The holy and righteous Joseph the Betrothed, also referred to as Joseph of Nazareth, was the foster-father of Jesus Christ, according to the New Testament (Matthew 1:16; Luke 3:23). Not much is known of Joseph except that he was "of the House of David" and lived in the town of Nazareth. His date of death is unknown, though he was still living when Jesus was 12 years old.
He was betrothed to the Virgin Mary at the time that Mary conceived Jesus. Luke says that he lived at Nazareth in Galilee (Luke 2:4); however, according to Matthew, it was only after the return from Egypt that he settled in Nazareth (Matthew 2:23). He is called a "just man". He was by trade a carpenter (Matthew 13:55). He is last mentioned in connection with the journey to Jerusalem, when Jesus was twelve years old. It is probable that Joseph died before Jesus entered on his public ministry because only Mary was present at the marriage feast in Cana of Galilee, and he is not described at the crucifixion along with Mary (John 19:25). In addition, St. Joseph of Arimathea asked for the body of Jesus, a duty that would have fallen to St. Joseph had he been alive.
Jesus Christ is described as being the brother of James, Justus, Jude, and Simon, and several sisters (Mark 6:3; Matthew 13:55). A tradition at least as early as the second century, still adopted by the Orthodox Church, explains that these "brothers and sisters" were from Joseph's marriage to Salome who left him a widower before he was betrothed to Mary and so making them step-brothers and step-sisters. He was the older brother to Cleopas, who was also married to a woman named Mary.
That Jesus commended Mary to the care of John the Evangelist while he was hanging on the cross has been interpreted to also suggest that Joseph had died by that time, and that Joseph and Mary did not have any other children who might care for Mary.
Also in the imagery of the Christian church, statues of Joseph depict his staff topped with flowers, recalling the Protevangelion's account of how Mary's spouse was chosen. Among the collected walking sticks of widowers in Israel, Joseph was distinguished when his staff burst into flower.
St Joseph is commemorated on the Sunday after the Nativity. If there is no Sunday between December 25 and January 1, his feast is moved to December 26, along with David the King and James the Brother of our Lord. The Righteous Joseph is also commemorated on the Sunday of the Forefathers. There is an akathist hymn dedicated to him.
Hymns to Joseph, David the King, and James
Troparion (Tone 2)
- Proclaim the wonder, O Joseph,
- to David, the ancestor of God:
- you saw a Virgin great with Child,
- you gave glory with the shepherds,
- you worshipped with the Magi,
- you received the news from the angel.
- Pray to Christ God to save our souls!
Kontakion (Tone 3)
- Today godly David is filled with joy;
- Joseph and James offer praise.
- The glorious crown of their kinship with Christ fills them with great joy.
- They sing praises to the One ineffably born on earth,
- and they cry out: "O Compassionate One, save those who honor You!"
- Holy Righteous Joseph the Betrothed, along with David the King, and James the Brother of the Lord (OCA)
- Q&A about St. Joseph (OCA)
- Translations of the Protevangelium of James from Early Christian Writings
- The Akathist Hymn in Honor of the Righteous Joseph, the Betrothed of the Most-Holy Virgin, Mary, according to the usage of the Kyivan Church of the Catholic Communion (Uniate)
- Icon of St. Joseph the Betrothed
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