Wednesday, December 14, 2005
Jesus the Stonemason
As a tekton, what was Jesus' vocation? In most translations of Mk. 6.3; (cf. Mt. 13.55; Gos. Jas. 9.3; Justin, Dial. Tryph. 88) it is usually assumed that he was a carpenter. However, the word has a fairly broad meaning and it can denote a general "craftsman" a "builder" or most often I find a "stonemason". Unfortunately due to a history of translation, not to mention the near canonical status of Josh McDowell's book More than a Carpenter in evangelical cirlces - the notion that Jesus was a carpenter is a translation rarely challenged. I touched on this topic a bit in parts of my doctoral thesis that did not get included in the final revision. I thought it more likely that Jesus was stonemason given the meaning of the word tekton in some strands of Greek literature and he and Joseph probably assisted in the rebuilding of Sepphoris a few miles away from Nazareth after its destruction by Varus' troops (Jos. War 3.31-32; Life 347-48). This has been successfully argued in a recent article: Ken M. Campbell, "What was Jesus' Occupation?" JETS 48.3 (2005): 501-20. This is probably the best review of the evidence I've seen to date. See also Richard A. Batey, "Is not this the Carpenter?" NTS 30 (1984): 249-58 and John P. Meier, A Marginal Jew, 1.278-85.