December 18th – Remembering Fathers, Especially Joseph

Our Own Fathers

We all shared memories of our own fathers and got to know each other better as a result of that discussion. Father Linsky had led us in that direction because of inclusion of Joseph in the Gospel Reading for the day. So, discussion then turned to Joseph’s role in the lives of Mary and Jesus.

Gospel Reading – Matthew 1:15-25 (NABRE)

End of the Genealogy of Jesus
Eleazar became the father of Matthan, Matthan the father of Jacob, Jacob the father of Joseph, the husband of Mary. Of her was born Jesus who is called the Messiah. Thus the total number of generations from Abraham to David is fourteen generations; from David to the Babylonian exile, fourteen generations; from the Babylonian exile to the Messiah, fourteen generations.

Mary & Joseph and The Birth of Jesus
Now this is how the birth of Jesus Christ came about. When his mother Mary was betrothed to Joseph, but before they lived together, she was found with child through the holy Spirit.  Joseph her husband, since he was a righteous man, yet unwilling to expose her to shame, decided to divorce her quietly. 

Such was his intention when, behold, the angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream and said, “Joseph, son of David, do not be afraid to take Mary your wife into your home. For it is through the holy Spirit that this child has been conceived in her. She will bear a son and you are to name him Jesus, because he will save his people from their sins.” 

All this took place to fulfill what the Lord had said through the prophet: “Behold, the virgin shall be with child and bear a son, and they shall name him Emmanuel, which means “God is with us.” When Joseph awoke, he did as the angel of the Lord had commanded him and took his wife into his home. He had no relations with her until she bore a son, and he named him Jesus.

Saint Joseph

There are three important Josephs mentioned in the Bible, Joseph, Jacob’s son, who was sold into Egyptian slavery by his brothers, Joseph of Arimathea, wealthy and prominent citizen who claimed and buried the body of Jesus after the Crucifixion, and Joseph who was betrothed to Mary and took her into his home and was earthly father of Jesus.

At this LINK is the Catholic Online view of St. Joseph. It’s a nice summary, unfortunately cluttered up a bit with advertisements. Teaser sentence for the link: “Everything we know about the husband of Mary and the foster father of Jesus comes from Scripture and that has seemed too little for those who made up legends about him.”

Various Opinions on Joseph and Perpetual Virginity of Mary

I continue to be impressed with the well referenced articles on Wikipedia about Bible and Religion. For what it says about modern views of Joseph by various Christian churches, click HERE and scroll down to “Modern Appraisal.”

The Eastern Orthodox and Catholic and a few other churches are in agreement on the perpetual virginity of Jesus which of course would tell us a lot about Joseph. I had never heard the position of the Orthodox Church that Joseph had earlier children, but the writers of Britannica don’t believe it has credibility and argue that, “reliable information about Joseph is found only in the Gospels.” Well, that is consistent with the quote from Catholic Online.

Catholic Importance of Mary – Catechism

As we consider any issue or question about The Blessed Virgin Mary, it seems important to remember this statement, Paragraph 487, from the Catechism of the Catholic Church. It is in the section about the Creed and the phrase, “Born of the Virgin Mary.

587 –What the Catholic faith believes about Mary is based on what it believes about Christ, and what it teaches about Mary illumines in turn its faith in Christ.

So, it’s all about Jesus!

 

Matthew 1:25 Translation Issues

Along with passages that mention “brothers” of Jesus, verse 25 in the Gospel reading seems to many to provide evidence against the Perpetual Virginity of Jesus. We have talked a few times about the meaning of “brother” in the first century Middle East, but not of the translation of Matthew 1:25.

Until

Someone asked why the writer of Matthew used the preposition “until” in this verse since that suggests denial of (but does not actually deny) perpetual virginity. The fifth word in the verse above is the one translated “until,” and there is little controversy about that translation except for a couple of mentions.

  1. A footnote in The New Testament, New Catholic Version, St. Joseph Edition says that “The Hebrew word “until” neither implies nor excludes marital conduct after Jesus’ birth.” While it seems to be true that the Hebrew vocabulary, not very rich, uses the same preposition for limited time and for all time, it is unclear why that is applicable since the language of Matthew is Greek. Maybe, since the audience was Jewish, their mindset was to see the Greek word for until as being like the Hebrew word for until.
  2. There is one New Testament verse in which the Greek word seems to imply forever since it is presented as equal to “always:” Matthew 28:20 …teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, until the end of the age.” Surely Jesus will continue to be with us even after the “end of the age” so “until” seems to suggest forever in this case.

Know (Ginosko)

The more interesting word is the third one, the one in the phrase translated “had no relations,” because that word. ginosko, means and is normally translated as “know.” Below is all the translation information from Strong’s Greek Lexicon. Note that the snip includes the URL where this kind of information can easily be found.

Note especially the third definition, euphemism for sexual intercourse. The word is translated that way four times in the New Testament, including in Matthew 1:25, but as forms of “know” more than a hundred times. I would find little support among Bible scholars but could argue that a better translation of Matthew 1:25 would use the third definition and would be, “He (Joseph) did not have full knowledge and understanding of her (Mary) until she bore a son, and he named him Jesus.

Translated that way, given that full knowledge and understanding by both Joseph and Mary of who Jesus was, how Mary had been chosen and prepared, what she had done, and how Joseph had been called to help, I suspect that marital relations and more children would have been absent from the list of priorities for both Mary and Joseph and that Perpetual Virginity would have been assumed by both. One might use the phrasing of Catechism 587 to say of Joseph: What Joseph believed about Mary was based on what he believed about Christ, and the way he treated Mary illumined his faith in Christ.

Joseph’s Date of Birth

This is a minor issue and not significant since we have no way to know how old Joseph was at the time of the birth of Jesus. It is interesting that he seems to have no presence after the Birth and Presentation stories so may have died before the ministry of Jesus began. Therefore, we may reasonably think of him as depicted in this 15th century painting by Guido Reni, an elderly man well past his prime.

“Protestant” Views of Perpetual Virginity of Mary

Perpetual Virginity of Mary (PVM) is certainly not a priority of most churches today except Catholic and Orthodox. However, that seems to be an evolved and weakened position from strong belief in PVM by original 15th century reformers. Here are some interesting links for any who want to pursue the question further.

Perpetual Virginity of Mary

Biblical Evidence for Perpetual Virginity

John Wesley

Martin Luther

Bonus from Rich Sayers

On a different subject, Rich Sayers suggested sharing this beautiful film with the group. This is what it is about. It is only about 7 minutes.

Screen Shot 2019-12-19 at 9.32.09 AM

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