What is a Nazarene?

How are we to understand the words in Matthew 2:23 “He shall be called a Nazarene”?

Some connect them with the Nazarite vow, but how did that depend on living in Nazareth?

The exact words quoted are not to be found verbatim in any particular Old Testament Prophet, and the evangelist does not assert so much, but only, as it seems, that the sense of his quotation “was spoken by the prophets.” The phrase cannot refer to the Nazariteship of the Lord, because His consecration was not on the line of the Jewish vow of the Nazarite. He was not a Nazarite in the literal sense, and had He been, that would not have depended on His living in Nazareth. Indeed, this interpretation may be ruled out, for the words both in Hebrew and Greek are different—that for Nazarite being “Nazir” or “Nazeiraios,” whereas an inhabitant of Nazareth is generally “Nazöraios” or else (e.g., Mark 1: 24 or Luke 4:34) “Nazarênos.” Some have thought the reference is to Nazareth, as a despised place, which would tally so well with our Lord’s name of Nazarene, which certainly conveyed the thought of reproach. However this may be, the more probable interpretation seems to be that which connects the words of Matthew with such a passage as Isa. ii. i, “There 8hall come forth a rod out of the stem of Jesse, and a Netzer (Branch) shall grow out of his roots.” The name “Nazareth” is probably derived from Netzer, from the bushes and shrubs which were a feature of the landscape, a fact that would thus recall the prophetic name.

W.H.