Nazareth is not mentioned in pre-Christian texts and appears in many different Greek forms in the New Testament. There is no consensus regarding the origin of the name.In English translations of the New Testament, one reads the phrase "Jesus of Nazareth" seventeen times where the Greek means literally "Jesus the Nazarene" or "Jesus the Nazoraean." Even though a standard English concordance (e.g. Strong's Exhaustive Concordance of the Bible) lists "Nazareth" twenty-nine times, the place is actually named only twelve times in surviving Greek versions of the New Testament, where it appears in several forms: Nazara, Nazaret, Nazareth, Nazarat, Nazarath. Nazara (Ναζαρα) is generally considered the earliest form of the name in Greek, and is found in and , as well as the putative Q document, which many scholars maintain preceded 70 AD and the formation of the canonical Christian gospels. The form Nazareth appears once in the Gospel of Matthew , four times in the birth chapters of the Gospel of Luke at ; , , , and once in the Acts of the Apostles at . In the Gospel of Mark, the name appears only once in in the form Nazaret.Many scholars have questioned a link between "Nazareth" and the terms "Nazarene" and "Nazoraean" on linguistic grounds, while some affirm the possibility of etymological relation "given the idiosyncrasies of Galilean Aramaic."The form Nazara is also found in the earliest non-scriptural reference to the town, a citation by Sextus Julius Africanus dated about 200 AD. (See "Middle Roman to Byzantine Periods" below.) The Church Father Origen (c. 185 to 254 AD) knows the forms Nazara and Nazaret. Later, Eusebius in his Onomasticon (translated by St. Jerome) also refers to the settlement as Nazara. In their scriptures, the Mandeans mention nasirutha as a place they go.The first non-Christian reference to Nazareth is an inscription on a marble fragment from a synagogue found in Caesarea Maritima in 1962. This fragment gives the town's name in Hebrew as nun·tsade·resh·tav. The inscription dates to c. 300 AD and chronicles the assignment of priests that took place at some time after the Bar Kokhba revolt, 132-35 AD. (See "Middle Roman to Byzantine Periods" below.) An 8th century AD Hebrew inscription, which was the earliest known Hebrew reference to Nazareth prior to the discovery of the inscription above, uses the same form.One theory holds that "Nazareth" is derived from the Hebrew noun ne·tser, נֵ֫צֶר, meaning branch."The etymology of Nazara is neser" ("Nazareth", The Catholic Encyclopedia, 1911.)"NAZARETH, NAZARENE - Place name meaning, 'branch.'" (Holman's Bible Dictionary, 1994.)"Generally supposed to be the Greek form of the Hebrew netser, a "shoot" or "sprout." (Easton's Bible Dictionary, (1897)). Ne·tser is not the common Hebrew word for "branch," but one understood as a messianic title based on a passage in the Book of Isaiah.Miller, Fred P., Isaiah's Use of the word "Branch" or Nazarene"Isaiah 11:1 Alternatively, the name may derive from the verb na·tsar, נָצַר, "watch, guard, keep.""...if the word Nazareth is be derived from Hebrew at all, it must come from this root [i.e. נָצַר, natsar, to watch]" (Merrill, Selah, (1881) Galilee in the Time of Christ, p. 116.Francis Brown, S. R. Driver, Charles A. Briggs, The Brown-Driver-Briggs Hebrew and English Lexicon (1906/2003), p. 665. The negative references to Nazareth in the Gospel of John suggest that ancient Jews did not connect the town's name to prophecy.Another theory holds that the Greek form Nazara, used in Matthew and Luke, may derive from an earlier Aramaic form of the name, or from another Semitic language form. If there were a tsade in the original Semitic form, as in the later Hebrew forms, it would normally have been transcribed in Greek with a sigma instead of a zeta. This has led some scholars to question whether "Nazareth" and its cognates in the New Testament actually refer to the settlement we know traditionally as Nazareth in Lower Galilee. Such linguistic discrepancies may be explained, however, "by a peculiarity of the 'Palestinian' Aramaic dialect wherein a sade (ṣ) between two voiced (sonant) consonants tended to be partially assimilated by taking on a zayin (z) sound."