(Ναζρέθ Ναζαρέτ; usually thought to be a Graecized derivative from נֵצֵר, a sprout, Aram. נצראת, see Hengstenberg, Christol. 2, I sq.; comp. Keim, Gesch. Jesu [Zur. 1867], 1:318; but Hitzig, in the Heidelb. Jahrbichern, 1870, page 50, conjectures somewhat wildly an original form, נָזרִת, with the signif. "goddess of success"), the place of residence (but not the birthplace) of our Lord. In the following account we bring together whatever is known respecting this interesting locality. SEE JESUS.
1. Scripture Mention. — Nazareth was the town of Joseph and Mary, to which they returned with the infant Jesus (εἰς τὴν πόλιν ἑαυτῶν) after the accomplishment of the events connected with his birth and earliest infancy (Mt 2:22). Previous to that event, the place is altogether unknown to history. In OldTestament Scripture it is never once named, though a town could hardly fail to have existed on so eligible a spot from early times. Josephus, though personally familiar with the whole district in which it lies, is equally silent regarding it. The secluded nature of the spot where it stands, together with its own insignificance, probably combined to shroud it in that obscurity on account of which it would seem to have been divinely chosen for the rearing of God's incarnate Son. As his forerunner, John the Baptist, "was in the desert," unnoticed and unknown, "till the day of his showing unto Israel," so the great Messiah himself, till his public ministry began, was hidden from the world among the Galilaean hills.
The other passages of Scripture which refer expressly to Nazareth, though not numerous, are suggestive and deserve to be recalled here. It was the home of Joseph and Mary (Lu 2:39). The angel announced to the Virgin there the birth of the Messiah (Lu 1:26-28). The holy family returned thither after the flight into Egypt (Mt 2:23). Nazareth is called the native country (ἡ πατρὶς αὑτοῦ) of Jesus: he grew up there from infancy to manhood (Lu 4:16), and was known through life as "The Nazarene." He taught in the synagogue there (Mt 13:54; Lu 4:16), and was dragged by his fellow-townsmen to the precipice in order to be cast down thence and bekilled (εἰς τὸ κατα κρημνίσαι αὐτόν). "Jesus of Nazareth, king of the Jews," was written over his cross (Joh 19:19), and after his ascension he revealed himself under that appellation to the persecuting Saul (Ac 22:8). The place has given name to his followers in all ages and all lands, a name which will never cease to be one of honor and reproach. SEE NAZARENE.
The origin of the disrepute in which Nazareth stood (Joh 1:47) is lot certainly known. All the inhabitants of Galilee were looked upon with contempt by the people of Judaea because they spoke a ruder dialect, were less cultivated, and were more exposed by their position to contact with the heathen. But Nazareth labored under a special opprobrium, for it was a Glalilean and not a southern Jew who asked the reproachful question, whether "any good thing" could come from that source. The term "good" (ἀγαθόν), having more commonly an ethical sense, it has been suggested that the inhabitants of Nazareth may have had a bad name among their neighbors for irreligion or some laxity of morals. The supposition receives support from the disposition which they manifested towards the person and ministry of our Lord. They attempted to kill him; they expelled him twice (for Lu 4:16-29 and Mt 13:54-58 relate probably to different occurrences) from their borders; they were so wilful and unbelieving that he performed not many miracles among them (Mt 13:58); and, finally, they compelled him to turn his back upon them and reside at Capernaum (Mt 4:13).
2. Location. — Nazareth is a moderate journey of three days from Jerusalem, seven hours, or about twenty miles, from Akka or Ptolemais (Ac 21:7), five or six hours, or eighteen miles, from the Sea of Galilee, six miles west from Mount Tabor, two hours from Cana, and two or three from Endor and Nain. It is situated among the hills which constitute the south ridges of Lebanon, just before they sink down into the plain of Esdraelon. The traveller, coming from the south, ascends the mountain range by a steep and rugged path, which, winding onwards and upwards through the hills, brings him suddenly into a small sequestered hollow among their summits; and here, nestling close in at the base of the loftiest of the encircling heights, he beholds what must ever be to the Christian one of the most profoundly interesting scenes on the face of this earth-the home for thirty years of the Savior of the world. The surrounding heights vary in altitude; some of them rise to 400 or 500 feet. They have rounded tops, are composed of the glittering limestone which is so common in that country, and, though on the whole sterile and unattractive in appearance, present not an unpleasing aspect, diversified as they are with the foliage of fig-trees and wild shrubs, and with the verdure of occasional fields of grain. Our familiar hollyhock is one of the gay flowers which grow wild there. The enclosed valley is peculiarly rich and well cultivated: it is filled with cornfields, with gardens, hedges of cactus, and clusters of fruit- bearing trees. Being so sheltered by hills, Nazareth enjoys a mild atmosphere and climate. Hence all the fruits of the country — as pomegranates, oranges, figs, olives — ripen early and attain a rare perfection.
In speaking of the precise position of Nazareth, there is some discrepancy among travellers: Stanley says, "The village stands on the steep slope of the southwestern side of the valley" (Sinai and Palestine, page 365). Wilson (Lands of the Bible, 2:92) observes that "the village of Nasirah. or Nazareth, stands on the eastern side of the basin in which it is situated." Thomson (Land and Book, 2:131) seems to place it on the western side. Dr. Porter (Hand-bookfor Syria and Palestine, 2:359) has described Nazareth as lying at the bottom of "the hill on the north side" of the little plain. An inspection of the accompanying plan shows that it lies at the foot and partly up the slope at the north-western angle of the valley.
Of the identification of the ancient site there can be no doubt. The name of the present village is en-Nazirah, the same, therefore, as of old; it is formed on a hill or mountain (Lu 4:29); it is within the limits of the province of Galilee (Mr 1:9); it is near Cana (whether we assume Kana on the east or Kana on the north-east as the scene of the first miracle), according to the implication in Joh 2:1-2,11; a precipice exists in the neighborhood (Lu 4:29); and, finally, a series of testimonies (Reland, Palaest. page 905) reach back to Eusebius, the father of Church history, which represent the place as having occupied an invariable position.
3. History. —Of the condition of Nazareth during the earlier centuries of the Christian era next to nothing is known. Eusebius, in his Onomasticon, alludes to it as a village near Mount Tabor. Epiphanius speaks of it as formerly a town, but in his day only a village. Helena, the mother of Constantine, is related to have built the first church of the Annunciation here. In the time of the Crusaders, the episcopal see of Bethsean was transferred there. The birthplace of Christianity was lost to the Christians by their defeat at Hattin in 1183, and was laid utterly in ruins by sultan Bibars in 1263. Ages passed away before it rose again from this prostration. In 1620 the Franciscans rebuilt the church of the Annunciation, and connected a cloister with it. In 1799 the Turks assaulted the French general Junot at Nazareth; and shortly after 2100 French, under Kleber and Napoleon, defeated a Turkish army of 25,000 at the foot of Mount Tabor. Napoleon himself, after that battle, spent a few hours at Nazareth, and reached there the northern limit of his Eastern expedition. The earthquake which destroyed Safed in 1837, injured also Nazareth. No Jews reside there at present, which may beascribed perhaps as much to the hostility of the Christian sects as to their own hatred of the prophet who was sent "to redeem Israel."
4. Traditionary Localities. — Epiphanius, in his book against heresies, written in the latter half of the 4th century, states that, from times prior to those of Josephus, onward to the reign of the elder Constantine, none but Jews were allowed to live in it. Being himself a native of Judaea, and born, as is believed, of Jewish parents, his information on such points as these is not likely to have beel incorrect. If so, it effectually overturns all confidence in those many monkish traditions of which the modern Nazareth is full. If several centuries elapsed before Christians resorted to it, or dwelt in it at all, it must needs have been utterly impossible to identify, as those traditions pretend to do, the precise locality of any one of the memorable incidents from which it derives its undying fame.
In the 6th century, although, so far as appears, no trace had been found of either the house of Joseph and Mary or of the scene of the annunciation, those who trade in discoveries of that kind were then already at work. Antoninus Martyr, who in the course of that century went from Tyre to visit Nazareth, found there a synagogue, in which, as he was told, "had stood the very bench on which, along with the children of the place, Jesus in his childhood had sat; but which, to keep it out of the hands of the Christians, the Jews had carried off" (De urbibus et vicis Palestinae). In the immediately succeedingcentury, however, almost everything of which tradition boasts at the present day in Nazareth had become an accepted and firmly-established belief of that superstitious age. Writing of the holy places in the 7th century, Adamnanus expressly mentions one great church as having been built over the site of the house in which our Lord was brought up; and another on the spot where the angel Gabriel appeared to the Virgin, to announce to her that divine mystery which has made her blessed among women. Phocas, a writer of the 12th century, alludes to the same traditions, as still studiously cherished; and specially notices the fountain, in a small cave beneath a splendid church, as that at which Mary was wont to drink, and where the angel appeared to her; and also to the house of Joseph as having been changed into a most beautiful place of Christian worship. Tradition, however, is not always sufficiently. careful of its own consistency. For it would have us to believe that this house of Joseph, which in the 12th century had been so transmuted was, in its original form of Joseph's dwelling, carried away bodily from Nazareth by the hands of angels, and set down on the hill above Fiume, at the head of the Adriatic Gulf; and that from thence, after a short stay in the plain below, it was conveyed across the sea to the eastern slope of the Apennines, where, as the santa casa, within the magnificent church of our Lady of Loretto, it stands to this day, and continues to be the most frequented and honored of all the holy places in the world! Those who are able to get over all the other difficulties connected with this marvellous story, will not be much embarrassed by the fact that, while the actual house of Joseph, wherever it stood, was no doubt built of the grayisihwhite limestone of which the whole country around Nazareth is formed. the santa casa at Loretto is built of a dark-red stone, to which there is nothing like in all the land of Judea. Although the miraculous transportation of the holy house took place, according to the tradition regarding it, about the close of the 13th century, there is no trace of the existence of the tradition itself till near the end of the 15th century. That this monstrous fable should have been formally recited and canonized in a bull of the lettered and luxurious sceptic, pope Leo X, serves only to show that there is no delusion too gross for the Papal Church to practice on human credulity and superstition. There can be little doubt that Nazareth itself had nothing whatever to do with the originating of a story which tended so directly to injure its own renown by robbing it of one of its most precious treasures. The theory of its invention suggested by Stanley is in all probability the true one. "Nazareth was taken by sultan Khalil in 1291, when he stormed the last refuge of the Crusaders in the neighboring city of Acre. From that time not Nazareth; only, but the whole of Palestine was closed to the devotions of Europe. The Crusaders were expelled from Asia, and in Europe the spirit of the crusades was extinct. But the natural longing to see the scenes of the events of the sacred history — the superstitious craving to win, for prayer, the favor of consecrated places-did not expire with the crusades. Can we wonder that, under such circumstances, there should have arisen the feeling, the desire, the belief that if Mohammed would not go to the mountain, the mountain must come to Mohammed? The house of Loretto is the petrifaction, so to speak, of the last sigh of the crusades!" (Sinai and Palestine, pages 448, 449). The existence of this purely European tradition has proved a source of considerable perplexity to the Franciscan monks of Nazareth; for while the pope's bull and the infallibility of their Church compel them to receive it, they find it somewhat puzzling to harmonize it with what they have to show, and to contend for, within the walls of their own convent. To illustrate this awkward conflict of incompatible claims, Stanley exhibits, at the head of his chapter on the subject, diagrams of the ground-plan of the holy house at Loretto and of the site of the same pretended house at Nazareth — plans which by no possibility can be made to agree.
The extensive edifice which now occupies the place of the church built on the same spot by the Crusaders was begun in the early part of the 17th century, that of the Crusaders having lain in ruins for more than 300 years. The modern structure has been gradually enlarged, and now constitutes, with its numerous conventual buildings, by much the most imposing object that meets the traveller's eye as he comes in sight of Nazareth. It is the Latin convent, and includes within its high-walled enclosure the church already spoken of, the Church of the Annunciation. The, church itself is nearly a square of seventy feet, divided, by four massive piers which support the vaulted roof, into nave, choir, and aisles. The piers and walls are covered with canvas hangings, painted, in imitation of tapestry, with Scripture scenes. The sacred grotto, the true holy place, is beneath the floor of the church, and is entered by a broad flight of fifteen steps which lead down into it. Here there is first a vestibule of twenty-five feet by ten, from which a low-arched opening admits the visitor into an inner chamber of the same size-the veritable scene, according to the tradition of the Latin Church, of the ever-memorable Annunciation. Within this sanctum, and directly opposite the entrance into it, is a marble altar; and beneath it on the floor a marble slab, with a cross in the centre, professedly marking the place where the Virgin stood when she received the message from on high. On the marble pavement of the grotto is this inscription: Hic Verbum caro factum est. From the roof of this grotto the fragment of a granite column hangs, and beneath it the lower part of what the monks allege to be the same column remains inserted in the floor; the middle part of the column, they say, having been broken in pieces by the Saracen infidels in order to bring down the roof. Unfortunately the two parts of the column are of different kinds of stone — the one being of gray granite, the other of Cipolino marble, betraying the clumsiness with which the contrivance has been executed. In another chamber, above and behind the altar, there is an apocryphal picture which claims to represent the "vera imago Salvatoris nostri, Domini Jesu Christi, ad Regem Abgarum missa."
At some distance from the Latin convent is a modern church, also belonging to the Latins, within which is shown a piece of an old wall — part, as their tradition would have it believed, of Joseph's workshop. In another chapel is the mensa Christi, a large table-shaped fragment of solid rock, rising about three feet above the floor, on which, it is told, our Lord ate with his disciples both before and after his resurrection. Finally there is the synagogue from which Jesus was dragged by the multitude to the brow of the hill on which the city stood, with the design of casting him down.
Such are the "chief sights" in Nazareth which the Latin Church has to show, and in which it glories. The Greek Church, also, has something to exhibit, for she too has her Church of the Annunciation. It is located over a fountain, said to be that mentioned in one of the apocryphal gospels as adjoining the scene of that event. It is at a short distance from the present public fountain, and is sometimes distinctively called the Chapel of the Angel Gabriel.
Two localities possess, though in different ways, a certain-interest which no one will fail to recognise. One of these is the "Fountain of the Virgin, situated at the north-eastern extremity of the town, where, according to one tradition, the mother of Jesus received the angel's salutation (Lu 1:28). Though we mayv attach no importance to this latter belief, we must. on other accounts, regard the spring w-ith a feeling akin to that of religious veneration. It derives its name from the fact that Mary, during her life at Nazareth, no doubt accompanied often by "the child Jesus," must have been accustomed to repair to this fountain for water as is the practice of the women of that village at the present day. Certainly, as Dr. Clarke observes (Travels, 2:427)," if there be a spot throughout the Holy Land that was undoubtedly honored by her presence, we may consider this to have been the place; because the situation of a copious spring is not liable to change, and because the custom of repairing thither to draw water has been continued among the female inhabitants of Nazareth from the earliest period of its history." The well-worn path which leads thither from the town has been trodden by the feet of almost countless generations. It presents at all hours a busy scene, from the number of those, hurrying to and fro, engaged in the labor of water-carrying. (See the cut, volume 3, page 632, of this Cyclopcedia.)
The other place is that of the attempted Precipitation. We are directed to the true scene of this occurrence, not so much by any tradition as by internal indications in the Gospel history itself. A prevalent opinion of the country has transferred the event to a hill about two miles south-east of the town. But there is no evidence that Nazareth ever occupied a different site from the present one; and that a mob, whose determination was to put to death the object of their rage, should repair to so distant a place for that purpose is entirely incredible. The present village, as already stated. lies along the hill-side, but much nearer the base than the summit. Above the bulk of the town are several rocky ledges over which a person could not be thrown without almost certain destruction. But there is one very remarkable precipice, almost perpendicular and forty or fifty feet high, near the Maronite church, which may well be supposed to be the identical one over which the infuriated townsmen of Jesus attempted to hurl him. 'The singular precision with which the narrative relates the transaction deserves a remark or two. Casual readers would understand from the account that Nazareth was situated on the summit, and that the people brought Jesns dowi' thence to the brow of the hill as if it were-betweeen the .tosn and. the valley. If these inferences were correct, the narrative and the locality would then be at variance with each other. Even Reland (Palest. page 905) says: "Ναζαρέθ — urbs aedificata super rupem, unde Christum precipitare conati sunt." But the language of the evangelist, when more closely examined, is found neither to require the inferences in question on the one hand. nor to exclude them on the other. What he asserts is that the incensed crowd "rose up and cast Jesus out of the city, and brought him to the brow of the hill on which the city was built, that they might cast him down headlong." It will be remarked here, in the first place, that it is not said that the people either went up or descended in order to reach the precipice, butsimply that they took the Savior to it, wherever it was; and, in the second place, that it is not said that the city was built "on the brow of the hill," but equally as well that the precipice was "on the brow," without deciding whether the cliff overlooked the town (as is the fact) or was below it. It will be seen, therefore, how very nearly the terms of the history approach a mistake and yet avoid it. As Paley remarks in another case, none but a true account could advance thus to the very brink of contradiction without falling into it. SEE PRECIPITATION.
5. Present Condition. — Modern Nazareth belongs to the better class of Eastern villages. It has a population of 3000 or 4000: a few are Mohammedans, the rest Latin and Greek Christians. There is one mosque, a Franciscan convent of huge dimensions, but displaying no great architectural beauty, a small Maronite church, a Greek church, and perhaps a church or chapel of some of the other confessions. Protestant missions have been attempted, but with no very marked success. Most of the houses are well built of stone, and have a neat and comfortable appearance. As streams in the rainy season are liable to pour down with violence from the hills, every "wise man," instead of building upon the loose soil on the surface, digs deep, and lays his foundation upon the rock (ἐπὶ τὴν πέτραν) which is found so generally in that country at a certain depth in the earth. The streets or lanes are narrow and crooked, and after rain are so full of mud and mire as to be almost impassable.
A description of Nazareth would be incomplete without mention of the remarkable view from the tomb of Neby Ismail on one of the hills behind the town. It must suffice to indicate merely the objects within sight. In the north are seen the ridges of Lebanon and, high above all, the white top of Hermon; in the west, Carmel, glimpses of the Mediterranean, the bay and the town of Akka; east and south-east are Gilead, Tabor, Gilboa; and south, the plain of Esdraelon and the mountains of Samaria, with villages on every side, among which are Kana, Nein, Endor, Zerin (Jezreel), and Tdannuk (Taanach). It is unquestionably one of the most beautiful and sublime spectacles (for it combines the two features) which earth has to show. Dr. Robinson's elaborate description of the scene (Bib. Res. 2:336, 337) conveys no exaggerated idea of its magnificence or historical interest. It is easy to believe that the Savior, during the days of his seclusion in the adjacent valley, often came to this very spot, and looked forth thence upon those glorious works of the Creator which so lift the soul upward to him.
Nazareth has long been distinguished for the peculiar beauty of its women. Antoninus Martyr found many there in the 6th century, who pretended to have received this gift from the Virgin Mary; and travellers state that their descendants retain it still.
See, in addition to the above-cited authorities, Lightfoot, Horae Heb. page 918; Quaresmius, 3:834; Schulz, Leitungen, 5:192; Richter, Wallf. page 57; Schubert, 3:169; Burckhardt, 2:583; Scholtz, Reis. page 247; Hackett, Illustr. of Script. page 301; Bonar, Land of Promise, page 397; Sepp, Das Heil. Land, 2:73; Tobler, Nazareth in Palastina (Berlin, 1868).