The Nazarene


Numbers 6


“He shall be called a Nazarene.” – Matthew 2:23


You probably have some idea what the world wants you to think Jesus Christ looked like. I don’t know who designed the facial features, but the image has managed to catch on. He has a full beard and mustache, shoulder-length hair, brown eyes to go with a shaded skin color…. It is a fine image of our Lord – that is, it would be, if the Lord were pleased with graven images.


And another thing – I see no way that the many portraits of Christ could even resemble our Savior.


The rumor that He had long hair comes from the assumption that Jesus was a Nazarite – that He took the Nazarene vow cited in Numbers 6. Some use Matthew 2:23 as evidence. Matthew says Jesus was a Nazarite, and Numbers 6:5 says of a Nazarite, “All the days of the vow of his separation no razor shall come upon his head.” And there is the curious feature in 6:3 that requires him to abstain from vinegar – except he was fed vinegar on the cross.


Personally, I think that if Jesus Christ were a Nazarite, one of the Gospel writers would have bothered to point that out. The most famous Nazarite in history was Samson – hair and all. We all know how that worked. Shakespeare wrote of a Nazarite in the Merchant of Venice; there’s a Nazirite in 1 Maccabees. Amos and Jeremiah may be the only others to use the word – ever. The New Testament makes no mention.


But let’s reason this out. If Jesus’ hair was as long as it is portrayed in the images, Judas would have had no need to put on such a production at the betrayal scene. The style of the day was for men to wear their hair short (1 Corinthians 11:14). Were Jesus a Nazarite, and were His hair accordingly long, Judas could have saved himself the embarrassment. Had Jesus not looked the part of His times, Judas could have simply alerted the arresters: “Freaky-looking guy – third on the right.” But Jesus blended in with the look of the day, and forced Judas to expose himself as the betrayer.


Jesus couldn’t have been a Nazarite. Matthew 26:29 says “But I say to you, I will not drink of this fruit of the vine from now on until that day when I drink it new with you in My Father’s kingdom.” (emphasis mine). If Jesus were a Nazarite, He never would have drunk of this fruit of the vine. The words “from now on” would carry no meaning.


Finally, Matthew calls Jesus a Nazarene because He grew up in Nazareth. I don’t know which prophet (curiously Matthew says “prophets.”) Matthew is quoting. Your reference Bible probably points to either Numbers 6 or to Isaiah 11:1. And I think they are both wrong. Matthew says nothing of a vow, but mentions the village of His youth.


And because someone misunderstood, we all pay the price of having this graven image burned into our brain cells.


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