Chapter

The History of Joseph the Carpenter

J. K. Elliott

in The Apocryphal New Testament

Published in print November 2005 | ISBN: 9780198261827
Published online April 2009 |
The History of Joseph the Carpenter

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Like many apocryphal infancy gospels this book is likely to have been inspired by the Protevangelium of James. As a counterpart to the many legends that developed around the name of Mary, it tells of Joseph's death. The whole narrative is put into the mouth of Jesus (although there are lapses in chapters 30 and 32). An Egyptian provenance would readily account for much of the teaching on death, for which there are parallels in the Coptic accounts of the death of the Virgin. The work is known in Sahidic (from which a Bohairic version has been translated, according to Robinson, p. xvi), and in Arabic that has been based on the Coptic or possibly even on a Syriac version. According to Morenz, the original language is likely to have been Greek—from which the Coptic seems to have been translated. The existence of the book in both main Coptic dialects is one of the arguments that have been put forward in favour of a fourth‐fifth century date for its composition. Other arguments for this early date include the millenarian teaching of ch. 26: other eschatological teaching elsewhere is said by Tischendorf to support such a date. Others have opted for a later date on the ground that the book must belong to a period when saints' days were observed, since its purpose is clearly to glorify Joseph's feast day. As such it is another instance of a character in the canonical Gospels gaining greater significance in his or her own right in the apocryphal literature.

Chapter.  2582 words. 

Subjects: Religious Studies ; Biblical Studies

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