Thursday, November 05, 2009

NT Pod 18: Was Jesus a Carpenter? Progamme Notes

I released the latest episode of the NT Pod on Sunday, NT Pod 18: Was Jesus Really a Carpenter? I look at the foundations for the popular image of Jesus as a carpenter, a son of Joseph the carpenter, in the New Testament, Mark 6.3, ὁ τέκτων ("the craftsman"); Matt. 13.55, ὁ τοῦ τέκτονος υἱός ("the son of the craftsman") and then in second century texts like the Infancy Gospel of Thomas 13 (or 11, depending on the text),
Now Jesus' father was a carpenter (τέκτων), making ploughs and yokes at that time. He received an order from a rich man to make a bed for him. (2)When one board of what is called the crossbeam turned out to be shorter than the other, and Joseph didn't know what to do, the child Jesus said to his father, "Put the two boards down and line them up at one end." (3)Joseph did as the child told him. Jesus stood at the other end and grabbed hold of the shorter board, and, by stretching it, made it the same length as the other. (4)His father Joseph looked on and marveled, and he hugged and kissed the child, saying, "How fortunate I am that God has given this child to me."
Similarly, Justin Martyr, Dialogue 88,
And when Jesus came to the Jordan, and was said to be the son of Joseph the carpenter (τέκτων), he was without beauty, as the scriptures have foretold, and he was called a carpenter, for he worked, when he was among humanity, at the carpenter's trade, making ploughs and yokes; this teaching a pattern of righteousness, and an active life.
I conclude with some reflections on the historical Jesus.

The brief post-credits clip you here of Judas (Carl Anderson) singing "Too Much Heaven on their Minds" from Jesus Christ Superstar (dir. Norman Jewison, 1973). The picture I refer to is Millais, "Christ in the House of his Parents (The Carpenter's Shop)" (above; go here for a large version).


Jim said...

he must have been- you have a picture of him in the shop doing it!


Anonymous said...

I have found it interesting to discover the occupations associated with rabbis of that era -- wasn't Shammai a carpenter and Hillel a woodcutter, according to Jewish tradition?

J. K. Gayle said...

Once upon a time, David Ker at BBB restricted himself to the canonical gospels to claim that “'Carpenter' is a slightly inaccurate translation.” τέκτων tekton was all Greek to him -- but Ker did find a poem and more pictures at BWIII's old blog.

What is the Latin or, better yet, the Syriac for "a builder"?
(I'm looking at the English translation now of the Latin -- "Chapter 11, XI How Jesus made a short beam even with a long one." at

J. K. Gayle said...

Just to be clear, David Ker knows his Greek, and I was just trying to be funny -- still, it'd be interesting to see how Syriac and Latin call Jesus's father in The Infancy Gospel.

GeorgeRic said...

Not all the bible stories are in the Bible. The carpentry shop in Nazareth was 'L' shaped. Joseph was around the corner and was going to use his hammer to drive a nail home. He swung.... and missed, hitting his thumb instead.
Jesus, around the corner, looked up and said, "Yes Dad?"