Matthew 13:55 states:

Is not this the carpenter's son? Is not his mother called Mary? And are not his brothers James and Joseph and Simon and Judas?

Mark 6:3 (ESV) states:

Is not this the carpenter, the son of Mary and brother of James and Joses and Judas and Simon?

Luke 2:46 (ESV) states:

After three days they found him in the temple, sitting among the teachers, listening to them and asking them questions

Luke 2:46 gives the impression Jesus as a child knew the Jewish scriptures. Is is impression true?

Was Jesus really from the family of carpenters? How could they know the priestly scriptures?

  • 4
    If, in fact, the central question is the title question (as I take it, it is), then the rest are simply corollaries. There is a scholarly discussion of precisely this question, and it generally involves just this matrix, too. +1 from me.
    – Dɑvïd
    Commented Dec 16, 2016 at 10:27

3 Answers 3


Nearly all New Testament scholars believe that Mark's Gospel was written first1, and that Matthew and Luke were substantially based on that original gospel. So when Mark 6:3-4 says in the context of his return to his home town that Jesus was a carpenter, some weight must be given to this statement unless there are reasons for not doing so.

It seems that such a lowly profession might have been a source of some embarrassment in early Christian communities2. Matthew's Gospel, the next to be written, avoids saying that Jesus was a carpenter, merely saying in the parallel passage (Matthew 13:55-57) that he was the son of a carpenter. The next gospel, Luke makes no mention of either Joseph or Jesus having been a carpenter, writing instead that when Jesus returned to his home town he preached in the synagogue (Luke 4:16-24). If these two synoptic gospels were substantially derived from Mark, there is no reason to believe that they knew more about Jesus than did the author of Mark's Gospel. John's Gospel follows Luke in making no reference to a carpenter.

Dennis R MacDonald, compares Jesus to Odysseus in The Homeric Epics and the Gospel of Mark and finds many plausible parallels between the sufferings of Jesus and those of Odysseus. He proposes that the portrayal of Jesus as a carpenter was based on Odysseus' references to his own carpentry skills. If MacDonald is correct in his analysis, which continues to be debated among scholars, then Jesus was probably not a carpenter.

In conclusion, the best biblical source for this information is Mark's Gospel, which tells us that Jesus was a carpenter. Further scholarly analysis may provide some evidence that even the author of Mark's Gospel did not have certain knowledge of this, but filled in missing details about Jesus, from the Homeric epics.

Many scholars believe that the author of Luke-Acts extensively used themes and details from the works of the first-century Jewish historian, Josephus. A particularly relevant parallel is reported by Jewish Virtual Library:

Josephus relates of himself that in his youth he was so renowned for his knowledge of the Torah that high priests and leading men of the city would come to consult him on matters of halakhah, and he was apparently distinguished in his youth as an aggadist.

On its own, this does not prove that Luke's reference to Jesus discussing the scriptures with learned men at a similar age (Luke 2:46), was based on Josephus' egocentric account, but the presence of many other parallels supports such a conclusion. The alternative, implied by Luke, is that only by a miracle could the son of a poor village carpenter be able to hold the learned men entranced by his knowledge at such a tender age.

1Adam Winn (The Purpose of Mark's Gospel, page 1) says the theory of Markan priority is one of the few that has reached a high level of consensus among New Testament interpreters.

2 See, for example, Jesus the Magician, page 22, by Morton Smith

  • Carpenter and son of a carpenter are equivalent, as are man and son of man. (Trades and skills, just like human nature, are transmitted from parents to offspring). Also, since Nazareth was less than four miles away from the ancient and expanding city of Sepphoris, well-paid jobs would easily have been available, implying that they would have fared quite well from a financial perspective.
    – Lucian
    Commented Aug 9, 2017 at 16:26

Jesus is described in Greek in these passages as "ho tekton" while this can mean a 'carpenter' it can also mean 'Artisan' or 'Wright' as in stonewright or wheelwright. Mounce gives the following gloss for the word "... carpenter, woodworker; more generally: construction worker, including stonemason and metalworker ..." 1

Usually it does mean nothing more than carpenter or worker in wood but it is important to note that it dies carry other meanings.



Yes, Jesus was a carpenter (tektōn) or rather a craftsman (such as mason or stone-worker).

The point here in the identification of the job of Jesus is to show us that He worked with His own hands to support Himself and this has a meaning for all who follow in His footsteps today.

Yes, we have this message: A prophet is not without honor, except in his own country, and in his own house. The people of the world always identifies a person by “what they do” for a living. They make judgments about people by the job they have and will not listen if you have a low position in this life or they are too familiar with you to listen and believe. Familiarity breeds contempt.

But there is this point as well: Jesus worked with His own hands (as a craftsman). He had an outside job not related to making a living off those He preached to. Jesus did not preach for pay. He did not go to the gatherings of people looking for “offerings” from those He preached to.

They asked in Matthew 13 about Jesus: “Where did this man get this wisdom and these mighty works?” “Where did He learn all these things”?

Jesus worked with His own hands as a craftsman and illustrates how one who follows Him can truly understand the Scriptures (“where did this man get this wisdom?’) in order to truly feed the church of God. Jesus did not preach for a paycheck but instead worked with His own hands and this is the point being made.

Matthew 13:53-57 KJV (53) And it came to pass, that when Jesus had finished these parables, he departed thence. (54) And when he was come into his own country, he taught them in their synagogue, insomuch that they were astonished, and said, Whence hath this man this wisdom, and these mighty works? (55) Is not this the carpenter's son? is not his mother called Mary? and his brethren, James, and Joses, and Simon, and Judas? (56) And his sisters, are they not all with us? Whence then hath this man all these things? (57) And they were offended in him. But Jesus said unto them, A prophet is not without honour, save in his own country, and in his own house.

Paul also had an outside job as a tentmaker. This is not just trivia as it relates to how an overseer of the church can truly feed the church of God which Jesus purchased with His own blood.

Acts 20:28 KJV (28) Take heed therefore unto yourselves, and to all the flock, over the which the Holy Ghost hath made you overseers, to feed the church of God, which he hath purchased with his own blood.

Paul hits us with the message that shows us all things: how working with our own hands (at an outside-of-the-church job) as he did for our own earthly necessities can enable the overseers to truly feed the church of God and silence the weak consciences of the outside world from speaking evil of God's name because of the preaching for pay that they do not respect.

Only when an overseer works his own outside job and eats his own bread can he then truly understand the Scriptures so that he may truly feed those who need to hear the Word of Truth.

An overseer is not there to be ministered to by the congregation by getting a paycheck from them but to minister the Word of Truth freely so that the gospel is not hindered by the weak consciences of the outside world who speak evil of the Way of righteousness by the preaching for pay that they see going on.

Acts 20:33-35 KJV (33) I have coveted no man's silver, or gold, or apparel. (34) Yea, ye yourselves know, that these hands have ministered unto my necessities, and to them that were with me. (35) I have shewed you all things, how that so labouring ye ought to support the weak, and to remember the words of the Lord Jesus, how he said, It is more blessed to give than to receive.

But wait a second….didn’t the apostles of Christ have that power or right to get their material needs met by those they preached to?

Yes, the original apostles (meaning “sent”) of Christ had this power to do so but this right was forgone by them and now is binding upon those after them who preach the good news.

In fact, it is a command by the apostles of Christ: “ For even when we were with you, this we commanded you, that if any would not work, neither should he eat.”

If we do not have an outside job in order to eat our own bread, then we cannot truly understand the Scriptures and are not spiritually feeding anyone. Such are not “working” at all but are only feeding themselves and not those they are supposed to be feeding with the Word of Truth. They are called "busybodies" here in 2nd Thessalonians.

The apostles in the Lord: "Do all things which we command you..."

2 Thessalonians 3:4-15 KJV (4) And we have confidence in the Lord touching you, that ye both do and will do the things which we command you. (5) And the Lord direct your hearts into the love of God, and into the patient waiting for Christ. (6) Now we command you, brethren, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that ye withdraw yourselves from every brother that walketh disorderly, and not after the tradition which he received of us. (7) For yourselves know how ye ought to follow us: for we behaved not ourselves disorderly among you; (8) Neither did we eat any man's bread for nought; but wrought with labour and travail night and day, that we might not be chargeable to any of you:

This power to preach for earthly necessities was forgone by the original apostles who worked with labor and travail night and day so that they might not be chargeable to any. They did eat their own bread and not another’s. They are the example for us to follow today. They command us in the Lord Jesus Christ today to follow them in this. It is binding today upon all those who preach the Word.

(9) Not because we have not power, but to make ourselves an ensample unto you to follow us. (10) For even when we were with you, this we commanded you, that if any would not work, neither should he eat. (11) For we hear that there are some which walk among you disorderly, working not at all, but are busybodies.

Again, a command….with quietness to work and eat our own bread. Not busily, loudly preaching for pay but with quietness are we to work at our own jobs for our own bread .

(12) Now them that are such we command and exhort by our Lord Jesus Christ, that with quietness they work, and eat their own bread. (13) But ye, brethren, be not weary in well doing.

And a command to the rest: do not keep company with those who are not following after the transmission (tradition) of the apostles of Christ via this letter.

(14) And if any man obey not our word by this epistle, note that man, and have no company with him, that he may be ashamed. (15) Yet count him not as an enemy, but admonish him as a brother.

Why spend money on those that do not feed us with the Bread of Heaven….with the Word of Truth from above? Why labor for that which does not satisfy? The Lord does not teach for money's sake.

Isaiah 55:1-2 KJV (1) Ho, every one that thirsteth, come ye to the waters, and he that hath no money; come ye, buy, and eat; yea, come, buy wine and milk without money and without price. (2) Wherefore do ye spend money for that which is not bread? and your labour for that which satisfieth not? hearken diligently unto me, and eat ye that which is good, and let your soul delight itself in fatness.

We must work our own job and eat of our own bread and not another’s. Yet, many trust in the preachers who are close to us (and whom we feed with their daily necessities) that they are feeding us the Word of Truth.

Psalms 41:9 KJV (9) Yea, mine own familiar friend, in whom I trusted, which did eat of my bread, hath lifted up his heel against me.

Judas received sop (meaning a mouthful of crumbs or morsel) from Jesus after which Satan entered into him. This sop was dipped and represents the hard-earned (sweat of the brow) bread that was worked for.

John 13:26-27 KJV (26) Jesus answered, He it is, to whom I shall give a sop, when I have dipped it. And when he had dipped the sop, he gave it to Judas Iscariot, the son of Simon.

We must not covet after another’s gold, silver, apparel. After the receiving of the sop does Satan enter in to Judas.

(27) And after the sop Satan entered into him. Then said Jesus unto him, That thou doest, do quickly.

Having received the sop (a mouthful of a morsel), Judas went out and it was “night”.

John 13:30-31 KJV (30) He then having received the sop went immediately out: and it was night.

We must not keep company with such so that the Son of man can be glorified and God is glorified in Him.

(31) Therefore, when he was gone out, Jesus said, Now is the Son of man glorified, and God is glorified in him.

This of course is not a popular message as those who will hear it will make war with those who do not put food in their mouth.

It is “night” to those who preach for the mouthful of morsel (receiving the sop). They have no understanding of the Scriptures as it is “night”. They preach “peace” to those who do feed them but in return are not being truly fed with the Word of Truth.

Micah 3:5-7 KJV (5) Thus saith the LORD concerning the prophets that make my people err, that bite with their teeth, and cry, Peace; and he that putteth not into their mouths, they even prepare war against him. (6) Therefore night shall be unto you, that ye shall not have a vision; and it shall be dark unto you, that ye shall not divine; and the sun shall go down over the prophets, and the day shall be dark over them. (7) Then shall the seers be ashamed, and the diviners confounded: yea, they shall all cover their lips; for there is no answer of God.

The issue here is the covetous preaching for hire…for reward…for money’s sake. They covet after money and have no understanding of the Scriptures as it is "night" in regard to the understanding of the Scriptures.

Micah 3:11 KJV (11) The heads thereof judge for reward, and the priests thereof teach for hire, and the prophets thereof divine for money: yet will they lean upon the LORD, and say, Is not the LORD among us? none evil can come upon us.

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