Saint Joseph

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Saint Joseph, also referred to as Joseph the Betrothed, or Joseph of Nazareth, was the foster-father of Jesus Christ, according to the New Testament (Matthew 1:16; Luke 3:23). Not much is known of Joseph except that he was "of the House of David" and lived in the town of Nazareth. His date of death is unknown, though he was still living when Jesus was 12 years old.

He was betrothed to the Virgin Mary at the time that Mary conceived Jesus. Luke says that he lived at Nazareth in Galilee (Luke 2:4); however, according to Matthew, it was only after the return from Egypt that he settled in Nazareth (Matthew 2:23). He is called a "just man" for not wanting to expose Mary to public shame after he discovered she was with child and was tempted to break off the bethrotal. However, Joseph was assured in a dream to take Mary as his wife as the child she had conceived was of the Holy Spirit.

Being of the House of David, Joseph went to register himself in Bethlehem at the time of the Census of Quirinius and there, in a manger, Mary gave birth to Jesus Christ. Subsequently, Joseph moved the family to Egypt as he was warned in another dream to do so.

Joseph was by trade a carpenter (Matthew 13:55). He is last mentioned in connection with the journey to Jerusalem, when Jesus was twelve years old. It is probable that Joseph died before Jesus entered on his public ministry because only Mary was present at the marriage feast in Cana of Galilee, and he is not described at the crucifixion along with Mary (John 19:25). In addition, St. Joseph of Arimathea asked for the body of Jesus, a duty that would have fallen to St. Joseph had he been alive.

Jesus Christ is described as being the brother of James, Justus, Jude, and Simon and several sisters (Mark 6:3; Matthew 13:55). A tradition, at least as early as the second century, still held by the Eastern Orthodox Church, explains that these "brothers and sisters" were from Joseph's marriage to a previous wife - Salome - who died and left him a widower before he was betrothed to Mary, making them step-brothers and step-sisters.

That Jesus commended Mary to the care of John the Evangelist while he was hanging on the cross has been interpreted to also suggest that Joseph had died by that time, and that Joseph and Mary did not have any other children who might care for Mary.

In many icons of the Nativity, Joseph is shown being tempted by the Devil (depicted as an old man with furled wings) to break off his betrothal, and resisting that temptation.

St Joseph is commemorated on the Sunday after the Nativity. If there is no Sunday between December 25 and January 1, his feast is moved to December 26, along with David the King and James the Brother of our Lord. The Righteous Joseph is also commemorated on the Sunday of the Forefathers. There is an akathist hymn dedicated to him.


  • A portion of this article is gratefully credited to OrthodoxWiki