The Anti-Missionary’s Charge:
“And he (Jesus) came and dwelt in a city called Nazareth: that it might be fulfilled which was spoken by the prophets” (Matthew 2:23).
ONE: Which prophets said that? TWO: According to scholars, rabbis and historians, the city of Nazareth did not exist during the writings of Hebrew Scriptures. The word “Nazareth” does not appear anywhere in Hebrew scripture, as verified by the New Testament Concordance. However, the word “Nazirite” does appear in the Hebrew Bible, meaning a special kind of Jewish sect.
Therefore, Nazareth and Nazarene are Christian words, not Hebrew words. Nazareth is not mentioned in non-Christian sources until the third or fourth century. Nazarites are not a sect but rather it is an individual oath taken by a person to be in effect for a time period. During this time the person is not allowed to cut their hair, go near a corpse, eat grapes or drink wine. Afterward he must bring special offerings to the Beith Hamikdash and shave his hair.
For Matthew 2:23 please review our comments entitled “The Four Ways the Brit Chadashah (New Testament) Uses the Hebrew Scriptures.”
Jacob, you are totally correct, not a single prophet makes the statement found in Matthew 2:23. This has generated all kinds of comments from all kinds of people. The remark is a mystery to many.
The key to understanding Matthew is the plural use of the word prophet. In all his previous fulfillments in chapter 2, Matthew has used the singular “prophet” (2:5, 15, 17). Here he uses the plural. This is an example of a “literal prophecy plus summation.” By using the plural Matthew is telling us that verse 23 is a summary of all that the prophets taught. This is an example of “Sod.”
What did the prophets as a group teach about the Messiah? One of the clear streams of thought taught about the Messiah is the fact that he would be a despised and rejected individual. For example, Isaiah 53:3 “He was despised and forsaken of men.” From Nathaniel’s remark in John 1:46, “Can any good thing come from Nazareth,” it is quite clear that individuals from Nazareth were despised individuals.
So you are quite correct, not one single prophet has made these remarks. This is a summary statement of what the prophets, as a group, taught about the Messiah.
I am surprised at your comments about the non-existence of Nazareth. Encyclopaedia Judaica makes this remark regarding Nazareth,
“Archaeological evidence has shown that the area was settled as early as the Middle Bronze Age, and tombs have been found dating from the Iron Age to Hasmonean times.”
The Middle Bronze Age is approximately 2,000 BCE. It appears Nazareth has been around for a long time. The Hasmonean times would extend from approximately 166 BCE to 63 BCE, or in other words, just before Jesus came on the scene. What the archeologists are saying is that Nazareth experienced Jewish occupation before the New Testament was written. Therefore, it would not be a town that Christians fabricated in order to make their story about Jesus believable. Just because a town is small, insignificant, and not mentioned in the Hebrew Bible does not mean it did not exist. That is simply an argument from silence. There must have been 100’s of small and insignificant towns in Israel, that existed during the writing of the Scriptures, that are not mentioned in the Bible. That does not mean they never existed. I believe you need to document your sources for the statement that “Nazareth did not exist during the writings of the Hebrew Scriptures.”
I think you are stretching it when you say that these are Christian words not Hebrew words. Encyclopaedia Judaica remarks,
“the Hebrew and Arabic terms for Christians (Nozeri, Nasrani) are derived from the town’s name.”
Encyclopedia Judaica is saying the exact opposite of what you have said. You have said, “Nazareth and Nazarene are Christian words.” EJ says that the Hebrew term for Christian, Nozeri, was derived from the town’s name, Nazareth (see quote below and underlined for the Hebrew root). Therefore, the city named Nazareth had to precede the term Nozeri. Nazareth would then be a Jewish/Hebrew word. This is consistent with the fact that Nazareth was a Jewish town before Jesus came on the scene, just as the NT indicates.
“Nazareth is not mentioned in non-Christian sources until the third or fourth century, when it was recorded in an inscription found at Caesarea listing the priestly courses and their seats in Galilee. According to this list (which is reproduced in the seventh-century liturgical poems of Kallir and others), the family of Happizzez (I Chron. 24:15) settled in Nazareth, a name derived in this source from the root nsr (to guard). It is described by Jerome as a very small village in Galilee (Onom. 141:3). Constantine may have included it in the territory of Helenopolis, a city which he founded, but the town remained purely Jewish in the fourth century.”
According to the Archeological Encyclopedia of the Holy Land, “After the destruction of the Second Temple Jews lived at Nazareth and it was the seat of the priestly family of Pises.”
It appears that Nazareth has had a long history of continuous Jewish occupation, before and after Jesus. The evidence indicates that it was an insignificant (despised?) village during those times, just as the New Testament records. Finally, these sources show that the site has a Hebrew name. Do you know of any alternate name for the site besides Nazareth? At this point the evidence, and you are quite free to disagree with me, supports the New Testament.
You are quite correct when you state that Matthew 2:23 is not a reference to the Nazarite Oath. I do not agree with those who make that connection. That is a tenuous conclusion at best, although you will find it in a good number of commentaries.