Bob Marley

Did Jesus come from Nazareth?

When people called Jesus ‘The Nazarene’ what did that mean? If you are reading something from long ago or words that have been translated, it is always dangerous to assume you understand what the writer meant without asking and checking.

No Woman, No Cry

As an example, I always believed Bob Marley was a saint! Well almost! I loved the smoother Reggae of his later Chris Blackwell work. Unlike Saint Bob, I was never much of a hit with the ladies. His song, ‘No, woman, no cry’ comforted me on many a lonely night believing, as I did, that Saint Bob was confirming that a man was better off without a woman, which was a situation I found myself in with depressing regularity.

When I got older and happened to see the song title written with the requisite English grammar, I realised that I had spent most of my life misunderstanding Saint Bob. His meaning was, in fact, the opposite of my understanding. He was advising his partner not to cry!!

Saint Bob and I shared a language (sort of) but I still managed to spectacularly misunderstand him.


Similarly, the Greco-Roman writers of the Gospels inherited a term for their Christ that they didn’t understand either and were too embarrassed to ask about. In the Gospel of Mark, the Jesus of History is referred to as the ‘Nasarene’ with no explanation. The later Gospel writers assume that the term ‘Nasarene’ is an address rather than a title and invent a city to suit.

Strangely, in the Middle East, Nasrani is still the term by which Arabs refer to Christians.

The Hebrew, ( נוֹצְרִי ), No-Tsri, is often translated into Greek as Nazarênas or Nazõraias and it is extremely important to note the additional vowels makes the translation from Nazarene to imply “from Nazareth” extremely unlikely.

Second TempleBy the time they wrote their Gospels in the late first century and early second century, Nazareth was a thriving Roman town. They were not to know that when the Rabbi, in whose Greek name they pray, was alive, the village of Nazareth was abandoned and had been since the Assyrians had devastated Israel five hundred years earlier.

I believe that the second century copyists had to make sense of an obscure Hebrew term, which they lacked the cultural background to understand. Unfortunately, due to the epidemic of anti-Semitism in the early Roman church, Christians didn’t want to ask the Jews for their advice. If, indeed, they could have found any alive. Therefore, they extrapolated a term that was a religious designation (Nazarene) into a reference to an origin of location (from Nazareth).

Lies compounded errors, and over the years as people try to make sense of the term the story gets more ridiculous.


In the Gospel of Mathew, the writer explains for us “he will be called a Nazarene” as a quote from one of the Prophets but the problem is no such quote exists. In the interests of fairness to Paul, it is sometimes suggested that the quote refers to Isaiah 11 “A (Ne-Tser) ‘branch’ from the stump of Jesse.” In actual fact this is a Hebrew play on words to define religious observance. Isaiah was written without chapters so you have to read the entire text in context and anyone who takes the time to wade through the whole book would agree that Isaiah is ONLY talking about the Jewish people, not a future Mashiach.

Nazareth was destroyed by the Assyrians and its people taken into slavery in 740 BC. Today, after a hundred years of investigation, the archaeology confirms that the village of Nazareth was abandoned between 700 BC and 70 AD. The church of the Annunciation is built on top of a second century Roman ruin. Most impartial archaeologists agree that the site was a small farm during the early part of the first century. Indeed, the farm features in the book, ‘The Last Letters of Jesus.’


It was not just Matthew who was a little over eager in his translations, in the Gospel of Luke, 4:16-30 Luke puts Jesus in Nazareth and tells us the town is built on a hill and the irate inhabitants try to throw Jesus off the cliff. Unfortunately, the settlement of Nazareth is in a valley and the nearest hill is Mount Tabor over six kilometres away and the nearest cliff is above Magdala, 21 km away.

It is a shame that two thousand years of misunderstanding of this term has led Christians to ignore the actual words of Jesus in order to concentrate on assumption and mistranslation. The historical Jesus was part of a religious movement that was already old (Elohist) when he took over from John the Baptist. When Jesus died, his brother James ‘the Just’ took over leadership of the movement and it was to James that everyone looked for final judgement (not Peter) [Acts 15:19].

Second Temple

The Essene/Nazarene/Ebionite movement that James belonged to was so popular that when the priests of the Temple stoned James to death (62 AD) the people rose up and expelled the Romans and the priesthood whom they had supported (Origen on Josephus). This uprising eventually led to the Romans destroying Judah and the Second Temple.

The misunderstanding of the term, ‘Nazarene’ facilitated the separation of the Jesus of History from his Jewish roots. In the end ‘Nazareth’ meant whatever the priests said it meant and ultimately it meant nothing.

In fact, it is far more likely that the Hebrew term, Na-Sar, which refers to a tower or siege work is the root of the term ‘Nasarene’ as it alludes to the writings of the Prophet Habakkuk 2-1. Therefore the term would have meant ‘The Keepers of the Watchtower’.

Just as with my misunderstanding of Saint Bob’s song ‘No, woman, no cry’, I had taken a song with a beautiful and deep meaning and by my hasty assumptions turned it into a meaningless contradiction and so it is with Christianity and the Jesus of History.

The Last Letters of Jesus: The Secret of the Nazarenes

The True Sayings of Jesus: The Jesus of History Vs. The Christ Myth

The True Sayings of Jesus

Humpty Dumpty

Was the Jesus of History a God?

Was Jesus a God?

In fact, more importantly, did the Jesus of History believe he was God?

If you don’t understand Greek and Hebrew culture and history it is very hard to make sense of the Gospels. Terms like ‘The Son of Man’ and ‘Son of God’ are tossed around like confetti. Most people are just beaten into submission by the beauty of the language. In many ways, the Gospel writers would have agreed with Humpty Dumpty in the book Alice in Wonderland:

“When I use a word,” Humpty Dumpty said, in rather a scornful tone, “it means just what I choose it to mean- neither more nor less.”

Saint Paul:

Saint Paul, like Humpty Dumpty took a Hebrew word ‘Mashiach’ and made it mean what he wanted it to mean. He took the military idea of the ‘Messiah’ (Mashiach) and turned it into another name for the ‘Son of God’.

To understand the term ‘Messiah’, as it was used in the first century CE, let me give you an example:

Winston Churchill:

Winston Churchill could be called the Mashiach of the British people in the Second World War or perhaps the Spanish might have called Lord Wellington their Mashiach when he helped save them from the French occupation.

The term ‘Messiah’, prior to Saint Paul, did not mean ‘God’ or ‘saviour’ in the spiritual sense.

The term ‘Ben Elohim’  (Son of God) was originally an ‘Elohist’ term to describe the angels. However, like most things ‘Biblical’ the term evolved. It later came to be used to describe the prophets and those directly touched by God but never as ‘gods’ in their own right.

The fundamental principle of the Hebrew religion was, and is, that God is one. It is therefore impossible to think of God, in the first century CE, having a son in the binary sense.

Paul took the Hebrew term ‘Ben Elohim’ and turned it into a literal reference to the ‘Son’ of God in the Greek sense of two independent gods.

Christian texts originally portrayed Christ as a prophet, then as an adopted god and then at the First Council of Nicaea in 325 CE he was declared fully god and equal to Yahweh.

The Gospel Writers:

The gospel writers, through their ‘Christ’, use the term ‘Son of Man’ (Ben A’dam) eighty times as a kind of ‘codeword’ for himself as a ‘Son of God’ – in fact, he uses the term, ‘Son of Man’, almost interchangeably with ‘Son of God’ and ‘Messiah’ – which is linguistically, culturally and historically absurd.

Until Paul, the Hebrew term ‘Ben A’dam’ (Son of Man) had always meant ‘Human being’. Then as now, ‘human’ was not a term for ‘God’.

To be honest, I could have written a complete chapter, if not a book, on how the Jesus of History became God but it would have been a distraction. I feel that it will be more useful to the reader to find out what the Jesus of History was, rather than what he wasn’t.

For the interested reader, I would recommend Professor Bart D. Ehrman and his book

How Jesus became God