If I may respectfully point to the book of A.T. Bradford who wrote "Joseph in John's gospel, Judas and Jewish jokes". He says the "who we know" is in the present tense in Greek suggesting very much that Joseph is still alive.

John 6:42 (NIV): They said, “Is this not Jesus, the son of Joseph, whose father and mother we know? How can he now say, ‘I came down from heaven’?”

Any thoughts from those who know Greek?

However, it's not just this - he suggests that John's gospel is littered with references to Joseph being alive!

For instance, John 8:14-19 when the Pharisees ask "Where is your father?" ... Jesus answers using double meaning (which I have come to learn there is a LOT of this in His teachings if you read Aramaic) - they are asking WHERE IS JOSEPH! Why? Because a Jewish man is not allowed to give legal testimony about himself until he is over 40.

Arguably, this is a similar situation to the man born blind. The Pharisees asked to see his parents who said: "He can answer for himself, he is of age!"

Jesus of course answers that they don't know his father. Our Lord is talking then of God, but the Pharisees often didn't get his meaning. He is making fun of them... again!

I don't have the knowledge yet to know if these answers are totally true but I would recommend reading the book - and please give your thoughts on the above.

A.T. Bradford does make some long reaches for inferences in his books and I don't agree with everything he said. But IF his paradigm of Jesus making fun of the Pharisees by confusing them about WHICH father he was talking about is correct: it makes a lot of sense of some of the things He said.

1 Answer 1


The verb οἴδαμεν (oidamen) in John 6:42 is in the perfect tense. More specifically, it is Perfect indicative active, 1st person plural. That is, the verb is NOT present tense.

Thus, the verb should strictly be translated, "have known" as per Young's Literal Translation.

However, the verb is never used in the strict present tense (as BDAG points out) and the perfect appears to be used for the present tense and almost all cases of its occurrence in the NT.

This is not to suggest that Joseph was necessarily still alive - he might have been or not. If we translate this verse very literally we get:

is this not Jesus the son of Joseph of whom we know the father and mother?

All that can be deduced from this is that Jesus' parentage was known, whether they are still alive or not is not the subject of this remark.

  • 2
    The perfect tense could mean "knew and still know," but could also mean "knew and remember." Most likely the idea is they remember in the present Jesus growing up with Joseph and Mary in the past.
    – Perry Webb
    Jan 16, 2022 at 13:02
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    The verb οἴδαμεν is the parade example of what the perfect aspect is. "I have come to know ... and I know", that is, a state is entered, and the perfect means that the state remains, in this case "We have come to know" (entrance into the state) and "We know" (the state remains). "really the perf. of the stem εἰδ- but used as a present." (BDAG) μιμνήσκομαι is another such verb. The perfect means "I have recalled" and that state remains in the perfect, thus: I remember. Jan 16, 2022 at 14:20
  • Thank you, that's extremely helpful. What are your thoughts then on Jesus being asked "Where is your father?" I acknowledge that this in English is rather ambiguous as it doesn't indicate whether the questioners knew Joseph was alive or not. Does the Greek shed any more light on this? This may be food for thought: The exterior temple buildings were only finished a few years before it's destruction AND modern scholarship now suggests that Joseph 'tekton' could have been a stonemason also ( 'tekton' carries the implication of 'builder') it seems plausible they knew of him - alive? Jan 17, 2022 at 12:45
  • @JoshuaCartwright - In John 8:14-18 Jesus is discussing His heavenly Father and they knew it but were trying to be difficult. The subsequent exchange suggests that they had known Joseph when he was still alive but was now dead so they asked - "who is your father" because Jesus was talking about the heavenly Father in the present tense.
    – Dottard
    Jan 17, 2022 at 20:19

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