Is Joseph the father of Jesus?

To most Christians the virgin birth is a fundamental part of the Biblical narrative. Jesus was born of his virgin mother Mary, who was overcome by the power of the holy spirit and found to be pregnant.

Joseph, Mary’s husband, although he raised Jesus, was not the literal father of Jesus.

However, after a prophecy by Simeon when Jesus was presented at the temple 8 days after his birth, many modern Bibles refer to Joseph as the father of Jesus.


Luke 2-33 The child’s father and mother marveled at what was said about him. NIV

ESV, NASB, ISV, ASV, ERV, to name a few.

It is also the reading found in the NWT and the Catholic Douay-Rheims


Joseph as we know was NOT the father of Jesus.

But for many non christians this is a very confusing and seemingly contradictory declaration. However this ONLY appears when the Bible version INCORRECTLY renders Joseph the father of Jesus.


The KJV on the other hand,renders the verse Joseph and his mother (Mary)


Luke 2-33 And Joseph and his mother marvelled at those things which were spoken of him. KJV


It really should not matter as it is VERY clear that Joseph was not the father BUT yet again the majority of Greek manuscripts support the KJV reading of Joseph and NOT Father.  A, E, G, H, K, M, S, U, Y, X, Xi, Gamma, Delta, Theta, Lambda, Pi, Psi and Omega.

Joseph is also the reading found in the Old Latin copies a, aur, b, beta, c, e, f, ff2, g1, l and q.

And also the reading of the Syriac Peshitta, Harclean, some Coptic Boharic versions and the Gothic ancient translations.

But Father is the reading found in our old friends Sinaiticus and Vaticanus. It is also the reading of D, L and W, and the Latin Vulgate. The Catholic connection is strong…..for those that can connect the dots anyway.

Working backwards

1) UBS in collaboration with the VATICAN regarding their text.
2) Most modern versions based mainly on Sinaiticus and Vaticanus (UBS Nestle-Aland text)

3) Sinaiticus and Vaticanus given most authority

4) Sinaiticus and Vaticanus both read as the Catholic Bible (father)
5) Sinaiticus and Vaticanus (both found in the hands of the Catholics)
6) The Catholic Bible (latin Vulgate has father)
7) Pagan integration into the Church (Catholicism)

This  doesn’t really or shouldn’t really take a “biblical scholar” to work out….

We see a similar thing when Jesus stays behind in Jerusalem at the temple aged 12,

Mary and Joseph are referred to by many modern versions as his parents in this verse


Luke 2-43 After the festival was over, while his parents were returning home, the boy Jesus stayed behind in Jerusalem, but they were unaware of it. NIV


Also going with parents the ESV, ISV, ASV, ERV and NASB and many others

The reading again is found in both the NWT and the catholic Douay-Rheims


The KJV again renders the verse as JOSEPH and his mother (Mary)


Luke 2-43 And when they had fulfilled the days, as they returned, the child Jesus tarried behind in Jerusalem; and Joseph and his mother knew not of it. KJV

Joseph is again the reading of the majority of Greek manuscripts in Luke 2-43. It is the reading in the Old Latin, and the Syriac Peshitta, Harclean, Gothic and Ethiopic ancient versions


Parents being the reading of Sinaiticus and vaticanus and a few more.

Luke HIMSELF is careful NOT to call Joseph the father of Jesus in his recording of the Genealogy of Jesus in the next chapter


Luke 3- 23And Jesus himself began to be about thirty years of age, being (as was supposed) the son of Joseph, which was the son of Heli,


Luke makes it very clear that Joseph was the SUPPOSED father of Jesus not the father. The Jews supposed Jesus was the son of Joseph but he actually wasn’t.  Luke does not call Joseph the father of Jesus.

If Luke makes sure that he does not call Joseph the father of Jesus (which is NEVER recorded anywhere in scripture that he was) we must ask as to why Luke would refer to Joseph as the father of Jesus.


Obviously if you use a version that correctly uses Joseph then he does not in fact do so.  


Some people do point to the fact that Mary calls Joseph the father of Jesus, which the KJV records.

Luke 2-48 And when they saw him, they were amazed: and his mother said unto him, Son, why hast thou thus dealt with us? behold, thy father and I have sought thee sorrowing. KJV

Luke 2-48 When his parents saw him, they were astonished. His mother said to him, “Son, why have you treated us like this? Your father and I have been anxiously searching for you.” NIV


Notice that the KJV says when THEY saw him but the NIV states His PARENTS saw him.


Parents is an incorrect translation in this verse. NO manuscript has the word parents here.

What we actually see is that it is Mary that refers to Joseph as the father of Jesus “your father and I”.


It was MARY that referred to Joseph as the father of Jesus. This was not the Bible (God) calling Joseph the father of Jesus but the Bible recording MARY calling him such.  


Jesus, however, would seem, at least to correct Mary, saying that he must be about his FATHER’S business, being in the temple of God who was his father.


Luke 2- 49And he said unto them, How is it that ye sought me? wist ye not that I must be about my Father’s business?

This is affirmed also in the NIV


Luke 2- 49 “Why were you searching for me?” he asked. “Didn’t you know I had to be in my Father’s house?”

The KJV uses Parents

But what about Luke 2-27 and Luke 2-41 where the KJV DOES call Mary and Joseph the parents of Jesus


Luke 2- 27 And he came by the Spirit into the temple: and when the parents brought in the child Jesus, to do for him after the custom of the law,

Luke 2-41 Now his parents went to Jerusalem every year at the feast of the passover.


While parents was the incorrect rendering of the Greek in Luke 2-48 the objection to the translation is not against the usage of parents for Mary and Joseph but rather the verse does not state parents and so parents was the wrong translation.

Parents however, unlike the father of, does not denote literal mother and father.

The Greek word for parents is γονεύς goneus

Parents does not necessarily mean literal mother and father.


The Merriam-Webster dictionary states


Definition of parent

(Entry 1 of 2)

1a: one that begets or brings forth offspring
just became parents of twins

b: a person who brings up and cares for another
foster parents

So  we see that a reference to a parents does not have to mean the literal mother and father. HOWEVER as we have already seen, many of the modern versions have already called Joseph the father of Jesus. When they now use parents in Luke 2-27 and Luke 2-41 they have already established that they Mary and Joseph ARE the mother and father of Jesus. When the KJV uses the word parents (which is the correct translation in these verses) it has already made a separation between Joseph and Jesus by calling Joseph Joseph and not the father.   The KJV distinguishes between Joseph being the father of Jesus which he is not and Joseph being a parent of Jesus which he was. Joseph while not being the father of Jesus, did raise him and as such was his parent. This is an important distinction, one the modern Bibles fail to make.


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