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                 THE FIRST CHRISTMAS

Mary "the Virgin", the only child and daughter of Heli (Luke 3:23) (Irenaeus’ “Against Heresies", 3:21) (Palestinian “Talmud”, Haggigah, Book 77, # 4) [possibly identified with Alexander "Helios", son of the Maccabee Queen Alexandra II by the first of her three husbands], who was a Davidic Dynasty prince, and his Levite wife, Anne, was born around 20/17BC.

In one of the apocryphal gospels Mary’s parents appear as an elderly couple, childless, whose prayers for a child are granted by God and made known by an angel who visits them. Heli and Anne, when Mary was age three, dedicated her to God’s service at the Temple in Jerusalem and at age nine or ten gave her into an order of temple virgins.

The story of Mary’s “immaculate conception” was invented during medieval times due to the forgotten doctrine of the imputation of "original sin" to make Mary worthy of being the mother of Messiah ["Christ"]. The claim by the Medieval Church to the story’s divine revelation that Mary was born without the imputation of "original sin" is without basis. The story itself is strangely odd in view of the silence of scripture on the matter, as well as the silence in early Christian literature on the matter, and the relatively recent promulgation of the doctrine by papal decree. The concept of "original sin" inherent in the human-race is itself a doctrine. It is not explained in any one scripture but its existence and nature is deduced from several scriptures the same way that all other doctrines in the Bible are. Too, the story that Mary was born sinless is false and is a totally unnecessary doctrine. Why?; because "original sin" does not pass through the woman (Job 15:14), but passes from generation to generation through the man (Gen. 5:3), hence, anyone virgin-born would be sinless, whoever they may be, possessing the same status, authority, and power as the first human, Adam, made in God's image. And, even Mary herself called Jesus “My Savior“, which implies that she also needed a savior because she too was born with "original sin", otherwise, she would not have said so.

Mary, according to apocryphal literature, was early orphaned at age ten and placed into an order of temple-virgins. There are different stories of this event: one, that, Mary, age ten, following the execution of her father, Heli, is taken from her mother, Anne, and, as a possible heiress, to prevent her from marrying or having any children to later rival King Herod or his heirs on the throne, was put by King Herod into an order of temple-virgins, whose members were made to take a vow of chastity, hence, the theory developed that Mary, under a vow, was “ever-virgin”. Her mother, Anne, came to visit her daughter on occasions, but appears to have died while Mary was still a young girl, around age twelve. Here, enters the story of her aunt Elizabeth and uncle Zacharias, Elizabeth‘s husband, a priest, who periodically served in the Temple at Jerusalem according to the schedule of his particular religious order [Abijah].

There is a story that says Mary remained in the temple until she was age 13 when the High-Priest, during a change of political climate, gave Mary into the custody of her aunt and uncle, Elizabeth and Zacharias, who took Mary into their home [either at Hebron or Juttah], and for a while were her guardians. She returned to Jerusalem with them on the occasions of her uncle's periodical temple-service.

It was on one of these occasions that the High-Priest espoused her to Joseph, the royal Davidic heir. Here, the engagement of Joseph to Mary was an entirely political affair, apparently Mary was expected to provide Joseph with an heir. Her childhood vow of chastity was not considered binding since it was made under duress. The attestation of Mary’s vow of chastity as if she were a nun is reported by Gregory of Nyssa in AD 386, and it spread and became the classic interpretation of Mt 1:34. Too, the Jewish zealots regarded Mary as an excellent candidate for marriage to Joseph, the royal heir, and, ironically, the Sanhedrin also shared this view and were certainly an influence; and, upon his acceptance of the proposal and completion of negotiations, Mary was betrothed to Joseph. The details of the engagement of Joseph to Mary are given in apocryphal literature on this wise that the High-Priest, acting upon the voice of God from the “mercy-seat” [God’s Throne] in the inter-sanctum, that is, the Holy-of-Holies, orders all unmarried men of King David’s House to bring rods to the temple-altar, and whose rod which should flower, should be given Mary in marriage. The rod of Joseph, the representative of one of the royal Davidic descent-lines, was miraculously selected from those of a number of other royal suitors. Here, in this story, it is Mary who appears as the Davidic heiress, according to the provision recorded in Num. 28:8 by Moses, however, according to the condition attached to the provision recorded in Num. 36:8, she could only marry a cousin, that is, someone "of her father's house" to qualify her off-spring for the inheritance, which in this case meant that her husband and the father of her off-spring had to be a Davidic Dynasty prince for her to be able to pass on to her issue the royal legacy of the Davidic Dynasty and its inheritance.

Mary, thereupon, along with five female companions, went to live at Nazareth, where Joseph had made his residence, however, not at first in Joseph’s home; as the custom was in those days for a maiden to live a chaste life in the house of her future husband or his relatives for a full year before their marriage. Mary first stays at Nazareth in the home of Joseph’s uncle, Judas “of Galilee”, a Jewish zealot, who became her guardian.

Joseph, according to "western tradition" was a young man about age 23 and Mary was a young girl about age 14, 15, or 16; however, according to "eastern tradition" Joseph is portrayed as an elderly widower, age 91, with grown children, when he married Mary for the sole purpose to cover-up her pregnancy out of wedlock and take care of her and her divine child, and, died at the advanced age of 111.

These stories all come from apocryphal literature. Some apocryphal literature give accurate data, while others are spurious documents and wholly fictitious. The “Protevangelum”, for example, is a spurious second-century document, wholly fictitious, whose author makes elementary mistakes and must of had only few very fragmentary sources available to him, and was ignorant of many of the facts, however, this spurious document had a great impact on religious history. The “Protevangelum” served as the basis for the later “Pseudo-Matthew“, the Arabic, and the Armenian “infancy gospels”, and the “Nativity of Mary”. These accounts were incorporated into the “Golden Legend”, which had an enormous influence upon Medieval Europe.

It was at Nazareth where the angel Gabriel came to Mary with a message from God, “The Annunciation“, and told her that she would give birth to a son, that “Jesus” should be His name, for He would save mankind from the consequences of their sins, that He would be “Immanuel” [which, translated, means: “God with man”], called the “Son of God” as well as the “Son of Man”, to whom God would give “the throne of his father [ancestor] David”, and, that His kingdom would last forever.

The response Mary gave to the angel’s message was “how can this be, since I have not known a man?” The angel replied that she would conceive miraculously by God without the agency of a man. For, to qualify to be the sacrifice for the human-race, one would have to be sinless. It was thus necessary that Jesus was virgin-born so that “original sin”, that is, the “fallen nature” inherent in the human-race (Rom 6:6; Eph 4:22; Col 3:9) passed down from generation to generation through the male-line, would not pass to Jesus, therefore, He, born of a woman without having been begotten of a man, was without sin and thus qualified to be the sacrifice for sin on behalf of the entire human-race.

The paradox of Jesus’ epithet “seed of the woman” is that the woman does not have a “seed” but an “egg”, for it is the man and not the woman who produces the “seed” in reproduction. The inference in Genesis 3:15 is doubtless to one born of a woman without the agency of a man, that is, virgin-born. There has been only one descendant of “Mother Eve” who was born of woman without having been begotten of a man, namely, Jesus, thus, the epithet is applied to Him. Here, immediately after Adam "ate the apple” (so to speak) or the “Fall of Man” in "Paradise", is the promise given by God to “fallen man” of a future savior who would be virgin-born (cp 1 Tim 2:15). The use of the word “he” in Genesis 3:15 shows that only one person is meant. The conception of the Christ-Child by The Virgin Mary is not through intercourse with a man (Mt 1:20,23,25: Lk 1:34), but through The Holy Spirit (Mt 1:18,20; Lk 1:35).

The angel Gabriel also informed Mary that her childless aunt Elizabeth was pregnant in her old age. Mary set-off to visit her aunt, Elizabeth, either at Hebron or Juttah, after the angel's visit at Nazareth. She remained at the home of Elizabeth for three months, then returned to Nazareth.

Soon after her return to Nazareth, before Joseph took her into his house, it was discovered that Mary was pregnant. Mary, unable to hide her pregnancy, confronts Joseph, who, grieved, reproaches her. She affirms her innocence, but he does not believe her story and leaves her, however, the prophetic words of Elizabeth that “she is blessed among women” gave her comfort that God will turn her fallen state into glory. She sang a song of gratitude, the "Magnificant", to praise God who had become her savior. Joseph, meanwhile, determined to quietly annul their engagement to save Mary’s reputation; for to be pregnant out of wedlock was a threat to any woman in that culture. She doubtless would have been labeled a harlot by the public, and, according to the “Torah” the penalty for adultery or harlotry was death by stoning. Joseph, however, was dissuaded from breaking-off the engagement in a dream in which the angel Gabriel appeared and gave him assurance that Mary had conceived under divine influence and that the child was the promised Messiah whose coming had long been foretold by the prophets. This was apparently believable to Joseph for there was at that time in human history a general expectation throughout the whole civilized world of the coming of the Messiah according to the “signs of the times” or “signs” prophesied in ancient Jewish scripture that would take place around the time of Messiah’s appearance. Thus, now, convinced of the truth of Mary’s story, Joseph obeyed the divine command he had received in the dream and went ahead and married his pregnant fiancée, however, abstaining from sexual intercourse with her at least during her pregnancy, though some contend throughout their whole marriage. To avoid scandal Joseph had to keep the truth concerning Mary’s conception a secret, for nobody would have believed her story. It was only after the resurrection of Jesus that Mary could speak freely of the supernatural conception of her son.

Meantime, however, there was trouble. Annas, an important scribe, visited Joseph soon after hearing about Joseph’s hasty marriage to Mary just four or five months after their engagement instead of waiting the customary twelve months. He perceived that Mary was pregnant during his visit, and then informed the High-Priest that something was amiss. The couple were called before a council of priests to answer these charges which resulted in a lot of questions being raised which brought the matter to public attention and the start of rumors over who fathered the child Mary was carrying. It is known that the Pharisee charge that Jesus was illegitimate circulated in Jewish society in the first century, which probably arose from this episode. The Sanhedrin charge of the illegitimacy of Jesus is clearly documented in the Bible (Jn. 8:39ff) in one of the debates of Jesus and His opponents. The accusation that He was illegitimate (Jn. 8:41); was reputed by Jesus who claimed to know who His Father was (Jn. 8:55). It is also written in the Judaic Palestinian “Talmud” that Mary was guilty of harlotry, and her son, Jesus, was illegitimate; but the first attested Christian explanation for it was in terms of a miraculous conception while His mother was a virgin. It were the doubts of who Jesus’ father was that turned the Jews against Jesus, for they were very protective of the official records of the genealogy of the Davidic Dynasty what entries were made, and who the “royal David heir” was. This attack on Jesus’ parentage was apparently widespread, for Tertullian, writing in North Africa in the second century, mentions among the charges against Jesus the defamation that He was the son of a prostitute.

In the ninth month of Mary’s pregnancy, Joseph and Mary were obliged “by the decree of Caesar Augustus” to leave Nazareth and travel to Bethlehem, about 90 miles, to be enrolled in the census; for Bethlehem, called the “City of David” as King David’s birthplace, five miles south of Jerusalem. The town was where all of King David’s descendants were ordered to go to be enrolled in the census, everyone according to his clan or family’s house; and Joseph and Mary were both among King David’s descendants. That it was the Roman practice to require a temporary dweller, in order to be enrolled in the census, to go back to the area of their regular domicile is found in a papyrus (Lond. 904, 20ff.) discovered in Egypt in the nineteenth century. The historian Josephus (Ant. XVII, ii, 4; # 42) mentions an oath of allegiance to the emperor taken by the Jewish people in 7BC, under King Herod’s direction, and, involved an acceptance of direct Roman taxation and a Roman census. This, Josephus, says was in consequence of a threatening letter Caesar Augustus wrote to King Herod in 8BC to implement direct Roman taxation, for King Herod had delayed the order. And, it was on this occasion, in 7BC, that "The Nativity” may have taken place. The census, ordered by the Roman Emperor, in 5BC, was an amendment to the 13/10BC decree. The 13/10BC decree was to access everyone’s property for taxation purposes, while the 5BC decree extended the 13/10BC decree to include a head-count providing for a general registration of the empire‘s entire population. The 5BC date is the most probable date for "The Nativity" to have taken place. The census was begun by Cyrenius (Sulpicius Quirinus), 13-10BC, then, continued by Marcus Titus, 10-9BC, then, by Sentius Saturnius, 9-6BC, then, by Quintilus Varus, 6-4BC, then, again, by Cyrenius (Sulpicius Quirinus), in 4BC-1BC, then, by Gaius Caesar, 1BC/AD1-4, then, by Volusius Saturninus, AD4-5, and, finally concluded by Cyrenius, AD6-7. There is an inscription on a marble slab unearthed at Rome which reads: “Quirinius, as proconsul obtained Asia as his province, and had twice before governed Syria-Palestine” [see Schaf’s “Hist. Christ. Church”, ch 1, pp 122, 123]. This third tour-of-duty, AD6-7, was as proconsul for the entire Roman province of Asia, which included Syria-Palestine. This was the first enrollment. The second enrollment of Cyrenius occurred AD10-14.

The couple set out for Bethlehem with Mary riding upon a donkey and Joseph holding the reins walking along beside. The delivery being near, Joseph takes great care. Now, after an arduous journey over many days, Joseph and Mary arrive in Bethlehem probably around 10:30pm at night. The very night of their arrival Mary went into labor. Joseph searched frantically for some public lodging, but the small town was so over-crowded due to the census that there were no vacancies to be found anywhere; and the couple acting on the advice of an innkeeper who had turned them away took shelter in a stable. There are different versions where Mary gave birth, whether in a stable or in a cave. That night, one of the apocryphal gospels says that Mary suffered the pains of childbirth alone, while Joseph sought a midwife to assist in the delivery; and when Joseph returned with the midwife around the midnight hour the birth of the Christ-Child was already in progress. There is preserved in a medieval manuscript the testimony of the midwife, Salome, whom Joseph found to assist at "The Nativity", who says: “...a bright light was shining around the mother when I arrived at the stable, and the great light increased blinding my eyes until the infant was born...“, and “...I wondered greatly because the babe did not cry as new-born infants do...”. Thus, as a supernatural darkness surrounded Calvary’s Hill during the last three hours of Jesus’ crucifixion so that no man could see His agony and death on The Cross, so the reverse is true in Bethlehem’s stable that a supernatural light covered Jesus at the time of His birth in His mother’s agony in a stable, so that no man could see His birth.

Meantime, the annunciation by the angel to the shepherds in a nearby pasture was taking place followed by the chorus of thousands of angels singing God’s praise in the night-time sky. Joseph was present with Mary when the shepherds came to the stable to see the baby Jesus. The infant was lying in a manger, that is, a feeding-troth, and there were animals in the stable. The following day room was made for Joseph and Mary with her babe in a private home. Since Joseph and Mary were husband and wife by the time of Jesus’ birth then legally Jesus was reckoned as Joseph’s son and was duly registered as such in Jewish records as well as in the Roman census. The records of this census were still in existence over 300 years later during the reign of the Roman Emperor Julian “The Apostate” who pointed to them for some reason to prove that Jesus was a Roman subject.

Hippolytus, the early third-century Roman writer, wrote that Jesus' birth "took place eight days before the kalends of January", that is, the 25th of December, which date he says was supported by the actual census/tax records of the Holy Family when they registered in Bethlehem in 5BC. These records, found in the imperial archives in Hippolytus' time, are now lost. Jesus was born (a) according to Roman Catholic tradition on the 25th of December in 5BC, for the 25th of December 5BC coincided with the Jewish date of Kislev 25, which is Hanukkah, also known as the "Feast of Lights", which fell on a Sunday that year. The miracle of Hanukkah was wrought by God on the occasion of the re-dedication of the Temple to Jehovah/Yahweh-worship (168BC) when only one small jar of oil for the "menorah" was found, enough to burn for only one night, however, miraculously the oil lasted for eight nights, when a new supply of oil arrived. The lighting of the candles by Judas Maccabee was an expression of the hope for the miraculous return of the "Shekinah Glory", which was a bright cloud of light in which God manifest His presence in the Temple, which took place via "The Incarnation". The 5BC date may be the correct date, for the rare astrological occurrence on “Hanukkah” that year, that is, on that date each sign of the zodiac was in its own constellation or house, and every planet was in its own sign, which has only happened once in 10,000 years, and anyone born on that day would certainly have an amazing and unique astrological chart, which may be symbolic of “nature” in peace with the universe on the day of Messiah's birth. And, if this is the correct date that God came incarnate to the human-race, then, the Jews have been unknowing celebrating the birth of their Messiah all these years. However, many Christians have rejected the December 25th date for The Nativity because that date is the same date for the pagan festival to honor the birthday of the sun-god with whom Jesus was identified with by the ancient heathens; but (b) according to Eastern Orthodox tradition Jesus was born on the 6th of January in 4BC, which date Roman Catholic tradition says was "Epiphany", that is, the date of the visit of the “Magi” ["wise-men"]. The January 6th date was also the date of Jesus' baptism, which the Gnostic Christians of Greece believed was when Jesus of Nazareth was anointed the "Messiah" which experience was something like a birthday, and later became celebrated as such by the Eastern Orthodox Church; while (c) according to Protestant tradition Jesus was conceived either on the 25th December date or the January 6th date, and born on the “Feast of Tabernacles”, that is, “Rosh Hashanah”, the date of which varies from year to year, between the 15th-21st of Tishri (Sep/Oct) between 7BC and 5BC, for it harmonizes with the statement in John 1:14 that God [= "The Word"] "dwelt" ["tabernacled"] among us". Thus, some have suggested that the date of The Nativity may have been 15th Tishri 3755 [= 8 October 7BC]. Too, there was a triple conjunction or alignment of the planets Jupiter, Saturn, and Mars, in the constellation of Pisces, which occurred between 7BC and 4BC, which last occurrence took place around the time Moses was born, and Jewish lore said the same astrological occurrence would take place once more at the time of Messiah’s appearance. Pisces is a constellation sometimes associated with “the latter days” of "our common era" and the introduction of the "kingdom age" in Hebrew tradition. Educated sky-observers would have noticed Jupiter appearing to pass very close to the star Regulus, “the King’s star”, on 14 September 3BC. And, in the ensuing months Jupiter headed eastward, stopped and reversed direction passing even closer to Regulus on 17 February 2BC, and passed Regulus a third time on 8 May that year; which astrologers may have interpreted as a prediction of a royal birth. Five weeks after its third conjunction with Regulus, Jupiter formed an alignment with Venus, which almost never happens, on 17 June 2BC.

The “Star of Bethlehem”, according to tradition, shown for fifteen nights over Bethlehem at the time of Jesus’ birth, however, the star that sent the “magi”, the “wise-men”, on their way was almost certainly the departure of the star from between the feet of the constellation of Leo, “The Lion”, Judah’s “sign”; for, the “magi” were aware of the prophecy found in Genesis 49:10 which reads: “The scepter shall not depart from Judah [symbolized by Leo “the Lion“], nor a lawgiver [symbolized by the star] from between his feet, until Shiloh [Messiah] come; ...”. The departure of the star from between the feet in the constellation of Leo “The Lion” was interpreted to signal the appearance of “Shiloh”, which was one of the Messiah’s many references. The ancient Chinese annals mention a brilliant comet in 5BC, which the Chinese interpreted as the birth-star of the “Fifth-Buddha”; and the Chinese emperor, Wu-Ti, dispatched an embassy led by a royal Chinese prince in search for the deity-incarnate. This comet may have been interpreted by the “magi”, who, by then, were already on their journey, as an appearance of the star guiding them to Palestine. The Greeks reported that at the appearance of a wondrous eastern star, sometime between 7BC and 4BC, the Oracle of Delphi was struck dumb. [“The Oracle” became “flesh”: Jn 1:14.] Too, it was documented on a television program broadcast a few years ago that soothsayers reported to Caesar Augustus in Rome that a brilliant star in the eastern sky was a “sign” in opposition to him; and that a sibyl or prophetess interpreted the “sign” to mean that a “great-one” had been born who would one-day supplant the caesars on the world-throne. The sibyl or prophetess who gave this prediction to Octavius was afterwards put to death for her words. [This scene was portrayed on the same television program.] The “Sibylline Books” were consulted, and Octavius had all unfavorable prophecies edited out of the books. Indeed, the popes who claim to be Christ’s vicars rose on the ruins of the Roman Empire and in the name of Jesus Christ occupy “a” throne in the old capital city of the Roman emperors!; or the prophecy may have been foretelling of the future “Second-Advent” of Christ to earth when Jesus will then set-up His kingdom and reign as world-king.

On the eighth day of the nativity (1 Jan.) Joseph took the baby Jesus to be circumcised in the local synagogue in Bethlehem (Lk 2:21); and, "when the days of Mary's purification according to the law of Moses were accomplished" (Lk 3:22), until which time Mary could not leave the house, Joseph and Mary took the Christ-Child to the Temple at Jerusalem, five miles north of Bethlehem, to present Him to God as was the custom to dedicate all first-born males (Lk 3:23). There a seer [Simon] and a prophetess [Anna] foretold of wondrous things concerning the infant (Lk 2:25-38). It was around this time that “The Holy Family” received the visit of the “Magi”. The Holy Family was then residing in a private residence or house in Bethlehem. Traditionally the visit of the “Magi” took place on "Epiphany" (6 Jan.). The “wise-men”, or “magi”, astrologers from “the East”, probably came from Babylonia where there was still a sizable Jewish colony which followed events in Palestine, and a vacancy in the office of the Babylonian Exilarchate had increased the awareness of Jewish messianic expectations. The star was seen by the Jewish Babylonian Diaspora as the star foretold by Moses (Num. 23:7). There were among the “wise-men” Babylonian Jews, who were knowledgeable of the prophecy of Daniel’s “seventy weeks”, and sought the Messiah. Legend says there were “three” wise-men, “we three kings of Orient are”, and identifies them with (1) Melqon (Melchoir) (Hor), King of Persia, (2) Balthasar (Basanater), King of Arabia, and (3) Caspar (Karsudan), King of India, or Ethiopia. The “magi” and their retinue came to Jerusalem asking to see the new-born “King of the Jews”, for they said that they had seen His star in the night-sky over Judea announcing His birth. King Herod was perturbed, and understandably so, for he was “King of the Jews”, however, not their rightful king. Herod summoned the scribes and demanded where Messiah was to be born; and they told him that Messiah would be born in Bethlehem according to the prophet Micah, who wrote (5:2):”...thou, Bethlehem-Ephrathat, though thou be little among the thousands of Judah, yet out of thee shall He come…[who is] to be ruler of Israel, whose goings forth have been of old, from everlasting.” Here, the prophecy says that the Messiah has always been alive, speaking of the divine-incarnation of His person. The “magi” then set out for Bethlehem, and promised to report back to King Herod as per his request so that he could come and worship Him also. The story of “The Adoration” of the “Magi” of “the child and his mother” evokes the honor paid to the queen-mother in the Ancient Judahite Monarchy, whose dynasty, the Davidic Dynasty, had in it a “madonna and child” cult, representing the prophecy recorded by Moses (Gen. 3:15). A few days later when the “magi” and their entourage had not returned to Jerusalem to report back to Herod of their mission but had departed back to their own countries by other roads, he was furious. And, in an effort to get rid of a potential rival King Herod sent his soldiers to Bethlehem where acting on his orders they slew all the young male children under two years of age. ["Herod the king, in his raging, charged he hath this day, his men of might in his own sight, all children young to slay."] This act is called in literature the “massacre of the innocents.”

Warned of King Herod’s purpose in a dream, Joseph took "The Virgin" Mary and the baby Jesus and fled to Egypt. Legend says that they escaped capture by Herod’s soldiers one night by hiding in a tree, the “ever-green”. In “Pseudo-Matthew” we are told that the thirty-day journey to Egypt only took eleven days, during which they experienced several miracles to protect and sustain them and to help them on their trip. Mary, holding her new-born son to her breast, rode on a donkey whose reins were held by Joseph, who, walked along side. The Holy Family took up residence in Egypt in the city of Heliopolis, now, a Cairo suburb, where there was a large Jewish community and even a synagogue. The Holy Family remained in Egypt for at least a year until after King Herod’s death. Tradition says they sojourned three years in Egypt. There are numerous legends about the Holy Family in Egypt, some of which are fanciful while others may be true. The legend about all of the pagan idols falling down before the Christ-Child as the Holy Family came into the city of Heliopolis seems fanciful, however, the legend that the Christ-Child was presented with the royal regalia of Egypt's ancient pharaohs by the Egyptian priests may be a true story. This legend is the basis for the case for Jesus to have been "the last Pharaoh of Egypt". But, why, and, for what purpose would the Egyptian priests have done this? The legend is circumstantial evidence that Cleopatra "of Jerusalem", the mother of the Christ-Child's foster-father, Joseph, was the daughter of Egypt's Queen Cleopatra, born posthumously six months after her father's [Julius Caesar's] assassination; for the Egyptian priests kept the records of the genealogy of Egypt's Pharaohs and were aware of the genealogical connection to the Holy Family, and may have considered Jesus to be the legal heir to Egypt's throne [following his foster-father, Joseph, of course]. Incredible as it may seem, but quite possibly true! [Hosea 11:1b "…out of Egypt have I [God] called my son."] Later, an angel came to the Holy Family in Egypt and told them that all who had sought to kill the Christ-Child were dead, and that it was safe to return to Judea. It appears from scripture that it was Joseph’s intention to reside in Bethlehem [his ancestral home] but changed his mind when he heard Archelaus, Herod’s son, ruled over Judea, and went northwest into Galilee, which had another ruler, and returned to his old home at Nazareth.


In Nazareth, Joseph took the trade of a carpenter to support his wife, Mary, and her son, Jesus, of whom we are told “increased in wisdom and stature, and in favor of God and man” (Lk 2:52). Upon the death of Joseph’s brother, Ptolas, his widow, Escha, came to live with her in-laws, but she died herself shortly after. The question is: who was the father of Escha’s children, either her late husband as the Roman Catholic Church maintains, or his brother, Joseph, in a “levirate” marriage, which the Eastern Orthodox Church maintains.

It is said that Joseph and Mary went “every year” to Jerusalem to celebrate the Passover Feast along with their relatives in a large retinue, and not just the one recorded time when Jesus, age 12, was found by His parents in the Temple during His discussions with the great temple theologians in which it is written that all were astonished at His advanced maturity for a 12-year old boy (Lk 2:41-51); and here we get the first hint that Jesus was conscious of His identity and His mission (Dan 9:26) and apparently had an ever-present feeling “to be about His Father’s business”. He returned to Nazareth with his mother and her husband Joseph, and behaved properly as their son, as the Bible says.

Jesus was in His late teens when His foster-father, Joseph, died; upon which He took over his late foster-father's carpentry trade. The carpentry-business quite possibly was sold to His mother’s uncle, Joseph of Arimathea”, who, after the death of Mary‘s husband, Joseph, acted like a paternal-figure to Jesus and His so-called "brothers" and "sisters".

There are numerous stories about The Holy Family in the apocryphal gospels, other than these, which fills-in the details in the gospel-accounts and fills-in the so-called “eighteen-year gap” in Jesus’ life. Some myths say that Jesus after the death of His foster-father, Joseph, would accompany his great-uncle, the Virgin Mary's uncle, Joseph of Arimathea, a wealthy merchant, on some of his travels abroad throughout the Mediterranean World as far west as Britain and as far east as India, which He may have, but for the most part of those “missing” eighteen-years the Bible indicates He spent in Nazareth. Everyday before sunrise Jesus would commune with the Spirit of God ["Holy Ghost"], who would instruct Him in His daily activities.

It is fairly certain that Joseph had died sometime before Jesus began His public ministry, circa AD26/29, for there is no allusion to Joseph in the account of The Holy Family in Mark 6:3, which seems to indicate that he was already dead by then and that Mary was a widow. The account of The Holy Family in Mark 6:3 can be translated at least two ways: one, “Is not this the carpenter, the son of Mary...”, or, the other, “Is not this the son of the carpenter and of Mary...”. The instance in Mark 6:3 where Jesus is identified by His relationship to His mother, that is, to refer to someone as the son of his mother, rather than as the son of his father, is a regular way of indicating that the mother is a widow or that the child is illegitimate and the father unknown.

It appears that after Joseph’s death, “The Virgin” Mary went to live in the home of her sister-in-law, called "the other Mary", the wife [or widow] of Joseph’s brother Clopas, taking with her Jesus [who was probably in His late teens] and His so-called “brothers” and “sisters”, who, were probably the children of Joseph’s other [late] brother, Ptolas, who and his wife Escha were long dead by that time; and, with the families so combined, the elder James, called "the Lord’s brother", was also called “major” or “senior”, and the younger James, his cousin, the son of Clopas and “the other Mary", was called “minor”, “junior”, or “The Less”. James "The Less" was one of the twelve disciples; but James "Major" was not and was an unbeliever until Jesus' appearance to him after "The Resurrection".

No more information regarding The Holy Family is given until Jesus was in His late twenties or early thirties when He begins His public ministry as an itinerant preacher.


see "Passion of Christ" at


David Hughes, 2005,