• Rev Annabelle Elletson

Joseph of Nazareth

St Joseph is one of the saints of whom we know little - beyond his support of Mary following the Annunciation, their difficult journey to Bethlehem then his taking the new family to safety in Egypt, he is mentioned only indirectly again. We presume he was at the Temple in Jerusalem when Jesus went missing, but it seems likely he had died by the time of Jesus' ministry. We do know, though, that he was descended from David, and the shoot from Jesse that fulfilled the Hebrew Bible's prophesy.

This painting from 1850 by John Everett Millais, Christ in the House of His Parents, captures family life as the child Jesus might have known it. Millais has added various details, though: Jesus has scratched his hand, as a reference to his wounds at the crucifixion, with blood also dripping on to his foot. Very carefully, his cousin John the Baptist carries in a bowl of water to wash the wound, as later he will wash Jesus in baptism.

In many ways the painting is startlingly realistic - Joseph's concern, the shavings on the floor, and the care not to spill the water by John. How realistic, though, is it that the child helping in the carpenter's shop is dressed so spotlessly in white?!


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