In the Bible, Joseph is described as a carpenter and a husband to Mary. He is not mentioned when Jesus started His ministry, but he was there when Jesus was born, and when they traveled as a family to Jerusalem for the Feast of Passover when Jesus was 12. That said, how old was he was Jesus was born? Let’s find out below.
Joseph was probably in his early 20s. Jewish laws and tradition recommend that a man gets married at 18 and not remain single as it’s seen as a curse. In the Bible, Joseph’s age during the birth of Jesus is not mentioned. However, Mary’s life can provide insights to help answer this question and point to Joseph’s age.
Betrothal According To Jewish Tradition
To better understand Joseph’s age when he was with Mary, let’s look at what betrothal means. In Jewish tradition, the parents discuss marriage when the children are still infants. The parents on both sides would formally agree that a girl would marry a certain boy when she was of the right age. This ensures that when the children are growing up, they have an idea of who they will eventually end up with.
So, how old should the children be for the parents to consider them ready for marriage? The acceptable age for a girl would be postmenstrual when she’s healthy and able to conceive. And for the boy, the right age for marriage is after adolescence, when he can take care of a family.
This would mean Joseph was an adult, probably in his early 20s. In fact, in the Bible, Joseph is referred to as a man, implying he is not an old man. Besides, adulthood in the Bible begins when a person is 20 (Numbers 14: 26 – 35, Leviticus 27: 4 – 7 and Exodus 30: 14).
While a proper marriage age can vary, it must fall within the bounds of scripturally proper conduct. That means, by the time the parents give their blessings, Mary and Joseph must have reached the maturity necessary for intimacy and childbearing.
Joseph Was In His Youth
When angel Gabriel told Mary that God had chosen her to bear a son who was to be called Jesus, she was still a virgin (Luke 1:30-34). In fact, Mary and Joseph consummated their marriage after the birth of Jesus (Matthew 1:24-25). In Jewish tradition, girls were expected to get married while still virgins because intercourse was considered a sacred act reserved for marriage. The minimum age for marriage under the Jewish law for girls is 12.
The conception of Jesus was also miraculous in that Mary was a virgin. In this context, the word virgin implies a young lady who has menstruated but has not had sexual intercourse.
Joseph would not have agreed to marry Mary if she hadn’t reached puberty or the legal age for marriage according to Jewish laws. Additionally, the Bible states that Mary was betrothed to Joseph, which means they were considered married even though the ceremony and consummation would occur years later.
The fact that they both agreed to live as husband and wife indicates that they were of legal age to get married. It also points to Joseph being independent, a character associated with adulthood. Jewish tradition considers an adult to be someone aged 20 years and above. As a result, Joseph would have been in his early 20s by the time he was getting married to Mary, However, Mary must have been a teenager as was the custom.
Understanding the cultural context of Jewish society can also point to Joseph’s age at the time of Jesus’ birth. Men in that society married in their early 20s to ensure the continuity of the family line. Society itself encouraged and celebrated early marriages. So, to keep up with Jewish culture and traditions, Joseph would have been required to marry in his late teens or early 20s.
Mary’s age can also help determine how old Joseph was when Jesus was born. Israelite women got married when they were teenagers to help maximize their childbearing age. Young girls were also expected to bear many children to ensure the survival of the family lineage. Besides, early marriage was a way to prevent sexual misconduct and pregnancy out of wedlock, which was seen to bring shame to the family’s name.
While Mary could have been a teenager when Jesus was born, Joseph was probably a few years older. Despite being young, Joseph was spiritually mature and of strong faith, which is why he accepted Mary’s conception through the Holy Spirit.
Joseph Was a Skilled Carpenter
There is evidence from the scripture that Joseph was a carpenter and he taught the trade to Jesus (Mark 6:3 and Matthew 13:55). This occupation is labor intensive and requires physical fitness as well as stamina. A carpenter often has to stand for long periods and lift heavy objects. Since carpentry is physically demanding, Joseph would not have been an elderly man.
Besides, carpentry is a skill that takes time to master. In Jewish tradition, a young man was expected to study and devote part of his day working with his father to learn a trade that would earn him a living in the future. This tradition would explain why both Joseph and Jesus were carpenters.
So, if Joseph were indeed old when Jesus was born, he would not have been able to succeed in his career and become a dependable provider to his family. Also. he wouldn’t have been able to teach Jesus various carpentry skills. Besides, it’s only a strong, healthy man who would have been able to flee to various places to protect himself and his young family (Matthew 2:13-19).
The Bible does not mention Joseph’s age when Jesus was born. However, evidence shows he could have been in his early 20s. According to Jewish culture and religious laws, Joseph was considered an “adult” at that age and could marry and start a family.