IV -- Pilgrimage
Jesus in the Synagogue of Nazareth
An early pilgrim wrote an imagined account of Jesus preaching
in the synagogue of Nazareth based on his knowledge of the Jewish worship service,
and the Gospel According to Luke:
"Picture then the Saviour as He sits there on the most
momentous day of His life. The service began quietly, the Psalms of David were
sung, as I have said, the Scripture read by the chief elder and its translation
given by the Meturgeman, and the elder had commented on it, wisely or unwisely,
as the case might be. Then another portion of Scripture had to be read, and our
Lord stood up to read it. There was handed to Him the Roll of the Prophet
Isaiah. The Chazzan opened the Ark, took out the Roll and brought it to Christ
at the lower end of the Synagogue. ...He at last put it into the hands of
our Lord: so far all was in order."
With Christ in
Palestine, Schofield, 1906
And he opened the book (scroll), and found the place where it was
The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, Because he anointed me to preach
good tidings to the poor: He hath sent me to proclaim release to the
captives, And recovering of sight to the blind, To set at liberty them
that are bruised, To proclaim the acceptable year of the Lord. and
he closed the book, and gave it back to the attendant, and sat down: and
the eyes of all in the synagogue were fastened on him. And he
began to say unto them, Today hath this scripture been fulfilled in your
And all bare him witness, and wondered at the words of grace which
proceeded out of his mouth: and they said, Is not this Joseph's son?
Jesus was of a modest family, nor were they a family of chief
priests, or Levites. By saying he was a fulfiller of Isaiah's
prophecy he was describing himself as exalted to a very high position.
The Jews would have wanted him to use his powers to heal and promote
And he said unto them, Doubtless ye will say unto me this parable,
Physician, heal thyself: whatsoever we have heard done at Capernaum, do
also here in thine own country. And he said, Verily I say unto
you, No prophet is acceptable in his own country. But of a truth I
say unto you, There were many widows in Israel in the days of Elijah,
when the heaven was shut up three years and six months, when there came
a great famine over all the land; and unto none of them was Elijah sent,
but only to Zarephath, in the land of Sidon, unto a woman that was a
widow. And there were many lepers in Israel in the time of Elisha
the prophet; and none of them was cleansed, but only Naaman the Syrian.
And they were all filled with wrath in the synagogue, as they heard
these things; and they rose up, and cast him forth out of the city, and
led him unto the brow of the hill whereon their city was built, that
they might throw him down headlong. If the congregation assumed
Jesus had blasphemed they would have demanded his execution.
Jesus escaped. Usually fast foot work was needed to flee such a
As to whether or not the Jews of Jesus' day could have been
enraged enough to try to kill Jesus for alleged blasphemy on the Sabbath, there
have been reports for years of Orthodox Jews stoning cars on the Sabbath, for
they do not want anyone to drive during the Sabbath. The rage against
those violating the religious laws was greater than the command not to carry
stones on the Sabbath. Since Maccabean times it has been legal for Israel
to go to war during the Sabbath, but not to work during Sabbath. Orthodox Jews
threw stones at archaeologists
excavating the tomb of the Roman era high priest Caiphas. More recently
there is an Israeli national law forbidding the excavation of Jewish tombs as
the Orthodox do not want these remains disturbed. In a different
incident the Orthodox people (Haredim) were throwing stones during a protest against
showing movies during the Sabbath. While it is legal to drive in Israel
during the Sabbath, most Jews do not drive during the Sabbath/Shabaht, and some streets were
blocked off during the Sabbath to make Orthodox neighborhoods quiet and restful.
There was traffic on the roads during Shabaht, but not is some districts.
One year I was on my way to the airport during Shabaht and had taken a wrong
route into a religious neighborhood. A police officer pulled me over and
warned me not to drive in this Jewish neighborhood during the Sabbath.
National parks and museums were open during Sabbath. Most shops and
businesses were closed on Shabaht. The Ministry of Labor worked to
make the seventh day a day of rest for most Jewish Israelis.
If Jesus enraged the synagogue congregation with his
preaching, they may also have waited till sundown or the morning of the next day
to confront him. Many Jewish people do not accept Jesus as Messiah.
One should avoid racial and religious persecution. Israeli
Hebrews have some tolerance of Christianity
and allow Christians to meet and hold assemblies. On the other hand Christian
communities in Israel and the West Bank suffered criminal offenses from militant
Islamic extremists. Attempts by Christians to convert Jews to Christianity
in Israel have been discouraged by force of law. Christians have been
excluded from Jewish communities and workplaces. By its charter Israel is
for Jewish immigrants. After the Nazi persecutions many Jewish Israelis
do not trust outsiders. Christian workers have been arrested for
evangelizing/preaching Christianity to Israeli Jews. It is against the law
to try to convert Israeli Jews to Christianity. This law also forbids
handing out Christian literature to Jews. In 2013 tourists convicted under this
statute were jailed and processed for deportation.
An alternate description in the Gospel
According to Mark:
1 And he went out from thence;
and he cometh into his own country; and his disciples follow him.
2 And when the Sabbath was come, he
began to teach in the synagogue: and many hearing him were astonished, saying,
Whence hath this man these things? and, What is the wisdom that is given unto
this man, and what mean such mighty works wrought by his hands?
3 Is not this the carpenter, the son
of Mary, and brother of James, and Joses, and Judas, and Simon? and are not his
sisters here with us? And they were offended in him.
4 And Jesus said unto them, A
prophet is not without honor, save in his own country, and among his own kin,
and in his own house.
5 And he could there do no mighty
work, save that he laid his hands upon a few sick folk, and healed them.
6 And he marveled because of their
unbelief. And he went round about the villages teaching.
In the 1920's there was a missionary hospital in Nazareth
and a pilgrim reported:
"In a single year
as many as a hundred and fifty operations are performed by the eye department."
Sight was yet being given to the blind by those who had benefited from Jesus'
instructions and sought to do good works as well. The
Merchant of the Muristan, Miller, 1927.
In addition to the large cliffs on the SW outskirts of town reported in Israel
Photos III; there was a cliff reported behind the Maronite Church in Nazareth
not far from the
spring now called "the well of Mary." The Roman era town must have been
built near the spring where the town drew its water from. The synagogue
may have been close to the center of town. The modern city of
Nazareth is much larger than the village early pilgrims visited.
View of one several precipices reported
at Nazareth, 1903, W. Sanday:
"Plate XXIII B. There are no less than four so-called Cliffs of
Precipitation (referring to the incident of St. Luke iv. 29): one in the hands
of the Latins, one in the hands of the Greeks, one some way out of Nazareth ...
and the one in this plate, which is not only more probable than the rest, but in
itself really probable, as it lies just at the back of ancient
There are other written accounts of cliffs in Nazareth from 30-60
Houses clinging to the hill side above the Mary's Well
Descriptions of a precipice within the town limits:
In Christ’s Own Country, Francis Clark, NY, 1914,
On the west
side of the town, behind the Maronite church, is a long, steep cliff, or
series of cliffs, now covered with abundant rubbish which the centuries have
accumulated, out of which might once have been fifty or sixty feet high.
Dean Stanley thinks that this may have been the “brow of the hill” whereon
the city was built, and that here, after the sermon in the synagogue, before
alluded to, where He told them that no prophet was acceptable in His own
country, the people rose up in their wrath to throw Him down headlong.
Others however, place the “Hill of Precipitation,” at a considerably greater
distance from the city.
From Egypt to Palestine, by S.C. Bartlett, NY, 1879
long and delightful view of this attractive scene, on the way down the
mountain we looked for some precipice that might have answered the design of
the Saviour’s townsmen to hurl him down headlong. We were unsuccessful at
the time, although the next day, by the aid of Mr. Zeller, the excellent
missionary, with whose family we spent a delightful evening, we found in the
rear of the Maronite church the precipice, still forty or fifty feet high,
which Robinson, Tobler, Hackett, and others well regard as perhaps more
probable than any other. The Traditional Mount of Precipitation is two
miles from the town, and from the fountain which must always have determined
the site of the town. An anger so hot as to attempt his violent death, and
so cool as to travel two miles for a good place for the assassination, may
not tax the credulity of a monk, but is difficult for an Anglo-Saxon to
Those Holy Fields, Palestine, Rev. Samuel Manning,
and general survey of the site of Nazareth produces the impression that it
contains no cliff down which Jesus could have been “cast headlong.” The
town lying along the lower slope of the hill, no steep declivity is
visible. But a more careful examination corrects the error and confirms the
narrative of the evangelist. I found two or three precipitous walls of rock
thirty or forty feet in depth. One of them had a considerable accumulation
of debris at the bottom, which if cleared away would probably give twenty
more. Dean Stanley’s remarks are well worth quoting. “‘They rose’ it is
said of the infuriated inhabitants of the city, ‘and cast Him out of the
city, and brought him to the brow of a mountain on which the city was built,
so as to cast him down the cliff.’ Most readers probably imagine a town
built on the summit of a mountain, from which summit the intended
precipitation was to take place. This, as I have said, is not the situation
of Nazareth, yet its position is in strict accordance with the narrative.
It is built upon, that is on the side of ‘a mountain,’ but the brow is not
beneath but over the town, and such a cliff as is here implied is to be
found in the abrupt face of the limestone rock, about thirty or forty feet
high, overhanging the Maronite convent at the south-west extremity of the
The church with the round dome in the lower right of photo is the Mensa
Christi Church, the church to the left of it with a square belfry is the
Maronite Church. There was a series of cliffs behind it more apparent to
earlier travelers as the area is more densely built in modern times.
For more information about the cliff behind the Maronite Church see: http://dqhall59.com/israelphotosV/maronite_church_cliff.htm
There is a traditional site called the 'Mt. of Precipice' about two miles
from Nazareth where early Christians marked the site of the angry mob
attempting to execute Jesus: http://dqhall59.com/Mt_of_Precipice.htm
From the Francis Firth collection at the George Eastman House, "Nazareth from
David Q. Hall
Churches of the Annunciation
Latin Tradition -- Mount of Precipitation
Nazareth Aerial View
Museum of the Basilica
Hot Springs at Tiberias
Stone Water Jars at Capernaum
A 1909 Galilee Fishing Description
The Giant Mustard Plant
Kursi and the Gadarene Demoniac
Jar of Ointment
Wheat and Tares