Mary and Joseph’s love story in the Bible is one of the most charming and intricate. When Mary’s pregnancy was discovered, the couple were already engaged and planning their wedding. Being a young man and confused amongst the chaos, Joseph secretly planned to divorce Mary. But how old was the couple when they got married?
The Bible doesn’t specify Mary or Joseph's precise age at when they got married. However, we can assume, based on Jewish culture and the age at which men and women were considered ready to marry. In Jewish culture, men were expected to marry and settle down by age 18. For girls, they were usually engaged between 12 and 15 and married at 15 or 16. The Rabbinic traditional laws said that men must marry by 18, and anyone over that age who wasn’t married was considered cursed, and courts had the authority to force them to marry. However, Joseph was thought to be between 18 and 20 when he married Mary.
What does the Bible say about their ages when got married?
The Bible doesn’t sa Joseph or Mary’s exact age when they got married. It doesn’t say if they were young or old, and the Bible doesn’t dwell on their ages. Instead, it focuses on the marriage and betrothal that took place between Maryy and Joseph. In Matthew 1:18-22, we read that Mary, Jesus’ mother, was betrothed to Joseph, but her pregnancy was discovered before their marriage. It also says that Joseph was a law-abiding citizen and didn’t want to disgrace Mary publicly, so he decided to divorce her quietly.
However, in verse 20, we learn that an angel came to Joseph in a dream, telling him not to be afraid to marry Mary because she conceived the Holy Spirit. She will give birth to Jesus, who will save His people from their sins. Many theologians have come up with different ways to try and decode this mystery. One example is Jesus’ brothers, presumably from Joseph’s previous marriage. This shows that Josephy may have been an older man, possibly in his thirties, but no scripture says Joseph was previously married.
During that time, it was customary for a man to be older than the woman he was marrying, just as today. The fact that the Bible doesn’t mention their ages show that it wasn’t relevant, or else it would’ve been shared. Any information about Joseph’s age is presumptuous because there’s no scriptural evidence, and the practices are rooted in Jewish cultural practices at the time.
What Christian traditions hint at their ages?
Several speculations about Mary and Joseph’s age are rooted in Christian traditions. One of the traditions most discussed by commentators is that of Jesus’ half-siblings. Matthew 13:55 lists Jesus’ brothers as Simon, James, Joseph, and Judas, asking if Jesus was the carpenter’s son and his mother’s name was Mary. Scholars have assumed that Mary was Joseph’s second wife and Joseph was previously married, where this half-sibling was born within the age gap. They’ve used this age gap to show that Joseph was an older man, possibly in his 80s or 90s, when he married Mary.
However, these claims are baseless, and there’s no biblical evidence to back it up. Additionally, Joseph’s absence from Jesus’ adult life is also used to assume that Joseph had died because of his age, meaning he was older, as he was last seen when they took Jesus to the temple when he was 12 years old. Luke 2:42-46 tells us that when Jesus was 12, He and His parents went to Jerusalem after the feast. When they were on their way back, Jesus stayed behind in Jerusalem, but His parents didn’t know. Still, they searched for Him among their acquaintances and kinfolk.
When they couldn’t find Him, they went back to Jerusalem to find Him. After three days, they found Him in the temple with the teachers, listening and asking questions. Joseph wasn’t there during Jesus’ crucifixion, and Jesus instructed His disciples to care for His mother, which wouldn’t have happened had Joseph been around. However, this doesn’t mean he was dead due to old age, as one can die from multiple other causes. So, even these Christian traditions don’t have scriptural evidence to prove the truth regarding Joseph’s age.
Why do scholars think Joseph was 90 when he married Mary?
Joseph’s age when he married Mary has been the topic of heated debates amongst theologians and scholars for years. Though the Bible doesn’t say Joseph’s age when the couple got married, many theories have been advanced regarding Joseph’s age, and one that’s popular is that Joseph was 90 when he married Mary. This theory has been brought up by Catholic scholars who thought Joseph had been previously married when he had Jesus’ half-siblings, and when his wife died, he was presented with Mary as his wife.
It’s assumed that Joseph spent the first 40 years of his life as a single man and only married at 40. Then, he spent 49 years with his first wife before she died. Then, priests gave Mary to Joseph for marriage, and he was told to keep her until the right time for their marriage to happen. It’s assumed that when they got married, Joseph was 90. This idea aligns with the Catholic doctrine that Mary was a virgin even after Jesus’ birth, but there’s no scriptural evidence.
In Matthew 1:23-25, the Bible says that a virgin will have a child, specifically a son, that will be called Emmanuel, interpreted as God with us. Then Joseph, being woken up, did as the angel told him and took Mary as his wife. Then, she had her son, whom they named Jesus. This supports the idea that Mary, like other wives, performed her marital obligation of consummating the marriage with Joseph, but after Jesus’ birth, so she didn’t stay a virgin after Christ’s birth. There’s no mention of parental involvement in Mary and Joseph’s marriage, as per the culture at the time.
The Jewish culture didn’t see parental acceptance as valid. The marriage was between two people, and the emphasis was placed on choosing the right wife for yourself. With this information, we can conclude that Joseph was between 18 and 20 when he and Mary married. However, it should be noted that these are mere assumptions with no scriptural backing.