Joseph is a figure in the Gospels, the husband of Mary, the mother of Jesus and the earthly father of Jesus. In Roman Catholic, Eastern Orthodox and Anglican Christian traditions, he is regarded as Saint Joseph.
The first appearance of Joseph is in the gospels of Matthew and Luke. Each contains a genealogy of Jesus tracing his ancestry back to King David, but the two are from different sons of David; Matthew follows the major royal line from Solomon, while Luke follows a minor line from Nathan, another son of David and Bathsheba.
Matthew and Luke are also the only gospels to include the infancy narratives, and again they differ. In Luke, Joseph lives in Nazareth and travels to Bethlehem in compliance with the requirements of a Roman census. Subsequently, Jesus was born there. In Matthew, Joseph was in Bethlehem, the city of David, where Jesus is born, and then moves to Nazareth with his family after the death of Herod. Matthew is the only Gospel to include the narrative of the Massacre of the Innocents and the Flight into Egypt: following the nativity, Joseph stays in Bethlehem for an unspecified period (perhaps two years) until forced by Herod to take refuge in Egypt; on the death of Herod he brings his family back to Judea, and settles in Nazareth. After this point there is no further mention of Joseph by name, although the story of Jesus in the Temple, in Jesus’ 12th year, includes a reference to “both his parents”. Christian tradition represents Mary as a widow during the adult ministry of her son. The gospels describe Joseph as a “tekton”; traditionally the word has been taken to mean “carpenter”, though the Greek term evokes an artisan with wood in general, or an artisan in iron or stone.
Very little other information on Joseph is given in the gospels. He is never quoted. Matthew records four dreams in which Joseph is supernaturally instructed before, and after, the birth and early years of Jesus. In the first dream, an angel confirms to Joseph that Mary is with child, conceived by the Holy Spirit, that she will bear a son to be named Jesus, Who will save His people from their sins; and Joseph should, therefore, not be reluctant to marry her. In the second dream, an angel tells Joseph to take Mary and Jesus to Egypt (from Bethlehem) and remain until the angel instructs further, because Herod is seeking to kill Jesus. In Joseph’s third dream, an angel instructs Joseph to return his family to Israel, implying that Herod is dead. However, Joseph hears that Herod’s son Archelaus reigns over Judea, and he is afraid to continue the journey. In the fourth dream, God Himself warns Joseph to avoid returning to Judea (Bethlehem). Joseph then settles Mary and Jesus in the region of Galilee in Nazareth.
Joseph is venerated as a saint in the Catholic, Eastern Orthodox, Oriental Orthodox, Anglican, and Lutheran faiths. In Catholic and other traditions, Joseph is the patron saint of workers and has several feast days. He was also declared to be the patron saint and protector of the Catholic Church by Pope Pius IX in 1870, and is the patron of several countries and regions. With the growth of Mariology, the theological field of Josephology has also grown and since the 1950s centres for studying it have been formed.
Saint Joseph with the Infant Jesus, Guido Reni (c. 1635)