The History of Joseph the Carpenter 

What Catholic Tradition Teaches About the Man Who Raised God

The word apocryphal comes from the Greek apo, “far,” and krypto, “to hide.” It applies to written works whose divine inspiration the Church does not recognize. Consequently, the canonical books in the Old and New Testament are excluded. Here, we offer an excerpt from The History of St. Joseph the Carpenter.

This apocryphal text that was written with the aim of being edifying devotes a lot of space to the life of Jesus’ mother while rather faithfully following the evangelical accounts. Here is how it starts:

This is [the account] of the death of our holy father Joseph the carpenter—Christ’s father according to the flesh. He lived to be 111 years old. Our Savior told his entire biography to the apostles on the Mount of Olives. The apostles themselves wrote these words and dropped them off in Jerusalem’s library. The holy elderly man abandoned his body on the twenty-sixth of the month of Abib [between June 25 and July 24]. 

This work, which was probably written in the fifth century, has been fully preserved. Christ in person recounts the life and death of the holy patriarch. Jesus expands on Joseph’s first marriage, which yielded four boys—Jude, Joset, James, and Simon—and two girls—Lysia and Lydia. When Joseph took Mary into his home, she “found little James being like a sad orphan there. She started to pamper him. This is why she was called Mary, the mother of James.”

Jesus cannot hold back his tears at the sight of Joseph dying. “When my father Joseph said these things, I could not stay without shedding tears, and I cried when I saw that death overcame him, and when I heard the distressing words that he was saying.”

“I myself, my friends,” he continues, “I sat at his bedside… He looked up and let out a loud groan.… When my dear mother saw me feel his body, she also felt his feet. She found that his breathing and warmth were gone… The Virgin Mary, my mother, and I cried [with Joseph’s other children], for the time of death had arrived.”

He’s the Patron of the Universal Church, guardian of the Word Made Flesh, supreme help of fathers and workers, and Terror of Demons. After Jesus and Mary, he’s our single greatest model of holiness and most powerful heavenly friend.

Yet the Bible barely mentions him. And he never speaks a word.

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