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Saint Joseph (Hebrew יוֹסֵף, Arabic يوسف also known as Joseph of the House of David, Joseph the Betrothed, or Joseph the Worker) is known from the New Testament as the husband of Mary, mother of Jesus. Although according to Christian tradition he was not the biological father of Jesus, he acted as his foster-father and as head of the Holy Family, and Jesus "during His public life, was referred to as the son of Joseph." Joseph is venerated as a saint within the Roman Catholic, Eastern Orthodox, Lutheran, and Anglican Churches.

The genealogy in the Gospel of Matthew says that Joseph's father was called Jacob, but according to the genealogy in the Gospel of Luke, Joseph was a son of Heli. The canonical Gospels, however, give neither date and place of Joseph's birth nor of his death. All that is known from them is that Joseph lived at times in Nazarethmarker in Galilee, before Jesus' birth on return from exile in Egypt after Herod's death, after the Passover visit to Jerusalem when Jesus was 12 years old, stayed for a couple of years in Bethlehemmarker in Judeamarker, and was forced into exile for a time in Egyptmarker.

Joseph was a "τεκτων"; traditionally the word has been taken to mean "carpenter", though the Greek term is much less specific. It cannot be translated narrowly; it 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, in which he never speaks. He is mentioned in the Gospels as present on the visit to Jerusalemmarker when Jesus was 12, but no mention can clearly be placed later than that one. Christian tradition, though vague on the time and place of his death, represents Mary as a widow during the adult ministry of her son. In Roman 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 (along with Apostle Peter) by Pope Pius IX in 1870, and is the patron of several countries and regions.

In the canonical Gospels

All the events involving Joseph's presence that have been narrated in the canonical Gospels happened before Jesus' birth or during his childhood.

There is only an allusion to the first event, namely Joseph's betrothal to Mary, which made her his wife according to Jewish law. The clarification has been added that they were not yet living together, from which follows that they had not yet conducted the wedding rite known as the "home taking", which is the legal ceremony that permits Jewish couples to begin conjugal relations.

The first event related in some detail is Joseph's dream, during which he is told by "an angel of the Lord" not only to take Mary as his wife, but also to name the first son from her Jesus, hence to assume legal paternity. The first command Joseph carries out, apparently promptly, the second in due time.

The next event is Joseph's journey from Nazareth to Bethlehem to be enrolled as required by the Roman political authorities. He is accompanied by Mary who is pregnant and who, whilst they are at Bethlehem, gives birth to Jesus.Thereafter Joseph and his family are visited by a group of shepherds saying that they have been guided to them by an angel who told them the good news and its implications.

Eight days later, at the boy's circumcision – as the angel had told Joseph when he commanded him to take Mary home –, Joseph names him Jesus, and thus assumes legal paternity. Wise Men from the east came to Jerusalem to "adore the Child."

Shortly thereafter, after completion of the post-natal cleansing prescribed by the Law of Moses, Joseph takes Mary and Jesus to the Temple in Jerusalemmarker to offer the sacrifices required on the occasion of the birth of a couple's first son. Whilst doing so, he and his wife receive a blessing from the aged "just man" Simeon and listen to his words and those of the prophetess Anna – two people who have been waiting eagerly for the salvation of their nation and perceive now the significance of the child before them.

The next event related is when Joseph is told by the angel in another dream of Herod the Great's plan to kill Jesus, and ordered to save the boy by taking him and his mother to Egypt, which he promptly does.

Once Herod had died, Joseph is told by the angel in a further dream to return with Jesus and his mother to the land of Israel; but when Joseph learns that Herod has been succeeded in Judea by Herod Archelaus, and Joseph worries on account of the latter's ill repute, a further dream guides him to the district of Galilee. And so Joseph takes mother and child to Nazareth and settles there.

The last event mentioning the presence of Joseph is the family's Passover visit to the Temple in Jerusalem when Jesus is around 12 years old, hence coming to the end of his childhood.

The canonical Gospel accounts are silent about the life of Jesus and his family during the next couple of decades. They resume the narration when first John the Baptist, and then Jesus himself, commence their public ministries; but their accounts from thereon mention only the presence at certain events of Mary and never again that of Joseph.

In apocryphal anecdotes

Apocryphal sources elaborate the terse canonical Gospel accounts. Thus they describe Jesus as working side by side with Joseph in Joseph's carpenter shop at Nazareth, and sometimes staying with Joseph while the latter worked. They also tell how Joseph made an important decision when he heard that Mary was pregnant before their arranged marriage and instead of allowing her to be stoned by townspeople, he took her away and protected her. In some Catholic traditions, Joseph is described as dying "in the arms of Jesus and Mary".

In the canonical Gospel accounts Jesus is described as being the brother of James, Joses (Matthew has the spelling: Joseph, Mark has Joses), Judas, and Simon, and of sisters whose names however are not mentioned. The Eastern Orthodox Church teaches that Joseph was a widower and that these brothers and sisters were children from his first marriage, thus making them Jesus' half-brothers and half-sisters. This version of events is related in the apocryphal History of Joseph the Carpenter, which names the eldest brother Justus and the sisters Assia and Lydia, but does not name the wife. Catholic tradition, as taught by St. Jerome and the Fathers of the Church, teaches that the term "brother" in biblical times had a broader meaning and included cousins and other more distant relatives as well. Authoritative Orthodox sources contradict the History, retaining the Biblical name of the eldest son, names Joseph's first wife Salome, and his sisters Salome and Esther along with an unnamed third sister.[Authoritative primary source needed]

The Roman Catholic tradition is clear, these "brothers and sisters" are the cousins of Christ and it also affirms strongly that Joseph remained celibate while married to Mary. Some Protestant denominations (including many Evangelical Protestant traditions) no longer espouse strong views on the subject.

In art

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.
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 Israel, 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. Joseph is normally associated with the colours black, or, as in more modern depictions, green; this is similar to his wife's association with blue. Accordingly, Sacrenoire is the analogue to the old French curse Sacrebleu .


It is unknown where Joseph was at the time of Jesus' crucifixion, however, it is widely assumed that he was already deceased by this time.

Within the Roman Catholic tradition, Joseph is the patron saint of various things and places. Pope Pius IX proclaimed him the patron of the Universal Church on December 8, 1870. Joseph is the unofficial patron against doubt and hesitation, as well as the patron saint of fighting communism, and of a happy death. Joseph having died in the "arms of Jesus and Mary" according to Catholic tradition, he is considered the model of a pious believer who receives grace at the moment of death.

In addition to his primary feast day in the Catholic and other traditions, Joseph is honored by the Feast of St. Joseph the Worker (May 1), introduced by Pope Pius XII in 1955 to counteract May Day, a union, workers and socialists holiday. This reflects Joseph's status as what many Catholics and other Christians consider the "patron of workers" and "model of workers." Catholic and other Christians 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.

In that tradition, Joseph is the patron saint of the New World; of the countries Chinamarker, Canadamarker, Koreamarker, Mexicomarker, Austriamarker, Belgiummarker, Croatiamarker, Perumarker, Vietnammarker; of the regions Carinthiamarker, Styriamarker, Tyrolmarker, Sicily; of the cities and/or dioceses of Florencemarker, Turinmarker, Baton Rougemarker, Bemidjimarker, Buffalomarker, Cheyennemarker, Haugesundmarker in Norwaymarker, Louisvillemarker, Nashvillemarker, San Josemarker, Sioux Fallsmarker, Hidalgo del Parralmarker, etc.

Roman Catholics also believe he prays especially for families, fathers, expectant mothers (pregnant women), travellers, immigrants, house sellers and buyers, craftsmen, engineers and working people in general.Official patronage assigned to him, however, is vague. Numerous geographical locations, some vocations and various circumstances of personal life have been attributed to his patronage (see Patron Saints Index: Saint Joseph link below). This is Saint Joseph's sainthood.

Feast days in Christian churches

Statue of St Joseph and Jesus, Millegem Kerk.

Veneration of Joseph, when compared with that of other Catholic saints, was introduced rather late in the Catholic Church. It was in the tenth century that he began to be celebrated in some parts of the West with a feast on 19 March. This feast was accepted in Rome only in 1479, less than a century before the 1570 Tridentine Calendar, in which it was included. This is Saint Joseph's Day in the Roman Catholic and Anglican traditions. In 1847 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 (see General Roman Calendar of Pope Pius XII). Pope John XXIII added the name of Joseph to the Canon of the Mass. The 19 March feast is a Solemnity and so is transferred to another date if impeded (for instance, if it falls on a Sunday within Lent. The 1 May celebration is an optional Memorial, and so is omitted if impeded.

In the Lutheran Church also, 19 March is observed as the Feast of Saint Joseph, Guardian of Jesus. This festival is on the official calendar of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America, the Lutheran Church – Missouri Synod, the Wisconsin Synod and the Evangelical Lutheran Synod. Some Protestant traditions also celebrate this festival as a commemoration of Joseph's life and witness.

In the Eastern Orthodox Church, the feast day of Saint Joseph is celebrated on the First Sunday after the Nativity of Christ. The following hymn is chanted:

Verily, Joseph the betrothed, saw clearly in his old age that the foresayings of the Prophets had
been fulfilled openly; for he was given an odd earnest,
receiving inspiration from the angels,
who cried, Glory to God; for he hath bestowed peace on earth..

Institutions and places named after Joseph

Josephite Order

In the 19th century, 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.


Saint Joseph's Oratorymarker is a Roman Catholic oratory and basilica (historically-designated special church) in Montrealmarker, Canadamarker. Constructed at the wishes of Brother André Besette (Congregation of Holy Cross)—a blessed in the Catholic canon—it is dedicated to St. Joseph who is believed to have performed many miracles of healing in Montreal. In the oratory are hundreds of crutches and other items left by those who experienced a spontaneous healing (like those at Lourdesmarker, Francemarker). The Oratory is the largest church in Canada, with the largest dome of its kind in the world after that of Saint Peter's Basilicamarker in Romemarker. (Some churches named after St. Joseph are actually dedicated to a different saint, Saint Joseph of Cupertino.)

The Cathedral Basilica of St. Josephmarker is located in San Jose, California and is the cathedral (episcopal headquarters) of the Roman Catholic Diocese of San Jose. Since 1972, Basilica of St. Joseph, Alameda, California. The Basilica of Saint Joseph Proto-Cathedralmarker is a prominent Roman Catholic church in Bardstownmarker, Kentuckymarker, United States; it was the first Roman Catholic Cathedral west of the Allegheny Mountains and the cathedral mother church of the former Roman Catholic Diocese of Bardstown. Saint Joseph's Church and Saint Joseph's Universitymarker, both in Philadelphiamarker, were named after St. Joseph.

Many schools, universities, hospitals, churches and monasteries are dedicated to Saint Joseph in Lebanonmarker, such as Lycée Saint-Joseph in Ain Ebelmarker, Université Saint-Joseph in Beirutmarker, the Hôpital Saint Joseph des Soeurs de la Croix in Doramarker and Church of Saint Joseph in Aitoumarker.


Many cities, towns, and geographical features are named after Joseph. At least 6 places named St. Joseph exist in France and its overseas possessions, and at least 14 towns, counties, or townships in the United States. Numerous bays, rivers, peninsulas, and other features are named after Joseph (or St. Joseph) in North America.

St. Joseph, Trinidad and Tobago is the oldest town in Trinidad and Tobagomarker. Originally named San José de Oruña, it served as the capital of Spanish Trinidad between 1592 and 1783.

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 Ricamarker and San Jose, Californiamarker, United Statesmarker, given their name by Spanish colonists. The latter is the subject of the famous song Do You Know the Way to San José.

The emperor Joseph II once granted an audience to a tavern-owner who had commissioned a painting of the ruler to decorate his establishment, which he intended to name in honor of the monarch - only to be forbidden to do so by the Viennese city council. Joseph II told him to add a beard and a halo to the painting and rename the tavern "Saint Joseph."

Modern literature

  • Aramis Thorn, The Foster Father of God (a fictional account of the life of Joseph, the betrothal of Joseph and Mary and the birth and childhood of Jesus).

  • The Story of Joseph the Carpenter Fatherhood Principles of Joseph the Carpenter: Examples of Godly Fatherhood by Akili Kumasi (GIL Publications, 2009) gives a historical and spiritual account of how Joseph came to be the earthly-father of Jesus, how he influenced Jesus during Jesus' childhood and how this helped to prepare Jesus for his earthly ministry.

Other St. Josephs

See also


External links

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