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NAZARETH Summary and Overview

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NAZARETH in Easton's Bible Dictionary

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 Israel 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 (Matt. 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; Matt. 13:54-58); and he finally retired from the city, where he did not many mighty works because of their unbelief (Matt. 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' (Isa. 4:2; Jer. 23:5; Zech. 3:8; 6:12; Matt. 2:23), Nazarene being quite a different word from Nazarite."

NAZARETH in Smith's Bible Dictionary

(the guarded one) the ordinary residence of our Saviour, is not mentioned in the Old Testament, but occurs first in #Mt 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 Christ's 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, #Lu 4:29| it is within the limits of the province of Galilee, #Mr 1:9| it is near Cana, according to the implication in #Joh 2:1,2,11| a precipice exists in the neighborhood. #Lu 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, #Joh 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.

NAZARETH in Schaff's Bible Dictionary

NAZ'ARETH (separated.?), a city of Galilee, famous as the home of Jesus during his childhood and youth until he began his public ministry. It was about 14 miles from the Sea of Galilee, 6 miles west of Tabor, and 66 miles north of Jerusalem in a straight line. On the north side of the plain of Esdraelon is a crescent-shaped valley about a mile long and averaging a quarter of a mile wide, but swelling out into a broader basin, completely shut in by a wall of gently rounded hills, some fifteen in number, and from 400 to 500 feet in height. Within this basin, and on the lower slope of these hills, is Nazareth. Although the village itself was shut in by these hills, the view from the summit behind the town is quite extensive, taking in Hermon, Carmel, Gilead, Tabor, Gilboa, and the plain of Esdraelon. It is one of the most beautiful views in the Holy Land. History. - Nazareth is not mentioned in the O.T. nor by any classical author, nor by any writer before the time of Christ. It was for some unknown reason held in disrepute among the Jews of Judaea. John 1:46. It was situated in a mountain, Luke 4:29, within the province of Galilee, Mark 1:9, and near Cana, as John 2:1-2, Rev 1:11 seems to imply. There was a precipice near the town, down which the people proposed to cast Jesus. Luke 4:29. It is mentioned twenty-nine times in the N.T. At Nazareth the angel appeared to Mary; the home of Joseph, Luke 1:26; Luke 2:39, and to that place Joseph and Mary returned after their flight into Egypt. Matt 2:23. The hills and places about the town possess a deep and hallowed interest to the Christian as the home of Jesus during his childhood and youth, until he entered upon his ministry, and had preached in the synagogue, and was rejected by his own townspeople. Even after Capernaum became "his own city" he was known as "Jesus of Nazareth," Matt 13:54-58; Mark 6:1-6; Acts 2:22; Deut 3:6; 1 John 4:10; Zech 6:14, and his disciples were called "Nazarenes." In the days of Constantine, Nazareth was peopled by Samaritan Jews, but in the sixth century Christian pilgrimages began to be made to the town. In 1109, Tancred held Galilee, and Nazareth became the seat of a Christian bishopric. In 1160 a council was held at Nazareth which made Alexander III. pope of Rome. During the Middle Ages Christian pilgrims frequently visited Nazareth. When the Turks conquered Palestine, in 1517, the Christians were driven from the town. In 1620 the Franciscan monks gained a foothold there, and began to rebuild the village. At the battle of Mount Tabor, in 1799, Napoleon with his army encamped near Nazareth. The town is now called En-Nasireh, or Nasrah, and has from 5000 to 6000 population, though the Turkish officials estimate it at 10,000. There are about 2000 Mohammedans, 2500 Greeks, 800 Latins, and 100 Protestants. The inhabitants pursue farming, gardening, and various handicrafts, and the village is quite a centre of trade for the adjoining districts. The houses are well built. There are a large Latin church and monastery, a synagogue, a Greek church, a fine Protestant church under the care of the English Church Missionary Society, a Protestant hospital, and a large female orphanage (completed 1874). The Synagogue is claimed by tradition to be the one in which Christ taught, but cannot be traced to a date earlier than a.d. 570. Near the Greek church of the Annunciation is a spring called "Mary's Well," to which the women resort every evening with their water-jars for their daily supply, and to which Mary with her holy Child may have gone. The women of Nazareth, like those of Bethlehem, are distinguished for beauty above their sisters in the East. The brow of the hill over which the enraged Nazarenes threatened to cast Jesus is probably near the Maronite church, though tradition places Nazareth (After Photographs.) it at the "Mount of Precipitation," 2 or 3 miles south of the town.

NAZARETH in Fausset's Bible Dictionary

In a basin among hills descending into Esdraelon from Lebanon, and forming a valley which runs in a wavy line E. and W. On the northern side of the valley the rounded limestone hills rise to 400 or 500 ft. The valley and hill sides abound in gay flowers as the hollyhock growing wild, fig trees, olives, and oranges, gardens with cactus hedges, and grainfields. Now en Nazirah on a hill of Galilee (Mark 1:9), with a precipice nigh (Luke 4:29); near Cane (John 2:1-2; John 2:11). Its population of 4,000 is partly Muslim, but mainly of Latin and Greek Christians. It has a mosque, a Maronite, a Greek, and a Protestant church, and a large Franciscan convent. The rain pouring down the hills would sweep away a house founded on the surface, and often leaves the streets impassable with mud. So the houses generally are of stone, founded, after digging deep, upon the rock (Luke 6:47). On a hill behind is the tomb of neby Ismail, commanding one of the most lovely prospects in the world, Lebanon and snowy Hermon on the N., Carmel and the Mediterranean and Acca on the W., Gilead and Tabor on the S.E., the Esdraelon plain and the Samaria mountains on the S., and villages on every side; Cana, Nain, Endor, Jezreel (Zerin), etc. Doubtless in early life Jesus often stood on this spot and held communion with His Father who, by His Son, had created this glorious scene. Nazareth is never named in Old Testament. It was there Gabriel was sent from God to announce to the Virgin her coming conception of Him who shall reign over the house of Jacob for ever, and of whose kingdom there shall be no end (Luke 1:26-33). After His birth and the sojourn in Egypt Joseph and Mary took the child to their original home in Nazareth, six miles W. of Mount Tabor (Matthew 2:23; Luke 2:39; Luke 4:16). As "John the Baptist; was in the desert until the day of his showing unto Israel," so Messiah was growing up unknown to the world in the sequestered town among the mountains, until His baptism by the forerunner ushered in His public ministry. As Jews alone lived in Nazareth from before Josephus' time to the reign of Constantine (Epiphanius, Haer.), it is impossible to identify the sacred sites as tradition pretends to do, namely, the place of the annunciation to Mary, with the inscription on the pavement of the grotto, "Hic Verbum caro factum est", the mensa Christi, and the synagogue from whence Jesus was dragged to the brow of the hill. Of all Rome's lying legends, none exceeds that of Joseph's house (santa casa) having been whisked from Nazareth to Loretto in the 13th century; in spite of the bull of Leo X endorsing the legend, the fact remains that the santa casa is of a dark red stone, such as is not found in or about Nazareth, where the grey white limestone prevails, and also the ground plan of the house at Loretto is at variance with the site of the house at Nazareth shown by the Franciscans within their convent walls. Jesus taught in the synagogue of Nazareth, "His own country" (Matthew 13:54), and was there "thrust out of the city and led unto the brow of the hill whereon if was built, to be cast down headlong," but "passing through the midst of them He went His way" (Luke 4:16-30). The hill of precipitation" is not the one presumed, two miles S.E. of Nazareth. The present village is on the hill side, nearer the bottom than the top. Among the rocky ledges above the lower parts of the village is one 40 ft. high, and perpendicular, near the Maronite church: this is probably the true site. It is striking how accurately Luke steers clear of a mistake; he does not say they ascended or descended to reach the precipice, but "led" Jesus to it. He does not say the "city" was built on the brow of the hill, but that the precipice was "on the brow," without stating whether it was above (as is the case) or below the town. A forger could hardly go so near a topographical mistake, without falling into it. "Jesus of Nazareth" was part of the inscription on the cross (John 19:19). It is the designation by which He revealed Himself to Saul (Acts 22:8). Nazareth bore a bad name even in Galilee (for Nathanael who said "can any good thing come out of Nazareth?" was of Galilee), which itself, because of its half pagan population and rude dialect, was despised by the people of Judea. The absence of "good" in Nazareth appears from the people's willful unbelief in spite of Jesus' miracles, and their attempt on His life (Matthew 13:54-58), so that He left them, to settle in Capernaum (Matthew 4:13). "The fountain of the Virgin" is at the N.E. of the town.