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Joseph the Betrothed
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Joseph the Betrothed

Joseph the Betrothed (also referred to as Joseph of Nazareth) was the foster-father of Jesus Christ, according to the New Testament (Matthew 1:16; Luke 3:23). Not much is known of Joseph except that he was "of the House of David" and lived in the town of Nazareth. His date of death is unknown, though he was still living when Jesus was 12 years old. He is the patron saint of workers and has several feast days -- see Saint Joseph's Day.

He was betrothed to Mary at the time that Mary conceived Jesus. Luke says that he lived at Nazareth in Galilee (Luke 2:4); however, according to Matthew, it was only after the return from Egypt that he settled in Nazareth (Matthew 2:23). He is called a "just man." He was by trade a carpenter (Matthew 13:55). He is last mentioned in connection with the journey to Jerusalem, when Jesus was twelve years old. It is probable that Joseph died before Jesus entered on his public ministry because only Mary was present at the marriage feast in Cana of Galilee, and he is not described at the crucifixion along with Mary (John 19:25).

Jesus is described as being the brother of James, Joses, Jude, and Simon, and several sisters (Mark 6:3; Matthew 13:55). A tradition at least as early as the second century, still adopted by Eastern Orthodoxy, explains that these "brothers and sisters" were from Joseph's marriage to an unnamed woman, before Joseph married Mary and so making them step-brothers and step-sisters. Roman Catholicism has a tradition that these were cousins of Jesus, and that Joseph was celibate.

That Jesus commended Mary to the care of John the Evangelist while he was hanging on the cross has been interpreted to also suggest that Joseph had died by that time, and that Joseph and Mary did not have any other children who might care for Mary.

In many icons of the Nativity, Joseph is shown being tempted by the Devil (depicted as an old man with furled wings) to break off his betrothal, and resisting that temptation.

Also in the imagery of the Christian church, statues of Joseph depict his staff topped with flowers, recalling the Protevangelion's account of how Mary's spouse was chosen. Among the collected walking sticks of widowers in Israel, Joseph was distinguished when his staff burst into flower.

Joseph is the patron saint of fighting communism.