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Matthew 2:23 NIV

and he went and lived in a town called Nazareth. So was fulfilled what was said through the prophets, that he would be called a Nazarene.

From what research I have done, it does not seem that any of the prophets who are recorded in the old testament said this, or anything similar. Even the apocrypha does not seem to make reference to this prophecy.

Even more troubling, is Matthew saying the prophets, plural, have predicted this, making it even more vexing that it is not written in anywhere in the canon today. What was Matthew referencing here?

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Also, more to the point - why is the sect of Nazarenes (such as Samson was) conflated with a geographical location? – Affable Geek Dec 20 '12 at 23:55
Nazareth is a place and has nothing to do with being a Nazarite. You would be a Nazareen if you came from Nazareth not a Nazarite, two completely different things. – user8826 Nov 30 '13 at 0:02
@zurc maybe, but Matthew is clearly connecting the two? Isn't he? – aceinthehole Dec 1 '13 at 1:04

My response comes from this article about OT prophecy about Jesus from Nazareth.

It basically states that there is no direct Old-Testament reference to Nazareth. The article postulates two explanations:

1) It was a reference that Jesus would be despised.

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

2) It might be a play on words for the Hebrew word for branch.

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.

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Some think that Samson was a type of Messiah because he was a Nazarite (one consecrated to God - נָזִר nazir) for his entire life.

Behold, you shall conceive and bear a son. So then drink no wine or strong drink, and eat nothing unclean, for the child shall be a Nazirite to God from the womb to the day of his death.’ (Judges 13:7, ESV)

But this is not the only prophetical book that ties into the Nazarite theme of Messiah. The same Hebrew word 'nazir' is used (set apart) in reference to Joseph who was also a type of Messiah.

The blessings of your father are mighty beyond the blessings of my parents, up to the bounties of the everlasting hills. May they be on the head of Joseph, and on the brow of him who was set apart (נָזִר nazir) from his brothers. (Genesis 49:26, ESV - brackets original Hebrew)

Therefore by both Judges and Genesis playing on the theme of 'nazir' it can be said the prophets predicted that Messiah would be called a Nazarite.

According to Alfred Edersheim there is even an ancient Jewish tradition that seems to recognize this Messianic expectation of nazir:

ancient Jewish tradition, in referring to the blessing spoken to Dan (Gen. xlix. 17, 18), applies this addition: “I have waited for Thy salvation, Jehovah,” through Samson the Danite, to the Messiah. (Alfred Edresheim, Bible History Old Testament)

This view also seems to have been held by John Calvin, here.

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The root word for Nazareth and Nazirene are similar in both the hebrew and greek. The hebrew NeTseR is used as most likely a play on words in the Hebrew, which is read right to left (Resh-Tsade-Nun : Strong's H5342) means a "figurative descendent". It's direct translation is "Sprout, Shoot, Branch" which used in Isaiah 11:1-refering to Meshiach (Messiah), but also 14:19, 60.21, Dan 11:7. NeTseR is also the root word for Nazereth so in Hebrew the word play would be obvious.

The Gospel of Mathew was written in Hebrew as attributed to the Apostolic Father Papias (Papias, 150-170 CE, quoted by Eusebius, Eccl. Hist. 3:39), and church Fathers, Ireneus (Ireneus, 170 CE, Against Heresies 3:1), Origin (Origen circa 210 CE, quoted by Eusebius, Eccl. Hist. 6:25). Knowing this we imagine there was a play on words, characteristic in Hebrew, in Matt. 2:23" Were Yeshua (Jesus) "...came to a town "NaTseReTh"(little branch) ... ","...Spoken by the Prophets...","...would be called a "NeTseR" (Branch). The greek "Nazoraios" (Strong"s G3480, translated Nazarene in english, would have been Resh-Zayin-Nun in Hebrew, see Amos 2:11,12, but Nazoraios may have been the closest translation in the greek in order to preserve the hebrew word play. It means a Nazirite; one who takes a Nazirite vow. However,we know Yeshuah (Jesus) never took a Nazarite vow since we know he drank wine which is forbidden to any Nazirite. In addition there is nowhere in the prophets that speak of Mashiach being a Nazarite, which is contrary to Mathews gospel.

On the other hand, another hebrew word for "Branch" is TsaMaCh, (Chet-Mem-Tsade in hebrew, Strong's H6780), see; Jer. 23:5, 33:15, Zech. 3:8, 6:12- all clear references to Meshiach, but also found in Isa 4:2, 61:11, , Ezek. 16:7, 17:9,10, Hos. 8:7, Psalm 65:11.

So the theme of "The Branch" referring to Meshiach, NeTseR in Matt. 2:23, TsaMaCh in Jer 23:5, 33:15, Zech 3:8, 6:12, all referring to Yeshua Mashiach, was spoken by the Prophets as well fulfilling Mathew's gospel. Thus the entire statement of Matt 2:23 is fulfilled, but only if we assume a hebrew word play in an original hebrew Gospel of Matthew.

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Nazareth held the Roman garrison for the northern areas of Galilee. The gospel says rhetorically, "can anything good come out of there?" The village of Nazareth has little to do with the vow of a Nazarite (Numbers 6.1-21). The Talmud asks why the vow of a Nazir is juxtaposed (in the Torah) to the woman suspected of adultry (a Sotah) Numbers 5.11-31. Perhaps, since Matthew was originally written in Hebrew, it is a play on the word Netzer shoot or branch, as in a sect of Judaism - from above posting- Acts 24:5 has Tertullus refer to Paul as a ringleader of the sect of the Nazarenes:

For we have found this man a pestilent fellow, and a mover of sedition among all the Jews throughout the world, and a ringleader of the sect of the Nazarenes.

The sect of the Nazarenes alludes to the fact that Yeshu took the vow of a Nazir (Nazarite) on Passover in the cultural backdrop of Hellenism. Mark 14:25, Matthew 26:29, Luke 22:18. From a historical perspective we must look at the various sects of Judaism during the second temple period to identify why the Nazarenes were accused of sedition against Rome. Sedition as in refusal to pay taxes carried the death penalty. We know that Rome continually "put down various rebellions in Judea" and the Hashmonean Dynasty and Temple Priesthood was accused of being in collusion with Rome (corrupt). Yeshu overturned the money changers in the Temple Courtyard. Matthew 21.12, Mark 11.15, Luke 19.45, John 2.15 Yeshu was accused before Pontus Pilate of Sedition - refusal to pay taxes Luke 23.2 That he took the vow of a nazir alludes to the spiritual adultry, ("rebellion is as the sin of witchcraft and stubborness as idolatry") of the Nation and his sending out a branch of Judaism to graft into the vine wild branches. Where he said, "think not that I come to send peace, I come to send a sword" must be understood as a branch not a literal sword (if one translates the Greek machaira sword back into Hebrew it can mean either a literal sword or a branch! Moreover, Yeshu spoke nothing except by parable. Matthew 13.34, Mark 4.34) He was prophesying that He was sending a nazir, a branch, (a sword as it were, figuratively to conquer the nations) into the world because of the spiritual adultry of the Nation of Israel. Somehow we have lost that concept that he was the root of Jesse and was prophetically sending out a "set apart" sect or branch of Judaism. "Boast not against the branches" Paul said.

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Welcome! Thanks for contributing. If you haven't already done so, I hope you'll take a minute to take the tour and learn how this site is different from others. – Nathaniel May 27 at 20:45
Welcome to Christianity.SE, and thanks for offering an answer. Does this answer represent any particular group or denomination of Christians? If so, identifying it and providing references to places where this interpretation is further developed in its writings would strengthen your answer here. See: What makes a good supported answer? – Lee Woofenden May 27 at 21:05
I simply gave my understanding of the verse he would be called a Nazarene from a historical perspective reading into the text what seems to be missing about this sect of nazarenes – Yochanan Mauritz Hummasti May 27 at 22:22
Lee Woofenden I simply gave my understanding of the verse he would be called a Nazarene from a historical perspective reading into the text what seems to be missing about this sect of nazarenes, and how they might have understood Yeshu's mission to conquer Rome by conversion from idolatry rather than by the sword. One must keep in mind He did not wish to fight against Rome John 6:15 – Yochanan Mauritz Hummasti May 27 at 22:30

I would like to add a bit more detail to Mike's answer. Samson was the one about whom the bible says,

Behold, you shall conceive and bear a son. So then drink no wine or strong drink, and eat nothing unclean, for the child shall be a Nazirite to God from the womb to the day of his death.’ (Judges 13:7, ESV).

There are several more verse which have dual application - refers to Jesus and some other person.

Some examples:

  1. Israel and Jesus:

    Hosea 11:1 “When Israel was a child, then I loved him, and called My son out of Egypt.

This clearly refers to the deliverance of Israelites from Egypt, but was applied to Jesus

Matthew 2:15 And was there until the death of Herod, that it might be fulfilled which was spoken of the Lord by the prophet, saying, “Out of Egypt have I called My Son.”

  1. Solomon and Jesus: Psalm 72 - David sang this Psalm as a prayer for Solomon, but it applies to Jesus more than Solomon

  2. Isaiah's son and Jesus: Isaiah 7:14-17 - This is very clear when we see Isaiah 8:3-8:

    And I went unto the prophetess, and she conceived and bore a son. Then said the Lord to me, “Call his name Mahershalalhashbaz. For before the child shall have knowledge to cry ‘My father,’ and ‘My mother,’ the riches of Damascus and the spoil of Samaria shall be taken away to the king of Assyria.” The Lord spoke also unto me again, saying, “Inasmuch as this people refuseth the waters of Shiloah that flow softly, and rejoice in Rezin and Remaliah’s son, now therefore, behold, the Lord bringeth up upon them the waters of the river, strong and many, even the king of Assyria and all his glory; and he shall come up over all his channels and go over all his banks. And he shall pass through Judah; he shall overflow and go over, he shall reach even to the neck. And the stretching out of his wings shall fill the breadth of thy land, O Immanuel.”

All these people have a few similarities:

  1. Their birth was foretold
  2. They were all males
  3. Many among them were types of Christ.


  1. Issac - promised son, father sacrificed son: type of heavenly Father sacrificing His Son
  2. Samson - promised son, a judge and savior: Jesus - promised Son, the Judge, and Savior
  3. Solomon - birth foretold, son of David, righteous king: Jesus - Birth foretold, Son of David, righteous king
  4. Isaiah's son - called Immanuel: Jesus also called Immanuel
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I think part of the difficulties in finding what this refers to are that:

  1. It appears to be a paraphrase and not a direct quotation.

  2. There appear to be multiple Hebrew words that could be associated with the Greek word Ναζωραῖος (Nazooraios) - Nazarene (there is a discussion of this here)

Some Church Fathers associate the Greek Ναζωραῖος (Nazooraios) with the Hebrew roots נצר and/or נזר. These words have multiple vocalizations:

נֵ֫צֶר [neser] - "root" or "branch"; translated "flower" in the Septuagint

נָצַר [naser] - "keep watch", "protect", "preserve", etc.

נָזַר [nazar] - "consecrate" or "separate oneself"

נָזִיר [nazir] - a consecrated (i.e. holy) one

Both Jerome (Commentary on Matthew) and Cyril of Alexandria (Fragment 16) saw "Nazorene" as referring to neser (root/branch/flower), which appears in Isaiah:

Isaiah 11:1 (RSV)

There shall come forth a shoot from the stump of Jesse, and a branch [נֵ֫צֶר] shall grow out of his roots.

Isaiah 11:1 (Brenton LXX)

And there shall come forth a rod out of the root of Jesse, and a blossom [ἄνθος/נֵ֫צֶר] shall come up from his root.

Both, along with Chromatius (Tractate on Matthew VII.2), also allow that it might also refer to nazir, in the sense of "holy", as relates to the Nazorites [נָזִיר], in the Book of Numbers.

John Chrysostom has a completely different understanding and supposes that the original prophesy is lost:

And what manner of prophet said this? Be not curious, nor overbusy. For many of the prophetic writings have been lost; and this one may see from the history of the Chronicles [2 Chronicles 9:29] For being negligent, and continually falling into ungodliness, some they suffered to perish, others they themselves burnt up and cut to pieces. The latter fact Jeremiah relates [36:23] the former, he who composed the fourth book of Kings [LXX; 2 Kings in MT], saying, that after [22:8] a long time the book of Deuteronomy was hardly found, buried somewhere and lost. But if, when there was no barbarian there, they so betrayed their books, much more when the barbarians had overrun them. For as to the fact, that the prophet had foretold it, the apostles themselves in many places call Him a Nazarene [Acts 3:6,22;4:10;6:14].

Homily IX on the Gospel According to St. John

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Matthew 2:23 is the only biblical reference to Jesus as a Nazarene. This says that this was in fulfilment of a prophecy, but there is no known Old Testament or apocryphal text that mentions Nazarenes. However, there is another intriguing reference that also seems to suggest that the term was not used simply to refer to residents of the village of Nazareth in Galilee.

Acts 24:5 has Tertullus refer to Paul as a ringleader of the sect of the Nazarenes:

For we have found this man a pestilent fellow, and a mover of sedition among all the Jews throughout the world, and a ringleader of the sect of the Nazarenes:

Acts 24:5 does not have to be accepted as historically reliable to be of interest here, since the use of the term in Acts shows that at least by the end of the first century there must have been a sect of that name.

Nearly all critical scholars say that Matthew's Gospel was substantially based on Mark's Gospel, so the author of Matthew knew from several references in Mark's Gospel that Jesus was from Nazareth. But this author found it useful to link Nazareth to being "called a Nazarene." The interpretation of this depends on whether the sect to which Acts 24:5 refers only arose in the approximately two decades that elapsed between the authorship of Matthew and that of Acts, or whether there was already a Nazarene sect of which Matthew's author was aware.

If there was no Old Testament or apocryphal text in which it was prophesied that the Messiah would be a Nazarene, the author of Matthew must have had other reasons for drawing attention to Jesus as a Nazarene. In my view, Acts 24:5 provides that reason, if only obscurely. During the first century, there was a sect of Nazarenes of which Jesus would be seen as the leader.

Note: The Nazarenes should not be confused with Nazarites, such as Samson. It would certainly be hard to picture either Jesus or Paul as having followed the rituals and laws that applied to Nazarites.

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Wow, you are really confused.

First, when the Brit Chadasha (New Testament) was translated from Aramaic to Greek, the scribes mistranslated the singular navi for the plural veviim. Matthew actually said in Aramaic, " foretold by the prophet..." - singular. Who was the prophet. In Hebrew everyone knows "the prophet" refers to Yeshayahu - Isaiah. And Mattityahu (Matthew) is referring to Isaiah 11:1-3. Bear in mind "netzer" means root and branch.

You are correct that Netzari (Nazarene) has nothing to do with a physical location but is actually poetically pointing to the spiritual. So what did Isaiah say?

1 "A (netzer) shoot will come up from the stump of Jesse; from his roots a (netzer) Branch will bear fruit. 2 The Spirit of YHWH will rest on him-- the Spirit of wisdom and of understanding, the Spirit of counsel and of might, the Spirit of the knowledge and fear of YHWH. 3 and he will delight in the fear of YHWH. He will not judge by what he sees with his eyes, or decide by what he hears with his ears;

Isaiah is speaking of this Netzer having humble beginnings in the "stump" of Jesse - it was cut down (off) but this tiny shoot came forth that would eventually branch out to encompass the entire earth with the glory of YHWH.

While Netzarit (Nazareth) means "City of the Branch", it actually has nothing to do with what Mattityahu is speaking of.

This is one example of lost understanding, mis-translation and misinterpretation because of reliance on the Greek translations of the original Aramaic.

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I'm confused along with any reader who is a non Hebrew\Greek scholar – aceinthehole Jul 5 '14 at 21:56
Can you give some references to some other people who argue that 'Nazarene' is a mistranslation of the word for 'shoot/branch'? Also remember the idea that the NT was originally written in Aramaic is very much a minority position, but this could be evidence for it if it was argued well. – curiousdannii Jul 5 '14 at 22:11
Welcome to the site! This doesn't really have much to do with your answer, but I find that sharing the following tends to help new visitors avoid mistaking the purpose of this site. I do hope to see more from you! When you get a chance, please see How we are different than other sites? and What makes a good supported answer? – David Jul 5 '14 at 22:50
“Wow, you are really confused.” - Word of advice - don’t begin your answer so. – Simply a Christian Jul 2 at 6:48

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