Joseph in the Gospel of Luke

Luke 1-2 has been divided in a vast variety of ways, but all agree on the intended parallels between John the Baptist and Jesus. Different patterns of "diptychs" (literary parallel passages) have been posited, but the data resists perfect symmetry. The inner organization could be outlined as follows:

1:5-25 The announcement to Zechariah of the birth of John the Baptist.

1:26-38 The announcement to Mary of the birth of Jesus.

1:39-56 The visitation, the keystone of the two preceding sequences.

1:57-80 The birth and circumcision of John the Baptist.

2:1-20 The birth of Jesus.

2:21-40 The circumcision and presentation of Jesus in the Temple.

2:41-52 The second manifestation at the Temple, and conclusion.

In all cases the parallels contrasting John and Jesus show the absolute superiority of Jesus.

Luke 1-2 is really a mosaic of varied literary genres, including narratives recounting births, circumcisions, visitation, presentation, finding, refrains of growth, lyrical pieces, predictions and prophecies. The infancy is a transcendent manifestation in time of the eternal God. The genre is a transitional stage between the Old Testament and the mature manifestation of the Messiah, which defies labeling because of its uniqueness. It is the fruit of a long meditation in the community about who Jesus was from the beginning.

Different from Matthew 1-2, wherein Joseph is a key protagonist, Luke 1-2 presents Mary's reception of revelation, while Joseph stays more in the background. Rather than resting upon Joseph, the transition from the Old Testament to Jesus relies more upon the above-mentioned parallels between Jesus and John the Baptist, which involve the priest Zechariah and his wife Elizabeth. Instead of being clearly presented as a hostile enemy of righteous Joseph, Jerusalem is a prominent place to which Joseph and Mary must take Jesus. The genealogy comes later in Luke 3 without the type of punctuating comments found in the opening passage of Matthew's Gospel. Instead of starting with Abraham, it goes back to Adam, showing Luke's interest in writing to gentile Christians more than to a Jewish audience.

Unlike the study done in Matthew, an examination of Joseph in Luke's infancy narrative must draw attention to more secondary aspects of the presentation. Though Luke does not present Joseph's role with the same emphasis as Matthew does, this does not necessarily mean that he sees that role as different or less important.

In Luke 1:27, Mary is first introduced as "a virgin betrothed to a man whose name was Joseph," before her name is given. Throughout Luke 2, Joseph is constantly mentioned with Mary by name or as father or parent together with her, and is included in forms of the pronouns "they" and "you" plural. Luke 3:23 presents him as genealogical father of Jesus, and like Luke 4:22 also as reputed father.

Joseph plays a key supporting role throughout. He is Mary's betrothed during the virginal conception, and though never directly called her husband, after conception he is presented together with her as the Davidic and protective father of Jesus. He is a pious Jew faithful to the Mosaic law.

In this Gospel Joseph appears in scenes not found in Matthew or elsewhere in Scripture, such as the census, the adoration of the shepherds, the presentation in the temple, and the later finding in the temple with the adolescent Jesus speaking of his heavenly Father in the context of obedience to his earthly father.

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