Joseph of Nazareth
Joseph of Nazareth by Correggio
Spouse of the Blessed Virgin Mary
|Born||Born:: Bethlehem, Judea|
|Venerated in||All Christianity|
|Feast|| March 19 (Roman Catholicism)|
Sunday after Christmas (Eastern Orthodoxy)
|Attributes||Carpenter's square or tools, the infant Jesus, staff with lily blossoms.|
|Patronage||The Universal Church, workers, against doubt and hesitation and of a happy death.|
Joseph of Nazareth (Hebrew: יוסף, Yōsēf; Greek: Ἰωσήφ, Iōsēph; Arabic: يوسف, Yūsuf) a direct lineal descendant of King David, is best remembered as the husband of Mary and foster-father of Jesus Christ. In fact, the role he played in Jesus' life is one of the finest illustrations of the kind of unquestioning faith to which God often calls His chosen ones.
We first hear of Joseph when he is betrothed to Mary, and discovers that she is already with child:
"Now the birth of Jesus Christ was on this wise: When his mother Mary had been betrothed to Joseph, before they came together she was found with child of the Holy Spirit. And Joseph her husband, being a righteous man, and not willing to make her a public example, was minded to put her away privily. But when he thought on these things, behold, an angel of the Lord appeared unto him in a dream, saying, Joseph, thou son of David, fear not to take unto thee Mary thy wife: for that which is conceived in her is of the Holy Spirit. And she shall bring forth a son; and thou shalt call his name JESUS; for it is he that shall save his people from their sins. Now all this is come to pass, that it might be fulfilled which was spoken by the Lord through the prophet, saying, Behold, the virgin shall be with child, and shall bring forth a son, And they shall call his name Immanuel; which is, being interpreted, God with us. And Joseph arose from his sleep, and did as the angel of the Lord commanded him, and took unto him his wife; and knew her not till she had brought forth a son: and he called his name Jesus." - Matthew 1:18-25 (ASV)
Joseph was actually a just man, at least by man's standards. Technically he had grounds to dissolve the engagement, but if he exercised them in the usual way, that would bring upon Mary a disgrace that Joseph did not want to see. But the Lord's messenger assured him that Mary was pregnant for good reason. Faced with that, Joseph did exactly as he was told.
The Birth of Christ
Toward the end of Mary's pregnancy, the Roman Emperor Gaius Julius Caesar Augustus Octavianus issued a decree to take a census of the entire Roman world. This compelled Joseph and Mary to travel from their home village of Nazareth to Bethlehem, the "family seat" of the Davidic line:
"Now it came to pass in those days, there went out a decree from Caesar Augustus, that all the world should be enrolled. This was the first enrollment made when Quirinius was governor of Syria. And all went to enroll themselves, every one to his own city. And Joseph also went up from Galilee, out of the city of Nazareth, into Judaea, to the city of David, which is called Bethlehem, because he was of the house and family of David; to enroll himself with Mary, who was betrothed to him, being great with child. And it came to pass, while they were there, the days were fulfilled that she should be delivered. And she brought forth her firstborn son; and she wrapped him in swaddling clothes, and laid him in a manger, because there was no room for them in the inn." - Luke 2:1-7 (ASV)
The word rendered "inn" is actually the Greek καταλυμα, kataluma, which means an upper room or guest room, and not necessarily a public travel hostel. That Bethlehem would be packed with members of Joseph's clan would be a consequence not only of the census but also of its having taken place, as seems most probable, during the season of a major pilgrimage feast, probably the Feast of Tabernacles.
The Flight into Egypt
Shortly after Jesus was born, Joseph received warning to take the Child out of the reach of Herod the Great, who sought to destroy Him:
"Now...behold, an angel of the Lord appeareth to Joseph in a dream, saying, Arise and take the young child and his mother, and flee into Egypt, and be thou there until I tell thee: for Herod will seek the young child to destroy him. And he arose and took the young child and his mother by night, and departed into Egypt; and was there until the death of Herod: that it might be fulfilled which was spoken by the Lord through the prophet, saying, Out of Egypt did I call my son.
Then Herod, when he saw that he was mocked of the Wise-men, was exceeding wroth, and sent forth, and slew all the male children that were in Bethlehem, and in all the borders thereof, from two years old and under, according to the time which he had exactly learned of the Wise-men. Then was fulfilled that which was spoken through Jeremiah the prophet, saying, A voice was heard in Ramah, Weeping and great mourning, Rachel weeping for her children; And she would not be comforted, because they are not.
But when Herod was dead, behold, an angel of the Lord appeareth in a dream to Joseph in Egypt, saying, Arise and take the young child and his mother, and go into the land of Israel: for they are dead that sought the young child's life." - Matthew 2:13-20