HUSBAND OF MARY and stepfather of Jesus, Joseph played a crucial role in Jesus’ earthly birth. Betrothed to Mary, he was shocked to learn she was pregnant. Since he knew he was not the father, he planned to break their betrothal, but he planned to do it privately so there would not be too much of a scandal. This plan was short-circuited when an angel came to him in a dream, assuring him that Mary was a virgin and that she was bearing the Son of God. Joseph was urged to go ahead with the marriage plans, and he did.
An imperial decree around this time sent people to their hometowns for registration, so Joseph took Mary from Nazareth to Bethlehem, the home of their ancestor King David. There she bore the Christ child. Another dream warned Joseph to flee to Egypt, escaping the slaughter of infants in Bethlehem. After Herod–who had ordered the slaughter–died a miserable death, Joseph moved his young family back to Nazareth, where he plied his trade as a carpenter.
The biblical term for carpenter really refers to an artisan who might work with various materials–stone and metal as well as wood. Such artisans might build houses, make tools, or repair household items. Since Jesus was called a carpenter, too, we can assume that Joseph taught him his own trade before Jesus launched his itinerant ministry around age 30.
Joseph was not involved in Jesus’ public ministry, as far as we know. Apart from references to Jesus as “Joseph’s son,” there is no further mention of Joseph in the gospels during Jesus’ adulthood. Most scholars assume he passed away before Jesus began preaching.