Joseph vs. Joshua

Well, well, well. In what many pundits are calling the first upset of Lent Madness 2020, Herman of Alaska dispatched Elizabeth of Hungary yesterday 58% to 42%. This means that the first matchup of the Saintly Sixteen has been finalized as Herman will face Thomas More for a shot at the Elate Eight.

Today, it's back to the Bible as Joseph -- no, not the Israelite patriarch, but the "father" of Jesus -- squares off against Joshua of Promised Land fame. Will Joseph be buried upside down? Or will the walls come a-tumblin' down on Joshua. That's the question of the day as the First Round continues. Go vote!


Worldwide, thousands of churches, cathedrals, cities, educational facilities, religious orders, hospitals, products, institutions, streets, regions, even sports teams are named for Joseph. Art, iconology, music, and books are dedicated to him or feature him. He looms large in Christianity and in the story of Jesus. He is an important saint and mentor, and his impact on our world is undeniable.

Nonetheless, the documented details about Joseph are limited. We do not know when Joseph was born, and scholars believe he died sometime after the twelve-year-old Jesus’ visit to the temple but before the baptism of the thirty-year-old Jesus. Joseph’s exact age is undetermined; however, his depictions usually show a kindly middle-aged or older man.

The Gospel of Matthew tells us that Joseph was a descendant of the great King David. Joseph was married to Mary, the mother of Jesus, and lived in Nazareth. He lived his life in strict observance of the Jewish tradition. He was the earthly father to Jesus, teaching him the trade of a carpenter, guiding him in the religious traditions, and caring for him and his mother. As such, Joseph’s contributions to Christianity and to Jesus’ life are unsurpassed.

Joseph teaches us that God will help clear our doubts. Tradition holds that, upon learning that Mary was pregnant, Joseph considers ending his betrothal to her. Showing his strength of character and humility to God, he obeys the word of an angel who orders him to care and keep her.

Following the birth of Jesus, he obeys another angel’s instructions to travel to Egypt, escaping the wrath of the cruel Herod and bringing Jesus out of harm’s way. In time, Joseph returns with his family to Nazareth, settling into the life of a tradesman and observant Jew.

Joseph is the patron saint of fathers, stepfathers, carpenters, craftsmen, engineers, working people, families, immigrants, pilgrims, travelers, and realtors. He is also the patron of numerous countries and cities throughout the world; San Jose is the most common place-name in the world. Pray to Joseph for a happy death, to deter doubt, to halt hesitation—and when buying a house.

Collect for Joseph
O God, who from the family of your servant David raised up Joseph to be the guardian of your incarnate Son and the spouse of his virgin mother: Give us grace to imitate his uprightness of life and his obedience to your commands; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.

—Neva Rae Fox



The guy who saved Israel from slavery. The one who literally parted the Red Sea to lead the people to safety. The first one in generations who spoke with God. Yup, Moses. That’s who Joshua followed as leader of Israel. It’s like having to take the stage after Beyoncé.

Joshua, son of Nun, was Moses’ right-hand man from the moment they left Egypt. This was no small task. When Moses went up the mountain to receive God’s Commandments? Joshua was there. When Moses would speak to God in the Tabernacle? Joshua was there. Every extraordinary step of the way as Moses led the people, Joshua was right alongside him.

When they first approached the Promised Land, it was Joshua and Caleb alone who advised that the Israelites should proceed forward. And for that, Joshua and Caleb were the only ones from their whole generation to be allowed to enter Canaan—an honor denied to even Moses himself.

When it was time to choose a successor, the choice was easy for Moses. Even his own children couldn’t measure up to the leadership potential of Joshua.

After leaving slavery and wandering in the desert for forty years, Joshua still believed God’s promise. Just as Moses had parted the Red Sea, Joshua parted the Jordan and led the people of Israel into the Promised Land.

The story of what comes next—of Bronze Age warfare, the conquest of nations, the cruelty of war is uncomfortable for us. And yet, in the midst of a very culturally rooted story are some powerful universal messages. We see the power of Joshua’s trust in God. We hear a message of a God who will suspend the very laws of nature—suspending the sun in the sky—for his people. We hear of unexpected people like Rahab being entrusted by God and Joshua with the salvation of the people of God.

Joshua, which means “The Lord saves,” led the journey of an oppressed people living in slavery to those who live in the land promised to them. How important is Joshua to the story? Generations later, God makes a plan to intervene and save the people again, using a child who is given the name Yeshua—a form of the name Joshua. God saves.

Collect for Joshua
Almighty God, you have surrounded us with a great cloud of witnesses: Grant that we, encouraged by the good example of your servant Joshua, may persevere in running the race that is set before us, until at last we may with him attain to your eternal joy; through Jesus Christ, the pioneer and perfecter of our faith, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.

—David Hansen


[poll id="275"]


Joseph: Asia [CC BY-SA 4.0 (]
Joshua: Eastern icon of Joshua (


* indicates required

Recent Posts




159 comments on “Joseph vs. Joshua”

    1. I decided in favor of Joseph. It must not have been easy to play second fiddle to Mary's son.

      1. Or to play second fiddle to Moses? If Joshua had not been so faithful, would we have Joseph to vote for today?

    2. This wasn't really hard, but it was good to read about Joshua and his support for Moses and his people, and his entry into Canaan - Joseph, however, is an almost universal model of family leader and artisan, a simple man who followed, and trusted, God's word, cared for his family . . . an impressive list of attributes for living an honorable life - MBB

    3. This was difficult to decide both special men but I would have liked Joseph as a father or husband. My father was not there,

  1. No warrior he, yet his courage was strong
    Young Mary he wed, whom another would wrong.
    With his eye for the true
    Did his young son imbue:
    To Joseph today do I offer my song.

  2. Considering Joseph was a real person and Joshua is just a character in a story, albeit an important and great one, I'm voting Joseph.

    1. How does one "know" that Joshua is a character in a story and not a real person?

    2. If, and it's a big "IF", either of these two is a real person, it's likely Joshua. Since Mary's first-born was aptly given his name, my vote goes to Joshua.

    3. On what authority do you make this claim? As far as I can tell, we only know about either man from stories in the Bible.

  3. Joshua, oh, you were super great
    And you could never hate,
    To you, I have everything to owe,
    To me, you shall never be a foe.

    1. Thank you Jada, I totally agree. This was a really hard, both men of incredible faith. It is nice that they have named a lovely cactus tree after Joshua. It provides shelter and even blooms in the desert, a tree with faith, strength and purpose. I voted for Joshua.

  4. Joseph, for all the brave dads who get up every day and do the unexciting work of raising a family. They aren't the men who people write great literature about, but they are good men who love deeply and wisely. And he was a kind man, even before God told him to have no fear in marrying Mary. He was not going to publicly shame her. So, he is a hero to me.

    1. Ellen - I was thinking the same thing. I appreciate Joseph’s compassionate response to Mary, even pre-angel.

      But I loved your reflection about fathers everywhere. So in honor of my father, now at peace with his Creator - yes, I’ll be voting today for Joseph.

    2. Me too Ellen. I have known some really wonderful men who stepped in and did a great job loving and raising children not of their own genetic material. Some female friends also. In honor of all these folks I voted for Joseph.

  5. The tradition of St. Joseph's table and St. Joseph's bread is one I treasure. I remember the Italian bakeries in NYC selling the bread in quantities around the time of his feast. Get to the bakery a little late and you missed it! I have many wonderful memories of gatherings in St. Joseph's Hall at the Church of St. Mary the Virgin in NYC.
    St. Joseph!

  6. Joseph is great but...

    You gotta have some faith to follow a dude aimlessly for 40 years and still convince everyone else it's a good idea. It's Joshua for me today.

  7. I was told by a scholar of religion that there is a tradition in some places that Joseph opens the back gate of Paradise so that all the unbaptised infants can come in. Seems like something he would do!

    1. I haven't come across this before, but it is a beautiful tradition. Thank you for sharing.

      1. Might only be a tradition with no real authority or written orders!

  8. Joshua, right hand man to Moses, spoke to God, parted the Red Sea and stopped the Sun with a lot of help from God) and completed the journey of the of the Israelites to the Promised Land...and yet, what could top being the father of Jesus Christ? I'm going with Joseph.

  9. Really no contest today. Joseph was faithful, just, humble, determined to do the right thing even before the angelic message by divorcing Mary quietly to avoid public humiliation, then told by God to marry Mary does so, raising Jesus as his own. Yes, Joshua lived in difficult times, but Joseph wins for me.

    1. Divorcing Mary, quietly , never heard of this one before. Thought marriage was supposed to be forever and ever, a sin for some to DIVORCE,

      1. Since you've left this comment at least twice, here's the verse from Matthew 1:18-19 (NIV), "This is how the birth of Jesus the Messiah came about: His mother Mary was pledged to be married to Joseph, but before they came together, she was found to be pregnant through the Holy Spirit. Because Joseph her husband was faithful to the law, and yet did not want to expose her to public disgrace, he had in mind to divorce her quietly." Under the laws at that time, he could have divorced her for the supposed adultery (since she was pregnant and he knew it wasn't by him). He not only could have divorced her, he could have had her put to death. His kindness and faithfulness saved Mary and Jesus multiple times. And as an adopted child, I will always vote for the man who raised Jesus as his own!

      2. I think Fiona meant divorce in the sense of breaking a betrothal to marry, which was a very big deal at that time and a promise not lightly broken. Because Mary was pregnant, Joseph could have humiliated her to everyone or even asked to have her stoned to death, but instead he was considering ending the betrothal quietly. This was an act of a compassionate and gentle man to whom no angel had appeared as yet. The angel spoke to Joseph after this decision, telling Joseph to go ahead and marry Mary and be the father that Jesus would need.

  10. And everyone knows Joseph is the GREATEST REAL ESTATE SALESMAN! Bury his statue (preferably upside down) in the back yard and your run down old house in a catholic ethnic neighborhood will sell PRONTO! Ours have never gone unsold! Joshua just led a Marching Trumpet Band to knock down walls.

    1. It worked for my Episcopalian mother in an upper-WASP suburb. The house had been on the market for months. Mom buried St. Joseph’s statue upside down and the house sold in a couple of weeks.

    2. I can vouch, on three different houses I've sold over the years - it's Joseph for me!

    3. Yep, I have a 3 3/4-inch St Joseph figure in my house right now, waiting to be buried upside down, because I am getting ready to sell the house and my neighbor told me about this tradition. Evidently being a builder makes Joseph care about the fate of houses and their owners! I suspect you are supposed to ask for his intercession, as well as bury Joseph's image, and rely upon God's help. My neighbor tells me that her little St Joseph statue has helped to sell 8 houses. She is descended from Mexican ancestors, so I had assumed this was a Mexican or Mexican-American tradition. But the Anglo names of commenters before me suggest that it's more widespread.

      I see Joseph as embodying the virtue of humility, in addition to his other saintly qualities. Where I come from, there are many people who count the number of weeks between a wedding and the birth when a first child comes soon after a marriage, and I suspect that there were people like that in Joseph's day, as well. He obeyed God, despite the risk to his reputation. Also, remember that sex outside marriage was a capital crime for a woman, in those days. He could have had Mary stoned to death, but he chose to love and care for her and her baby, instead. Joseph gets my vote today.

  11. Never have understood the need some Christians have to co-opt the heroes of the Hebrew Scriptures and turn them into supposedly Christian saints. If Lenten Madness is a competition amongst the saints, Joshua isn't even a contender.

    1. Actually, a reasonable number of the contenders aren’t saints. Harriet Tubman comes to mind. Check the bracket for more.

      1. Actually, all of the contenders are recognized as saints by one or more Christian denominations. Harriet Tubman is commemorated in the Episcopal Church's calendar of saints on July 20th, along with Elizabeth Cady Stanton, Amelia Bloomer, and Sojourner Truth.

        For more details, see Note that rule #1 states that nominees must be dead (so no votes for Elvis, please!)

        1. Divorcing Mary, quietly , never heard of this one before. Thought marriage was supposed to be forever and ever, a sin for some to DIVORCE! Like to offer to vote for ELVIS,

          1. The relationship was somewhere between our customs of engagement and marriage, not quite the same as either of them. And the option to divorcing her "quietly" was to drag her into the market-place and have her stoned to death for adultery.
            I voted for Joseph as a faithful (step)father who helped bring up the Son of God in an ordinary, humdrum family; he believed in Jesus' divine origins and lived out those beliefs.

    2. If I recall correctly, one of Jesus's accomplishments during the period between the Crucifixion and the Resurrection was the harrowing of the underworld when he released the righteous souls to Paradise. Upon their release a number of Old Testament figures received the status of saints. Joshua is one such.

      In past years other Hebrew Scriptures figures have been on the bracket. Esther made it to the Final Four in 2018. Sarah was on the 2017 bracket and got past one round but lost to Franz Jaggerstatter. Anne (mother of Mary) and Simeon, who was a very old man when Jesus was born, have also been contenders.

      Lent Madness is a group of 32 holy people, not necessarily with "St." before their names.

  12. Joseph followed the guidance of the angels and showed great loyalty. Joshua had to lead and hold the Jewish people together and put up with all the difficulties of disgruntled folks ,showing he had great strength and focused determination to see his task through. Joshua has my vote

  13. As for me and my house, we shall follow the Lord!
    Also just read the book, pearl in the Sand by Tessa Afshar
    About Joshua and God's conquest of q Promised Land

  14. I’ve spent most of my career as second in command (so to speak), and been fortunate/blessed to follow wonderful leaders who made me a better one. Joshua has great appeal. For my dad, though, who has long lived among the angels, it’s Joseph today.

  15. Some years ago, during a Bible study centered on Luke’s Infancy Narrative, the facilitator, Bill Kelley, S.J., noted we should consider the influence Joseph and Mary had on Jesus’ developments, especially in terms of his empathy and humility. Coupled with the fact I had a brother, Joseph Damien, who only lived overnight, had to go with Joe.

  16. As an engineer who has a son studying abroad in San Jose, Costa Rica, I have to go with Joseph. This is my first year taking part in this competition and I'm finding that it is very difficult to choose, frequently coming down to some personal connection such as why I'm voting for Joseph.

    1. I love what Joseph is as a father....all fathers can take inspiration from him. His qualities of protectiveness, patience and faith in things unknown (led only by an angel) give an example to fathers everywhere.

    1. My absolute favorite Mr. Bean scenario! I was torn, but reminding me of this is good enough to push me over to Joseph's side. Anyone who can deal with marching bands, daleks and dinosaurs has my vote.

      1. Wonderful video, but evidently Mr. Bean does not know that a Dalek is supposed to say "EXTERMINATE!"

    2. For all the quiet men in the background of the churches (the building fixers and repairers and counters and treasurers and so much more), I must vote for Joseph. If you can, get a hold of Ann Weems "Kneeling in Bethlehem" and read "Getting to the Front of the Stable". Thanks also to Peg for Mr. Bean - precious and laugh out loud funny! That's why Joseph needs to be in front 🙂

  17. Even though I admire Joseph as a good, caring man devoted to his wife, family and faith, my vote goes to Joshua for historical reasons. If Joshua had not led the children of Israel across the Jordan river, there would have been no history of David's line. Joshua set in motion the generations leading to Joseph's birth.

  18. St Joseph's Day is March 19. There is a potential for President Joe! I sit on "St Joseph's side" at Mass and ask him to watch over all Dads.

  19. Joshua. We’ve got an election in progress (have you noticed?) and ALL the candidates (sorry Tulsi, forgot about you again) are over 70. (In literature as in life) I’m thinking sidekick with a decent finishing sprint is a crucial role.