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Monday, November 02, 2009

Jesus the carpenter

- Jesus fixing Lazarus' door, from the movie Jesus

There's a new podcast at Professor Mark Goodacre's NT Pod blog - NT Pod 18: Was Jesus a Carpenter?. I thought I'd give a listen, having heard once that it was just as likely that Jesus (and Joseph) had been stone masons as carpenters. Mark discusses the relevant NT passages that point to Jesus' possible trade, as well as tradition sources (including the rather scary, to me anyway, Infancy Gospel of Thomas :), and fictional examples as well - it's quite interesting. I thought I'd just dwell a bit on Jesus and Joseph as carpenters in fiction .....

There was a fairly interesting 1998 movie starring William Peterson (of CSI fame) as a modern incarnation of Joseph the carpenter, who builds an unusual staircase in the 1870s for the Sisters of Loretto Chapel in Santa Fe, New Mexico .... The Staircase. Here's a bit about the real life staircase from the Loretto Chapel website ....

To find a solution to the problem [no way to access the choir loft] , the Sisters of the Chapel made a novena to St. Joseph, the patron saint of carpenters. Legend says on the ninth and final day of prayer, a man showed up at the Chapel with a donkey and a toolbox looking for work. Months later the elegant circular staircase was completed and the carpenter disappeared without pay or thanks. After searching for the man (an ad even ran in the local newspaper) and finding no trace of him, some concluded that he was St. Joseph himself. The stairway's carpenter, whoever he was, built a magnificent structure. The design was innovative for the time and some of the design considerations still perplex experts today. The staircase has two 360 degree turns and has no visible means of support. Also, it is said that the staircase was built without nails -- only wooden pegs. Questions also surround the number of stair risers compared to the height of the choir loft and about the types of wood and other materials used in the stairway's construction. Over the years many have flocked to the Loretto Chapel to see the Miraculous Staircase. The staircase has been the subject of many articles, TV specials, and movies including "Unsolved Mysteries" and the Kraft movie called "The Staircase".

- the staircase at Loretto Chapel

I think, though, I especially like the way the movie Jesus, starring Jeremy Sisto, shows Jesus as a carpenter. The film begins with Jesus and Joseph out on the road looking for carpentry jobs. They stop in at the home of Mary, Martha, and Lazarus and Jesus fixes a wonky door while Joseph supervises. Later in the movie, when Joseph has died, Jesus is shown in the carpentry workshop part of their home, angry and frustrated at his inability to do as good a job as Joseph would have, and finally, there's a scene of Jesus and Mary M out under the stars .... Jesus stops by a tree and tells Mary that Joseph would have known how to get the carpentry-best from such a specimen. She asks if he is as good a carpenter as Joseph was, and Jesus replies that it's a good thing he took up preaching :)

- here and below, Jesus in the carpentry workshop, from the movie Jesus


Anonymous Dyan said...


4:09 PM  
Blogger crystal said...

Hi Dyan :)

6:30 PM  
Blogger Mark Goodacre said...

Many thanks for the interesting post, Crystal. I had forgotten about those scenes in Jesus. I must re-watch it.

6:45 PM  
Blogger crystal said...

Thanks, Mark. Your mention of the carpentry theme in The Last Temptation of Christ was interesting too - Jesus making crosses! I'm really enjoying the podcasts.

8:58 PM  
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