Nazareth is not mentioned in the OT or by Josephus, although the presence of a spring and the convenience of the site make it probable that the place was occupied in old times. However, it is mentioned in the New Testament:
1) To be called a "Nazarene" was having an evil reputation (Matthew said this was in accord with the prophecy of Isaiah 53) and pictures the Messiah as a "root springing up out of the dry ground."
2) One of the most well known names for the Messiah among the Jews was Tsamech or Branch, based on Isaiah's prophecy (Isa 11:1). The word Netzer is the exact equivalent. The title Nazarene not only stood for the reproach which Jesus bore, but was a fulfillment of Messianic prophecy. He was a Branch (Netzer) sprung out of David's roots.
3) It is within the limits of the province of Galilee (Luke 4:29)
4) Nazareth was the home of Joseph and Mary (Luke 2:39)
5) It was where the angel announced to Mary the birth of the Messiah (1:26-28).
6) It was where Joseph brought Mary and Jesus after the sojourn in Egypt (Matt 2:19-23).
7) It was where Jesus grew up to manhood for about 30 years (Luke 4:16)
He was therefore called Jesus of Nazareth. His disciples were known as Nazarenes.
8) In Nazareth Jesus first taught in the synagogue (Matt 13:54; Luke 4:16)
9) The evil reputation attached to Nazareth (John 1:46) has generally been attributed to the Galileans' lack of culture and rude dialect. Nathanael, who asked, "Can any good thing come out of Nazareth?" was himself a Galilean. He may have said that because Nazareth was such a common term of contempt among the more "righteous" Jews in Judea.
10) In Nazareth, Jesus preached His first recorded sermon (Luke 4:16 ff).
11) Once Jesus finished preaching about the Kingdom of God and the Nazarenes became violent. "He did not many mighty works there because of their unbelief" (Matt 13:58) and He made His home in Capernaum.
12) Nazareth is near Cana, where Jesus turned the water into wine (Mark 1:9)
Other Information about Nazareth:
- Scholars believe there were approximately 15,000 to 20,000 inhabitants during the time of Christ.
- Most of the houses were very similar in style even with the rich and poor.
- A bountiful spring furnished the water supply for the whole population and was a favorite place.
- All Classes of people for Jesus to observe lived/worked there (home, weddings, funerals, the carpenter shop, synagogue, etc.)
- His childhood days brought innumerable illustrations for His later teachings such as the leaven hid in three measures of meal, women grinding at the mill, sowing and reaping, the sparrow and the lily, the children in the market place. Educators often say that the child learns more in the first three or four years than in all the rest of life.
- Nazareth was secluded by its natural location but it was not cut off from the outside world.
- All the inhabitants of Galilee were looked upon with contempt by the people of Judea because they spoke a cruder dialect, were less cultivated and were more exposed by their position to contact with the heathen.
- Quaresimus learned that the ancient name was Medina Abiat, in which we may recognize the Arabic el-Medinat el-baidtah, "the white town." Built of the white stone supplied by the limestone rocks around, the description is quite accurate.
- There is a reference in the Mishna (Menachoth viii.6) to the "white house of the hill" whence wine for the drink offering was brought.
- An elegy for the 9 th of Abib speaks of a "course" of priests that settled in Nazareth.Later History:
- Near this town Napoleon once encamped (1799), after the battle of Mount Tabor.Modern Nazareth:
- It lies right between the Sea of Galilee and the Mediterranean at Haifa.
- The modern name is en-Nazirah, which is built mainly on the western and northwestern slopes of a hollow among the lower hills of Galilee, just before they sink into the plain of Esdraelon.
- It belongs to the better class of eastern villages. It has a population of about 7,000; some Muslims, and the rest are Latin and Greek Christians.
- There is one very remarkable hilltop, almost perpendicular and near the Maronite church, which may well be supposed to be the identical one where the angry Nazarenes attempted to hurl Jesus off from.
- A Jewish community has settled on the heights above the city.
- Tourism is very important to the economy.
- The chief attraction of Nazareth is the new Church of the Annunciation (1966) built on the traditional site of Mary's house, which is shown under the church.This church replaced an earlier one built in 1730, which in turn was constructed on the site of a twelfth-century Crusader church. Nearby is the Church of St. Joseph (constructed in 1914), which stands on the traditional site of Joseph's carpenter shop (located below the church). Between the two churches is a Franciscan monastery.
- It is the chief market town for the pastoral and agricultural district that lies around it.
- The only site in Nazareth that can be definitely identified as dating back to New Testament times is the town well, now called St. Mary's Well, which has provided water for the village from the first century to the present day.
And finally :- The location of the ancient site of Nazareth is now very certain.
Anyone wishing to view a very nice New Testament map, please PM me. I tried to shrink it to put it up here with this Post, but when I did, the town names were so small that you couldn't read them. However, according to it, if you bisect the Sea of Galilee and head toward the Mediterranean Sea you will pass right though the town of Nazareth.
PS: Being a Nazarene is NOT the same thing as being a Nazarite. Jesus was the former, but not the latter.
2PS: Phew! Told you I spent all day on this!