Elijah Casting His Mantle on Elisha
It is not the purpose of this article to prove whether or not Jesus was the messiah. The issue here is whether or not the original word in the Gospels was “carpenter” or “plowman”.
In short: The answer is: “No”
A carpenter cannot be a messiah.
Although there is a great deal of debate about whether or not the gospels were originally written in Aramaic or Hebrew, it is my personal opinion that if Jesus was arguing that he spoke for God and he was debating the interpretations of the words of Moses with the scholars of his time, then these conversations would have had to have taken place in Hebrew.
As a parallel example: while it is certainly possible to debate about the original intentions of the United States constitution speaking French with friends in a café in Paris, one could not enter the United States Supreme Court to argue a constitutional point based on French translations of the document. Jesus was debating legal points of the law with the chief Pharisees and priests of his day. These conversations had to have taken place in Hebrew. Especially when Jesus was claiming to be: “the word of God”.
Finally, as a side note: Jesus said he would “rise again” on the third day and BOTH the Old Testament and the New Testament claim that: “a day is like a thousand years”. If Jesus is indeed the word of God: which language has suddenly been “raised from the dead” two thousand years after the time of Jesus? Hebrew? Or: Aramaic?
With these issues in mind, one should just then point out that in the Hebrew translations of the New Testament (translations which are not from original sources, but which have been re translated back into Hebrew from the Greek); the word now commonly accepted as: “carpenter” actually means: “craftsman” or “plowman”. It does NOT mean “carpenter”.
It is my personal opinion therefore, based on both Old Testament and New Testament sources that “plowman” is indeed the correct translation.
First of all, let’s look at the “classical” description of the messianic times accepted by both Jews and Christians found in Isaiah and even posted outside the United Nations Building in New York.
“They will beat their swords into plowshares and their spears into pruning hooks….”
If a messiah was a carpenter, won’t we expect the people to beat their swords into saws and their spears into hammers (or some other appropriate carpentry tools) ?
A second example comes from the Gospels in the New Testament. The Parable of the Sower was described by Jesus as being “the most important” of the parables and without it nothing else could be understood.
In the explanations that Jesus himself gives for this parable he said: “the sower of the seeds in the Son of Man….” And the “Son of Man” was a common expression used during those times for the messiah.
In addition to this, there is not a single parable about carpentry, chairs, tables or whatever; yet there are many, many parables about: vineyards, wheat fields, planting fig trees etc. etc.
The term “messiah” means: ‘the enlightened one”, but what the word actually refers to is being “anointed with olive oil” since olive oil was used in those days to a the fuel source to give light in lamps.
The Book of Genesis clearly draws a connection between “trees” and “knowledge”, with the name: “The Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil” and, in the New Testament, Jesus confirms this connection by comparing a “false prophet” as: “a tree which has bad fruit”.
Another point along these same lines is that both “The Torah” and “Jesus”, by their respective religions, are referred to as: “The Tree of Life”. So: How can a messiah be a person who cuts down trees and makes furniture for the needs of men. It is impossible AND cutting down fruit trees is specifically forbidden by the Torah. Therefore Jesus, who claimed he did not come to change the law, but fulfill it, could not be a carpenter who cuts down trees.
A Pharisee is much closer to a carpenter, than a messiah, since a Pharisee changes the laws in the Torah to fit his own needs and the needs of the people in his community.
In conclusion: Jesus said that John the Baptist was Elijah the prophet because it was a commonly held belief among Jews that Elijah the prophet would come before the messiah.
Hence, to test our theory what must ask: who came after Elijah the prophet?
The answer is: “Elisha the prophet” and the very first image we have of Elisha the prophet is that he is plowing a field with 12 oxen.
Hence, Jesus is to John the Baptist as Elisha was to Elijah AND Elisha was a plowman, NOT a carpenter….