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Joseph was a carpenter who lived in the town of Nazareth in the Roman province of Galilee. He lived during the reign of Augustus Caesar. He was of the Hebrew tribe of Judah, with a lineage going back to King David. He married Mary, a girl from the same tribe.

He was to become the legal father of Jesus Christ, who was miraculously born to his wife before the two of them had consummated their marriage. As a law-abiding Jew, he raised the child as his own, protecting him from harm and introducing him to God and His Law.


The name Joseph (Gr: Ἰωσήφ, eeohseyf) is of Hebrew derivation (יוֹסֵף֮) meaning "He increases" or "The LORD increases". It was first used of Jacob's first son by Rachel, in hopes that she would have another child. The original Joseph would be instrumental in the salvation of his people. The name shows up in the tribes of Issachar and Levi and as the collective for the two largest tribes of the northern kingdom (sons of Joseph).

As can be seen in the genealogy of Jesus, the name was also popular in the tribe of Judah in the southern kingdom. The name is found five or six times in the genealogy provided by Luke[1].


Joseph, son of Jacob, was of the tribe of Judah and a descendant of King David.[2] He lived during the reign of Augustus Caesar in the province of Galilee. A carpenter by trade, he served the community building furniture and utensils needed for life in the village of Nazareth.

Having become engaged to Mary, he found out that she was pregnant and planned to divorce her in a private agreement.[3] Before this happened, he had a dream in which an angel told him that the baby was a miracle from God. He humbly took on the duty of being the earthly father of the child the angel told him to call him "Jesus" (Hebrew: Yehoshua: the Lord saves).

When the government called on him to return to his ancestral home of Bethlehem to be counted and taxed,[4] he took Mary with him, though it was nearly time for her to give birth. In making that journey, the couple fulfilled the prophecy on where the Messiah would be born.[5][6][7] After entertaining shepherds who came to see the newborn child he had lain in a manger,[8] Joseph followed the Law concerning circumcision and dedication of the child.[9] In so doing, he became his legal father.

Some time later, Joseph found a house in Bethlehem. It was to that home that foreign dignitaries know as Magi came to see the one they proclaimed to be "king of the Jews." Since these men had first visited the palace of Herod, a plan had been set in motion to kill the child. Being warned in another dream, Joseph took Mary and Jesus to safety in Egypt. It was only after Herod had died that the family returned to Nazareth.[10]

When Jesus was twelve years old, Joseph brought him to Jerusalem for the annual feasts. Thinking the lad was with cousins or close friends, he and Mary left him for several days before going back to find their son conversing with theologians. Jesus spoke of doing his Father's business, and Joseph could see that he was not practicing carpentry in the temple.[11]

Once in Jesus' ministry, local people referred to him as "the carpenter's son" but a parallel passage spoke only of Jesus being a carpenter. It is unclear in the record, but since his name is not mentioned, it may be that Joseph had died before Jesus began his public ministry.


  1. Luke 3:23-30 (Link)
  2. Matt 1:16 (Link)
  3. Matt 1:19 (Link)
  4. Luke 2:1-4 (Link)
  5. Matt 2:6 (Link)
  6. John 7:42 (Link)
  7. Micah 5:2 (Link)
  8. Luke 2:7 (Link)
  9. Luke 2:21-24 (Link)
  10. Matt 2:12-15 (Link)
  11. Luke 2:41-19 (Link)