His Name Shall Be Called a Nazarene

The Nativity

“They gave Him a manger for a cradle, a carpenter’s bench for a pulpit, thorns for a crown, and a cross for a throne. He took them and made them the very glory of His career.”
~WE Orchard


“The Angel Gabriel was sent from God to a city of Galilee, named Nazareth, to a virgin espoused to a man whose name was Joseph, of the house of David; and the virgin’s name was Mary” (Luke 1:26, 27). The young marrieds, Mary and Joseph, were coerced to Bethlehem by a census (2:1-7), took the Child to the Temple to be dedicated (2:22), and were forced to flee to Egypt because Herod was seeking the Infant’s life (Matthew 2:13-15). After Herod’s death, “when they had performed all things according to the law of the Lord, they returned to Galilee, to their own city Nazareth” (Luke 2:39), where Jesus was reared (2:39, 40; 4:16-20).

So Jesus, with His parents, “came and dwelled in a city called Nazareth: that it might be fulfilled which was spoken by the prophets, He shall be called a Nazarene” (Matthew 2:23).

Our English Nazarene is the Greek Ναζωραῖος (Nazōraios), elsewhere translated Nazareth. Matthew 2:23 and Acts 24:5 are the only two places in the KJV Bible where the Greek word is rendered Nazarene(s). Does the Evangelist mean a person from Nazareth or a Nazarite (one separated)?

There is evidence that Jesus may have been a Nazarite. A Nazarite was one separated completely to the Lord. He could not eat of the fruit of the vine or cut his hair (Numbers 6:4, 5). Long hair was a visible sign of the Nazarite’s separation; Josephus, the Jewish historian, says that Jesus wore His hair like a Nazarite. The physical description of Jesus from the Roman consul Lentulus to the Roman Emperor Tiberius says, “His hair is quite long, and has never seen a pair of scissors.” The Nazarite type found its perfect fulfillment in Jesus who was “holy, harmless, undefiled, separate from sinners” (Hebrews 7:26), separated to the Father (John 1:18; 6:38), and separated from natural relationships to the higher life (Matthew 12:46-50).

But since, in Matthew 2:23, “Nazarene” comes on the heels of “Nazareth,” we may assume it refers to the place (Nazareth) not to the vow (Nazarite). “Jesus came from Nazareth of Galilee” (Mark 1:9). “This is Jesus the prophet of Nazareth of Galilee” (Matthew 21:11).

The multitude knew who He was. “This is Jesus, the Prophet of Nazareth of Galilee” (Matthew 21:11). When Blind Bartimaeus heard that Jesus of Nazareth was passing his way, he cried out, “Jesus, Son of David, have mercy on me” (Mark 10:47; Luke 18:37, 38). At Jesus’ arrest, soldiers came to the Garden of Gethsemane inquiring for “Jesus of Nazareth” (John 18:5). Pilate’s placard on the Cross bore the words: “Jesus of Nazareth, the King of the Jews” (19:19). After the Resurrection an angel told the women at the tomb, “You seek Jesus of Nazareth, who was crucified. He is risen. He is not here” (Mark 16:6). The two disciples on the Road to Emmaus talked of “Jesus of Nazareth, who was a Prophet, mighty in deed and word before God and all the people” (Luke 24:19).

On the Day of Pentecost, Peter told the congregation: “You men of Israel, hear these words: Jesus of Nazareth, a Man approved of God among you by miracles, wonders, and signs, which God did by Him … you have taken and slain” (Acts 2:22, 23). When Peter and John went up to the Temple to pray and happened on a crippled beggar, Peter said, “Silver and gold have I none, but, such as I have, I give you. In the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, rise up and walk” (3:6).

Peter told the Sanhedrin, “Be it known to you all … that by the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, whom you crucified, whom God raised from the dead, even by Him does this man stand here before you completely healed” (4:10). Peter preached to the house of Cornelius “how God anointed Jesus of Nazareth with the Holy Spirit and with power, who went about doing good, and healing all that were oppressed of the devil, for God was with Him” (10:38). When He met Paul on the Road to Damascus, Jesus introduced Himself as “Jesus of Nazareth” (22:8), the One on whom Paul had been making war (26:9).

God rest ye, little children, let nothing you affright,
For Jesus Christ, your Savior, was born this happy night;
Along the hills of Galilee the white flocks sleeping lay,
When Christ, the Child of Nazareth, was born on Christmas Day
. ~Dinah Maria Craik

Copyright © 2015 Alexandra Lee

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