One person told me that since disciples called Jesus rabbi and since he taught in synagogues he couldn't have been a carpenter as only rabbis were allowed to teach in synagogues.

Has this matter ever been covered in Christianity? If yes, can anyone, please, give an overview on this matter?

Could Jesus have been both carpenter and a rabbi? How did a person become qualified rabbi in those times?

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    i'm an ordained minister and a computer programmer. These things aren't mutually exclusive, you now. Sep 7, 2012 at 9:52
  • 3
    Clearly Jesus was a stone mason - there was no wood around there! That's why Solomon had wood imported from Lebanon! I am partially joking. However he probably wasn't a carpenter as we know carpenters today.
    – user1054
    Sep 7, 2012 at 13:00
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    @AffableGeek I'm an ordained minister and a computer programmer, too
    – Marjeta
    Oct 30, 2014 at 16:15
  • @AffableGeek, minister isn't the same as rabbi. It requires much more than to be a minister in Jewish tradition. To become a rabbi is pretty complicated process.
    – Grasper
    Feb 16, 2016 at 16:21
  • I think "rabbi" is a loaded term here. Jesus had no official status with the Pharisees, as did Paul. He was a teacher of things that concerned the Law, but with no official recognition as a rabbi by the Sanhedrin.
    – user22553
    Jul 12, 2016 at 14:54

10 Answers 10


The question "Was Jesus a Rabbi" is covered here. Short version: Yes, He was.

The question "Was Jesus a carpenter" is covered here. Short version, "yes, but in typical fashion people dispute the exact meaning of the word, which could also be translated as craftsman." In this case, whether carpenter could mean craftsman or stonemason or whatever other occupation doesn't matter. You're asking how he could have been a carpenter and a Rabbi.

Not to point out the obvious, but it was a career change. In His early days, He was a carpenter. Later, He began His true calling - His earthly ministry.

There is no discrepancy in Scripture referring to Him as a carpenter in one place, and as a Rabbi in another. Were someone to write about my life (what a boring book that would be) they could just as easily refer to me as a Restaurant Manager and a Software Developer, a Father, Husband, Satellite dish salesman, etc.

To answer the remaining point in your question, the first link above also covers how "one became a Rabbi in those times".

  • @David said "There is no discrepancy in Scripture referring to Him as a carpenter in one place..." Where does scripture refer to Jesus as a carpenter? Sep 12, 2016 at 10:24

There is a third possibility: He wasn't an ordained Rabbi.

He was called rabbi out of sense of respect and he was allowed in the synagogues because of his fame. When he preached at a synagogue it says -

Luke 4:20 "The eyes of everyone in the synagogue were fastened on him."

This suggests to me an event like that of a visiting celebrity than a routine occurrence.

Another important thing is the meaning of the word Rabbi. We must ask what the word meant to those who used it, not what it means to us today.

Matthew 23:8 "Don't let anyone call you 'Rabbi,' for you have only one teacher."

If the people used the word as a title of honor or synonym for teacher that wouldn't make him a Rabbi in a literal sense of the word.

Besides, it seems unlikely to me that Jesus would have joined a synagogue and got himself ordained.

He spent a great deal of time criticizing the religious system of that day including the hypocrisy of the Rabbis. He couldn't have stayed quiet in the face of any kind of hypocrisy or superstition. It would be out of character for him. I doubt that with that kind of attitude and vocal criticism of other Rabbis he would've been allowed into any synagogue, much less officially ordained.

Jesus couldn't have been a Rabbi, when he so vehemently criticized them. So much so that he got himself crucified for it.

  • +1. This was originally the direction I was going to go, but changed course when I saw the article with the description of what qualifies one to be a Rabbi (linked to in my answer). I, too, don't think He was ordained in an official manner. Sep 7, 2012 at 6:48
  • +1 According to this website Rabbi training finishes at around when person is 30 year old. So it kind of make sense that Gospels only mention His childhood and then His ministry. No information about His youth or His 20s.
    – shakAttack
    Jul 11, 2016 at 9:11
  • It is an erroneous assumption to think that Jesus wouldn't have "joined a synagogue and got himself ordained". Christ came to fulfill the law and, according to the Biblical record, participated fully in the Judaic law (he was circumcised and took part in all major feasts). Also, much of his teaching was done in the synagogue.
    – Ian
    Feb 22, 2018 at 4:01
  • "joined a synagogue and got himself ordained" I'm pretty sure that the Jewish religious system did not work as today when the temple was still there and 2000 years ago.
    – K-HB
    Mar 13, 2019 at 18:05

2000 years ago in the Roman occupied Jewish world, people who were called rabbi generally had real jobs on the side.

There were no organized rabinnic seminaries back then, but leading rabbis generally had disciples (Hillel and Shammai had many), and a rabbi could ordain his students when he thought they had learned enough. Whether that ordination was accepted by the larger community depended on the reputation of the ordaining rabbi. (Ordination still works that way in some corners of the Orthodox Jewish world, and also in some corners of the evangelical Protestant world. The rest of us, Jews and Christians, rely on organized seminaries for our clergy.)

What follows is a list of some of the first and second century rabbis from the Talmud and their "day jobs." It's extraordinarily likely that Jesus knew some of these men (the statement of the Golden Rule in the Gospels is very similar to Rabbi Hillel's formulation), and if Jesus was a carpenter and rabbi that mix is merely typical of the other rabbis we know from the period.

  • Hillel -- woodchopper
  • Shammai the elder -- builder or carpenter or something
  • Abba Chilkiyah -- field laborer
  • Yochanan ben Zakkai -- some kind of businessman
  • Abba Shaul -- gravedigger (considered a dishonorable job)
  • Abba Oshiya -- laundry worker of some kind
  • Shimon Pkuli -- cotton? flax? dealer
  • Shmuel ben Shilas -- school teacher
  • Mier -- scribe
  • Channai -- scribe
  • Yosi ben Chalafta -- tanner (considered a dishonorable job)
  • Yochanan Hasandlar -- as the name suggests, shoemaker
  • Yehoshua ben Chanania -- blacksmith
  • Safra -- merchant
  • Dimi of Nehardia -- merchant
  • Abba ben Zavina -- taylor
  • Yosef ben Chiya -- vintner, either vinyard owner or wine maker
  • Yannai -- vintner
  • Huna -- cattle farmer
  • Chisda -- beer brewer
  • Papa -- brewer
  • Karna -- wine merchant
  • Chiya ben Yosef -- salt maker or dealer
  • Abba bar Abba -- silk merchant
  • Mar Shmuel -- physician

K-HB asked for sources. Most of the information we have about the Jewish commuity of the era is found in the Talmud, and like the New Testament, this is all material that was put down on paper years after the events, so we're relying on oral transmission for a while before it was written down. That, and the sheer volume of text in the Talmud are both barriers. What we know about the rabbis mentioned in the Talmud comes mostly from stories about them that are included in the text as illustrations of one point or another.

For example, in Tractate Shabbat, page 31a (citations are traditionally abbreviated, so this would be cited as Shabbat 31a), there's a story about a Gentile convert who mockingly approaches Rabbi Shammai saying "I'll convert to Judaism if you can explain the entire Torah while I stand on one foot." Rabbi Shammai responded by beating him with his ruler (literally, builder's cubit). The story goes on to say that the same guy went to Hillel with the same mocking question. Hillel responded "that which is hateful to you, do not do to your fellow, that is the whole Torah, the rest is commentary. Now go and learn." The point of the story was to illustrate the difference between the two Rabbis, but we can glean from it that Shammai had a ruler of the type you'd expect a carpenter or builder to carry. Similar logic covers all the others, and there are lots of lists you can Google that give such lists of "day jobs"

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    Nice answer. Do you have some sources for this?
    – K-HB
    Mar 17, 2019 at 9:20

I will answer this separately. Jesus Christ was a Carpenter.

Mark 6:1-3 (KJV) - "And he went out from thence, and came into his own country; and his disciples follow him. And when the sabbath day was come, he began to teach in the synagogue: and many hearing him were astonished, saying, From whence hath this man these things? and what wisdom is this which is given unto him, that even such mighty works are wrought by his hands? 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."

Jesus was also a Rabbi.

Aramaic word "Rabbi" has 2 meanings.

The root of Rabbi is Rabb means Great or Big (Book "Introduction to Syriac" by Thackston Pg. 218). Rabbi "literally" means "My Great One" ("i" at the end of Rabbi means "my" - Introduction to Syriac - Page 19).

Rabbi also means teacher or an instructor. A Teacher or instructor received the title of "Rabbi", because teachers were considered as "Great ones."

As you all know, "teachers" were well respected by all of our ancestors in the history.

Jesus was a Rabbi, because he was considered as both "a Great one" and an excellent "instructor" among people in Israel.


On balance of probabilities, Jesus was probably not a Carpenter, but more likely to be a Rabbi.

  1. There's no evidence whatsoever that Jesus was a carpenter. The scriptural texts involved state only that he was the "carpenter's son". The sum total of people in Scripture who call Jesus a carpenter is zero.

  2. Jesus IS identified as Rabbi in scripture. Claims that the usage was merely a respectful mode of address, or the word Rabbi means 'stonemason' or something else are speculative. List of people who call Jesus Rabbi or The Teacher (Rabbi means "Teacher"): The disciples, some pharisees, John the Baptists' disciples, ordinary people, teachers of Torah, Herodians, Saducees, and Jesus himself. Jesus also spoke of his 'Yoke' being easy - a Yoke was a Rabbi's interpretation, teaching and understanding which a disciple would take on, study and live.

  3. To claim that Jesus' occupation was not as a Rabbi as identified in scripture, but rather was a carpenter which is not identified in scripture, is logically incoherent.

  4. The traditional position of Jesus' occupation being carpentry is based on the custom that Jesus would continue his father's business as most male children did - except... the ones that entered the Rabbinic system!

  5. The mistake in the assumption that 'Jesus became a carpenter because the male children would carry on their father's business' is in the assumption that Jesus' father is Joseph (and therefore his father's business was carpentry) rather than recognising that his father was 'God the Father' (business: the whole of creation, but centred around the temple). Jesus affirms this when he is 12 saying "I must be about my Father's business" when in the temple answering theological questions, (and never speaking of carpentry!). Jesus had already identified his Father, identified his 'house' and was going about his Father's business.

  6. The idea that Jesus would not be selected for Rabbinic training after the temple event at age 12 makes little sense. It's like someone graduating from school with top marks a couple of years ahead of the normal graduation age and then not being selected to go into any local college at any point or choosing to reject it (or being rejected from it) in favour of a trade despite the rabbinic system being the obvious career route and him proved already good enough by an earlier age. I suggest this is the purpose of including the temple event story, the last story before the 18 year gap leading up to ministry.

Therefore, on the balance of probabilities, Jesus' pre-ministry occupation is unlikely to be one he isn't identified as doing.


The Bible directly states: 1.) Jesus began his public ministry when he was about 30 years old 2.) Jesus “Father” Joseph was a carpenter.

For that reason most believe that he grew up doing manual labor and became a rabbi around 30 years old. If that doesn’t make you want to serve this God, I don’t know what would! He actually had a day job! How many deities can say that?! :D


Edited for scripture references: Luke 3:23, Matthew 13:55. Note: the Matthew verse is translated sometimes as “carpenter’s son” and sometimes as “carpenter”, but usually the first one.

  • Welcome to the site - adding the Bible references (chapter and verse) to where the Bible ... Hey good edit!
    – Peter Turner
    Sep 9, 2019 at 14:44
  • Oh... thank you. Sep 9, 2019 at 17:25

There was no label of Rabbi at the time. There were scholars who were written about later and known to the Jewish community at the time, such as Hillel and Shammai. They were not called Rabbi, and simply had schools of teaching that were popular.

It wasn't until Hillel's son or grandson that the label of Rabbi existed. So when Rabbi Hillel is spoken of, it's not the senior most famous one, but his son or grandson that's being referred to.

Jesus wasn't a Rabbi, since that concept didn't exist at the time in Judaism.

Even now, a Rabbi can have a non-Rabbinic job. There's no reason to think of it as excluding other careers. Rabbis are more educated in Judaism, but hold no additional powers beyond every other human.

So having another way to earn money beyond what students would pay, would be possible if not sensible.


I came across this page written by a leading rabbi: Was Jesus really a rabbi?. Rabbi Dr. Raymond Apple says that there is no proof that Jesus was ordained as a rabbi and any use of the title by the Gospels is merely a respectful mark of address.


It is written in the scriptures as; Is not this the carpenter, the son of Mary and brother of James and Joses and Judas and Simon? And are not his sisters here with us?” And they took offense at him. (Mark 6:3)


Jesus was the son of God my friend! Just read the bible to know that; He probably knew a thing or two, carpentry was something he practised, although the specifics aren't very mentioned to my knowledge. I believe he made tables and things for his family, and probably to earn some money as he would without a doubt have needed to labour up until the point his ministry began; being Jewish he would have abided by the commandments, after all he was sinless! 6 days of labour one of rest, the Sabbath, so he most probably would have performed an array of tasks; farming, or the like, and carpentry or joinery perhaps would have come into this! as the son of God he was the only true Rabbi (teacher) so the judgement of the term Rabbi, thereof, comes from knowledge of him. Hence, Matthew 23:8 "Don't let anyone call you 'Rabbi,' for you have only one teacher."

  • p.s. as the son of God he was the only true Rabbi (teacher) so the judgement of the term Rabbi, thereof, comes from knowledge of him. Hence, Matthew 23:8 "Don't let anyone call you 'Rabbi,' for you have only one teacher."
    – James
    Jan 25, 2017 at 13:08
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    Welcome! We're glad you are here, but this answer would be much stronger if you showed, with sources, that it doesn't merely reflect your opinion. I hope you'll take a minute to review how this site is different from others, and better understand how your answer can be supported. Jan 25, 2017 at 13:24

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