Q. Of all the gospel accounts, Luke goes into the most detail about the life of Jesus’ earthly dad, Joseph. In Luke, it talks about how he and Mary had to go back to Jerusalem to find the 12 year old Jesus who ended up being left behind. Of course, we know they found him in the temple; talking to the teachers. After that, nothing is said. What do the Bible scholars say happened to Joseph?
A. The reference you cited from Luke 2:41-52 is the last one that involves Joseph. In John 6:42 there’s is a reference to Joseph about the time of the feeding of the 5,000 but from the context we can’t tell for sure if Joseph was still alive. Most scholars think he died during the time Jesus matured from 12, when he was found at the Temple to about 30, when He began His Ministry (Luke 3:23). These are called the Lord’s quiet years because there’s nothing in the Scriptures about that time of His life. Joseph lived long enough to teach Jesus his trade before he died, but early in the Lord’s ministry Jesus was called both “the carpenter” and “Mary’s son” (Mark 6:1-3).
In accordance with the custom of the day Joseph was probably much older than Mary. It took men quite a few years to become financially secure enough to consider marrying, and when they did they chose younger wives who could bear numerous children. A generation is defined as the span of time between a man’s birth and the birth of his first child and Biblical times an average generation was 40 years long. Thus Joseph would likely have been about 40 years old while Mary was probably still in her teens when they got married.
It was the responsibility of the first born son to care for his mother in her widowhood and that’s why the oldest son received a double portion of his father’s estate. The fact that Jesus gave Mary into John’s care as He was dying (John 19:25-27) indicates Joseph had already died.