Posted by: edhensley | June 27, 2010

Where is Nazareth in the Old Testament?

Matthew 2
22 But when he heard that Archelaus was reigning in Judea in place of his father Herod, he was afraid to go there. Having been warned in a dream, he withdrew to the district of Galilee, 23 and he went and lived in a town called Nazareth. So was fulfilled what was said through the prophets: “He will be called a Nazarene.”

Matthew claims that the prophets said Jesus would be a Nazarene. However, the words Nazarene and Nazareth are not mentioned anywhere in the Old Testament or apocryphal texts!

The following shows just how outrageous and irrational Christian apologists will become in order to excuse the bible’s obvious errors.

Look at this text from

There is no direct Old Testament citation that prophesies the Messiah would be called a Nazarene. In fact, Nazareth (approx 1800 people at the time of Christ) is not mentioned anywhere in the Old Testament or in the apocrypha. But, we have two possible explanations:

So far so good, the apologists admit that Nazarene is nowhere to be found in the Old Testament. However, the two “explanations” that follow are mind-boggling.

First, Matthew does not say ‘prophet,’ singular. He says ‘prophets,’ plural. It could be that Matthew was referring to several Old Testament references to the despised character of Jesus (i.e., Psalm 22:6, 13; 69:10; Isaiah 49:7; 53:3; Micah 5:1). Nazareth held the Roman garrison for the northern areas of Galilee.1 Therefore, the Jews would have little to do with this place and largely despised it. Perhaps this is why it says in John 1:46, “And Nathanael said to him, ‘Can any good thing come out of Nazareth?’ Philip said to him, ‘Come and see.'” So, it could be a reference not to an actual location, but the maligned character of the Messiah even as Nazareth was maligned for housing the Roman garrison, and Matthew was using it in reference to the implied hatred of Christ.

In the first explanation, Nazarene is not a place, but it is a reference to maligned character! Notice that this is at odds with Matthew 22:23, who says Jesus would fulfill the prophecy by living in Nazareth. But this stretch of imagination is nothing compared with the second explanation!

Second, there could be a play on words that Matthew was referring to. In Isaiah 11:1 it says, “Then a shoot will spring from the stem of Jesse, and a branch from his roots will bear fruit.” In Hebrew, the word for “branch” is netzer, “NZR” which letters are included in NaZaReth. It seems that Matthew was referring to the branch, the Nazarene, in turn a reference to God’s raising up of the Messiah. Clearly, Matthew was not exegeting Isaiah, but it seems he was referring to the Branch.

The apologist finds the word “branch” in Isaiah 11:1. Then he notices that “branch” in Hebrew has the letters NZR. Nazareth has the letters NZR. Therefore, we have a prophecy fulfilled! This is an extremely low standard for evaluating prophecies. Using this standard, almost any religion or psychic could claim fulfilled prophecies for almost any event.

If these explanations are true, then the Church of the Nazarene should changes its name to either the Church of Maligned Character or the Church of the Branch. I don’t think that will happen anytime soon.



  1. Matthew is writting with the intention to convert Jews. (The most obvious showing of that is the Moses-like story he tells in chapter 2). The quote “He shall be a Nazarene” is nowhere to be found. . . I am a Christian, and to an extent, I can be really apologetic, but I have to admit that much.

  2. This is interesting…obviously you have seen but yet do not see, you have heard but do not hear. We know that not everything is translated properly in the Bible, we know that sometimes things are just there out of some mysterious reason but does that mean God really doesn’t exist because some human that is not perfect wrote something a little bizarre. Or did you grow up in a church that taught you everything in the Bible must be followed to a T or you are going to burn in Hell! I mean seriously…?

    • I was raised in a church that taught the Bible was the perfect, literal word from a perfect God. Yes, if I believed incorrectly, I would burn in Hell for eternity.

      Please keep your posts relevant to the text. Most of your post is an admission that the Bible is not perfect. That is what this blog is about.

      “you have seen but yet do not see…” This is a statement with no evidence in an out-of-date dialect that is not relevant to these verses.

      This post was about NAZARETH. Please note that you did not use that word in your reply.

  3. The Torah, Nevi’im & Ketuvim contains many books including major and lesser prophets. Some prophesied about the Messiah some didn’t. It seems that as with the NT, the OT is a compelation of chosen books. The fact that their is a distinction between major and lesser prophets probably indicate that some did not make it at all and ended up being word of mouth prophesies. They might not even have written them down. If you put it in context, that is how prophets worked. They walked through Israel talking, not writting. Most of the time these prophets started out by saying “The Lord said… SAY to the children of Israel”. Long story short,
    Matthew may be referencing a unwritten word of mouth prophecy that 2000 years ago was very well known but have since been lost. What do you think? Is this plausible?

    P.S. Please keep them coming. You are making my walk with Jesus even more real and fascinating. Thanks

    • Christo,

      Please provide evidence that this prophecy was well known 2000 years ago.

      We know about prophecies that long predate 2000 years. We know where kings and pharaohs were born and buried thousands of years prior to that. These are examples of events and legends that are “very well known”. If something was “very well known” 2000 years ago, it would be written down in at least one place, and probably in multiple places.

      Would you permit Mormons to claim that their books are based on information that was once “very well known but have since been lost”? Would you permit Muslims, Hindus and others to claim that their books are based on information that was once “very well known but have since been lost”?

      If you really believe your claim (based on absolutely no evidence), then you must believe all the claims of all religions that are based on absolutely no evidence.

  4. The significance of Nazareth the place, is another example of how little Christians really know of the culture and place that was ancient Israel. There are several scriptures about Nazarene the vocation but never the place which was a nothing. Samson was a Nazarene, one of their marks was they never cut their hair.

    The author of Matthew, being a greek with poor Jewish cultural knowledge of course got this part wrong as he did with many others.

    • I believe the correct term is Nazerite for the vocation of Samson. It was not related to the location Nazareth.

      • Ed…

        Impressive that you knew the difference between “nazerite” and “nazarene”. Thank you.

        I wish I could post a reply on Nazareth. Your position is well-stated. I am a former Fundamentalist/pentecostal youth leader/assistant pastor/Sunday School teacher with a degree in theology. I want to research this myself and make an informed comment.

        But know…you have me thinking.

        BTW~~I now would consider my “spirituality” to be Judeo/Christo/Pagan/Gnostic/agnostic. 😀

    • Clearly, Jesus was NOT a Nazarite nor is there any reference suggestion anywhere in the Bible that there is. Mathew being a Jew of the Levitical administration would have had an intimate knowledge of Jewish practices and culture and therefore it is unlikely he would have made a mistake alluded to.

  5. So the place name Nazareth means branch, isn’t that interesting … well note these prophetic verses-

    Isa 11:1 And there shall come forth a rod out of the stem of Jesse, and a Branch shall grow out of his roots:

    The same Hebrew word “netser” (H5342) that the word Nazarene is thought to be derived from, appears in the above verse and is translated “Branch”.

    Jer 23:5 Behold, the days come, saith the LORD, that I will raise unto David a righteous Branch, and a King shall reign and prosper, and shall execute judgment and justice in the earth.
    Jer 23:6 In his days Judah shall be saved, and Israel shall dwell safely: and this is his name whereby he shall be called, THE LORD OUR RIGHTEOUSNESS.

    Jer 33:15 In those days, and at that time, will I cause the Branch of righteousness to grow up unto David; and he shall execute judgment and righteousness in the land.
    Jer 33:16 In those days shall Judah be saved, and Jerusalem shall dwell safely: and this is the name wherewith she shall be called, The LORD our righteousness.

    Zec 3:8 Hear now, O Joshua the high priest, thou, and thy fellows that sit before thee: for they are men wondered at: for, behold, I will bring forth my servant the BRANCH.

    Zec 6:12 And speak unto him, saying, Thus speaketh the LORD of hosts, saying, Behold the man whose name is The BRANCH; and he shall grow up out of his place, and he shall build the temple of the LORD:

    • Nazareth does NOT mean branch. There are two separate Hebrew words for Nazareth and branch. Nazareth is Natzrat or Natzeret in Hebrew (using English letters here, of course), and branch is netzer.

      Apologists are so desparate to mention Nazareth in the Old Testament that they often repeat the lie you just told.

  6. If we read the remainder of Isa 11, we also read some other attributes of the Messiah. In v 11 it mentions conquering Assyria and uniting all the scattered Jews, neither of which Jesus did. There are actions listed in v11, which were also not done. I would call this a bad failure on Jesus part if he was supposedly fulfilling this prophecy.

    Most of your other selected verses are to be honest also not fulfilled by Jesus. Take Jer33:15. Jesus never ruled anything nor did he execute justice. If anything he was anything but a help or champion of the poor and the slaves. He told them to pay taxes and be good faithful slaves. Quite a strange message. I can’t see how that helps someone unfortunate enough to be poor or a slave, but those messages and many other similar ones would have made the rich or roman masters happy. Here we have a religious leader tellying the rebellious Jews to stop rebelling and pay taxes and be good slaves. Too bad Spartacus and other slaves in Italy didn’t hear about Jesus, they would not have rebelled and lost their heads and could have continued as lowly slaves. So much for being a champion of the rich.

  7. “Apologists”? Is that what you call people that read the Bible historically and metaphorically as an excuse to hate the Jews ? How very Christian of you.

  8. “The following shows just how outrageous and irrational Christian apologists will become in order to excuse the bible’s obvious errors.” No, not by a long shot. Matthew’s knowledge could not be limited by the words of any scroll, even more so since he had the inspiration of the Holy Ghost. Only someone who thinks everything that can be known of God or salvation is contained in surviving texts could make such an error. Obviously the OT doesn’t tell us every word that every prophet spoke.

  9. Uhhh. Judges 13:5

  10. Food for thought
    First of all I need to mention I’ve not researched this extensively, however The best explanation I have heard is that it was passed on as an oral tradition.
    Much in those days was in fact passed on orally since there was no printing presses and it was very difficult to continually write everything by hand unless it was of the upmost importance or for legal reasons.
    People im sure said lots about famous people in ancient times, but obviously not everything was written down. I’m sure not everything about Alexander the Great can be substantiated either, but most scholars seem to take it at face value based on indirect evidence of various sorts.
    If you couple this theory with the wording in Matthew 2, while comparing it to the other prophesy in the same chapter, perhaps one might come to the same conclusion. Notice the word said in the passage which would imply oral. In addition it says prophets (plural) which possibly implies that it was orally passed down from one prophet to another. Compare how v. 5 says written not said, and v. 15 says prophet (singular), v. 17 actually names the specific prophet. Anyways just some food for thought. Keep searching my friend, after all if we knew everything for sure and there were no mysteries life would be dull and we probably wouldn’t need God,
    God bless

  11. People who are Nazarene, or observing a Nazerite vow are instructed by God, through Moses, in Numbers chapter 6.

  12. When Matthew references ‘the prophets’ (note the plural), he is likely referencing oral tradition, a powerful influence in pre printing press times. So the prophets were known to this society by oral tradition to have said that Jesus would come from Nazareth. This is a reasonable explanation. There is also likely a play on words going on here. Imagine that Jesus was a Gypsy. If there was a prophecy recorded saying the Messiah will be a Gypsy, then when we said ‘Jesus the Gypsy’ we would be alluding to the prophecy and the dodgy despised character of Jesus. It seems likely that this is what is going on here as Nazareth was despised as a Roman garrison town that had sold its soul.

    • Why do fundamentalist Christians criticize think they are permitted to add text to the bible? There is absolutely no reference in any writings that the messiah would be from Nazareth. If you are permitted to add the speculation that you just added, then the bible itself is meaningless since anyone could add any speculation they wanted any time they choose.

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