The Story of Joseph the Carpenter
Roger Pearse reports that a Bohairic text called "The Story of Joseph the Carpenter," which was released by Lagarde in 1883, has been translated into English and placed online by Anthony Alcock. Dr. Alcock mentions that the text is extant not only in Bohairic but also in Arabic, and in Sahidic fragments. Elliott, in his "New Testament Apocrypha," (p. 112) stated that according to Robinson, the Bohairic text was translated from Sahidic, and that Morenz believed that the Sahidic was translated from Greek. (Alcock, in some concluding notes, mentions that Morenz's evidence of a Greek source for the Coptic texts is persuasive.)
Elliott also provides technical details about the production and whereabouts of the copies and fragments, along with a summary and a translation of a few chapters. Elliott does not nail down a production-date but briefly offers two alternatives: either the 300's-400's, or else "a later date." Ehrman has assigned it to the late 500's or early 600's "in its present form," suggesting perhaps that the part that mentions Joseph's feast-day may be a young sleeper in a not-as-young bed.
Here are a few interesting utilizations of Gospels-material in this text (almost all of which is presented as if Jesus is the narrator, speaking to His apostles on the Mount of Olives) as well as some other interesting details:
(1) Jesus is depicted telling His disciples, "I will entrust to you the preaching of the gospel throughout the whole world." This looks somewhat like a utilization of Mark 16:15.
(2) Joseph's sons and daughters (via a marriage before he met Mary) are listed as Judas, Justus, Jacob, and Simeon, and Lysia and Lydia. It is explained that Jacob was small when his mother (Joseph's first wife) died, and that later on, after Joseph and Mary were wed, Jacob was still small, and Mary took special care of him and was for this reason called "mother of Jacob." This suggests that someone somewhere identified "Mary the mother of James" (mentioned in Mark 16:1 and Luke 24:10) with Mary the mother of Jesus.
(3) Near the end of chapter 5 and in the beginning of chapter 6, the events in Mt. 1:18-25 are retold in an embellished form. The angel in Joseph's dream is identified as Gabriel the archangel.
(4) In chapter 7, the author utilizes Luke 2:1, and then the narrative is like a concise hazy echo of the Protoevangelium of James. By chapter 11, things have fast-forwarded to a point when Joseph is 111 years old.
(5) Chapter 13 reflects a clear belief in guardian angels: "Do not let your angel which has been assigned to me since the day you formed me until now fill his face with anger at me on my way to you. But let him be peaceful with me."
(6) Joseph's life is summarized: he married his first wife at age 40; she died when he was 89; Mary was entrusted to him when he was 90; Jesus was born to Mary when Joseph was 93 (and Mary was 15).
(7) In chapter 17, as Joseph is about to die, Joseph recollects some earlier events in Jesus' life: "I recall the day when the viper bit the child and he died. His people surrounded you to give you up to Herod. Your mercy touched him. You raised up the one about whom they said that you had killed him. There was great joy in the house of the one who had died. At that moment I seized your ear, I said to you, `Be wise, my Son.' At that moment you reproached me, `If you were not my father according to the flesh, I would tell you what you have done to me.'"
(8) In chapters 21-22, Death appears in a visible form, with many infernal beings, whom Jesus then rebukes. Jesus proceeds to pray that God will send angels to accompany Joseph's soul "until it passes the seven dark aeons." A motif also occurs of a fiery river in the afterlife which has a soul-purging effect.
(9) In chapter 25 there is an unusual reference to a prayer which Jesus inscribed in heaven: "I prayer to my good Father in with heavenly prayers which I wrote with my own fingers on the slab of heaven before my incarnation through the Virgin Mary." (This may remind one of the Islamic concept of a heavenly book, or of the heavenly record in Enoch 81.)
(10) In chapter 26 a blessing is promised for those who honor the feast-day of Joseph (the 26th of the month of Epip, i.e., July 19/20).
(11) Also in chapter 26, a blessing is given ("Let not your burial shroud become rotten or your flesh which I put upon you, but let it stay on your body until the day of the dinner of the thousand years") which seems to allude to Rev. 20:4.
(12) Chapters 30-31 are especially interesting. The apostles ask Jesus why Joseph, about whom Jesus has promised various blessings for those who honor his memory in various ways, could not have gone to heaven like Enoch and Elijah. Jesus answers that every man must die, and that Enoch and Elijah will die, too, when the Antichrist kills them "for a xestes [i.e., a pint, more or less] of water." In chapter 32 Jesus emphasizes this point. (This is an interpretation of Revelation 11:3-10; the apostles refer to the Antichrist as the "son of destruction" too.) One may wonder if Augustine (cf. Letter 193, To Mercator) ever encountered this text; he mentioned that this was the view held by most people.
An English translation is also provided at
with highlighted references to utilizations of NT passages.
Yours in Christ,
James Snapp, Jr.