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Historical Joseph? (was: Bethlehem, Galilee?)

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  • Sakari Häkkinen
    I am a bit surprised what comes to the suggestions of Joseph s marriages. Was he even a historical figure? The earliest evidence comes from Matthew, Paul, Mark
    Message 1 of 4 , Dec 30, 2002
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      I am a bit surprised what comes to the suggestions of Joseph's marriages. Was he even a historical figure? The earliest evidence comes from Matthew, Paul, Mark and Q do not mention him. Much depends on whether Luke and John could be regarded as independent sources what comes to Joseph. I think Andries van Aarde makes a good point in his _Fatherless in Galilee_ when he connects the story of Joseph to contemporary reverence of the Patriarch Joseph, especially in Galilee. It is worth comparing Matthew's story of Joseph (especially Matth. 1:18-23) to the novel Joseph and Asenath, which was quite a popular writing at the time Matthew wrote his story. Naturally, if the figure of Joseph in Matth. is based solely on the Hebrew Bible and other Jewish literature, it does not automatically follow, that Joseph never existed. If I recall right, it was about a half of the JSem fellows who regarded Joseph as the real father of Jesus. The vote would almost certainly give other results if it could be convincingly argued that 1) Matthew's story of Joseph and Mary is based merely on literature and 2) Luke's and John's knowledge on Joseph is based on Matthew's story. What do you think?

      With best wishes for the New Year,

      Sakari

      Dr. Sakari Hakkinen
      Diocesan secretary
      Kuopio, Finland
      sakari.hakkinen@...



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    • RSBrenchley@aol.com
      Message 2 of 4 , Jan 2, 2003
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        <<The scenario is not based on a Torah-observant Joseph per se, nor on
        any of the birth narratives. Part of the evidence is the names given
        to Jesus and his brothers. This, I think, one cannot deny.

        Mike Grondin
        Mt. Clemens, MI>>

        Without wishing to deny Matthew's apparent inventiveness (I have
        lingering doubts about this bit myself) doesn't a Torah-observant Joseph fit
        rather well with a Torah-observant James as well as the family choice of
        names, to point to an observant family? Taken alone, i wouldn't give it too
        much weight, but the evidence, such as it is, all seems to point in the one
        direction.


        Regards,

        Robert Brenchley
        Birmingham, UK
      • Sakari Häkkinen
        ... lingering doubts about this bit myself) doesn t a Torah-observant Joseph fit rather well with a Torah-observant James as well as the family choice of
        Message 3 of 4 , Jan 4, 2003
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          Robert Benchley wrote:

          >>>Without wishing to deny Matthew's apparent inventiveness (I have
          lingering doubts about this bit myself) doesn't a Torah-observant Joseph fit
          rather well with a Torah-observant James as well as the family choice of
          names, to point to an observant family? Taken alone, i wouldn't give it too
          much weight, but the evidence, such as it is, all seems to point in the one
          direction.<<<<

          The evidence is quite weak for the family of Jesus being Torah-observant Jews:
          1) Even though Jesus's father would have been called Joseph, there is nothing historical in the story of Joseph by Matthew, according to which he was a Torah-observant Jew. The story is clearly literal and is based most probably to other literal stories as knewn to Matthew from the LXX and other literature, for example Joseph and Aseneth.
          2) I wouldn't count much on the choice of the names in the family of Jesus. Ted Weeden's post in October/November last year contained a large section where he presented the thesis of Marianne Sawicki on the name-giving. The names of the patriarchs were common in Judaism in the Second Temple period. How on earth do we know that fathers (supposedly fathers gave names to their children, or am I wrong?) had something special on their mind when choosing a name to his kid? Maybe some did, but it is difficult to imagine that the names of _ordinary_ families carried such a huge connotation as some scribes (like Matthew for the name Jesus) interpreted the names of some famous heroes. At least in modern times people seem to choose names for several reasons, hardly any of the parents thinking some religious significance of the name. Choice of the names does not tell anything on the Torah-observance of the family, but naturally reflect something of the culture.
          3) That James was a Torah-observant Jew seems quite well-based. I must admit that this point I have found the most difficult to explain. How was it possible that someone from a Galilean village like Nazareth became such a religious authority like James was? An itinerant charismatic from Nazareth, yes - but a high priest or someone highly educated comparable to him - no way. This is a mystery to me.

          Best wishes

          Sakari

          Dr. Sakari Hakkinen
          Diocesan secretary
          Kuopio, Finland
          sakari.hakkinen@...





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        • mwgrondin <mwgrondin@comcast.net>
          ... The key point for my thinking is that the culture which the names reflected was Judaic rather than Hellenistic. No surprise if the family had been
          Message 4 of 4 , Jan 4, 2003
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            --- Sakari Häkkinen wrote:
            > At least in modern times people seem to choose names for several
            > reasons, hardly any of the parents thinking some religious
            > significance of the name. Choice of the names does not tell
            > anything on the Torah-observance of the family, but naturally
            > reflect something of the culture.

            The key point for my thinking is that "the culture" which the names
            reflected was Judaic rather than Hellenistic. No surprise if the
            family had been located in Judaea itself, but somewhat surprising,
            perhaps, for a family living in Galilee, in close proximity to the
            new Greco-Roman city of Sepphoris, and particularly in light of
            Horsley's description of the general culture of Galilee, which is
            definitely not Judaic.

            As to modern times, I'm old enough to have been the product of a
            50's Catholic upbringing, and I can tell you that my three brothers
            (Maurice, Timothy, and James) and myself were all consciously named
            for Catholic saints. The "culture" in which our family lived was,
            like Galilee, a mixture, but our particular subculture was strict
            Catholic. Never would my father have chosen any other kind of name
            for his children. This tradition is loosening up nowadays in certain
            Western cultures (perhaps yours), but it remains strong in others.

            To your list of evidence for this thesis, I would add several items:
            (1) the tradition that James was a nazarite, and that he was highly
            regarded by Torah-observant Judaeans, (2) the evidence of Paul's
            letters that some influential figures in the movement were Torah-
            observant (what attracted them to the movement if nobody else in it
            was?), and (3) Mark's claim that J's family thought that he'd lost
            his senses. I agree with your dismissal of the infancy narrative
            characterization of Joseph, but there's a lot more to it than that.

            Mike Grondin
            Mt. Clemens, MI
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