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Why Wasn’t Joseph at Jesus’ Crucifixion?


A radio listener e-mails Father Dave and the Busted Halo Show team with a question: “My sophomore in Catholic school asked me a question regarding Saint Joseph and why he was not at the Crucifixion of Jesus. She said she learned that the last we hear about him in the Bible is when Jesus is separated from his parents as a young boy. So… whatever happens to Joseph?”

Brett agrees that it seems strange that Saint Joseph, such a major figure in our faith, doesn’t appear in Gospel stories about Jesus’ life: “Even if it was a big day at the carpenter shop, you think [Saint Joseph would] take a couple hours out to see the Crucifixion. After all, it’s Good Friday.”

Father Dave responds: “It doesn’t take a lot of presuming or digging or research to come to the conclusion that it is the most likely scenario that Joseph died before Jesus reached the age of 33 when he was crucified. Not only because of the obvious and almost laughable scenarios we’re now describing — well, of course, he would not only [have been at the Crucifixion if he were able], but he probably would have been around at some of the other times they describe [in the Gospels]. So, it is presumed, not just that he [had a busy job and was] working, [but that] by the time we get to Jesus’ ministry years that Joseph has already passed on. Now it’s not indicated in the Scriptures. We don’t have other extra-biblical material — by which we mean things outside the Bible that would have been written at that time that we sometimes use to corroborate historically things that we see in the Scriptures — there’s nothing about exactly when Joseph died. It’s very rarely depicted, even in religious art, although I saw one when I was in Germany, and it was quite moving. It was Jesus and Mary at the deathbed of Joseph, and [viewing it makes you think,] ‘Oh yeah, I guess that would have happened at some point.’”

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Father Dave continues: “Beyond just the fact that his absence makes that the most likely scenario, [we’ve also got] some specific things that we see in the Scriptures [that] reinforce that. So, for instance, Jesus on the cross, when his mother is there, he says to the Apostle John, ‘You need to take over caring for her now,’ and he says that simply with the words, ‘There is your mother, there is your son.’ Were she still to have had a husband or, as some people posit, any other male children, then that would not have needed to take place. Jesus did that because, in that society, a widowed woman with no male children would have not just been out of luck or not had a lot of income, but she would have been actually in danger or fear for her life. … So, for that and several other pieces of evidence that we see in Scripture, we assume that Saint Joseph had died at some point between [the Finding of Jesus in the Temple] when Jesus was about 12 years old, and [when Christ began His ministry].” (Original Air 05-04-17)

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Photo credit: Stained Glass window depicting the Death of Saint Joseph with Mother Mary and Jesus in the Cathedral of Saint Rumboldt in Mechelen, Belgium.