HOW IS HE “JESUS OF NAZARETH” IF HE WAS BORN IN BETHLEHEM?
by Shawn Brasseaux
Indubitably, the Lord Jesus Christ was born in Bethlehem Judah/Judaea/Ephratah (southern Israel)—not to be confused with the Bethlehem of northern Israel (see Joshua 19:15).
The King James Bible says:
- Micah 5:2 (written 750–700 B.C.): “But thou, Bethlehem Ephratah, though thou be little among the thousands of Judah, yet out of thee shall he come forth unto me that is to be ruler in Israel; whose goings forth have been from of old [His humanity], from everlasting [His Deity].”
- Matthew 2:1-2,5-6: “Now when Jesus was born in Bethlehem of Judaea in the days of Herod the king, behold, there came wise men from the east to Jerusalem, Saying, Where is he that is born King of the Jews? for we have seen his star in the east, and are come to worship him…. And they [the chief priests and scribes] said unto him [Herod], In Bethlehem of Judaea: for thus it is written by the prophet, And thou Bethlehem, in the land of Juda, art not the least among the princes of Juda: for out of thee shall come a Governor, that shall rule my people Israel.”
- Luke 2:4-7: “And Joseph also went up from Galilee, out of the city of Nazareth, into Judaea, unto the city of David, which is called Bethlehem; (because he was of the house and lineage of David: ) To be taxed with Mary his espoused wife, being great with child. And so it was, that, while they were there, the days were accomplished that she should be delivered. And she brought forth her firstborn son, and wrapped him in swaddling clothes, and laid him in a manger; because there was no room for them in the inn.”
*NOTE: Alma 7:10 of the Book of Mormon claims Jesus was born in Jerusalem. Joseph Smith is wrong. According to God’s Word (the Holy Bible), Jesus was born in Bethlehem Judah, several miles or kilometers from Jerusalem! For more information, see our related study linked at the end of this article.
The Authorized Version, in 17 cases, labels the Lord as “Jesus of Nazareth.” If you want to look up the references, they are—Matthew 26:71; Mark 1:24; Mark 10:47; Mark 14:67; Mark 16:6; Luke 4:34; Luke 18:37; Luke 24:19; John 1:45; John 18:5; John 18:7; John 19:19; Acts 2:22; Acts 6:14; Acts 10:38; Acts 22:8; Acts 26:9. Related verses are Matthew 21:11 (“Jesus the prophet of Nazareth of Galilee”), Acts 3:6 (“Jesus Christ of Nazareth”), and Acts 4:10 (“Jesus Christ of Nazareth”). If the Lord was born in Bethlehem, why is “Nazareth” so frequently part of His title? Is this not strange? The answer to this enigma can be found back in His childhood days. Are we willing to study and learn?
As Matthew chapter 2 recounts, when the Christ Child was born, King Herod the Great feared insurrection and thus sought to murder Him: “ And when they [the wise men] were departed, behold, the angel of the Lord appeareth to Joseph in a dream, saying, Arise, and take the young child and his mother, and flee into Egypt, and be thou there until I bring thee word: for Herod will seek the young child to destroy him.  When he arose, he took the young child and his mother by night, and departed into Egypt:  And was there until the death of Herod: that it might be fulfilled which was spoken of the Lord by the prophet, saying, Out of Egypt have I called my son.  Then Herod, when he saw that he was mocked of the wise men, was exceeding wroth, and sent forth, and slew all the children that were in Bethlehem, and in all the coasts thereof, from two years old and under, according to the time which he had diligently inquired of the wise men.  Then was fulfilled that which was spoken by Jeremiah the prophet, saying,  In Rama was there a voice heard, lamentation, and weeping, and great mourning, Rachel weeping for her children, and would not be comforted, because they are not.
“ But when Herod was dead, behold, an angel of the Lord appeareth in a dream to Joseph in Egypt,  Saying, Arise, and take the young child and his mother, and go into the land of Israel: for they are dead which sought the young child’s life.  And he arose, and took the young child and his mother, and came into the land of Israel.  But when he heard that Archelaus did reign in Judaea in the room of his father Herod, he was afraid to go thither: notwithstanding, being warned of God in a dream, he turned aside into the parts of Galilee:  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.”
As a two-year-old boy, the Lord Jesus had to temporarily leave the land of Israel and relocate to Egypt. Once Herod the Great died near age 70 (circa 4–1 B.C.?), however, Jesus returned to Israel. Instead of settling in Bethlehem Judah (Jesus’ birthplace), fearing Herod’s son Archelaus reigning there, Jesus’ stepfather Joseph transferred the family to Nazareth of Galilee (northern Israel). The town where Jesus spent His remaining childhood years was Nazareth. Apparently, Nazareth was where Joseph and Mary had lived prior to their marriage (Luke 1:26; Luke 2:4,39,51). Roman Emperor Augustus Caesar’s census forced them to move to Bethlehem Judah just before Jesus’ birth. (This pagan ruler had no idea he caused the 700-year-old Bible prophecy of Micah to be fulfilled!!!)
Read Luke 2:51-52: “ And he [the Lord Jesus Christ] went down with them, and came to Nazareth, and was subject unto them: but his mother kept all these sayings in her heart.  And Jesus increased in wisdom and stature, and in favour with God and man.” Jesus (age 12 in verse 42) went on to spend His early adult years here in Nazareth, just prior to entering His ministry at age 30 (read Matthew 2:23; Matthew 3:13; cf. Mark 1:9). After moving south to be water baptized of John the Baptist in the River Jordan, the Lord Jesus went back to Nazareth where He stayed at His ministry headquarters (Matthew 4:13) until unbelieving Nazareth attempted to murder Him (Luke 4:14-30) and He moved to Capernaum (Luke 4:31). Be sure to notice Luke 4:16, “And he came to Nazareth, where he had been brought up:….” Overall, Christ lived in Nazareth approximately 25 years of His first three decades. He was born in Bethlehem, but He was raised in Nazareth, thus His title is “Jesus of Nazareth” not “Jesus of Bethlehem.”
“Nazareth” means “despised place.” Its reputation is emphasized in the remark of John 1:46: “And Nathanael said unto him, Can there any good thing come out of Nazareth? Philip saith unto him, Come and see.” Upon hearing the Messiah Jesus is of Nazareth (verse 45), Nathanael reacts with sarcasm, “What good thing could possibly come from Nazareth of all places? According to Luke 3:23, Jesus is roughly 30 years old when He began His ministry. The vast majority of His prior life was spent in Nazareth, the lowly place where Israel preferred Him to live! At His birth, He was laid in a manger (animal-food trough) because “there was no room for them in the inn” (Luke 2:7). When Herod sought to kill Him, Israel wept for their babies slaughtered in Bethlehem but shed not one tear when young Jesus had to escape to Egypt for His life (Matthew 2:16-21). Even after He came back from Egypt, He was not welcome in Israel, having to live in “Nazareth” or the “despised place” (Matthew 2:22-23). Throughout His earthly ministry, He faced intense opposition, culminating in His shameful trials and horrific crucifixion. We can glimpse two summary passages now.
“And a certain scribe came, and said unto him, Master, I will follow thee whithersoever thou goest. And Jesus saith unto him, The foxes have holes, and the birds of the air have nests; but the Son of man hath not where to lay his head” (Matthew 8:19-20). “And it came to pass, that, as they went in the way, a certain man said unto him, Lord, I will follow thee whithersoever thou goest. And Jesus said unto him, Foxes have holes, and birds of the air have nests; but the Son of man hath not where to lay his head” (Luke 9:57-58). Animals have their homes, but Messiah/Christ Jesus has no certain dwellingplace, for His very people have obstinately refused Him (John 1:11)!
The night of His betrayal and arrest, the Lord Jesus Christ encouraged His Apostles: “If the world hate you, ye know that it hated me before it hated you…. If I had not done among them the works which none other man did, they had not had sin: but now have they both seen and hated both me and my Father…. But this cometh to pass, that the word might be fulfilled that is written in their law, They hated me without a cause” (John 15:18,24-25). He will be crucified on Calvary’s cross in less than 24 hours!!
Finally, go over to John chapter 7: “ Many of the people therefore, when they heard this saying, said, Of a truth this is the Prophet.  Others said, This is the Christ. But some said, Shall Christ come out of Galilee?  Hath not the scripture said, That Christ cometh of the seed of David, and out of the town of Bethlehem, where David was?…  They answered and said unto him, Art thou also of Galilee? Search, and look: for out of Galilee ariseth no prophet.” This is natural-man thinking and “scholarship” (1 Corinthians 2:14). What spiritual ignoramuses!!! Jesus indeed had been born in Bethlehem, David’s hometown (1 Samuel 16:1-18), but He had also been forced to flee to Egypt and then Galilee (Nazareth) when Israel refused Him during His childhood years!! Even there, in John chapter 7, they hate Him.
Whenever the Bible links the Lord Jesus Christ to Nazareth, it does not refer to His place of birth but rather His place of childhood and early adulthood because of His rejection. To wit, “Jesus of Nazareth” is another way of saying, “Jesus of the Despised Place” or “Jesus of the Rejected Place.” It accentuates the rank unbelief in Israel, their national refusal to trust Him as Messiah or Christ.
» Was Jesus born in Jerusalem?
» Is Matthew 2:23 a mistake?
» Was Jesus’ last name “Christ?”
» Was Jesus born on the 25th of December?
» Were there really three wise men?
» How can Luke 2:1 report “all the world” was subject to Caesar Augustus?
» Is there an historical mistake in Luke 2:1-2?