Question from Rachael on 4/4/2008:
Hello Mr. Bunson,
Can you tell me, in today's terms, what socio-economical position carpenters held in Jesus' day? For example, a carpenter today is consider blue collar/middle class. Is this the equivalent in Jesus' time? Would Jesus (or better yet) carpenters in his time have been consider "sophisticated".
I know my question may seem superficial as Christ doesn't care about such things but rather the condition the heart. Your answer will be very helpful.
Thank you, Rachael
Answer by Matthew Bunson on 4/22/2008:
Carpenters in 1st century Palestine, much as they were elsewhere and much as it was for all recognized artisans, were not high on the social ladder in Hellenistic society, but they played a key part in local and city life as they provided needed furniture and other services. Carpenters were part of the wider shared economy of the era, meaning that artisans and workers labored together to make town and city life work. Thus, carpenters worked with artisans and masons in building homes, and carpenters supplied tables and other aspects of houses.
The Gospels use the word tekton to describe Joseph (Matthew 13:55; cf., Mark 6:3). More than a carpenter, a tekton was understood to be a craftsman, akin to a master builder or a general contractor. The word itself, however, has many different nuances in translation, especially from the Aramaic, and possible other meanings include poet, author, or scholar.