Why Is St. Joseph’s Genealogy Not Clear?

Dear Catholic Exchange:

I have several questions about St. Joseph. In Matthew, the father of Saint Joseph is named Jacob, but in Luke, St. Joseph's father is called Heli. Why are there different names? Also, do we know how old Saint Joseph was when he died and whether he had been married before he married Mary?



Dear Toni,

Peace in Christ!

How can one man have two fathers? We have two possible answers to this difficulty. One is that both authors, especially Matthew, occasionally skip some direct generations. According to this view, one of the fathers is likely a more distant ancestor, e.g., a grandfather, not a father. But another answer is even more plausible. In Jewish culture, the family tree of legal or adoptive parents could be considered the legitimate family tree of the adopted or legal child. One example of this would be the children of levirate marriages (Deut. 25:5-6, Mt. 22:23-27). Thus Jechoniah may be considered Shealtiel’s legal father, and Heli Joseph’s legal father, while Neri was Shealtiel’s biological father and Jacob was Joseph’s biological father. This genealogy of Joseph is supported by a second century historian and native of Israel, Julius Africanus, cited in Eusebius’ Ecclesiastical History (1:6:7).

Sacred Scripture is silent with regards to St. Joseph’s death. People deduce that since he is not included in the accounts of Jesus’ ministry and Passion, he must have passed away before that time. At least it is difficult to imagine that the spouse of Mary was alive at the time of the Crucifixion. The Gospel of John tells us that just before He died, Jesus addresses His mother and says, “Woman, behold your son!” (referring to John) and turns to “the disciple” (St. John himself) and says to him, “Behold your mother!” The passage then says, “And from that hour the disciple took her to his home” (John 19:26-27).

There is a long-accepted view that the brothers of Jesus were His stepbrothers, sons of Joseph from a previous marriage.

United in the Faith,

Eric Stoutz

Information Specialist

Catholics United for the Faith

827 North Fourth Street

Steubenville, OH 43952

800-MY-FAITH (800-693-2484)

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