St. Joseph – The “Most Chaste Spouse”
Joseph marries Mary by Niall McAuley via Flickr

St. Joseph (1st century CE)

According to the Bible, particularly the Catholic take, Joseph is the chaste spouse of the Virgin Mary and the foster-father of Jesus Christ.

A simple carpenter¹ in the town of Nazareth, Joseph is last mentioned in the Bible when Christ is merely 12 years old.

Many believe that Joseph, who was much older than Mary, died by the time Christ began his public ministry.

Some feminists and Christians assert that Joseph and Mary had sexual intercourse to produce the Christ child. Theological dogmas and arguments preserving Mary’s virginity are often seen as patriarchal ploys to subjugate women, devalue sex and frame the human body as a sinful object.

Others maintain that Christ was fathered by The Holy Spirit but Joseph and Mary possibly had another child (James) through natural means.

Catholic prayer often describes Joseph as the “most chaste spouse” of the Virgin Mary. And James, Jesus’ alleged brother is seen as a relative but not an actual brother.

For Catholics, this interpretation is based on

  • aspects of the Bible apparently indicating Mary is a virgin (and not just a “young woman” as others claim)
  • an understanding of the Greek term for “brother” (adelphos)² within the historical context of the New Testament
  • Catholic teaching tradition, believed to be inspired by the Holy Spirit.

Joseph’s feast day is 19 March.

¹ I have dumbed this entry down quite a bit both for readability and probably also to give emphasis to my pro-Catholic bias regarding the belief in Mary’s virginity. For more see,

² To get a sense of the controversy around the word “brother,” see:

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