Friday, December 17, 2010

When did Joseph the Father of Jesus, Married Mary?

How Old Was Joseph?

Q. We know that Mary was a teenager (when she was betrothed), how old was Joseph?

A. Yes it’s likely that Mary was just a teenager, since that was the custom of the day. Joseph’s age is not indicated but circumstantial evidence can lead us to conclude that he was much older.

For example, the word generation is defined as the length of time from a man’s birth to the birth of his first child. In the Bible this averaged out to be about 40 years, suggesting that a man would normally be in his mid to late thirties at the time of his marriage.

Also, a Jewish man had to pay the girl’s father a negotiated “bride price” before taking her, and show that he could provide for her and the family they’d have with a stable income and a suitable house for them to live in. It would normally take years after learning a trade for a man to become financially prepared for marriage. So all things considered it seems likely that Joseph would have been much older than Mary.

Did Jesus Practice What He Preached?

Was Jesus Wealthy?

Q. I was having a conversation with a sister and I asked what Joseph and Mary did with all the gold and precious spices the wise men gave to them when they came to worship the Lord. This sister told me that Jesus was not a poor man, that He wouldn’t have called up His disciples to leave their families poor and unfed, and that He wore the clothes of a rich man otherwise why else would the soldiers gamble for His clothing.

This goes against everything I’ve known. I don’t think it’s a correct view. I think He survived on donations, and I have read that Mary Magdalene was an independent woman of means who was one of the key monetary contributors. What say you? I am very confused by this. How could Jesus be touting the forsaking of money and possessions, yet be a rich man? That would have made Him a hypocrite, and that’s impossible.

A. Your friend is mistaken, and has probably been influenced by the so-called prosperity Gospel teachers. Tradition has it that the gifts brought by the Magi were used to support the Lord’s family during the 2 years they spent in Egypt hiding from Herod.

Jesus never owned a home or any other possessions. He learned a trade, lived with his brothers and mother until he began his ministry, and after that wandered through Israel and the surrounding area with His disciples, sleeping under the stars. They were supported by contributions, and although they always had enough, were not wealthy. The soldiers did cast lots for his robe, a seamless garment of linen usually worn by royalty, but it was likely the only clothing he had. The Bible doesn’t say how He got it.

Of course at any moment Jesus could have conjured up enough wealth to buy anything he needed any time He wanted to. He could have had a fancy chariot and horses, caravans of camels and servants, stayed in all the best hotels, and ate at 5 star restaurants. But that was not His mission. He was to live an ordinary life, just like any one else, humbling Himself even to the point of living like a servant (Phil. 2:5-8).

None of this is meant to imply that Jesus was opposed to wealth. He just doesn’t like the way money often causes a person to be too focused on the things of this world, and not focused enough on things of the kingdom. That’s why He told us not to worry about money, but to trust that God would make sure that we always have what we need (Matt. 6:31-33). I think He practiced what He preached.