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Luke 1:27 says

"to a virgin pledged in marriage to a man named Joseph"

The term used to describe Joseph is ἀνδρὶ (andri).

Strong's 435: A male human being; a man, husband. A primary word; a man.

We can compare this to Luke's description of Zechariah, at 1:18.

"I am an old man, and my wife is well along in years."

The term here is πρεσβύτης (presbytēs).

Strong's 4246: An old man, an ambassador. From the same as presbuteros; an old man.

Is there anything we can infer from the use of the term ἀνδρὶ (andri) for Joseph about his age?

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    I think we can only infer that Joseph was of marriageable age.
    – Nigel J
    Jun 17 at 18:39
  • @NigelJ Is there some notion of 'marriageable age' in ancient Jewish culture? Presumably that would imply a minimum age, but would it also imply a maximum? Jun 17 at 20:35
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    A marriageable age is when the man can financially support a wife.
    – Dottard
    Jun 17 at 22:30
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    @Dottard That's interesting given the circumstantial evidence that Joseph and Mary were poor at least until the gifts of the Magi (sacrifice of pigeons). Would 'able to financially support a wife' mean something like 'has a trade' (carpentry)? Jun 17 at 22:32
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    @OneGodtheFather - that is probably correct - while Joseph was poor (before the lavish gifts of the magi) he had a trade and an income. That made him able to support a wife, albeit in humble circumstances.
    – Dottard
    Jun 17 at 22:34
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Luke 1:27

to a virgin pledged to be married to a man [G435] named Joseph

Matthew 14:21

The number of those who ate was about five thousand men [G435], besides women and children.

1 Corinthians 13:11

When I was a child, I talked like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child. When I became a man [G435], I put the ways of childhood behind me.

Is there anything we can infer about Joseph's age from the use of 'man' to describe him in Luke?

Not much other than that he was supposed to be a mature responsible man who ate more than a child.

On the other hand, we know that Mary didn't marry Joseph for his money.

Luke 2:

22 When the time came for the purification rites required by the Law of Moses, Joseph and Mary took him [baby Jesus] to Jerusalem to present him to the Lord 23(as it is written in the Law of the Lord, “Every firstborn male is to be consecrated to the Lord”), 24and to offer a sacrifice in keeping with what is said in the Law of the Lord: “a pair of doves or two young pigeons.”

They were too poor to afford a lamb.

Leviticus 12:

7b “ ‘These are the regulations for the woman who gives birth to a boy or a girl. 8But if she cannot afford a lamb, she is to bring two doves or two young pigeons, one for a burnt offering and the other for a sin offering. In this way the priest will make atonement for her, and she will be clean.’ ”

Mary didn't marry some rich old man.

Luke 2:

42 When he [Jesus] was twelve years old, they went up to the festival, according to the custom. ... 48When his parents saw him, they were astonished. His mother said to him, “Son, why have you treated us like this? Your father and I have been anxiously searching for you.”

When Jesus was 12, Joseph was still alive.

By the time of Jesus' public ministry (30 years old), there was no mention of Joseph being alive.

My guess is that Joseph was in his 20s when he got married.

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    (To the part about Jesus's ministry, also commonly cited is the assigning of John to care for Mary, suggesting strongly that she had no husband by the time of the crucifixion.) Jun 18 at 15:42
  • Good point, Luke.
    – Tony Chan
    Jun 18 at 15:44
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Biblically speaking, a "man" was an adult, just as we would infer today; but the line between childhood and adulthood was not where in many countries it is drawn today. Many countries now consider 18 as the age of majority, though the ages for driving, voting, drinking, or even marrying, can vary somewhat from this rule. But in the Bible, there was a consistent mark: 20 years of age.

Consider the following passages in support of this figure:

Every one that passeth among them that are numbered, from twenty years old and above, shall give an offering unto the LORD. (Exodus 30:14)

A bekah for every man, that is, half a shekel, after the shekel of the sanctuary, for every one that went to be numbered, from twenty years old and upward, for six hundred thousand and three thousand and five hundred and fifty men. (Exodus 38:26)

A bekah for every man, that is, half a shekel, after the shekel of the sanctuary, for every one that went to be numbered, from twenty years old and upward, for six hundred thousand and three thousand and five hundred and fifty men. (Numbers 1:20)

[Note: Numbers are given for those 20+ years of age for each of the other tribes as well.]

Importantly, the "generation" of those twenty years of age and older was that which perished in the wilderness during the 40 years of their wandering outside of Canaan.

Surely none of the men that came up out of Egypt, from twenty years old and upward, shall see the land which I sware unto Abraham, unto Isaac, and unto Jacob; because they have not wholly followed me: (Numbers 32:11)

In terms of the usage of the word "man" in the text, this age of 20 is perhaps as much as one can legitimately infer. However, that Joseph was considerably older than this is evident from other passages and context. I touched on some of those evidences in my response to another question, found HERE.

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  • "However, that Joseph was considerably older than this is evident from other passages and context." Can you say more about this? I looked at the other answer - it seems the points are that Jesus likely had step-siblings from a previous marriage, and that Joseph had passed on by the time of Jesus' own death ~33 years later. Is that an accurate summary? I wonder what the average life expectancy at the time was for someone who had made it to their 30s, say. Jun 18 at 16:19

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