And he went and lived in a city called Nazareth, so that what was spoken through the prophets was fulfilled, that he will be called a Nazarene. Bible see other translations

“he will be called a Nazarene.” This phrase is not meant to be a quotation of any scripture, for the saying is not found in any of the biblical writings. So what does Matthew mean here? There are two possibilities. First, these words could be a prophecy that was “spoken” (rheō, #4483 ῥέω), but not written. Unlike any other such reference in Matthew, this was said to be spoken by the “prophets” (plural), rather than by the “prophet.” The fact the noun is plural tells us Matthew did not intend this to be taken as a reference to a particular prophetic writing, but the words of the “prophets.” Hence, there were some things God told his prophets regarding the Messiah that were spoken and preserved in oral tradition but never inspired as holy writ—that the Messiah would be called a Nazarene was one such orally preserved prophecy. In this case, it is the figure of speech hysteresis, when an author gives added information not known in the historical narrative.a

The second possibility for understanding this phrase—the way it is understood by Lenski and Hendriksen, for instance—is that the expression “he will be called a Nazarene” is meant as a summary statement of what the prophets spoke about the Messiah, that he would be considered lowly and rejected. We recall the words of Nathanael, who showed typical disdain for Nazarenes: “Can anything good come out of Nazareth?” (John 1:46). If this interpretation was correct, Matthew would be combining the sense of several prophetic writings about the Messiah and then describing them by saying “He will be called a Nazarene.” But this view is unlikely. For why would Jesus have to literally move to Nazareth in order to fulfill this saying? If being called a Nazarene does not refer to actually living in Nazareth, then moving there would not fulfill the prophecy. If the phrase was meant as simply a derogative saying, “he’ll be called ‘a Nazarene,’” then there would be no need for the Messiah to literally live there. Therefore, the first interpretation is to be preferred.

“so that.” The Greek word translated “so that” is hopōs (#3704 ὅπως), and it denotes purpose. Often when prophecies were fulfilled the Greek text used hina (cp. Matt. 1:22), but this use of hopōs shows that Joseph moved to Nazareth with the intention that the prophecy would be fulfilled. A study of prophecy shows that there are different “kinds” of prophecies. There are prophecies that will come to pass without or in spite of human involvement, and there are prophecies that require human involvement to come to pass. This is quite clearly articulated in Jeremiah 18:5-10. God can say something, but human involvement can help it be fulfilled or cause it to go unfulfilled. In this case, Joseph moved to Nazareth “so that” the words of the prophets were fulfilled.

[For more on the way human behavior can change whether or not a prophecy is fulfilled, see commentary on Deut. 18:20.]

Cp. Bullinger, Companion Bible, Appendix 6.

Commentary for: Matthew 2:23