Was Jesus Really a Carpenter?

    Matthew 13: 55 tells us Joseph, the man who took care of Jesus like a father, was a carpenter. "Is not this the carpenter's son? is not his mother called Mary? and his brethren, James, and Joses, and Simon, and Judas?"

    Mark 6:3 tells us Jesus was a carpenter too. "Is not this the carpenter, the son of Mary, the brother of James, and Joses, and of Juda, and Simon? and are not his sisters here with us? And they were offended at him."

    Seems like a yes, right? Jesus was a carpenter.

    But archaeologists are wondering if they were stone masons. The city of Sepphoris was about four miles from Nazareth and is built of cut stone and decorated with beautiful mosaics. Much of the stonework was cut outside of Sepphoris and brought in to the city. Since Herod was building this city, archaeologists think Joseph and Jesus would have been two of the craftsmen cutting the stones.

    Is that possible?

    The word translated carpenter is tektōn. It is only used in the Bible in the two verses above. But its meanings include any type of craftsman or builder and mentions wood, ship building, poetry, fabric, and even an author. It seems to be a term used like artisan and understood in the context of what is known about the person and his type of work.

    And to be honest, most buildings were not made out of wood in Israel like we think of a carpenter building a home in the U.S. Also, Jesus referred to Himself as the stone the builders rejected. (Matthew 21:42-44) In Mark 13:1-2, His disciples thought He would be impressed with the Temple's stones.

    Does this make Jesus a stonemason? 

    Not really. We only know Joseph was a craftsman and he taught Jesus the craft and they both worked on it. Sepphoris was a town under construction and nearby. It is very likely they contributed to it in someway, but we can't prove that. Sepphoris is not mentioned in the Bible, even though it was the most important city in Galilee.

    Sepphoris is important to us anyway, however. Rabbi Eliezer lived here and may have met Jesus' brother James. Eliezer says he met a Jesus follower on a Sepphoris road. Some think James is the Jesus follower named Yaakov who caused Eliezer to be labeled a heretic. Either way, it helps confirm the dating of the New Testament.

    Sepphoris is also a treasure because it surrendered to the Romans and was never destroyed. It is a peek into what a Jewish town would have looked like in Jesus' day and thereafter. Here is a beautiful video about Sepphoris. Hope you enjoy it.

    Image by Brandon Kaida courtesy of Unsplash


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