Who chose Joseph as the father of Jesus?

St. Joseph of Nazareth - patron saint of the church

On the occasion of the 150th anniversary of this appointment of St. Joseph, Pope Francis issued an apostolic letter on December 8, 2020 and proclaimed a year of St. Joseph. Special indulgences can be won until December 8, 2021.

Joseph of Nazareth is the bridegroom of Mary, the mother of Jesus, in the New Testament. The Gospels and the Proto-Gospel of James report that he was a carpenter or builder from Nazareth, which is why he is also referred to as "the carpenter" in the Christian tradition.

In the New Testament, John says that according to statements made by the population, Joseph was the father of Jesus (John 1.45): "Jesus from Nazareth, the son of Joseph"). In addition, brothers and sisters of Jesus are mentioned here, including James. The fact that Joseph was also their father is not explicitly mentioned (Mt 13,55 and Mk 6,3). The evangelists Matthew (Mt 1.18) and Luke (Lk 1.35), on the other hand, emphasize that Joseph was merely the legal father of Jesus, since Mary did not conceive him through human generation but through the action of the Holy Spirit. The church doctrine of the virgin birth follows this. In Catholic literature in particular, Joseph is often referred to as the foster father (in Latin Nutritius) or foster father of Jesus.

In the New Testament, the evangelists Matthew and Luke report details of Joseph in their childhood stories of Jesus and each give - clearly different from each other - a family tree of Jesus, which says that Joseph comes from the family of the Israelite King David. Jacob is named as the father of Joseph in the genealogy of the Gospel of Matthew (Mt 1.16), whereas Eli (Lk. 3.23) is mentioned in the genealogy of the Gospel of Luke. This was already explained by the early church with reference to Eusebius of Caesarea with the regulation of the levirate marriage, according to which Joseph had a biological and a different legal father, which results in different lines of origin depending on how you look at it.

His occupation is indicated with the Greek τέκτων Tekton (Mt 13,55 NA), which at that time meant something like 'builder', also 'architect' or 'builder' and included all activities in house building. A tecton was generally trained to work with wood and stones.

According to the evangelist Matthew, Joseph was betrothed to Mary and, on the instructions of an angel who had appeared to him in a dream one night, took her as his wife, although she (not his) was pregnant. According to Christian teaching, this is one of the testimonies that Mary received Jesus from the Holy Spirit.

The Matthean Joseph recalls the Old Testament Joseph from Gen 37-50, who, like his namesake, is descended from Jacob (Mt 1.16), dreams (Mt 1.20-25; 2.13.19f.22) and has to go to Egypt in order to to save his family (Mt 2: 13-15). In this way the evangelist reflects not only the origin of Jesus from David and God with the help of the Old Testament, but also the origin of Jesus from Joseph. For how the descendant of the Old Testament Joseph (Jeroboam) has to flee from the enemy king (Solomon) to Egypt, returns after the death of the king and becomes the ruler of an independent northern kingdom (cf. 1 Kings 11: 26-12: 25) the descendant of the New Testament Joseph (Jesus) before Herod's attempt to kill him in Egypt and after his death he comes back from Egypt and becomes king in Galilee (Mt 2: 13-23).

According to the two Gospels, Jesus was born in Bethlehem because, according to Luke, Joseph, who lived in Nazareth, had to go to his native city with his wife because of a census. According to the Gospel of Matthew, after Jesus was born, the family had to flee to Egypt on the order of an angel, which Joseph received in a dream, because King Herod had all newborn children in Bethlehem for fear of the prophesied newborn king of the Jews who would oust him let kill.

This child murder in Bethlehem is sparsely documented in other sources. Later, on divine instruction, which Joseph received in a dream, the family moved back to Israel, where he did not settle in Judea but in Galilee in the town of Nazareth, where Jesus grew up.

The designation "Jesus, son of Joseph" can also be found in the Gospel of John (Jn 1.45 and 6.42), similarly in Lk 3.23 and Lk 4.22. Otherwise Joseph is not mentioned in the Gospels or any other New Testament scripture. From this it was concluded that he died before Jesus appeared in public. According to the church father Jerome, Joseph died before the baptism of Jesus, according to apocryphal writings, before the crucifixion of Jesus, in the presence of Jesus.

The Greek Orthodox and Roman Catholic traditions assume that Joseph also married Mary after the birth of Jesus without an apartment (hence Joseph's marriage). The brothers and sisters of Jesus attested in the New Testament would then be understood as a circle of close relatives.

In the Eastern Church St. Joseph was venerated very early, in the Western Church, on the other hand, only from around 850 and only very hesitantly, since the legal paternity relationship was considered difficult to understand in the Middle Ages; a theological profiling of his personality as the father of Christ as well as the husband of Mary and defender of her virginity (Defensor virginitatis) began in the 15th century with Gerson, d’Ailly and Bernardine of Siena.

Since the 17th century St. Joseph, who according to tradition died in the lap of Mary and in the presence of Jesus, the patron saint of the dying; its veneration as a refuge for the dying (Refugium agonizantum) was particularly encouraged by the Jesuits, in addition to the Carmelites.

Pope Pius IX declared St. Joseph to be the patron saint of the Catholic Church in 1870. Pope Leo XIII. In his encyclical Quamquam pluries of August 15, 1889, he emphatically praised the outstanding devotion to St. Joseph. The Life of St. Anniversary on August 15, 1989 of Pope John Paul II with the apostolic letter Redemptoris custos.

In the twentieth century, more Catholic churches were consecrated to St. Joseph than any other saint (excluding the patronage of Our Lady). Certain church buildings are called Josefinum after his patronage. Since 1679, Saint Joseph was the patron saint of the Spanish Netherlands and is the patron saint of Belgium and the Croatians.

Pius XII. introduced the memorial day of St. Joseph the Worker in 1955 as a church counterpart to Labor Day, which is celebrated worldwide on May 1st. In the biblical tradition, Joseph worked as a builder and is traditionally the patron saint of workers, especially carpenters and lumberjacks. He is also considered the patron saint of virgins and married couples. The inclusion of the day of remembrance in the liturgical calendar was a response of the Church to the social movement.

Saint Joseph was founded by Pope John XXIII. next to the Mother of God Maria as the special patron saint of the Second Vatican Council and inserted his invocation in the first prayer, the Canon Missae. With the decree of the Congregation for Divine Worship and the Order of the Sacraments of May 1, 2013, the mention of St. Joseph was also ordered for the Prayers II to IV.

On December 8, 2020, 150 years after Pius IX. proclaimed St. Joseph to be the patron saint of the Church, proclaimed a "Year of St. Joseph" and published the Apostolic Letter Patris Corde.

Sources: Joseph of Nazareth, Wikipedia
Photos: Wikimedia Commons, Le Petit Placide, Vatican Media