The love story of Joseph and Mary in the Bible is one of the most intricate and charming. When Mary’s pregnancy was discovered, they were already engaged and planning a wedding. Being a young man and confused amid the chaos, Joseph had secretly intended to divorce Mary. But how old was Joseph when he married Mary?
The Bible does not specify the precise age at which Joseph married Mary. However, we can make assumptions based on Jewish culture and the age at which a man and woman are considered ready to marry. In Jewish culture, a man was expected to marry and settle down by 18. The Rabbinic traditional laws required that men marry by this age, and anyone over that age who was not married was considered cursed, and the courts had the authority to force them to marry. It is thought that Joseph was between 18 and 20 when he married Mary.
If you care to find out the exact age of Joseph when he married Mary and some of the Jewish traditions that could unravel this age mystery, keep reading this article.
Does the Bible say how old Joseph was when he married Mary?
The Bible is silent about the exact age of Joseph when he married Mary. It does not state if Joseph was young or old. It does not dwell on his age but on the betrothal and marriage that was to happen between Joseph and Mary. In the Gospels in Matthew 1:18-19, the Bible says that; This is how the birth of Jesus the Messiah came about. His mother, Mary, was pledged to be married to Joseph, but before they came together, she was found to be pregnant through the Holy Spirit. Because Joseph, her husband, was faithful to the law and did not want to expose her to public disgrace, he decided to divorce her quietly. Nowhere does the Bible mention Joseph’s age.
Many theologians have come up with different ways to try and decipher this mystery. An example is Jesus’ brothers, who are assumed to have been from Joseph’s previous marriage. This shows that Joseph was an older man, maybe in his thirties, but this is all baseless as no scripture says Joseph had been married before. During that time, it was normal for a man to be older than the lady he was marrying, just as in modern-day today. The fact that the Bible does not mention Josephs’s age shows us that it was irrelevant to us or would have been shared. All information about Josephs’s age is presuppositions that do not have scriptural evidence and are rooted in Jewish cultural practices at that time.
What Christian traditions hint at Joseph’s age when he married Mary?
Numerous speculations about Joseph’s age are rooted in Christian traditions. One of the most discussed traditions by commentators is that of Jesus’s half-siblings. Matthew 13:55 says Isn’t this the carpenter’s son? Isn’t his mother’s name Mary, and aren’t his brothers James, Joseph, Simon, and Judas? This goes to say that Jesus had brothers.
Scholars have assumed that Mary was a second wife and Joseph had been in a previous marriage where this half-sibling was born to cover the age gap. They have used this to show that Joseph was an older man, probably in his 80s or 90s, when he married Mary. This is baseless, and there is no scriptural evidence to back it up. Additionally, the absence of Joseph from Jesus’ life as an adult is also used to assume that Joseph had long died because of his age, meaning he was elderly, as he is last seen when they take Jesus to the temple when he was 12 years old as is shared in Luke 2:42-46. When he was twelve, they went to Jerusalem after the custom of the feast. And when they had fulfilled the days, as they returned, the child Jesus tarried behind in Jerusalem; Joseph and his mother knew nothing of it. But they, supposing him to have been in the company, went a day’s journey; and they sought him among their kinsfolk and acquaintance. And when they found him not, they turned back again to Jerusalem, seeking him. And it came to pass that they found him in the temple after three days, sitting amid the teachers, both hearing them and asking them questions.
Again Joseph is absent during Jesus’s crucifixion, and Jesus gives his disciples instructions to take care of His mother, which would not have been the case if Joseph was around. However, this does not mean that he was dead because of age advancement, as one can die from many other causes. So even these Christian traditions do not have any scriptural backing to prove the truth regarding Joseph’s age.
Why do some scholars believe Joseph was 90 years old when he married Mary?
Joseph’s age at the time he married Mary has been the subject of a heated debate amongst scholars and theologians over the years. The Bible does not give any account of Joseph’s age when the two got married. Many theories have been advanced regarding Joseph’s age, and one that is very popular is that Joseph was 90 years of age.
This theory has been advanced by Catholic scholars who believe that Joseph had been in a previous marriage where he bore Jesus’ half-siblings, and when his wife died, he was presented with Virgin Mary to be His wife. It is assumed that he spent the first 40 years of his life single and only married at forty, then he spent 49 years with his first wife before her death. Mary was then given to him for marriage by priests, and he was given instructions to keep Mary until the right time for their marriage to happen. It is assumed that when they officially got married, Joseph was 90 years old. This helps in aligning the Catholic doctrine that Mary remained a virgin even after the birth of Jesus Christ, but there is no scripture to back this.
The Bible only tells us in Matthew 1:23-25 Behold that a virgin shall be with child and shall bring forth a son, and they shall call his name Emmanuel, which is interpreted as God with us. Then Joseph, being raised from sleep, did as the angel of the Lord had bidden him, and took unto him his wife: And knew her not till she had brought forth her firstborn son: and he called his name JESUS. This supports the fact that Mary, Just like other wives, performed her marital obligation of intercourse with Joseph, but after Jesus was born, so she did not remain a virgin after the birth of Christ.
The Bible lacks evidence to support this theory. When Joseph was being instructed to leave Egypt in Matthew 2:13 Now when they had departed, behold, an angel of the Lord appeared to Joseph in a dream, saying, “Arise, take the young Child and His mother, flee to Egypt, and stay there until I bring you word; for Herod will seek the young child to destroy Him. The Bible does not mention any children from Joseph’s previous marriage; the angel only mentions Mary and Jesus.
How old was Joseph when Jesus was born?
The Bible does not clarify Joseph’s age when Jesus was born. Based on the events surrounding the marriage of Joseph and Mary, we can only assume that both were of marriage age. The scriptures remain silent about Mary and Joseph’s parents, and as we know, family is crucial when making marriage decisions. This shows that Joseph was a grown man who was no longer under the roof of his parent’s house and was old enough to make his own decisions. But this does not give his exact age. His age is not known, and we can only guess by speculating.
According to practices in the Jewish culture at the time, a man’s optimal marriage age was 18 years. Commentators, therefore, assume, based on this culture, that Joseph may have been between 18 to 20 years of age at the time he married Mary. All this is fictional and based on assumptions that do not have Biblical evidence, but we are assuming that in this marriage setup, Joseph was older than Mary, who is assumed to have been a teenager at the time.
Can Jewish traditions help in telling Joseph’s age when he married Mary?
The Jewish culture might be the only true guess of how old Joseph might have been when he married Mary, as they were abiding by these cultural traditions at the time. The Jewish culture says that by 18, a man should be married. When children hit puberty, their fourteenth year, they are eligible for marriage in many cases, but the exact age set out by Rabbis is 18 years.
If a man was found to be single by 19 or even 20 years, they were considered cursed. In extreme cases, the courts were allowed to force them into marriage. We see in Matthew 1:18-19 the Bible says that; This is how the birth of Jesus the Messiah came about. His mother, Mary, was pledged to be married to Joseph, but before they came together, she was found to be pregnant through the Holy Spirit. Because Joseph, her husband, was faithful to the law and did not want to expose her to public disgrace, he decided to divorce her quietly.
There is no mention of any parental involvement in the marriage between Joseph and Mary; this is as per the culture at the time. The Jewish culture did not see parental acceptance of marriage as valid. The marriage was between two people, and emphasis was placed on choosing the right wife for oneself. With this rich information, we can conclude that Joseph was between the ages of 18 and 20 when he married Mary. However, it should be noted that these are just assumptions that do not have any scriptural backing.
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