How Mary Mother Of Jesus Came Into The Life Of Joseph

One reason as to why an ossuary of Joseph of Nazareth was not among the other ossuaries excavated from the so called family tomb of Jesus could be Joseph’s relationship with Mary Mother of Jesus.

Let’s begin by seeing how Mary mother of Jesus came into the life of Joseph.

Second century sources named the parents of Mary mother of Jesus as Joachim and Anna. Joachim was a herdsman who lived in Nazareth not far from the house of Joseph. He was originally of the tribe of Judah and a descendant of King David. Anna was the daughter of Matthan a priest from the tribe of Levi. (1)

Every morning Joachim and his wife Anna milked their small flock of sheep and then Joachim set off towards the slopes of the hills carrying a sheepskin bottle of water and some unleavened bread. There he herded his sheep till almost dusk and then drove them back to their pen that abutted his single storey house.

Husband and wife milked the sheep twice a day. They used the milk to make cheese which they sold in Nazareth and when their stock of the stuff was more than they could sell locally Joachim took the excess to Sepphoris where he invariably found a buyer for their produce.

God Did Not Bless Joachim And Anna  With A Child Because They Had Sinned

To all outward appearance the couple looked quite happy. But they had a grievance. In spite of being married for fifty years the couple was childless. Because of this grievance Joachim often talked to God. At every opportunity he would tell God that he had blessed him in so many other ways. He thanked God for a wonderful wife, a sizable flock and a nice house. He told God that his neighbors looked at the couple as if to say that God did not bless them with a child because they had sinned (2).

One day Joachim went to the temple taking his ram as an offering to God and to ask for forgiveness for any sin that the couple may have committed. But when he entered the temple he was stopped by the high priest.

Even as Joachim introduced himself the pompous priest looked down his nose at poor Joachim and said “It is against the law for a childless person to make a sacrifice to the Lord. Do you not know this? I will not permit you to offer this sacrifice.”

Joachim hurried out of the temple red faced with shame. He decided that God wanted something more from him. And so he retreated to the desert where he did penance and fasted for forty days and promised God that if he gave them a child he would offer up that child in the service of God.

An Angel Appeared To Joachim And Anna

Legend has it that an angel appeared to Joachim after forty days and told him that Anna would soon be blessed with a child that the whole world would venerate and praise. The angel ordered Joachim to go to the temple gate. So Joachim decided that he would first go to the temple offer thanks to the lord and then go home.

In the meanwhile Anna who was praying to the Lord for the same purpose also saw an apparition. It was an angel. The angel gave her the happy news that the lord had heard their prayer and that she would soon bear a child.

Anna began to run towards the temple hoping to see Joachim. A little distance from the temple gate the happy couple met and exchanged the good news that the angel had given them. As they told each other about the angel, they realized that they had made similar promises to the lord about offering the child to serve him.

Soon a child was born to them and they named her Mary. When Mary was three years old Joachim and Anna offered her to the temple in fulfillment of their promise. Joachim and Anna were heartbroken and missed their daughter very much. They visited Mary as often as they could until their death even before their daughter was ten. However Mary remained in the temple for a further two years until she was twelve.

Mary Soon Grows Into A Woman

The priests in the temple could not help but notice that Mary had grown into a woman. They realized that her continuing to stay at the temple was not in their best interest. They were afraid that they could fall prey to their carnal desires and invoke the wrath of God. So they decided that they should entrust Mary with a good and virtuous man until she is of marriageable age.

In pursuance of this decision the priests summoned twelve old men from the tribe of Judah. They decided that they would decide by lot the man to whom Mary would be entrusted till the time of her marriage. Joseph was chosen as that person.

When Mary went to Joseph’s house the first person she noticed was James. He was still distraught over his mother’s death. For almost a year she endeared herself to the little boy because of her sincere affection for him. Much of the time they were the only two in the house since Joseph and Judas were away at Sepphoris vending their trade.

Joseph was attracted to Mary not only because of her beauty. He was attracted to her more because of her matronly love for James. Eventually Mary was betrothed to Joseph and he was to marry her shortly after her fourteenth birthday.

Mary Is With Child Even Though She And Joseph Are Not Married

The months passed and then one day something happened to Mary. For one she did not fully recall what it was and she was not able to understand the little that she was able to recall. She was confused. Mary was still a teenager and her confusion was understandable. The one thing she did know was this was a matter that she could not discuss with any of her relatives in Nazareth.

Mary knew that the one person with whom she could discuss this issue and the one who would be sympathetic was her cousin Elizabeth who lived with her husband Zachariah in a settlement in the hill city of Judea. It is not sure exactly where this settlement is, but some scholars think that it could have been either Jutta which is around five miles south of Hebron in Edomite territory or Ain Karim, a village about five miles from Jerusalem (3). Elizabeth was the daughter of Zoia who was the sister of Anna, the mother of Mary.

One morning Mary requested Joseph to let her go to Judea to see her cousin Elizabeth. There was urgency in Mary’s request that Joseph could not understand. However as much as he was disinclined, he finally acceded to her frenzied supplication.

People from this part of the world traveling to Judea avoided going through Samaria because of the ongoing enmity between the Jews and the Samaritans. Besides they would also avoid the mountainous regions of Samaria. Although going along the Jewish route meant traveling 30 miles more they considered it the safer. So they traveled through the Valley of Jezreel, then through the Jordan River Valley and finally onto Judea. Although the Bible does not say whether Mary made this journey alone or not, it is quite likely that she went along with a group. It is probable that this group broke journey every evening and rested at any house that gave them shelter. It is likely that on the evening of the fourth day Mary reached the house of Elizabeth.

Both Elizabeth and Zachariah were happy to see Mary. But Elizabeth was surprised that Mary should have come alone. At the first opportunity, when they were alone Mary blurted to her cousin that she was with child. Elizabeth was shocked. She just stood there petrified and waited for an explanation, knowing that Mary and Joseph were not married as yet.

Whatever may have been Mary’s explanation, according to some scholars, the first writers of the scriptures were so keen to make the events in Jesus’ life seem like the fulfillment of Old Testament prophecies that they construed Mary’s pregnancy as a miraculous conception – a fulfillment of one of the prophecies of Isaiah. They say that this is especially so in the case of the author of Matthew who relates the prophecy of Isaiah (Isaiah 7.14) to the birth of Jesus.

The original Hebrew passage of the prophecy reads “’Hinneh ha-almah harah ve-yeldeth ben ve-karath shem-o Immanuel”.

The correct translation for this is:

“Behold, the young woman has conceived — and bears a son and calls his name Immanuel”.

The Annunciation

In Syriac, a form of Aramaic, spoken by the Nazoreans, the word “almah” could also mean virgin in addition to meaning a maid and a young woman. This seems to have been the cause of the error in translation. And as the church in Rome began to grow, it became increasingly critical of the Nazoreans who knew firsthand that Jesus was conceived naturally and that the biological father was Joseph and often preferred to tell the truth (4).

Events In Jesus’ Life Are Related to Fulfillment Of Old Testament Prophecies

Since Matthew was writing for a predominantly Jewish population it was important that he relate at least some of the events in Jesus’ life as fulfillment of Old Testament prophecies. This was primarily the reason for the passage in Matthew 1:23.

The prophecy of Isaiah contained in 7:14 also refers to the messiah as “Immanuel” which means “God with us”. However Mary named her son Jesus and not Immanuel, which was a vital requirement according to the prophecy. And even though the New Testament (Mt 1:23) uses the name Immanuel only once, scholars who claim that Jesus is Immanuel give the explanation that Jesus is the same as Immanuel since Jesus is the son of God it is the same as “God with us” (5).

The perpetual virginity of Mary was given significance in the teachings in the infancy Gospel of the Protevangelium of James. There the author narrates that Joseph was a widower with children – one of whom was James – when he was betrothed to Mary. The narrative states that Mary was a virgin not only at the time of conceiving Jesus, but continued to be a virgin through child birth and beyond, all through her life (6).

It is quite likely that the early writers of the scriptures were influenced by stories already in existence about virginal births. There were numerous stories of virginal births before Jesus’ time. It appears that during the time of Jesus there was a huge library in Alexandria and a vast network of information that extended from Europe to China. The early writers of the scriptures were influenced by the information that was available to them and at every opportunity they credited events from other godlike qualities from other parts of the world to Jesus. One such significant attribute is the virginal birth.

There Are Several “Sons Of God” Before Jesus

There are several “sons of God” before Jesus from different parts of the then known world. And many of these “sons of God” predate Jesus. Below is a list of gods and sons of God:

Adad of Assyria
Adonis, Apollo and Zeus of Greece
Agni of India
Alcides/Hercules of Thebes
Attis of Phrygia
Baal of Phoenicia
Bali of Afghanistan
Buddha/Beddhu of India, China and Japan
Deva Tat (Buddha) of Siam
Hesus of the Druids
Horus, Osiris, and Serapis of Egypt
Indra of Tibet/India
Jao/Iao of Nepal
Krishna of India
The Mikado of the Shintos
Mithra of Persia
Odin of the Scandinavians
Prometheus of Caucasus/Greece
Quetzalcoatl of Mexico
Salivahana of Burma
Tammuz of Syria
Thor of the Gauls
Universal Monarch of the Sibyls
Wittoba of the Bilingonese
Xamolxis/Zamolxis of Thrace
Zarathustra/Zoroaster of Persia (7)

Critics Challenge Mary’s Virginal Conception

Some critics of the virginal birth of Jesus say that if Mary did not conceive Jesus miraculously and if he wasn’t the biological son of Joseph then Mary must have had an illicit relationship. This accusation was made even at the time of a debate between Jesus and some Jews. The Jews said to Jesus “We were not born as a result of immorality! We have only one Father, God himself.” Yet others say that Mary conceived Jesus because of a relationship with a man other than Joseph and that this was probably a forced act by some Roman soldier. Even in the Gospel of Mark written around 70 CE, Jesus is referred to as “Mary’s son” instead of naming his father, probably implying that he was illegitimate. Again in Matthew the townspeople refer to Jesus as the “the carpenter’s son,” without mentioning his father by name (8).

Celsus a 2nd century Greek philosopher challenged the divinity of Jesus by suggesting that Jesus was the illegitimate son of a Roman soldier named Panthera. He went on to say that Jesus was the son of a poor Jewish girl through an adulterous relationship with a Roman soldier and as a consequence was driven out of the house by her carpenter husband (9).

When Mary returned from Judea after visiting her cousin Elizabeth, she was about three months pregnant (Luke 1:56). Whatever the reason for Mary’s pregnancy, Joseph knew that he wasn’t the one responsible. He had a few options. He could defame his betrothed or he could simply send her away somewhere.

Joseph Reacts With Disbelief And Anger

According to early texts on the subject, irrespective of the explanation that Mary may have given Joseph regarding her pregnancy, Joseph was not convinced. His reaction may have been of both disbelief and anger. In Matthew 1:18-19 the Holy Spirit bears out the fact that the dialogue between Mary and Joseph was neither calm nor conclusive. Joseph could break off the engagement. But an engagement was inviolate except in the case of adultery. According to Deut. 22:23-25, a man or a woman could be put to death for breaking off an engagement without a valid reason. Hence Joseph could have Mary stoned to death for being unfaithful. But Joseph being a righteous man decided to marry Mary thus accepting that he was the father of the child she was bearing as a consequence of premarital sex.

After the visit to the Temple for the Passover when Jesus was twelve years, there is no mention of Joseph. As per the Gospel of Luke (LK 3:23) Jesus’ ministry began when he was about 30 years and lasted for about a year as per the synoptic Gospels. However, as per the gospel of John Jesus’ ministry lasted for about 3 years. All through this period it appears that only Mary accompanied Jesus. Joseph is not mentioned either in the narration of the wedding feast at Cana or the story of the crucifixion (10).

Based solely on the fact that there are no records relating to her death and burial, the Catholic Church claims that Mary was bodily assumed into heaven and as such there cannot be any tomb containing her bodily remains.

Early Christian writers such as Augustine were of the opinion that the original sin of Adam was passed on through the act of sex. They did not want this sin to be passed on to Jesus who they claimed was holy and sinless. It followed therefore that he should not have been conceived through the sexual acts of his parents. In order to meet this condition the later church invented the concept of Immaculate Conception thereby preserving the purity and virginity of Mary.

It is apparent that both Matthew and Luke were inspired by the annunciation narratives in the Old Testament relating to the birth of Isaac, Samson and Samuel. Paul and other early Christian writers who regularly referred to James as the brother of Jesus and as one who held a position of prominence in the early church was eventually forgotten in later Christian tradition. It is probably for the reason of reinforcing the continued virginity of Mary that James and the others were made step siblings or cousins.

Please also read my blog “Mary Mother Of Jesus Departs After The Crucifixion” at


(1) & (2)Joachim and Anna. (2011). Retrieved 2011, from

(3) Wilson, Dr. Ralph F. (1985-2012). Mary Visits Elizabeth (Luke 1:39-56). Retrieved 2011, from

(4) Virgin Birth Controversy. (n.d.). Retrieved 2011, from

(5) Isaiah 7:14. Retrieved 2011, from

(6) Gospel of James. (2012). Retrieved 2011, from


(8) Fatoohi, Louay. (2007). The Accusation of the Illegitimacy of Jesus. Retrieved 2011, from

(9) The Historicity of Jesus Christ: Did He Really Exist? (2007). Retrieved 2011, from

(10) Hunt, Michal (1998). The Gospel According To John Chapter 2: The Wedding At Cana: The First Sign, Jesus Cleanses the Temple
Retrieved 2011, from

Picture Credits: (Fig 1) The Annunciation


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