Q: #182. How old was Mary when she gave birth to Jesus?
By: Steve Shirley
A: The best that anyone can do with this question is make a logical guess. The Bible does not speak of this, nor do historical writings. While the pictures we see today of Mary holding the baby Jesus often portray her as being in maybe her early 20's, it seems likely that she was significantly younger than this. This assumption is based only on the fact that Jewish females (and males) often married at an early age in Bible times. This age varied some, but it was generally in the very early teenage years (and even at 12).
All we know for certain is that Mary was a virgin (Mt 1:23)(Lk 1:27)(Isa 7:14) and that she was engaged (betrothed) to Joseph when she was told that she would give birth to Jesus (Mt 1:18)(Lk 1:26-28).
It is believed by some that Joseph was quite a bit older than Mary. However, this is only based on the fact that after the incident with Jesus at the Temple during Passover when He was 12 (Lk 2:41-50), we never hear from Joseph again in the Bible. He was not present at Jesus' crucifixion, and on the cross Jesus gave John the responsibility of caring for His mother Mary (Jn 19:25-26). (He did not give give His brothers this responsibility because they did not believe He was the Messiah (Jn 7:3-5). They did become believers after His resurrection.) Because he isn't mentioned, it is believed he probably had already died, and the reason given is that he died of old age. (It seems likely to me that he had died, but saying it was of old age seems a stretch.)
It should also be noted that even today, Jewish custom still considers boys of 13 and girls of 12 old enough to be married under Jewish law. This is one of the rites of passage that are celebrated at a Jewish Bar Mitzvah (boy) or Bat Mitzvah (girl, although this ceremony itself is a relatively new custom.