How old was St. Joseph when Jesus was born?

Was he an old widower or a strapping young man?

We don’t hear much about St. Joseph in the Bible. He is simply described as the “husband of Mary,” a “carpenter,” and a “just man” in the Gospel accounts. Neither his age nor his death is ever mentioned in Scripture.

However, various traditions help shed some light on the question, and offer possible scenarios to consider.

A very common tradition in the Orthodox Church is that Joseph was an old man when he married the Virgin Mary. Before taking Mary into his home, Joseph’s previous wife (with whom he had had several children) died. This has led some to claim that these children were the “brothers” of Jesus that are mentioned in the Gospels.

 A 6th century text called The History of Joseph the Carpenter is at the heart of this tradition and states that Joseph was an old man, but youthful in vigor.

On the other hand many biblical scholars and historians believe Joseph was a young man, possibly even a teenager. The International Marian Research Institute states, “We believe that Mary and Joseph were both in their teens when Jesus was born, around sixteen and eighteen respectively. This was the norm for Jewish newlyweds at that time.”