JosephBiblical Figure / Saint / Carpenter
Best known as: The husband of Mary, mother of Jesus
Joseph is the husband of Mary, the mother of Jesus of Nazareth in stories told in the Christian Bible's New Testament. Joseph and Mary are introduced in the books of Luke (chapters 1 through 3) and Matthew (chapters 1 and 2) as an engaged couple living in the Galilean town of Nazareth. Mary becomes pregnant supernaturally through the work of God's spirit -- a development explained to her by the angel Gabriel but not to Joseph. "Unwilling to expose her to public disgrace," Joseph considers quietly breaking the engagement but then heeds instructions he receives in a dream to go through with the marriage and name the child Jesus. Joseph and Mary go to Bethlehem for the birth, flee to Egypt with the baby during a slaughter of infants ordered by Herod, and later return with the boy to Nazareth. Both parents are mentioned in the Bible's brief childhood descriptions of Jesus, but little else is said of Joseph. He is said to be a descendant of David and a carpenter. His death is not recorded, and Mary is the only parent named in accounts of Jesus' adult ministry.
Extra credit: Another Joseph, shared by Judaism and Christianity, appears in the Hebrew Bible (the Christian "Old Testament"). This son of Jacob is the subject of a long story in Genesis (chapters 37-50), filled with fratricidal and international intrigue, dream interpretation, and a famous colorful coat or robe... The New Testament genealogies of Jesus and Joseph (Matthew 1:17 and Luke 3:23-38) trace their male ancestors not only back to David, but also to, among others, Jacob, Isaac and Abraham -- and, in Luke, all the way to the first human, Adam... In an odd modern ritual of unknown origin, some people trying to sell a house will bury a miniature statue of Joseph on their property in hopes of improving chances of a sale.
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