Final Thoughts on St. Joseph in Christian Literature and Art

In the earliest Christian Gospels, those around Joseph and Jesus do not perceive them as anything other than father and son.  In fact, the earliest Gospel narratives, only give evidence that Jesus was always considered from his birth through his adulthood as the son of Joseph, Jesus ben Joseph, as he would have been identified in his community and culture. This is not surprising, since this is how Joseph early on had been directed and had come to understand his relationship to Jesus as well.  Early in Matthew’s Gospel, in the first dream and Annunciation, Joseph is directed to accept Mary who is with child as his wife and to name the child she carries Jesus, thus to legally consummate his marriage to Mary and to accept Mary’s child as his own.  Therefore, when Joseph obeys both commands of the angel, he acknowledges his special relationship with Mary and the child as well as his responsibility for both of them.  Likewise, Joseph’s parental role is additionally affirmed in Luke 2, where Joseph registers the pregnant Mary as his wife and is recognized by the shepherds and later by Simeon and Anna as her husband and the father of Jesus.  Finally in John, Joseph’s parental role in relationship to Jesus is also acknowledged by his and Jesus’ fellow citizens and acquaintances, even as Jesus’ ministry begins.  There is nothing to suggest that Joseph did not act as any loving Hebrew father would and assumed the initial responsibilities that his tradition and religion required him to assume.

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The Effects of the Infancy Gospel of James on the Interpretation of St. Joseph in Christian Literature and Art, Part II

While defenders of the second century Infancy Gospel of James can argue that this narrative was born out of a genuine desire to protect the purity of Mary and in the process the divinity of Jesus, it is difficult to defend the distortions these efforts have brought too many Christian portraits of Joseph.  Nonetheless, the popularity and significant influence of the infancy Gospel of James cannot be denied, nor the fact that this narrative expresses thoughts and feelings shared by other contemporary Christians, including some of the earliest Church Fathers. Although, it’s precise origins are unknown, the multiplicity of extant manuscripts of James suggests that early in the history of its transmission, the thoughts and beliefs in this narrative were shared by members of many early Christian communities within its Eastern Christianity.  Evidence of this may be found in the fact that there are over 100 extent Greek manuscripts as well as numerous translations in other Eastern Christian languages such as Syriac, Ethiopic, Georgian, Sahidic, old short Slavonic, and Armenian, in which the Infancy Gospel of James appears.

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