Evidence from the Latin Fathers of the Church
We find no general tradition in the Latin Fathers on the question of Saint Joseph’s virginity. In fact, the material on Saint Joseph in their writings is comparatively scant. Very few speak at any length on this saint.1 Our information, save a few scattered references, is practically confined to Saints Jerome, Ambrose, and Augustine. Refutation of heretics, sermons, scriptural commentaries, especially on Luke and Matthew, make up the general area from which knowledge pertaining to Saint Joseph may be obtained. On the specific question of Joseph’s virginity, their writings bring out four points with varying degrees of clarity: 1) Joseph did not generate Jesus. 2) He never had intercourse with Mary. 3) He was not married before his betrothal to Mary. 4) He always remained a virgin.
A. Joseph not the Natural Father of Jesus
Joseph certainly did not beget Jesus. This is the unanimous opinion of the Fathers.2 Not that most of them specifically mention Joseph with regard to this point, but they exclude the possibility of his having been the natural father of Jesus when they proclaim the divinity of Christ and assert that Mary was a virgin “in partu.” That Joseph did not generate Jesus is clearly stated in many places by Saint Ambrose, Saint Jerome, Saint Augustine and not a few Greek Fathers.
Saint Ambrose (d. 397) restates in a more pointed manner Saint Luke’s idea that the belief that Joseph was the natural father of Jesus was limited to the Jews of that period:
First of all no one should be surprised at the text, ‘who was thought to be the son of Joseph’.3 For rightly was this just a supposition because by birth (Christ) was not (the son of Joseph); but the supposition existed because Mary who had brought Him forth was espoused to ‘Joseph her husband.’4
Saint Jerome (331-420) brings out the idea that the reason why Joseph was called the father of Jesus was to protect Mary’s reputation:
The Evangelists call Joseph a father, Mary calls him ‘father.’ Not that he had been truly the father of Jesus, but that he was thus considered by all in order to safeguard Mary’s reputation.5
Many comparisons are drawn between Mary’s motherhood and Joseph’s fatherhood: “just as Mary is virginally the mother, so also is Joseph virginally the father.”6 Mary abstained from fleshly pleasure, Joseph likewise.7 What the Holy Spirit has done for Mary with regard to the birth of Christ, this also He has done for Joseph.8
Again, Augustine (354-430), in an analysis of Joseph’s fatherhood, brings out the idea that the husband of Mary is not the natural father of Jesus, though he is the true father of the Son of God. One can be a father without physical generation.9 Joseph is father by love, not by the flesh.10 The genealogies make of Joseph a true father, but not one according to the flesh.11 Augustine’s Sermo 51 is replete with assertions that Joseph is not the natural father of Jesus.12
There is no need to dwell any longer on this point; it is clearly asserted in the Fathers.
B. Joseph a Virgin while with Mary
Another prominent idea with regard to the question of Joseph’s virginity, is the often repeated assertion that he had no relations with Mary.13 Indeed this statement is clear from the fact that the Fathers emphasize Mary’s perpetual virginity; but it is interesting to see how they bring out this idea.
Jerome states that Joseph would not have dared to violate “a temple of God, a swelling place of the Holy Ghost, the Mother of his Lord.”14 Ambrose says that “Joseph, a just man, would not have spread this folly that he had sexual relations with the Mother of the Lord.”15 In the next chapter, he comments on the words of Ezechiel: “It will not be opened and it will be closed:”16
It will not be opened by him to whom she was espoused, it will not be permitted, in fact, that she through whom the Lord will pass be opened. And after Him (Christ), it will be closed, that is, Joseph will not open it.17
Saint Gregory the Great and many other Fathers refer to this saint as the “guardian and protector of Mary’s inviolate virginity.”18
However, it is the great Saint Augustine who gives us the most information on this subject. His aim is to bring out more clearly an idea which we have already seen in our analysis of the scriptural references pertaining to Saint Joseph: the marriage between Joseph and Mary, though a true marriage, was virginal. Augustine uses the very expression “virginal marriage.”19 He states stat such a union is just as much a marriage as one in which sexual relations take place. Joseph’s and Mary’s marriage in which charity reigned instead of intercourse is thus a true marriage.20 In another work, he states that is possible for spouses to decide to abstain forever from the use of carnal concupiscence. Then the conjugal bond would not be dissolved, but rather strengthened because of the purer love and the absence of the desire for carnal pleasure. Such, he concludes, was the case regarding the marriage of Mary and Joseph.21 In many other places, Augustine brings out this same idea of a true marriage, but one free from intercourse.22
He also gives us statements which would indicate that Joseph’s virginal chastity transcended the virginal marriage with Mary. Some passages would lead us to conclude that Joseph not only never knew Mary during her entire life, but also had no relations with any other woman, at least from the time of his betrothal to Mary. After stating the idea that the marriage of Mary and Joseph, a virginal union, is nonetheless a real marriage, Augustine draws the following conclusion:
Thus every good of marriage was fulfilled in the parents of Christ: offspring, loyalty, and the sacrament. We recognize the offspring in Our Lord Jesus Christ Himself; the loyalty, in that no adultery occurred; and the sacrament (that is, the indissolubility) because of no divorce.23
Showing Saint Joseph as an example of a man who did not despise servile work, Augustine tells a group of monks that “this just man chosen to be a witness of perpetual conjugal virginity, he to whom was espoused the Virgin Mary, who brought forth Christ, was a carpenter.”24
After saying that Saint Joseph could not possibly have broken the bond of marriage when he saw that Mary was pregnant, Saint Augustine adds that Joseph “did not judge the bond of conjugal faith to be broken thus because the hope of sexual intercourse was absent.”25 Augustine also eulogizes Joseph’s great purity:
Let his greater purity confirm his fatherhood; let not holy Mary reprimand us, for she was unwilling to place her name before that of her husband, but said, ‘Thy father and I have been seeking thee sorrowing.’ Therefore, let not perverse murmurers do what the virginal wife did not do. Let us count (the generations of Christ) through Joseph, because as he was a virginal (chaste) husband, so was he a virginal (chaste) father.26
Another text, supposedly of Augustine,27 gives us the idea that Joseph was a virgin:
Preserve, O Joseph, together with Mary your wife, the virginity of your members, for out of virginal members is begotten the power of angels. Let the spouse Mary be the mother of Christ in the flesh, by preserving her virginity; you, however, are also to be the father of Christ by safeguarding her chastity and honor.28
C. “Brethren of the Lord”
So far we have but expressed in greater detail, and with more precision two ideas from the gospels: Joseph was not the natural father of Jesus, and his marriage with Mary was a virginal union. One would logically ask whether or not the Latin Fathers speak of Joseph’s life before he was betrothed to the Blessed Virgin. Here many Fathers and ecclesiastical writers denied Joseph’s virginity by their declarations that the “brethren of the Lord” were his children from a former marriage. They are Origen, Epiphanius, Gregory of Nyssa, Cyril of Alexandria, Theopylact, Theodoret, Chrysostom, Ambrose, Hilary of Poitiers.29 This list, at first sight, seems to outweigh the evidence we have just presented. However, a closer look at the statements of these men gives us a different impression. First of all it is important to note that most of them, save Ambrose and Hilary of Poitiers, were Greek Fathers. The Eastern Fathers were highly influenced by the Apocrypha, a group of writings of a religious character which at times made pretensions to divine authority.30 These writings elaborate on Saint Joseph. Very little of what they say is of historical value. The Apocrypha, however, are significant in that they represent an attempt to supplement the comparatively few details of the gospels on the subject of the hidden life. They attest to the fact that devotion to Saint Joseph was alive in the first centuries. All of them, save the gospel of the Nativity of Mary, ascribe to Saint Joseph children from a former marriage.
Under the influence of these spurious writings, many subscribed to the idea that the “brethren of the Lord” were the children of Joseph by a previous wife. It is important to note that none are emphatic in holding this point. They adopt it because it is an easy solution to the thorny question of explaining the relationship between Our Lord and His so-called “brothers,” James, Joseph, Simon and Jude.31 Another reason why they take up this view is to safeguard the perpetual virginity of Mary. Origen (185-253), for instance, states that it is precisely in order to protect Mary’s virginity, that some call the “brethren of the Lord” sons of Joseph:
Induced by the report of the Gospel named after Peter or the Book of James, some affirm that the ‘brethren of Jesus’ are sons of Joseph by a former wife whom he wedded before Mary. However, those who make this assertion ultimately wish to safeguard the dignity of Mary’s virginity in order that the body chosen to minister to the Word… might never know man’s consortship.32
Ambrose incidentally alludes to the “brethren of the Lord” as being most probably the sons of Joseph, but he finds ample proof of Mary’s virginity in the fact that the word “brother” can also signify “cousin”:
The ‘brethren of the Lord’ could have been born from Joseph and not from Mary. This indeed anyone will find if he looks at the question more diligently. We have not thought to investigate those things because the name “brother” is evidently common to many.33
In another work Ambrose alludes to the same idea: the “brethren of the Lord” are the sons of Joseph by a previous wife, then he indicates the reason for his statement: the protection of Mary’s virginity:
Some people, guided by stupidity, make the impious assertion that these are the true brothers of the Lord and that they were born from Mary, since, as they say, Joseph was not called the true father of the Lord.34
This statement is difficult to understand clearly. It seems to signify that some believe that, because Joseph is not called the true father of the Lord, the “brethren of the Lord” then had to be born of Mary. In any event, the idea is sufficiently brought out that Ambrose denies Joseph’s virginity only to protect Mary’s.
Saint Jerome, with his usual directness and energy, refutes the tales of the Aprocrypha and says that the Scriptures indicate that the word “brethren” signifies “cousin”:
Certain people who follow the ravings of the Apocrypha, fancy that the ‘brethren of the Lord’ are the sons of Joseph from another wife and invent a certain woman, Melcha or Escha. As is contained in the book which we wrote against Helvidius, we understand as ‘brethren of the Lord,’ not the sons of Joseph, but the cousins of the Savior, children of Mary – The Lord’s maternal aunt – who is said to be the mother of James the Less and Joseph and Jude, who as we read, were called ‘brethren of the Lord’ in another passage of the gospel. Indeed all Scripture indicates that ‘cousins’ are called ‘brethren.’35
As he mentioned in the above text, Jerome does show that in scriptural usage “brethren” may refer to “cousins.” He adduces many examples from both the Old and New Testaments to illustrate this point: notably the idea that Abraham is called the brother of Lot while we know that the latter was his nephew, and the fact that James and Jude, two of the ‘brethren of the Lord,’ are clearly referred to in the gospel of Saint Mark36 as sons of Mary who is evidently the sister of the Blessed Virgin.37 He also shows by means of examples taken from the Scripture, that the word “till” designates a length of time up to which a condition shall continue, prescinding from all notion of change thereafter. He then adds that the word “firstborn” merely refers to the male child who opens the womb, not necessarily to him who has brothers.38 From the preceding evidence we can accept the general conclusion of Jerome: the “brethren of the Lord” were not sons of Joseph either before or after he was betrothed to Mary.
D. Joseph Always a Virgin
Jerome, in what is without doubt the greatest tribute paid to Joseph’s virginity in the writings of the Fathers, emphatically asserts that Joseph remained a virgin just as Mary did:
But just as we do not deny what is written, we do reject what is not written. That God was born of a virgin we believe because we read it. That Mary consummated marriage after her childbirth we do not believe because we do not read it. Nor do we say this in order to condemn marriage, for virginity is itself a fruit of marriage, but because there is no license to draw rash conclusions about holy men. For if we wish to take the mere possibility into consideration, we can contend that Joseph had several wives because Abraham and Jacob had several wives and that from these wives, the ‘brethren of the Lord’ were born, a fiction which most people invent with not so much pious as presumptuous audacity. You say that Mary did not remain a virgin; even more do I claim that Joseph was virginal through Mary, in order that from a virginal marriage a virginal son might be born. For if the charge of fornication does not fall on this holy man, and if it is not written that he had another wife, and if he was more of a protector than a husband of Mary, whom he was thought to have as his wife, it remains to assert that he who merited to be called the father of the Lord remained virginal with her.39
Though this text does not explicitly mention that Joseph was always a virgin, this idea can be easily deduced. Saint Jerome affirms that a first marriage from which would have been born the “brethren of the Lord” is pure fable. Of a third marriage no one thinks: “It is not written that he had another wife.” Virginity can be lost outside of marriage by a sin of impurity; but this again is excluded by Jerome’s text: “the charge of fornication does not fall upon this holy man,” and also by the gospels which call Joseph “a just man,” and finally by the very nature of his mission as the guardian of the Son of God and of His Mother.
What can be concluded from the evidence we have just presented on Saint Joseph’s virginity? Since there is no general tradition on this point in the Western Fathers, certainly no comprehensive argument can be drawn. Our information basically stems from Jerome, Ambrose, and Augustine. Can we conclude that they believed that Joseph had always remained a virgin, that is, that he maintained physiological integrity?
The three Fathers just mentioned do bring out the idea that Joseph was perfectly chaste from the time he was betrothed to Mary until his death. This they do by continually repeating the idea that he was not the natural or carnal father of Jesus, and that his union with Mary was virginal. It is also implied that no impurity took place outside of this marriage, a fact that appears more clearly from the very nature of his mission, and from the gospel expression, “a just man,” which is attributed to him. The gospels and some ecclesiastical writers lead us to believe that he died within this virginal union.40 Thus the possibility of a marriage after the one with the Blessed Virgin is excuded.
As to the period preceding the betrothal to Mary, the evidence in favor of Joseph’s virginity is very weak because of the apocryphal influence on the Fathers with regard to the question of the “brethren of the Lord.” Jerome certainly did not. There is a possibility that Augustine may have subscribed to that opinion. His statements on this point are not clear. Yet when the amount of evidence he gives in favor of Joseph’s virginity is considered, it seems safe to say that he probably held the opinion that Saint Joseph was not the father of the “brethren of the Lord.”41
As a final note on this question, we can safely say that Jerome did believe the Joseph always remained a virgin, Ambrose clearly did not, and Augustine probably shared Jerome’s view.
However, it remains for the Medieval ecclesiastical writers to give us more precise information on this subject. The preceding statements of the Fathers are important, not only in themselves, but because they will serve as grounds for more definite assertions on the question of Saint Joseph’s virginity.
This can be easily explained by the reasons previously adduced. See the Introduction, p. 1. ↩
M. Blanco, O.P., “Virginidad de San José,” Ideales, 26 (1927) p. 218. A few have denied this, but their statements were emphatically refuted by all the Fathers.
Ebionites: Eusebius says of them: “Ebionaei Christum ex Josepho genitum esse dicunt.” Histora ecclesiastica, bk. 5, Ch. 8; MG 20, 452A.
Cerinthius and Carpocrates: Epiphanius tells us of them: “Christum ex semine Joseph et Maria esse juxta ipsorum Evangelium asserunt.” Adversus haereses, n. 14; MG 41, 429B. ↩
Luke 3:23 ↩
Homilia in Lucam, n. 2; ML 15, 1589: “Et primum omnium neminem moveri debet quod ita scriptum est: Qui putabatur esse filius Joseph. Bene enim putabatur, quia natura non erat; sed ideo putabatur quia eum Maria, quae Joseph viro suo erat desponsata, generaverat.” See also Saint Augustine, Contra Julianum Pelagianum, Ch. 12; ML 44, 810 and 811; Justin Martyr, Dialogus cum Tryphone Judaeo, n. 78; MG 6, 658. ↩
Adversus Helvidium, n. 4; ML 23, 188: “Evangelistae patrem Joseph dicunt, patrem Maria confitetur: non quod vere pater Joseph fuerit Salvatoris; sed quod ad famam Mariae conservandam, pater sit ab omnibus aestimatur…” ↩
Sermo 51, Ch. 16, n. 26; ML 38, 348: “Si quod caste uxor peperit, cur non caste maritus acciperet? Sicut enim caste conujux illa, sic ille caste maritus: et sicut illa caste mater, sic ille caste pater. Qui ergo dicit: ‘Non debuit dici pater, quia non sic genuerat filium,’ libidinem quaerit in procreandis filiis, non charitatis affectum.” Whether or not we can tanslaste “caste” by “virginal” is not certain. However, it seems probable in virtue of parallelism: Augustine uses this same word in reference to Mary’s conception and childbirth. See Francis J. Filas, S.J., Joseph and Jesus, A Theological Study of Their Relationship, p. 41. ↩
Ibid., Ch. 20, n. 30; col. 350. ↩
Ibid., col. 351.: “Quod Spiritus sanctus operatus est, utriusque operatus est. ‘Cum esset, inquit, home justus.’ Justus ergo vir, justa femina. Spiritus sanctus in amborum justitia requiescens, ambobus filium dedit.” See also Cyril of Jerusalem, Catechesis 7 de Patre, n. 9; MG 33, 615 ↩
De consensu evangelistarum, Ch. 1, n. 2; ML 34, 1071. ↩
Sermo 51 Ch. 20, n. 30; ML 38, 351 ↩
Ibid., Ch#. 10, n. 17. col. 342; Ch. 15, n. 25, cols. 347-348. See also Epiphanius, Adversus haereses, Ch. 51, n. 10; MG 41, 907. ↩
Some few denied Mary’s virginity, claiming that she had had relations with Joseph, especially Jovinian and Helvidius. These were energetically refuted by Saint Jerome: Adversus Hervidium, ML 23, 183-211. ↩
Adv. Helvid., n. 8; ML 23, 190: “Qui (Joseph) Annam prophetissam, Magos, stellam, Herodem, angelos viderat; qui, inquam, miracula tanta cognoverat, Dei templum, Spiritus sancti sedem, Domini sui matrem audebat attingere?” See also Gregory the Great, Moralium, bk. 7, n. 89; ML 75, 856. ↩
De institutione virginis, Ch. 6; ML 16, 317: “Nec Joseph vir Justus in hanc prorupisset amentiam, ut matri Domini corporeo concubitu misceretur.” ↩
Ezechiel 40:2. ↩
De institutione virginis, Ch. 8; ML 16, 320: “Non aperietur ab eo cui desponsabitur; non licebit enim ut aperiatur, per quam Dominus transibit. Et post eum, inquit, erit clausa, hoc est, non aperiet eam Joseph.” See also Saint John Chrysostom, Homilia 4 in Matthaeum, n. 6; MG 57, 47. ↩
Gregory the Great, Homilia 26, n. 7; ML 76, 1201; Augustine, De sancta virginitate, bk. 1. Ch. 4; ML 40, 398; Sermo 51, Ch# 6, n. 9; ML 38, 338. Peter Chrysologus, Sermo 175, ML 52, 657B. Saint Basil, Homilia in sanctam Christi generationem, n. 3; MG 31, 1462-1463 ↩
Contra Faustum, Ch. 3, n. 2; ML 42, 214. ↩
Sermo 51, n. 21; ML 38, 344-345. ↩
De nuptiis et concupiscentia, bk. 1. c. 11; ML 44, 420-421 ↩
Sermo 51, Ch. 16, n. 26; ML 38, 348. See also Contra Julianum Pelagianum, bk. 5, Ch. 12, n. 46; ML 44, 810 and 811; De Nuptiis et concupiscentia, Ch. 12; ML 38, 422; Ch#. 11, col. 421; De consensus evangelistarum, Ch. 1 n. 3; ML 34, 1071 ↩
De nuptiis et concupiscentia, Ch. 11 and 12; ML 44, 421: “Omne itaque nuptiarum bonum impletum est in illis parentibus Christi, proles, fides, sacramentum. Prolem, cognoscimus ipsum Dominum Jesum; fidem, quia nullum adulterium; sacramentum, quia nullum divortium.” ↩
De opera monachorum, bk. 1. Ch. 13, n. 14; ML 40, 560: “Homo ille justus et ad testimonium conjugalis mansurae virginitatis electus, cui desponsata erat virgo Maria, quae peperit Christum, faber fuit.” ↩
Contra Julianum Pelagianum, Ch. 12, n. 48; ML 44, 811: “Sed vinculum fidei conjugalis non ideo judicavit esse solvendum, quia spes commiscendae carnis ablata est.” See also Saint Cyril of Jerusalem, Catechesis 7, n. 8; MG 33, 615. ↩
Sermo 51, Ch#. 20, n. 30; ML 38, 350: “Major puritas confirmet paternitatem: ne ipsa sancta Maria nos reprehendat. Illa enim nomen suum praeponere nolluit marito suo; sed dixit: ‘Pater tuus et ego dolentes quaerebamus te.’ Non ergo faciant perversi murmuratores, quod conjux casta non fecit. Numeremus (generations Christi) ergo per Joseph: quia sicut caste maritus, sic caste pater est.” ↩
This text according to many is not genuinely Augustinian. See Filas, Joseph and Jesus, p. 47. —Holzmeister, art. Cit., p. 46 ↩
Sermo 195, n. 5; ML 39, 2110: “Habe, ergo, Joseph cum Maria conjuge tua communem virginitatem membrorum, quia de virginibus membris virtus nascitur angelorum. Sit Maria sponsa mater Christi carnis sua virginitate servata; sis autem et tu pater Christi cura castitatis et honorificentia virginitatis.” ↩
Greek Fathers: Origen, Commentarium in Matthaeum, Ch. 13, n. 55; MG 13, 875 and 878. Ephiphanius, Adversus haereses, n. 51; MG 41, 386-407; MG 42, 707. Gregory of Nyssa, In Ressurectione Christi, MG 46, 647. Cyril of Alexandria, Commentarius in Joannem, bk. 5. Ch. 12; MG 73, 636-637. Theophylact, Ennarratio in evangelium Matthaei, Ch. 1; MG 123, 293-294; Expositio in epistolam ad Galatas, Ch. 1; MG 124, 967A. Theodoret, Interpretatio epistolae ad Galatas, Ch. 1; MG 82, 468. Chyrsostom, Homilia 5 in Matthaeum, n. 3; MG 57, 58.
Latin Fathers: Hilary of Poitiers, Commentarius in Matthaeum, Ch. 1, n. 4; ML 9, 922. Ambrose, De institutione virginis, Ch. 6, n. 43; ML 16, 317. ↩
They consist mainly of six works: Protoevangel of James, Gospel of Thomas, Gospel of Pseudo-Matthew, History of Joseph the Carpenter, Gospel of the Nativity of Mary, Arabic Gospel of the Infancy. Francis J. Filas, The Man Nearest to Christ, pp. 9-11. See also C. Michel and P. Peeters, Evangiles apocryphes, textes et documents pour l’étude historique du Christianisme, vols. 1 and 2. ↩
Matt. 13:55; Mark 6:3; Gal. 1:19 ↩
Commentarii in Matthaeum, Ch. 10, n. 17; MG 13, 875: “Fratres autem Jesu, filios esse Josephi ex priore conjuge, quam ipse ante Mariam duxerit, affirmant nonnulli, ad id scilicet adducti traditione Eveangelii quod secundum Petrum inscribitur, vel libri Jacobi. Qui vero id dicunt, Mariae dignitatem in virginitate ad finem usque volunt conservare, ne corpus illud electrum ad ministrandum Verbo…viri concubitum cognosceret.” ↩
De institutione virginis, Ch#.6 n. 43; ML 16, 317: “Potuerunt autem fraters esse ex Joseph, non ex Maria. Quod quidem si quis diligentius prosequatur, inveniet. Nos ea prosequenda non putavimus, quoniam fraternum nomen liquet pluribus commune.” ↩
Commentaria in epistolam ad Galatas, Ad opera sancti Ambrosii appendix, Ch. 1, v. 19; ML 17, 344: “Quidam enim ducti insania, hos verso Domini fraters de Maria natos, impia assertione contendunt, cum Joseph non verum ejus patrem dicant appellatum.” ↩
Commentaria in Matthaeum, Ch. 12; ML 26, 88: “Quidam fraters Domini de alia uxore Joseph suspicantur sequentes deliramenta apocryphorum, et quamdam Melcham vel Escham mulierculam confingentes. Nos autem sicut in libro quem contra Helvidium scripsimus, continetur, fraters Domini, non filios Joseph, sed consorbrinos Salvatoris, Mariae liberos intelligimus matertae Domini quae esse dicitur mater Jacobi Minoris et Joseph et Judae quos in alio Evangelii loco fraters Domini legimus appellatos. Fratres autem consobrinos dici omnis Scriptura demonstrate.” ↩
Mark 15:40. ↩
Adversus Helvidium, n. 13; ML 23, 195; n. 14; col. 197. ↩
Ibid., Cols. 189-190. See also Ambrose, De institutione virginis, n. 38; ML 16, 315. ↩
Ibid., n. 19; ML, 203: “Sed ut haec quae scripta sunt, non negamus, ita ea quae non sunt scripta, renuimus. Natum Deum esse ex virgine credimus, quia legimus. Mariam nupsisse post partum, non credimus quia non legimus. Nec hoc ideo dicimus, quo nuptias condemnemus, ipsa quipped virginitas fructus est nuptiarum: sed quod nobis de sanctis viris temere aestimare nihil liceat. Possumus enim hac aestimatione possibilitatis contendere, plures quoque uxores habuisse Joseph, quia plures habuerit Abraham, plures hubuerit Jacob; et de his esse uxoribus fraters Domini, quod plerique non tam pia quam audacia temeritate confingunt. Tu dicis Mariam virginem non permansisse: ego mihi plus vindico, etiam ipsum Joseph virginem fuisse per Mariam, ut ex virginali conjugio virgo filius nasceretur. Si enim in virum sanctum, fornicatio non cadit, et aliam uxorem habuisse non scribitur: Mariae autem, quam putatur est habuisse, custos potius fuit quam maritus: reliquitur, virginem eum mansisse cum Maria, qui pater Domini meruit appellari.” ↩
The gospel narrative indicates that Joseph probably died before the public life of Christ began. This may be inferred from the fact that, after the incident in the temple (Luke 2: 41-52), absolutely no mention is made of Joseph in narrating events at which he normally would have been present, such as the marriage feast at Cana, where the text “He and His mother and His brethren and His disciples, went down to Capharnaum” (John 2:12), would be difficult to explain if Joseph were still living at the time. Every time Our Lord’s mother and the “brethren of the Lord” are mentioned, Joseph should appear. Christ’s commending His mother to Saint John (John 19:27) would be hard to understand were Saint Joseph, the official protector of the Blessed Virgin, still living. This task would have rightfully belonged to St. Joseph. Suarez lists writers, among whom are Epiphanius and Peter Comestor, who share this view with him: De mysteriis vitae Christi, disp. 7; Opera 19, 116. ↩
Filas believes that Augustine did not subscribe to the idea of an earlier marriage of Joseph: Joseph and Jesus, p. 58. Mueller holds that Augustine defended Joseph’s virginity: The Fatherhood of Saint Joseph, p. 48 ↩