At Luke 2:48 we read of St. Mary's complaint to Jesus for giving them a scare, by `getting lost'at the Temple:

"His mother said to him, “Son, why have you treated us like this? Your father and I have been anxiously searching for you.”

We see Jesus addressing Mary as `woman' on two occasions viz. At the wedding of Cana and on the Cross (Jn 2:4 and Jn 19:27).

We do not see any occasion in the Gospels where Jesus directly addresses St. Joseph. He, however, addresses God the Father as Abba (Mk 14:36).

Be that as it may, I am eager to know how Jesus addressed St. Joseph. Do the teachings of Catholic Church mention the possibility of Jesus having addressed St. Joseph as Abba?

  • 1
    Keep in mind that Jesus teaches & shows us the way to follow the commandments and certainly He exemplify "Honor thy father & mother" by being meek & humble of heart.Plus He most certainly exemplify the expression of love tenderly by calling Mary & Joseph "immah & abba" dearly. Jul 1, 2019 at 18:10

4 Answers 4


According to Catholicism, How would Jesus have addressed St. Joseph?

Neither the Scriptures nor tradition provides any record of Jesus addressing Joseph in any way, and the only recorded uses of “Father” by Jesus are in reference to God the Father. Jesus spoke of God the Father as “My Father” and He spoke to others about God as “your Father” but nowhere in the Bible is there a record of Jesus addressing His earthly father with the title of “father.”

This question remains somewhat speculative in the absence of any historical data. Nevertheless less, we can believe that Jesus would have called Joseph simply father (abba).

Since the Bible does not answer this question, the only thing we can do is to use reasoning from the Scriptures to consider how Jesus might have addressed Joseph.

They said, “Is this not Jesus, the son of Joseph, whose father and mother we know? John 6: 42

Philip found Nathanael and told him, “We have found the one Moses wrote about in the Law, and about whom the prophets also wrote—Jesus of Nazareth, the son of Joseph.” John 4: 45

Now Jesus himself was about thirty years old when he began his ministry. He was the son, so it was thought, of Joseph, the son of Heli. Luke 3: 23

What we do know is that Jesus was a loving, obedient and docile son of Joseph and Mary.

Then he went down to Nazareth with them and was obedient to them. But his mother treasured all these things in her heart. And Jesus grew in wisdom and stature, and in favor with God and man. Luke 2: 51 & 52

Jesus obviously never sinned against any of the commandments and as such would have honour Joseph with loving respect even though he was the foster father of the Son of God. St. Joseph nevertheless was the legal father of Jesus.

St. Joseph, pray for us.

Foster father of the Son of God, pray for us.

Head of the Holy Family, pray for us.

Litany of St. Joseph

No other term than “abba” makes sense in line with Catholic devotion, tradition and hermeneutics.

Although not a Catholic source, author Sherri Abbott makes a good article that suggests that Our Lord did in fact call St. Joseph: father. The Holy Family set the example for us to follow in our own lives.

Did Jesus Call Joseph “Father?”


How would Jesus have addressed St. Joseph?


Jesus by being humble and meek of heart and grew-up in an atmosphere of love and prayer would certainly be a loving child. Joseph and Mary since Jesus emptied himself will have to learn the ways of man thru his parents guidance. Since Jesus spoke Aramaic, whatever the child in his time accustom to call their father & mother, Jesus would also call their parents the same way logically to embraced the Jewish customs of respect.

The Aramaic term for father is אבא (abba).

Here is a good article relating the aramaic, hebrew and arabic of Father & Mother.

immah Interesting etymology. Something similar happened in Hebrew and some of the other Semitic languages. The Hebrew word for mother is emm, the Aramaic word is immah, and the Arabic word is umm. The liturgical word amen, which at its core means “confirmation, support”, is derived from the words for “mother”.

"Av is Hebrew for father. Abba is Aramaic for father. Ab is Arabic for father. I know that P and B are considered pretty much the same in historical linguistics, so we’re not too far here from papa, pappas, and the like. [The only difference between [p] and [b] is that we vibrate our vocal cords when pronouncing the latter. –RB] The noun abbot, referring to the Christian religious authority, comes from Aramaic abba."

Mothers and Fathers in European and Semitic Languages

Jesus no doubt even without the Catholic Church officially entered in Catechism how He called Joseph and Mary certainly by virtue of the fourth commandment, Jesus would call them "Abba & Imma" lovingly and tenderly with the highest respect.


You've mentioned this example;

At Luke 2:48 we read of St. Mary's complaint to Jesus for giving them a scare, by `getting lost'at the Temple:

"His mother said to him, “Son, why have you treated us like this? Your father and I have been anxiously searching for you.”

Others or perhaps most Christians interpreted this as Joseph and Mary is at fault, but let us not forget that Mary is "full of grace" already and still growing in virtues while in the mystery of "Finding Jesus in the Temple", the gospel describes Jesus still need to grow in "wisdom and stature" meaning not yet "full of wisdom". That's why Jesus eagerness to do His mission troubled the heart of Mary and Joseph because he was too young to start His redemptive mission.

Lastly, you also stated this example:

We see Jesus addressing Mary as `woman' on two occasions viz. At the wedding of Cana and on the Cross (Jn 2:4 and Jn 19:27).

St. John gospel mentioned Jesus calling Mary as the Woman instead of the aramaic word for mother "immah" is not really hard to comprehend as the mystery in the "Wedding at Cana" marked the start of Jesus Redemptive Mission and He pointed out the role of Mary in the Divine Plan of God by calling Her "Woman" in relation to God's Holy Decree in Genesis 3:15.

And I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your offspring[a] and hers; he will crush[b] your head, and you will strike his heel.”

The Wedding at Cana signifies by the word of Jesus to Mary calling Her "Woman", means the battle had begun.And the other instance is At the Foot of the Cross were Jesus gave us His greatest gift to humanity, the means of salvation of mankind that encompasses the Wisdom of God after He finished the work of redemption. The Salvation of all the Redeemed will be "entrusted" to the Woman just like the Abba Father "entrusted" Jesus His only begotten Son to Mary the Woman in John 19:27 to form & accompany all the redeemed to become the perfect image of Jesus Christ by embracing the "Way of the Cross".

"Woman behold your son, Son behold your Mother"

  • Nice answer, if I do say so.
    – Ken Graham
    Jul 1, 2019 at 20:42
  • at last...thanks Ken.Gbu Jul 1, 2019 at 23:12

I do not know if you have done this, but it is unfortunately common to read the Bible through the glasses of modern language and culture. This is too often a mistake.

From Frederic W. Farrar,1 The Life of Christ (Dutton, New York, 1893) concerning John 2:4we read:

"Woman, what have I to do with thee?" The words at first sound harsh, and almost repellent in their roughness and brevity; but that is the fault partly of our version, partly of our associations. He does not call her "mother," because, in circumstances such as these, she was His mother no longer; but the address "Woman" was so respectful that it might be, and was, addressed to the queenliest; and so gentle that it might be, and was, addressed at the tenderest moments to the most fondly loved.

So, just to properly cage that particular gator in the room: It would be inappropriate to assume he might have referred to his earthly father as "dude."2

Reflecting on the respect described by Farrar, I believe there are two considerations about which I am unaware of any commentary.

  1. Mary held (and holds) a relationship with Jesus that Joseph never did or will. She was literally Jesus' mother, while Joseph was only Jesus' adoptive father. In that regard, Mary could quite literally be considered "queenly" and deserving of the considerable respect Farrar refers to. If this be the case, then it would be understandable for Jesus to refer to Joseph by the ancient Hebrew word for "father."

  2. Jesus may simply have been very respectful as a child. It is my opinion that this is not outside His character as demonstrated in scripture. If this is the case, then Joseph would have been referred to by the ancient Hebrew equivalent of "sir."

Favoring Farrar's observation that "...in circumstances such as these, she was His mother no longer," I would consider an honorific like "sir" to be the more likely choice.

1I realize Farrar was Anglican and therefore not a Catholic church Father, but his point is so relevant that I felt the answer justified.

2I'm not suggesting you were thinking this. I'm simply closing my point about how we can sometimes be trapped in scriptural interpretation by our own culture and language. This alone would be enough to justify reading scripture in prayer and by the Holy Ghost.


"Joseph, son of David" is how "the Angel of the Lord"* addressed him in Matt. 1:20.

*traditionally understood to be St. Gabriel

Angels are messengers / ambassadors of God, and it would be inconceivable that such an angel would address St. Joseph differently than how God (=Jesus) wanted him to address him.

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    How does this answer the question as asked: How would Jesus have addressed St. Joseph?
    – Ken Graham
    Jul 1, 2019 at 20:40
  • @KenGraham God addressed him that way via an angel; Jesus is God; therefore, Jesus addressed him that way.
    – Geremia
    Jul 2, 2019 at 2:01
  • @Geremia Jesus came as a man and live fully as a man. Therefore he will addressed St.Joseph like any child growing up in his father's care. Jesus definitely will not addressed St.Joseph behaving like a God but as a submissive,respectful and loving child. So, Jesus will call him Abba. Jul 2, 2019 at 13:29
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    This makes no sense whatsoever. Would you ever expect "the Angel of the Lord" to have called him "abba"? Would you also argue that Jesus referred to Mary as “Greetings, you who are highly favored! The Lord is with you.”?
    – luchonacho
    Jul 4, 2019 at 10:50
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    It is quite common for people in the Middle East to thus refer to their mothers and daughters, wives and young ladies as “woman”. It is their cultural heritage. Their fathers are still called father in this same cultural background.
    – Ken Graham
    Jul 5, 2019 at 10:38

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