Where did Joseph go?

This week we ran across a new Biblical scholar named James Tabor. He writes some good stuff. This week we are going to take up some of the things he says regarding Joseph.

  • Where did Joseph go after the birth of Jesus? Joseph is never mentioned again after the birth narratives in any of the Gospels. Maybe he died early? All the references to family in the Gospels mention Jesus’ ‘mother and brothers’. Even at the crucifixion. But no Joseph. This makes it seem likely that Joseph died early, whether because he was substantially older than Mary or for some other unknown cause.
  • Conspiracy theory.  If Joseph died soon after Jesus’ birth without having other male children, Jewish law would have Joseph’s brother marry Mary so as to carry on the lineage. Far-fetched? Maybe not. It comes up in a discussion in the Gospels where Jesus is asked about a woman who is widowed seven times and each time successively marries a brother of her first husband (Mark 12:19-22). Why would that come up randomly in a Gospel account?
  • Sure, then where is this brother mentioned? Though seldom recognized he is mentioned in the New Testament (John 19:25). His name is Clophas. You know what Clophas means in Greek — the Replacer. 

Well, this presents a conundrum. Putting theological debates aside, we have always assumed Joseph was the father of Jesus. But if Joseph died childless, then Mary the widow would have been required to marry Joseph’s brother. Does that mean Clophas was the father of Jesus’ brothers and sisters. Is it too far-fetched to think that Clophas might have been the father of Jesus? 

I think I’m going to like reading this Tabor guy.

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