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Bible Dictionaries

Fausset's Bible Dictionary

Nazareth

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In a basin among hills descending into Esdraelon from Lebanon, and forming a valley which runs in a wavy line E. and W. On the northern side of the valley the rounded limestone hills rise to 400 or 500 ft. The valley and hill sides abound in gay flowers as the hollyhock growing wild, fig trees, olives, and oranges, gardens with cactus hedges, and grainfields. Now en Nazirah on a hill of Galilee (Mark 1:9), with a precipice nigh (Luke 4:29); near Cane (John 2:1-2; John 2:11). Its population of 4,000 is partly Muslim, but mainly of Latin and Greek Christians. It has a mosque, a Maronite, a Greek, and a Protestant church, and a large Franciscan convent. The rain pouring down the hills would sweep away a house founded on the surface, and often leaves the streets impassable with mud. So the houses generally are of stone, founded, after digging deep, upon the rock (Luke 6:47).

On a hill behind is the tomb of neby Ismail, commanding one of the most lovely prospects in the world, Lebanon and snowy Hermon on the N., Carmel and the Mediterranean and Acca on the W., Gilead and Tabor on the S.E., the Esdraelon plain and the Samaria mountains on the S., and villages on every side; Cana, Nain, Endor, Jezreel (Zerin), etc. Doubtless in early life Jesus often stood on this spot and held communion with His Father who, by His Son, had created this glorious scene. Nazareth is never named in Old Testament. It was there Gabriel was sent from God to announce to the Virgin her coming conception of Him who shall reign over the house of Jacob for ever, and of whose kingdom there shall be no end (Luke 1:26-33). After His birth and the sojourn in Egypt Joseph and Mary took the child to their original home in Nazareth, six miles W. of Mount Tabor (Matthew 2:23; Luke 2:39; Luke 4:16).

As "John the Baptist; was in the desert until the day of his showing unto Israel," so Messiah was growing up unknown to the world in the sequestered town among the mountains, until His baptism by the forerunner ushered in His public ministry. As Jews alone lived in Nazareth from before Josephus' time to the reign of Constantine (Epiphanius, Haer.), it is impossible to identify the sacred sites as tradition pretends to do, namely, the place of the annunciation to Mary, with the inscription on the pavement of the grotto, "Ηic Verbum caro factum est ", the mensa Christi , and the synagogue from whence Jesus was dragged to the brow of the hill. Of all Rome's lying legends, none exceeds that of Joseph's house (santa casa ) having been whisked from Nazareth to Loretto in the 13th century; in spite of the bull of Leo X endorsing the legend, the fact remains that the santa casa is of a dark red stone, such as is not found in or about Nazareth, where the grey white limestone prevails, and also the ground plan of the house at Loretto is at variance with the site of the house at Nazareth shown by the Franciscans within their convent walls.

Jesus taught in the synagogue of Nazareth, "His own country" (Matthew 13:54), and was there "thrust out of the city and led unto the brow of the hill whereon if was built, to be cast down headlong," but "passing through the midst of them He went His way" (Luke 4:16-30). The hill of precipitation" is not the one presumed, two miles S.E. of Nazareth. The present village is on the hill side, nearer the bottom than the top. Among the rocky ledges above the lower parts of the village is one 40 ft. high, and perpendicular, near the Maronite church: this is probably the true site. It is striking how accurately Luke steers clear of a mistake; he does not say they ascended or descended to reach the precipice, but "led" Jesus to it. He does not say the "city" was built on the brow of the hill, but that the precipice was "on the brow," without stating whether it was above (as is the case) or below the town.

A forger could hardly go so near a topographical mistake, without falling into it. "Jesus of Nazareth" was part of the inscription on the cross (John 19:19). It is the designation by which He revealed Himself to Saul (Acts 22:8). Nazareth bore a bad name even in Galilee (for Nathanael who said "can any good thing come out of Nazareth?" was of Galilee), which itself, because of its half pagan population and rude dialect, was despised by the people of Judea. The absence of "good" in Nazareth appears from the people's willful unbelief in spite of Jesus' miracles, and their attempt on His life (Matthew 13:54-58), so that He left them, to settle in Capernaum (Matthew 4:13). "The fountain of the Virgin" is at the N.E. of the town.

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Bibliography Information
Fausset, Andrew R. Entry for 'Nazareth'. Fausset's Bible Dictionary. https://www.studylight.org/dictionaries/fbd/n/nazareth.html. 1949.

Lectionary Calendar
Monday, October 21st, 2019
the Week of Proper 24 / Ordinary 29
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