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What ever happened to Joseph, Jesus' Stepfather?

and Phylacteries

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Question #1:  

Hello,  I was just at your site, https://ichthys.com and I realized you may be able to answer my question. I have been wondering this since I saw "The Passion" the day it was released. No one, not even my parents or aunts who are strong in their faith and read the Bible like there's no tomorrow could answer my question. Simply, what happened to Joseph, Jesus' father? I'm not sure when the last time he is mentioned in the Bible is, but I don't recall anything about Joseph after the time when Jesus was lost in the city (Luke 3:43-51).  Thanks in advance,  God Bless You

Response #1: 

You are correct that the last indication of Joseph still being alive is the incident of Jesus as a boy remaining behind in Jerusalem (Luke 3:43-51). The only mentioning of Joseph in scripture following this come from those who wish to denigrate Jesus' importance (and status as the Messiah: Jn.6:42; Lk.4:22; cf. Matt.13:55; Mk.6:3). The mention in this list of passages of Jesus being "Joseph's son" and "the carpenter's son" does not necessarily mean that Joseph was still alive at the time that they were made. Giving the patrimony of an individual was essentially the same as giving their last name, so that anyone who knew Him or knew of Him would be likely to know His [step]-father's name as well, and would use this to give His full identity (regardless of whether or not Joseph was still living). The fact that, at the very beginning of His ministry, during the incident of the wedding banquet at Cana, Joseph is not mentioned while Mary is prominent in the story strongly suggests to me that Joseph was by that time no longer alive (Jn.2:1-11). And the fact that from the cross some of Jesus' last words involve making arrangements for the care and support of the mother of His humanity I would say shows conclusively that Joseph is no longer alive at the end of Christ's ministry (i.e., entrusting her to John would have been unnecessary and odd if her husband were still living: Jn.19:26-27).

Jesus is said to have had at least four brothers and more than one sister (Matt.13:55). Indeed, the phrase in the Greek of the passage just cited, "all His sisters", strongly indicates at least a nearly equivalent number of sisters to the brothers. Such a large family would have taken some time to produce, and may indicate that Joseph was still alive for several years following the incident at Jerusalem during Jesus' twelfth year. By the time of the wedding banquet at Cana, however, Mary and Jesus both behave as if Jesus has been the head of the household for some time, and so this may also indicate that, in addition to everything else, our Lord in His humanity had had to take on the burden of being the man of the house at an early age (mid-teens certainly fits with what information we have).

We are given very few details about our Lord's earthly life before the inception of His earthly ministry and this is clearly deliberate. What we can say based on what we do know (and based upon general descriptions such as we have in Isaiah 52-53) is that far from having an "advantaged" life, He grew up under challenging circumstances. In addition to having to discharge all the responsibilities of the first son in a large family - and do so in a perfect way (imagine!) - He also had to prepare for the greatest ministry of all time. I would imagine that Jesus got little sleep throughout His earthly life (cf. Lk.6:12, etc.). Finally, it should be pointed out that the various traditions about "what next with Joseph" contained in the Church Fathers etc. likely go back to the non-scriptural apocryphal gospels (so The Oxford Dictionary of the Christian Church, in loc. "Joseph"). That is to say, all other information we have about Joseph outside of the Bible is sheer speculation.

I have written about these and similar matters elsewhere.  You might want to have a look at the following links:

Mary, Joseph, and Nazareth.

The Birth of Christ (in Bible Basics 4A: Christology)

"The events surrounding the birth of Christ"

Why did Jesus choose John to take care of His mother Mary?

Jesus' Siblings

Hope this helps with your question.

Yours in our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ,

Bob Luginbill

Question #2:  

Dr. Luginbill,

I am in need of an explanation between the two of these verses, Deuteronomy 11:18 (the command to wear "symbols" on the forehead) and Revelation 13:16-17 (the warning about taking the mark of the beast on the forehead). Besides the obvious that one mark is of God and the other is of Satan, one is keeping the word of God in your heart and in your mind to be 'marked' by God, the other is a 'physical-mark' to be 'marked' by Satan. All this talk about computer chips underneath the skin is a little confusing, am I on the right track?

Response #2: 

I think you are exactly right in your evaluation of these two passages in tandem. You ask for an explanation, so I will expand a bit here:

As to Deut.11:18, this does not refer to the literal marking of the body (there was a prohibition against this in the Law: Lev.19:26-29), but rather to the wearing of "phylacteries" (KJV "frontlets"). Some Orthodox Jews today still wear these, especially in synagogue and when praying. You may have seen pictures of these. Nowadays these phylacteries or frontlets generally take the shape of a small square box containing miniature copies of portions of the Law which are then bound to the forehead by means of leather straps. Along with similar devices worn on the hands and tassels worn on the hem of the main garment, these served the purpose of reminding the faithful of the words they contained. In other words, these were to be concrete reminders of the importance of the words of God. Today, free from the Law as we are, Christians are no longer obligated to wear such reminders (Gal.5:1), but we are obligated to remember our Lord and His words (cf. 1Cor.11:24). So we have freedom, but our freedom is an opportunity to be even more aggressive in our pursuit of the words of God, not less so (just because we don't have to perform these and other rituals; cf. 1Pet.2:16; cf. Gal.5:13). We should strive to "bind on" the words of God spiritually, mentally, and metaphorically, at all times making it a point to keep Jesus the living Word, and the Bible, the written word of God, foremost in our minds and hearts.

As to Rev.13:16-17, this is indeed speaking of a literal tattoo or mark. You have certainly hit upon an important parallel here - one which, thanks to you, I will be sure to include when I take up this section of Revelation in the upcoming part 4 of the Coming Tribulation series. For the forehead and the hand are the exact same places where the beast will demand that the whole world take his mark. I have also heard plenty of theories about how this mark might work (bar codes, microchips, etc.), but there is nothing in scripture here to indicate that this is anything more than a simple mark. For that reason, it will seem to unbelievers all the more unreasonable that believers refuse to take it. I would not wish to rule out the theories you allude to out of hand, but my reading of the text of Rev.13 makes anything beyond a simple tattoo questionable. Antichrist will attempt to enroll the entire world with this scheme, so that a complicated technological aspect to the process might well make the plan unworkable by definition, while a simple mark would not. One other important contrast to the mark of the beast is, of course, the (invisible and divine) marking of the 144,000 (and by extension all those who are followers of Jesus Christ; Rev.7:3-8; 14:1; cf. Ezek.9:4). God knows and shows (to the angelic world) who are truly his, while purely physical marking done by human agency in this temporal, physical world is not of God and is a poor imitation of what He is doing beyond the reach of the human eye.

Hope this helps with your question.

Yours in our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ,

Bob L.

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