(Nazʹa·reth) [probably, Sprout-Town].
A city in Lower Galilee where Jesus lived most of his earthly life, along with his half brothers and half sisters. (Lu 2:51, 52; Mt 13:54-56) Both Joseph and Mary were residents of Nazareth when Gabriel announced the approaching birth of Jesus. (Lu 1:26, 27; 2:4, 39) Later, after their return from Egypt, they took up residence in Nazareth again.
Location. Most scholars identify Nazareth with En Nasira (Nazerat) in Galilee. (PICTURES, Vol. 2, p. 539) If this view is correct, Nazareth was situated in the low mountains just N of the Valley of Jezreel and approximately halfway between the S tip of the Sea of Galilee and the Mediterranean Coast. It was in a mountain basin with hills rising 120 to 150 m (400 to 500 ft) above it. The area was well populated, with a number of cities and towns near Nazareth. Also, it is estimated that one could walk from Nazareth to Ptolemais on the Mediterranean Coast in seven hours, to Tiberias on the Sea of Galilee in five hours, and to Jerusalem in three days.
On one occasion people of Nazareth sought to throw Jesus from “the brow of the mountain upon which their city had been built.” (Lu 4:29) That is not to say that Nazareth was on the very brow or edge, but that it was on a mountain having a brow from which they wanted to hurl Jesus. Some have identified it with a rocky cliff some 12 m (40 ft) high located SW of the city.
Prominence of Nazareth. It is difficult to say with certainty just how prominent Nazareth was in the first century. The most common view of commentators is that Nazareth was then a rather secluded, insignificant village. The principal Biblical statement used to support this view is what Nathanael said when he heard that Jesus was from there: “Can anything good come out of Nazareth?” (Joh 1:46) This has been taken by many to mean that Nazareth was looked down upon, even by people of Galilee. (Joh 21:2) Nazareth was near trade routes of the area but not directly on them. It was not mentioned by Josephus, though he referred to nearby Japhia as the largest fortified village of all Galilee, leading to the idea that Nazareth was eclipsed by its neighbor.
On the other hand, Nathanael may simply have been expressing surprise that Philip would claim a man from the neighborhood city of Nazareth in Galilee to be the promised Messiah, for the Scriptures had foretold that that one would come from Bethlehem in Judah. (Mic 5:2) Josephus did not mention many of the settlements in Galilee, so his not mentioning Nazareth might not be particularly significant. It is noteworthy that the Bible does not call Nazareth a village, but always a “city.” (Lu 1:26; 2:4, 39) Furthermore, close-by Sepphoris was an important, fortified city having a district court of the Sanhedrin. Nonetheless, whatever its size and prominence, Nazareth was convenient to important trade routes and main cities, and so its inhabitants would have had ready information about the social, religious, and political activities of the time.
Attitude of the People. As Jesus grew up, he progressed “in favor with God and men.” (Lu 2:52) He and his half brothers and half sisters were known by the people of Nazareth, and it was his “custom” to attend the local synagogue each week. (Mt 13:55, 56; Lu 4:16) When he was about 30 years of age, Jesus left Nazareth and was baptized by John. (Mr 1:9; Lu 3:23) Some months later, near the start of his Galilean ministry, Jesus returned to Nazareth and in the synagogue read aloud Isaiah 61:1, 2, applying it to himself. The people manifested a lack of faith and attempted to kill him, “but he went through the midst of them and continued on his way,” taking up residence in Capernaum.
Over a year later, Christ again visited Nazareth. (Mt 13:54-58; Mr 6:1-6) Though some have thought this to be the same occasion as in Luke 4:16-30, the order of events in Matthew, Mark, and Luke indicates otherwise, as does the fact that Jesus’ activities and the results were somewhat different. His fame may have grown by this time so that a somewhat more hospitable reception was granted him. Though many stumbled over the fact that he was a local man, there is no mention of the people’s trying to kill him this time. He performed some powerful works, but not many, because of the people’s lack of faith. (Mt 13:57, 58) Jesus then left and began his third circuit of Galilee.