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380Re: Jesus the Carpenter?

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  • Neil Godfrey
    Jun 16, 1998
      I can't help being a little curious about two aspects of Mark's description of
      Jesus' trade and family.

      Firstly, Jesus is called a 'tekton/artisan' in response to the rhetorical
      reference to "mighty works wrought by his hands". (Mark 6:2-3). Doesn’t this
      across as another example of Mark’s portrayal of the spiritual blindness of the
      lesser mortals -- similar to saying: Is this the shepherd/potter of Israel? Nah,

      just a shepherd/potter. Whether the tekton reference is historical or not, there

      certainly appears to be literary artifice in the way it is introduced. And
      not only literary artifice, but also theological intent. Does not Mark regularly

      depict spiritual blindness by mundane images taken at face value, and elsewhere
      lace his stories with details that are really spiritual symbols? (the fruitless
      fig tree, leaven, temple destruction and rebuilding in 3 days, blind
      garment, healing the blind, 40 days in wilderness, Simon-Jairus inverted
      parallels, etc.)

      Does not this literary and theological context of Mark give some cause to pause
      before assuming the tekton reference is referring to historical reality?

      Secondly (and I know I'm stretching out on a limb even further with this, but I
      have to throw it in if I'm ever to have a chance of picking the brains of those
      who have read more than I have): Is not Mark's list of Jesus' family names also
      decked with literary and theological artifice?

      Here we have the context of a rejected prophet. So how appropriate that Jesus
      should be “the son of Miriam, and brother to Jacob, Joseph, Judah and Simeon"!
      five names were the original outcasts. Jacob had to flee to escape Esau, then
      Joseph was rejected and sold, followed by Judah leaving his family and playing
      around with a harlot, with Simeon being the final one to be "lost" from the
      when held hostage in Egypt. And of course Miriam was the leader who was cast out

      for a time for leprosy. (The point is the simple fact of being on the outside
      despite the fact that they were founding fathers/leaders -- Mark seems to be
      prepared to pick even ‘unworthy’ OT figures to serve as background relief in his

      portrayal of Jesus.)

      Is it not almost enough to wonder if Mark was essentially saying here: Jesus
      proverbial prophet without honour in his own family) was the brother of
      Castaway, Runaway and Takeaway? (Or at least the brother of Genesis characters
      proverbial for such ideas?)

      Though Mark does add a reference to Jesus' sisters (after reading the list of
      Genesis names above is one tempted to think of Dinah?) no names are given here,
      and one might sense that their mention here is a tidy finishing touch after
      himself had earlier spoken in a somewhat similar context of his true "brother,
      sister, and mother" (3:35).

      I know all this might well seem very waferish. But the various complex literary
      artifices and theological symbols throughout Mark surely justify at least
      wondering aloud whether there is necessarily any historical basis at all for
      Mark's mention of Jesus' trade and family. (At least on the point of his trade
      both Matthew and Luke also seem to have had some problem for whatever reason
      repeating Mark's bald claim that he was a 'tekton'.)

      Neil Godfrey

      Toowoomba, Qld.
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