What do we know about Joseph, Mary’s betrothed and how do we know it? The bible doesn’t say much.

Indeed, Joseph is a quiet man in the Gospels, included in several stories in Matthew’s and Luke’s Gospels (which both include genealogies tracing Joseph’s lineage to King David) and briefly mentioned in John’s Gospel. No words are attributed to this carpenter in any of these passages and yet his presence speaks loudly. He is described as a man of faith, an upright man, and a man who is open to God’s direction. In Matthew’s Gospel, in particular, we are told of significant dreams that Joseph has in which he learns God’s will that he should take Mary as his wife (Mt 1:18-25) and later take her and the child to Egypt for safety from Herod (Mt 2:13-23). Final mention of Joseph comes in Luke’s story of the finding of the boy Jesus in the Temple (Lk 2:41-52). Other stories about Joseph, however, can be found in some non-canonical (apocryphal) writings such as the Protoevangelium of James (there’s a mouthful!). Here, it is explained that Jesus’ “brothers” are actually children of Joseph from an earlier marriage and that, at the time he took Mary as his wife, he was a widower. This non-canonical writing also gives us the tradition of how Joseph came to select Mary as his spouse. Although these writings are not considered inspired, these stories have long been revered and are the source of much of the Tradition surrounding St. Joseph.

Joe Paprocki

Joe Paprocki, D.Min., is National Consultant for Faith Formation at Loyola Press in Chicago. He has over 30 years of experience in pastoral ministry in the Archdiocese of Chicago. Joe is the author of numerous books on pastoral ministry and catechesis, including The Bible Blueprint, Living the Mass, and bestsellers The Catechist's Toolbox and A Well-Built Faith (all from Loyola Press).