Where was Joseph during Jesus' adulthood?Joseph is mentioned at numerous times during the early childhood of Jesus, but is last mentioned when Jesus was twelve years old. At that age, Jesus had stayed behind at the temple while His parents searched for Him for three days (Luke 2:41-50).
Since Joseph is not mentioned during the public ministry of Jesus, most scholars assume Joseph died sometime between the twelve-year-old temple account (approximately 8-12 A.D.) and when Jesus began His public ministry around 27-29 A.D. at "about thirty years of age" (Luke 3:23). For example, early in His ministry, Jesus is noted at a family wedding where Mary is mentioned, but not Joseph (John 2:1-12).
Later during the ministry of Jesus, some asked, "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?" (Matthew 13:55-56). Joseph also had a son named Joseph, yet Mary's husband Joseph was not mentioned by name. This could possibly be due to the fact that Joseph had already passed away and was no longer attending the local synagogue.
Further support for this interpretation is found at the cross of Jesus. In John 19:26-27, Jesus commanded the apostle John to care for His mother Mary. This certainly would not have taken place if Joseph had still been alive. The natural conclusion is that Joseph had died before the public ministry of Jesus began.
Some have suggested that Joseph lived at least until the late teenage years of Jesus, teaching Jesus carpentry until He was able to care for His family. While this is uncertain, the suggestion is likely, meaning Joseph likely passed away when Jesus was between His late teens and late twenties.
How old would Joseph have been? No exact dates are certain, but if Joseph married Mary as a young adult, say at age 20, his death before the public ministry of Jesus at around the age of 30 would have made him approximately 50 years old. If Joseph died a few years earlier, he would have died in his 40s, not uncommon for a man living in that time period. Early readers of the Gospels would not have been surprised to see Joseph unmentioned if he was deceased at the time the events unfolded.
Many apocryphal traditions have also developed concerning the death of Joseph. One account called the "Story of Joseph the Carpenter" claims Joseph lived to 111 years old and died on July 20 in either 18 or 19 A.D. St. Epiphanius claimed Joseph lived to the age of 90. These later accounts cannot be trusted, however. The most likely scenario is that Joseph died in his 40s and was buried in Nazareth before Jesus began His public ministry.
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