(Naz·a·reneʹ) [probably from Heb. neʹtser, “sprout”].
A descriptive epithet applied to Jesus and later to his followers. The names Nazarene and Nazirite are not to be confused, for, though spelled similarly in English, they stem from altogether different Hebrew words with different meanings.—See NAZIRITE.
It was natural and not particularly unusual to speak of Jesus as the Nazarene, since from infancy (less than three years of age) he was raised as the local carpenter’s son in the city of Nazareth, a place about 100 km (60 mi) N of Jerusalem. The practice of associating persons with the places from which they came was common in those days.—2Sa 3:2, 3; 17:27; 23:25-37; Na 1:1; Ac 13:1; 21:29.
Frequently Jesus was referred to, in widely scattered places and by all kinds of persons, as the Nazarene. (Mr 1:23, 24; 10:46, 47; 14:66-69; 16:5, 6; Lu 24:13-19; Joh 18:1-7) Jesus himself accepted and used the name. (Joh 18:5-8; Ac 22:6-8) On the sign that Pilate had placed on the torture stake he wrote in Hebrew, Latin, and Greek: “Jesus the Nazarene the King of the Jews.” (Joh 19:19, 20) From Pentecost 33 C.E. forward, the apostles as well as others often spoke of Jesus Christ as the Nazarene or as being from Nazareth.—Ac 2:22; 3:6; 4:10; 6:14; 10:38; 26:9.
Prophetic. Matthew pointed out that the name Nazarene was prophetically foretold as another sign identifying Jesus Christ as the promised Messiah. He called this to the attention of his readers when he told how Joseph brought Mary and her child back from Egypt following Herod’s death. “Moreover,” Matthew wrote, “being given divine warning in a dream, he [Joseph] withdrew into the territory of Galilee, and came and dwelt in a city named Nazareth, that there might be fulfilled what was spoken through the prophets: ‘He will be called a Nazarene.’”—Mt 2:19-23.
Nazareth is not mentioned in the Hebrew Scriptures. Some suppose Matthew had reference to some lost prophetic book or some unwritten tradition, but his expression, “spoken through the prophets,” is used by writers of the Christian Greek Scriptures only in reference to the same canonical collection of the Hebrew Scriptures we have today. The key to understanding, apparently, lies in equating Nazarene with neʹtser, mentioned above as meaning sprout.
With this in mind, it is evident that Matthew was referring to what Isaiah (11:1) had said concerning Messiah: “There must go forth a twig out of the stump of Jesse; and out of his roots a sprout [we·neʹtser] will be fruitful.” Another Hebrew word, tseʹmach, also means sprout and was used by other prophets when referring to the Messiah. Matthew used the plural, saying that “prophets” had mentioned this coming “Sprout.” For example, Jeremiah wrote about the “righteous sprout” as an offshoot of David. (Jer 23:5; 33:15) Zechariah describes a king-priest “whose name is Sprout,” a prophecy that could apply only to Jesus the Nazarene, the great spiritual Temple-builder.—Zec 3:8; 6:12, 13.