“However, if any man seems to dispute for some other custom [sy·neʹthei·an], we have no other, neither do the congregations of God.”
When Paul says “Does not nature itself teach you . . . ?” he is not personifying nature, as though it were a goddess. Rather, God has created, brought forth or produced natural things or nature. He has given man reasoning powers. By observing and reasoning on things as God has made them and set them in position man learns much as to what is proper. It is really God that teaches, and the man with his mind properly oriented by God’s Word can view things in their right perspective and relationship, thereby rightly discerning what is natural or unnatural. (Rom. 1:20) By this means the individual can have a trained conscience in this respect and can avoid a conscience that is defiled and that approves unnatural things.—Titus 1:15; 1 Cor. 8:7.
NATURAL USE OF BODIES
It is wrong for men and women to use their bodies in any way that is out of harmony with the functions for which God created them. What is unnatural in that sense is sinful. The Scriptures describe the uncleanness and condemnation coming upon those who practice these things: “That is why God gave them up to disgraceful sexual appetites, for both their females changed the natural [phy·si·kenʹ] use of themselves into one contrary to nature; and likewise even the males left the natural use of the female and became violently inflamed in their lust toward one another, males with males, working what is obscene and receiving in themselves the full recompense, which was due for their error.” Such persons lower themselves to a beastlike level. (Rom. 1:26, 27; 2 Pet. 2:12) They go after wrong fleshly things because, like a beast, they lack reasonableness, having no spirituality.—Jude 7, 10.
Another Greek word often translated “natural” is geʹne·sis, also meaning “birth” or “origin.” James speaks of “a man looking at his natural face [literally, “the face of the birth of him”] in a mirror.” (Jas. 1:23) James also says that “the tongue is a fire”, and that it “sets the wheel of natural life [literally, “the wheel of the birth”] aflame.” (Jas. 3:5, 6) Evidently James here has reference to a wheel, such as that on a chariot, that would be set on fire by the hot, glowing axle, and therefore pictures the tongue as setting aflame the whole round of one’s life into which he came by birth.
(Naz·a·reneʹ) [Greek text of Westcott and Hort uses the words Na·zo·raiʹos, and Na·za·re·nosʹ; probably from Hebrew neʹtser, meaning sprout, shoot or branch, hence, figuratively, offspring].
A descriptive epithet applied to Jesus (by himself and others) 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 sixty-two miles (100 kilometers) by air N of Jerusalem. The practice of associating persons with the places from which they came was common in those days.—2 Sam. 3:2, 3; 17:27; 23:25-37; Nah. 1:1; Acts 13:1; 21:29.
Frequently Jesus was referred to, in widely scattered places and by all kinds of persons, as the Nazarene. (Mark 1:23, 24; 10:46, 47; 14:66-69; 16:5, 6; Luke 24:13-19; John 18:1-7) Jesus himself accepted and used the name. (John 18:5-8; Acts 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.” (John 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.—Acts 2:22; 3:6; 4:10; 6:14; 10:38; 26:9.
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.’”—Matt. 2:19-23.
Nazareth is not mentioned in the Hebrew Scriptures. Some suppose Matthew had reference to some lost prophetic books or some unwritten traditions, 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, shoot or branch.
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 [neʹtser] will be fruitful.” Another Hebrew word tseʹmahh 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.—Zech. 3:8; 6:12, 13.
A city in Lower Galilee where Jesus lived most of his earthly life, along with his half brothers and half sisters. (Luke 2:51, 52; Matt. 13:54-56) Both Joseph and Mary were residents of Nazareth when Gabriel announced the approaching birth of Jesus. (Luke 1:26, 27; 2:4, 39) Later, after their return from Egypt, they took up residence in Nazareth again.—Matt. 2:19-23; Luke 2:39.
Evidence favors an identification of Nazareth with the site of modern En Nasira in Galilee. 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 400 to 500 feet (122 to 152 meters) 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.” (Luke 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. This has often been identified with a rocky cliff some forty feet (12 meters) 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