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First of all, what did Mary and Joseph look like?

Mother and child in Hebron, photograph, late 1800's

Mother and Child     

Shorter than modern people, about five feet tall for women and a bit more for men. Robust, sturdy, with strong brown hands callused from work, and glossy black hair.

Peasant women often painted a line of red or purple dye down the center parting of their hair, and wore modest pieces of jewelry.

Their clothes were homespun wool or linen, loose fitting, in one of the soft colors of natural dyes - cream, a deep faded pink, or a soft grey. 

For images and more information, go to Clothing and Housing in Bible Times

Both sexes wore leather ankle-length boots in winter, sandals in summer, and cut their dusty toenails with a sharp knife.

Nothing could have been more normal than Joseph and Mary in 1st century Nazareth. They lived in a small village and were traditional Jewish peasants.

Millais - Christ in the House of his Parents

   Images of the Family of Jesus 

He was a builder - not a carpenter, since there was little need for a carpenter in a small village, and wood was a luxury item.

Joseph probably travelled to get jobs outside Nazareth, but there was plenty of work at the time, since Herod Antipas had recently redesigned and rebuilt the nearby town of Sepphoris.

Mary did the traditional work of women - preparing food, washing, fetching water from the well, working in the fields owned by her family, helping other women raise their many children.

She was a junior member of a large Jewish peasant family, always surrounded by other people.

For images and information, see Women's Work or  Bible Archaeology: Work

Woman preparing food

The Food in Mary's Kitchen   

At a suitable time decided on by their families, Mary and Joseph became engaged to marry. They expected to lead an ordinary life, like the people around them in Nazareth. But something unexpected happened - Mary became pregnant.

For paintings of the Annunciation, see Mary of Nazareth: Her Story

In a Mediterranean Jewish context, this meant disgrace for the family and possible expulsion of the girl. Joseph knew he wasn't the father of the child, and he decided to dismiss her as quietly and decently as he could.

Bride of Bethlehem, William Holman Hunt, 1879-84


But something made him change his mind, and the two became husband and wife. Their story, up to this point, must have happened to thousands of people.

As far as we know, they lived a normal life in Nazareth. They were devout, traditional Jews, travelling often to Jerusalem for the major religious festivals.

Their son Jesus was taught building skills by his father Joseph, and was expected to carry on the family trade. Their lives were simple, ordinary, humdrum.

              But their son was not.



                  See   JESUS IN NAZARETH.....       


Fountain of the Virgin, 1894 photograph

       The Fountain of the Virgin, Nazareth - a link with Jesus



BIBLE WOMEN, MARY OF NAZARETH  An in-depth look at Mary's life

BIBLE PEOPLE, MARY OF NAZARETH  A short biography of Mary

BIBLE PEOPLE, JOSEPH OF NAZARETH  A short biography of Joseph

BIBLE ART: THE BIRTH OF CHRIST  Great paintings of the Birth of Jesus

ARCHITECTURE OF BIBLE LANDS  Houses, nomad's tents






Other Online Bible Websites

Study famous and historical people, places, artwork and archaelogy of the Holy Bible online.

For more online Bible study resources and activities, visit the following websites: - stories of the Bible's most famous men and women - Moses, Judas, John the Baptist, Mary Magdalene and more - all about Bible women, good and bad: Ruth, Deborah, Mary of Nazareth, Jezebel - archaeological evidence and the Bible - what can we prove? - Bible paintings and artworks: Nativity, Resurrection, Esther, Martha and Mary - Top Ten heroes, bad women, ways to hell, young people, villains, murders, films - more about houses, palaces, temples and fortresses

To search through all websites click HERE »