Following allegations last week that Republican Senate candidate Roy Moore had pursued relationships with several teenage girls when he was in his early 30s (and sexually assaulted at least one of them), Alabama State Auditor Jim Ziegler turned to one of the most dependable defenses available to the religious right: the Bible.
On November 9, just hours after the Washington Post story appeared, Ziegler defended Moore’s morality by telling the Washington Examiner to “take Mary and Joseph.” “Joseph was an adult carpenter, and Mary was an adolescent. They were Jesus’ parents.
But those who adhere to Ziegler’s interpretation of the Bible—among whom may be many of Moore’s evangelical supporters—should read more attentively. There is no indication in the Bible that Joseph was older than Mary. The author of Jesus of Nazareth, King of the Jews, and professor emerita of scripture at Boston University, Paula Fredriksen, claims that we know very little about Joseph and that neither Joseph nor Mary’s age is specified in the Gospels.
In truth, Mary and Joseph would have been young when they married if they had followed Jewish law and traditions of the time. Girls would typically get engaged between the ages of 12 and 15, get married later, at 15 or 16, and boys would have been 19 or 20, according to Fredriksen.
But what about the numerous vintage artworks and images, not to mention the countless churchyard Nativity scenes and Christmas cards depicting Joseph as a grandfatherly, grey-bearded figure in contrast to Mary’s perpetually radiant, post-natal youth? It turns out that has nothing to do with the biblical account.
According to Fredriksen, the “superannuation of Joseph” in literature and popular culture was a later reaction to early church discussions concerning Mary’s eternal virginity. Mary would no longer be clean and chaste, as was predicted in Scripture if she had sex with Joseph. Theologians, therefore, aged Joseph to settle any questions.
Jesus’ siblings, who are mentioned in Mark (6:3) and Matthew, are at the crux of the debate concerning Joseph’s age (13:55-56). Mary could hardly have remained a virgin after the birth of Jesus if the siblings were the result of the coupling between Mary and Joseph.
However, a lot of Christians thought that Mary was a virgin during her entire life. Her lifelong virginity served as a symbol of her total dedication to being the mother of Christ.
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How Old Was Joseph when He Married Mary?
The age of Joseph at the time that he married Mary is not specifically mentioned in the Bible. There are, however, some recommendations from other sources.
According to some stories, Mary was able to become pregnant since she was past the puberty threshold. Additionally, it was against the law for a girl to get married before turning 12 years old.
Since Joseph is described as a just man in the Bible, we can infer that he followed social conventions before proposing to Mary. As a result, there is a chance that Joseph was around 20 when he wed Mary.
According to a different version, Mary and Joseph moved to Bethlehem to pay their taxes as required by Caesar. Since they traveled to Bethlehem to pay taxes, the pair was therefore at least 18 years old.
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How Was Joseph’s Engagement with Mary Saved?
When Mary and Joseph were engaged, something happened that forever altered their relationship. She was expecting a child before Joseph became intimate with his wife. When Joseph learned about it, he immediately began to consider ways to break the engagement secretly.
However, a Lord’s angel revealed to Joseph that the Holy Ghost had enabled his wife’s pregnancy. The angel also informed Joseph that the infant would grow up to become the world’s Savior from sin.