Sunday, January 18, 2015

Challenging the traditional Jewish ideas about the "Nazarene"

Traditional Jews love to negate “Jesus” (they don’t like to use His given name’ of Y’shua!) by shouting out, “Where in Scripture do we see that the prophets suggest the Messiah was from Nazareth, or that he would be called a Nazarene?  Nowhere!  You’re grasping at straws!”

Really?  Well, not so fast, there, Hoss!  Matthew 2:23 tells us He would be called “Nazarene” – and Isaiah 11 gives us a hint.

Isaiah 11:1 But a branch will emerge from the trunk of Yishai, a shoot will grow from his roots.

“Baloney!” the traditional Jew will say. “Isaiah does NOT give us any hint of Jesus, and don’t even bother giving us New Testament Scripture, because the New Testament is a MYTH!”

Okay, fine, then let’s allow Scripture to explain itself with the help of Aramaic scholar and author Andrew Gabriel Roth who takes us back to the original language - which reveals that the word netzer is Hebrew for “young shoot” or “sprout” – which has a direct correlation to Machiyach Y’shua.  Roth wrote: 

"Only one prophet, Isaiah (Isaiah 11:1), refers to Mashiyach as a netzer which is Hebrew for “young shoot” or “sprout.”  Plus, a closer look at Isaiah 11:1-4 reveals the “spiritual branches” of the Menorah as attributes of Mashiyach.”
To see what Roth is talking about, we must first take a look at Matthew 2 from, for the instance, the King James Version:

Matthew 2:23 And he came and dwelt in a city called Nazareth: that it might be fulfilled which was spoken by the prophets, He shall be called a Nazarene.

Roth explains: 

This is an example of singular plural confusion in Greek. In Aramaic, “prophet” is spelled the same in both singular and plural forms, whereas Hebrew has distinct forms. Greek translators chose to translate this as “prophets” but only one prophet, Isaiah 11:1, refers to Mashiyach as a netzer which is Hebrew for “young shoot” or “sprout.”  Here is what the Aramaic actually says:

Matthew 2:23. And he came and dwelled in the city that is called Nasrath, so that might be fulfilled the thing which was spoken by the prophet that “He will be called a Nasraya.”  (AENT)
Moving on, a closer look at Isaiah 11:1-4 reveals the “spiritual branches” of the Menorah as attributes of Mashiyach. Roth explains: 
Netzer is the basis for the name Nazareth, which at that time was a very small village in the Land of Israel.  Other prophets reveal Mashiyach as the “Branch” but use the Hebrew tzemach, thus eliminating the obvious wordplay here by Matthew.  The prophet Daniel also uses the word netzer, but not in the context of Messianic prophecy. 
Here is what Roth is referring to:

Isaiah 11:1 But a branch will emerge from the trunk of Yishai, a shoot will grow from his roots. 2 The Spirit of ADONAI will rest on him, the Spirit of wisdom and understanding, the Spirit of counsel and power, the Spirit of knowledge and fearing ADONAI 3 he will be inspired by fearing ADONAI. He will not judge by what his eyes see or decide by what his ears hear, 4 but he will judge the impoverished justly; he will decide fairly for the humble of the land. He will strike the land with a rod from his mouth and slay the wicked with a breath from his lips.  (CJB)

Roth goes on to tell us the following:

“Netzer is the basis for the name Nazareth, which at that time (i.e., time of Matthew) was a very small village in the Land of Israel.  Other prophets reveal Mashiyach as the “Branch” but use the Hebrew tzemach, thus eliminating the obvious wordplay here by Matthew.  The prophet Daniel also uses the word netzer, but not in the context of Messianic prophecy." 
Get the picture?  To properly understand that our Messiah has already come, one cannot pick and choose what they wish to believe of the Word…..

We find a longer, more indepth explanation at the ChaimbenTorah website  which says, in part:

The name for the town of Nazareth may have come from the Semitic root nzr which means to keep watch, or to protect.  There are some who claim that this may have been the home of a particular Jewish sect called the Nazarites who took on a vow to live a life of separation as nzr also means to consecrate and make separate.  They would not cut their hair or drink wine.  Some feel that Jesus Himself was a Nazarite which could be.  There are a lot of uncertainties here.  But one thing is for certain, the Hebrew Bible makes no mention of the town of Nazareth or that the Messiah would be a Nazarene.  Or does it?

The Pershitta or Aramaic Bible shows something very curious that you would not pick up on in your Greek New Testament. The Aramaic word for Nazarite is spelled Nun, Tsade, and Resh, where the Hebrew word for Nazarite is spelled Nun, Zayin, and Resh.  There appears to be a Semitic play on words here as the Tsade and the Zayin both make a z sound.  We distinguish between the two by showing the Tsade as a ts and the Zayin as a z.

The Hebrew verb nazar  means to take a vow or to consecrate.  Examples of a Nazarite in the Old Testament would be Samuel and Samson.   Today in the Assyrian Church the order of the Nazarites is preserved.   Such individuals will not cut their hair, marry or use alcohol.  Yet, there are many who do not take a Nazarite vow in that culture, yet they will still seek to live a separated life. Such individuals are called a Nazarene as an Aramaic figure of speech.

It is possible the writer of the Gospel meant this as a figure of speech playing on the Hebrew word nazar, that Jesus lived a consecrated life and was called a Nazarene, not only because he came for Nazareth but that he lived a nazar life.

Still, that does not answer the question as to where in Scripture does it say that the prophets would say the Messiah was from Nazareth and would be called a Nazarene.  The town of Nazareth really did not exist during the time of the prophets. It is not mentioned in the Old Testament, the Talmud makes no reference to it in the 63 towns of Galilee that it mentions.  Josephus mentions 45 cities of Galilee and none are called Nazareth.  No trade routes ran through the city so it was isolated which brought about the saying, “Can anything good come out of Nazareth?”  Archaeologist have uncovered evidence of a town in the area but have no idea when it started to be called Nazareth.

What is very likely is that the writer of Matthew was making a Semitic play on the word ntsr. The ancient Persians used the word ntsr to express the idea of a green plant. The Aramaic word ntsr with the Sade means a branch.

Even the Talmud in Sanhedrin 43a recognizes Isaiah 11:1 as a prophecy of the Messiah and renders the word ntsr as a branch.  In other words the writer was making a play on the word and the use of the Sade in Aramaic and the Zayin in Hebrew to express two thoughts.  One is that Jesus was the ntsr spoken of in Isaiah 11:1 and that he also came from the town of nzr.  That he was also one who was consecrated for a special task.

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