Did you know that Google offers over 64.6 million results for the question, “How old was Joseph when Jesus was born?” Unfortunately, there isn’t a clear definitive answer in the Bible; however, scholars have made interesting estimates for Joseph’s age when Jesus was born.
There is a lot of speculation as to whether or not Joseph was a younger or older man. Even though his exact age isn’t given, there are a lot of context clues that can be found throughout the Bible to help us formulate an educated approximation.
One of those clues is in Luke. Let’s compare Luke 1:18 and Luke 1:27.
Luke 1:18 says, “Zechariah asked the angel, “How can I be sure of this? I am an old man and my wife is well along in years.”
Luke 1:27 says, “to a virgin pledged to be married to a man named Joseph, a descendant of David. The virgin’s name was Mary.”
Notice in Luke 1:18, Zechariah specifically calls out to his age by referring to himself as an old man. He even categorizes his wife as old by saying that she was well along in years. Yet, in Luke 1:27 Joseph is referred to just as a man – not young but not old.
Joseph takes an active role only in the Gospel of Matthew and the Gospel of Luke. He is not mentioned in Mark and John (only his surname is used in the book of John). Not much else is known of Joseph except that he was reportedly descended from King David and worked as a carpenter. Joseph's death is not recorded in the Bible. He is reported by Luke to still be alive when Jesus was around 12 years old in Luke 2:41-42. Based on the lack of other mentions of him in the biblical accounts of Jesus' adult ministry, it is presumed that he has died by that time.
Despite the “old man” reference used in Luke, many still question Joseph’s age. Based on practices at the time, it is likely that Joseph would have been older than Mary. The fact that Joseph’s parents are never mentioned in conjunction with the marriage arrangements might indicate that he is older and no longer under his parent’s authority. However, to somewhat refute that point, it’s important to note that Mary’s parents are never mentioned, either, yet many still assume that Mary was a teenager when Jesus was born since she was a perpetual virgin. This is another argument that argues Joseph is older because of the idea that he died from older age. But, there are many things that could have caused a young man to die.
Roman Catholics believe that Joseph was older based on Matthew 13:55-56. “Is not this the carpenter’s son? Is not his mother called Mary? And are not his brothers James and Joseph and Simon and Judas? And are not all his sisters with us? Where then did this man get all these things?” If you believe that Joseph had multiple children from a previous marriage, then it could be assumed that he must have been quite a bit older than Mary. Yet, this idea can also be challenged because some men (during that time) had several children by their mid-20s.
Joseph also taught Jesus the skills of carpentry which required a considerable amount of strength and skill – perhaps a skill that took a long time to perfect. The truth is we’ll never really know Joseph’s age when Jesus was born. We’ll never know anything aside from the details the Bible provides. The debate of Joseph’s age and other attributes will always be debated. However, what we do know is:
- - Joseph named Jesus. Matthew 1:25 says, “And knew her not till she had brought forth her firstborn son: and he called his name Jesus.”
- - Joseph’s father was Jacob according to the Apostle Joseph. Jacob was a descendant of King David, the greatest king of Israel.
- - Joseph met Mary in Nazareth. Both the gospel of Matthew and Luke reveal that Mary and Joseph were engaged to be married.
- - Joseph was a skilled laborer of carpentry.
- - Joseph is not mentioned at the cross when Jesus died, but Mary was there.
Joseph was a righteous, compassionate, caring, and obedient man that truly supported and loved his family. Even though we don’t know a lot about Joseph, we know that he was a godly man who followed God.