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Bible Dictionaries

Hastings' Dictionary of the New Testament

Joseph (2)

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JOSEPH (Ἰωσήφ).—1. The patriarch, mentioned only in the description of the visit of Jesus to Sychar (John 4:5).—2. 3. Joseph son of Mattathias and Joseph son of Jonam are both named in the genealogy of Jesus given in Lk. (Luke 3:24; Luke 3:30).* [Note: Joseph the son of Juda in v. 26 (AV) becomes Josech the son of Joda in RV.] 4. One of the brethren of the Lord, Matthew 13:55 (Authorized Version Joses, the form adopted in both Authorized Version and Revised Version NT 1881, OT 1885 in Matthew 27:56, Mark 6:3; Mark 15:40; Mark 15:47. See Joses).

5. Joseph, the husband of Mary and the reputed father of Jesus (Luke 3:23), is not mentioned in Mk., and only indirectly in Jn. (John 1:45; John 6:42). He was of Davidic descent; and, though Mt. and Lk. differ in the genealogical details, they connect Jesus with Joseph and through him with David (Matthew 1:1 ff., Luke 3:23 ff.). Joseph, who was a carpenter (Matthew 13:55) and a poor man, as his offering in the temple showed Luke 2:24), lived in Nazareth (Luke 2:4) and was espoused to Mary, also of Nazareth (Luke 1:26). By their betrothal they entered into a relationship which, though not the completion of marriage, could be dissolved only by death or divorce. Before the marriage ceremony Mary was ‘found with child of the Holy Ghost,’ but the angelic annunciation to her was not made known to Joseph. He is described as a just man (Matthew 1:19), a strict observer of the Law. The law was stern (Deuteronomy 22:23-24), but its severity had been mitigated and divorce had taken the place of death. Divorce could be effected publicly, so that the shame of the woman might be seen by all; or it could be done privately, by the method of handing the bill of separation to the woman in presence of two witnesses. [Note: Edersheim, The Life and Times of Jesus the Messiah, i. 154. Dalman asserts that Edersheim is incorrect in stating that public divorce was possible (see Hastings’ DB, art. ‘Joseph’).] Joseph, not willing to make Mary a public example, ‘was minded to put her away privily’ (Matthew 1:18). An angel, however, appeared to him in a dream, telling him not to fear to marry Mary, as the conception was of the Holy Ghost, and also that she would bring forth a son, whom he was to name Jesus (Matthew 1:20 f.). The dream was accepted as a revelation, [Note: cit. i. 155.] as a token of Divine favour, and Joseph took Mary as his wife, but did not live with her as her husband till she had brought forth her firstborn son (Matthew 1:24 f.).

Before the birth of Christ there was an Imperial decree that all the world should be taxed, and Joseph, being of the house and lineage of David, had to leave Nazareth and go to Bethlehem, to be taxed with Mary.§ [Note: On the question of the visit to Bethlehem see Ramsay’s Was Christ born at Bethlehem?] In Bethlehem Jesus was born; and there the shepherds, to whom the angel had announced the birth of the Saviour, found Mary and Joseph and ‘the babe lying in a manger’ (Luke 2:16). At the circumcision, on the eighth day after the birth, the child received the name ‘Jesus’ which Joseph had been commanded to give Him; and on a later day, when Mary’s purification was accomplished (cf. Leviticus 12:2-4), she and Joseph took Jesus to the temple in Jerusalem (Luke 2:22), to ‘present him to the Lord’* [Note: ‘The earliest period of presentation was thirty-one days after birth, so as to make the legal month quite complete’ (Edersheim, The Life and Times of Jesus the Messiah, i. 193).] and to offer a sacrifice, according to the requirements of the law (Exodus 13:2, Leviticus 12:8). Joseph fulfilled the law as if he were the father of Jesus; and after the ceremonies in the temple he must have returned with Mary and her son to Bethlehem, which was 6 miles distant from Jerusalem. In Bethlehem the Wise Men who had come from the East saw Mary and ‘the young child’ and worshipped Him; and after their departure the angel of the Lord appeared again to Joseph, bidding him take Mary and the child and flee into Egypt on account of Herod, who would seek to destroy Him (Matthew 2:13). Joseph was quick to obey, and rising in the night he took the young child and His mother and departed for Egypt, where Herod had no authority (Matthew 2:14). In Egypt they were to remain till the angel brought word to Joseph (Matthew 2:13); and there they dwelt, possibly two or even three years, till the death of Herod, when the angel again appeared in a dream to Joseph. The angel commanded him to take the young child and His mother and go into the land of Israel. Obedience was at once given by Joseph, but he became afraid when he learned that Archelaus was reigning in Judaea. Again the angel appeared in a dream, and after a warning Joseph proceeded to Nazareth, which was not under the rule of Archelaus, who had an evil reputation, but under that of the milder Antipas (Matthew 2:14-23).

It is recorded of Joseph that he and Mary went every year, at the Passover, to Jerusalem, and that when Jesus was twelve years of age He accompanied them. On that occasion Jesus tarried in Jerusalem, after Joseph and Mary, thinking He was with them in the company, had left the city. When they had gone a day’s journey they found He was not with them, and they turned back to Jerusalem. After three days they found Him in the temple among the doctors, and they were amazed. Mary’s words, ‘Son, why hast thou thus dealt with us? behold, thy father and I have sought thee sorrowing.’ called forth an answer which Joseph and Mary did not understand. But after the incident in Jerusalem, Jesus went with them to Nazareth and ‘was subject unto them’ (Luke 2:41-51). Mary’s words and the record of the subjection of Jesus to her and Joseph indicate that Joseph stood to Jesus in the place of an earthly father. How long that relationship continued is unknown, since the time of the death of Joseph is not stated in the Gospels. It may be accepted as a certainty that he was not alive throughout the period of the public ministry of Jesus, seeing that he is not directly or indirectly mentioned along with His mother and brothers and sisters (Mark 3:31; Mark 6:3).

6. Joseph of Arimathaea (Ἰωσὴφ ὁ ἀπὸ Ἀριμαθαίας, see Arimathaea).—A rich and pious Israelite (Matthew 27:57), a member of the Sanhedrin (Mark 15:43), who, secretly for fear of the Jews, was Jesus’ disciple (John 19:38). He had not consented to the death of Jesus (Luke 23:51), and could not therefore have been present at the Council, where they all condemned Him to be guilty of death (Mark 14:64). The timidity which prevented him from openly avowing his discipleship, and perhaps from defending Jesus in the Sanhedrin, fled when he beheld the death of the Lord. Jewish law required that the body of a person who had been executed should not remain all night upon the tree, but should ‘in any wise’ be buried (Deuteronomy 21:22-23). This law would not bind the Roman authorities, and the custom in the Empire was to leave the body to decay upon the cross (cf. Hor. Ep. i. xvi. 48; Plautus, Mil. Glor. II. iv. 19). But at the crucifixion of Jesus and of the two malefactors, the Jews, anxious that the bodies should not remain upon the cross during the Sabbath, besought Pilate that the legs of the crucified might be broken and death hastened, and that then the bodies might be taken away (John 19:31). According to Roman law, the relatives could claim the body of a person executed (Digest, xlviii. 24, ‘De cadav. punit.’). But which of the relatives of Jesus had a sepulchre in Jerusalem where His body might be placed? Joseph, wishing the burial not to be ‘in any wise’ (cf. Joshua 8:29), but to be according to the most pious custom of his race, went to Pilate and craved the body. The petition required boldness (Mark 15:43), since Joseph, with no kinship in the flesh with Jesus, would be forced to make a confession of discipleship, which the Jews would note. Pilate, too, neither loved nor was loved by Israel, and his anger might be kindled at the coming of a Jew, and the member of the Sanhedrin be assailed with insults. Pilate, however, making sure that Jesus was dead, gave the body. Perhaps he had pity for the memory of Him he had condemned, or perhaps the rich man’s gold, since Pilate, according to Philo (Op. ii. 590), took money from suppliants, secured what was craved. Joseph, now with no fear of the Jews, acted openly, and had to act with speed, as the day of preparation for the Sabbath was nearly spent. Taking down the body of Jesus from the cross (and other hands must have aided his), he wrapped it in linen which he himself had bought (Mark 15:46). In the Fourth Gospel it is told how Nicodemus, bringing a mixture of myrrh and aloes, about an hundred pound weight, joined Joseph, and how they took the body and wound it in linen clothes with the spices (John 19:40). Near the place of crucifixion was a garden, and in the garden a new sepulchre, which Joseph had hewn out in the rock, doubtless for his own last resting-place; and in that sepulchre, wherein was never man yet laid, was placed the body of Jesus prepared for its burial (Matthew 27:60, John 19:41). In the court at the entrance to the tomb, the preparation would be made. All was done which the time before the Sabbath allowed reverent hands to do; and then Joseph, perhaps thinking of the pious offices that could yet be done to the dead, rolled a great stone to the door of the sepulchre and departed (Matthew 27:60). On late legends regarding Joseph of Arimathaea see Hasting's Dictionary of the Bible, vol. ii. p. 778.

J. Herkless.

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Bibliography Information
Hastings, James. Entry for 'Joseph (2)'. Hastings' Dictionary of the New Testament. 1906-1918.

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