Saint Joseph, also referred to as Joseph the Betrothed and as Joseph of Nazareth, was the foster-father of Jesus, according to the New Testament (Matthew 1:16; Luke 3:23). Joseph, whose father was called Jacob, was the third of six brothers. At any rate, Bethlehem, the city of David and his descendants, appears to have been the birth-place of Joseph. When, however, the Gospel history opens, namely, a few months before the Annunciation, Joseph was settled at Nazareth.
St. Joseph, indeed, was a tekton. The word means both mechanic in general and carpenter in particular. The Bible tells us very little of Joseph, but from the early chapters of Matthew and Luke we glean that he was a carpenter by trade, a just and pious man, and a most excellent husband and father. The genealogy given in (Matthew 1-17), traces his line from Abraham and King David.
In accordance with the Jewish ritual, he was betrothed to the Virgin Mary, who was also of the race of David. Later, having learned that she was with child, though he had not been near her, he was privately considering putting her away. Being “a just man and unwilling to put her to shame” (Matt. 1:19), he decided to divorce her quietly, knowing that if he did so publicly, she could be stoned to death. An angel, however, came to Joseph and told him that the child Mary carried was the son of God and was conceived by the Holy Spirit, so Joseph kept Mary as his wife.
It was at this time of uncertainty that the angel of the Lord appeared to Joseph in a dream and revealed to him the Mystery of the Incarnation. “Do not be afraid, Joseph, son of David,” said the angel, “to take to thee Mary thy wife, for that which is begotten of her is of the Holy Spirit. And she shall bring forth a son, and thou shall call his name Jesus; for he shall save the people from their sins” (Luke 20-21).
Joseph now accepted without question the two-fold office with which he was charged, protector of Mary’s honor and foster father of the child that was to be born. He took Mary with him from Nazareth to Bethlehem, when, in compliance with the Roman edict, it was necessary to return there for the census-taking. After Jesus’s birth in Bethlehem, an angel came to Joseph again, this time to warn him and Mary about King Herod of Judaea and the violence he would bring down upon the child. Joseph then fled to Egypt with Mary and Jesus, and the angel appeared again, telling Joseph that Herod had died and instructing him to return to the Holy Land.
We know that Joseph was at the stable of the inn beside his wife when the three wise men, following a star, came there out of the East to honor the newborn child with precious gifts. The infant was duly circumcized, and when the forty days prescribed by Mosaic law were passed, Joseph and Mary took him to the temple in Jerusalem. A certain holy man named Simeon, to whom it had been revealed that he would not die until he had seen the Christ, was in the temple on that day, and when he saw Jesus, he knew that this was the promised Messiah. The priest blessed Joseph and Mary and spoke of the glory that had come to them.
Avoiding Bethlehem and possible actions by Herod’s successor, Joseph, Mary and Jesus settled in Nazareth, in Galilee. It was the time when Joseph decided to go back to his previous profesion as tekton and it is assumed that Joseph taught his craft to Jesus in Nazareth.
The circumstances of Joseph’s death are not known, but it is likely that he died before Jesus’s ministry began, and it is implied that he was dead before the Crucifixion (John 19:26-27).