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Stories in Stone

About this Blogger

After earning an M.A. in Broadcast Journalism from Regent University, Erin spent four years at CBN News, where she served as a line producer for both Christian World News and The 700 Club newscast. Currently, she is travelling to Israel, Jordan, Turkey and Italy to produce segments about Christian history and biblical archaeology for The 700 Club.

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Five Things You Didn't Know About Nazareth

In a season where Bethlehem gets all the Christmas carol shout-outs and Nativity scenes, I thought I'd focus on Nazareth, the place where the Archangel Gabriel first announced the news of Jesus' birth to his mother Mary.

So here are five things you may not know about Jesus' hometown:

1. Nazareth was the original small town.

Archaeological research suggests that in Jesus' day, only 120-150 people lived in Nazareth. In John 1:46, Nathanael asked the famous question, "Can anything good come out of Nazareth?" This tiny farming village, high on a hill and far from the main trade routes, was the last place anyone would look for the Messiah of Israel. Unless they were smart enough to figure out the following prophecy....

2. Isaiah prophesied that the Messiah would come from Nazareth about 600 years before the village existed.

In the 8th century before Christ's birth, Isaiah prophesied that "a shoot will spring from the stem of Jesse, and a branch from his roots will bear fruit" (Isaiah 11:1). The word "branch" in Hebrew is
netzer, the same root word from which the name "Nazareth" comes. Some historians have suggested that Nazareth was named as "the town of the branch," meaning "the place where the Branch of David lives." In the New Testament, Matthew connects Nazareth with the prophecy in Isaiah 11:1: "And came and resided in a city called Nazareth, that what was spoken through the prophets might be fulfilled, ‘He shall be called a Nazarene’" (Matthew 2:23).

So we have some very brilliantly inspired biblical writers here. Isaiah's prophecy contains a double entendre that would remain hidden for more than 700 years... until Matthew the tax collector, under the Holy Spirit's inspiration, solved the puzzle and uncovered another layer of the intricate messianic prophecy.

3. Most of the Nazarenes were royalty.

In 538 BC, King Cyrus of Persia decreed that the Jews exiled in Babylon should be allowed to return to Judea, a process that continued for the next 400-500 years. Around 100 BC, one clan from the line of David returned to Israel and established the town of Nazareth. But here's a question: if they were from the tribe of Judah, from the line of David, why didn't they return to Jerusalem and claim the throne? Or why didn't they return to Bethlehem, David's hometown? The answer is that they were afraid for their lives.

A new non-Davidic dynasty, the Hasmoneans, had assumed the Jewish throne, later to be replaced by Herod the Great. Herod, who was not Jewish, was so paranoid about his questionable parentage that he burned all the public genealogies of the Jews, thinking that he would appear more legitimate if no one else could trace their roots. He was especially afraid of those who were descendants of the royal Davidic line.
Matthew 2 confirms historical records of Herod's paranoia by describing the slaughter in Bethlehem to eliminate any future king, as well as the angel's warning to Joseph to take Jesus to Egypt for protection. So building a town so far away from Jerusalem was a good idea for David's descendants.

4. Most of the Nazarenes were probably related.

Despite Herod's pyromaniacal rampage, many private genealogies survived, being secretly recorded and hidden by families. These records indicate that Nazareth was home to one large clan or branch (there's that word again) of David's line. The whole town was literally one big family. So when Jesus stood in the synagogue and announced that he was the Messiah of whom Isaiah spoke, the people who were angry were Jesus' family members: aunts, uncles, cousins, grandparents, and siblings. Imagine your brother proclaiming himself God's answer to human salvation. Jesus' relatives and neighbors had a strong reaction to that announcement, to say the least: they tried to push Jesus off a cliff, a fate he miraculously escaped.

5. Nazareth may have been the inspiration for many of Jesus' parables.

Archaeological digs in Nazareth have revealed an ancient wine press, terraced hillsides used as vineyards, an irrigation system for the fields, and three watchtowers in the fields, all of which date to Jesus' day. Jesus may have been thinking of his hometown when he described the parables of the sower, the wheat and the tares, the laborers in the vineyard, and the wicked husbandmen.

For more about Jesus' hometown, visit Nazareth Village on the web.

For more about the Old Testament prophecies surrounding Jesus' birth, take a look at these two stories from The 700 Club:

Jewish Jesus: Son of David:

Jewish Jesus: Star of Jacob

I wish you and your families a Merry Christmas and a very Happy New Year!

Print      Email to a Friend    posted on Sunday, December 19, 2010 8:54 AM

Comments on this post

# RE: Five Things You Didn't Know About Nazareth

My understanding has been that Herod the great was an Edomite (Idumaea), a descendent of Esau, Jacob's brother. Although in Herods time it was aproximately 1500 years later, you might say the Edomites were distant cousins of the Jewish people. Granted that more often than not the Edomites sided with the enemies of the Jews. During the century of Maccabean power before the Romans took contrrol over the holy land, the Idumaeans were assimilated into the Jewish nation.

God is Love
Merry Christmas everyone!
Left by daliere on Dec 23, 2010 4:02 PM

# RE: Five Things You Didn't Know About Nazareth

Yes, Herod's father Antipater was Idumean, and his mother was a Nabatean, a Semitic (but not Jewish) people who lived in Jordan and Arabia. Although the Idumeans were forced to convert to Judaism, that did not make them "equals" in Jewish society, and certainly not qualified to take the throne. Herod had to marry the Hasmonean (Maccabean)princess Mariamne to solidify his position as king. Plus, people back then would have realized that the house of David had the legitimate right to the throne (more than the Hasmoneans); this increased Herod's paranoia, since he knew he had no Jewish blood.
Left by Erin on Dec 23, 2010 6:17 PM

# RE: Five Things You Didn't Know About Nazareth

Very interesting! Thank you for sharing!

Left by j_m1964 on Jan 06, 2011 3:51 PM

# RE: Five Things You Didn't Know About Nazareth

Dear Erin,
Thanks for all these information!
I realized that the link to the Old Testament prophecies surrounding Jesus' birth in the 700 Club is wrong. I am very interesting to see this program.
Another related issue: some months ago, visiting this blog I read an announcement of a program involving a research about Jesus' family and its genealogy traces until today. Did you have completed this work? Is there something already available? Thanks in advance!
Left by Moshico on Apr 02, 2011 5:20 PM

# RE: Five Things You Didn't Know About Nazareth

Hi Moshico,
There was a bad link up there, but the two there now are good; they will lead you straight to the stories.

On the Jesus family story, it will air this summer. It doesn't have a specific airdate, as I have about 4 other big projects ahead of it. I'll let you know when it will air. Also, to clarify... we can only reliably trace Jesus' blood family until about 100 years after His death... not all the way until today.

Thank you for reading and God bless,
Left by Erin on Apr 21, 2011 7:35 PM