In St Joseph in Early Christianity (St Joseph's University Press, 1999), from which this quotation is taken, Joseph T. Lienhard describes the development of two distinct traditions concerning St Joseph. One was that of the Eastern and Orthodox Church, which followed the apocryphal stories about Joseph, designed to make the perpetual virginity of Mary seem more credible, according to which he was an old man, perhaps in his 90s and a grandfather, when he married Mary to be her protector rather than her husband. The Latin tradition followed SS
Jerome and Augustine in arguing that he was nearer to Mary's own age, yet determined to remain a virgin in the light of Our Lady's state. This tradition was associated with the development of the discipline of celibacy within the Latin Church. Pope John Paul II clearly follows the Augustinian line of thought when he says in a General Audience of 1996 that we may presume that
Apostolic Exhortation Redemptoris Custos. There he reinforces St Augustine's argument that despite this determination to remain virginal, the marriage of Mary and Joseph was a true marriage. For the genealogies trace the ancestry of Jesus through Joseph, implying his legal while denying his biological fatherhood. Jewish marriage began with espousal ( – which in this unique case was extended indefinitely to allow for the possibility of a celibate marriage. The fact that marriage is for the sake of procreation and the raising of children is "covered" by the fact that in this case the child was provided miraculously, making sexual intercourse unnecessary (and, after the birth, inappropriate or even sacrilegious).
Thus Joseph became the willing collaborator in Mary's mission and vocation and that of her Child. He became the guardian of the mysteries of the Incarnation. As he died in the bosom of the Holy Family, he is for Christians also our initiator into the mysteries of death. As a craftsman and builder, he is the patron of workers but also a faint image of the Father who created and built the universe. It is fitting that the man who gave Jesus his own tomb was also called Joseph, and that the bones of the Old Testament Joseph accompanied the Israelites from Egypt to the Promised Land.