Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Was Jesus Really A Carpenter?

Biblegems #26
There are two references in the New Testament relating Jesus to the carpenter’s trade. Mark 6:3 reads, “’Isn’t this the carpenter? Isn’t this Mary’s son and the brother of James, Joseph, Judas and Simon? Aren’t his sisters here with us?’ And they took offense at him.” The second is found in Matthew 13:55: “Isn’t this the carpenter’s son? Isn’t his mother’s name Mary, and aren’t his brothers James, Joseph, Simon and Judas?”

The word “carpenter” in both references is from the Greek word tekton, which means a skilled craftsman in general, but can be translated specifically as “carpenter” or “a craftsman in wood.”1

But “carpenter” can also refer to someone who fabricates items out of any number of materials. In 2 Samuel 5:11, for example, the Hebrew equivalent of tekton (charash) signifies a skilled worker in metal, wood, stone or gems. Likewise, the same Hebrew word in 1 Chr. 14:1 indicates that both an engraver (Heb. charaseih, translated “carpenter”) and a wall engraver (Heb. qir charashei, translated “stone mason”) were employed by king David for the construction of his palace. 2

In New Testament times it was expected of every adult Jewish male that he would work in some trade. This was true even of the rabbis. In the cities the skilled labor of a “carpenter” would typically go to the Greeks, not to the Jewish men. In the outlying provinces, however, such as Nazareth, a “carpenter” was likely a handyman of sorts, skilled in working with wood, stone or other materials, but squeaking out a very meager living.3

So when Jesus came home for a visit and took the opportunity to teach in the synagogue where he grew up, the congregation not only knew Jesus well, they knew him as the illegitimate son of a common construction worker. “And they took offense at him” (Matt. 13:37). In fact, they had stumbled over more than the prospect of a miracle working, untrained rabbi who had grown up as the son of a wood and stone worker. They had stumbled over the capstone of God’s Kingdom. “The stone the builders rejected has become the capstone; the Lord has done this, and it is marvelous in our eyes’’ (Matt. 21:42).

1 Strong’s Greek Dictionary of the New Testament, Public Domain Electronic text downloaded from the Bible Foundation e-Text Library: http://www.bf.org/bfetexts.htm Hypertexted and formatted by Oaktree Software, Inc. Greek text added by OakTree Software, Inc. Version 2.4
2 A Hebrew and English Lexicon of the Old Testament (abridged) Based on A Hebrew and English Lexicon of the Old Testament, by F. Brown, S. R. Driver, and C. A. Briggs. Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1907. Digitized and abridged as a part of the Princeton Theological Seminary Hebrew Lexicon Project under the direction of Dr. J. M. Roberts. Used by permission. Electronic text corrected, formatted, and hypertexted by OakTree Software, Inc. This electronic adaptation ©2001 OakTree Software, Inc. Version 3.4
3 Easton’s Bible Dictionary M.G. Easton M.A., D.D., Illustrated Bible Dictionary, Third Edition, published by Thomas Nelson, 1897. The illustrated portions of the dictionary have not been included. Electronic text downloaded from the Bible Foundation e-Text Library: http://www.bf.org/bfetexts.htm Hypertexted and formatted by OakTree Software, Inc. Version 3.0
All Scripture references, unless otherwise noted, are from: THE HOLY BIBLE: NEW INTERNATIONAL VERSION (NIV). Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984 by International Bible Society. Used by permission of Zondervan Publishing House. All rights reserved. The NIV database is NOT a shareware program and may not be duplicated. Version 2.4

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