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NAZARETH (năz'a-rĕth, Gr. Nazaret and other forms). A town in lower Galilee belonging to the tribe of Zebulun, nowhere referred to in the OT. It was the hometown of Mary and Joseph, the human parents of Jesus (
The rejection of
In regard to the city of Nazareth itself, the ancient site is located by the modern en-Natzirah, a Muslim village of about ten thousand inhabitants, on the most southern ranges of lower Galilee. Nazareth itself lies in a geographical basin so that not much of the surrounding countryside is in plain view. However, when one scales the edge of the basin, Esdraelon with its twenty battlefields and the place of Naboth’s vineyard come into view. One can see for a distance of thirty miles (fifty km.) in three directions. Unfortunately, however, the people of Nazareth had established a rather poor reputation in morals and religion. This is seen in Nathaniel’s question: “Nazareth! Can anything good come from there?” (
NAZARETH naz’ ə rĭth (Ναζαρέτ, Ναζαρέθ, and other forms. Meaning uncertain, but perhaps related to Heb. nazir meaning separated or nēṩěr meaning branch. Cf.
About halfway between the S end of theand Mt. Carmel is the town of Nazareth. Important as it may seem to have been in the NT the town is not mentioned in the OT, the Talmud, or by the historian Josephus. This has even led to a wild theory that the town did not exist even in NT times, but was imagined as the home of Jesus. There is reason to believe that Nazareth was a rather insignificant town in Jesus’ day overshadowed by the larger city to the N, Sepphoris. Modern Nazareth has only one spring. Situated in the hills to the N of the plain of Esdraelon, it thus commands a good view of the ancient battlegrounds. To the N one also can see Mt. Hermon, to the W the Mediterranean, and to the E Bashan.
There is considerable discussion regarding the meaning of the name and its connection with the Nazirites of the OT. There is an obvious similarity of the letters, but the connection between this town and that religious order defies any clear explanation. The problem grows more complicated in consideration of the name Nazarene. Should it be “Nazirite”?
Jesus is called a Nazarene (
There is no question that the Nazareth of the NT is the modern town of En-Naṩira or Nazareth. The spring which rises near the Church of St. Gabriel is channeled to the Well of Mary in an open square. Doubtlessly Mary came to this well to fetch water for the needs of her little household.
Upon reaching the age of thirty and the beginning of His ministry, our Lord went from Nazareth of Galilee to be baptized by John. An interesting comment on Nazareth from the mouth of Nathanael appears in
The reason Matthew gave for Jesus leaving Nazareth to live in Capernaum by the Sea of Galilee was to fulfill the prophecy of
Two identifications have been made for this hill. There is the traditional Hill of Precipitation or Mount of the Leap (Jebel el-Qafza) to the S and W, and a cliff closer to the town near an ancient synagogue. This latter is more likely since it is nearer the town.
Some gospel harmonizers see a second rejection of Jesus at Nazareth in the parallel accounts of Matthew (13:54-58) and Mark (
Helena the mother of Constantine built the first shrine in Nazareth in the 4th cent. Since that original one, other religious edifices have been erected and subsequently destroyed. In the first Moslem takeover of the Middle E, Nazareth suffered much. It was rescued by the Crusaders in 1099 and later made the seat of the bishopric of Beth-shan (Scythopolis). Saladin defeated the Crusaders at the nearby Horns of Hattim and Nazareth changed hands again (1187).took it in 1229 but it was lost thirty-four years later to the Mamaluke Sultan Baybars. The Turks gained control in 1517 and in 1620 the Franciscans became guardians of the holy places throughout the Holy Land. The British captured Nazareth from the Germans and the Turks in 1918. Thirty years later the Israelis took Nazareth without a fight from the Arab, Fawzi Kawukji, and to this day it is under their control. Apart from Jerusalem Nazareth has the largest Arab and the largest Christian population in Israel with more than 25,000 inhabitants. Because it is so heavily populated, archeological excavation is impossible.
G. F. Moore, “Nazarene and Nazareth” in The Beginnings of Christianity, ed. F. J. F. Jackson and K. Lake, I (1920), 426-435; E. Kraeling, Bible Atlas (1956), 358-361, 383f.; Encyclopaedia Britannica, IV (1968).
International Standard Bible Encyclopedia (1915)
(Nazaret, Nazareth, and other forms):
1. Notice Confined to the:
A town in Galilee, the home of Joseph. and the Virgin Mary, and for about 30 years the scene of the Saviour’s life (
The town is not named in the, although the presence of a spring and the convenience of the site make it probable that the place was occupied in old times. Quaresimus learned that the ancient name was Medina Abiat, in which we may recognize the Arabic el-Medinat el-baidtah, "the white town." Built of the white stone supplied by the limestone rocks around, the description is quite accurate. There is a reference in Mishna (Menachoth viii.6) to the "white house of the hill" whence wine for the drink offering was brought. An elegy for the 9th of Abib speaks of a "course" of priests settled in Nazareth. This, however, is based upon an ancient midhrash now lost (Neubauer, Geogr. du Talmud, 82, 85, 190; Delitzsch, Ein Tag in Capernaum, 142). But all this leaves us still in a state of uncertainty.
2. Position and Physical Features:
The ancient town is represented by the modern en-Nacirah, which is built mainly on the western and northwestern slopes of a hollow among the lower hills of Galilee, just before they sink into the plain of Esdraelon. It lies about midway between the
3. Present Inhabitants:
There are now some 7,000 inhabitants, mainly Christian, of whom the Greek Orthodox church claims about 3,000. Moslems number about 1,600. There are no Jews. It is the chief market town for the pastoral and agricultural district that lies around it.
4. Labors of Jesus:
In Nazareth, Jesus preached His first recorded sermon (
5. Later History:
Christians are said to have first settled here in the time of Constantine (Epiphanius), whose mother Helena built the Church of the Annunciation. In crusading times it was the seat of the bishop of Bethscan. It passed into Moslem hands after the disaster to the Crusaders at Chattin] (1183). It was destroyed by Sultan Bibars in 1263. In 1620 the Franciscans rebuilt the Church of the Annunciation, and the town rose again from its ruins. Here in 1799 the French general Junot was assailed by the Turks. After his brilliant victory over the Turks at Tabor, Napoleon visited Nazareth. The place suffered some damage in the earthquake of 1837.
Protestant Missions are now represented in Nazareth by agents of the Church Missionary Society, and of the Edinburgh Medical Missionary Society.