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Was Joseph Married Before Mary?
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Was Joseph Married Before Mary?

Introduction

The story of Joseph and Mary is a central part of the New Testament and a key component of the Christian faith. Mary, the mother of Jesus, is often the focus of attention, with her virginal conception and unwavering faith. However, Joseph, her betrothed, plays a crucial role in the story as well.

While much is known about Mary, Joseph’s background remains more of a mystery. One question that has intrigued scholars and believers alike is whether Joseph was married before he became engaged to Mary. In this blog post, we will explore this question in depth, considering the biblical evidence and historical context.

The Bible provides us with a wealth of information about Jesus and his family, but details about Joseph’s life before he married Mary are scarce. In the New Testament, Joseph is portrayed as a righteous man and a descendent of King David.

Despite the lack of direct evidence, some have theorized that Joseph may have been married previously, pointing to various passages and traditions that suggest this possibility.

In examining these claims, it is important to remain open-minded and grounded in the text, recognizing that there may be more to Joseph’s story than what is explicitly mentioned in Scripture.

In our investigation, we will consider the biblical passages related to Joseph and Mary, the traditions and beliefs of the early church, and the cultural context of first-century Palestine.

By examining these sources, we hope to shed light on the question of whether Joseph was married before Mary and deepen our understanding of this important figure in the Christian faith.

Image of joseph and mary in the manger

Biblical Evidence

The New Testament provides limited information about Joseph’s background. In the Gospel of Matthew, Joseph is described as a “just man” (Matthew 1:19, NKJV) who was betrothed to Mary.

When he discovered that she was pregnant, he initially intended to divorce her quietly, but an angel appeared to him in a dream, explaining that the child was conceived by the Holy Spirit. Joseph then took Mary as his wife, in accordance with the angel’s instructions (Matthew 1:20-25, NKJV).

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In the Gospel of Luke, Joseph is mentioned as being of the “house and lineage of David” (Luke 2:4, NKJV) and is described as the husband of Mary when they go to Bethlehem for the census.

After Jesus’ birth, Joseph is shown as a faithful follower of Jewish law, bringing Jesus to the temple for circumcision and purification rites (Luke 2:21-24, NKJV).

Although these passages provide some information about Joseph, they do not directly address the question of whether he was married before Mary. However, there are a few hints that may suggest the possibility.

Children of Joseph

One argument for Joseph’s previous marriage comes from the mention of Jesus’ siblings in the Bible. In several passages, Jesus is referred to as having brothers and sisters (Matthew 13:55-56, Mark 6:3, NKJV).

Some scholars have suggested that these siblings may have been children from a previous marriage of Joseph, while others argue that they could be cousins or more distant relatives.

The “Carpenter” Argument

Another piece of evidence that some point to is Joseph’s profession as a carpenter (Matthew 13:55, NKJV). It has been suggested that, in first-century Palestine, it was common for a widower with children to remarry in order to have a wife to care for his family while he worked.

In this case, Joseph’s profession may be a hint that he had been married before and had children to care for.

Historical Context and Early Church Tradition

Early Church Writings

Early church writings and apocryphal texts provide some insight into the question of Joseph’s marital status before Mary. In the second-century apocryphal text, the Protoevangelium of James, Joseph is portrayed as an older widower with children from his first marriage.

This text claims that Joseph was chosen to be Mary’s guardian because he was a widower and, therefore, less likely to be interested in her sexually. However, it is essential to note that the Protoevangelium of James is not considered canonical by most Christian denominations and its historical accuracy is uncertain.

Church Fathers

Some of the early Church Fathers also believed that Joseph was previously married. For example, Epiphanius of Salamis, a fourth-century bishop, argued that Joseph’s children mentioned in the Gospels were from his first marriage.

Similarly, the sixth-century theologian John Chrysostom wrote that Joseph was a widower who had been married before Mary.

Nevertheless, these views were not universally held among the early Christians, and other Church Fathers, like Augustine of Hippo and Jerome, argued that Jesus’ siblings were actually his cousins or more distant relatives.

Cultural Context

It is also essential to consider the cultural context of first-century Palestine when addressing the question of Joseph’s marital status. Marriage was an important social institution, and it was common for both men and women to marry at a young age.

Widowers, particularly those with children, often remarried to ensure the care of their families. In this context, it is possible that Joseph was married before Mary, although the Bible does not provide explicit evidence for this.

Conclusion

The question of whether Joseph was married before Mary is a complex and fascinating one, revealing much about the nature of biblical interpretation, historical context, and early Christian tradition.

While the New Testament does not provide direct evidence for Joseph’s marital status before his betrothal to Mary, there are hints in the text and various traditions that suggest he may have been a widower with children.

Considering the limited information available and the diverse perspectives found in early Christian writings, it is difficult to reach a definitive conclusion on this question. Each believer must consider the evidence and decide for themselves what they believe to be true about Joseph’s background.

Ultimately, the question of whether Joseph was married before Mary may remain an intriguing mystery, inviting us to explore the rich tapestry of biblical history and early Christian thought.

Regardless of Joseph’s marital status before Mary, his role in the story of Jesus’ birth is undeniably important. As a righteous man, a descendent of King David, and a loving husband and father, Joseph provides an example of faith and obedience for all Christians to follow.

By studying his life and the broader context in which he lived, we can deepen our understanding of the biblical narrative and strengthen our connection to the stories that shape our faith.

Pastor duke taber
Pastor Duke Taber

Pastor Duke Taber

All articles have been written or reviewed by Pastor Duke Taber.
Pastor Duke Taber is an alumnus of Life Pacific University and Multnomah Biblical Seminary.
He has been in pastoral ministry since 1988.
Today he is the owner and managing editor of 3 successful Christian websites that support missionaries around the world.
He is currently starting a brand new church in Mesquite NV called Mesquite Worship Center, a Non-Denominational Spirit Filled Christian church in Mesquite Nevada.