Friday, January 4, 2019

SHS: Matthew 1; Luke 1

 Nazareth, which sits in a basin nestled in the hills of the Lower Galilee is the site of the annunciation of Gabriel to Mary. The inverted cone shaped dome of the Roman Catholic Basilica of the Annunciation sits at the center of the ancient village and above Roman era ruins.

Looking south to the center of Nazareth--now the largest Arab city in the country of Israel.

The interior and the portico of the basilica are filled with depictions of Mary and Jesus that have been contributed by Catholic communities from around the world. The mosaic from the Philippines in one of only a few renditions that show the actual annunciation.

Unlike Jerusalem and Bethlehem where Christian communities have long contended for control of the sites of the Birth (Church of the Nativity) and Crucifixion and Resurrection (Church of the Holy Sepulcher), Nazareth knows no such conflict. This is due in part to the fact that there are two claimed sites of the annunciation. Roman Catholics believe Gabriel made his visit to Mary in her home and the Greek Orthodox believe he came first to Mary at the spring on the northern end of town. The map of Nazareth from 1868 shows the two sites. The Latin Monastery marks that Catholic site (now the Church of the Annunciation) and the Greek Church (top right) marks the site of the spring and the first annunciation (as described in the apocryphal Protoevangelium of James).

These two maps are from my book Beyond the Basilica.

The village of Nazareth at the time of Jesus was not very big. Two thousand year old ruins are found beneath the Basilica (Mary's home), the Church of St Joseph (square tower left center) which Franciscans claim as marking the site of Joseph's home and eventually the home of the holy family, the Sisters of Nazareth Convent (right center also with a white square tower) is quietly (so as not to offend the Franciscans) claimed by the Catholic sisters as marking the real site of the home of Joseph (bolstered in part by ruins under the convent that include a rolling stone tomb from the Roman era) . The Greek Catholic Church with its gold dome (just in front the the Sisters of Nazareth lower right) marks the site of the ancient synagogue. That is mostly likely the extent of the village leaving plenty of room on the valley floor for grain growing.

A better view of the Greek Catholic Church--synagogue church (center right).

 The Green Mosque is the oldest mosque in town and sits in the heart of the towns suq (market).

May Day parade down Pope Paul Street sponsored by the popular Communist Party (which supports improved rights for the Palestinian Arab citizens of Israel).

 Salam Mosque (one of eight mosques in Nazareth), Basilica and the Church of Joseph (square tower)

The Basilica of the Annunciation with a relatively new plaza where tourists can gather. At one point some local Muslims intended to build a big new mosque here that would have overshadowed the basilica. It created quite a kerfuffle and eventually the State of Israel got involved and nixed the plan which was a good thing. 

The lower level of the Basilica (completed in 1969) focuses on ruins (beyond the arch) claimed to be the home of Mary.

These ruins have been venerated for millennia within Byzantine and Crusader Churches whose ruins and mosaics are incorporated into the newest church on this holy site. An octagonal opening allows for views from the main floor of the sanctuary.

This main floor of the church is used as the parish church of the local Roman Catholic Arabs of Nazareth.

The interior of the dome in full of Ms for Mary.

Large images of Mary and Jesus from the main level. This depiction of villagers bringing gifts to the mother and child is from Cameroon and is one of my favorites.


Australia's depiction of the annunciation.


The contribution from Catholics in the United States shows a gilded Mary descending form Heaven. Not my favorite.

From the portico.


 Front entrance

The mosaic underneath the procession of priests is of a large mustard plant with birds in its branches.

The small red dome on the steeple of the Greek Orthodox Church of the Annunciation is in the lower left just above and to the left of the large red sign on the side of the larger Orthodox community center.

This Church of the Annunciation is built over Nazareth's main spring. Mary and other haulers of water would most likely have walked a few hundred meters from the village center to the north end of the basin to get water from his spring.

Palm Sunday procession in front of the Church. The church is identified as being Greek Orthodox, but other than a one or two Greek priests or bishop, all of the parishioners are Arabs.

Fresco of the annunciation at the spring from inside the church.

Another depiction.

The spring is at the end of this chamber underneath the lighted image.

To the side (the woman in green) pilgrims can drop down a silver cup on a chain and drink from the spring.

Or they can make an offering to the spot where water once flowed (it is now channeled into the municipal water supply). 

A Greek Orthodox wedding inside the cozy church.

Bride and groom are crowned and they circle the alter as part of the ceremony.

When the church was built, the spring water was pumped to "Mary's Well" 50 yards away so that villagers didn't have to go into the church to get water. This photo from 1989 shows red henna crosses and crescents. Local Christians and Muslims would make these marks as signs of a covenant with God. Locals told me that they would ask God for help (one asked for a son) and they would demonstrate their faith by marking Mary's Well with a sign of that faith. If the petition was granted then they would fulfill their part of the bargain. One family told of giving a sheep to the local priest, and a Muslim family who was blessed with twin boys told of having their sons ceremonial baptized in the Maronite Church as a sign of thanks to God, but not of conversion.

A more recent view of a remodeled Mary's Well.

The love of Nazarenes for Mary is evident by the many images of Mary that mark the homes of the Christians of the town.

Lighted M for Mary. A decoration during May, the month of Mary.

Muslims in Nazareth also revere Mary as the mother of the Prophet Isa (Jesus). The Quran tells of the virgin birth and of a miracle where baby Jesus spoke up in defense of his mother. This Muslim grocer has the Shahada (Muslim creed) along side Mary.

Another image of the Annunciation from the Greek Catholic Church (I think).
Image from the Church of Joseph of Gabriel's annunciation to Joseph.

From the same church a stained glass image of the wedding of Mary and Joseph.

 1989 wedding and reception at the Basilica of the Annunciation

 To learn more about Nazareth check out my book--which is based on my dissertation.

In the introductory display room at Nazareth Village--which recreates the Nazareth of Jesus' day, one of the displays includes a quote from my book.

The quote from my book is in the center column. To its right--shortest column is the same quote in Arabic. The display also includes a George Adam Smith quote included in my book.

Sun setting over the western hill of Nazareth as viewed from by apartment (1988-89) on the north end of town.

Ein Kerem--Spring of the Vineyard (Ein Karim, top center above, far left below)) is the traditional site of John the Baptist's home town. Up until 1948 it was an Arab village on the western outskirts of Jerusalem. During the 1948 war the Arabs of the village fled eastward as refugees. The village was then populated with Jews who moved into the abandoned homes. Ein Kerem is now known for its many artisans.

Ein Kerem 1982. The Church of John the Baptist is on the northern end of the village.

 Ein Kerem 2009

Mary's Spring. Tradition has it that Mary stopped here for a drink as she came to visit Elisabeth. Now a mosque marks the site.

Church of the Visitation (lower right of photo) in on the southern slopes of the village. The gold domed Russian Orthodox Convent is named Gorny the Russian word for mountainous which refers to Ein Kerem being in the hill country of Judea.

The lovely Church of the Visitation.
The outer front mosaic on the church of Mary traveling from Nazareth to Ein Kerem (a place that is not mentioned in the Bible)

Mary visiting Elisabeth.

Inside the lower grotto of the church is another depiction of the event.

Mary's Magnificat. I found this recent article about Mary's response to Elisabeth to be very interesting. It highlights her hope for a Savior who will challenge the status quo.

If Ein Kerem was indeed the place where Zacharius and Elisabeth were living then it would have been about an hour walk over the hills to the Temple where Zacharius learned of the coming of his son John.

Zacharius in the temple. From the Church of the Visitation.

Images (baby and adult) of John the Baptist from the Church of John the Baptist on the northern slope of Ein Kerem.


  1. Chad, thanks again for doing this! The photos are amazing, but your commentary, and the collection of writings you include (e.g., the EnemyLove blog about the Magnificat) are both enlightening and inspiring.

  2. Thank you so much for providing such a wealth of knowledge!!