Is It Nazara? Or Is It Nazareth?
A late Greek translator misread Nazara—a city in the south—as Nazareth—a city in the north that did not likely exist until several more decades after Christ. Scholars have concurred on this point because the early church writers such as Origen circa 207 AD and Jerome in the early 400s repetitiously quote numerous Matthean passages speaking of Nazara not Nazareth. Origen did not know of any manuscript that spelled it as Nazareth. Also, in the Shem-Tob Matthew 3:13, it speaks of Nazarel which is close to Nazara.
Professors Jeffrey J. Bütz and James Tabor in The Secret Legacy of Jesus (Bear & Company, 2010) at 75-76 explain that Jesus was likely called ‘Jesus the Nazarene’ and not “Jesus of Nazareth.” They explain “many scholars now make the argument that the name Jesus of Nazareth was a mistranslation of the original phrase, Jesus the Nazarene, and that it did not refer to the town of Nazareth at all.” They note that Nazareth may not even have been in existence in Jesus’ day.
This explains why in the earliest church, Christ and Christians were called Nazarenes. See Matt. 2:23, “fulfill be called a Nazarene”; Luke 24:19 “Jesus the Nazarene”;Acts 24:5 “sect of the Nazarenes.”
The New Advent Catholic Encyclopedia concurs: “In the time of Eusebius and St. Jerome (Onomasticon), its name was Nazara (in modern Arabic, en Nasirah), which therefore, seems to be the correct name; in the New Testament we find its derivatives written Nazarenos, or Nazoraios, but never Nazaretaios. The etymology of Nazara is neser, which means ‘a shoot.’”
While later Greek manuscripts have Matthew 4:13 say Nazareth, the earliest Greek manuscripts of Matthew must have likewise spelled the word as “Nazara.” We know this because this is how it was quoted in the early church writings. See, Theodor Keim, Edmund Martin Geldart, The History of Jesus of Nazara (Williams and Norgate, 1879) Volume 4 at 108 fn. 1 (“Origen...prefers to write nazara in 10:16 of his commentary on Matthew three times...[and seven times in his commentary on John]. Jerome gives it nomine Nazara....”)
Rather than anyone realizing a translation error, it was later assumed Nazara was the same as a city later known as Nazareth. Thus, “Nazara” came to be “generally considered the earliest form of the name [Nazareth] in Greek.” (“Nazareth,” Wikipedia.)
In Matthew 4:13 in the Shem-Tob, we see it uses Nazerel, in keeping with the earliest Greek tradition.
This helps explain the prophecy that “he shall be called a nazarene.” The name of the town nazara / nazerel not Nazareth was in view. This has etymological Messianic associations that are important which the Nazareth mistranslation destroys. Nicholson explains that in Isaiah 11:1, the Messiah is a “branch” (netser) from Jesse’s root. In Zechariah 6:12, we read: “Branch (NTSR) shall he be called.” Nicholson then notes: “It is generally held that there is a real etymological connexion between Nazara and netser.” (Nicholson: 33.) Thus, calling Jesus a Branch was to call him a netser in Hebrew. This was the root meaning of Nazara.
It thus appears the correct name for Jesus’ early residence was Nazara. It is a key change in spelling so we see a fulfilled prophecy of Zechariah 6:12. See also Isaiah 11:1.
Netser-Branch Prophecy Behind ‘He Will Be Called A Nazarene’
Jerome said the Hebrew OT had a prophecy that Messiah would be called a “Nazarene.” Many Christians wonder where can this be found. It requires knowledge of Hebrew to recognize it. Jerome is focusing upon the word Branch in Hebrew which is Netser. The Septuagint mistranslated it in 257 BC with a Greek word meaning “flower” rather than Branch in Zechariah 6:12. Thus, Jerome argued the verse had been lost by mistranslation in the Greek Septuagint. Netser was the word he focused upon.
Zechariah 6:12 in modern Bibles follows the Hebrew, not the Septuagint Greek of 257 BC. The word “branch” is netser in Hebrew—the root word for the city of Nazara—the true name of the town where Jesus lived at one time. Thereby we realize Jerome was recognizing Zechariah 6:12 is the verse Matthew meant as the prophecy ‘he will be called a Nazarene.’ Today Zechariah 6:12 reads about a Messiah figure: “the man whose name is The BRANCH (Heb. NTSR).”
END: Excerpt from Standford Rives, Original Gospel of Matthew: The Appendices (2014) at 148-150 available in our Amazon bookstore at http://astore.amazon.com/jwoogm-20.
200 Christian Era Reference to Nazara
Nazara was in the South in Judea, not Nazareth which is in the north. As Wikipedia's article "Judea" explains:
In 200 CE Sextus Julius Africanus, cited by Eusebius (Church History1.7.14), described "Nazara" (Nazareth) as a village in Judea.
"A few of the careful, however, having obtained private records of their own, either by remembering the names or by getting them in some other way from the registers, pride themselves on preserving the memory of their noble extraction. Among these are those already mentioned, called Desposyni, on account of their connection with the family of the Saviour. Coming from Nazara and Cochaba, villages of Judea, into other parts of the world, they drew the aforesaid genealogy from memory and from the book of daily records as faithfully as possible." (Eusebius Pamphili, Church History, Book 1, chapter VII, § 14)
Luke gets this wrong in Luke 1:26. Let's read 1:26 and 27 together, and we will see why this text is demonstrably added to Luke after later doctrines were added to Luke as well:
And in the sixth month [of Elisabeth's pregnancy] the angel Gabriel was sent from God unto a city of Galilee, named Nazareth,
Elisabeth was "well stricken in age" while Mary was a young teenage girl. Elisabeth was now six months pregnant and Gabriel was sent with another very important message from God to her cousin Mary.
To a virgin espousedto a man whose name was Joseph, of the house of David; and the virgin's name was Mary.
So this has Jesus born in Nazareth, a city of Galilee. As we see from Eusebius, and the earliest gospels, this was Nazara Of Judea.
Note in the same context, in verse 27, there is now a mention of a "virgin" so as to fulfill the mis-translation of the prophecy from Isaiah 7:14 about a young maiden as about a 'young virgin.' So the hand of an uninspired redactor is seen in 2 ways: 1. the erroneous mention of Galilee of Nazareth in Luke 1:26; and 2. the erroneous reference to Mary as a virgin. For if she gave birth, and no seed of David germenated in her, then Jesus is not of the Davidic line, and cannot be messiah. See our Article on the Virgin Birth.