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Re: Jesus the Carpenter?

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  • Weasel
    ... A significant percentage of Aesop s fables have an agrarian setting. But I don t believe many scholars regard such Aesop fables as rustic wit. -- Weasel
    Message 1 of 9 , Jun 4, 1998
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      Jim West wrote:

      > I was just reading one of the gospels (!) again when it occured to me that:
      > 1) Jesus is known as the Carpenter's son.
      > 2) Most of Jesus' parables, teachings, and sayings are agricultrual in nature.
      > 3) That he most likely addressed his audience in language they would find
      > useful.

      A significant percentage of Aesop's fables have an agrarian setting. But I don't
      believe many scholars regard such Aesop fables as rustic wit.
      --
      Weasel

      ----------------------------------
      C'est de quoi j'ai le plus de peur que la peur.
      (The thing I fear most is fear.)

      Michel Eyquem de Montainge

      1533-1592
    • Mark Goodacre
      ... My summary was inadequate. In oversimplifying, I obscured. Goulder s claim very broadly is that the imagery of Matthew and Luke -- and especially the
      Message 2 of 9 , Jun 9, 1998
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        I wrote:

        > >Michael Goulder did some work in the late 60s and early 70s on the
        > >imagery in the Gospel tradition, trade, building, agricultural,
        > >"religious" etc. He claimed that the Markan material was more
        > >clearly agricultural, village-style life that reflected accurately
        > >the historical Jesus' rural Galilean upbringing and that (broadly)
        > >the building / trade type imagery was later and comes mainly from the
        > >minds of Matthew and Luke.
        > >
        Jim West replied:
        >
        > This seems difficult to accept. Why would Mt/Lk be closer to the
        > imagery of Jesus' actual work situation when Mark seems much more
        > interested in these sorts of things? I.e., it is Mk who gives us
        > the most detail about Jesus' family and how his fellow villagers
        > viewed him.

        My summary was inadequate. In oversimplifying, I obscured.
        Goulder's claim very broadly is that the imagery of Matthew and Luke
        -- and especially the latter -- show more evidence of the wider,
        non-Palestinian world in comparison with the rural, agricultural
        imagery in Mark.

        All the best

        Mark
        --------------------------------------
        Dr Mark Goodacre M.S.Goodacre@...
        Dept of Theology, University of Birmingham
        Homepage: http://www.bham.ac.uk/theology/goodacre
        (Please note new address)
      • Jim West
        ... Mark, My comments were certianly no criticism of you! I hope you did not hear them that way. I was simply asking a question about the Marcan milieu- not
        Message 3 of 9 , Jun 9, 1998
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          At 04:32 PM 6/9/98 +0000, you wrote:

          >My summary was inadequate. In oversimplifying, I obscured.
          >Goulder's claim very broadly is that the imagery of Matthew and Luke
          >-- and especially the latter -- show more evidence of the wider,
          >non-Palestinian world in comparison with the rural, agricultural
          >imagery in Mark.
          >
          >All the best
          >
          >Mark

          Mark,

          My comments were certianly no criticism of you! I hope you did not hear
          them that way. I was simply asking a question about the Marcan milieu- not
          claiming superior knowledge to yours (which I in any event do not have, as
          everyone on list knows right well) :)

          The provenance of Mark, it seems to me, is a more rural one than Mt or Lk.
          (This seems to put the lie to the notion that Mark was written in Rome- but
          thats pure ahistorical speculation anyway). I think this "rurality" (I
          know, its not really a word, but it works here, doesn't it?), stems from the
          antiquity of Mark's material.

          Best, to all God's creatures,

          Jim "bad as I wanna be, Dennis Rodman of pastoral theologians" West.

          ++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++
          Jim West, ThD

          Adjunct Professor of Bible
          Quartz Hill School of Theology
          jwest@...
        • Mahlon H. Smith
          ... According to Matt. Mark gives this as Jesus own trade. My hunch is that Matt is attempting to hide the fact that Jesus was a blue-collar laborer. There
          Message 4 of 9 , Jun 12, 1998
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            Jim West wrote:
            >
            > I was just reading one of the gospels (!) again when it occured to me that:
            > 1) Jesus is known as the Carpenter's son.

            According to Matt. Mark gives this as Jesus' own trade. My hunch is that
            Matt is attempting to hide the fact that Jesus was a blue-collar
            laborer. There have been periodic attempts to interpret *tekton*
            metaphorically as a term of admiration. But these ignore the fact that
            Mark reports this info as public surprise that a *tekton* could have any
            wisdom to contribute. Most us professional biblical scholars & Jesus
            freaks don't want to face the public humiliation of admitting that we
            have devoted our lives & energies to glorifying a member of a minor
            sub-branch of the Sepphoris chapter of the construction worker's union.
            Remember the public furor when Crossan dared to use the term "peasant"
            in his tome on HJ?

            > 2) Most of Jesus' parables, teachings, and sayings are agricultrual in nature.

            Granted. Isn't this to be expected of one whom the gospels portray as
            tramping across the hills & fields talking to peasants? But note: there
            are several parables & aphorisms that indicate that Jesus was familiar
            with the more urban side of Galilean politics & economy.

            > 3) That he most likely addressed his audience in language they would find
            > useful.

            If he didn't, we probably would never have heard of him. I like to
            imagine 1st c. Galilee as somewhat analogous to Hunterdon county NJ in
            the 1990s. Basically a rural area with many small hamlets dotting the
            hills & a few more sizeable towns, each with their age-old local
            industry (mills & mining in the case of NJ, fishing in the case of
            Galilee). But this strategically located bucolic setting attracted a few
            spectacular modern building projects & palaces of wealthy outsiders (the
            Herods in the case of Galilee; Exxon Research, Foster Wheeler
            Engineering, & more recently the corporate center of Merck
            Pharmaceuticals in Hunterdon). Though a faculty member of an urban
            university, I live in a modernized farmhouse which in recent years has
            been dwarfed by million dollar estates, all built by local contractors
            whose employees' families have lived here for generations. To get real
            culture though, I have to commute more than 40 miles to New Brunswick or
            Princeton or even further to NYC or Philadelphia. There are few fellow
            scholars who live in this area & in the era before the internet I had to
            make a 100 mile round trip to find a decent library. None of my
            neighbors has a bookshelf in their house. So I can't imagine that the
            environment Jesus worked in was more learned. At least I haven't heard
            of the discovery of any text-oriented institute of higher learning
            comparable to Qumran in the 1st c. excavations of Galilee.
            >
            > Nevertheless, it seems almost odd that, as far as I can recall, there are no
            > images drawn from the workshop used in the teaching of Jesus.

            There is one: the speck & timber logion. But in my interpretation, Jesus
            intended this principle primarily as advice to himself rather than as
            criticism of others. If so, this saying is indirect evidence that Jesus
            was in fact a carpenter.

            >Does this
            > mean that there were no carpenters in his audience?

            Possibly.

            >Or does it suggest that
            > he was, in fact, not a carpenter at all but a farmer?

            That is some people's interpretation of Crossan's identification of
            Jesus as a "peasant." But what happens to bankrupt peasants when they
            lose the farm? Then as now they sell their services in the construction
            industry, at least if they want to eat. Doesn't that explain the
            frequent employer/laborer imagery in Jesus' parables? Thus it is a
            mistake to regard carpenters & farmers as discrete professions in the
            pre-guild world of rural Galilee.

            > If so, why would he
            > be called a carpenter?

            Maybe Joseph wasn't a very good or very lucky farmer; so he had to
            switch trades. Unless he trained his boy in survival skills he wouldn't
            have been a very good father either. But apparently Jesus was a bit like
            many modern offspring. He did not like being bound by his father's line
            of work. So he decided to drop out. When I was a boy, my preacher father
            got me many summer jobs in local construction industry through church &
            Rotary club members. But I hated them all equally. That's why I became a
            teacher & a scholar. It's a hell of a lot easier to build imaginative
            castles with one's mouth than with one's hands.
            >
            > So- can anyone point me to a text (and I frankly do not care what color it
            > is painted in the 5 gospels) that draws its imagery from the woodshed?
            >
            I did: speck & timber. It's saying 50 among the R/P sayings in 5G (p.
            551). In my analysis of this logion (which is part of a more intensive
            JS collaborative commentary focused on the genuine Jesus sayings, that
            is currently in press) I argue for the historical priority of Thom 26 to
            the canonical Q version (Matt 7:3-5//Luke 6:41-42) & for an
            autobiographical element.

            Shalom!

            Mahlon

            --

            *********************

            Mahlon H. Smith,
            Associate Professor
            Department of Religion
            Rutgers University
            New Brunswick NJ

            http://religion.rutgers.edu/mhsmith.html
          • Jim West
            ... They certainly wouldn t have had a big mac with cheese! Anyway, I would be curious to know where you got this info about harvest time workers. Jeremias
            Message 5 of 9 , Jun 12, 1998
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              At 03:24 PM 6/12/98 -0700, you wrote:
              >
              >
              > I think this calls for a closer look at the economy of the Galilee during
              >the 1st century. Most of the peasantry, rather they were tektons, cobblers,
              >or short order cooks at benMcDonald's would find "extra" work during
              >the harvest time at the barleyworks outside of town, being paid in barley,
              >lentils, olives or Mac ha-gadols. That a tekton, or any other peasant
              >artificer, would be familiar with the fields is to be expected.
              >
              >Jack

              They certainly wouldn't have had a big mac with cheese! Anyway, I would be
              curious to know where you got this info about harvest time workers.
              Jeremias (it's been a long time since I looked at him)?

              Further, I would assume that many skilled workers would not have worked in
              the fields because their own occupations would have kept them busy. The
              unemployed, and lazy, yes- but skilled workers?

              Best,

              Jim

              ++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++
              Jim West, ThD

              Adjunct Professor of Bible
              Quartz Hill School of Theology
              jwest@...
            • Jack Kilmon
              ... I think this calls for a closer look at the economy of the Galilee during the 1st century. Most of the peasantry, rather they were tektons, cobblers, or
              Message 6 of 9 , Jun 12, 1998
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                Mahlon H. Smith wrote:

                >
                >
                > > 2) Most of Jesus' parables, teachings, and sayings are agricultrual in nature.
                >
                > Granted. Isn't this to be expected of one whom the gospels portray as
                > tramping across the hills & fields talking to peasants? But note: there
                > are several parables & aphorisms that indicate that Jesus was familiar
                > with the more urban side of Galilean politics & economy.

                I think this calls for a closer look at the economy of the Galilee during
                the 1st century. Most of the peasantry, rather they were tektons, cobblers,
                or short order cooks at benMcDonald's would find "extra" work during
                the harvest time at the barleyworks outside of town, being paid in barley,
                lentils, olives or Mac ha-gadols. That a tekton, or any other peasant
                artificer, would be familiar with the fields is to be expected.

                Jack
                jkilmon@...
                http://www.historian.net
              • Mark Goodacre
                ... I don t think I would want to grant Jim s statement above. There is a reasonable amount of agricultural imagery, especially in triple tradition material,
                Message 7 of 9 , Jun 13, 1998
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                  Jim West wrote, and Mahlon replied:

                  > > 2) Most of Jesus' parables, teachings, and sayings are
                  > > agricultrual in nature.
                  >
                  > Granted. Isn't this to be expected of one whom the gospels portray
                  > as tramping across the hills & fields talking to peasants? But note:
                  > there are several parables & aphorisms that indicate that Jesus was
                  > familiar with the more urban side of Galilean politics & economy.

                  I don't think I would want to grant Jim's statement above. There is
                  a reasonable amount of agricultural imagery, especially in triple
                  tradition material, but can we say "most" of Jesus' parables,
                  teachings and sayings are agricultural in nature? Surely not.

                  Goulder's work on the imagery in the Gospel material is genuinely
                  interesting and worthwhile and, unfortunately, little known. Like
                  much of what he has done, he overstated the case. I did some
                  research on this for the book but could not find a way to include it.
                  Perhaps I will come back to this some time. It is certainly
                  interesting to note the tendencies in the different kinds of material
                  -- it seems clear, for example, that the Markan material is
                  predominantly agriculatural, perhaps a sign of authenticity.

                  > >Or does it suggest that
                  > > he was, in fact, not a carpenter at all but a farmer?

                  I suppose what I would like to know from Mahlon and Jim is: why
                  assume that hO TEKTWN should be translated "the carpenter"? Is it
                  not usually "a worker with materials" of some kind, i.e. he could
                  have been a metalworker or the like. It may be that there is good
                  evidence for hO TEKTWN = (unequivocally) "the carpenter" and I would
                  be interested to see it.

                  Was it Mahlon a few months ago who came up with that great idea about
                  Jesus getting to know Peter, Andrew, James and John because he might
                  have made their boats for them? I liked that alot.

                  I agree with Mahlon about the unconvincing nature of those who want
                  to take TEKTWN metaphorically for rabbi, teacher etc. I believe
                  Vermes does this in _Jesus: the Jew_.

                  > I did: speck &
                  > timber. It's saying 50 among the R/P sayings in 5G (p. 551). In my
                  > analysis of this logion (which is part of a more intensive JS
                  > collaborative commentary focused on the genuine Jesus sayings, that
                  > is currently in press) I argue for the historical priority of Thom
                  > 26 to the canonical Q version (Matt 7:3-5//Luke 6:41-42) & for an
                  > autobiographical element.

                  I look forward to seeing it.

                  As I have said before, I think that this logion is one of the
                  funniest in the Gospels. The only Jesus film that I know of to take
                  it comically is the recent _Visual Bible_ version of Matthew's
                  Gospel. Jesus picks up someone's walking stick and shoves it in his
                  eye -- very amusing.

                  Speaking of humour, I enjoyed the exegesis for the birds.

                  Mark
                  -------------------------------------------
                  Dr Mark Goodacre M.S.Goodacre@...
                  Dept. of Theology, University of Birmingham
                  Homepage: http://www.bham.ac.uk/theology/goodacre
                  (Please note new address)
                • Mahlon H. Smith
                  ... Good observation, Neil, & one that is not stressed in standard exegeses of this passage. The Markan pericope on Jesus homecoming, like Mark s earlier
                  Message 8 of 9 , Jun 15, 1998
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                    Neil Godfrey wrote:
                    >
                    > 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
                    > come
                    > 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,



                    Good observation, Neil, & one that is not stressed in standard exegeses
                    of this passage. The Markan pericope on Jesus' homecoming, like Mark's
                    earlier presentation of his kin's reaction (3:20-35) & subsequent scenes
                    involving Jesus' closest disciples (8:27-34, 9:1-13 & 10:35-45) is shot
                    through with Markan irony. Thus, one is wise to be cautious about simply
                    taking the information in these scenes as strictly biographical.

                    But note Mark's rhetoric (lit from the Greek of 6:2-3):

                    Jesus began *to teach* [DIDASKEIN] in the synagogue.
                    Many ask: "From where (are) *these* things to *this (guy)*?"
                    [POQEN TOUTW TAUTA]
                    and "Who the *wisdom* given *to this (guy)*?"
                    [TIS hH SOFIA hH DOQEISA TOUTW]
                    and "(Do) such powerful things happen through *his* hands?"
                    [hAI DYNAMEIS TOIAUTAI DIA TWN CEIRWN AUTOU GINOMENOI]
                    "Is *this* NOT the carpenter? Mary's son?..."
                    [OUK hOUTOS ESTIN hO TEKTON, hO hUIOS THS MARIAS]...

                    The narrator concludes (6:5) from this reception:

                    He did NOT have power there to do *anything* powerful,...except...".
                    [OUK DUNATO EKEI PIHSAI OUDEMIAN DUNAMIN, EI MH...]

                    The first point to notice is that the only thing Mark says Jesus
                    actually did in his home synagogue is presume to teach.

                    Therefore, all the skeptical questions on the part of his neighbors are
                    designed to be read as parallel reactions to his teaching.

                    The next point is that the neighbors' reaction to J is rife with sarcasm
                    about "this (guy)'s" ability to know or do anything of real
                    significance. This raises the question about whether they were being
                    sincere or sarcastic in characterizing J's teaching as "wisdom."

                    Unlike the first 2 questions, the 3rd does not point to specific acts
                    (i.e., "these") that J is presently doing, but rather to a type (i.e.,
                    "such" [TOIAUTAI] or class of action. Thus, the neighbor's skepticism is
                    directed towards J's native ability to perform acts that could be deemed
                    "powerful" by any definition of that term.

                    Thus, Mark gives no indication that the hometown folk had any inkling
                    that Jesus had a reputation for performing any kind of powerful deeds
                    (DUNAMEIS) anywhere. [Mark's version should not be confused with Luke's
                    parallel (ch 4), where Jesus suggests his neighbors in Nazareth already
                    know of deeds he performed miles away in Capernaum even though Luke does
                    not bother to narrate the latter events until after Jesus leaves home
                    for good].

                    Mark clearly intends the 4th question to be rhetorical. J *is* Mary's
                    son & the townfolk correctly identify him as such even though they ask
                    if he is not. Therefore, they seem to have no question about the proper
                    identification of his profession. They know him primarily as a TEKTWN.
                    Moreover, this mundane classification is NOT formulated "in response to
                    the rhetorical reference to 'mighty works wrought by his hands'," as you
                    put it. Mark presents it "in response" to J's teaching *in parallel* to
                    the doubt a *question* about J's ability to do anything of real power or
                    significance. The whole complex of questions in effect asks "what can
                    this hard hat teach us?"

                    And if one follows Jane Shaberg's argument for J's illegitimacy the
                    neighbor's identification of J as "son of Mary" rather than "son of
                    Joseph" as a proper Jewish surname would be constructed, the negative
                    tenor of all these questions is even stronger. For Mosaic law forbid the
                    admission of bastards into the congregation (=synagogue) even to learn
                    much less teach.

                    Shalom!

                    Mahlon

                    --

                    *********************

                    Mahlon H. Smith,
                    Associate Professor
                    Department of Religion
                    Rutgers University
                    New Brunswick NJ

                    http://religion.rutgers.edu/mhsmith.html
                  • Neil Godfrey
                    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
                    Message 9 of 9 , Jun 16, 1998
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                      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
                      come
                      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
                      perhaps
                      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
                      Bartimaeus's
                      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"!
                      All
                      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
                      family
                      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
                      quite
                      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
                      (the
                      proverbial prophet without honour in his own family) was the brother of
                      Hideaway,
                      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
                      the
                      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
                      Jesus
                      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
                      with
                      repeating Mark's bald claim that he was a 'tekton'.)


                      Neil Godfrey

                      mercury@...
                      Toowoomba, Qld.
                      Australia
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