Len Sweet recently recommended a book called “The Jesus Discovery” by A.T. Bradford. The book is controversial, portraying Christ as the golden-son of Pharisaical Judaism who turns against his teachers, instead of the more-common view of Christ as a penniless carpenter-turned-rabbi.

Truthfully it’s a fantastic read, even if you don’t agree with Bradford’s conclusions all the way (I confess a healthy skepticism).

But Bradford’s scholarship is actually pretty good. Especially concerning Joseph.

He contends that Joseph was a “just” man (dikaios) in the proper Jewish sense of [1] knowing the Law, and [2] keeping the Law. In our English translations of Matthew, we tend to add the word “man” every time we translate dikaios. But Bradford contends we shouldn’t, because then we miss the point that “just” is an honorific, like “deacon” or “elder.”


It means that Joseph, a tekton (carpenter//stonemason) would likely have been one of the many laborers Herod conscripted to work on his temple project.

Herod only wanted priests to build the temple (according to Josephus), but priests were terrible craftsmen and they needed specialized training. However, not any-old tekton could train them, because dirty, filthy, stinking workmen would defile the priests and corrupt the intended holiness of the temple.

So the tektons had to be JUST, as in ‘super-lightning learned and holy.’

Like Joseph, Jesus’ earthy father.


Three reasons.

First, it’s an interesting connecting point between Jesus and the Temple, further developing the tension between the True Temple (Jesus) and the one made of bricks by a crook.

Second, it reminds us that Jesus’ family had a long history in Judea and they were embedded there. Typically, when we read the gospels we imagine the holy family having a very American worldview, value-set, and lifestyle. But they didn’t. They had different politics, different economics, and different beliefs about what was right and how one should behave.

Third, it likely adds a funny twist to Jesus’ line when he visited the temple at age 12. “Didn’t you know I had to be in my father’s house?” certainly refers to the temple as the dwelling place of God, but could also refer to the temple as the place literally built by Jesus’ earthly father.


But the real reason I took this little detour today was to focus once again on the crazed-dedication of Herod to be noticed, to be admired, and to be called ‘great.’ it wasn’t enough for Herod just to build a temple, he had to build it with priests who had been trained by dikaios tektons.


All that and the bloody thing was around for less than a hundred years.

Talk about an edifice complex.