Matthew 2:23
Matthew 2:23 is the twenty-third verse of the second chapter of the Gospel of Matthew
Gospel of Matthew
The Gospel According to Matthew is one of the four canonical gospels, one of the three synoptic gospels, and the first book of the New Testament. It tells of the life, ministry, death, and resurrection of Jesus of Nazareth...

 in the New Testament
New Testament
The New Testament is the second major division of the Christian biblical canon, the first such division being the much longer Old Testament....

. The young Jesus and the Holy Family have just returned from Egypt and in this verse are said to settle in Nazareth
Nazareth is the largest city in the North District of Israel. Known as "the Arab capital of Israel," the population is made up predominantly of Palestinian Arab citizens of Israel...

. This is the final verse of Matthew's infancy narrative. It is also a much studied verse because of the enigmatic quote that ends it.

The original Koine Greek
Koine Greek
Koine Greek is the universal dialect of the Greek language spoken throughout post-Classical antiquity , developing from the Attic dialect, with admixture of elements especially from Ionic....

, according to Westcott and Hort
The New Testament in the Original Greek
The New Testament in the Original Greek is the name of a Greek language version of the New Testament published in 1881. It is also known as the Westcott and Hort text, after its editors Brooke Foss Westcott and Fenton John Anthony Hort...

, reads:
και ελθων κατωκησεν εις πολιν λεγομενην
ναζαρετ οπως πληρωθη το ρηθεν δια των
προφητων οτι ναζωραιος κληθησεται

In the King James Version of the Bible the text reads:
And he came and dwelt in a city
called Nazareth: that it might be
fulfilled which was spoken by the
prophets, He shall be called a Nazarene.

The World English Bible
World English Bible
The World English Bible is a public domain translation of the Bible that is currently in draft form. Work on the World English Bible began in 1997 and was known as the American Standard Version 1997...

 translates the passage as:
and came and lived in a city
called Nazareth; that it might be
fulfilled which was spoken through the
prophets: "He will be called a Nazarene."

For a collection of other versions see BibRef Matthew 2:23

Nazareth is the largest city in the North District of Israel. Known as "the Arab capital of Israel," the population is made up predominantly of Palestinian Arab citizens of Israel...

 was a small village unmentioned in any writings before this time, though there is some archeological evidence that a village existed in the area at the time of Jesus. Matthew gives no specific reason for why the family moved to this town, and Luke has them originally from there. The town was near the Via Maris
Via Maris
Via Maris is the modern name for an ancient trade route, dating from the early Bronze Age, linking Egypt with the northern empires of Syria, Anatolia and Mesopotamia — modern day Iran, Iraq, Turkey and Syria....

, the main road connecting to Egypt, and the route the family would have most likely been travelling. Clarke notes that Nazareth was just to the north of the larger centre of Sepphoris that had been largely destroyed in the violence after the death of Herod the Great
Herod the Great
Herod , also known as Herod the Great , was a Roman client king of Judea. His epithet of "the Great" is widely disputed as he is described as "a madman who murdered his own family and a great many rabbis." He is also known for his colossal building projects in Jerusalem and elsewhere, including his...

. At this time it was being rebuilt by Herod Antipas
Herod Antipas
Herod Antipater , known by the nickname Antipas, was a 1st-century AD ruler of Galilee and Perea, who bore the title of tetrarch...

, and Clarke speculates that this could have been a source of employment for a carpenter such as Joseph.

The origin of Jesus in a small town with no Biblical history was a problem to many early Christian writers. Matthew deals with this by arguing that Jesus' origin in Nazareth is a fulfillment of prophecy. The difficulty with the brief quote "he will be called a Nazarene
Nazarene (title)
Nazarene is a title applied to Jesus , who grew up in Nazareth, a town in Galilee, now in northern Israel. The word is used to translate two related words that appear in the Greek New Testament: the adjective Nazarēnos and the Nazōraios...

" is that it occurs nowhere in the Old Testament prophets, or any other extant source. A number of theories have been advanced to explain this. At the time the canon was not firmly established and it is possible that Matthew is quoting some lost source. However all the other quotations in Matthew are from well known works, and if a quotation so closely linking Jesus' hometown and the messiah existed it would likely have been preserved.

There is much debate, and many theories among scholars as to what the quote could mean. Scholars have searched through the Old Testament for passages that are similar. One popular suggestion is Judges 13:5 where of Samson
Samson, Shimshon ; Shamshoun or Sampson is the third to last of the Judges of the ancient Israelites mentioned in the Tanakh ....

 it says "the child shall be a Nazirite." A nazirite
In the Hebrew Bible, a nazirite or nazarite, , refers to one who voluntarily took a vow described in . The term "nazirite" comes from the Hebrew word nazir meaning "consecrated" or "separated"...

 was a member of a sect who practiced asceticism, and the word has no known link to the name of the town. Other scholars reject this explanation. Jesus was not a nazirite and is never described as one. Matthew 11:3 shows Jesus specifically rejecting such teachings. In both Hebrew and Greek the words nazarene and nazirite are quite distinct and are less likely to be conflated than in English. France also notes that Judges has "shall be" while Matthew has "shall be called." France feels that if Matthew had been quoting Judges he would have retained the same form.

Another theory is that it is based on Isaiah 53:2. This messianic reference states that "he grew up before him like a tender shoot." The Hebrew for shoot is nasir, more similar to the word nazarene then nazirite. Keener notes that the term is used to refer to the messiah in the Dead Sea Scrolls
Dead Sea scrolls
The Dead Sea Scrolls are a collection of 972 texts from the Hebrew Bible and extra-biblical documents found between 1947 and 1956 on the northwest shore of the Dead Sea, from which they derive their name...

. However this piece of wordplay is meaningless in Greek. Hebrew wordplay is not unknown in Matthew, such as Matthew 1:21
Matthew 1:21
Matthew 1:21 is the twenty-first verse of the first chapter of the Gospel of Matthew in the New Testament. Jesus. Joseph is being spoken to in a dream by an angel...

. Goulder feels that the author of Matthew felt it essential that Jesus' hometown be justified in prophecy and he thus looked for the closest thing he could find, which was this verse.

This verse refers to prophets in the plural, unlike all of Matthew's other references to known Old Testament prophets, which use the singular. This could imply that the wordplay and multiple interpretations was intentional. Rothfuchs reads the plural as the author of Matthew referring to all the quotes so far in the Gospel that directed the Holy Family in their travels. To him the line is thus not a direct quite from the prophets, but the inevitable end the previous directions led to.

France argues that the verse is not a reference to either the nazirite or nasir verses. Rather he advances the theory that Nazarene should be understood as an insulting epithet. A unflattering reference to Jesus' humble and obscure origins that was used by anti-Christians at the time. The word is used in just such a way at Matthew 26:71. Thus to France the meaning of the verse is that Jesus fulfill the prophecies that the messiah will be abused and neglected, an current in Jewish messianic thinking that was just as active as the belief that the messiah would be an all conquering hero.
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