What did Jesus do before he began his ministry?
The slogan goes: “My boss is a Jewish Carpenter.” The reference is to Jesus being a carpenter before he began his ministry. However, is that what the Bible actually teaches us?
Why do we think Jesus was a carpenter? This comes to us from Mark 6:3 and Matthew 13:55.
Is not this the carpenter, the son of Mary, and brother of James and Joses and Judas and Simon? Are not His sisters here with us?” And they took offense at Him. – Mark 6:3
Is not this the carpenter’s son? Is not His mother called Mary, and His brothers, James and Joseph and Simon and Judas? – Matthew 13:55
There you have it. Seems obvious. Mark tells us Jesus was a carpenter. Matthew tells us Jesus’ father was a carpenter. Since the son would take on the profession of the father, it would indicate Jesus was also a carpenter. On Biblehub.com, where verses are shown in 24 different Bible versions, 23 of these versions use the term “carpenter.” Only the International Standard Version translates the Greek as “builder.” That seems like overwhelming evidence that Jesus was a carpenter.
Would someone translate Tekton please?
The Greek word being translated as “carpenter” is “tekton.” Thayer’s first definition is “a worker in wood.” Strong’s Dictionary defines it as “an artificer (as producer of fabrics), that is, (specifically) a craftsman in wood: – carpenter.” So far, it seems clear that Jesus was a carpenter. However, this is where we need to dig deeper.
According to the Septuagint, which is the Greek translation of the Hebrew Scriptures, the Hebrew equivalent for tekton is charash. Hence, when the Hebrew priests translated the Hebrew Scriptures into Greek, they used the Greek “tekton” to translate the Hebrew “charash”. This gives us an excellent idea of the work of a tekton in the days of Jesus.
So what is a “charash?” Strong’s defines it as “a fabricator of any material:” and Brown-Driver-Briggs defines it as a “craftsman, artisan, engraver, graver, artificer.” In other words, a charash was a craftsman or a builder. We learn an interesting fact regarding the use of “tekton” to translate “charash” in Isaiah 44:13: “The carpenter measures with a line…” The term “carpenter” is “charash ets”. “Ets” means wood in Hebrew.
Hence, in Hebrew, a carpenter is a “charash ets” or a “craftsman in wood” a.k.a. a carpenter. However, without “ets”, he is simply a “craftsman”. Hence, a carpenter would be a “tekton of wood,” a stonemason would be a “tekton of stone.” Coming back to our New Testament verses about Jesus, we read: “Is not this the tekton, the son of Mary” and “Is not this the tekton’s son?” Neither use the term “wood”.
Jesus the Tekton
So what does it mean that Jesus was a tekton? It means that he was a craftsman or a builder. Some might say he was like a general contractor. Most would say he was probably a stonemason. Stone was everywhere in Galilee. Houses were made of stones with wood only in the roof rafters. Most people didn’t have furniture as we think of today. They used mats and stones. Archeology has found houses with stone mangers, not wood. In other words, when Jesus was laid in a manger, it was a stone manger.
Now is it possible that Jesus was a carpenter? Absolutely. The term tekton could be any kind of craftsman, including one who worked with wood. However, it would seem that Jesus would not have been in business for 20-years if he primarily worked in wood. More likely, Joseph and Jesus were first masons (stone), then carpenters (wood) and smiths (metal).
This helps us understand why Jesus spoke so often of stone: building houses on rock foundations, building the church on the rock, building stone towers, millstones around necks, stones instead of bread, rejected stone becoming the chief cornerstone, not one stone being left upon another when the Temple was destroyed, and stones crying out. On the other hand, he does not speak of wood even once. This would be odd for someone who has worked with wood for 20 years. Yet, if he worked with stone for 20 years, we understand why all the stone references.
What’s the point? We need to be careful that we take for granted what the Bible has said. Too often, a tradition has been added to the word of God. It is imperative that we understand what the Bible actually says and not what tradition tells us it says – even if 23 of 24 translations tell us otherwise. If we cannot be trusted with small things, how can we be trusted with much? (Luke 16:10)
If you think Jesus was a carpenter, type “carpenter” in the comments below. If you think he was a stonemason, type “mason” in the comments. If you think he worked with more than one kind of building material, type “craftsman.” Let’s see which one wins… God bless!
It doesn’t matter. I explained this to an older couple the other day. You would have thought by their reaction and arguments that I had said Jesus wàs a Nazi. They were so angry. I asked why the hostility. They just kept saying I was an uneducated person. I said your right I have only been reading the Bible since I could walk and went to college for four years. I asked did either one of you go to college? No reply. Just more insults that I didn’t know the Bible. I then said what does it matter he could have been a donkey walker and I would still believe he is the son of God. That seemed to anger them more. I then said God bless you both have a glorious day. They didnt even acknowledge me .
Stone Mason because of ALL His references to things of STONE. Very obvious. Very simple.
Mason (Loosely, I wouldn’t claim to know for sure on this.)
I should add – other than the many parables and figures of speech Jesus used, I also find stonemason more likely for a couple of other reasons: There was a large stone quarry, as well as the city of Sepphoris/Zippori which was home to many building projects in the 1st century, both within walking distance of Nazareth, so Joseph and Jesus were in an ideal location for work if they were stonemasons; there weren’t a lot of trees good for timber in the region itself; and some OT prophecies link stones with Jesus (the stone cut from the mountain that smashes the kingdoms of the world, the stone the builders rejected, a stone laid in Zion, etc.) Even the interesting connection that Jesus was laid in a stone manger at His first coming, and will first land on a mountain at His second, seems to reinforce the close ties Jesus has with stone.
I don’t find the argument that Jesus talked about stone a lot and wood little very compelling. (Particularly when talking about foundations. Even wooden houses are built on masonry foundations.) But I do think there would be some very interesting parallels with the Old Testament if He was, in fact a stonemason.
God inscribed the law on tablets of stone at Sinai.
He promised to remove & replace the people’s hearts of stone.
He said the law would be written on our hearts.
My father, a catholic commented, “the bible is wrong, Jesus family background come from rich people, but the bible describe him poor…” I’m a born again Christian. i heard from sermon to one of our pastors that describe Jesus former work was a house builder/contructor. So, I researched… and found your blog. To me, he was a master stone mason, engraver, construction engr, civil engr, geoditic, architect, all in one. Major of all, master of all. First class workmanship fit to work for the king. Yet, he chose not making a lot of money in his profession. “Isn’t he the son of Joseph the carpenter..? Their family industry must have been well known in town, It’s like saying” Isn’t he the son of UKC Builders?” (one of our town well known contructors.)
As a true follower of Christ, we live the radical life and radical standard in our profession. The Lord bless us much, but we do not have so much because we sacrificially give. We are 100% full time in the service of the Lord, yet 100% full time in our profession. We give Him glory in our master craftmanship.
Primarily mason, but had experience with wood and metals. As in Mark 13:1 KJV, one of the disciples pointed out the greatness of the stones and buildings were. Bringing attention to Jesus about something he seemed to have great knowledge of.
Honestly ,what matters most is if they changed words from original text.If original text really meant stonemaker, then me was mostly a stonemaker. That doesn’t mean that He didn’t do both stone and wood. However it does matter if translation got twisted when translating from original text.Ive read that there were not many trees at that time there. Who knows.There were bushes certainly. Not sure really.
What do you think the cross was made from?
Jesus often visited the mount of olives. Olives grow on trees. He saw a fig tree with no fruit and cursed it. So there were olive trees and fig trees at that time. Jesus also spoke parables about trees. And he was crucified on a tree.
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The God of our fathers raised up Jesus, whom ye slew and hanged on a tree.
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Masons and carpenters work with their hands. When Jesus was in his ministry years, he did not work with his hands. He spoke the word of God with his mouth.
Well as someone who has seen that area of the world in person I want to say Craftsman not very much wood around a whole lot of stone and rock and that kind of thing besides Jesus was a man of Excellence so in my opinion he could do it all which would be a Craftsman there’s no limits found in Christ back then or even now today and I employ to those of you don’t know him personally please take some time soon to get to know him the time is getting short and we not need to be without him when he comes back for his disciples.
To me personally I would say that Yeshua was a Craftsman.
David I totally agree with you, Craftsman! Oh and Merry Christmas and a blessed New Year to you and yours
In Exodus the Jews had been master stone builders when they were released.
Seems to me the generations would have passed the skills down through the generations.
Matthew 26: 17
The one reference to wood I know of, was, when Jesus and the deciples ate the passover meal and reclined at the table, (The Last Supper) basically a very low table, or even a block of wood on the floor in the room for the meal that had been prepared.
“On the other hand, he does not speak of wood even once.”
Yet Jesus said:
And why beholdest thou the mote that is in thy brother’s eye, but considerest not the beam that is in thine own eye? [Matthew 7:3 KJV]
beam: a large piece of wood used for building purposes
mote: a small piece of wood or mere splinter
Both terms Jesus used refer to wood. So the author’s claim that Jesus did not speak of wood even once is false.
And where does wood come from? Trees. And Jesus referred to trees many times:
[Matthew 3:10 KJV] And now also the axe is laid unto the root of the trees: therefore every tree which bringeth not forth good fruit is hewn down, and cast into the fire.
Jesus talked about using a tool to cut down a tree, which is the source of wood.
And what was the material that Jesus himself was nailed to? Wood. The Carpenter was nailed to a dead tree: the cross, which was wood. But he is more than a carpenter. He is the Lord God. The spirit of God was in the man Jesus. So he could do all things and was not limited to carpentry. And he is still able to do all things.
Before his ministry began he helped his father build with wood. But at the age of 30 he ceased from using his hands to build and began to seek the lost sheep as the Good Shepherd, who laid down his life for the sheep. He is not limited to one skill. Jesus is also a Physician, as he can heal all manner of diseases. He is also the Stone that the builders rejected. Yes, the masons have rejected the Lord for who he truly is. If he were a mason, he would be accepted by the masons. Jesus is the King, but his kingdom is not of this world, where the masons continue to build their own kingdom, which will be destroyed. But the Lord’s kingdom is everlasting.
Thank you for that insight. Have you researched the olive tree? The tree (cross) of the crucifixion? Possibility of dozens of crucifixion “trees” in the area. (We know there were three). I often wondered if they were on caravans.