Was St. Joseph young or an old man when he was betrothed to Mary? Personal insight


I was watching Pure Life, and Jason Evert made a convincing argument that when Joseph was betrothed to Mary, he was probably 18 yrs old at the time. The idea or the belief that Joseph was an old man, or a widower would make it almost impossible for them to combat the harsh environment of ancient Israel.

Think about it for once. Do you suppose an 65 or 70 yrs old man could be able to pull on his own with the donkey, with Mary on it as they journey to Egypt? I’m convinced of Jason Evert position that Joseph was not old as some may believe. I believe that Joseph was no more than 18 yrs of age, the average age of any Jewish man at the time to marry. Another factor, that is convincing is that Joseph is a carpenter. He build houses. I don’t think an old man is physically capable of taking a lot of physical labor that carpenters do.


maybe, there is no scriptural basis either way, although a stong tradition that Joseph was an old man, but anything ovr 50 could have been considered old at that time.


The earliest traditons state he was a widower, hence the (step-) brothers of the Lord (Jerome’s explanation of cousins originates with him).

Manny, you are in Iraq, no? Take a look at some those old men there before you write the eldery off in that harsh evironment.

Remember, Moses, according to the Bible (Deut. 34.7) Although Moses was one hundred and twenty years old when he died, his eye was not dim, nor his vigor abated." By then the burning bush was 40 years in the past. Not bad for an old guy.:thumbsup:



My friends went to buy a car. The salesman offered them a buick which had been owned by *an elderly couple in their 50’s. *[My friends are in their 70’s :smiley: ]


Life expectancy was much less 2000 years ago.

40 would have been considered old. 70 would have been considered ancient.:wink:


We just don’t know. But seems to me that given the times he could have been 30 and still have been widowed with five or six kids. The traditional story actually makes him ninety having been widowed after fifty years of marriage and in need of someone to take care of him. The story is that the local elders were also looking for a just man to marry Mary and selected Joseph. The clear implication is that they understood Mary was consecrated to God and selected someone with the means to care for her that would not mind the chastity so much. The Catholic Encyclopedia calls this story unreliable and without authority, but many hold to it nonetheless.


Other ancient traditions maintain that St. Joseph, like Mary, was a virgin and remained so all his life. This detail, like his age, is a matter in which the historical record is inconclusive amd the Church has not defined a teaching. So we don’t know for certain.


Yes Jerome (of “I praise marriage, but it is because they give me virgins” fame (Letter XXII to Eustochium, section 20)) came up with that one. It has a certain elegance about it, but unfortunately it doesn’t predate Jerome, although since he’s ancient, it’s ancient now.

All the early records state he was a widow (such was the tradition of Palestine, Jerome made his up and had nothing to refer to, except his own harmonizing of the data in scripture).


the bible, psalms I think, says 70 is the natural lifespan of a man, 80 if he is very strong and healthy


I haven’t done this Bible study myself, but was told by someone I respect that within the Bible, young men have visions and old men have dreams.

Since Joseph was visited by the angel in a dream, his conclusion is that this is scriptural support that Joseph was not a young man.


Right you are:


Joel 2:28 And it shall come to pass afterward, that I will pour out my spirit upon all flesh; and your sons and your daughters shall prophesy, your old men shall dream dreams, your young men shall see visions

and NT

Acts 2:16 but this is that which hath been spoken by the prophet Joel;

17 And it shall be in the last days, saith God, I will pour forth of my Spirit upon all flesh: And your sons and your daughters shall prophesy, And your young men shall see visions, And your old men shall dream dreams:


Do we know when St. Joseph died? I find it interesting that (if I remember correctly) after Jesus’ childhood, we don’t hear of St. Joseph anymore. That also partially explains the lack of emphasis given to him by the early Church…

Prayers and petitions,


That makes sense, Manny. Another point to consider, and from a religious pov for that matter, why would god put mary in the care of a very old man?


^ on the second thought, an old & impotent husband is required to keep mary’s perpetual virginity. :smiley:


While I do believe the bible, I’d be more inclined to lean to medicine when determining life expectancies.

In many parts of Africa today life expectancy is still under 45 years. So sad.


^ and where was joseph when jesus was hanging on the cross? six feet under?

looks like he was old afterall!


:thumbsup: Theology for wiseguys


NO, NO, NO!!!

In a cave! Joseph would be in a cave!


I am. I don’t believe Joseph was 50 yrs old. I believe he was either 18-20 yrs old. Second, why would you rely on Evangelium of James as part of the tradition, and this book is not even in the Gospel.


All the oldest traditions agree with the Protoevanglion (including second century bishops claiming descent from St. Joseph).

This wouldn’t be a big issue, except that the 19-20 age Joseph is a product of “scholars” second guessing 2000 years later. They do similar things, for instance, questioning what REALLY happened in the Gospels miracles, was Christ REALLY born in Bethlehem, was Mary REALLY a VIrgin, etc.

Even St. Jerome’s explanation I don’t believe posits a young Joseph.

DISCLAIMER: The views and opinions expressed in these forums do not necessarily reflect those of Catholic Answers. For official apologetics resources please visit www.catholic.com.