We do not hear much about Joseph in the Bible other than that he was Mary’s husband and a carpenter born in the lineage of King David. His age and death are not mentioned anywhere in the Bible. So, many people can’t help but wonder, how old was Joseph when Jesus was born?
The answer to this question is that in the Bible, there is no record of Joseph’s age when Jesus was born.
However, after an in-depth analysis of the events, churches, historians, and scholars have speculated about how old Joseph was when Jesus was born. This article attempts to answer how old Joseph was when Jesus was born. Read on to learn whether the Bible confirms Joseph’s age when Jesus was born.
Does the Bible confirm how old Joseph was when Jesus was born?
The Bible does not confirm how old Joseph was when Jesus was born. All that the Bible mentions about Joseph is that he is a carpenter from Nazareth in Galilee, the birthplace of King David. He is a descendant of King David.
Joseph is obedient and does not question God when tasked to care for Mary and his son Jesus who the Holy Spirit conceives. All along, the Bible mentions nothing about Joseph’s age.
Do religious scholars say how old Joseph was when Jesus was born?
Religious scholars are torn between an old and a youthful Joseph. According to the Eastern churches (Orthodox Church), at the time he married Virgin Mary, Joseph was an older man. Per their narrative, Joseph had another wife, with whom he had several children before marrying Mary. It was after his first wife’s death that Joseph decided to marry Mary. Therefore, the children Joseph had with his first wife are considered to be Jesus’s step-siblings.
This argument is drawn from the 6th century, The History of Joseph the Carpenter. According to the text, although Joseph was old, he had youthful vigor, “At length, by increasing years, the old man arrived at a very advanced age. He did not, however, labor under any bodily weakness, had his sight failed, nor had any tooth perished from his mouth. In mind also, for the whole time of his life, he never wandered; but like a boy, he always in his business displayed youthful vigor, and his limbs remained unimpaired and free from all pain. His life, then, amounted to one hundred and eleven years, his old age being prolonged to the utmost limit.”
Conversely, many biblical historians and scholars believe Joseph was a young man when Jesus was born. According to the International Marian Research Institute, Joseph and Mary were both in their late teens when Jesus was born, around eighteen and sixteen, respectively. This argument is based on the fact that, in the history of Jewish culture, people got married in their late teens.
Fulton Sheen, a renowned Catholic priest, suggests that “Joseph was probably a young man, strong, virile, athletic, handsome, chaste, and disciplined, the kind of man one sees … working at a carpenter’s bench … He was not in the evening of life, but in its morning, bubbling over with energy, strength, and controlled passion.”
This line of thought considers the long journeys Joseph and Mary embarked on not long before and after the birth of Jesus. “At that time, Emperor Augustus ordered a census to be taken throughout the Roman Empire. When this first census took place, Quirinius was the governor of Syria. Everyone, then, went to register himself, each to his hometown. Joseph went from the town of Nazareth in Galilee to the town of Bethlehem in Judea, the birthplace of King David. Joseph went there because he was a descendant of David. He went to register with Mary, who was promised marriage to him. She was pregnant, and while they were in Bethlehem, the time came for her to have her baby” Luke 2:1-6. The distance between Nazareth and Bethlehem is approximately 90 miles.
“After they had left, an angel of the Lord appeared in a dream to Joseph and said, Herod will be looking for the child to kill him. So get up, take the child and his mother and escape to Egypt, and stay there until I tell you to leave. Joseph got up, took the child and his mother, and left during the night for Egypt, where he stayed until Herod died” Mathew 2:13-15.
“Every year, the parents of Jesus went to Jerusalem for the Passover Festival. When Jesus was twelve, they went to the festival as usual” Luke 2:41-42. Mary and Joseph travel from Nazareth to Jerusalem for the yearly Passover festival. The distance between the two towns is 91 kilometers.
In these verses, Joseph travels over long distances, which according to Fulton Sheen, could have been hard for an older man.
What do people say how old Joseph was when Jesus was born?
Most people believe that Joseph was a young man when Jesus was born. This perception is most driven by the famous movie Jesus which portrays Joseph as a young man. I have always believed that Joseph was a young man in his early twenties, the age at which most men married in the past and became first-time fathers.
In conclusion, we have no idea how old Joseph was when Jesus was born. Maybe he was an old man, as suggested by the Orthodox Church, or he could have been a young man, as speculated by different historians and scholars. Whatever the truth is, Joseph was just an ordinary man who committed his time and effort to provide for and protect Jesus and his mother, Mary. He had a profound and abiding love for them.
Sheen, F. J. (2010). The World’s First Love. Ignatius Press.
As a devout Christian, I have always been passionate about the Christian faith. This inspired me to pursue a degree in Religious studies and a Masters in Theology in college. I have also been privileged to teach 4 Christian courses in a college and university. Since I am dedicated to spreading the word of God, I am actively involved in the Church. Additionally, I share his word online and cover diverse topics on the Christian faith through my platform. You can read more about me on the about us page.