The Technology with which He Worked Was the Technology on which He Died

Nail in a block of wood

There are several parts of the biblical story where technology plays an important role, but perhaps none is more fascinating than its place in the life of Jesus.

Jesus the Technologist

In the Gospels, Jesus (Mark 6:3) and his father (Matt 13:55) are referred to with by their job title, tekton (τέκτων) which in Greek means “artisan or skilled worker” and serves as the root of our English word technology. Tradition has it that the kind of skilled work that Joseph and Jesus did was carpentry, so tekton is always translated as “carpenter.”

Jesus could have done any number of jobs from farming to shepherding any of which might have had rich symbolism for his role as the Son of God. But it is interesting that in God’s infinite wisdom and sovereignty that Jesus’s job was that of a creator and that things he created were used against him in his death.

Why Crucifixion?

Studies on crucifixion focus typically focus on two important factors. First, crucifixion finds its roots in the Pagan world in contrast to other forms of execution like stoning which would have been more easily associated with the Jews. The fact that Jesus was crucified by Romans instead of stoned by Jews situates his work in the context of all humanity. Second, crucifixion itself causes terrible suffering over a long period of time and this has been a rich source of Christian reflection on the sufferings of Christ and his love for us.

But I’d like to suggest a third reason why the cross is important. Jesus could have been killed using more natural means like drowning, stoning, or being cast from a cliff. He could have been thrown to the lions or strangled to death.

Instead, he was killed on a tool of human creation.

The Cross as a Symbol of the Creation

Jesus, the eternal Son of God, through whom all things were made was rejected by his highest creation, humanity. The Gospel of John says, “He came unto his own, but his own did not receive him” (John 1:11).

At the same time, Jesus, the Incarnate Son of Man, through whom all men are saved, was killed using the very tools with which he worked, wood and nails. He was made to literally carry the burden of what he created through the streets of the city until his body could bear it no more. All the while he was bearing the transgressions of his creation that he might offer them atonement for their sins and adoption into his family.

Of course, the cross itself is not magical. Neither is the tomb from which Jesus emerged, triumphant and glorified for it is through Christ and Christ’s work alone that we are saved.

But the cross is a reminder of the important role that the tools we create play in the story of God and his people. The things we use on a daily basis are deeply integrated into what it means to be human and what it means for God to redeem his creation.

Published by

John Dyer

In my day job, I work at Dallas Theological Seminary, and at night I write Bible software for countries whose leaders could be called "overlords." This one time, I wrote a book about technology and Christian faith. You can find out more about what I'm up to at http://j.hn/.

10 thoughts on “The Technology with which He Worked Was the Technology on which He Died”

  1. I wish I could find the reference, but science fiction novelist Gene Wolfe has reflected on the possibility that Jesus made crosses (noting, for instance, that Jesus made the whip with which he chased out the money changers). In Wolfe’s novel series The Book of the Long Sun, the main character is a professional torturer and executioner who may also be a symbol for Christ.

    1. I’ve heard of the idea that Jesus might have made crosses in other places but I couldn’t find any when I looked recently. So thanks for the recommendation of Wolfe’s work!

  2. Sorry – there’s not much that’s “uniquely Roman” about crucifixion. They got it from the Persians (which probably means it came via the Greeks).

    1. Thanks for pointing that out. I’ll edit the post to focus on my main point which is that studies on the crucifixion tend to focus it’s Pagan (though not necessarily Roman as you point out) as opposed to Jewish roots.

  3. Actually the John 1:11 passage is often translated:

    He came to his own creation, yet his own people did not receive him.

    Which agrees more with the Greek. His own people would have been the Jews.

    I have been doing computers since 1966. I have known technology for a long time. I have seen it dramatically change. It has done and does nearly miraculous things. However I have never seen any of our technology raise someone from the dead, or predict the future, or read minds. If Christ was a technologist, I play in the sandbox. It is of course true and always has been that where we put our efforts is important and makes a difference, but God is utterly different from us and defies quantification in anyway.

  4. Fascinating thoughts. Cincidence of Christ as technologist in early life in near coincidence with Aristotle of-philosophy, and Hero of Alexandria in development of power.

    Transion linear to exponential growth per technology.

  5. I know this if off topic but I’m looking into starting my own blog
    and was curious what all is required to get set up?
    I’m assuming having a blog like yours would cost a pretty penny?
    I’m not very web smart so I’m not 100% positive.
    Any tips or advice would be greatly appreciated. Thank you

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