separated, generally supposed to be the Greek form of the Hebrew netser , a "shoot" or "sprout." Some, however, think that the name of the city must be connected with the name of the hill behind it, from which one of the finest prospects in Palestine is obtained, and accordingly they derive it from the Hebrew notserah , i.e., one guarding or watching, thus designating the hill which overlooks and thus guards an extensive region.
This city is not mentioned in the Old Testament. It was the home of Joseph and Mary ( Luke 2:39 ), and here the angel announced to the Virgin the birth of the Messiah ( 1:26-28 ). Here Jesus grew up from his infancy to manhood ( 4:16 ); and here he began his public ministry in the synagogue ( Matthew 13:54 ), at which the people were so offended that they sought to cast him down from the precipice whereon their city was built ( Luke 4:29 ). Twice they expelled him from their borders ( 4:16-29 ; Matthew 13:54-58 ); and he finally retired from the city, where he did not many mighty works because of their unbelief ( Matthew 13:58 ), and took up his residence in Capernaum.
Nazareth is situated among the southern ridges of Lebanon, on the steep slope of a hill, about 14 miles from the Sea of Galilee and about 6 west from Mount Tabor. It is identified with the modern village en-Nazirah, of six or ten thousand inhabitants. It lies "as in a hollow cup" lower down upon the hill than the ancient city. The main road for traffic between Egypt and the interior of Asia passed by Nazareth near the foot of Tabor, and thence northward to Damascus.
It is supposed from the words of Nathanael in John 1:46 that the city of Nazareth was held in great disrepute, either because, it is said, the people of Galilee were a rude and less cultivated class, and were largely influenced by the Gentiles who mingled with them, or because of their lower type of moral and religious character. But there seems to be no sufficient reason for these suppositions. The Jews believed that, according to Micah 5:2 , the birth of the Messiah would take place at Bethlehem, and nowhere else. Nathanael held the same opinion as his countrymen, and believed that the great "good" which they were all expecting could not come from Nazareth. This is probably what Nathanael meant. Moreover, there does not seem to be any evidence that the inhabitants of Galilee were in any respect inferior, or that a Galilean was held in contempt, in the time of our Lord. (See Dr. Merrill's Galilee in the Time of Christ.)
The population of this city (now about 10,000) in the time of Christ probably amounted to 15,000 or 20,000 souls.
"The so-called 'Holy House' is a cave under the Latin church, which appears to have been originally a tank. The 'brow of the hill', site of the attempted precipitation, is probably the northern cliff: the traditional site has been shown since the middle ages at some distance to the south. None of the traditional sites are traceable very early, and they have no authority. The name Nazareth perhaps means 'a watch tower' (now en-Nasrah), but is connected in the New Testament with Netzer, 'a branch' ( Isaiah 4:2 ; Jeremiah 23:5 ; Zechariah 3:8 ; 6:12 ; Matthew 2:23 ), Nazarene being quite a different word from Nazarite."
separated; crowned; sanctified
(the guarded one ) the ordinary residence of our Saviour, is not mentioned in the Old Testament, but occurs first in ( Matthew 2:23 ) It derives its celebrity from its connection with the history of Christ, and in that respect has a hold on the imagination and feelings of men which it shares only with Jerusalem and Bethlehem. It is situated among the hills which constitute the south ridges of Lebanon,just before they sink down into the plain of Esdraelon, (Mr. Merrill, in "Galilee in the Time of Christ" (1881), represents Nazareth in Christs time as a city (so always called in the New Testament) of 15,000 to 20,000 inhabitants, of some importance and considerable antiquity, and not so insignificant and mean as has been represented. --ED.) Of the identification of the ancient site there can be no doubt. The name of the present village is en-Nazirah the same, therefore, as of old it is formed on a hill or mountain, ( Luke 4:29 ) it is within the limits of the province of Galilee, ( Mark 1:9 ) it is near Cana, according to the implication in ( John 2:1 John 2:2 John 2:11 ) a precipice exists in the neighborhood. ( Luke 4:29 ) The modern Nazareth belongs to the better class of eastern villages. It has a population of 3000 or 4000; a few are Mohammadans, the rest Latin and Greek Christians. (Near this town Napoleon once encamped (1799), after the battle of Mount Tabor.) The origin of the disrepute in which Nazareth stood, ( John 1:47 ) is not certainly known. All the inhabitants of Galilee were looked upon with contempt by the people of Judea because they spoke a ruder dialect, were less cultivated and were more exposed by their position to contact with the heathen. But Nazareth labored under a special opprobrium, for it was a Galilean and not a southern Jew who asked the reproachful question whether "any good thing" could come from that source. Above the town are several rocky ledges, over which a person could not be thrown without almost certain destruction. There is one very remarkable precipice, almost perpendicular and forty or fifty near the Maronite church, which may well be supposed to be the identical one over which his infuriated fellow townsmen attempted to hurl Jesus.
naz'-a-reth (Nazaret, Nazareth, and other forms):
1. Notice Confined to the New Testament:
A town in Galilee, the home of Joseph. and the Virgin Mary, and for about 30 years the scene of the Saviour's life (Matthew 2:23; Mark 1:9; Luke 2:39,51; 4:16, etc.). He was therefore called Jesus of Nazareth, although His birthplace was Bethlehem; and those who became His disciples were known as Nazarenes. This is the name, with slight modification, used to this day by Moslems for Christians, Nacara--the singular being Nacrany.
The town is not named in the Old Testament, 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 Sea of Galilee and the Mediterranean at Haifa. The road to the plain and the coast goes over the southwestern lip of the hollow; that to Tiberias and Damascus over the heights to the Northeast. A rocky gorge breaks down southward, issuing on the plain between two craggy hills. That to the West is the traditional Hill of Precipitation (Luke 4:29). This, however, is too far from the city as it must have been in the days of Christ. It is probable that the present town occupies pretty nearly the ancient site; and the scene of that attempt on Jesus' life may have been the cliff, many feet in height, not far from the old synagogue, traces of which are still seen in the western part of the town. There is a good spring under the Greek Orthodox church at the foot of the hill on the North. The water is led in a conduit to the fountain, whither the women and their children go as in old times, to carry home in their jars supplies for domestic use. There is also a tiny spring in the face of the western hill. To the Northwest rises the height on which stands the sanctuary, now in ruins, of Neby Sa`in. From this point a most beautiful and extensive view is obtained, ranging on a clear day from the Mediterranean on the West to the Mountain of Bashan on the East; from Upper Galilee and Mt. Hermon on the North to the uplands of Gilead and Samaria on the South The whole extent of Esdraelon is seen, that great battlefield, associated with so many heroic exploits in Israel's history, from Carmel and Megiddo to Tabor and Mt. Gilboa.
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 (Luke 4:16), when His plainness of speech aroused the homicidal fury of His hearers. "He did not many mighty works there because of their unbelief" (Matthew 13:58). Finding no rest or security in Nazareth, He made His home in Capernaum. The reproach implied in Nathanael's question, "Can any good thing come out of Nazareth?" (John 1:46), has led to much speculation. By ingenious emendation of the text Cheyne would read, "Can the Holy One proceed from Nazareth?" (EB, under the word). Perhaps, however, we should see no more in this than the acquiescence of Nathanael's humble spirit in the lowly estimate of his native province entertained by the leaders of his people in Judea.
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.
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