Print Friendly, PDF & Email

Question

 

Gramps,

Jesus is continually referred to as a “carpenter” (woodworker).  However, I find no reference to the Savior actually working with wood.  If anything, Christ was probably a mason, as nearly all of his references and parables seem to focus on rock, sand,  and firm foundations.  As such, I find “carpenter” to likely be a mistranslation during the organization of the Bible.

Your thoughts?

Bob

 

Answer

 

Hi Bob,

The New Testament refers to Joseph as a τέκτων (tektōn), which is normally translated in English as “carpenter.”  A more general translation would be a “builder” or “artisan.” Since this would have been the trade Jesus was brought up in, I love the idea that he was brought up as a “builder,” since of course he is the master Builder of his kingdom. As a “builder,” he would doubtless have been familiar with the general mechanical properties of sand and stone, and would likely have known by experience that houses built on sand are unsafe. (A good resource for such translation issues is the Blue Letter Bible.)

I don’t know that I’d go so far as to say that “carpenter” is a mistranslation. There are separate terms for “iron-worker” and “stone-worker” that were commonly used in ancient Koine Greek; we can assume that one of these terms would have been used to describe Joseph if it had been more fitting than “tektōn.” Translating between languages is a tricky business. Translating from an ancient language into a modern one is even more fraught with difficulty. So I’m happy to give the translators a pass for using this term, which is both accurate and reasonable in context. But privately, I like to think of Joseph and Jesus as “builders”.

 

Gramps

 

 

Copyright © 2020 Ask Gramps - Q and A about Mormon Doctrine. All Rights Reserved.
This website is not owned by or affiliated with The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (sometimes called the Mormon or LDS Church). The views expressed herein do not necessarily represent the position of the Church. The views expressed by individual users are the responsibility of those users and do not necessarily represent the position of the Church. For the official Church websites, please visit LDS.org or Mormon.org.

Pin It on Pinterest