Saint Joseph with the Infant Jesus by Guido Reni, c. 1635
|Spouse of the Blessed Virgin Mary|
Legal father of Jesus
Prince and Patron of the Universal Church
|Venerated in||All Christian denominations which venerate saints|
|Feast||19 March – Saint Joseph, Husband of Mary (Western Christianity)
1 May – Memorial of Saint Joseph the Worker (Catholic Church)The Sunday after the Nativity of the Lord (Eastern Christianity)
|Attributes||Carpenter's square or tools, the infant Jesus, staff with lily blossoms, two turtle doves, rod of spikenard.|
|Patronage||Catholic Church, unborn children, fathers, immigrants, workers, employment, explorer, pilgrims, traveller, carpenters, engineers, realtors, against doubt and hesitation, and of a happy death, China, Belgium, From the State of Ceará and the city of Macapá in Brazil, Canada, Croatia, Korea, Indonesia, Zapotlan in Mexico, Vietnam, Tagbilaran City, Bohol, Mandaue City, Bailen, Cavite, Cebu, Philippines, and many others.|
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Joseph (Hebrew: יוֹסֵף, romanized: Yosef; Greek: Ἰωσήφ, romanized: Ioséph) is a figure in the canonical gospels who was married to Mary, mother of Jesus, and was the legal father of Jesus. The Gospels name brothers of Jesus; the Gospel of James, an apocryphal work of the late 2nd century, theorized these as the sons of Joseph from an earlier marriage. This position is still held in the Orthodox churches, but the Western church holds to Saint Jerome's argument that both Joseph and Mary must have been lifelong virgins and that the "brothers" must have been his cousins. Perspectives on Joseph as a historical figure are distinguished from a theological reading of the Gospel texts.
Joseph is venerated as Saint Joseph in the Catholic Church, Orthodox Church, Oriental Orthodox Church, Anglicanism, and Lutheranism. In Catholic traditions, Joseph is regarded as the patron saint of workers and is associated with various feast days. The month of March is dedicated to Saint Joseph. Pope Pius IX declared him to be both the patron and the protector of the Catholic Church, in addition to his patronages of the sick and of a happy death, due to the belief that he died in the presence of Jesus and Mary. Joseph has become patron of various dioceses and places.
Several venerated images of Saint Joseph have been granted a decree of canonical coronation by a Pope. In popular religious iconography he is associated with lilies or a spikenard. With the present-day growth of Mariology, the theological field of Josephology has also grown and since the 1950s centers for studying it have been formed.
The epistles of Paul are the oldest extant Christian writings. These mention Jesus' mother (without naming her), but do not refer to his father. The Gospel of Mark, believed to be the first gospel to be written and with a date about two decades after Paul, also does not mention Jesus' father.
The first appearance of Joseph is in the gospels of Matthew and Luke, from around 80–90 AD. Each contains a genealogy of Jesus showing ancestry from King David, but through different sons; Matthew follows the major royal line from Solomon, while Luke traces another line back to Nathan, another son of David and Bathsheba. Consequently, all the names between David and Joseph are different.
Like the two differing genealogies, the infancy narratives appear only in Matthew and Luke and take different approaches to reconciling the requirement that the Messiah be born in Bethlehem with the tradition that Jesus in fact came from Nazareth. In Matthew, Joseph obeys the direction of an angel to marry Mary. Following the birth of Jesus in Bethlehem, Joseph is told by an angel in a dream to take the family to Egypt to escape the massacre of the children of Bethlehem planned by Herod, the ruler of the Roman province of Judea. Once Herod has died, an angel tells Joseph to return, but to avoid Herod's son he takes his wife and the child to Nazareth in Galilee and settles there. Thus in Matthew, the infant Jesus, like Moses, is in peril from a cruel king, like Moses he has a (fore)father named Joseph who goes down to Egypt, like the Old Testament Joseph this Joseph has a father named Jacob, and both Josephs receive important dreams foretelling their future.
In the Gospel book of Luke, Joseph already lives in Nazareth, and Jesus is born in Bethlehem because Joseph and Mary have to travel there to be counted in a census. Subsequently, Jesus was born there. Luke's account makes no mention of him being visited by angels (Mary and various others instead receive similar visitations), the Massacre of the Innocents, or of a visit to Egypt.
The last time Joseph appears in person in any Gospel book is in the story of the Passover visit to the Temple in Jerusalem when Jesus is 12 years old, found only in Luke. No mention is made of him thereafter. The story emphasizes Jesus' awareness of his coming mission: here Jesus speaks to his parents (both of them) of "my father," meaning God, but they fail to understand (Luke 2:41–51).
Christian tradition represents Mary as a widow during the adult ministry of her son. Joseph is not mentioned as being present at the Wedding at Cana at the beginning of Jesus' mission, nor at the Passion at the end. If he had been present at the Crucifixion, he would under Jewish custom have been expected to take charge of Jesus' body, but this role is instead performed by Joseph of Arimathea. Nor would Jesus have entrusted his mother to the care of John the Apostle if her husband had been alive.
While none of the Gospels mentions Joseph as present at any event during Jesus' adult ministry, the synoptic Gospels share a scene in which the people of Nazareth, Jesus' hometown, doubt Jesus' status as a prophet because they know his family. In Mark 6:3, they call Jesus "Mary's son" instead of naming his father. In Matthew, the townspeople call Jesus "the carpenter's son," again without naming his father. (Matthew 13:53–55) In Luke 3:23 NIV: "Now Jesus himself was about thirty years old when he began his ministry. He was the son, so it was thought, of Joseph, the son of Heli," (Luke 4:16–30); or alternatively punctuated: "(ὡς ἐνομ. τοῦ Ἰωσὴφ) τοῦ Ἡλί, ‘the son (as supposed of Joseph, but in reality) of Heli'". In Luke the tone of the contemporary people is positive, whereas in Mark and Matthew it is disparaging. This incident does not appear at all in John, but in a parallel story the disbelieving neighbors refer to "Jesus the son of Joseph, whose father and mother we know" (John 6:41–51).
|1||Joseph lived in Nazareth||Luke 2:4|
|2||Genealogy of Jesus||Matthew 1:1–17 Solomon to Jacob||Luke 3:23 Nathan to Heli|
|3||Joseph Betrothed to Mary||Matthew 1:18|
|4||Angel visits Joseph (1st dream)||Matthew 1:20–21|
|5||Joseph and Mary travel to Bethlehem||Luke 2:1–5|
|6||Birth of Jesus||Matthew 1:25||Luke 2:6–7|
|7||Temple presentation||Luke 2:22–24|
|8||Angel tells Joseph to flee (2nd dream)||Matthew 2:13|
|9||Flight into Egypt||Matthew 2:14–15|
|10||Angel tells Joseph to return to Nazareth (3rd dream)||Matthew 2:19–20|
|11||Joseph and family settle in Nazareth||Matthew 2:21–23||Luke 2:39|
|12||Finding Jesus in the Temple||Luke 2:41–51|
|13||Holy Family||John 6:41–42|
Joseph appears in Luke as the father of Jesus and in a "variant reading in Matthew". Matthew and Luke both contain a genealogy of Jesus showing his ancestry from David, but through different sons; Matthew follows the major royal line from Solomon, while Luke traces another line back to Nathan, another son of David and Bathsheba. Consequently, all the names between David and Joseph are different. According to Matthew 1:16 "Jacob begat Joseph the husband of Mary", while according to Luke 3:23, Joseph is said to be "the son of Heli".
The variances between the genealogies given in Matthew and Luke are explained in a number of ways; one possibility is that Matthew's genealogy traces Jesus' legal descent, according to Jewish law, through Joseph; while Luke's genealogy traces his actual physical descent through Mary,
In the Gospels, Joseph's occupation is mentioned only once. The Gospel of Matthew[13:55] asks about Jesus:
Is not this the carpenter's son (ho tou tektōnos huios)?
Joseph's description as a "tekton" (τέκτων) has been traditionally translated into English as "carpenter", but is a rather general word (from the same root that gives us "technical" and "technology") that could cover makers of objects in various materials. The Greek term evokes an artisan with wood in general, or an artisan in iron or stone. But the specific association with woodworking is a constant in Early Christian tradition; Justin Martyr (died c. 165) wrote that Jesus made yokes and ploughs, and there are similar early references.
Other scholars have argued that tekton could equally mean a highly skilled craftsman in wood or the more prestigious metal, perhaps running a workshop with several employees, and noted sources recording the shortage of skilled artisans at the time. Geza Vermes has stated that the terms 'carpenter' and 'son of a carpenter' are used in the Jewish Talmud to signify a very learned man, and he suggests that a description of Joseph as 'naggar' (a carpenter) could indicate that he was considered wise and highly literate in the Torah. At the time of Joseph, Nazareth was an obscure village in Galilee, about 65 kilometres (40 mi) from the Holy City of Jerusalem, and is barely mentioned in surviving non-Christian texts and documents. Archaeology over most of the site is made impossible by subsequent building, but from what has been excavated and tombs in the area around the village, it is estimated that the population was at most about 400. It was, however, only about 6 kilometres from the city of Sepphoris, which was destroyed and depopulated by the Romans in 4 BC, and thereafter was expensively rebuilt. Analysis of the landscape and other evidence suggest that in Joseph's lifetime Nazareth was "oriented toward" the nearby city, which had an overwhelmingly Jewish population although with many signs of Hellenization, and historians have speculated that Joseph and later Jesus too might have traveled daily to work on the rebuilding. Specifically the large theatre in the city has been suggested, although this has aroused much controversy over dating and other issues. Other scholars see Joseph and Jesus as the general village craftsmen, working in wood, stone, and metal on a wide variety of jobs.
The name "Joseph" is found almost exclusively in the genealogies and the infancy narratives. Modern positions on the question of the relationship between Joseph and the Virgin Mary vary. The Eastern Orthodox Church, which names Joseph's first wife as Salome, holds that Joseph was a widower and merely betrothed, but never married, to Mary, and that references to Jesus' "brothers" are to children of Joseph and Salome. The position of the Catholic Church, derived from the writings of Jerome, is that Joseph was the husband of Mary, but that references to Jesus' "brothers" should be understood to mean cousins or step-brothers. Such usage is prevalent throughout history, and occurs elsewhere in the Bible. Abraham's nephew Lot (Genesis 11:26-28) was referred to as his brother (Genesis 14:14), as was Jacob's uncle Laban (Genesis 29:15). Jesus himself frequently used the word "brother" as a generic term for one's fellow man. This custom has continued into modern times, with close friends, colleagues, and fellow churchgoers often called "brothers and sisters." Generally, certain Protestants and other groups opposed to the Roman Catholic teaching read "brothers and sisters" of Jesus as referring specifically to children born of Mary.
In both cases, the church doctrine of the Perpetual Virginity means that Joseph and Mary never had sexual relations. The Protestant churches, following the tenet of Virgin Birth but not that of Perpetual Virginity, hold no strong views on the subject.
The term kiddushin, which refers to the first part of a two-part marriage, is frequently translated as "betrothal". Couples who fulfill the requirements of the kiddushin are married, until death or divorce.
The New Testament has no mention of Joseph's death, but he is never mentioned after Jesus's childhood, and Mary is always presented as by herself, often dressed as a widow, in other texts and art covering the period of the ministry and passion of Jesus. By contrast, the apocryphal History of Joseph the Carpenter, from the 5th or 6th century, has a long account of Joseph's peaceful death, at the age of 111, in the presence of Jesus (aged about 19), Mary and angels. This scene starts to appear in art in the 17th century.
The canonical gospels created a problem: they stated clearly that Mary was a virgin when she conceived Jesus, and that Joseph was not his father; yet Joseph's paternity was essential to establish Jesus' Davidic descent. The theological situation was complicated by the gospel references to Jesus' "brothers and sisters" (repeated in Paul, where James is called the "brother of Christ"), and by the fact that Jesus was described unambiguously by John and Matthew as "Joseph's son" and "the carpenter's son." From the 2nd century to the 5th writers tried to explain how Jesus could be simultaneously the "son of God" and the "son of Joseph".
The first to offer a solution was the apocryphal Protoevangelium of James, written about 150 AD. The original gospels never refer to Joseph's age, but the author presents him as an old man chosen by lot (i.e., by God) to watch over the Virgin. Jesus' brothers are presented as Joseph's children by an earlier marriage, and his years and righteousness explain why he has not yet had sex with his wife: "I received her by lot as my wife, and she is not yet my wife, but she has conceived by the Holy Spirit."
The Protoevangelium was extremely popular, but it leaves open the possibility that Joseph might have had relations with Mary after the birth of Jesus ("she is not yet my wife..."). A few centuries later the developing doctrine that Mary was a virgin not only at the time of the conception and birth of Christ, but throughout her life, meant that this possibility had to be excluded.
The apocryphal History of Joseph the Carpenter, written in the 5th century and framed as a biography of Joseph dictated by Jesus, describes how Joseph, aged 90 (the Protoevangelium had not given Joseph a specific age), a widower with four sons and two daughters, is given charge of the twelve-year-old Mary, who then lives in his household raising his youngest son James the Less (the supposed author of the Protoevangelium) until she is ready to be married at age 14½. Joseph's death at the age of 111, attended by angels and asserting the perpetual virginity of Mary, takes up approximately half the story.
According to the bishop of Salamis, Epiphanius, in his work The Panarion (AD 374–375) "Joseph became the father of James and his three brothers (Joses, Simeon, Judah) and two sisters (a Salome and a Mary or a Salome and an Anna) with James being the eldest sibling. James and his siblings were not children of Mary but were Joseph's children from a previous marriage. After Joseph's first wife died, many years later when he was eighty, "he took Mary (mother of Jesus)".
Eusebius of Caesarea relates in his Church History (Book III, ch. 11) that "Hegesippus records that Clopas was a brother of Joseph and an uncle of Jesus." Epiphanius adds that Joseph and Cleopas were brothers, sons of "Jacob, surnamed Panther."
Origen quotes the Greek philosopher, Celsus (from his work On the True Doctrine, c. 178 AD), as controversially asserting that Joseph left Mary upon learning of her pregnancy: "...when she was pregnant she was turned out of doors by the carpenter to whom she had been betrothed, as having been guilty of adultery, and that she bore a child to a certain soldier named Panthera." Origen, however, argues that Celsus' claim was simply a concoction used by early non-Christians to explain away the virginal birth story.
The earliest records of a formal devotional following for Saint Joseph date to the year 800 and references to him as Nutritor Domini (educator/guardian of the Lord) began to appear in the 9th century, and continued growing to the 14th century. Thomas Aquinas discussed the necessity of the presence of Saint Joseph in the plan of the Incarnation for if Mary had not been married, the Jews would have stoned her and that in his youth Jesus needed the care and protection of a human father.
In the 15th century, major steps were taken by Bernardine of Siena, Pierre d'Ailly, and Jean Gerson. Gerson wrote Consideration sur Saint Joseph and preached sermons on Saint Joseph at the Council of Constance. In 1889 Pope Leo XIII issued the encyclical Quamquam pluries in which he urged Catholics to pray to Saint Joseph, as the patron of the Church in view of the challenges facing the Church.
Josephology, the theological study of Saint Joseph, is one of the most recent theological disciplines. In 1989, on the occasion of the centenary of Quamquam pluries Pope John Paul II issued Redemptoris Custos (Guardian of the Redeemer), which presented Saint Joseph's role in the plan of redemption, as part of the "redemption documents" issued by John Paul II such as Redemptoris Mater to which it refers.
Together with the Blessed Virgin Mary and the Child Jesus, Joseph is one of the three members of the Holy Family; since he only appears in the birth narratives of the Gospels, Jesus is depicted as a child when with him. The formal veneration of the Holy Family began in the 17th century by François de Laval.
In 1962, Pope John XXIII inserted the name of Joseph in the Canon of the Mass, immediately after that of the Blessed Virgin Mary. In 2013, Pope Francis had his name added to the three other Eucharistic Prayers.
19 March, Saint Joseph's Day, has been the principal feast day of Saint Joseph in Western Christianity since the 10th century, and is celebrated by Catholics, Anglicans, many Lutherans, and other denominations. In Eastern Orthodoxy, the feast day of Saint Joseph is celebrated on the First Sunday after the Nativity of Christ. In the Roman Catholic church, the Feast of St. Joseph (19 March) is a solemnity (first class if using the Tridentine calendar), and is transferred to another date if impeded (i.e., 19 March falling on Sunday or in Holy Week).
|Feast of Saint Joseph|
Saint Joseph with the Infant Jesus by Guido Reni, c 1635
|Observed by||Catholic Church|
|Celebrations||Carrying blessed fava beans, wearing red-coloured clothing, assembling home altars dedicated to Saint Joseph, attending a Saint Joseph's Day parade|
|Observances||Church attendance at Mass or Divine Service|
Popular customs among Christians of various liturgical traditions observing Saint Joseph's Day are attending Mass or the Divine Service, wearing red-coloured clothing, carrying dried fava beans that have been blessed, and assembling home altars dedicated to Saint Joseph.
In Sicily, where Saint Joseph is regarded by many as their patron saint, and in many Italian-American communities, thanks are given to Saint Joseph (San Giuseppe in Italian) for preventing a famine in Sicily during the Middle Ages. According to legend, there was a severe drought at the time, and the people prayed for their patron saint to bring them rain. They promised that if God answered their prayers through Joseph's intercession, they would prepare a large feast to honor him. The rain did come, and the people of Sicily prepared a large banquet for their patron saint. The fava bean was the crop which saved the population from starvation and is a traditional part of Saint Joseph's Day altars and traditions. Giving food to the needy is a Saint Joseph's Day custom. In some communities it is traditional to wear red clothing and eat a Neapolitan pastry known as a zeppola (created in 1840 by Don Pasquale Pinatauro in Napoli) on Saint Joseph's Day. Maccu di San Giuseppe is a traditional Sicilian dish that consists of various ingredients and maccu that is prepared on this day. Maccu is a foodstuff and soup that dates to ancient times which is prepared with fava beans as a primary ingredient.
Upon a typical Saint Joseph's Day altar, people place flowers, limes, candles, wine, fava beans, specially prepared cakes, breads, cookies, other meatless dishes, and zeppole. Foods are traditionally served containing bread crumbs to represent sawdust since Joseph was a carpenter. Because the feast occurs during Lent, traditionally no meat was allowed on the celebration table. The altar usually has three tiers, to represent the Trinity.
In 1870, Pope Pius IX declared Joseph patron of the Universal Church and instituted another feast, a solemnity with an octave, to be held in his honour on Wednesday in the second week after Easter. The 1870 feast was replaced in the 1955 General Roman Calendar of Pope Pius XII by the Feast of "Saint Joseph the Worker", to be celebrated on 1 May. This date coincides with the secular International Workers' Day promoted by the labour movement and left-wing parties since the 1890s, and reflects Joseph's status as patron saint of workers. Catholic and other Christian teachings and stories about or relating to Joseph and the Holy Family frequently stress his patience, persistence, courage, and hard work. The Feast of Saint Joseph the Worker (1 May) is an Optional Memorial, and so is omitted if impeded, unless the day is raised to a higher rank because Saint Joseph is the patron of the church, diocese, place, or institution. (However, the 1 May celebration is 1st class in the Tridentine calendar, so in it Saint Joseph the Worker was celebrated on 2 May in 2008 because 1 May was Ascension Thursday and in 2011 because 1 May was in the Easter octave.)
Pope Pius IX proclaimed Saint Joseph the patron of the Universal Church in 1870. Having died in the "arms of Jesus and Mary" according to Catholic tradition, he is considered the model of the pious believer who receives grace at the moment of death, in other words, the patron of a happy death.
Saint Joseph is the patron saint of a number of cities, regions and countries, among them the Americas, Austria, Belgium, Canada, China, Croatia, Indonesia, Mexico, Korea, Peru, the Philippines, and Vietnam, as well as of families, fathers, expectant mothers (pregnant women), explorers, pilgrims, travelers, immigrants, house sellers and buyers, craftsmen, engineers, and working people in general.
Many cities, towns, and locations are named after Saint Joseph. 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 Rica, and San Jose, California, United States, given their name by Spanish colonists. Joseph is the patron saint of the New World; and of the regions Carinthia, Styria, Tyrol, Sicily; and of several main cities and dioceses.
Many churches, monasteries and other institutions are dedicated to Saint Joseph. Saint Joseph's Oratory is the largest church in Canada, with the largest dome of its kind in the world after that of Saint Peter's Basilica in Rome. Elsewhere in the world churches named after the saint may be known as those of San Giuseppe, e.g. San Giuseppe dei Teatini, San José, e.g. Metropolitan Cathedral of San José or São José, e.g. in Porto Alegre, Brazil.
The Sisters of St. Joseph were founded as an order in 1650 and have about 14,013 members worldwide. In 1871, 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. The Oblates of St. Joseph were founded in 1878 by St. Joseph Marello. In 1999 their Shrine of Saint Joseph the Guardian of the Redeemer was named after the Apostolic exhortation Redemptoris Custos.
In the Eastern Orthodox Church, during the feast day of Saint Joseph 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.
In the Catholic tradition, just as there are prayers for the Seven Joys of Mary and Seven Sorrows of Mary, there are also prayers for the seven joys and seven sorrows of Saint Joseph. St. Joseph is frequently invoked for employment, daily protection, vocation, happy marriage, and a happy death.
Multiple saints have described their devotion to St. Joseph and his intercession. Saint Francis de Sales included Saint Joseph along with Virgin Mary as saints to be invoked during prayers in his Introduction to the Devout Life. Saint Teresa of Avila attributed her recovery of health to Saint Joseph and recommended him as an advocate. Saint Therese of Lisieux stated that she prayed daily to "Saint Joseph, Father and Protector of Virgins..." and felt protected from danger as a result. Pope Saint Pius X composed a prayer to Saint Joseph which begins:
Glorious St. Joseph, pattern of all who are devoted to toil,
obtain for me the grace to toil, in the spirit of penance,
in order to thereby atone for my many sins...
There is a belief that planting a statue of St. Joseph on a house will help sell the house.
Up to about the 17th century Joseph tends to be depicted as a man advanced in years, with grey hair, often balding, occasionally frail, 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 sexual continence 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. Art critic Waldemar Januszczak however emphasises the preponderance of Joseph's representation as an old man and sees this as the need, " to explain away his impotence: indeed to symbolise it. In Guido Reni's Nativity, Mary is about 15, and he is about 70 – for the real love affair – is the one between the Virgin Mary and us. She is young. She is perfect. She is virginal – it is Joseph's task to stand aside and let us desire her, religiously. It takes a particularly old, a particularly grey, a particularly kindly and a particularly feeble man to do that. ...Banished in vast numbers to the backgrounds of all those gloomy stables in all those ersatz Bethlehems, his complex iconographic task is to stand aside and let his wife be worshipped by the rest of us." However Carolyn Wilson challenges the long-held view that pre-Tridentine images were often intended to demean him. According to Charlene Villaseñor Black, "Seventeenth-century Spanish and Mexican artists reconceptualized Joseph as an important figure, ... representing him as the youthful, physically robust, diligent head of the Holy Family." In Bartolomé Esteban Murillo's The Two Trinities, Saint Joseph is given the same prominence as the Virgin.
Full cycles of his life are rare in the Middle Ages, although 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 the walking sticks of widowers in Palestine, and Joseph's alone bursting into flower, thus identifying him as divinely chosen. The Golden Legend, which derives its account from the much older Gospel of Pseudo-Matthew, tells a similar story, although it notes that all marriageable men of the Davidic line and not only widowers were ordered by the High Priest to present their rods at the Temple. 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.
Marc-Antoine Charpentier, Motet de St Joseph, H.368, for soloists, chorus, and continuo (1690)
Legal father, because he cohabits with Mary, Jesus' mother. Through this title Mary is spared from false suppositions and Jesus from spurious origins. However ... this is an extremely exterior characterization.
An exceedingly difficult question here arises—What were these 'brethren' and 'sisters' to Jesus? Were they, First, His full brothers and sisters? or, Secondly, Were they His step-brothers and step-sisters, children of Joseph by a former marriage? or, Thirdly, Were they cousins, according to a common way of speaking among the Jews respecting persons of collateral descent? On this subject an immense deal has been written, nor are opinions yet by any means agreed. For the second opinion there is no ground but a vague tradition, arising probably from the wish for some such explanation. The first opinion undoubtedly suits the text best in all the places where the parties are certainly referred to (Mt 12:46; and its parallels, Mr 3:31; Lu 8:19; our present passage, and its parallels, Mr 6:3; Joh 2:12; 7:3, 5, 10; Ac 1:14). But, in addition to other objections, many of the best interpreters, thinking it in the last degree improbable that our Lord, when hanging on the cross, would have committed His mother to John if He had had full brothers of His own then alive, prefer the third opinion; although, on the other hand, it is not to be doubted that our Lord might have good reasons for entrusting the guardianship of His doubly widowed mother to the beloved disciple in preference even to full brothers of His own. Thus dubiously we prefer to leave this vexed question, encompassed as it is with difficulties!