Wednesday, December 07, 2011

Joseph - Widower with Older Children? Nieces and Nephews?

A friend of mine pointed me to an interesting exchange of the blind leading the blind over at the "Catholic Answers" forums.

A first poster ("Glomung") wrote:
A very simple explanation for the whole scenario is that Joseph was a widower, who already had several children. This explains Jesus' brothers and sisters. Joseph happened to be the only bachelor in town, so when Mary came of age, the local Rabbi pushed Joseph to marry her, [Joseph] was not too thrilled with the idea (been there/done that, don't need another mouth to feed) explains Josephs' reluctance. Also when she turns up pregnant Joseph is not overly irked (she's just a kid, you know how they get into mischief). He doesn't take all of it too seriously until the angel has a chat with him.

He never has sex with her because of "pick one", too old, not interested, she's God's gal, like a daughter, whatever the reason that explains the "ever virgin". That is also why he is not present in any of the rest of Jesus' life, he has died of old age.

Then, a second poster ("ConstantineTG") replied:
He wan't the only bachelor in town. The priests of the temple wanted had to remove Mary from the temple because she was of age, and the concern is that women of age may lose their virginity which then would defile the temple. But they wished to preserve the virginity of the temple virgins so they sought older widowers who have no interest in having children (and probably have no ability to do so anyway) to take her as a wife (but in reality be more of a guardian). So they called all the old widowers in town to the temple, and the Holy Spirit showed the priests a sign that Joseph is the chosen one (a dove landed on Joseph). And thus Mary was betrothed to Joseph.

Joseph was indeed irked that Mary was pregnant because of the trouble it would bring to him. After reading the Protoevangelium of James, Joseph's reactions and emotions in the Gospels made sense to me. Also it seems that Joseph handled the situation more maturely. A younger man would have made a big fuss of the issue and ratted Mary out to the pharisees who would have stoned her to death. Joseph seemed to proceed cautiously even though he was distraught by the events.
As to Glomung's comments, nowhere in Scripture is Joseph described as widower.  There is no reliable basis upon which to assert that Josephus was a widower. Likewise, there is no mention of Joseph having any prior children.

There is a good reason to think Joseph didn't have other children from a previous marriage.  Recall that in both the flight to Egypt and the return from Egypt, only Joseph, Mary, and Jesus are mentioned: there is no mention of step-siblings coming along.

Matthew 2:13-23
And when they were departed, behold, the angel of the Lord appeareth to Joseph in a dream, saying, "Arise, and take the young child and his mother, and flee into Egypt, and be thou there until I bring thee word: for Herod will seek the young child to destroy him." When he arose, he took the young child and his mother by night, and departed into Egypt: and was there until the death of Herod: that it might be fulfilled which was spoken of the Lord by the prophet, saying, "Out of Egypt have I called my son."
Then Herod, when he saw that he was mocked of the wise men, was exceeding wroth, and sent forth, and slew all the children that were in Bethlehem, and in all the coasts thereof, from two years old and under, according to the time which he had diligently enquired of the wise men. Then was fulfilled that which was spoken by Jeremy the prophet, saying, "In Rama was there a voice heard, lamentation, and weeping, and great mourning, Rachel weeping for her children, and would not be comforted, because they are not."
But when Herod was dead, behold, an angel of the Lord appeareth in a dream to Joseph in Egypt, saying, "Arise, and take the young child and his mother, and go into the land of Israel: for they are dead which sought the young child's life." And he arose, and took the young child and his mother, and came into the land of Israel.
But when he heard that Archelaus did reign in Judaea in the room of his father Herod, he was afraid to go thither: notwithstanding, being warned of God in a dream, he turned aside into the parts of Galilee: and he came and dwelt in a city called Nazareth: that it might be fulfilled which was spoken by the prophets, He shall be called a Nazarene.
As for whether Joseph was irked, he was ready to divorce her, as it is written:

Matthew 1:18-19

Now the birth of Jesus Christ was on this wise: When as his mother Mary was espoused to Joseph, before they came together, she was found with child of the Holy Ghost. Then Joseph her husband, being a just man, and not willing to make her a publick example, was minded to put her away privily.

Joseph was not willing to overlook the assumed adultery.  Instead, he wanted to divorce Mary, although he wanted to do so quietly.

As for Joseph's age, there is no indication that he was particularly old.

As for being in Jesus' life, Joseph was in Jesus' life at least until he was 12:

Luke 2:41-52
Now his parents went to Jerusalem every year at the feast of the passover. And when he was twelve years old, they went up to Jerusalem after the custom of the feast. And when they had fulfilled the days, as they returned, the child Jesus tarried behind in Jerusalem; and Joseph and his mother knew not of it. But they, supposing him to have been in the company, went a day's journey; and they sought him among their kinsfolk and acquaintance. And when they found him not, they turned back again to Jerusalem, seeking him.

And it came to pass, that after three days they found him in the temple, sitting in the midst of the doctors, both hearing them, and asking them questions. And all that heard him were astonished at his understanding and answers.

And when they saw him, they were amazed: and his mother said unto him, "Son, why hast thou thus dealt with us? behold, thy father and I have sought thee sorrowing."

And he said unto them, "How is it that ye sought me? wist ye not that I must be about my Father's business?"

And they understood not the saying which he spake unto them. And he went down with them, and came to Nazareth, and was subject unto them: but his mother kept all these sayings in her heart. And Jesus increased in wisdom and stature, and in favour with God and man.

Moreover, recall that during Jesus' ministry, people knew of Joseph and of his occupation:

Matthew 13:55-56
Is not this the carpenter's son? is not his mother called Mary? and his brethren, James, and Joses, and Simon, and Judas? And his sisters, are they not all with us? Whence then hath this man all these things?

Turning to CTG's comments, whatever makes him think Mary was in the temple?  The Scriptures do not say this, nor is there any reliable evidence she was.  There was no divine appointment for there to be "temple virgins" and virginity was not prized over matrimony in Jewish times.

You will notice to the reference to the Protoevangelium of James.  This is a thoroughly worthless and unreliable source, which was rightly rejected by Christians from the patristic era through the medieval era (as I have previously documented).  Even if it had not been traditionally rejected, consider that it's account in sections 13 and 14 (here is a copy of the text) contradicts the Scriptural account of Joseph's reaction to discovering Mary's pregnancy.  In Scripture, Joseph (being a just man - not as a coward) wants to quietly divorce her.  In the Protoevangelium of James, Joseph wants to divorce her quietly because he is afraid.

Even leaving aside the bizarre sign of a dove emerging from the end of a rod and landing on Joseph's head as a sign that he's supposed to be Mary's guardian in this work, the author of the work shows his only passing familiarity with Hebrew customs, by suggesting that the "waters of ordeal" were to be administered by the priest's order both to Joseph and Mary (whereas the law prescribed the waters only for a woman and only upon the suspicion of infidelity to her husband, at her husband's demand).

And it only gets weirder.  In section 19, Salome meets the midwife, and in section 20 Salome demands to investigate Mary's private parts with her hand to see if she is still a virgin after having given birth.  Her hand then starts to drop off as if being burned by fire until it is cured by holding Jesus.

And yet again, in section 22, the account contradicts the Scriptural account in terms of Herod's slaughter of the children.  Instead of a flight to Egypt, Mary hides Jesus in an ox stall.

There is not really any reason to suppose that anything in the so-called Protoevangelium of James has any reliability of any sort, beyond those parts which are obviously derived from the gospel accounts.  Yet that is what is being relied upon by those who are looking for straws to grasp in defense of the fiction of perpetual virginity.



Algo said...

Great Post TurretinFan.
Someone actually started a thread entitled :
" Re: Is one able to purchase the Protoevangelium of James"

One commenter describes it as:

"The Protoevangelium Jacobi or Infancy Gospel of James is classified in the Catholic Encyclopedia article on "Apocrapha" as an apocraphal gospel of Catholic origin. In other words, it is a pious, second-century work of fiction containing nothing contrary to the Catholic faith."

David Kjos said...

The Catholic Study Bible note on Mark 6:3 explains why the word “brother” is interpreted as nephew or half brother: “The question of meaning here would not have arisen but for the faith of the church in Mary’s perpetual virginity” (full quote with my comments here). In other words, “because Rome says it is so.”

Algo said...

Nice post David. Have you seen the book by Eric Svendsen: Who Is My Mother?
It is really excellent.
Also the Matitics vs. Svendsen debate is still available online.

Nick said...

I was under the impression a few Eastern Fathers made the suggestion Joseph was a widow, while most in the West took the opposite view.

As for the issue of Joseph wanting to divorce Mary, I think exegetically the interpretation that says Joseph didn't consider himself worthy to be foster-father of the Messiah is slightly stronger than the interpretation of suspecting adultery. It is said this view goes back at least to Origen (250AD).

Truth Unites... and Divides said...

The Catholic explanations lack persuasive force. They're actually rather ridiculous.

Nick said...

If you're responding to me, please answer this: why does it say Joseph being "just" wanted a "quiet" divorce?

vwtaylorii said...

I am trying to understand the interpretation of James. How is paragraph 13 and 14 of James contradicting Matthew; and how does it show Joseph as a coward? Paragraph 14 says:

[B]"And Joseph was greatly afraid, and retired from her, and considered what he should do in regard to her. And Joseph said: If I conceal her sin, I find myself fighting against the law of the Lord; and if I expose her to the sons of Israel, I am afraid lest that which is in her be from an angel, and I shall be found giving up innocent blood to the doom of death. What then shall I do with her? I will put her away from me secretly.[/B] And night came upon him; and, behold, an angel of the Lord appears to him in a dream, saying: Be not afraid for this maiden, for that which is in her is of the Holy Spirit; and she will bring forth a Son, and thou shalt call His name Jesus, for He will save His people from their sins."

To me, it seems that Joseph was afraid not because he was a coward, but because it was out of respect to God and respect for Mary and her innocents. Don't we suppose to be afraid of disobeying God because how infinitely good He is to us and sin displeases Him? In addition, it seems to me James fall in line with Matthew it says Joseph was going to put her away in secret.

Natamllc said...

A couple of things from where I sit based on the fact that all the time I attended the RCC system, both at mass and catechism, never once was I directed to read a Bible by a Nun or Priest:

"...Joseph was indeed irked that Mary was pregnant because of the trouble it would bring to him. After reading the Protoevangelium of James, Joseph's reactions and emotions in the Gospels made sense to me. ...".

That appears like it is anachronistic and it seems to me the reason for it is because the base of reasoning started with is not Scripture, rather, it is some other human reasoning birthed out of something else, like a demon or two?

You write above: "There is not really any reason to suppose that anything in the so-called Protoevangelium of James has any reliability of any sort, beyond those parts which are obviously derived from the gospel accounts. ...".

Amen to that and because we have good reason to guard our minds and hearts from reasoning based upon that reliable source, we should!

1Ti 4:1 Now the Spirit expressly says that in later times some will depart from the faith by devoting themselves to deceitful spirits and teachings of demons,
1Ti 4:2 through the insincerity of liars whose consciences are seared,
1Ti 4:3 who forbid marriage and require abstinence from foods that God created to be received with thanksgiving by those who believe and know the truth.

While I appreciate the encouraging word that Joseph was encouraged to get married to Mary, the virgin, to help him raise his first children, boys and girls from his first wife and marriage, it just doesn't rest squarely with what the Holy Spirit inspired to be written and taught clearly when He is opening up the Word of God, these two. Besides, knowing the heart of Our Heavenly Father and Christ's, too, daily spiritually, whenever one reasons out of some other source than Scripture (the Word of Truth) and the Spirit of the Scripture (God's Eternal Glory revealed to our heart by the Word of His Grace) one is led into such fancifulness as making those trues about what actually did happen during those days of Joseph and Mary conform to what some in later generations want you to be conformed to to adhere to their faith! Starting with the "teachings" of the RCC and not starting from Scripture brings about this foolishness and fancifulness as we see here.

This morning in my regular men's meeting we were discussing "the modern" era. I said I believe God hates that word "modern" and how the life of the world is evolving in this post-modern era simple because God is Eternal and His gift is the gift of "Eternal Life". There is no evolution in knowing God. There is no evolving into a modernistic point of view of God or His purposes or His intent in what the Written record teaches.

What has always been the Truth will always be the Truth no matter what generation one is born into. The Eternal Truth is still the same yesterday, today and forever, as God is!

Thanks again for sharing these things TF. They are thought provoking and hopefully for some RCC members teeter tottering on the fence, it will reasonably help them jump into and swim across the Tiber to the safe shores of True Biblical Christianity by the Spirit of Faith leading the Way, the Faith once delivered to the Saints?

Look here and see the results of the "true" fellowship in the Spirit of Faith. It brings about a unity among us making it much easier to refute such fanciful lies and doctrines of demons when working together by Him, the Spirit of Faith!

2Co 4:13 Since we have the same spirit of faith according to what has been written, "I believed, and so I spoke," we also believe, and so we also speak,
2Co 4:14 knowing that he who raised the Lord Jesus will raise us also with Jesus and bring us with you into his presence.

"...and bring us with you into his presence."

Nick said...


Could you interpret 1st Timothy 5:11f in light of your reference to 4:1-3?

Paul says to Timothy:
"11But refuse to enroll younger widows, for when their passions draw them away from Christ, they desire to marry 12and so incur condemnation for having abandoned their former faith."

Why would these young female widows be condemned for their "desire to marry"? Isn't Paul indicating some sort of prohibition against marriage?

Natamllc said...


with some caution I will proceed seeing I am not sure who you are or your history in the Faith?

Could you first give me a little background as to your present position in Christ and in the RCC, presuming you are of that faith?

I was of a mixed bag seeing my father, a Pomo Indian was raised Catholic marrying a Protestant, a "white" woman. He wanted his children baptized into his church faith and go through his church's catechism.

After divorcing my mother my siblings and I lived with her until such time as my dad took full custody and we then lived with him.

I came to a revelation of Jesus Christ at 21 years old by reading a Bible when reading these words from a KJV:

Mat 1:18 Now the birth of Jesus Christ took place in this way. When his mother Mary had been betrothed to Joseph, before they came together she was found to be with child from the Holy Spirit.
Mat 1:19 And her husband Joseph, being a just man and unwilling to put her to shame, resolved to divorce her quietly.
Mat 1:20 But as he considered these things, behold, an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream, saying, "Joseph, son of David, do not fear to take Mary as your wife, for that which is conceived in her is from the Holy Spirit.
Mat 1:21 She will bear a son, and you shall call his name Jesus, for he will save his people from their sins."

Now, after many years, here I am today full of the Spirit of Grace and Truth commenting in here with you!

Nick said...

I am Catholic, and affirm all the Catholic Church teaches to the best of my ability. It is good to hear you affirm Christ and Scripture in light of what may have been a rough childhood. That said, you do seem to have been misinformed and poorly catechized in regards to Catholicism, which was unfortunately pretty common the last few decades.

So, how would you answer my question about 1 Timothy 5:11f?

Nick said...

I don't see where you addressed the issue of Paul saying their desire to remarry is what brings condemnation. You seem to be saying the problem was fornication, but I don't think that works for various reasons, one reason being they "desire to remarry" which isn't the language of someone fornicating.

Ron Van Brenk said...

Good Post TFan,

Your Matthew 2 proof-text is killer.

I have also responded to that Catholic Answers topic some time ago. Under a slightly different name.

A more thorough response of mine can be found here

But allow me to respond to Nick,

But refuse to enroll younger widows, for when their passions draw them away from Christ, they desire to marry (1Ti 5:11 ESV)

Paul is not condemning those younger widows for their "desire to marry". And he is not prohibiting them from getting married. He is merely giving those with greater seniority, those of proven hospitality- first dibs. And those of lesser seniority and unproven hospitality- latter dibs. He is still encouraging younger widows to marry and give the enemy "no occasion for reproach" (v.14). It's just that older proven widows are more inclined to give their husbands and the church less grief. And younger widows are more inclined to well... 'recline' after remarriage.

As regards the following verse... I think NASB reads better, Nick:

thus incurring condemnation, because they have set aside their "previous pledge". (1Ti 5:12 NAS)

And what "previous pledge" is Paul addressing? A pledge for them to them to take care of their own family. A pledge for them to take care of their own parents (younger widows are more inclined to have more dependents). A pledge that if they 'recline'... makes them "worse than unbelievers" (v.8)!

Makes sense not to marry those recliners, huh?

Natamllc said...


you assert: "... You seem to be saying the problem was fornication, ...".

No, that is not what I am saying. That is what the Bible indicates is the issue for young widows who suffered a tragedy (loss of their husband) and find themselves in a not so enviable situation, either with or without children where their livelihood is now on their shoulders instead of their husbands'.

They must be sustained. The question is how? How this matter is being developed by the Apostle in training up another, Timothy, to handle these things within the Church is the question?

The Apostle deals with other matters of weakness, too.

Besides young widows who give themselves over to licentiousness, there are other sorts of issues for widows, too, as these Scriptures imply:

1Ti 5:13 Besides that, they learn to be idlers, going about from house to house, and not only idlers, but also gossips and busybodies, saying what they should not.
1Ti 5:14 So I would have younger widows marry, bear children, manage their households, and give the adversary no occasion for slander.
1Ti 5:15 For some have already strayed after Satan.
1Ti 5:16 If any believing woman has relatives who are widows, let her care for them. Let the church not be burdened, so that it may care for those who are truly widows.

Outside the guidelines given to the church through Scripture, there is no Holy moral guiding Light, the spirit of Faith and Scripture in the world. There is peer pressure among young women. There are moral values within social classes that young women face. The woman is the weaker vessel.

However, even though that Light is within the Church of True Born Again Spirit of Faith guided Christians, both male and female, guiding with this Light is to bring about the Unity of the Faith Who is producing faithful ones. And even still, there is a necessity. And this guiding Light works well in every culture, tribe, kindred, tongue and nation, not to conform to one particular culture, the RCC in your case, but rather, by the liberty of the Spirit where the Spirit of the Lord works freely, there comes about a transformation from being a member of the lowly body of humanity to His Glorious Body.

2Co 4:13 Since we have the same spirit of faith according to what has been written, "I believed, and so I spoke," we also believe, and so we also speak,
2Co 4:14 knowing that he who raised the Lord Jesus will raise us also with Jesus and bring us with you into his presence.

The light of darkness works among the nations in the world. Jesus Himself said the world lies in the lap of the wicked one. Young women of the world, absent the Spirit of Grace and Faith live disordered lives. Young women within the Church seem to struggle also.

I suppose your question is more of a preliminary justification for opening the doors for you to justify your religion practice and teaching about the Virgin Mary and Nuns: "
Could you interpret 1st Timothy 5:11f in light of your reference to 4:1-3?"

So, when did your church start teaching about Nuns?

ChaferDTS said...

Basically the gospel of James is a heretical work that is the basis for that teaching of the RCC. Alot of the false teachings of the RCC on Mary are borrowed from gnostic writings as such that one.

Constantine said...

Perhaps the most deliciously ironic fact that is often overlooked when discussing Mary and Joseph's marriage is that, according to modern Roman Catholic teaching and Canon Law, it was NO MARRIAGE AT ALL.

For example, Canon 1055 §1 lays down the requirements for a valid marriage “ which is ordered by its nature to the good of the spouses and the procreation and education of offspring.” Procreation, according to canon law, is a requirement of Catholic marriage. And procreation, according to Rome, requires sexual intercourse.

Now certainly, there are those couples who cannot have children. And sterility is exempted by Canon 1084 §3.

But, according to Canon 1096 §1 the parties to a marriage CAN NOT be ignorant “that marriage is a permanent partnership between a man and a woman ordered to the procreation of offspring by means of some sexual cooperation.” Taken together with Canon 1055 §1, a valid marriage MUST be sexual in nature.

Another interesting fact is that marriage in the Romanist schema cannot be contingent upon some future condition (Canon 1102 §1). So if Mary and Joseph had an antecedent agreement to not consummate their marriage into the future, or to not have children in the future , they were not, by Catholic standards, ever married.

So if Mary was a perpetual virgin, then she could not have been married – according to Rome. Therefore, Rome is once again caught in a Gordian knot. They must believe that Mary was “ever virgin” and simultaneously married which, in Rome, requires the abandonment of virginity.


RDuran said...


While reading some of the posts in the Catholic answers thread in question I came across the following anchronistically challenged statement;

"It's important to understand that the Catholic Church does not have some sort of systematic interpretation of every verse in the Bible.

What is also important to understand is that Catholic teaching is based on the Deposit of Faith left to us by the Apostles themselves (before the New Testament was even written.) This teaching resonates in the Bible, and the Church will point out verses that back up or prove her teachings. However, since the Catholic Church's teachings are founded on a deposit of Faith left by the Apostles, and not on a book (like Protestantism) there is no need for the Catholic Church to elaborate on every single verse in the Bible, at least not in some sort of official capacity."

How would you respond to such a claim?

turretinfan said...

I would respond by asking them to document this "deposit of Faith." After all, it's not like papal infallibility, transubstantiation, and the bodily assumption of Mary are found in the Fathers.

turretinfan said...

Good point. I have heard them (them = Jimmy Akin, if I recall correctly) try to handle that issue. They correctly point out that the canon law was not around then. They then just basically try to claim that there was another category of marriage at that time that doesn't exist now. It's very thin.

Constantine said...

Thanks, TFan. You are undoubtedly right. It is still an amazement how Catholics claim that their beliefs never change...except when they do change...and then it's, uh, well, ok.


turretinfan said...

The basis for the "coward" point was the "was greatly afraid" and "I am afraid." The Scriptures say that he wanted to divorce her because he was "just," not because he was afraid.