Hastings' Dictionary of the New Testament
1. Introductory.—‘Nazarenc’ is a descriptive term applied in the Gospels and Acts to Jesus and His followers. The epithet is also regularly applied in the Talmud to Jesus (יֵשׁוּע הַנּו̇צְרִ Sanh. 43a, 107b; Sota, 47a) and His disciples (הַנּו̇צְרִים Taan. 27b). As usually understood, ‘Nazarene’ in the first place meant ‘of [the town of] Nazareth,’ and indeed this explicitly appears in some passages in the Gospels (e.g. Mark 1:9 ‘Jesus came from Nazareth of Galilee,’ Luke 2:4 etc.); but, according to Cheyne, the name Nazareth in its original significance was the designation not of a town but of a district, and ‘Nazarene’ is primarily equivalent to ‘Galilaean’ (see, further, below, and art. Nazareth).
Sometimes a descriptive clause with ἀπό followed by the place-name appears: e.g. Matthew 21:11 ‘This is Jesus the prophet from Nazareth of Galilee’ (ὁ ἀπὸ Ναζαρὲθ τῆς Γαλιλαίας); cf. Acts 10:38 (Ἰησοῦν τὸν ἀτὸ Ναζαρέθ).
2. The two Gr. equivalents of ‘Nazarene.’—In the Greek Test. two words correspond to ‘Nazarene,’ viz. Ναζαρηνός and Ναζωραῖος. In WH [Note: H Westcott and Hort’s text.] ’s text the former occurs in Mark 1:24; Mark 10:47; Mark 14:67; Mark 16:6, also in Luke 4:34 (where it may be dependent on the Markan source).* [Note: It occurs again only in Luke 24:19, where, however, the reading is doubtful (AD read Ναζωραῖος).] In Mt., Jn., Acts (and perhaps originally in Lk.), Ναζωραῖος is exclusively used. Probably Ναζαρηνός was employed in the earliest source, and this was given up later for Ναζωραῖος.
Ναζαρηνός is derived from Ναζαρά, like Μαγδαληνή from Μαγδαλά. The forms Ναζαρά, Ναζαρέτ, Ναζαρέθ imply Heb. forms נָצְרָה, נָצְרַח.† [Note: such forms as צָרְפַת (1 Kings 17:9) in Bibl. Hebrew.] The Talmudic form נו̇צְרִי may be derived from נ̇צֶרָח (or its masc.) with change of â to ô (ô). See Dalman, Gram. d. Jüd.-Pal. [Note: Palestine, Palestinian.] Aram.2 [Note: designates the particular edition of the work referred] p. 152 n. [Note: note.] The same scholar thinks Ναζωραῖος implies a Heb. form נָצו̇רַי (connected with a by-form of the place-name נָצו̇רַח), op. cit. p. 178, n. [Note: note.] 2. Does Ναζωραῖας (= נָצו̇רַי) represent the dialectical form current in Judaea (cf. esp. John 19:19, Acts 24:5)? This is possible. For a different view, see below.
The exact relation borne by these two forms to one another, as well as the significance to be attached to this relationship, raise a difficult problem. The points involved come to a head in Matthew 2:23, where it is stated that the child Jesus was brought to Nazareth that ‘it might be fulfilled which was spoken by the prophets, that he should be called a Nazarene’ (Ναζωραῖος). Of the various explanations of this passage that have been proposed the most important are: (1) those that connect it with the Hebrew word nçẓer (‘branch,’ ‘sprout’) in the Messianic passage, Isaiah 11:1. (2) The interesting view of Hitzig that Ναζωραῖος (Acts 24:5) was suggested by נצורי in the (unpointed) text of Isaiah 49:6 regarded as = σωζόμενοι (‘those who are being saved’) in contradistinction to ἀπολλύμενοι (1 Corinthians 1:18; 1 Corinthians 1:21 ‘them that are perishing’). Later the word נצורי was taken to be a singular to correspond with the parallel עבר (‘servant’), and applied to Jesus (with a play upon the place-name Nazareth). This is very ingenious, but hardly convincing. It would be better to suppose that the (unpointed) נצו̇רי of the passage was read נָצוֹרַי, the Heb. form implied, as Dalman thinks, by Ναζωραῖος, and applied by Jewish-Christian exegesis to Jesus.‡ [Note: The verse so interpreted would run: ‘It is too light a thing that thou shouldest be my servant to raise up the tribes of Jacob, and (shouldest be) the Nazarene (נצורי) to restore Israel; I will also give thee for a light of the Gentiles,’ etc. This is one of the Servant-passages which was undoubtedly applied to Jesus in early Jewish-Christian circles. Cf. Luke 2:32.] (3) Cheyne§ [Note: Developing a theory suggested by Neubauer and Grätz. See EBi, col. 3360, s.v. ‘Nazareth.’] doubts whether Nazareth was ‘originally the name of a town (or village) at all.’ The earlier and more correct form of the word is Nazara, implying a Heb. form נָצָר (or נָצְרָה, also desiderated by the Talmudic נו̇צְרִי): and this again is a by-form of the same word which enters into the second element of the name Gennesar (Gennesaret). This Nazara is really a name of Galilee, and Ναζωραῖος = Galilaean. The word of the ‘prophets’ referred to in Matthew 2:23 becomes, on this view, Isaiah 9:1 f. (‘the land of Zebulun, and the land of Naphtali … Galilee of the Gentiles’) rather than Isaiah 11:1.
It seems clear from the NT data that the term ‘Nazarene’ was an early designation applied to Jesus and His disciples generally. It thus was the Jewish (Oriental) equivalent of the specifically Gentile term ‘Christian.’ ‘Nazarene’ was not the title given by the Christians of Palestine to themselves, but by others outside the Christian fellowship. The names for, and used by, themselves were much more probably such as ‘believers,’|| [Note: | See Faith. It is always important to distinguish the names used by a body of itself from those given by outsiders. Another case is probably ‘Pharisees,’ Heb. רוּשִׁים = (?) ‘separatists.’ Their own name for themselves in the earlier period may have been hâsîdîm, ‘pious’: later, such terms as חֲכְמִים ‘wise,’חכם, חלמיר חבר ‘colleague,’ were used. Cf. also remark on Ebionites at end of article.] ‘brethren’ (e.g. Acts 9:30), ‘saints’ (Acts 9:13, etc.), ‘elect.’ In time ‘Nazarene’ seems to have acquired a somewhat contemptuous or, at any rate, hostile nuance (cf. John 1:46). The followers of ‘the Nazarene’ had evidently been made to feel the reproach of the alleged Galilaean origin of their Messiah.* [Note: The Galilaean population seems to have been by no means strict in carrying out certain legal enactments regarded as important by the Rabbis. A feeling of distrust, if not of contempt, of the Galilaean population seems to have prevailed in Rabbinical circles. For a full and minute investigation of the relevant data, see the valuable monograph of A. Büchler (Der galilaische ‘Am-ha-ares des zweiten Jahrhunderts, Vienna, 1906).] Moved by these influences, the Jewish-Christians seem to have transformed the title Ναζαρηνός—which had now become in the mouths of their opponents an opprobrious one—into the honorific one Ναζωραῖος, and to have substituted the latter for the former. In this way, at any rate, Mt. seems to turn the edge of the reproach levelled at the Christian Messiah in the characteristically Jewish-Palestinian designation of Jesus as ‘the Nazarene’ (יֵשׁוּע הַנּו̇צְרִי). Assuming, then, that the term Ναζωραῖος is an honorific title educed in this way by the Jewish-Christians themselves, it remains to elucidate the process by which the form was arrived at, and its exact significance.
Ναζωραῖος may be a Greek form of nâẓûrû (נָצוּרָא),† [Note: Or rather the adjectival form of this, נָצוּרָיָא. The Aram. word נָצוּרָא is guaranteed by the SYR. ܢܰܨܘܽܪܳܐ = surculuc (Heb. נֵצָר); see Payne-Smith, Thes. col. 2443.] the Aram. Aramaic equivalent of the Heb. Messianic term נֵצֶר ‘Branch’ or ‘shoot.’ The selection of this particular Messianic term was dictated by the necessity of finding a counter-term to Ναζαρηνός. Ναζωραῖος is thus an honorific title given by the disciples themselves to Jesus, and expresses the conviction that He was the neẓer of Isaiah 11:1—the ‘Branch’ of Messianic Prophecy. Its application to members of the Christian community naturally followed. See also following article.
3. ‘Nazarene’ as a community-designation.—It is clear not only from Acts 24:5 but also from Matthew 2:23 that the Christian communities of Palestine, and even outsiders, at first bore the name of ‘Nazarenes.’ The writer of Matthew 2:23 evidently belonged to a community so designated. The name is, of course, specifically Jewish, and it remained the characteristic Oriental-Jewish term for Christians generally (e.g. in the Talmud), though primarily it was the Jewish Christians of Palestine who were thought of. An interesting piece of early evidence of this usage has in recent years come to light in the Palestinian recension‡ [Note: Discovered by Prof. S. Schechter among the Cairo Genîzâh MSS, and published by him in the JQR, vol. x.  pp. 654–659.] of the Shemoneh Esreh. As is well known, the 12th of these ‘Benedictions’ contains the famous imprecation on ‘slanderers’ or ‘heretics.’ In the Palestinian version an explicit reference is made to ‘Nazarenes and Sectaries’ (mînîm).§ [Note: See, further, an art. by the present writer in Church and Synagogue, vol. v.  p. 167 ff. (‘The Jewish Prayer against Heretics’).] Though the clause containing these words may not belong to the earliest form of the prayer (early 2nd cent. a.d.), it is, at any rate, not very much later. Jerome (Ep. 112) makes allusion to the use of this ‘cursing’ prayer in the Jewish synagogues throughout the East.
A Jewish-Christian sect of ‘Nazarenes’ is referred to both by Jerome and Epiphanius. They are apparently to be distinguished from the Ebionites, though very little exact information is extant concerning them.|| [Note: | Possibly ‘Ebionites’ (Heb. אָבְיו̇נִים = ‘poor men’) was a more general term, and may have been given by Jewish-Christians to themselves. See art. Ebionism.]
Literature.—The artt. ‘Nazareth,’ ‘Nazarene’ in Hasting's Dictionary of the Bible , the EBi [Note: Bi Encyclopaedia Biblica.] , and J [Note: Jahwist.] E [Note: Elohist.] ; ‘Nazareth’ (by Guthe) in PRE [Note: RE Real-Encyklopädie fur protest. Theologic und Kirche.] 3 [Note: designates the particular edition of the work referred] and in Hamburger’s RE; the Comm. on Matthew 2:23 (esp. Zahn, 1903); J. Halévy, Etudes Évangéliqqes, vol. i. p. 231 f. (on Ναζωεαιος: a most valuable and suggestive essay. Halévy suggests the derivation of Ναζωεαῖος from the Aram. Aramaic word adopted above); Neubauer, Géog. du Talmud, 1868; Biesenthal on Matthew 2:23 (Sacred Lit. 1859). The bizarre theory as to the existence of pre-Christian ‘Nazarenes’ set forth by W. B. Smith, Der vorchristliche Jesus (1906), does not call for discussion here.
G. H. Box.
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Hastings, James. Entry for 'Nazarene (2)'. Hastings' Dictionary of the New Testament. https://www.studylight.org/dictionaries/eng/hdn/n/nazarene-2.html. 1906-1918.