Nazareth in Wikipedia
Nazareth (pronounced /ˈnæzərəθ/; Hebrew: נָצְרַת, Natzrat or Natzeret; Arabic: الناصرة al-Nāṣira or al-Naseriyye) is the largest
city in the North District of Israel. Known as "the Arab capital of Israel," the population is predominantly made up of Arab
citizens of Israel. In the New Testament, the city is described as the childhood home of Jesus, and as such is a center of
Christian pilgrimage, with many shrines commemorating biblical events.
Nazareth is not mentioned in pre-Christian texts and appears in many different Greek forms in the New Testament. There is no
consensus regarding the origin of the name.
Biblical references --
"Nazareth" assumes several forms (Nazara, Nazaret, Nazareth, Nazarat, Nazarath) in surviving Greek versions of the New
Testament. Many scholars have questioned a link between "Nazareth" and the terms "Nazarene" and "Nazoraean" on linguistic
grounds, while some affirm the possibility of etymological relation "given the idiosyncrasies of Galilean Aramaic." Of the
twelve appearances of the town's name in the New Testament, ten use the form Nazaret or Nazareth, and two use the form Nazara.
Nazara (Ναζαρα) is generally considered the earliest form of the name in Greek, and is found in Matthew 4:13 and Luke 4:16 , as
well as the putative Q document, which many scholars maintain preceded 70 CE and the formation of the canonical Christian
gospels. The form Nazareth appears once in the Gospel of Matthew 21:11 , four times in the birth chapters of the Gospel of
Luke at 1:26 ; 2:4 , 2:39 , 2:51 , and once in the Acts of the Apostles at 10:38 . In the Gospel of Mark, the name appears only
once in 1:9 in the form Nazaret.
Extrabiblical references --
The form Nazara is also found in the earliest non-scriptural reference to the town, a citation by Sextus Julius Africanus dated
about 200 CE. (See "Middle Roman to Byzantine Periods" below.) The Church Father Origen (c. 185 to 254 CE) knows the forms
Nazara and Nazaret. Later, Eusebius in his Onomasticon (translated by St. Jerome) also refers to the settlement as Nazara.
In their scriptures, the Mandeans mention nasirutha as a place they go.
The first non-Christian reference to Nazareth is an inscription on a marble fragment from a synagogue found in Caesarea Maritima
in 1962. This fragment gives the town's name in Hebrew as nun·tsade·resh·tav. The inscription dates to c. 300 CE and
chronicles the assignment of priests that took place at some time after the Bar Kokhba revolt, 132-35 CE. (See "Middle Roman
to Byzantine Periods" below.) An 8th century CE Hebrew inscription, which was the earliest known Hebrew reference to Nazareth
prior to the discovery of the inscription above, uses the same form.
Origin of name --
One theory holds that "Nazareth" is derived from the Hebrew noun ne·tser, נֵ֫צֶר, meaning branch. Ne·tser is not the common
Hebrew word for "branch," but one understood as a messianic title based on a passage in the Book of Isaiah. Alternately, the
name may derive from the verb na·tsar, נָצַר, "watch, guard, keep." The negative references to Nazareth in the Gospel of John
suggest that ancient Jews did not connect the town's name to prophecy.
Another theory holds that the Greek form Nazara, used in Matthew and Luke, may derive from an earlier Aramaic form of the name,
or from another Semitic language form. If there were a tsade in the original Semitic form, as in the later Hebrew forms, it
would normally have been transcribed in Greek with a sigma instead of a zeta. This has led some scholars to question whether
"Nazareth" and its cognates in the New Testament actually refer to the settlement we know traditionally as Nazareth in Lower
Galilee. Such linguistic discrepancies may be explained, however, "by a peculiarity of the 'Palestinian' Aramaic dialect
wherein a sade (ṣ) between two voiced (sonant) consonants tended to be partially assimilated by taking on a zayin (z) sound."
The Arabic name for Nazareth is an-Nāṣira, and Jesus (Arabic: يسوع, Yasū` or Arabic: عيسى, `Īsā) is also called an-Nāṣirī,
reflecting the Arab tradition of according people a nisba, a name denoting from whence a person comes in either geographical or
tribal terms. In the Koran, Christians are referred to as nasara, meaning "followers of an-Nāṣirī," or "those who follow Jesus."
Geography and population --
Two general locations of Nazareth are attested in the most ancient texts. The Galilean (Northern) location is familiar from the
Christian gospels. However, a Southern (Judean) tradition is also attested in several early noncanonical texts.
Modern-day Nazareth is nestled in a natural bowl which reaches from 1,050 feet (320 m) above sea level to the crest of the hills
about 1,600 feet (490 m). Nazareth is about 25 kilometres (16 mi) from the Sea of Galilee (17 km as the crow flies) and
about 9 kilometres (5.6 mi) west from Mount Tabor. The Nazareth Range, in which the town lies, is the southernmost of several
parallel east-west hill ranges that characterize the elevated tableau of Lower Galilee.
Nazareth is the largest Arab city in Israel. Until the beginning of the British Mandate in Palestine (1922–1948), the
population was predominantly Arabic speaking Christian (majority Greek Orthodox), with an Arab Muslim minority. Nazareth today
still has a significant Christian population, made up of Maronites, Greek Orthodox, Coptics, among others. The Muslim population
has grown, for a number of historical factors, that include the city having served as administrative center under British rule,
and the influx of internally displaced Palestinian Arabs absorbed into the city from neighbouring towns following the 1948 Arab-
Israeli war. Its population remains almost exclusively Arab and numbered 64,800 in late 2009.
Ancient times --
Archaeological research revealed a funerary and cult center at Kfar HaHoresh, about two miles (3 km) from Nazareth, dating back
roughly 9000 years (to what is known as the Pre-Pottery Neolithic B era). The remains of some 65 individuals were found,
buried under huge horizontal headstone structures, some of which consisted of up to 3 tons of locally-produced white plaster.
Decorated human skulls uncovered there have led archaeologists to believe that Kfar HaHoresh was a major cult centre in that
In 1620 the Catholic Church purchased an area in the Nazareth basin measuring approx. 100 × 150 m (328.08 ft × 492.13 ft). on
the side of the hill known as the Nebi Sa'in. This "Venerated Area" underwent extensive excavation in 1955-65 by the Franciscan
priest Belarmino Bagatti, "Director of Christian Archaeology." Fr. Bagatti has been the principal archaeologist at Nazareth. His
book, Excavations in Nazareth (1969) is still the standard reference for the archaeology of the settlement, and is based on
excavations at the Franciscan Venerated Area.
Fr. Bagatti uncovered pottery dating from the Middle Bronze Age (2200 to 1500 BC) and ceramics, silos and grinding mills from
the Iron Age (1500 to 586 BC), pointing to substantial settlement in the Nazareth basin at that time. However, lack of
archaeological evidence from Assyrian, Babylonian, Persian, Hellenistic or Early Roman times, at least in the major excavations
between 1955 and 1990, shows that the settlement apparently came to an abrupt end about 720 BC, when many towns in the area were
destroyed by the Assyrians.
Early Christian era --
According to the Gospel of Luke, Nazareth was the home of Joseph and Mary and the site of the Annunciation (when Mary was told
by the Angel Gabriel that she would have Jesus as her son); in the Gospel of Matthew, Joseph and Mary resettle in Nazareth after
fleeing to Egypt from their home in Bethlehem.[ Mt. ] The differences and possible contradictions between these two accounts of
the nativity of Jesus are part of the Synoptic Problem. Nazareth is also allegedly where Jesus grew up from some point in his
childhood. However, some modern scholars argue that Nazareth was also the birth place of Jesus.
James Strange, an American archaeologist, notes: "Nazareth is not mentioned in ancient Jewish sources earlier than the third
century AD. This likely reflects its lack of prominence both in Galilee and in Judaea." Strange originally speculated that
the population of Nazareth at the time of Christ to be "roughly 1,600 to 2,000 people", but later, in a subsequent publication,
at "a maximum of about 480." In 2009 Israeli archaeologist Yardenna Alexandre excavated archaeological remains in Nazareth
that might date to the time of Jesus in the early Roman period. Alexandre told reporters, "The discovery is of the utmost
importance since it reveals for the very first time a house from the Jewish village of Nazareth."
According to the Israel Antiquities Authority, "The artifacts recovered from inside the building were few and mostly included
fragments of pottery vessels from the Early Roman period (the first and second centuries CE)... Another hewn pit, whose entrance
was apparently camouflaged, was excavated and a few pottery sherds from the Early Roman period were found inside it." Alexandre
adds that "based on other excavations that I conducted in other villages in the region, this pit was probably hewn as part of
the preparations by the Jews to protect themselves during the Great Revolt against the Romans in 67 CE".
Ancient Nazareth may have built on the hillside, as indicated in the Gospel of Luke: [And they led Jesus] to the brow of the
hill on which their city was built, that they might throw him down headlong.[Lk. 4:29 ] However, the hill in question (the Nebi
Sa'in) is far too steep for ancient dwellings and averages a 14% grade in the venerated area. Historic Nazareth was
essentially constructed in the valley; the windy hilltops in the vicinity have only been occupied since the construction of
Nazareth Illit in 1957. Noteworthy is that all the post-Iron Age tombs in the Nazareth basin (approximately two dozen) are of
the kokh (plural:kokhim) or later types; this type probably first appeared in Galilee in the middle of the first century AD.
Kokh tombs in the Nazareth area have been excavated by B. Bagatti, N. Feig, Z. Yavor, and noted by Z. Gal.
Excavations conducted prior to 1931 in the Franciscan venerated area revealed no trace of a Greek or Roman settlement there,
Fr. Bagatti, who acted as the principal archaeologist for the venerated sites in Nazareth, unearthed quantities of later Roman
and Byzantine artifacts, attesting to unambiguous human presence there from the 2nd century AD onward. John Dominic Crossan,
a major figure in New Testament studies, remarked that Bagatti's archaeological drawings indicate just how small the village
actually was, suggesting that it was little more than an insignificant hamlet.
Matthew 2:19-23 reads:
After Herod died, an angel of the Lord appeared in a dream to Joseph in Egypt and said, "Get up, take the child and his mother
and go to the land of Israel, for those who were trying to take the child's life are dead." So he got up, took the child and his
mother and went to the land of Israel. But when he heard that Archelaus was reigning in Judea in place of his father Herod, he
was afraid to go there. Having been warned in a dream, he withdrew to the district of Galilee, and he went and lived in a town
called Nazareth. So was fulfilled what was said through the prophets: "He will be called a Nazarene."
In the Gospel of John, Nathaniel asks, "Can anything good come out of Nazareth?"[1:46 ] The meaning of this cryptic question is
debated. Some commentators and scholars suggest that it means Nazareth was very small and unimportant, but the question does not
speak of Nazareth’s size but of its goodness. In fact, Nazareth was described negatively by the evangelists; the Gospel of Mark
argues that Nazareth did not believe in Jesus and therefore he could "do no mighty work there";[Mk 6:5 ] in the Gospel of Luke,
the Nazarenes are portrayed as attempting to kill Jesus by throwing him off a cliff;[Lk 4:29 ] in the Gospel of Thomas, and in
all four canonical gospels, we read the famous saying that "a prophet is not without honor except in his own country."
Many scholars since W. Wrede (in 1901) have noted the so-called Messianic secret in the Gospel of Mark, whereby Jesus' true
nature and/or mission is portrayed as unseen by many, including by his inner circle of disciples[Mk 8:27-33 ] (compare the
Gospel of John's references to those to whom only the Father reveals Jesus will be saved). Nazareth, being the home of those
near and dear to Jesus, apparently suffered negatively in relation to this doctrine. Thus, Nathanael’s question, "Can anything
good come out of Nazareth?" is consistent with a negative view of Nazareth in the canonical gospels, and with the Johannine
proclamation that even his brothers did not believe in him.[Jn 7:5 ]
A tablet at the Bibliothèque Nationale in Paris, dating to 50 AD, was sent from Nazareth to Paris in 1878. It contains an
inscription known as the "Ordinance of Caesar" that outlines the penalty of death for those who violate tombs or graves.
However, it is suspected that this inscription came to Nazareth from somewhere else (possibly Sepphoris). Bagatti writes: "we
are not certain that it was found in Nazareth, even though it came from Nazareth to Paris. At Nazareth there lived various
vendors of antiquities who got ancient material from several places." C. Kopp is more definite: "It must be accepted with
certainty that [the Ordinance of Caesar]… was brought to the Nazareth market by outside merchants." Princeton University
archaeologist Jack Finegan describes additional archaeological evidence related to settlement in the Nazareth basin during the
Bronze and Iron Ages, and states that "Nazareth was a strongly Jewish settlement in the Roman period.".
In the mid-1990s, shopkeeper Elias Shama discovered tunnels under his shop near Mary's Well in Nazareth. The tunnels were
eventually recognized as a hypocaust (a space below the floor into which warm air was pumped) for a bathhouse. The surrounding
site was excavated in 1997-98 by Yardena Alexandre, and the archaeological remains exposed were ascertained to date from the
Roman, Crusader, Mamluk and Ottoman periods.
Epiphanius writes in the Panarion (c. 375 AD) of a certain elderly Count Joseph of Tiberias, a wealthy imperial Roman Jew
who converted to Christianity in the time of Constantine. Count Joseph claimed that as a young man he built churches in
Sepphoris and other towns that were inhabited only by Jews. Nazareth is mentioned, though the exact meaning is not clear.
 In any case, Joan Taylor writes: "It is now possible to conclude that there existed in Nazareth, from the first part of the
fourth century, a small and unconventional church which encompassed a cave complex." The town was Jewish until the seventh
Although mentioned in the New Testament gospels, there are no extant non-biblical references to Nazareth until around 200 AD,
when Sextus Julius Africanus, cited by Eusebius (Church History 1.7.14), speaks of "Nazara" as a village in "Judea" and locates
it near an as-yet unidentified "Cochaba." In the same passage Africanus writes of desposunoi - relatives of Jesus - who he
claims kept the records of their descent with great care. A few authors have argued that the absence of first and second century
textual references to Nazareth suggest the town may not have been inhabited in Jesus' day. Proponents of this hypothesis
have buttressed their case with linguistic, literary and archaeological interpretations, though some historians and
archaeologists generally dismiss such views as "archaeologically unsupportable"....