Our historical information about Joseph is limited, but the pious legends that have developed over the centuries abound because humans long to know the “rest of the story.”
The Protoevangelium of James dates to about AD 150 and claims that the brothers and sisters of Jesus are the elderly Joseph’s children from a previous marriage. The History of Joseph the Carpenter, written in the 5th century, expands the idea that Joseph was an old man in his nineties with four sons and two daughters who took Mary into his house at age twelve and married her at age fourteen. It also says that Joseph died when he was 111. In the Panarion, Epiphanius, writing about AD 375, names the children of Joseph as James, Joses, Simeon, Judah, Salome, and either Mary or Anna.
While they are fun to consider, remember that ideas put forth in these are not part of the official canon of knowledge about Joseph. They developed as a way for early Christians to understand the conflicting statements that Jesus was both the “Son of God” and the “son of Joseph” as well as to give plausible explanations for the “brothers and sisters” of Jesus and Mary’s perpetual virginity.
As we look to Saint Joseph in this special year, let us focus on the facts because the facts of his life are more than enough to make him worthy of being our model of a well-lived life.
“Let us love Jesus above all, let us love Mary as our mother; but then, how could we keep from loving Joseph, who was so intimately united to both Jesus and Mary? And how can we honor him better than by imitating his virtues? Now, what else did he do in all his life but contemplate, study, and adore Jesus, even in the midst of his daily labors? Behold, therefore, our model.”
–Saint Madeleine Sophie Barat
Saint Joseph, as humans, we want to know “all the facts,” but the greatest part of your life remains a mystery. Help me to be content with not knowing anything more than that you were chosen to be the protector of Mary and Jesus. Amen.
Image credit: The Israel Museum, Jerusalem