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Bible Dictionaries

Hastings' Dictionary of the New Testament


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1. The elder of Jacob’s two sons by Rachel, the eleventh Patriarch, the ancestor of the tribes of Ephraim and Manasseh. In St. Stephen’s address before the Sanhedrin reference is made to Joseph’s being sold by his brothers, God’s presence with him in Egypt, his promotion to be governor of the land, his manifestation of himself to his brethren, his invitation to his father and all his kindred to migrate to Egypt (Acts 7:9-14), and finally, at a much later date, the rise of a Pharaoh who ‘knew not Joseph’ (7:18).

The question of the historicity of the narrative in Genesis was never raised by the Apostolic Church, nor by the modern Church till the dawn of the age of criticism. The critical verdict is that the story is based upon facts which have been idealized in the spirit of the earlier Hebrew prophets. That the tradition of a Hebrew minister in Egypt, who saved the country in time of famine, ‘should be true in essentials is by no means improbable’ (J. Skinner, Genesis [International Critical Commentary , 1910] 441). Driver thinks it credible that an actual person, named Joseph, ‘underwent substantially the experiences recounted of him in Gn.’ (Hasting's Dictionary of the Bible (5 vols) ii. 771b). See H. Gunkel, Genesis, 1910, p. 356f.

In Hebrews 11:21 allusion is made to the blessing received by Joseph’s two sons from his dying father. In Hebrews 11:22 Joseph is placed on the roll of the ‘elders’-saints of the OT-who by their words and deeds gave evidence of their faith. The particular facts selected as proving his grasp of things unseen-which is the essence of faith (Hebrews 11:1)-are his death-bed prediction of the exodus of the children of Israel and his commandment regarding the disposal of his bones (Genesis 50:24-25; cf. Joshua 24:32). Though he was an Egyptian governor, speaking the Egyptian language, and married to an Egyptian wife, he was at heart an unchanged Hebrew, and his dying eyes beheld the land from which he had been exiled as a boy, the homeland of every true Israelite.

2. Joseph Barsabbas, surnamed Justus, was one of those who accompanied Jesus during His whole public ministry and witnessed His Resurrection. He was therefore nominated, along with Matthias, for the office made vacant by the treachery and death of Judas Iscariot (Acts 1:21-23). After prayer ‘the lot fell upon Matthias’ (Acts 1:26). It is admitted even by radical critics that Jesus deliberately chose twelve disciples (corresponding to the twelve tribes of Israel), and it was natural that these should seek to keep their sacred number unimpaired. The name ‘Barsabbas’ (or ‘Barsabas,’ C, Vulgate , Syrr.) has been variously explained as ‘child of the Sabbath,’ ‘son of Sheba,’ ‘warrior,’ or ‘old man’s son.’ The Roman surname Justus was adopted in accordance with a Jewish custom which prevailed at the time-cf. ‘John whose surname was Marcus’ (Acts 12:12; Acts 12:25), and ‘Saul, who is also Paulus’ (Acts 13:9). It is a natural conjecture-no more-that this Joseph was the brother of Judas Barsabbas (Acts 15:22). Eusebius (HE [Note: E Historia Ecclesiastica (Eusebius, etc.).] i. 12) regards him as one of ‘the Seventy’ (Luke 10:1), and records (iii. 39) that a ‘wonderful event happened respecting Justus, surnamed Barsabbas, who, though he drank a deadly poison, experienced nothing injurious (μηδὲν ἀηδές), by the grace of God.’

3. Joseph, surnamed Barnabas (Acts 4:36). See Barnabas.

James Strahan.

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These files are public domain.
Text Courtesy of Used by Permission.

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

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