I was thinking this morning about Jesus as a τέκτων, a craftsman, and it occurred to me that the fact that Jesus was known (at least by Mark, 6.3) to have worked with his hands could have provided Paul with a useful argument in 1 Cor. 9. The background of that chapter appears to be that Paul has been criticized for earning a living and so not sponging off the Corinthians when he was on mission there. It seems that his apostolic credentials have been called into question, that apostles would be expected to earn their living by preaching the gospel, and that Paul and Barnabas are exceptions to this rule. I have always felt a bit sorry for Paul here, working hard with his hands in between his missionary activity, and then getting criticized for it. But what I began to wonder today was about one of the arguments that Paul did not use.
Paul could have said in this context, "Did not the Lord himself work with his hands? Was he not a craftsman?" Or something like that. This might have been quite a useful point for Paul in a context where he is up against the practice of the apostles, Cephas, even Jesus' own brothers (cf. 1 Cor. 9.5), and where there is apparently a command of the Lord (9.14) that these people are under, to the effect that evangelists should earn their living by evangelizing. So why does he not appeal to that precedent? What are the possibilities? Here are a few options:
(1) Paul did not know that Jesus was a craftsman. He had never thought to ask Peter, James or anyone else, and they had not volunteered the information.
(2) Jesus was not a craftsman; Mark 6.3 is not a reliable tradition.
(3) Paul knew the tradition but did not think to use it in this context, especially as he is up against the practice of those who actually knew Jesus, and who were quoting his words.
(4) Jesus was not (thought to have been) a craftsman during his active, itinerant mission. He began his mission in Capernaum, but he had only been a craftsman in Nazareth and its surrounds. If this was (thought to have been) the case, it would have been counter-productive for Paul to have brought up Jesus' job, because the natural answer would be: "Yes, and the Lord did not work with his hands when he was preaching the gospel, for he said 'Let the one who preaches the gospel get his living by the gospel.'"
I think (3) is perhaps the most likely, but option (4) ought to be entertained too. The Mark 6.1-6 story, in which the reference occurs, assumes that Jesus' job was known to his audience in Nazareth. Was it perhaps associated with Jesus in Nazareth, and does Jesus' move to and activity in Capernaum coincide with his gospel-preaching activity, according to which he now lives off others? The tradition in Mark 3.21 and 31-5, where Jesus' family come to restrain him might then reflect a time when Jesus was no longer a craftsman at home in Nazareth, but now a charismatic on a mission, and they think he is mad, having left the family home and business.
Or perhaps not. Just a thought.
Incidentally, one of the things that got me thinking about this area was a post from a while ago by Michael Bird of Euangelion on Jesus the Stonemason, which discusses translations of Mark 6.3 and refers to an interesting recent article by Ken Campbell in a journal I don't think I've read before, I'm ashamed to say, called Journal of the Evangelical Theological Society, "What was Jesus' Occupation?", JETS 48.3 (2005): 501-20. The second half of the article is a rather uncritical lumping together of Synoptic data en masse in the search for the imagery used in Jesus' teaching (with no reference to the carefully sifted itinerary of imagery in Goulder's sadly underrated and underused Midrash and Lection in Matthew), but the first half was a clear and very useful working through the lexical evidence on the meaning of τέκτων in Greek literature, making it pretty clear that the term on its own without qualification should be translated something like "craftsman". "Carpenter" or "stone-mason" or "metal worker" would all be too specific.