David A. Fiensy, “Wedding Bells in Galilee?” Biblical Archaeological Review 48 no. 4 (Winter 2022), 63-64:
Although the Gospels never give ages for Mary or Joseph, these events probably happened when they fairly young. Jewish girls were usually married off by their parents by the time they were teenagers. The rabbinic texts advise that a young girl – na’arah, a “prepubescent girl” – should be betrothed around age 12 and married about one year later (Ketubbot 5:2). The rabbis urged parents to marry their children close to the age of puberty.
There is also artifact and textual evidence of age-at-marriage for Jewish girls in the first century C.E. A woman’s tombstone, for example, might indicate how old she was when she married. Investigation of these sources shows that most Jewish girls married between the ages of 12 and 17, with the great number marrying at age 13. We should probably think of Mary in that age group.
What about the boys? Again, parents preferred to marry them young. One Mishnah text recommended age 18 (Avot 5:21). Other rabbinic texts suggested around the time of puberty. We should imagine Joseph in the same age group as Mary.
What about the suggestion by some in the ancient church that Joseph was older than Mary and had children by a previous marriage? That is possible. But it need not mean Joseph was in his fifties or even older. Men married so young that Joseph in his late twenties already could have been a widower with six children (Mark 6:3).
5 thoughts on “David Fiensy: How Old Were Mary and Joseph When They Married?”
luke says that elizabeth was barren. did luke mean that elizabeth who was eggless miraculously produced eggs ? Is he saying that she is having a baby without intercourse?
Is it possible to read marys question
“How can i have a baby since i am a virgin ?”
“How can i have a baby since i am young girl?”
“The rabbis urged parents to marry their children close to the age of puberty.”
Since there are different stages to puberty , which stage would be in mind?
An 8 year old on a mountain in judea showing early signs of puberty would be ready for marriage?
“But it need not mean Joseph was in his fifties or even older. Men married so young that Joseph in his late twenties already could have been a widower with six children (Mark 6:3).”
Not many evangelists will be happy with well endowed 20 year old penetrating a young 12 year old.
Joseph was in his late 90s and that’s why Mary remained a perpetual virgin.
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I don’t know. I wouldn’t count him out at 90. Abraham was like 100 when Sarah got pregnant with Isaac.
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