Life of Joseph

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This short article discusses the life of Joseph, a man entrusted by God to be the stepfather of Jesus. What were his outstanding character traits? Did he produce any children with Mary? How long did he live?

The Bible introduces us to life of Joseph as a man who was a physical descendant of King David (Luke 1:26, Matthew 1:1 - 16). He lived in the Galilean city of Nazareth (Luke 2:4) as a carpenter (Matthew 13:55, Mark 6:3). A woman named Mary, who also lived in the city (Luke 1:26 - 27), was espoused to be his wife.

Although it is unknown at what age Joseph and Mary got married, Jewish tradition at the time stated that boys could marry starting at the age of 18 and girls at the age of 12 (Complete Word Study Dictionary).

Timeline of Jesus' Birth
Journeys of Mary and Joseph Map
Did Rome write about Jesus' life?

Joseph discovers his betrothed wife is pregnant (Matthew 1:18) after she returns from visiting her cousin Elizabeth (who likely lived in the Judean city of Hebron). Although he could expose her adultery publically and risk her being stoned to death (Deuteronomy 22:23 - 24), he desires to divorce Mary privately.

It is only after God intervenes, through a dream, that Joseph decides to stay married (Matthew 1:19 - 21).


Rest on Flight to Egypt by Caravaggio
Rest on Flight to Egypt
(Joseph holds music for angel)
Caravaggio, 1596 - 97

Though informed of the supernatural origin of Mary's pregnancy, Joseph had to exercise a great deal of faith and courage to continue his relationship with her. His decision to stay married meant he would have to endure, for the rest of his life, the ridicule and gossip of neighbors, relatives and others who rejected the Lord's miraculous conception and believed he married a pregnant fornicator.

After the Messiah is born, Joseph and Mary produce at least six children and possibly more. The names of the boys were Simon, James, Joses and Judas (Jude) and the name of one of the girls was Salome (Matthew 13:54 - 57, Mark 6:3, 15:40).

At least two of Joseph's biological sons, James and Jude, eventually became Christians and pillars in the first century church. In fact, these two sons wrote books that are included in our New Testament (the books of James and Jude)!

Jesus' stepfather was a loving parent who was concerned about the wellbeing of those under his care (Luke 2:45, 48). He was a just man who was obedient to the Bible's laws and commandments (Luke 2:21 - 24), including keeping God's Holy Feast days (Luke 2:41).

Joseph faithfully followed God's direction when told, on several occasions, what to do (Matthew 1:20 - 21, 2:13 - 14, 19 - 22). He willingly obeyed the laws of the land even when some of them were not only difficult to keep but also enforced by an occupying, and unwelcomed, foreign power (Luke 2:1 - 5).

Scripture does not tell us how long was the life of Joseph or when he died. The last known reference to him occurs after he and his family keep the Feast of Passover in Jerusalem (Luke 2:41 - 51) in 9 A.D. He almost certainly, as most Bible commentaries declare, passed away by the time Christ began his public ministry in a jubilee year.

Joseph's life ended somewhere between the middle of 9 A.D. and the fall of 26, and was dead for several (likely many) years before our Savior was crucified in 30 A.D.

Additional Study Materials
How did Jesus use humor to teach?
Why wasn't Christ named Emmanuel?
Children of Mary and Joseph
What errors are in Nativity scenes?


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