Wednesday, December 21, 2005

TIME Magazine Asks Who was Joseph: Chaste Caretaker, Alienated Cuckold, Adoring Protector, or Modern Day Evangel?

Time magazine recently featured an article on a fascinating, but often underdeveloped, aspect of the nativity narrative: the role of Joseph. In this instance, they also highlighted two evangelical writers attempting to bring Joseph to the attention of the American public.

“Even without that much imagination, a Christian curious about Joseph can take some sturdy, basic inspiration from the carpenter who is, at a minimum, humanity's stand-in, a lunch-pail hero not born to holiness but who, by his hard-won and steadfast belief, finds a role in salvation. This season two big-name writers have taken Joseph's story a step further,” David Van Biema writes in Time (,10987,1139838,00.html).

The article chronicles the various approaches to Joseph over the centuries. The author deftly details the varying roles Joseph has played in the history of interpretation, including the “Chaste Caretaker,” the “Alienated Cuckold,” and the “Adoring Protector.” Recently, however, evangelical authors such as Presbyterian pastor Howard Edington and Left Behind’s Jerry Jenkins have begun to emphasize Joseph as the “Modern Day Evangel.”

In Holding Heaven, Jenkins teams up with illustrator Ron DiCianni (Integrity Publishers; ISBN: 159145218X). Their book features only two scenes: one in Egypt as “Joseph talks his restless infant to sleep by describing the miracles of his life thus far and another 30 years later at the Nazareth carpenter's deathbed as the old man querulously but determinedly extracts from the adult Jesus the grim story of Christ's future and his good news for humanity.”

While Time admits that the book is not high art, it nevertheless “stirs a pang of recognition in any man who has rocked a sleepless infant or grasped a bedridden father's hand--as well as a tingly intuition of the special nature of those particular players.”

Jenkins’ goal seems to be to use imagination to open doors of understanding to moderns separated by a cultural chasm as wide as the two thousand years since the birth of Christ. “When the young Joseph muses that ‘when You settled into my arms it felt as if I were holding heaven,’ the Christian reader is meant to realize that he actually was,” concludes Time.

Quoting from a recent book by Howard Edington, "Joseph took God's son into his heart, thus discovering a purpose for his own life within the greater purposes of God." Then he addresses his readers: "My prayer is that you will do the same."

Amen, Jerry Jenkins and Howard Edington. Amen.

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