What happened to Joseph, the father of Jesus, given that the last time he was mentioned in the story of Jesus was "Jesus' finding in the temple" (Luke 2:41-52) after which he is never mentioned again right up to the death of Jesus Christ?

So I want to ask, was he dead before then, or did the Bible just exclude him from the whole story, because I've not found any verse in the Bible that talks about his death or anything after Jesus' finding in the temple?


4 Answers 4


Scholars tend to agree that Joseph had died prior to Christ's ministry. Catholic tradition represents Mary as a widow during the adult ministry of Christ. Joseph is not mentioned as being present at the Wedding at Cana at the beginning of Jesus' mission, nor at Golgotha. If he had been present at the Crucifixion, he would under Jewish custom have been expected to take charge of Jesus' body, but this role is instead performed by Joseph of Arimathea (see Luke 23:50-53). Nor would Jesus have entrusted his mother to John's care had her husband been alive (see John 19:27).

One explanation given for his death is given in the apocryphal Gospel of James (written ~145AD), supposed to be authored by, or a protoevangelium of James—Jesus brother—which claims that James was actually Joseph's son from a previous marriage. The canon gospels never mention Joseph's age, but this account of James presents Joseph as an old man who was called of God to look after the virgin Mary. If this account is accurate, then the explanation for Joseph's absence later in in Christ's life would be attributed to him passing from old age.

The life of Joseph actually has its own field of study called Josephology. Records of devotions to Saint Joseph go back to the year 800AD and Doctors of the Catholic Church since Saint Thomas Aquinas have written on the subject. With the growth of Mariology, the theological study of Saint Joseph also grew and several centers of study were formed in the 1950s specifically for study of Joseph—Husband of Mary. The modern study of the theology of Saint Joseph is one of the most recent theological disciplines.


According to the tradition of the Orthodox Church, Joseph died before Jesus began his ministry. He was perhaps around 80 when betrothed to the Virgin and died when he was over 100 years old.

Life of Joseph from Orthodox Church in America website

Life of Joseph from The Prologue of Nikolai Velimirovic

  • 1
    The Catholic Church holds a similar tradition.
    – Ken Graham
    Commented Feb 23, 2017 at 18:02
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    80?!? Wow. If Mary was around 15 as is commonly thought, then that's a huge age gap. He also wouldn't have been able to teach Jesus his trade very well... Is this tradition connected with the idea that Jesus's brothers and sisters were Joseph's children from a previous marriage?
    – curiousdannii
    Commented Feb 23, 2017 at 22:27
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    There is a good summary of the different beliefs about Joseph and Mary in an appendix to The Eastern Orthodox Bible: New Testament. Broadly speaking, there is an Orthodox, Catholic, and Protestant tradition, though all three have fairly ancient roots. Another ancient source is the Protevangelium of James, which can be found online.
    – guest37
    Commented Feb 24, 2017 at 16:49
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    Yes, the "old age caretaker" Joseph was invented? to counter the Biblical thought that Jesus' brothers and sisters were born from Mary and Joseph. To paraphrase Origen, they wanted to protect Mary's integrity so-called.
    – SLM
    Commented Jul 12, 2017 at 16:44

There are three lines of thought about Joseph's end.

The first line was that Joseph was an old man when he was chosen more as a caretaker, rather than husband, of Mary. This is the view of the Infancy Gospel of James. So, being already old, it explains why Joseph is no longer mentioned in Scripture after Christ is roughly 30 years of age and returns to His own and they ask is he not the carpenter's son (Joseph)? See also John 6:42.

The second line sources to Jerome who was aghast that people would believe Joseph was a sort of adulterer. Jerome instead taught that Joseph, like Mary, also remained a virgin. Jerome, more interested in protecting the virginity of Joseph, however, does not explain what may have happened to Joseph.

The third line is simply we don't know. We can guess, as do the other two sources. Some guess that Joseph died for unknown reasons during Christ's 3 1/2 year ministry. This guess has to do with answering why Jesus appoints John as caretaker of His mother Mary (John 19:27).


Many sources say that Joseph is about 50 years old when Jesus was born. Mary is most likely 12. This may seem to make Joseph a pedophile. However, in ancient time that is "typical" marriage age.

Some sources: How old were Joseph & Mary when they marrried?

Now there was among the rest Joseph, of the house and family of David, a man of great age:

which isn't very specific, but I'd imagine it's over 50 at the youngest.

Now, I don't like to think of Joseph as an old man, but it's an old tradition and can't be readily discounted. It's not necessary that James and Jude be half-foster-brothers of Jesus. They could also have been sons of Clophas

ancient cultures are polygamists. In polygamists society, like arab, women are scarce because a few man get many. That means women marry young. Also, only a man with sufficient wealth, that usually come with age, get married.

Most polygamist society have ways to "channel" surplus males. The young are usually expendable and die in battle. It's like arab countries.

If Joseph was 50 years old when Jesus was born and Jesus were 30, that means Joseph would have been 80 years when Jesus start practicing messianicism (or whatever we can call His occupation is).

Life expectancy in ancient time is around 40. So Joseph is most likely death.

James is probably Jesus' little bro.

  • 1
    What is the basis for your statement that Joseph was 50 years old when Jesus was born?
    – guest37
    Commented Feb 25, 2017 at 18:27
  • Look at the link I wrote. Many even suggest that Joseph is 80. Google and you'll see many source.
    – user4951
    Commented Feb 27, 2017 at 9:22
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    "Life expectancy in ancient time is around 40. So Joseph is most likely death." When you read about average life expectancy of ~40, that is referring to the life expectancy at birth. High infant mortality brought the whole average life expectancy to be very low. But those who lived to 5 years old had a much longer life expectancy. Anyone who lived to 50 could expect to live even longer.
    – curiousdannii
    Commented Feb 27, 2017 at 11:51
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    @curiousdannii that is right. The ancient world did not have massive numbers of people in their 30's and 40's dropping dead of old age. Commented Jul 10, 2017 at 0:23
  • why downvote? I cited my sources
    – user4951
    Commented Jul 11, 2017 at 6:03

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