I was about to say this in another discussion somewhere else, and wondered: do we know that? As in "it's mentioned or at least hinted at in $book $chapter:$verse"?

Or is it just a very likely conjecture?


4 Answers 4


We know that Joseph was a τέκτων (tekton)- traditionally a carpenter but literally, any craftsman who worked with his hands, from Matthew 13:55 (Is this not the carpenter's son?). Traditionally, boys would follow in their father's occupation, hence the tradition that Jesus was a carpenter.

Additionally in Mark 6:3, we get the same word describing Jesus himself. (Is this not the carpenter?). Mark is probably the older source ( the Farrer hypothesis ) from which Matthew is drawing. With Matthew's desire to portray Jesus as king, it makes sense that he would prefer to move such a menial task to the dad and let people just assume that Jesus would have been trained up in the family trade.


A discussion here talks about the various possibilities. To quote a small part that summarizes well:

Jesus' adopted father Joseph was a carpenter (Matthew 13:55 & Mark 6:3). The Greek word is Teckton which means builder. Now, some say he worked with wood; building tools, doors, shelves, tables etc. = carpenter. Others say because of the region and the resources were rock, and most everything was built from rock, then he built millstones, winepresses, houses, etc. = stonemason. There is no real evidence to clarify exactly what Joseph was a builder of, but we know that he was a Teckton = Builder. Now, in the Jewish culture of that time (1st century) it was required of the father to teach the son their trade at age 12, and find a wife for them around the age of 20. Joseph being very Jewish would have adhered to this practice and began teaching Jesus at 12 his trade of being a builder (Teckton).

This page from the same site offers additional explanation for the stonemason theory:

Given that Israel's buildings were constructed of stones and rocks, Jesus likely worked as a stonemason rather than a carpenter. He probably spent hours helping his father shape and cut stones.

The above quoted site is provided by That the World May Know Ministries, and offers a DVD series entitled Faith Lessons, featuring the founder Ray Vander Laan which offers documentary-style on-location Bible studies suitable for small groups. I believe the one that addresses this issue is Life and Ministry of the Messiah, or possibly Walk as Jesus Walked. It has been several years since I've watched these, and I don't have access to them now to confirm.

  • 12
    +1 I think the idea of Him being a stonemason makes a whole lot more sense in the light of scriptures like Mark 12:10 (Christ is the stone the builders rejected), 1 Cor 10:4 (the Rock was Christ), Matt 7:24 (wise man building his house upon a rock), Rom 9:33 (a rock of offense to those who don't want to believe), etc. Dec 12, 2011 at 19:40
  • 1
    I'm not saying Jesus wasn't taught the trade of Joseph. But I just thought it was funny you should use the example "It was required of the father to teach the son their trade at age 12, and find a wife for them around the age of 20" as a reason. Obviously he didn't find a wife for Jesus at 20. :)
    – 2tim424
    May 4, 2013 at 3:26
  • @Flimzy A "discussion here" link is broken.
    – Steve
    Sep 29, 2013 at 13:06
  • 6
    @2tim424 Most scholars believe the Joseph died at some point during Jesus's life (hence his absence during Jesus's ministry). We don't know for sure when Jospeh died, but we have at least one textual reference to Joseph being alive when Jesus was 12. Oct 2, 2013 at 18:01

Yes, Jesus is called a carpenter in Mark 6:3 NIV1984:

Isn’t this the carpenter? Isn’t this Mary’s son and the brother of James, Joseph,Judas and Simon? Aren’t his sisters here with us?” And they took offense at him.

Update: based on comments below, some explanation of the word carpenter. First, that is the word used in various translations, e.g. Amplified, Good News, New American Standard Bible and King James. Secondly, it is true that the meaning has been questioned in some commentaries, where it has been suggested that the word could also mean, craftsman. So, we cannot be 100% sure, but since the church has historically considered Jesus to have been a carpenter, and most or all translations use that, it seems probable.

  • The issue is that the word translated as "carpenter" isn't actually that specific in the original language.
    – Flimzy
    Dec 9, 2011 at 21:10
  • @Flimzy: that is certainly an issue, but I'm answering the question as posed, particularly the second sentence. Since this answer quotes the one verse that mentions Jesus' profession, I hardly think it is worth a downvote. Dec 9, 2011 at 21:59
  • 2
    A fair point... it does at least hint at it, doesn't it?
    – Flimzy
    Dec 9, 2011 at 22:08
  • @Flimzy: FWIW, I checked various other translations before posting this answer, because of the point you raised. Though some commentators use the word craftmen, none of the translations (that I saw) do; they all say, carpenter. Dec 9, 2011 at 22:36
  • 1
    The word is tekton. It looks like it mostly likely means carpenter but not always.
    – styfle
    Jan 4, 2012 at 7:59

The evidence is mixed.

Mark's Gospel clearly states that Jesus was a carpenter (Mark 6:3: Is not this the carpenter, the son of Mary, the brother of James, and Joses, and of Juda, and Simon? and are not his sisters here with us? And they were offended at him.).

However, Mark is the only gospel that tells us that Jesus was a carpenter. Matthew's Gospel, in the corresponding passage, only says that Jesus was the son of a carpenter (Matthew 13:55: Is not this the carpenter's son? is not his mother called Mary? and his brethren, James, and Joses, and Simon, and Judas?). In copying from Mark, it should have been easier to retain Mark's words, unless the author of Matthew's Gospel had a reason not to say that Jesus had been a carpenter. The later gospels, Luke and John, make no mention of Jesus being a carpenter or even the son of a carpenter.

One theory was put forward by Dennis R. MacDonald in his book, The Homeric Epics and the Gospel of Mark. MacDonald compares Mark's story about Jesus with the Greek epics of Homer, finding many parallels between the portrayal of Jesus and that of Odysseus. Both Odysseus and Jesus were known as carpenters. MacDonald notes that Homer sometimes calls Odysseus 'divine' and 'son of Zeus', labels comparable to those given to Jesus. If MacDonald is correct, Mark's description of Jesus as a carpenter was a literary creation that the later evangelists refused to accept. Perhaps when the first gospel was being written, the author had so little information about Jesus as a person that he felt obliged to fill in some of the gaps.

Because of Mark it is more than just a very likely conjecture that Jesus was a carpenter, but because of Matthew, Luke and John it is no more than a conjecture. Then, because of MacDonald's research, it could even be that this was simply a literary mechanism employed in just one of the gospels.

  • While Dennis R. MacDonald is not a believer, his thoughts of Odysseus being a type of Christ figure has merits. "If we instill in our students a hermeneutics of suspicion rather than one of delight, we will discourage them from digging deeper into the congruities between the true Myth and what C. S. Lewis called the “good dreams” that echo it." circeinstitute.org/blog/…
    – Jess
    Dec 23, 2021 at 21:31

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