The more one knows, the less one knows. Was Jesus a carpenter, or even a carpenter’s son? The Greek word tekto¯n, long taken to mean “carpenter,” could mean something closer to a stoneworker or a day laborer. (One thinks of the similar shadings of a word like “printer,” which could refer to Ben Franklin or to his dogsbody.) If a carpenter, then presumably he was an artisan. If a stoneworker, then presumably he spent his early years as a laborer, schlepping from Nazareth to the grand Greco-Roman city of Sepphoris, nearby, to help build its walls and perhaps visit its theatre and agora. And what of the term “Son of Man,” which he uses again and again in Mark, mysteriously: “The Son of Man is Lord even of the Sabbath.” As Diarmaid MacCulloch points out in his new, immensely ambitious and absorbing history, “Christianity: The First Three Thousand Years” (Viking; $45), the phrase, which occurs in the Gospels “virtually exclusively in the reported words of Jesus,” certainly isn’t at all the same as the later “Son of God,” and may merely be Aramaic for “folks like us.... He is informal in a new way, too, that remains unusual among prophets. MacCulloch points out that he continually addresses God as “Abba,” Father, or even Dad, and that the expression translated in the King James Version as a solemn “Verily I say unto you” is actually a quirky Aramaic throat-clearer, like Dr. Johnson’s “Depend upon it, Sir.”
Ten DovBear nickles to whoever can figure out the "quirky Aramaic throat-clearer" translated by KJV as “Verily I say unto you."
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