In the New Testament
The Pauline epistles make no reference to Jesus' father; nor does the Gospel of Mark. The first appearance of Joseph is in the gospels of Matthew and Luke. Each contains a genealogy of Jesus showing ancestry from King David, but through different sons; Matthew follows the major royal line from Solomon, while Luke traces another line back to Nathan, another son of David and Bathsheba. Consequently, all the names between David and Joseph are different. Some scholars, such as Harry A. Ironside reconcile the genealogies by viewing the Solomonic lineage in Matthew as Joseph's major royal line, and the Nathanic lineage in Luke to be Mary's minor line.
The epistles of Paul are generally regarded as the oldest extant Christian writings. These mention Jesus' mother (without naming her), but do not refer to his father. The Book of Mark, believed to be the first gospel to be written and with a date about two decades after Paul, also does not mention Jesus' father. Joseph first appears in the Gospels of Matthew and Luke, both dating from around 80–90 AD. The issue of reconciling the two accounts has been the subject of debate.
Like the two differing genealogies, the infancy narratives appear only in Matthew and Luke and take different approaches to reconciling the requirement that the Messiah be born in Bethlehem with the tradition that Jesus in fact came from Nazareth. In Matthew, Joseph obeys the direction of an angel to marry Mary. Following the birth of Jesus in Bethlehem, Joseph and family stay in Bethlehem for an unspecified period (perhaps two years) until after the visit of the Three Magi, when Joseph is told by an angel in a dream to take the family to Egypt to escape the massacre of the children of Bethlehem planned by Herod, the ruler of the Roman province of Judea. Once Herod has died, an angel tells Joseph to return, but to avoid Herod's son he takes his wife and the child to Nazareth in Galilee and settles there. Thus in Matthew, the infant Jesus, like Moses, is in peril from a cruel king, like Moses he has a (fore)father named Joseph who goes down to Egypt, like the Old Testament Joseph this Joseph has a father named Jacob, and both Josephs receive important dreams foretelling their future.
In the Gospel book of Luke, Joseph already lives in Nazareth, and Jesus is born in Bethlehem because Joseph and Mary have to travel there to be counted in a census. Subsequently, Jesus was born there. Luke's account makes no mention of him being visited by angels (Mary and various others instead receive similar apparitions), the Massacre of the Innocents, or of a visit to Egypt.
The last time Joseph appears in person in any Gospel book is in the story of the Passover visit to the Temple in Jerusalem when Jesus is 12 years old, found only in Luke. No mention is made of him thereafter. The story emphasizes Jesus' awareness of his coming mission: here Jesus speaks to his parents (both of them) of "my father," meaning God, but they fail to understand.(Luke 2:41–51).
Christian tradition represents Mary as a widow during the adult ministry of her son. Joseph is not mentioned as being present at the Wedding at Cana at the beginning of Jesus' mission, nor at the Passion at the end. If he had been present at the Crucifixion, he would under Jewish custom have been expected to take charge of Jesus' body, but this role is instead performed by Joseph of Arimathea. Nor would Jesus have entrusted his mother to the care of John the Apostle if her husband had been alive.
While none of the Gospels mentions Joseph as present at any event during Jesus' adult ministry, the synoptic Gospels share a scene in which the people of Nazareth, Jesus' hometown, doubt Jesus' status as a prophet because they know his family. In Mark 6:3, they call Jesus "Mary's son" instead of naming his father. In Luke 4:16–30) In Luke the tone is positive, whereas in Mark and Matthew it is disparaging. This incident does not appear at all in John, but in a parallel story the disbelieving neighbors refer to "Jesus the son of Joseph, whose father and mother we know" (John 6:41–51).
Joseph is mentioned in the gospels of Matthew, Luke, and John. Mark's gospel contains no reference to this Joseph by name.
Holy Family with the Holy Spirit
Joseph appears in Luke as the father of Jesus and in a "variant reading in Matthew". Matthew and Luke both contain a genealogy of Jesus showing his ancestry from David, but through different sons; Matthew follows the major royal line from Solomon, while Luke traces another line back to Nathan, another son of David and Luke 3:23, Joseph is said to be "the son of Heli".
The variances between the genealogies given in Matthew and Luke are explained in a number of ways, although one possibility is that Matthew's genealogy traces Jesus' legal descent, according to Jewish law, through Joseph; while Luke's genealogy traces his actual physical descent through Mary.
In the Gospels, Joseph's occupation is mentioned only once. The [13:55] asks about Jesus:
Is not this the carpenter's son (ho tou tektōnos huios)?
Joseph's description as a "tekton" (τέκτων) has been traditionally translated into English as "carpenter", but is a rather general word (from the same root that gives us "technical" and "technology" ) that could cover makers of objects in various materials. The Greek term evokes an artisan with wood in general, or an artisan in iron or stone. But the specific association with woodworking is a constant in Early Christian tradition; Justin Martyr (died c. 165) wrote that Jesus made yokes and ploughs, and there are similar early references.
Other scholars have argued that tekton could equally mean a highly skilled craftsman in wood or the more prestigious metal, perhaps running a workshop with several employees, and noted sources recording the shortage of skilled artisans at the time. Geza Vermes has stated that the terms 'carpenter' and 'son of a carpenter' are used in the Jewish Talmud to signify a very learned man, and he suggests that a description of Joseph as 'naggar' (a carpenter) could indicate that he was considered wise and highly literate in the Torah.
At the time of Joseph, Nazareth was an obscure village in Galilee, about 65 kilometres (40 mi) from the Holy City of Jerusalem, and is barely mentioned in surviving non-Christian texts and documents. Archaeology over most of the site is made impossible by subsequent building, but from what has been excavated and tombs in the area around the village, it is estimated that the population was at most about 400. It was, however, only about 6 kilometres from the city of Tzippori (ancient "Sepphoris"), which was destroyed and depopulated by the Romans in 4 BC, and thereafter was expensively rebuilt. Analysis of the landscape and other evidence suggest that in Joseph's lifetime Nazareth was "oriented towards" the nearby city, which had an overwhelmingly Jewish population although with many signs of Hellenization, and historians have speculated that Joseph and later Jesus too might have traveled daily to work on the rebuilding. Specifically the large theatre in the city has been suggested, although this has aroused much controversy over dating and other issues. Other scholars see Joseph and Jesus as the general village craftsmen, working in wood, stone and metal on a wide variety of jobs.
The name "Joseph" is found almost exclusively in the genealogies and the infancy narratives. Modern positions on the question of the relationship between Joseph and the Virgin Mary vary. The Eastern Orthodox Church, which names Joseph's first wife as Salome, holds that Joseph was a widower and merely betrothed, but never married, to Mary, and that references to Jesus' "brothers" are to children of Joseph and Salome. The position of the Catholic Church, derived from the writings of Saint Jerome, is that Joseph was the husband of Mary, but that references to Jesus' "brothers" should be understood to mean cousins or step-brothers. Such usage is prevalent throughout history, and occurs elsewhere in the Bible. Abraham's nephew Lot (Genesis 11:26-28) was referred to as his brother (Genesis 14:14), as was Jacob's uncle Laban (Genesis 29:15). Jesus himself frequently used the word "brother" as a generic term for one's fellow man. This custom has continued into modern times, with close friends, colleagues, and fellow churchgoers often called "brothers and sisters." Generally, certain Protestants and other groups opposed to the Roman Catholic teaching read "brothers and sisters" of Jesus as referring specifically to children born of Mary.
In both cases, the church doctrine of the Perpetual Virginity means that Joseph and Mary never had sexual relations. The Protestant churches, following the tenet of Virgin Birth but not that of Perpetual Virginity, hold no strong views on the subject.
The term kiddushin, which refers to the first part of a two-part marriage, is frequently translated as "betrothal". Couples who fulfil the requirements of the kiddushin are married, until death or divorce.