Matthew 2:23 says that Jesus was raised in Nazareth “that what was spoken by the prophets might be fulfilled, ‘He shall be called a Nazarene.’”
But this statement does not appear in anywhere in the Old Testament.
Does this mean that Matthew just invented the prophecy?
Recently a Muslim author responded to me by claiming just this.
Let’s look into the matter . . .
Recently I made a video posing the question “Did the New Testament Authors Feel Free to Make Stuff Up?” (click here to watch it).
I looked at several lines of evidence showing that they did not feel free to simply invent material about Jesus, unlike the authors of the Gnostic gospels that were written in the second and third centuries.
The British blogger and convert to Islam Paul Williams posted a response on his blog, Exploring Life, the Universe, and Everything (he’s also apparently a Douglas Adams fan, which I can appreciate), where he wrote:
Yes Jimmy, there is evidence they did [make stuff up] from time to time. Consider Matthew 2 for example:
“There he made his home in a town called Nazareth, so that what had been spoken through the prophets might be fulfilled, ‘He will be called a Nazorean.’”
There is no such prophecy anywhere in the Bible [emphasis in original].
I became aware of Matthew 2:23 when I read through the New Testament at age 20. The Bible I was reading had footnotes revealing where various quotations from the Old Testament could be found, and I was surprised to see that there was no Old Testament reference for the prophecy given here.
What did this mean?
What was Matthew quoting?
Was it a source that had been lost?
We know that there were many prophets in ancient Israel who genuinely spoke for God, even though their prophecies are not recorded in the Old Testament. 1 Kings even indicates that there were as many as a hundred prophets at once!
And Ahab called Obadi’ah, who was over the household. (Now Obadi’ah revered the LORD greatly; and when Jez’ebel cut off the prophets of the LORD, Obadi’ah took a hundred prophets and hid them by fifties in a cave, and fed them with bread and water) [1 Kings 18:3-4].
Could it be that some of this material was passed down in the form of oral tradition, and this is what Matthew was referring to?
Possibly, but there is another option . . .