Think Free

St. Joseph

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Joseph marries Mary

Joseph marries Mary by Niall McAuley via Flickr

St. Joseph (1st century BCE) According to the Bible, particularly the Catholic interpretation, Joseph is the chaste spouse of the Virgin Mary and the foster-father of Jesus Christ.

A simple carpenter in the town of Nazareth, Joseph is last mentioned in the Bible when Christ is aged 12 years.

Many believe that Joseph, being much older than Mary, died by the time Christ began his public ministry.

Some feminists and Christians in general believe that Joseph and Mary had sex to produce the Christ child. Theological dogmas and arguments that preserve Mary’s virginity are often seen as patriarchal ploys to subjugate women, devalue sex and define the human body as a sinful object.

Others believe that Christ was fathered by God but Joseph and Mary possibly had another child (James) through intercourse.

Catholic prayer, however, usually describes Joseph as a “most chaste spouse” of the Virgin Mary. And James, Jesus’ alleged brother is regarded as a relative but not an actual brother. This is based on other parts of the New Testament that clearly state that Mary is a Virgin, and an informed understanding of the Greek term for “brother” (adelphos) as it appears in the historical context of the New Testament, along with the Catholic teaching tradition, held to be inspired by the Holy Spirit.¹

Joseph’s feast day is 19 March.

¹ To get a sense for the controversy around the word “brother,” see:


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