carpenter - Mk 6.3

From: Brian E. Wilson (
Date: Mon Feb 10 1997 - 13:12:03 EST

>Any insight on whether the Greek word translated "carpenter" in Mark
>6:3 really refers to a woodworker? Someone told me awhile back that
>the literal translation was "stone worker", and I'd like to know if
>there's any linguistic backing to that claim. (I've never studied
>Thanks much,

The word in Greek in Mk 6.3 is TEKTWN from which the English word
"tectonic" is derived. The Greek word is used in the Greek Old Testament
to translate a Hebrew word which means an "artificer" in either stone or
wood, but especially in wood. So its likely meaning in Mk 6.3, if taken
literally, is "wood-worker" or "carpenter".

However, the word for "carpenter" in Aramaic, tha language spoken in the
synagogue at Nazareth, was used metaphorically, according to Professor
Geza Vermes in his book JESUS THE JEW. In Talmudic sayings the Aramaic
noun for carpenter or craftsman is NAGGAR and stands for a "scholar" or
"learned man". The origin of this proverbial use of the word for
"carpenter" is that carpenters in those ways were regarded as the brains
of the community (just like computer engineers today). Carpenters work
very much in three dimensions, and you need to think hard to get it
right! So the word TEKTWN in Mark 6.3, interestingly, could have meant
simply that Jesus was very clever. In my view, the ethical teaching
attributed to Jesus in the synoptic gospels indicates that Jesus was
intellectually a genius with an IQ of, say, 160 or higher. Whatever else
one thinks about Jesus, he was a person of exceptional ability. Perhaps
the congregation at Nazareth were "jibbing" at this "clever-clogs" Jesus
who was bringing new ideas to their village?!

Judging from Paul's letters, Paul was an intellectual genius as well.

Brian E. Wilson

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