Erich Lessing

Jesus’ half-brother leads Mary and Joseph toward Bethlehem in this mosaic from the Istanbul church Kariye Djami, or the Church of Christ in Chora. According to the Proto-Gospel of James, when the king decreed that all inhabitants must register, Joseph “saddled his ass and sat [Mary] on it; his son led it and [Joseph] followed.” The Biblical account, however, includes no reference to Joseph’s son: “Joseph also went…to the city of David called Bethlehem…to be registered with Mary” (Luke 2:4–5).

The sleeping figure at left is Joseph, who was reassured by an angel in a dream: “Do not be afraid to take Mary as your wife for the child conceived in her is from the Holy Spirit” (Matthew 1:20).