When St. Joseph most probably died

July 25, 2021 • 5 min

From St. Joseph’s Life, Virtues, Privileges, Power, page 150
By Very Rev. Archdeacon Kinane, P.P.

Where, and at what age, the holy soul of St. Joseph winged its flight to the bosom of Abraham, we know not for certain, as the Gospel is silent. […]

As to the precise time of the death of St. Joseph, the ancient Fathers differ in opinion.

Some are of opinion that he lived to a very old age, and that he witnessed the Passion, Death, and the Ascension of Our Blessed Lord.

This opinion does not appear to accord with reason; for if St. Joseph witnessed the Passion and Death of Jesus, his name would most probably be mentioned by the Evangelists; and, secondly, Our Blessed Lord, at dying, would leave His holy Mother in the charge of her faithful husband, and hence would not have confided her, as He did, to St. John the Evangelist.

The common opinion therefore, which the Bollandists say is “little less than certain,” and which is supported by reason, as well as by the great majority of the Fathers, is, that St. Joseph died in the arms of Jesus and Mary, a little before the public Ministry, or preaching of Our Blessed Lord. That is, the Holy Family, Jesus, Mary, and Joseph lived together at Nazareth for eighteen years after the Finding in the Temple; and that St. Joseph died when Jesus was about thirty years of age.

This opinion is conformable to reason; for during the Sacred Infancy, and up to the time of His public Ministry, the name of St. Joseph is mentioned by the Evangelists in connection with all the great events of Our Blessed Lord’s Life; yet, after the public Ministry, the name of St. Joseph, does not even once occur in any of the Gospels; thereby dearly indicating that he was no longer alive.

Besides, it would not appear fitting, that the Jews could point to the reputed father of the Saviour, when the preaching, and stupendous miracles of Jesus went to prove Him the Son of God, and that His Father was in heaven.

This opinion also is supported by the great majority of ancient and modern writers.

The Bollandists say: “How many years Joseph survived the Finding of Jesus in the Temple at the age of twelve, and His return to Nazareth, cannot be precisely said with even probable conjecture; except that it is almost certain, and considered by many as beyond all doubt, that he died before Jesus began to manifest Himself to the world, inasmuch as the Evangelists make no further mention of him, … Nor indeed did it seem fit, that He, who by His stupendous miracles, was to prove Himself the Son of God, should have in the eyes of all, one who was nominally and legally His father.”

“It is believed,” says another critic, “and with great probability, that Joseph died before Christ began to preach the Gospel; and before the marriage of Cana; where Jesus was invited with His Mother and Disciples. On that occasion Joseph is not mentioned; nor is he in the whole history of Our Lord’s public Ministry. At His death, Jesus commended His Mother to St. John, which shows that St. Joseph was no longer alive, for Christ is not the author of division or divorce.” (Tillemont).

The learned Suarez, after reviewing the reasons and authorities on both sides, concludes: “I think that St. Joseph did not die immediately after Christ’s twelfth year; because St. Luke, when he says that the Child returned to Nazareth with His parents, and was there subject to their orders, shows that He lived for some time with them. And it is credible that St. Joseph survived to maintain Jesus to His thirtieth year, when He was to begin the preaching of the Gospel.”

Some are of opinion that our great Saint died where he had lived, in the “Holy House” at Nazareth. Others, with the Bollandists, Venerable Bede, and St. Adamnan, hold that he died in Jerusalem, where he had gone on the solemn feast of the Pasch to worship in the Temple; and almost all agree that he was buried in the valley of Josaphat in the tomb of his ancestors.

Although the age of St. Joseph, at his death, is not known for certain; yet it can be told with a fair approach to accuracy. In a preceding section we have seen, that St. Joseph, at his Espousals with the Blessed Virgin, was a young man. Venerable Marie of Jesus, of Agreda, says thirty-three; let us add to this, thirty, the age of our Blessed Lord at the time of His public Ministry, when St. Joseph died, and we have a fairly accurate estimate of the age of our great Patriarch at the time of his death.

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