Skip to main content

Malcolm M. Sedam’s "Joseph"

Poetry became my passion after I fell in love with Walter de la Mare's "Silver" in Mrs. Edna Pickett's sophomore English class circa 1962.

Introduction and Text of "Joseph"

Malcolm M. Sedam's poem "Joseph" from The Man in Motion plays out in fifteen free-verse lines. The speaker poses as the Biblical character of Joseph, husband of Mary, Mother of Jesus, in order to press his opinion that even though the virgin birth story is likely only a fable, the fact that Joseph actually attended upon the rearing of the child Jesus, Joseph, not God (or god as this speaker prefers), is the real father of Jesus—strangely referred to as "Christ" instead to the more secularized name, which the speaker would seem to prefer.

This speaker's position is likely that of an agnostic, rather than an atheist, even though he appears to enjoy what he deems the task of "myth busting" or iconoclasm. A heaping helping of hubris runs strongly through the veins of such a one who would myth-bust religious narrations about which they seem to possess little understanding. But such is the postmodernist mindset, ever a wonder unto itself.

Joseph

Some things were never explained
even to me, and of course
they would tell it his way
but I believed in her
because I chose to believe
and you may be sure of this:
A man's biological role is small
but a god's can be no more
that it was I who was always there
to feed him, to clothe him
to teach him, and nurture his growth—
discount those foolish rumors
that bred on holy seed
for truly I say unto you:
I was the father of Christ.

Reading of "Joseph"

Commentary

The speaker of Malcolm M. Sedam's "Joseph," an iconoclastic nightmare spitting the face of religious myth, is dramatizing his iconoclasm as he feigns speaking for the Biblical wise man, disavowing the feasibility of virgin birth,

First Movement: Cosmic Drama Prophesied in Earlier Scripture

Some things were never explained
even to me, and of course
they would tell it his way
but I believed in her
because I chose to believe
and you may be sure of this:

The following vitally significant lines from the Gospel of St. Matthew 1:19-20 must be recognized as the reader encounters this poem:

Then Joseph her husband, being a just man not willing to make her a publick example, was minded to put her away privily.

But while he thought on these things, behold, the angel of the Lord appeared unto him in a dream, saying, Joseph, thou son of David, fear not to take unto thee Mary thy wife: for that which is conceived in her is of the Holy Ghost.

In that same dream, the angel further reminded Joseph that these cosmic events had, indeed, already been revealed in prophecy, and about which Joseph himself had been aware: "Behold, a virgin shall be with child, and shall bring forth a son." Thus, Joseph was well aware of his role in the cosmic drama featuring the coming of the messiah, and he acted according to that role.

To the secular, postmodernist mind, the pseudo-science of Darwinian principles led to the inability to appreciate or even understand the spiritual truths explicated in scriptural texts. Materialism's chokehold on the mental processes of the postmodernist mind thus rendered the idea of virgin birth outside the real of "reason."

Not only was the concept of virgin birth therefore considered not subject to debate, but it was however subjected to ridicule and scorn.

Joseph would find such claims attributed to him as preposterous, likely wondering if the one uttering such nonsense could even read. The ancient man of wisdom could never have exclaimed, "Some things were never explained to me," because the angel, in fact, did explain everything to him.

The notion that Joseph believed Mary's condition was divinely ordained because he "chose" to believe it, not because it was true, is also preposterous. Joseph believed the virgin would give birth because an angel had explained the situation to him, and he had already been aware that the cosmic drama had been prophesied in earlier scripture.

Second Movement: Postmodern Misunderstanding of Biblical Lore

A man's biological role is small
but a god's can be no more
that it was I who was always there
to feed him, to clothe him
to teach him, and nurture his growth—
discount those foolish rumors
that bred on holy seed
for truly I say unto you:
I was the father of Christ.

This self-professed iconoclastic speaker, attempting to pose as Joseph, remains blinded and oblivious to scriptural myth interpretation, and he is thus led astray by his own testosterone. Thus, he fashions fallacious claims that exude a false modest, as he furthermore engages in unmitigated prevarication.

The speaker asserts, "A man's biological role is small / but a god's can be no more." If God's role can be no more than a man's, then it is likely that a man created the universe, and rings in the cosmos, and causes the seasons to appear on time, and the sun and moon to move with a regularity that no human being can even begin to understand. It takes an humongous load of hubris to assert that God and man's influence on creation are the same!

And then this narrow-minded provincially sheltered speaker asserts in the final lines that he was always there: "I who was always there." This "I" who fed him (Jesus), clothed him, taught him, nurtured his growth constitutes the vanity of inserting himself as the "I, I, I" — up to his final farcical claim, "I was the father of Christ."

The speaker is confident that he has it figured out that through both nature and nurture, Joseph is repudiating traditional scripture by asserting his fatherhood of "Christ." For this speaker, biology surpasses spirituality, physical reality outweighs mystical reality, and solipsism eclipses humility.

Such hubris necessarily accompanies the task of the myth-buster, who skims only the surface of narration, confusing science with junk science, and theology with theocracy. Getting the deeper drilling wrong never enters the purview of the jack-hammer.

Surely, Joseph, the wise man of the Bible, would find it laughable, even if in a sad way, that anyone could ever be so ego-induced by materialism and false science along with masculine hormones as to assert such nonsense by characterizing the events of Joseph’s life in such a limited fashion.

© 2021 Linda Sue Grimes

Related Articles