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Some say that Nazareth didn't even exist in biblical times. Both Matthew and Luke talk about it. How can this be? Which is right?
Thank you for your question regarding biblical authority and the mention of Nazareth, both in history and in the bible.
Throughout history, people have questioned the bible, both in terms of its historical content, but also that of what it says about God. Clearly, if people are able to prove that the historical statements of the bible are false, then surely this also means that the more fundamental claims of the bible, such as Jesus being the Son of God, are also false. Considering that there are so many people making such claims about the bible's authority, whether it is false or true, it is a major concern for the Christian and needs to be addressed.
The bible is the most amazing book on the planet. In fact, it is not just one book, but a collection of 66 books, written over 1500 years, written by around 40 different authors, most of whom never met each other, and written in three languages. You would have thought that with the bible being written over such a long period of time that there would be many mistakes. However, upon in depth investigation of the bible, not one contradiction can be found and much of the bible ties in with one another, with biblical prophecies being fulfilled hundreds of years after they were first written.
2 Timothy 3:16 tells us of the bible all Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness. If this statement is true, then it means that the bible says of itself that it is breathed out by God, and if it is breathed out by God, then it has His authority running through it and all of it must be true.
You are correct in saying that in the bible, both Matthew and Luke refer to Nazareth. Matthew 2:23 says and he went and lived in a city called Nazareth, so that what was spoken by the prophets might be fulfilled, that he would be called a Nazarene. Yet Luke 2:39 calls Nazareth a town, saying when they had performed everything according to the Law of the Lord, they returned into Galilee, to their own town of Nazareth. How can this be that one book calls it a town and another calls it a city? Is this a contradiction? Does this disprove biblical authority?
When we refer to towns and cities, these words are often interchangeable. For example, one person may refer to the centre of a town as the city centre, even if it is not a city. Similarly, another may say that they are going "up to the town" to shop, even though they live in a city.
We need to remember that the gospels are viewpoints of the story of Jesus, in the same way that different newspapers would refer to a story from a different perspective, yet still be factual. In light of this, we can learn that Matthew and Luke are both referring to the same place, but just using different words: one calling Nazareth a town and another a city. They do not contradict each other by saying the Jesus grew up in two different places; they both agree that Jesus spent time in Nazareth with His earthly family.
There have been claims over the years that the area known today as Nazareth did not exist until around the 4th century. People have used this argument to undermine biblical authority in order to claim the bible as false. However, recent archaeological digs in the Nazareth area have revealed buildings and evidence of people from around the time of Jesus. Here, we learn that these archaeological digs are proving the bible to be true, and diminishing the arguments against it.
Still some people claim that Nazareth is only mentioned a handful of times in the New Testament, not even being mentioned by important biblical persons such as Paul, and this weakens the bible's authority. This leads us onto a very important point as to the point of the bible: the bible is not an atlas or a 'doomsday book' showing all the individual assets of a place: the bible's primary purpose is to tell the story between God and man, and to show us that the only way to the Father is through Jesus Christ.
Consider Jesus words here:
‘Who are you, Lord? ’ And he said to me, ‘I am Jesus of Nazareth, whom you are persecuting. (Acts 22:8). Here Jesus says to Paul that he is the one from Nazareth.
Ultimately, the town where Jesus grew up is not of greatest importance, but His purpose, His death and resurrection on the cross is of primary importance. This is why Nazareth is only mentioned a handful of times, but the work of Jesus on the cross is mentioned time and time again! In fact, Paul himself tells us in 1 Corinthians 15:3: for I delivered to you as of first importance what I also received: that Christ died for our sins in accordance with the Scriptures, that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day in accordance with the Scriptures, and that he appeared to Cephas, then to the twelve. This is of first importance: that Christ died according to the scriptures. Where Jesus was born or raised is not Paul's primary concern, but what Jesus did!
We need to make our own decision about the bible; do we believe it to be just a book, and therefore open to mistakes, or do we believe it to the the breathed word of God, and therefore having a higher authority? We also need to remember the purpose of Jesus, that we are separated from God because of our sin (Romans 3:23), but through the death and resurrection of Jesus, we have a way to Him (2 Corinthians 5:21)
The bible's authority will always be attempted to be undermined by those who refuse to believe in its authority, but upon closer inspection, it stands up to the scrutiny that the world will subject upon it. Therefore, when the Jesus himself says in John 14:6 "I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me", we have to ask whether or not we believe Jesus to be telling the truth.
Will you believe that the bible is true and put your trust in Jesus as Lord and Saviour? Will you repent of your sin and hand your entire life over to Jesus? If you want to know more about what Jesus has done for you please watch the video on the main part of our site: www.lookingforGod.com
In closing, I want to encourage you to get more involved with your local church. It would be good to speak to a Christian leader or another trusted church individual regarding your question. I know they would be delighted to further answer you as well as offer prayer and support as you continue your spiritual journey:
Please use our Interactive Answer Matrix and feel free to ask another question. Our helpful staff are praying for you and waiting to try and answer to you from the Bible, and will be delighted to tell you more about Jesus Christ the Lord, the Saviour of the world.
*All Scripture references are taken From The English Standard Version of the Holy Bible unless stated otherwise
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