Joseph and mary were husband and wife … and they lived together as husband and wife!
like Joseph of Nazareth.
RACHEL The microphones of Emisoras Latinas are continuing their transmission from just outside the Basilica of the Annunciation in the city of Nazareth, where, it would seem, nothing really got announced. At least, that is what we have been told in our exclusive interview with Jesus Christ, the son of Mary.
JESUS And Joseph.
RACHEL Welcome once again, Jesus. Let’s talk, then, about Joseph. It’s been said that you came from a very poor family. But at least your father had a carpentry workshop.
JESUS A workshop? Around here nobody had anything.
RACHEL But wasn’t Joseph a carpenter? Wouldn’t he have belonged to the middle class and be what today we call a small businessman?
JESUS Middle class! Here the only class was the class of the unemployed.
RACHEL But in the gospel it says that you were the son of the carpenter.
JESUS They must have put it that way to give my father a little more status, but like everybody in Nazareth he was a Jack-of-all-trades.
RACHEL A Jack-of-all-trades?
JESUS Yes, somebody who could do almost anything. My dad worked on any job that offered itself. If the landlord came, he would hire him to harvest grapes. The next day he would build a wall. The following day he was harvesting wheat. And most days it was hand to mouth. Work was hard to find in Galilee.
RACHEL Well, then, let’s get back to the matter which is of most interest to our audience. In the last interview you stated that Joseph was your father, your real father.
JESUS Yes, of course.
RACHEL That means that … that Mary and Joseph were wife and husband.
RACHEL And that they lived together as spouses.
JESUS Obviously – how else were they going to live?
RACHEL It’s not so obvious, because they have always painted Joseph for us as an old man, with a white beard and a flowering staff.
JESUS The only staff that I remember in my father’s hands is the one he had once when I was behaving badly.
RACHEL No, I was referring to his chastity. Because, if it’s not indiscreet, I would like to ask about the human aspect of that couple. Were they in love, did they love each other? Or were they a holy family, a married couple, in appearance only?
JESUS What are you talking about, Rachel? They loved each other very much. My father always called my mother “My dusky darlingm” like the phrase in the Song of Songs. You know that love poem, don’t you?
RACHEL Yes, I read it once.
JESUS I used to love it when I saw my mom and dad walking arm in arm in the evening. My brother James and I would climb up on the wall to spy on them. Sometimes we used to catch them kissing, and my mom would get embarrassed and blush.
RACHEL But in the gospel it says that while they were still engaged, Mary became pregnant, and Joseph had many doubts and even thought about leaving her. Did you know about this crisis that happened before they were married?
JESUS As you can well understand, Rachel, I never asked them about such things. Although once…
RACHEL Once what?
JESUS Once, here in Nazareth, the kids insulted me. They called me a bastard.
RACHEL But why would they have done that?
JESUS Well, in those days they sometimes took advantage of the young women, they forced them to…
RACHEL Just like now.
JESUS But as I say, I never asked them anything about that. And I wasn’t worried about it either, because Joseph loved me very much. He made me into a man. He taught me to work, he taught me to be just. Some day I’ll tell you about how he died.
RACHEL And so, the possibility that your father was not your father …
JESUS A father isn’t just the one who begets. Any animal knows how to do that. A father is one who bring you up, who teaches you to live.
RACHEL To sum up for our listeners, then Jesus Christ has left us without angels making announcements to Mary, without dreams revealing things to Joseph, without virgins giving birth… What are we left with?
JESUS You’re left with love. My mom and dad loved each other. That is the most important thing, the only important thing.
RACHEL So now, friends, we would like to hear from all of you. The telephones of Emisoras Latinas are ready to receive your calls. You can also contact us through our website, www.emisoraslatinas.net. This is Rachel Perez, reporting from Nazareth.
ANNOUNCER Another God is Possible. Exclusive interviews with Jesus Christ in his second coming to Earth. A production of María and José Ignacio López Vigil, with the support of the Syd Forum and Christian Aid.
*More information about this polemical topic…*
Joseph, the great unknown
While the gospels provide some important information that helps us sketch some traits of Mary’s personality, they tell us practically nothing about Joseph. Mary speaks in the gospels, but Joseph doesn’t say a single word. He appears several times, but just in two of the four gospels, and only in the stories of Jesus’ infancy, which are not exactly historical or biographical, as we have seen. Rather, these infancy narratives serve to transmit important symbols of Hebrew culture, since they are constructed around references to persons and events from the Old Testament. For example, when Joseph learns in his dreams that Mary is pregnant with child, we are reminded of the famous Joseph of the book of Genesis, who dreamed about the future. Despite the little we know about Joseph of Nazareth, the Catholic Church has produced countless books about him, and a there is even a branch of theology called “Josephology”. For years now the “Josephologists” have been holding international congresses in various countries to carry on their speculations about the meaning of this man’s life.
The idea that Joseph was a carpenter is based on the verse in Matthew’s gospel where Jesus is spoken of as “the carpenter’s son” (Matthew 13,55). The Aramaic word that describes this trade is “nagar”, which actually has the somewhat broader meaning of “artisan”. The Greek word used by Matthew is “tekton”, which is an even broader concept, designating a general worker, someone who does all kinds of work.
Child of a “single mother”?
In order to reinforce the idea of Mary’s physical virginity, tradition has portrayed Joseph as an old man, as one incapable of sexual energy or activity. It’s possible that Joseph was not the real father of Joseph, but the reason was not because Mary conceived Jesus virginally. Rather the reason could have been that Jesus was begotten as the result of rape.
This conjecture finds some grounds in John’s gospel, where Jesus is called a “Samaritan”, which was a harsh insult, equivalent to being called a “bastard” (John 8,48). It also finds grounds in the fact that in Mark’s gospel Jesus is described simply as the “son of Mary” (Mark 6,3); identifying somebody this way was unusual at the time since people were usually identified in relation to their fathers. We can even find evidence for this view in the very word that Matthew uses to speak of Mary: “parthenos”. This Greek word referred literally to physical virginity, but it was also a euphemism used to describe both unmarried women who were pregnant (our present-day “single mothers”) and women who became pregnant as a result of rape. Thus, a child whose father was not known was called a “virgin’s kid”. This was because in ancient times virginity referred more to a social condition (a woman without a man) than to a physical state (a woman with her hymen intact).
The theory of Mary’s rape
In the earliest polemics between paganism and Christianity, mention is made of the fact that Mary was raped. The pagan philosopher Celsus in his “True Doctrines”, a work written in the year 178, even gives the name of the rapist: Panthera, a Roman soldier. This was a Greek name that was quite common at the time, and it was also the name of one of the Roman legions that was occupying Palestine around the years that Jesus was born.
The Roman troops committed sexual violations against Galilean women with great frequency. Such gross behavior was at that time – as it still is today, in many wars and military interventions – an expression not only of brute masculine desire, but also of the abusive power and physical aggression by which male warriors sought to establish their supremacy and dominion over the conquered territories and their inhabitants.
A just man
In Matthew’s gospel Joseph is described with a single word: he was “just”. Justice was a quality that the prophets attributed especially to God. In the Hebrew culture saying that God is just means that God is righteous, that God does justice, that God takes the side of those who are subjected and made powerless, that God has compassion on the poor and defends them, that God is fair and cannot be swayed by pretty words or sacred rites. Whether Joseph was Jesus’ real father or simply his adoptive father, there is no doubt that he helped the lad develop his sense of justice.
Joseph in literature
Joseph of Nazareth has been much more present in painting that he has in literature. He often appears in films, but usually as an obscure, secondary character. The Portuguese author José Saramago, who won the Nobel prize for literature, made Joseph into an exceptional protagonist in the first part of his novel “The Gospel according to Jesus Christ”. In the novel Joseph is crucified by error in Sepphoris, the capital of Galilee, a tragedy that has a decisive influence on the life of the young Jesus.