21 So he got up, took the child and his mother and went to the land of Israel. 22 But when he heard that Archelaus was reigning in Judea in place of his father Herod, he was afraid to go there. Having been warned in a dream, he withdrew to the district of Galilee, 23 and he went and lived in a town called Nazareth. So was fulfilled what was said through the prophets, that he would be called a Nazarene. (Matthew 2:21-23)
It appears that on his way to Israel, or perhaps once in Israel, Joseph was warned in a dream not to go to Judea, but rather to Galilee. Mary, Joseph, and Jesus, along with anyone else who was with them, went to Nazareth. That’s the easy part! Verse 23 is rather more difficult.
Later on in the gospels Jesus is referred to as ‘Jesus of Nazareth’. That’s fairly simple, isn’t it? It’s a title which explains the location of where he resided for most of his life. It would be like me being referred to as ‘Hannah of Sandhurst’. Somewhat obscurely, Matthew indicates that there is more to it than that by saying, ‘So was fulfilled what was said through the prophets, that he would be called a Nazarene.’ This is where it becomes complicated and rather ambiguous.
One might assume that Nazarene simply refers to a person who comes from a particular location, namely Nazareth. At first, I assumed that a Nazarene was the same thing as Nazirite1. However, this didn’t make sense of my view of Jesus, so I had to explore further. I then started to search for the prophecies that Matthew refers to. But, I couldn’t find them. So, it’s ambiguous. Some say that the term Nazarene refers to Him being the first Christian, but Christianity didn’t exist then, so I’m left unsure about that too. Also, it doesn’t help to identify the source of these mysterious prophecies. Therefore, I leave you, at the end of this series of reflections and the end of this year, with a puzzle. What do you think it means that He was called a Nazarene?
1 In the Bible, a Nazirite or Nazarite is one who voluntarily took a vow described in Numbers 6:1–21. “Nazarite” comes from the Hebrew word נזיר nazir meaning “consecrated” or “separated”. This vow required the person to: Abstain from wine, wine vinegar, grapes, raisins, intoxicating liquors, vinegar made from such substances, and eating or drinking any substance that contains any trace of grapes. Refrain from cutting the hair on one’s head; but to allow the locks of the head’s hair to grow. Not to become ritually impure by contact with corpses or graves, even those of family members. ( https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Nazirite)