Who Is a Jew
- Created: Wednesday, 21 October 2009 17:00
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It has been suggested that two subjects to never discuss with company are politics and religion because you never know who you will offend.
It is with enormous sensitivity and importance that we ask this question: Who is a Jew? There is sensitivity because this is a very personal subject to many people. There is importance because the topic of the Jewish people is a central theme in the Scriptures. If we want a clear view of the Scriptures and of God Himself, we should try to accurately identify who these people are.
Unfortunately, the question of “who is a Jew” will garner an excessive number of conflicting responses. Here are some I found: A Jew is one who …
… is willing to call himself one, given the burdens Jews must bear.
… follows Torah (or religious practice).
… the Nazi regime considered to be a Jew.
… is a Christian (believer in Yeshua).
… is a member of the “black race.”
… anyone who rejects idolatry.
… was born of a Jewish mother or has converted to Judaism.
And yet none of these responses are in the Scriptures (when properly understood…)!
Our understanding of who is a Jew is deeply rooted in the Abrahamic Covenant:
Now the Lord said to Abram, “Go from your country and your kindred and your father’s house to the land that I will show you. And I will make of you a great nation, and I will bless you and make your name great, so that you will be a blessing. I will bless those who bless you, and him who dishonors you I will curse, and in you all the families of the earth shall be blessed.” Genesis 12:1-3, ESV.
God promised to bring forth a nation for Himself that was to come through Abram (later named Abraham). We know this covenant was passed to his son Isaac, and then to Jacob. Given that the tribes of Israel are named from Jacob’s (later named Israel) sons, we conclude that it is really the children of Jacob that are the Jewish people. Note that all the children of Abraham are not the Jewish people (Ishmaelites/Midianites are not Jews) nor are the sons of Isaac (the sons of Esau, the Edomites, are not Jews either).
This is crucial to understand because being Jewish has nothing to do with what you believe or think, but rather it is genetic. For this reason, many popular definitions of who is a Jew are immediately rendered invalid. Christians do not become Jews, but they are grafted into the covenant: see Romans 11:1-36, ESV. Jews cannot cease to be Jewish if they believe in Yeshua. We pray you remember this the next time someone claims that a Jewish person who believes in Yeshua is no longer Jewish.
To loosely quote one talented Messianic Pastor/Rabbi (Mottel Baleston):
“It was God and our Jewish mothers who made us Jewish … and I suggest you don’t argue with either of them.”