Wednesday, January 31, 2007

Joseph, Husband of Mary

When Jesus saw his mother there, and the disciple whom he loved standing nearby, he said to his mother, "Dear woman, here is your son," and to the disciple, "Here is your mother." From this time on, this disciple took her into his home. John 19:26

As I was reading through John this morning and read the passage above, I had one of those weird thoughts, one of those perplexing thoughts that feigns insight. The thought is that this scripture implies that Mary's husband, Joseph, is dead. I then realized that as far as I know, scripture never mentions Joseph's death. Jesus did not react to Joseph's death in such a way that any writer made mention of it.

Some quick Study Bible research revealed that past the first fleeting sciptures describing Jesus' birth, Joseph is not mentioned at all. The latest reference of Joseph is in Luke 2:48 when Jesus is a boy in the temple, and this reference is indirect stating, "When his parents . . ."

I find the enigma and spareness of Jesus' relationship with his earthly father intriguing and curious. Any thoughts or comments? (Is anybody other than JMG or Jettybetty even reading these posts?)


professor j said...

In Matthew 13.55, the people are marvelling at Jesus' teachings and say, "Is this not the carpenter's son?" I wonder if they would have worded it that way if Joseph were dead? If that were the case, I would think that Jesus would have taken over the family business and become "the carpenter" instead of "the carpenter's son."

At any rate, I think that Jesus and Joseph had a normal father/son relationship. The bible says that Jesus learned obedience and grew in wisdom and stature, so he had to learn all that through normal growing-up experiences with the guidance of his parents.

(Of course, I don't think that Jesus pre-existed in heaven, so I don't have any problem imagining him growing up in a normal household.)


Tony Arnold said...

I did not read the Mt 13:55 reference as indicating past or present tense for Joseph. I could easily see people saying, "Is this not Joseph's son" even if Joseph was already dead. This type of reference is not uncommon today.

Also, this was before the Crucifixion, not sure how long, could be at least a year or so. Anyway, even if Joseph was alive at that time, it seems as if he were dead by the time of the Crucifixion. If Joseph were alive why would Jesus put his mother in the care of John? If it was because Joseph could not care for Mary, would he have put them both in the care of John?

Like I said, this whole thought is a little silly, but it just caught my attention this morning. I was curious to what others might say.

One of those fun little things to think about and discuss without any real faith or salvation implications to worry about.


Matt said...

It does seem like Joseph is no longer alive as he asks the beloved disciple (probably John) to take care of his mother. Life expectancy is believed to have been much shorter back then (probably in the 40s). If Jesus was in around 30-33 then his father would have odds of being alive against him.

As far as his relationship with Joseph, Jesus took on his occupation and must have learned something from him.

Tony Arnold said...

I agree Matt. Thanks for commenting.

Tony Arnold said...

JMG (aka prof j), as to your heretical parenthetical, did you think I would take the bait?

Sneaky, very sneaky. Especially since the pre-existence in heaven question has nothing to do with growing up in a "normal" househould while in earthly form.

But anyway, I ain't gonna bite. But maybe someone else will! :-)

(mainly because I would be way out of my league trying to discuss that stuff with you)

jettybetty said...

I agree with you--Joseph was probably dead by the time of the crucifixion. I do think it's interesting that no writer mentioned Jesus' reaction to his death, if indeed he was dead. Of course, I've never totally understood why Jesus reacted the way he did here: "As Jesus was speaking to the crowd, his mother and brothers were outside, wanting to talk with him. Someone told Jesus, "Your mother and your brothers are outside, and they want to speak to you." Jesus asked, "Who is my mother? Who are my brothers?" Then he pointed to his disciples and said, "These are my mother and brothers. Anyone who does the will of my Father in heaven is my brother and sister and mother!" Matthew 12:46-50. I understand he was trying to make a point about spiritual family--but it seems to be somewhat at the expense of his physical family? BTW, doesn't mention Joseph here either.

professor j said...

You're no fun Tony. But you do have a way with those rhyming words.

Actually, I also think that Joseph died at some point; the wording of the passage I quoted made me wonder when.

Tony Arnold said...

I have thought similiar JB, and it is interesting that Joseph is left out of that passage too.

It mostly just as Matt pointed to. Which raises another interesting question:

Was Mary that much younger than Joseph (not uncommon at that time among the Jews for young brides to older men) or did she just beat the life expectancy odds?

professor j said...

Tradition holds that Mary was much, much younger than Joseph, and that Joseph already had grown children. Apparently, that is how those who think Mary remained a virgin all her life explain the existence of Jesus' brothers and sisters.

As far as the question about why the writers didn't say anything about Jesus' reaction to Joseph's death, we don't really know much about the "personal lives" of very many prominent people in the bible. What is recorded is what pertains to the subject at hand. You have to look at the extra-biblical texts to find out any other information, and those are sketchy as well. The last verse of John's gospel says that if everything about Jesus were written down, the world couldn't contain the books, so apparently the gospel writers wrote only what they felt was important and left the personal details aside.

Tony Arnold said...

Apparently, that is how those who think Mary remained a virgin all her life explain the existence of Jesus' brothers and sisters.

Wow, I never knew that was of issue to anyone. Guess I am still very naive about some things. Why would it bother anyone, why would it be a faith or theological issue for anyone, if Mary had children after Jesus through the normal method of intercourse?


JMG said...

Why would it bother anyone, why would it be a faith or theological issue for anyone, if Mary had children after Jesus through the normal method of intercourse?

Because some people have practically deified Mary. Some believe that she's also interceding for us, along with Jesus, at the right hand of God.

Tony Arnold said...

I did not realize that the Catholic faith believed Mary to be a virgin after the birth of Jesus. Just never occurred to me. I guess I just associated the phrase "Virgin Mary" to her state at Jesus' birth.

Since the Bible mentions Jesus' brothers and sisters and never referenced Joseph having other wives, I just assumed that everyone realized that Mary had other children.

Amazing how oblivious I find I am at times.

Amazes my wife too! :-)

JMG said...

Yeah, well, you know, most men rely on a smart woman to help them along in life.

I have to tell you, yesterday I checked the blogs while I was in class and nearly laughed out loud when you said I was sneaky. Fortunately my students were busy doing group activities, so no one noticed.

Tony Arnold said...

At least you did not blow coke or coffee out of your nose in the process.

Neva said...

I am reading your posts---and enjoying the intellectual banter. On this subject in particular, there are a lot of things in Jesus' life that are not commented on. From about age 12 to 30 we don't really know what happened. Perhaps that is the time when Joseph died. And perhaps, being the eldest child of Mary, He did take on the family business until his brothers (Mary and Joseph's other children conceived in the natural way, I believe) were able to take it over. Perhaps. . .
Just a thought

Tony Arnold said...

Welcome and thanks for commenting Neva.

Your thoughts certainly could be true and would make perfect sense.

Your right there is very little mentioned describing Jesus's personal life. It was His ministry and teaching and His death that was crucial.

But you know, so many Christians struggle most with their Christianity in their home life and it sure would be helpful to have examples of Jesus handling family situations. But his words about love really tell us everything we need to know on that.

Tony Arnold said...

p.s. Neva's comment reminded me of another scripture referencing Jesus' family w/o referencing Jospeh: the wedding party and turning water to wine.

If Joseph was living then, maybe he had already converted to CofC and was abstaining from alcohol related functions. :-)

JMG said...

I agree with Neva's sentiments--that's pretty much what I've always thought.

It's fun to speculate about what Jesus' life was like. Really when you think about it, all we really know about him is what he taught and how he died. I hope we get to see the videos of his life once he comes back here.

Tony, Neva said we were having some intellectual conversation here. She needs to hang around longer so she'll get the right impression about us.

Tony Arnold said...

Thanks, JMG, I was reveling in the moment, don't mess it up!

It is like when you get your coffee just the perfect color w/ your cream and then the waitress tops you off right at that moment.

intellectual bantering...ahhh.

Well Neva, you were correct on one point at least.

JMG said...

It isn't good to live in a state of delusion for too long. I'm just doing my part to keep you grounded in reality.

Actually, I've been having a little mean streak lately. You haven't been my only victim.

CHB said...

Am reading Jose Saramago's Novel "The Gospel according to Jesus Christ" Sarmago concocted a dramatic death of Joseph. Crucified an innocent man along side 39 Jewish Rebels at Sepphoris. The novel won the 1998 Nobel prize for literature and is a great read. I imagine it would offensive to orthodox Christians, but maybe not...

Anonymous said...

I guess that is one of the misteries of the Bible. God can do what He likes to make sure everything gets done according to His Word. My thought and only one thought on all of this is: Jesus often talked about His Father, only doing what His Father tells Him to do. If Joseph was around at that time people would of been very confused of what Jesus was trying to communicate to the people and so with Joseph removed from the situation it was clear that Jesus spoke about the Father in heaven. Does this apply that God was bad taking Joseph out of the scene, on the contrary, no He was not because if and I say "if" this was the case then Joseph was in the best place he could be and that was in heaven where any Christian who love God longs to be and go. This is only my thought on it and I dare not build any gospel around that, but it adds maybe another view to it. GOD BLESS, PETER

Thomas B. said...

I'm new to this but here is a Scripture reference to the fact that I believe Mary and Joseph had children after Jesus was born. Matthew 1:24,25 says that Joseph took Mary as his wife and "did not KNOW HER till she had brought forth her firstborn Son..." Mary's response to the angel Gabriel telling her that she would have a baby was, "How can this be, since I do not KNOW a man?" (Luke 1:34)
I believe that after Jesus was born, Mary and Joseph enjoyed the intimacy of a married couple...something that God intends for all of us to do within the bonds of marriage.
Just my thoughts. : )

Anonymous said...

As a grand-dad trying to gather information about Joseph trough the Net to help his grandson, I read this blog, liked the exchange and now I try to pass on to Arnold & Co a bit of what I had already found before your conversations, and that is there seems be many traditions about Joseph of which:
a) Orthodox: Joseph was a widower & had had some children (this to explain Jésus' "brothers" (apostle James). Jos & Mary would have been "consecrated to God" (Proto-Gospel of James, JC 4,1) and would have stayed sexually abstinent after Jesus' birth
b) Catholic: research about hebrew customs in these times reveal thar it was not un-customary to dedicate one's children to God. The C. Church says that both spouses were young and virgin all their lives ( I hear sneers?) and that the word
"brother" refers to cousins..Am I braking news here or braking all the fun you were having? Montréal

Anonymous said...

I am amazed how intelligent people could close their eyes to the truth around them and reply on what some one had written many years ago. The fact is that a child is the result of of an egg fertilized by a sperm. The fact is that intercourse or some desemination is requires. The fact is virginity and pregnancy could be possible. There were many women who remained virgin despite many intercourses. Some French prostitutes in 18th were charging more for this virtue.
The point that everybody is missing is not physical virginity but mental one
The most important issue that the established church does not often emphasize is what was Jesus messages.
The rest ha no impact on guiding your sole

Anonymous said...

Hi Tony,
Thanks for posting this query. I sat down tonight to study the bible for the first time in a while, and was asking what I should study, and through a short chain came to realize that I'd never considered studying Joseph. He has always been in the background for the most part it seemed, and I wondered what what I might learn from his life. I realized he was first a fair man, and kind, and then realized he was a perfect example of a godly step-father. He literally lived his life for Jesus, leaving his home and facing death, possible ridicule and rejection by colleagues, and raised Jesus as his own son. He obviously loved Jesus as a father and taught him as a father, yet never complained, and for the most part lived his life in the background. He never let anyone know Jesus was anything but his son, and althought there was a "step" definition, it was never acknowledged publicly in scripture.
This is a great example of many godly "step"fathers I know, who are humble, loving and kind, who will never receive the acknowledgement for their exceptional lives now, but will reap exponentially in Heaven.
To me the fact that he died as he lived makes me admire him even more.

Anonymous said...

I think that Joseph is not mentioned in the last days of Christ's life to avoid the explanation of the "immaculate conception" which could have distanced many followers in an era where such claims would have been answered by stoning. The stories we know of Jesus life are compiled from the writings of the disciples over many years and long after His crucifixion. While we may not like to think that Joseph and Mary were normal people too, and the strain of the birth of Christs conception could have gnawed away at Joseph. Remember no divorce is a New Testament edict. Hebrews were allowed to divorce. Can you imagine how history would treat the subject of Jesus parents divorcing? Can you also imagine being told countless times you are not my real Father. Christ was a human with all the frailties and vices of a human boy. I am sure the reason that we find so little information on Joseph is due to the deliberate destruction of any negative writings by early Christian scholars and priests in the days where power was more important that faith and truth. One must also look at the literary license taken and embellishments added to what was already a profound miracle.

willy said...

it just leaves a gap in the history of the church of Christ. A human father like Joseph should have taught male parents alot about family management in a god approved family. I believe that Jesus was the Christ. And if that is true then God approved this earthly family.
Then why is Joseph not in the picture in the family set up and management? Is there a reason?
this is intriguing indeed!

Anonymous said...

I pondered the idea of "the power of words" this morning. As I did my mind caught hold of the power in the statement Jesus made from the cross to John the beloved in John 19:27 (King James version) saying "Behold thy Mother!" These words are powerful because they suggest so much in three words about Jesus' love for His mother and his role in his earthly family. If Jesus was not a master teacher he might have said: "John, my beloved friend, my earthly father has passed and therefore, as the first son (the birthright son) it is my responsibility to see to her welfare. My mother needs someone to look after her. Since my siblings are not present I'm asking you to look after her. I want you to care for her in the way you would care for your own mother. But he didn't say that. In his usual majestic language He simply said to John, "Behold thy Mother!.

Of course, I'm assuming Joseph had passed away. And this also raises the question "where were Jesus' siblings, particular his brother who would assume responsibility for looking after his Mother?" Either way, Jesus Christ was a powerful teacher. More than that, he is the redeemer of mankind. And He lives, as witnesses have declared.

JX said...

I've been reading your comments. In my opinion, it seems Joseph was already dead by the time of Jesus' crucifixion. Using the phrase "Behold your Mother" is an example to all nations that she is all of us mother. He used John to make that point. Luke 1:28 said: "behold, from now on will all ages call me blessed." (New American Bible) Jesus gave us his mother on the cross

Anonymous said...

I have enjoyed reading the intellectual and thought-provoking comments on this blog. Sometimes we tend to make things more complicated than they have to be. I think the reason Joseph was not mentioned much either before or after His marriage to Mary was to teach us that our Father, who is in Heaven, is the Alpha and Omega. All other familial relationships (which were created by God)were designed to teach us about Him and how to relate to Him. Joseph played an important role and was used by God to accomplish His purpose but "Father" was not one of those roles. Jesus' only Father was God Himself. I'm sure Jesus related to Joseph in a respectful and honoring way because that is what His Father commanded. I can't help but think if we, as sons and daughters and we, as parents were to take this same mindset as our own that all of our human relationships would flow through that all important relationship with our one and only Father.