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Nazareth

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The Oxford Companion to the Bible What is This? Provides authoritative interpretive entries on Biblical people, places, beliefs, events, and secular influences.

    Nazareth

    (Map 12:X3). A town in southern Galilee about fifteen miles southwest of the Sea of Galilee and twenty miles from the Mediterranean westward. It was probably located at or near the site of the town by the same name in modern Israel. References to it occur in the Gospels and Acts, and all agree that Jesus was from Nazareth (Mark 1.9; Matt. 4.13; 21.11; Luke 4.16; John 1.45; Acts 10:38).

    Although not situated on any main commercial roads, Nazareth was not far from them, and it was only several miles from Sepphoris, an important city near the road from Ptolemais to Tiberias. Its secluded position may explain the absence of references to it before Roman times, and this may indicate that it was an insignificant Jewish town (John 1.46). On the other hand, Luke's references (1.26; 2.4, 39) to it as a city rather than a village may indicate that it was not an insignificant place. Distinctions, however, between the two were not great, and they were sometimes used interchangeably; furthermore, Luke's knowledge of Palestine is not always correct.

    Located on a hill in the Plain of Esdraelon, it was about 365 m (1200 ft) above sea level. From its heights one could see mountains in three directions and view the Plain of Esdraelon on the south. The moderate climate, sufficient rainfall, and fertile soil were favorable for growing fruits, grains, and vegetables. The water supply of the town itself was restricted to one spring, supplemented by cisterns. If the spring is to be identified with the “Mary's Well” shown to tourists, it is the only shrine of the many in Nazareth that may go back to Jesus' time.

    Edwin D. Freed

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