It is well known that Joseph, the husband of Mary, features in the accounts of Jesus’ birth and childhood (in the Gospels of Matthew and Luke), but does not appear again in any of the New Testament documents.
There is no way of knowing exactly what happened to Joseph, although it is reasonable to suppose that he died some time after Jesus’ 12th birthday (Lk 2). But it is interesting to note that the New Testament accounts attest to his ‘disappearance’ in highly consistent, yet uncontrived ways.
It is not only that Joseph is conspicuously absent during the time Jesus’ ministry: he is (as Lydia McGrew points out) conspicuously absent even when the other members of Jesus’ family are conspicuously present. Even though Joseph’s death is not mentioned by any of the New Testament authors, they all seem to assume his death.
- According to Mark 3.20–21; 31–35 (see also Mt 12:46-50; Lk 8:19-21) Jesus’ family sought to ‘stage an intervention’. But it is his brothers (not his father) who are the male representatives in this deputation.
- In Mk 6:1-6 (see also Mt 13:54-58) Joseph is absent from the members of the family who are spoken of as alive at the time.
- The account of the Wedding at Cana (Jn 2) emphasises Mary’s role, but does not mention Joseph. In Jn 2:12, Jesus goes down to Capernaum with his mother, brothers, and disciples (but, again, no mentioned of Joseph).
- As Jesus was hanging on the cross, he commits Mary to the care of ‘the disciple whom he loved’ (Jn 19:25-27). This would be a most odd thing to do if her husband were still alive.
- In Acts 1:12-14, Mary is present along with Jesus’ brother in the upper room. Again, there is no mention of Joseph, and this is consistent with the supposition that he was dead.
The take-home from these data is that, without ever explicitly saying that Joseph had died before Jesus began his public ministry, the Gospels and Acts give quiet, consistent testimony to that supposition. This provides impressive confirmation of the historical accuracy of their account.
McGrew, Lydia. Hidden In Plain View: Undesigned Coincidences in the Gospels and Acts. DeWard Publishing Company, Ltd.. Kindle Edition.