Nazareth: What kind of father was Joseph?

What kind of father was Joseph and what kind of home did Jesus grow up in?

Mikve, St. Joseph church

Mikve, St. Joseph church

To answer this let’s have a closer look at what Joseph did for a living in Nazareth: In Matthew 13:55 we read in reference to Jesus: “Is this not the carpenter’s son?” In Greek the word used (and translated as “carpenter”) is actually “tectonus”, which means “builder”. In other words, Joseph had a building business of sorts, working not only in wood but also in stone. Indeed, building in the Holy Land has always been largely out of stone since wood is scarce (Solomon ordered Cedars from Hiram in Lebanon) and to this day old Nazareth is built out stone. Now, all you guys know that construction is a tough business that can go either way financially, belly up or success if you’re good at what you do.

Mary’s private mikve ritual bath
Now here’s some ARCHAEOLOGICAL evidence that suggests that Joseph (who we know so little about from the Bible) was indeed quite a successful builder:  That he made a good living, and provided a really nice home for his family.  Above is a photo of a bonafide “mikve” (Jewish ritual bath) taken by a friend of mine, Dr. Tom Winger (whose pastors tour I guided). It was discovered beneath the Church of St. Joseph in Nazareth which is built over the traditional home of Joseph and Mary, where Jesus grew up.

To be kosher, the MIKVE ritual bath has to be cut out of solid rock (not constructed), hold a minimum of 40 seah (~40 gallons), and be fed by “living water” (non-drawn water) – usually rain water from the roof.  Here’s the thing: Such elaborate Jewish ritual baths are quite expensive and are therefore generally built by a Jewish community at the local synagogue.  Only the wealthy could afford to install a private one in their home.  This is evidenced by a 2000 year old mikve ritual bath we found in a 7,000 square foot Herodian style mansion in Jerusalem from the time of the Temple.

Biblical home and family life
So what kind of father was Joseph and what kind of home did Jesus grow up in? Joseph appears to have been quite a guy: The biblical role model of a father and “family man” who worked hard, made a good living, and provided a beautiful home for his wife Mary, who wouldn’t have had to “shlep” to the local synagogue on a cold rainy winter night to use the public mikve ritual bath. This and more… as a successful builder Joseph also had the means, coupled with the right priorities, to provide Jesus with a top notch biblical education: Jesus is called “Rabbi” in the Bible, which means he probably studied in a yeshiva (rabbinical school) but that’s another story.

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