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


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


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159 comments on “Joseph vs. Joshua”

  1. Joshua was faithfulness and willing to risk is appealing, but has to be Joseph for me. When my late wife and I told her daughter that we'd gotten engaged, the first words out of her mouth were: "Stepdad!"

  2. I like to keep track of which Celebrity Bloggers are advocating for which saints. Interesting that both yesterday and today Neva Rae Fox went head-to-head with David Hansen. You both, by the way, produce wonderful write-ups for your saints. Thanks -- Lent Madness would be nothing without the Celebrity Bloggers!

  3. I voted for Joseph. As a father, I didn't know he was our patron. I think this carpenter had much to do with his upbringing Also, I once belonged to a parish church named St. Joseph.

    1. Coming from the same ST Joseph’s, my vote is easy! Glad to see another local participant! Love lent madness!

  4. I'm voting for Joseph today, as he did what needed to be done for his family, including being immigrants in a foreign country.

  5. Poor Joseph. He always gets treated as a sort of spiritual eunuch: "spouse of the virgin mother." He was, actually, her husband. However, that whole consummation issue, legitimizing a marriage, is a problem. What to do? Was it a real marriage? I'm heartened to hear that Joseph protects house purchases; does he also handle re-financing? With interest rates falling due to the botched federal preparation for coronavirus, should we all be selling short on the stock market? A few months back there was an uproar over people calling Joseph and Mary "refugees" for fleeing to Egypt; a certain sector of the polity didn't want a connection drawn between Joseph and Mary border jumping and immigrants and sojourners in this country. Some talking heads on the bushy-tailed channel insisted that Joseph was well off, this was merely a bureaucratic trip, Joseph was the best of men, he had all the answers, he earned his wealth through real estate, laundering money for Herod. And yet the nation's nativity scenes told a different story and insisted on the power of images. So which image do I want to choose today? I'm not going to vote for a "stepfather"; he has to be a real father, and what I mean by that is he has to be fully part of a marriage and a family. He can't just be a bit player cast to fill out a hole in the play. He can't be the comic cosmic cuckold. There's a wonderful Incan image of Joseph and Jesus, both resplendent in solar adorned textiles. Joseph is practically the sun god, and he holds the lily typically associated with Mary. So in honor of an image that sees Joseph as blending both virility and femininity, I will vote for Joseph. As for Joshua, the spy, the figure who led the conquest against an indigenous population, sort of an early Andrew Jackson Indian Killer, nope, just nope. Here's a prayer for all fathers today, that they be faithful to their families, and present.

    1. If I remember correctly, Jesus had siblings (Mark 6:3 and Matthew 13:55-56; thank you, Google). There are those who believe Mary was a virgin all her life and say that Joseph was an elderly widower with children by a previous marriage when he married Mary, I don't think so, and neither does the writer of the Gospel of Matthew: "...he [Joseph] took her [Mary] as his wife, but had no marital relations with her until she had borne a son; and he named him Jesus." (Chapter One, verses 24-25, New Revised Standard Version.)

  6. Tough choice! Joseph, a peaceful man, protected and loved Mary and our Saviour. Joshua, warrior, protected and loved God's people, Israel. I'm going with Joshua the fighter today.

  7. For my Dad, and from one of the many San Joses, I proudly cast my vote today!

  8. "And there is Joseph...the man who left his mark on the Son of God" So Mary Reed Newland concludes the chapter on St. Joseph in The Saint Book (New York: Seabury, 1979), p. 54.

  9. My grandfather, Simeon, was a carpenter. The tool chest he built for the back of his horse drawn wagon now sits in my daughter's family room. Carpenters unite, I voted for Joseph .

  10. Both are heroes, Joseph micro level and Joshua macro level. I voted for Joseph, because of his relevance to the concept that family is who loves you and raises you rather than a shared genetics. In our hurting world right now we need more micro level heroes.

  11. As Father to an adopted son I share the loving work of Joseph. It has been a privilege, though hardly saintly.

  12. Thought this was an exercise in learning about the Saints? Never knew the OT people were canonized.... (they’re not).

    1. It’s my understanding that Lent Madness uses the term “saint” in the broad context of heroes of the faith, not limited to those who have been formally canonized.

      1. Nope, it’s those who have been canonized by one of the churches that canonize (RC, Episcopalian, Lutheran).

  13. Had to go with Joseph, because you can't convince me that there was not a time in Jesus' early teens that he didn't go after him with "You're not my REAL Dad!"

    1. Depending on when/if Mary and Joseph sat Jesus down and had a talk with the lad about how he came to be.

      Unless Jesus was blessed with divine intelligence (pun intended) and already knew the story of his conception, that must have been quite a conversation.

    2. I think Luke 2:41-52 could be thought of as Jesus saying “You’re not my REAL Dad!” When Joseph and Mary finally find him after he remains at the temple in Jerusalem after the family's Passover visit, Jesus says, “Why were you searching for me? Did you not know that I must be in my Father’s house?"

  14. The last uncle in my mother’s generation passed last month. In our family, the favorite names were John and Joseph. Uncle Joe was a bit of an enigma, but much loved by his family—all of us. I have always admired Joseph (step-dad extraordinaire to Jesus), so I guess we know where my vote goes today.

  15. Voted for Joshua today, though both are worthy. Keeping with our tradition this year of voting for the early underdog, only yesterday Herman gratefully won!

  16. Joseph stepdad what ever the children do or say we must LOVE them God said I must do.
    Joshua was a real person we must check our faith, faith, before we speak.!

  17. In honor and memory of my Dad George, who loved his family deeply and who was a talented woodworker and craftsman, I voted for Joseph.

  18. I had to vote for Joseph - my very favorite children's nativity book is "Joseph's Heart: A Story of Adoption" by Mary Clare Evans. What a wonderful way to include adoptive families into God's story!

  19. If Joseph wins this round he will go against Elizabeth in the Saintly 16. She is his relative-in-law. Will there be strife in the Holy Family?

      1. I agree, John Cabot's limericks are charming and reflect so much spiritual Joy!

    1. "What happens at the family Passover celebration?"
      "Who does Mary vote for?"

      All these questions, and many more, will be answered in the thrilling March 20th episode of Lent Madness, beginning at 8 AM Eastern.

      Don't forget to tune in!

  20. If Joshua is Charlton Heston's right hand man in the movie The Ten Commandments then he has to be real right? No movie or the internet has ever been wrong. Correct? LOL