Rabbinic views . . . on the “Nazarene”

Rabbi Bentzion Kravitz, a representative of an anti-missionary organisation, questioned the reliability of the New Testament, saying it contained hundreds of errors or discrepancies, and even accusing the writers of “deliberately mistranslating the Hebrew Scriptures.”

He contends that the following verse in the New Testament has been “fabricated and does not exist in our Hebrew Scriptures ”: “…and he went and lived in a town called Nazareth. So was fulfilled what was said through the prophets: ‘He will be called a Nazarene.’” (Matthew 2:23).

The rabbi makes the following point: “Since a Nazarene is a resident of the city of Nazareth and this city did not exist during the time period of the Jewish Bible, it is impossible to find this quotation in the Hebrew Scriptures. It was fabricated out of thin air.”

The rabbi obviously does not know what Matthew knew; that Nazareth means “THE GREEN BRANCH.” In the Tenach Messiah is called not only “THE BRANCH” (= Zemach, Isaiah 4:2, Jer. 23:5, Zech. 3:8; 6:12), but also “THE GREEN BRANCH” (= Netzer, – “There shall come forth a rod out of the stem of Jesse, and a BRANCH shall grow out of his roots” – Isa. 11:1). In another place he is called “A TENDER BRANCH” (= Yoneq, – “He grew up before him as A TENDER PLANT and a root out of dry ground… He was despised and rejected of men” – Isaiah 53:2,3 ). Matthew understands that Jesus being called “the Nazarene” or “Jesus of Nazareth” is the fulfilment of what was spoken through the prophets, that Messiah will be called “the Green Branch”.

Another incident where Jesus made reference to himself as the “green tree” is found in Luke 23:31 – As they led Jesus away to be crucified, he turned and said to the women who were following; “Daughters of Jerusalem, do not weep for me; weep for yourselves and for your children. For the time will come when you will say, ‘Blessed are the barren womb, the wombs that never bore and the breasts that never nursed!’ Then they will say to the mountains, ‘Fall on us!’ and to the hills ‘Cover us!’ For if men do these things when the tree is green, what will happen when it is dry?”

Jesus here refers to himself as “the Green Tree”, a reference to Ezekiel 20:47 and to Hosea 10:8 in warning the people of the impending destruction of Jerusalem. The people would have understood his reference to himself as “the green tree” to be a bold messianic claim (Tishrei – Vol.1 no.2 -Winter 92/93).

The “Green Branch” is the living branch. Israel is corporately represented by the Messiah. Those who reject him are cut off whilst they persist in their unbelief. Without him they are a dry branch. Jesus said, “I am the true vine, and my Father is the gardener. He cuts off every branch in me that bears no fruit, while every branch that does bear fruit he prunes so that it will be even more fruitful. …I am the vine; you are the branches. …If a man remains in me and I in him, he will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing….If anyone does not remain in me, he is like a branch that is thrown away and withers…” (John 15:1;2;5)