nazareth is more likely where Joseph was born and grew up and ultimately lived his life.

Luke 2:4 tells us that Joseph left his hometown of Nazareth and went down to Bethlehem, where Jesus is born. And then after Jesus’ birth and temple presentation returned to Galilee (vs.39).

Both sources ultimately place Joseph in Nazareth, which seems the most likely his hometown.

What ethnicity was Joseph?

Joseph was a Jew from the line of David.

Of course, there is some debate between the 2 genealogies of Jesus about who was Joseph’s father.

But we are told that Joseph was a “Descendant of David” in Luke 1:26. Along with the angel in his dream in Matthew 1 calling him the “son of David. ” Again, making him an ethnic Jew.

Jew originating from the Israelite tribe of Judea and the Judean kingdom after King Solomon. The identity of “Jew” became more distinct after the Babylonian conquest and exile of the “Jews” (598-596 BCE).

It is most likely from the returning exiled Jews (Matt.1:12) in or after 538 BCE.

Important Characteristics and Qualities of Joseph

Joseph, the earthly father of Jesus Christ, lived an exemplary life.

The Bible depicts Joseph as a devoted husband to Mary and guardian of Jesus.

But even beyond this, we can find some very positive things about who Joseph was in these few short stories.

  • Righteous as we are told in Matthew (Matt.1:19)
  • Merciful didn’t want to shame Mary (Matt.1:19)
  • Calculated, he attempted to plan the best actions after discovering Mary’s pregnancy (Matt.1:19)
  • Sensitive to the Super-natural, responding to angels in his dreams (Matt.1:20-21)
  • Obedient, responding quickly to “God’s commands” through his dreams
  • Self-controlled, despite being married to Mary, he did not have sex till after Jesus was born (Matt.1:25)
  • Politically Aware, when returning from Egypt, was concerned about the rule of Archelaus (Matt.2:22). Who was such a bad ruler that the Romans ultimately had to remove him in 18 CE.
  • Problem solver, when no inns available in Betheham in figured out an alternative solution, a stable. (Lk.2:7)

Writing about Joseph Beyond the Bible

There are 5 main ancient texts beyond the gospels that we learn more about Joseph, the father of Jesus.

a.   Protoevangelium of James

b.   History of Joseph the Carpenter

c.   Infancy Gospel of Thomas 

d.   Pseudo-Matthew

e.   Syriac Infancy Gospel

But they are all later dated than the gospels and not considered historically accurate by most New Testament scholars.

Despite this, it is from these stories that we have developed many of the images about Joseph.

  • Such as him being older than Mary.
  • Joseph dying an old man with Jesus beside him
  • Joseph being taken to heaven by the angels Michael and Gabriel 
  • Him walking beside a donkey that Mary rode into Bethlehem.
  • That he was widower
  • Finding a mid-wife to help with the delivery of Jesus
  • Jesus born in a cave
  • He struggled in raising Jesus
  • Cut a board incorrectly, and the first recorded board stretching by Jesus