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What ever happened to Joseph, Jesus’ stepfather?

WHAT EVER HAPPENED TO JOSEPH, JESUS’ STEPFATHER?

by Shawn Brasseaux

Honestly, we do not know how Joseph’s life ended. Although his name appears in 16 verses, the Bible says little about him as an individual. Here are the few established facts.

HE LIVED IN NAZARETH (NORTHERN ISRAEL)

  • Luke 2:39: “And when they had performed all things according to the law of the Lord, they returned into Galilee, to their own city Nazareth.”

HE WAS SON OF JACOB, SON-IN-LAW OF HELI

  • Matthew 1:16: “And Jacob begat Joseph the husband of Mary, of whom was born Jesus, who is called Christ.”
  • Luke 3:23: “And Jesus himself began to be about thirty years of age, being (as was supposed) the son of Joseph, which was the son of Heli,….” (Heli was Mary’s father, so Joseph was Heli’s son in the sense of son-in-law.)

HE WAS A BELIEVER IN ISRAEL’S GOD; MARRIED JESUS’ MOTHER, MARY; AND TOOK GOOD CARE OF HER AND YOUNG JESUS

  • Matthew 1:16: “And Jacob begat Joseph the husband of Mary, of whom was born Jesus, who is called Christ.”
  • Matthew 1:18: “Now the birth of Jesus Christ was on this wise: When as his mother Mary was espoused to Joseph, before they came together, she was found with child of the Holy Ghost.”
  • Matthew 1:19: “Then Joseph her husband, being a just man, and not willing to make her a public example, was minded to put her away privily.”
  • Matthew 1:24: “Then Joseph being raised from sleep did as the angel of the Lord had bidden him, and took unto him his wife:….”
  • Luke 2:16: “And they came with haste, and found Mary, and Joseph, and the babe lying in a manger.”
  • Matthew 2:13: “And when they were departed, behold, the angel of the Lord appeareth to Joseph in a dream, saying, Arise, and take the young child and his mother, and flee into Egypt, and be thou there until I bring thee word: for Herod will seek the young child to destroy him.”
  • Matthew 2:19: “But when Herod was dead, behold, an angel of the Lord appeareth in a dream to Joseph in Egypt,….”
  • Luke 2:33: “And Joseph and his mother marvelled at those things which were spoken of him.”
  • Luke 2:43: “And when they had fulfilled the days, as they returned, the child Jesus tarried behind in Jerusalem; and Joseph and his mother knew not of it.”

HE WAS A SON OF DAVID (LEGAL HEIR TO DAVID’S THRONE)

  • Matthew 1:20: “But while he thought on these things, behold, the angel of the Lord appeared unto him in a dream, saying, Joseph, thou son of David, fear not to take unto thee Mary thy wife: for that which is conceived in her is of the Holy Ghost.”
  • Luke 1:27: “To a virgin espoused to a man whose name was Joseph, of the house of David; and the virgin’s name was Mary.”
  • Luke 2:4: “And Joseph also went up from Galilee, out of the city of Nazareth, into Judaea, unto the city of David, which is called Bethlehem; (because he was of the house and lineage of David: )….”

HE WAS A CARPENTER, AND FATHERED SEVERAL BIOLOGICAL CHILDREN WITH MARY AFTER JESUS’ BIRTH

  • Matthew 13:55-56 is stated concerning Jesus: “[55] Is not this the carpenter’s son? is not his mother called Mary? and his brethren, James, and Joses, and Simon, and Judas? [56] And his sisters, are they not all with us? Whence then hath this man all these things?”
  • Mark 6:3 is also stated concerning Jesus: “Is not this the carpenter, the son of Mary, the brother of James, and Joses, and of Juda, and Simon? and are not his sisters here with us? And they were offended at him.”

HIS NAME AS PART OF JESUS’ EPITHET
A few verses about Joseph are his name appearing as a title of Jesus:

  • Luke 4:22: “And all bare him witness, and wondered at the gracious words which proceeded out of his mouth. And they said, Is not this Joseph’s son?”
  • John 1:45: “Philip findeth Nathanael, and saith unto him, We have found him, of whom Moses in the law, and the prophets, did write, Jesus of Nazareth, the son of Joseph.”
  • John 6:42: “And they said, Is not this Jesus, the son of Joseph, whose father and mother we know? how is it then that he saith, I came down from heaven?”

HIS LATTER YEARS

As we saw, Joseph was quite active during Jesus’ childhood (Matthew chapters 1 and 2, Luke chapters 1 and 2). He was a good provider and guardian of young Jesus. However, he himself never appears during Jesus’ adulthood and earthly ministry. His name is mentioned in passing, or as a title of Jesus, but his physical absence in key passages is surely striking. For example, Mary and her children appear in Matthew 12:46-50, she is present at Calvary’s cross in John 19:25-27, but there is nothing about Joseph. She last appears in the Bible in Acts 1:14—and again, without Joseph.

What could explain Joseph’s absence in these cases? While not explicitly stated in Scripture, one common idea is that he died during the 18-year period between Luke 2:41-52 (Jesus age 12) and Luke 3:23 (Jesus around age 30). The last historical reference to Joseph is when Jesus was 12 years old. Beyond this, he is not found in the Scriptural record.

How old was Joseph? It is frequently assumed he was much older than Mary—even perhaps married before with children. This “advanced age” idea is then used to bolster the death explanation described in our earlier remarks. However, such a position may not be warranted, as Joseph may have simply died at a young age. In this culture and time, Jewish boys married at ages 15-18; girls were engaged around 13-15 years old and were married in about a year. These were likely the ages of Joseph and Mary when we first meet them in Matthew chapter 1 and Luke chapter 2. Using this information, we can estimate they would have been near age 50 at the time of Jesus’ crucifixion. This is a cultural assessment, not explicitly stated in Scripture either.

One final note is worth our consideration. Joseph may have very well been alive throughout Christ’s earthly ministry and beyond. The Holy Spirit may have intentionally left out Joseph—not because he was deceased—but because He was concerned with underscoring Jesus’ Heavenly Father (God) as opposed to His earthly (legal) father.

Also see:
» What is the real “Immaculate Conception?”
» Did little boy Jesus know He was going to die on Calvary?
» Did Mary, Jesus’ mother, have a sister also named Mary?