Jesus the Nazarene – Matthew’s Fake Prophecy And Allan Ruhl’s Worst Nightmare
“So was fulfilled what was said through the prophets, that he would be called a Nazarene.”
– The Gospel of Matthew, 2:23
After much stalling, Allan Ruhl has finally written a formal explanation of the alleged “Nazarene” prophecy mentioned in the Gospel of “Matthew”, 2:23. In a previous article, I had exposed Ruhl’s double standards in blindly accepting this non-existent “prophecy” (it is not found anywhere in the Tanakh), and yet questioning the “Ahmad” prophecy mentioned in Surah As-Saf, 61:6 and demanding written evidence that Jesus (peace be upon him) uttered that prophecy. In this article, I will respond to Ruhl’s arguments about the alleged link between Matthew 2:23 and Isaiah 11:1.
To begin his article, Ruhl makes an inaccurate claim about the Quran, one that Christian apologists like to repeat in order to improve the Bible’s tattered image:
“[a]fter all, nowhere in the Quran does it say that previous revelations have been corrupted.”
It is clear that Ruhl is not an expert on what the Quran says (he is not even an expert on much of anything to do with the Bible either for that matter). The fact is that the Quran actually does refer to the corruption of the previous scriptures:
“Then woe to those who write the Book with their own hands, and then say: ‘This is from Allah,’ to traffic with it for a miserable price! Woe to them for what their hands do write, and for the gain they make thereby.”
Coming to the Gospel of “Matthew” (note the quotation marks!), Ruhl states:
“[w]e first need to realize that this statement is not from our Lord Jesus Christ, but from Matthew himself. Matthew actually comments quite a bit on the events in his Gospel. In fact, he talks about fulfilled prophecy quite often. In fact, he usually uses other language such as “to fulfill what was spoken through the prophet” then quotes a specific text.”
This is mostly true. Certainly, Jesus never refers to the numerous prophecies that “Matthew” claims were “fulfilled”. Moreover, many of the alleged “prophecies” actually do not even apply to the Messiah, as demonstrated in a previous article.
Next, Ruhl specifically discusses the “Nazarene” prophecy:
“…its clear that Matthew is going for something else with this mysterious language about the Nazarene. Matthew is trying to draw together a common theme.”
How convenient! Notice how Ruhl has tried to use a bait and switch. This is the typical Christian tactic when dealing with clear contradictions between the Tanakh and the New Testament. Of course Ruhl knows that there is no “prophecy” about the Messiah being called a “Nazarene”. All Christians know this. This is precisely why they try to come up with other arguments. The excuse for Matthew 2:23 is one example of this bait and switch. It’s not a “prophecy” so much as it is “a common theme”! Skeptics are supposed to accept this even though “Matthew” clearly says that it was a prophecy which literally stated that the Messiah would “be called a Nazarene”!
Next, Ruhl appeals to Isaiah 11:1 and the “branch” from the line of Jesse (the father of David):
“[t]he Messiah in a couple places in the OT is referred to as a branch. The most well known verse is Isaiah 11:1. Here is the verse: Then a shoot will spring from the stem of Jesse, And a branch from his roots will bear fruit.”
Actually, the specific word used for “branch” in a Messianic context is only found in Isaiah 11:1. The word is “netser” (pronounced “nay’-tser). Other words that have been translated as “branch” with a Messianic context are also used but “netser” is only used in Isaiah 11:1. For example, Jeremiah 23:5 states:
“’The days are coming,’ declares the Lord, ‘when I will raise up for David a righteous Branch, a King who will reign wisely and do what is just and right in the land.’”
But The word used here is “tsemach”, not “netser”. But it is clear that both verses are referring to the Messiah. The only difference is the word that is used. This is an important point which we will revisit shortly.
Ruhl continues to build his argument and makes the following claim:
“[t]he term for “branch” here in Hebrew is very interesting. It’s the word “netser”. Netser – Nazarene? See the connection?”
Um, most people would probably say “no, I don’t see the connection” but then Ruhl is a Christian apologist, so perhaps it is not surprising that he would make such a fanciful claim based on a non-sequitur. However, this is one of the more popular explanations for Matthew’s aberrant prophecy. The problem for Rul is that not all scholars (whether liberal or conservative) are convinced. Here, I will present the views of conservative Christian scholars (since Ruhl, like most biased Christians, will only accept the opinions of Christian scholars) who find the supposed link between Matthew 2:23 and Isaiah 11:1 to be tenuous at best. First and foremost, there is no agreement even among Christians as to the correct explanation for Matthew’s bizarre “prophecy”. Adam Clarke wrote in his commentary (emphasis ours):
“[i]t is difficult to ascertain by what prophets this was spoken. The margin usually refers to Judges 13:5, where the angel, foretelling the birth of Samson, says, No razor shall come upon his head; for the child shall be a Nazarite (נזיר nezir ) unto God from the womb. The second passage usually referred to is Isaiah 11:1; : There shall come forth a rod from the stem of Jesse, and a Branch (נצר netser ) shall grow out of his roots. That this refers to Christ, there is no doubt. Jeremiah, Jeremiah 23:5, is supposed to speak in the same language – I will raise unto David a righteous Branch: but here the word is צמח tsemach, not נצר netser ; and it is the same in the parallel place, Zechariah 3:8; Zechariah 6:12; therefore, these two prophets cannot be referred to; but the passages in Judges and Isaiah may have been in the eye of the evangelist, as well as the whole institution relative to the Nazarite (נזיר nezir ) delivered at large…”
So Clarke included Isaiah 11:1 among a few possible sources for Matthew 2:23, but left the matter undecided. Similarly, Albert Barnes explained that (emphasis ours):
“[t]he words here are not found in any of the books of the Old Testament, and there has been much difficulty in ascertaining the meaning of this passage. Some have supposed that Matthew meant to refer to Judges 13:5, to Samson as a type of Christ; others that he refers to Isaiah 11:1, where the descendant of Jesse is called “a Branch;” in the Hebrew נצר Nêtzer. Some have supposed that he refers to some prophecy which was not recorded, but handed down by tradition. But these suppositions are not satisfactory. It is much more probable that Matthew refers not to any particular place, but to the leading characteristics of the prophecies respecting him.”
So unlike Clarke, Barnes was not convinced by the “netser” theory.
But others, like John Gill, were convinced that “Matthew” had Isaiah 11:1 in mind. The point is that there is no agreement among Christian scholars. This issue has been debated for centuries!
But even those who propose the Isaiah-Matthew connection inevitably have to admit that “Matthew” was merely resorting to “wordplay”, which implies that there really was no “Nazarene” prophecy and that “Matthew” just used a “common theme” (the Messiah as a “branch”) and linked it to the town of Nazareth. So how does that refute the obvious fact that “what was said through the prophets” wasn’t really said through the prophets?
This brings us back to the issue of different words being used for “branch”. As previously noted, only Isaiah used the word “netser”, whereas Jeremiah used the word “tsemach”. No amount of mental gymnastics could succeed in finding a linguistic similarity between “tsemach” and “Nazarene”. But then why did “Matthew” use the phrase “what was said through the prophets”, if only one particular prophet used the Hebrew word that “Matthew” allegedly used in his “wordplay”? “Matthew” clearly referred to Isaiah by name in many places when appealing to specific alleged “prophecies” about the Messiah. Wouldn’t it make sense to mention Isaiah when pointing to the alleged “Nazarene” prophecy? Why did “Matthew” muddy the water by referring to multiple prophets instead? This conundrum is not lost on many Christians. In his senior thesis at Liberty University, Dylan West noted the inconsistency and “weakness” of the Isaiah-Matthew connection:
“[o]ne weakness is the use of “nēser” throughout the rest of the Old Testament. This word “occurs only four times in the Hebrew Bible,” with the other three passages not being Messianic. While there are other Messianic passages translated as “branch” into English, they do not use the word “nēser . ” The Hebrew word “semah” translated “branch” is used messianically, such as in the previously stated Jeremiah 23:5 passage. Therefore, while the branch theme may span multiple books in the Old Testament, the word “nēser” does not remain consistent with this theme. Additionally, the Septuagint translates the Hebrew for “nēser” to “ ἄνθος ” thus terminating “the linguistic connection for Greek speakers” which Matthew’s context primarily was.”
Echoing this sentiment and summarizing the conundrum, H. Daniel Zacharias writes:
“[s]cholars of every stripe admit that there is no neat and tidy answer to Matthew’s quotation in 2:23. Every option has weaknesses and in this case it seems the argument with the most cumulative weight should be given priority.”
Zacharias also admits that if “Matthew” had Isaiah 11:1 in mind, then he was simply “making a play” on the word “netser”. Based on this, he also admits that:
“[in] this regard, Isa 11:1 as the origin suffers from the same pitfall as all of the other options – there is no one-to-one correspondence.”
So, this brings us back to the main point which I raised in my previous response to Ruhl. There is simply no such “prophecy” about the Messiah being called “Nazarene” anywhere in the Tanakh. Appealing to the author’s “wordplay” only shows that he was appealing to the “theme” (as Ruhl also admitted), but there is no evidence that Isaiah had the same theme in mind! Ruhl will be hard-pressed to prove that Isaiah was speaking about the town of Nazareth when prophesying about the “branch” from the line of Jesse!
This leads us to the alternate theory posited by some Christians, who are obviously not intellectually satisfied by the appeal to Isaiah 11:1. In short, this theory appeals to a “spoken” prophecy (i.e. an oral tradition). In this regard, Anastasios Kioulachoglou states (emphasis in the original):
“[s]ome prophecies were spoken and not written. Some others were not spoken but only written, while some others were both spoken and written. When we read a quotation that says “as it is written”, we will find it 100% in the Scripture, since it is guaranteed that it is WRITTEN. However, when what is quoted is said that it was simply SPOKEN, then we may find it written but we may also not find it written. The Word does not guarantee that it was written. What it guarantees is that it was SPOKEN.”
Similarly, the failure of the “wordplay” argument has led some scholars to simply assume some form of “prophetic” significance to the title “Nazarene” without explaining what that significance is. Thus, in the entry under “Nazareth”, the “Compact Bible Dictionary” explains that “[t]here is prophetic significance” to Jesus’ title but the entry ends without a reference to any specific “prophecy”. Moreover, the word “Nazareth” is linked to the Aramaic word for “watchtower”, not for “branch”. Similarly, under the entry “Jesse”, the dictionary refers to Isaiah 11:1 but does not discuss any link with Matthew 2:23, though it mentions Romans 15:12 and Paul’s belief that the “root of Jesse…was a prophecy fulfilled in Jesus Christ.” So it seems that many Christian scholars are not as naively impressed by the alleged “beautiful connection” between Isaiah 11:1 and Matthew 2:23!
To finish off his apologetic gymnastics, Ruhl appealed to linguistic similarities between the Hebrew spelling for “Nazareth” and “netser”. He points out that the two words have identical root letters, namely:
But if that is the argument, then it is equally acceptable and likely that the word “Nazareth” is related to “watchtower”, since it has the same root. Take as an example 2 Kings 17:9 (emphasis mine):
“[t]he Israelites secretly did things against the Lord their God that were not right. From watchtower to fortified city they built themselves high places in all their towns.”
The spelling of the word “watchtower” is:
More importantly, the root of the word is none other than:
And indeed, many “conservative” (i.e. non-liberal) Christian scholars believe that “Nazareth” was derived not from “netser” but from “natsar” (pronounced “naw-tsar”). Thus, as previously mentioned, the “Compact Bible Dictionary” links Nazareth with “watchtower” and not “branch”, even though the root is the same. So it seems the usual Ruhlian “logic” has failed miserably yet again!
But there is more. As Ruhl tends to do all too often, his “root” logic (or lack thereof) has exposed his shoddy double standards and methodology. Readers may recall that I wrote a response to him a while ago regarding his hypocritical approach to the use of Song of Songs, 5:16 by some Muslims as a Biblical reference to the Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him). When attempting to refute the Muslim use of that verse, Ruhl seemed to conveniently ignore the “root” of the Hebrew word of interest! I wonder why? But shouldn’t we assume, given the above attempts by Ruhl to link two Hebrew words because of the root, that simply comparing the spelling of the Hebrew form of the Arabic name “Muhammad” to the Hebrew word of interest in Song of Songs, 5:16, is fallacious given that Arabic and Hebrew are both Semitic languages and have many similarities…such as roots? But in his rush to deny any link to Muhammad (peace be upon him) to the Song of Songs, he didn’t even consider the root of the two words! So let us show him why that is important. As Ruhl mentioned, the Hebrew spelling of the Arabic name “Muhammad” is:
However, if the name existed in Hebrew, the spelling would have been:
And of course, as Ruhl knows, both spellings share the exact same root as the root of the word of interest in Song of Songs, 5:16, which is “machmad”. Thus, using Ruhlian logic, since “netser” and “Nazareth” have an alleged “connection”, then so do “machmad” and “Muhammad”. Machmad – Muhammad. See the connection?
But of course, no one should expect Ruhl to be honest or fair-minded. He is and will be the exact opposite: dishonest and biased. He has even demonstrated his bias by simply dismissing the views of “liberal” scholars due to his extreme fear of the damage they can do to his religion. But now that I have taken up his challenge to use only conservative scholars, one would probably expect Ruhl to change his mind on the alleged “Nazarene” prophecy (hint: the alleged “beautiful connection” is not as airtight as Ruhl initially claimed). But I wouldn’t hold my breath. As I have said before, the motto of Ruhl’s blog should not be “Truth without Compromise”, but more appropriately “The ‘Truth’ as Allan Ruhl Sees It”. As it stands, the “Nazarene” prophecy remains unexplained. “Matthew” appealed to a prophecy that doesn’t exist anywhere. This is a nightmare that Ruhl doesn’t want to accept.
And Allah (Glorified and Exalted be He) knows best!
 Isaiah 11:1 is a Messianic prophecy which states:
“A shoot will come up from the stump of Jesse; from his roots a Branch will bear fruit.”
 Surah Al-Baqarah, 2:79.
 For example, Jimmy Akin of the “National Catholic Register” states:
“[i]t is often pointed out that Matthew is making a play on words involving the name of the town where Jesus lived (Nazareth or Naṣrat in Hebrew) and the Hebrew word nēṣer, which means or “branch” and appears in the Messianic prophecy of Isaiah…” (http://www.ncregister.com/blog/jimmy-akin/did-matthew-invent-a-prophecy-about-jesus)
Similarly, Jeannine Brown settles for the “netser” theory as “more likely”, while also considering that “Matthew” may have been using “wordplay” with a different word, “nazir”, in reference to the Nazirite vow (Jeannine K. Brown, “Matthew,” in The Baker Illustrated Bible Commentary, ed. Gary M. Burge and Andrew E. Hill (Grand Rapids: Baker Books, 2012), p. 959). So the fact is that even those Christian scholars who appeal to the use of “wordplay” cannot even agree on what word was being played with!
 Matthew 4:14, 8:17, 12:17.
 Dylan West, “A Holistic Approach to Jesus the Nazarene in Matthew 2:23” (Senior diss., Liberty University, 2018), p. 21, https://digitalcommons.liberty.edu/cgi/viewcontent.cgi?referer=https://www.google.com/&httpsredir=1&article=1824&context=honors.
 H. Daniel Zacharias, “Matthew’s Presentation of the Son of David” (London: T&T Clark, 2017), p. 73.
Incidentally, Kioulachoglou criticizes the “netser” argument as being “a mere supposition” and also points out that the word was only used by Isaiah, whereas “Matthew” wrote that the “Nazarene” prophecy was “said by the prophets”.
 Ronald F. Youngblood, F.F. Bruce and R.K. Harrison, Compact Bible Dictionary (Nashville: Thomas Nelson Publishers, 2004), p. 431.
 Ibid., p. 430.
 Ibid., p. 319.
 Youngblood, Bruce and Harrison, op. cit., p. 430.