The chief importance of Nazareth is that it was the place where Jesus lived most of his life. It is not mentioned in the Old Testament, and is mentioned in the New Testament only in connection with the story of Jesus. Nazareth was situated in the hilly country of the northern part of Palestine known as Galilee. It had no great political importance, though it was close to several trade routes that passed through Palestine. Citizens of rival towns did not have a high opinion of it (John 1:43-46). The town today is within the borders of modern Israel, and is larger and more important than it was in Jesus’ day. Jesus’ parents were originally from Nazareth, but before his birth they moved south to Bethlehem in Judea (Luke 2:4). After Jesus’ birth the family went to Egypt to escape the murderous Herod, and it was probably about two years later that they returned to Palestine and settled again in Nazareth (Matt 2:19-23; Luke 2:39).

Jesus spent his childhood in Nazareth (Luke 2:40,51; 4:16), and seems to have continued living there till he was about thirty years of age, at which time he began his public ministry (Mark 1:9; Luke 3:23). A common Jewish practice was to identify people by the name of the town they came from. Jesus was often referred to – by friends, enemies, angels, demons, common people, government officials, and even by himself – as Jesus of Nazareth (Matt 26:71; Mark 1:23-24; 16:5-6; Luke 24:19; John 18:5; 19:19; Acts 2:22; 22:8). The people of Nazareth, who had seen Jesus grow up in their town, were surprised that he could preach so well, especially since he had not studied at any of the schools of the rabbis. They were also angry that he would not perform miracles to please them. On one occasion they tried to throw him over one of the cliffs in the hills around Nazareth (Matt 13:53-58; Luke 4:16-30; Mark 6:1-6). In New Testament times the unbelieving Jews refused to call Jesus by his messianic name ‘Christ’, and refused to call his followers ‘Christians’. They called him simply Jesus of Nazareth or Jesus the Nazarene, and called his followers Nazarenes (Acts 24:5). Even today, in Hebrew and Arabic speech, Christians may be called Nazarenes.

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