This article aims at demonstrating the historical probability that Joseph,
the father of Jesus, should be regarded as a legendary figure. It seems
that the Joseph figure is modelled after the patriarch in the First Testament. Here Joseph was exalted despite of slander. He married an 'impure' virgin. He became the adversary of Judah. His sons, born in Egypt, were seen as the forefathers of the illegitimate Samaritans. He was regarded as an ethical paradigm. He served as the ideal type for
God's beloved child. The search for the historical Joseph leads to the conclusion that Jesus grew up fatherless . . This conclusion has enormous consequences for the quest for the historical Jesus.
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Paper presented at the annual meeting of the New Testament Society of South Africa, Pretoria,April 14~17, 1998. The paper is based on a reworked edition of a chapter (entitled 'The Joseph trajecory') in the author's coming book Fatherless in Galilee: The search for Jesus child of God. The article is dedicated to Eddie Engelbrecht, Professor Emeritus, Hervormde Teologiese Opleiding, Klipdrif, South Africa