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Help please

I’m trying to do some research around the concept of poverty. Including the possible standard of living of the historical Jesus. He is referred to as a τεκτων (tekton) in Mark 6:3 – there are some suggesting this may mean “scholar” – with reference to Aramaic and the Talmud http://answers.yahoo.com/question/index?qid=20081205075338AAVzAb3. Can anyone confirm or deny this – giving the actual Aramaic & Talmud references if possible.
Also the standard of living of a τεκτων varies amongst scholars – with some having a τεκτων as poorer than farmers, as they had no land. And some as a class above farmers, with a better standard of living. Suggestions?

Finally – does anyone know when those in vows of poverty, chastity, obedience (or stability, obedience, conversion of life) were put into a category and called “Religious Life”? When is that term first used for such a sifestyle?

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13 thoughts on “Help please”

  1. Re/Tekton
    I have been twice to Israel 08,09. We visited what I can only describe as a biblical Theme Park, ‘Nazareth Village’ in Nazareth. Both times the guides made reference to Jesus being a worker in Stone as well as Wood. We had Rev Dr Nigel Wright with us in 08, Principle of Spurgeons Bible College
    I think his credentials show his Learning. He said(as far as I remember) he ‘thought it likely that suggestions that Jesus was a stoneworker as well as a woodworker had Credence. Firstly, wood is not a readily available material in parts of Israel, and secondly Jesus makes so many references to stone in his recorded words. gk tektonikos. carpenter , builder,
    In the Nazareth village you could see a reconstruction of a village from Bible times. I learned so much as I could actually see it. I am a teacher by profession so know that sources have to be accurate, BUT this visual aid just brought the NT alive for me.DG

  2. Have been reading Diarmaid McCulloch’s History of Christianity (I commend this! It’s excellent, but a bit hard going with all the various heresies!), and monastic life seems to have been well-established from early on. Trad Benedictine-style monks date back to Basil of Caesaria and before him to Pachomius at end of C3, so it didn’t take long!

  3. Regarding poverty, chastity & obedience, this brings to my mind the distinctions between precepts binding on all and counsels, which were for those who wanted to go beyond what was merely necessary in one’s life with God. As early as Timothy 4:3, there seemed to be disagreements regarding what was necessary and sufficient (following precepts) and what was suggested for those who wanted to take things, so to speak, to the next level (cf. supererogatio). Many different heresies were confounding these categories, failing to make the proper distinctions (e.g. forbidding marriage). The first time the evangelical counsels were made into monastic vows was in the 12th Century by St. Francis.

  4. Thanks for these above comments. I guess I’m still looking for my primary points: the standard of living of Jesus, and when “Religious Life” was first used as a term for nuns, monks, brothers, etc.

  5. I don’t see a specific answer here,


    but there are a lot of links out that might help. Check out the section on Canon Law … it mentions a number of Church Councils relevant to the development of religious life. Maybe the search to undertake is to find which council document first uses the term.

    Good luck … let us know if you find a good answer!

  6. Mark 6:3 is the only incidence of tekton in the Greek New Testament, but it is used several times in the Septuagint. In I Samuel 13:19 the word tekton is combined with siderou (of iron)indicating a worker of iron. In I Kings 7:14 it is combined with the chalkou (of brass) indicating a worker of brass. Wisdom 13:11 obviously is talking about a worker of wood. The context of Sirach 38:27 could indicate a carver of stone, but not neccessarily. Hosea 8:6 uses the word to indicate the one who made an idol in the form of a calf, which from the context may or may not have been made of gold. In Isaiah 40:19 the tekton makes the idol, and then a goldsmith takes over to finish it. Isaiah 40:20 uses tekton in the context of sofos, but wise here describes an attribute of a certain type of technician and does not indicate that tekton indicates a sage. Isaiah 41:7 speaks of a tekton working with a coppersmith in making an idol. In Isaiah 44:12 the tekton sharpens and forges iron, working with coals and hammers, and in the next verse measures with a wooden ruler. In all of these cases the Hebrew word used is kharash (excluding, of course, the verses from the Apocrypha which do not exist in Hebrew). Kharash relates to skill with the hands and has nothing to do with wisdom and is not related to the word for a sage.

    My knowledge of the Talmud is lacking, but I do know of early Egyptian literature that speaks of copperworkers as being manual labors way beneath the position of a scribe. Isaiah 40:20 speaks of a poor man being able to hire a tekton to shape wood into an idol.

  7. As for the term ‘religious life’, I’m not sure what you are asking. Are you looking for the first use of the English words ‘religious life’, or the origins of what later came to be known as ‘religious life’ in English. My guess is that the widows Paul told Timothy to enroll on the Church’s account as described in I Timothy 5:3-16 would meet the qualifications you are looking for, but the term ‘religious life’ is not used there. The Catholic Encyclopedia gives an account of the history of the development of ‘religious life’ at: http://www.newadvent.org/cathen/12748b.htm That may or may not be what you are looking for.

    1. Thanks Randal. Yes, it’s the first & early use of the term “Religious Life” that I’m now looking for (as an aside – it suggests other forms of life are not “religious”). I think going to a library & looking up a good dictionary may be the way forward 🙂

  8. Hi Bosco!

    Did some quick research concerning the “tekton”-question.

    I found a referral to TQid 1,11 (Tosefta, Qiddushin) which praises craftswork in general. It says one of the duties as a father is to circumcise the son, teach him Thora and let him learn a craft.

    My source is the (German) NT-commentary based on Talmud an Midrash by Strack/Billerbeck. Don´t know if there is an English translation.

    It was just a quick research, would be happy if it helps!

  9. Hey Father,

    Don’t forget, the whole “poverty, chastity, obedience” thing is relatively late–these specific vows arise with the mendicant orders in the 12th century. The vows of Benedict are stability, obedience, and conversion of life. Nothing there about [poverty, of course, but great emphasis is placed in the Rule on the principle of sharing all things and the spiritual evil of private possessions.

    The starting place for any and all discussions of monastic poverty is Athanasius’ Life of St Antony which has been one of the seminal sources of monasticism East and West since its writing–there Antony begins his monastic vocation based on hearing the Scripture read that the rich young man ought to sell all and give it to the poor. (Life of Antony 2-3)

    Shoot me an email if you’d like more text citations on nascent monasticism…

    1. Thanks, Derek, I’m very aware of what you write, and appreciate your reminder for all of us. I finally got to the library yesterday & looked up a decent dictionary & find the term “Religious Life” referring to this type of vowed life is first used early fourteenth century.

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