I would imagine that most of the population (whether Christian or not) when asked about Jesus’ occupation would answer that he was a carpenter (thanks Indiana Jones). This is not wrong, but maybe in need of some nuance. Jesus’ adoptive father, Joseph, is called a τέκτων (pronounced “tech-tone”) in Matthew 13:55, “Is not this the carpenter’s [τέκτων] son? Is not His mother called Mary, and His brothers, James and Joseph and Simon and Judas?” Then, Jesus himself is called a τέκτων in Mark 6:3, “‘Is not this the carpenter [τέκτων], the son of Mary, and brother of James and Joses and Judas and Simon? Are not His sisters here with us?’ And they took offense at Him.” It was normal for sons to follow their fathers in trade/occupation in this cultural context, so it makes sense that both Joseph and Jesus are referred to as a τέκτων. The nuance needed here is that “carpenter” is probably too specific of a designation for the work of a τέκτων. A τέκτων would have undoubtedly been able to work with wood, but also with stone and even metal. Therefore, a τέκτων is “one who constructs” or succinctly, a “builder”. (Arndt, William, Frederick W. Danker, Walter Bauer, and F. Wilbur Gingrich. A Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament and Other Early Christian Literature. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2000, pg. 995.)
Jesus worked as a “builder” on earth about two-thousand years ago. He probably built tools, furniture, homes, and other buildings. So yes, Jesus was a builder during His earthly ministry, but what about before? And what about after? It’s remarkable (and awesomely ironic) that Jesus was a τέκτων in his earthly ministry, because the Son of God was building long before his career in Nazareth: “All things came into being through Christ” (John 1:3) and “For by Christ all things were created, both in the heavens and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or authorities—all things have been created through Him and for Him.” (Colossians 1:16) Jesus is the τέκτων of the universe.
Jesus built stuff in Nazareth, Jesus built (and maintains) the universe, and Jesus also takes part in building His Church: “I [Jesus] also say to you that you are Peter, and upon this rock I will build My church; and the gates of Hades will not overpower it.” (Matthew 16:18) “In whom[Christ] the whole building, being fitted together, is growing into a holy temple in the Lord, in whom you also are being built together into a dwelling of God in the Spirit.” (Ephesians 2:21-22) If you have faith in Christ, then you are built into the ever-growing home of God. Jesus is the τέκτων of the Church.
So we return to the question posed by the villagers in Mark 6:3 who are offended by Jesus’ actions and words, “Is not this the carpenter?” The answer is yes. Actually…more than you even know. He’s the Cosmic Carpenter.
(The idea for this blog was sparked by S.M. Baugh’s comment on Ephesians 2:14-15 in his brilliant commentary. Baugh, S. M. Ephesians: Evangelical Exegetical Commentary. Ed. Wayne H. House, Hall W. Harris III, and Andrew W. Pitts. Bellingham, WA: Lexham Press, 2015. Evangelical Exegetical Commentary. 191.)