Did Matthew fabricate a prophecy to support his claim that Jesus was the Messiah?


I have another question.  It may seem like I am attacking Christianity with this one, but I'm not.  I'm just very interested in studying the Bible and every now and then I come across an objection I need help answering.  So here is the objection I found on another website:

The fabrication of a verse, creating the facade of a Messianic prophecy that never existed:

Matthew 2:23 "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."

Most annotated Christian Bibles, which go to exhaustive lengths to source every single Jewish Scripture quote, list no reference. There is an important reason for this:

No such prophecy exists.

Matthew fabricated a prophecy in an effort to make his case look more valid. The implications of this should speak for themselves.

Objectively, there is no reason to continue after that. Who could give credit to a theology that makes things up in order to latch on to Judaism? It is said that Matthew's Gospel was the gospel specifically aimed at the Jews. Those same people who proclaim this are the same ones who can't understand why Jews reject Jesus. This author is Jewish, and was left unimpressed by it.


You stated that you aren't attacking Christianity, but the quote you give definitely does so. I don't mind answering questions, and the point you bring up is a good one, but I would like to point out at the outset that when this author found something he didn't understand he immediately leaped to a worse case scenario. He expressed himself as already having an answer and that is that Matthew lied.

Let's examine the situation a bit more. Matthew's book contains a large number of quotations from the Old Testament prophecies, more than any of the other gospels, to show that Jesus matched the predictions of the Messiah. I haven't attempted to numerate all the prophecies he cites, but there are quite a number. Now the question revolves around one of the citations, but I would like you to consider: given all the supporting evidence, why would Matthew feel the need to make up one prophecy in amongst the hundreds of other citations? Seems a bit strange don't you think? Yet this is the conclusion to which the author immediately jumped.

We need to note that Greek doesn't include punctuation. In the translation to English, punctuation is derived from understanding what is said. While translators work very hard to be accurate, they do make mistakes on occasion. While there are quote marks around "He shall be called a Nazarene," the Greek does not require them to be there.

Matthew points out in Matthew 2:23 that Joseph, Mary, and Jesus' move fulfilled prophecies. But notice that Matthew is not quoting one particular prophet. The phrase "spoken by the prophets" is not how Matthew cites specific prophecies in other places. In fact, this phrase is unique to this verse in Matthew. Where it is used in similar fashion elsewhere in the BIble, it refers to a summation of what various prophets had said and not a word-for-word quote (II Kings 24:2; Ezekiel 38:17; Hosea 12:10; Acts 3:21; II Peter 3:2). Therefore, I would conclude that Matthew is giving a general summary of what multiple prophets have said.

Some readers confuse Nazarene with Nazirite. These are two different word. The former means someone from Nazareth, the later means someone under the Nazirite vow of Numbers 6. Jesus was not under the Nazirite vow, otherwise he would not have been able to partake of the fruit of the vine at the last supper (Nazirites are forbidden from eating anything related to grapes).

A more reasonable case is made that the name Nazareth might be derived from the Hebrew word for “branch.” There are numerous prophecies concerning the Messiah being called the Branch, such as Isaiah 11:1.

An even better case, however, is that the region of Galilee had a poor reputation (John 7:52) and the town of Nazareth had an even poorer reputation (John 1:46). The Hebrew word netzer, from which Nazareth is derived, refers to the small twigs that are worthless (Isaiah 14:19; John 15:21). Such was deemed an appropriate name for a small village of little use. There are several prophecies dealing with people despising the Messiah, such as Isaiah 53:2-3 and Psalms 22:6. The Messiah's coming from a despised area was foretold in Isaiah 9:1-2. Nazareth is in the region Isaiah spoke about. It is possible that Matthew is stating that by coming from Nazareth the foundations for Jesus’ eventual rejection were being laid. Though Matthew transliterated a Hebrew word in Matthew 2:23, it could be read as: "He shall be called one who came from a useless place."

Matthew takes three apparently conflicting sets of prophecies and resolves them: that the Messiah would come from the famed city of David, Bethlehem; that God would call him out of the mighty nation of Egypt; and that he would be despised for where he originated, all neatly fitted together.