Who is Joseph the Husband of Mary?

At the beginning of Jesus Christ’s ministry, Joseph, His adopted father, had probably already passed away. Because the average life expectancy was low and occupational accidents high, this conclusion seems rather natural. Those who knew Jesus Christ also knew Joseph or knew of him (John 1:45; 6:42).

This tradition is strengthened by the fact that Luke records an event from the life of Joseph when Jesus was twelve years old but then never mentions him again as living (Luke 2:43-48). Mark, who records events from Jesus’ life only after his baptism as an adult, never mentions Joseph.

Those who knew Jesus’ Christ’s family were familiar with his mother, brothers, and sisters but do not seem to be acquainted with his father other than recognizing his occupation (John 7:3, 5; Acts 1:14; Matthew 13:55; Mark 6:3). Based on the best textual evidence, Jesus’ younger half-brothers were named Jacob, Joseph (Joses), Simon, and Judah, indicating that Joseph and Mary named one of their sons after Joseph.

The New Testament preserves two references to Joseph’s occupation, both calling him a tekt?n (Matthew 13:55; Mark 6:3). Tekt?n has been interpreted in various ways since New Testament times, including the generally accepted terms “carpenter” or “builder.”

He may have built household furniture or homes working specifically with lintels and joists (the main wood components in a first-century house). Later traditions describe his employment as “making plows and yokes” for oxen (Didache 88:8).

Another tradition prefers interpreting the word for carpenter as a homebuilder (Gospel of James 9:3). Some modern scholars point out the tekt?n can also mean a stonemason. In a small village like Nazareth, we could expect Joseph to use his talents in various ways to support his family, including working with wood and stone.

Christian art has usually depicted Joseph as older, sometimes significantly older, than Mary. This fanciful tradition likely stems from a late-second-century apocryphal work known as the Protoevangelium of James 9.2, which reports that Joseph was already an old man when he married Mary.

According to the legend, Joseph had already raised a family in his youth, and after losing his first wife, he decided to marry a young woman under a Nazarite vow. This legend was widely known among church leaders of the second and third centuries, with references to it being made by Origen, Clement of Alexandria, and Justin. The details of this story cannot, however, be verified historically.