WHAT IS A JEW?

ARTICLE SUMMARY

The proper definition of what is a Jew will entirely depend on which era in history we are looking at.  In its earliest definition, a Jew would be a descendant of a man named Judah, who was one of the twelve sons of Israel.  However, by the time we reach the first century and the time of Christ, the concept  of “Jew” would be drastically transformed from a race of people into an ideology.  

So let’s go step by step and examine who the Jews are, where they came from and what the Bible actually says.

  • WHAT IS A JEW?
  • BEFORE THERE WERE JEWS
  • THE TRIBES OF ISRAEL
  • FROM MAN TO TRIBE
  • FROM TRIBE TO KINGDOM
  • FROM KINGDOM TO RELIGION
  • CONCLUSION

WHAT IS A JEW ?

Believe it or not, but there is not a single verse in the entire Bible that specifically calls the Jews or the tribe of Judah God’s chosen people.  This misconception comes from the fact that the Jews of today have declared themselves to be Israel and not the house of Judah, as the Scriptures rightfully call them. We will see this later on.

The Hebrew rendering of the name Judah is Yeh-hoo-dah יְהוּדָה , and his birth is recorded in Genesis 29:35. He was the fourth son of Jacob, who is also called Israel.  Judah’s mother was called Leah, and she was the first wife of Jacob. Leah named her son Judah because she gave praise to God after Judah was born. So, the name Judah in Hebrew means “praise“.

“And she conceived again, and bare a son: and she said, Now will I praise the LORD
therefore she called his name Judah; and left bearing.”

Genesis 29:35 

Strong’s Concordance

H3063
יְהוּדָה

yehûdâh
yeh-hoo-daw’
From H3034; celebrated; Jehudah (or Judah), the name of five Israelites; 
also of the tribe descended from the first, and of its territory: – Judah.

BEFORE THERE WERE JEWS

Most people assume that everyone in the Old Testament is Jewish, but this is far from accurate.  We are told in Church that the Old Testament is the Jewish Bible and that the New Testament is the Christian Bible, which isn’t true at all.  

While the tribe of Judah plays a major role in the Old Testament and the New Testament, the majority of the people in the Old Testament are not descended from Judah.  The Jews in the Old Testament are Israelites, however, the majority of Israelites were never Jewish, and they are not descended from Judah.

The fact is, the history recorded in the Bible contains millennia worth of history before the tribe of Judah ever came into existence. 

Let’s look at some examples.

The blue markers will identify men who are not of Jewish origin and not descended from Judah (the father of the Jews).  The red markers will identify Judah and his descendants.  The pink markers will identify the women listed in the Bible.

During the ages of creation, after God had created the world and established the hunter-gatherer races, He later placed Adam and Eve in the cradle of civilization.  The God of the universe was first the God of Adam and of his children and not the God of the Jews.  The rituals and traditions that Jews follow today wouldn’t come into existence for thousands of years.  Adam’s children would establish civilization, agriculture, chronology, astronomy, architecture and create the first civilized cities in the Cradle of Civilization, where the garden of Eden was located.

As the world of Adam would fall into corruption and degeneracy,  God would send a local flood in the Mesopotamian region to destroy the civilization that the Adamic race had established, sparing only Noah, his three sons and their wives.  Noah was a righteous man who found grace in the eyes of God. He was perfect in his generations and was descended from Adam’s son Seth. 

“But Noah found grace in the eyes of the LORD. These are the generations of Noah:
Noah was a just man and perfect in his generations, and Noah walked with God.”

Genesis 6:8-9

The three sons of Noah were Shem, the father of the Semitic races, Cham, the father of the Egyptian and Canaanite races, and Japheth, the father of the Aryan or Indo-European races.  Therefore, the God of the Bible was first the God of the men who fathered the Egyptians, the Canaanites, the Semites and the Aryans.

Over time, the Semitic, Egyptian and Aryan races would go on to create their own religions based on mythologies that existed before the flood and created their own mythological versions of the flood account.  They would eventually forget about their true God, the God of Adam and Noah.  

God would divide the language of the Adamic race into what became the three dominant language groups of the Mediterranean world.  The Tower of Babel marks the point of division where God divided the languages between these three great races, the Egyptians, the Indo-Europeans and the Semites.

It’s important to note that many of these regions are still named after the men found in the Genesis genealogies.  The country Armenia derives its name from Shem’s son Aram (Genesis 10:22).  Shem’s son Elam would father the Elamite people and be absorbed by the Aryan Medes, and together, they would eventually found the great Medo-Persian Empire.  The name Elam remains the name of a province in modern-day Iran.  Egypt is known in the east as Mas’r, which is derived from Cham’s son Mizraim (Genesis 10:6).  The first name for the land of Egypt was originally called Kemet or Chamet, and it was derived from the son of Noah, Cham.

Another interesting fact is how our Alphabet comes from the Egyptians and the line of Cham, and the script we use to write our modern alphabet comes from Hebrew-Semites, but the international language of the modern world comes from Japhet, the father of the Aryans.  Here we can see the three sons of Noah united back together after five millennia. 

ARYAN LANGUAGES

EGYPTIAN ALPHABET

SEMITIC SCRIPT

Each of these races would have their own mythological version of the flood story.  In Mesopotamia, the Semites would write about the Epic of Gilgamesh, which contains a flood story and the search of eternal life.  The Egyptian creation story of the primordial gods of Egypt, known as the Ogdoad (the eightfold), presents four female gods and four male gods who emerged from the waters to establish Egypt and civilization.  This is similar to how the Bible mentions that four men and four women emerged from the ark after the first great civilization had been flooded and they established the new civilized world.  

The Aryans who migrated to India would write about Manu, the first man and the legendary founder of India who also saved life from extinction by building a boat.  In Aryan Greek mythology we read about Deucalion, the son of Prometheus, who was the son of Japetus (Japheth) and was told to build an ark or a chest to protect him from the flood that Zeus was about to unleash on the world.

The Biblical version of the flood myth presents a monotheistic interpretation that reduces the people involved to mortal men and women, while the accounts created later by Noah’s children seem to be more embellished versions creating godlike figures for the masses to fear and worship.

Again, the Jews do not exist in our story yet.

After the children of Noah expanded and began colonizing the world, the Bible brings our focus back to the Cradle of Civilization, to the ruling city of Ur, in the land of the Chaldeans.  Here we find a Hebrew-Semite named Abram (Genesis 11:31)

There was no Temple to perform ritualistic animal sacrifices during his time, neither had the Torah (Law) been given to him, which wouldn’t come until Moses, centuries later.  Abram was an uncircumcised man who lived righteously, through faith and by God’s grace.  This will set up the theme for the coming of Christ and the Apostle Paul in the New Testament.

Abram was renamed to Abraham, which is to mean the father of multitudes, since God promised him that he would be the father of many nations.  Abraham would have a son named Ishmael through an Egyptian servant woman named Hagar, and Ishmael would be the father of the Arab nations

“Neither shall thy name any more be called Abram,
but thy name shall be Abraham; for a father of many nations have I made thee.
Genesis 17:5

Abraham and his family left Mesopotamia and eventually settled in the land of Canaan, which happens to be the land that connects the three great continents together by land routes: Europe, Asia and Africa.  The Mediterranean Sea also connects these three continents, ending at the land of Canaan, which has access to the Red Sea and the Indian Ocean.  It is essentially where the Eastern world joins together with the Western world.

It’s important to understand that God promised Abraham that he would become the father of many nations, not one single Jewish nation, and that through these many nations the world would be blessed.  The Jews did not become many nations, nor has Pharisaic Judaism blessed the world. 

The blessings and promises that God gave to Abraham would be passed down to his son and heir Isaac, through his wife Sarah, which translates as “princess” in Hebrew.  Isaac would have twin sons by his wife Rebecca, the eldest son would be named Esau, who fathered the Edomite tribes, and his younger son would be called Jacob, who was later renamed to Israel.  It is only now in our story that the Jewish people begin to emerge.  

FROM MAN TO TRIBE

It is at this point in our story that the patriarch of the Jewish people will appear in the Scriptures.  Israel would have twelve sons and one daughter.  Jacob (Israel) would have six sons through his first wife Leah: Reuben, Simeon, Levi, Judah, Issachar, Zebulin, and his daughter Dinah.  Leah’s servant, Zilpah, would also birth two of his sons, Gad and Asher.  

Israel’s second wife Rachel couldn’t conceive children for Israel, so her servant Bilah would birth two of Israel’s sons, Dan and Naphtali.  Eventually, Rachel, the love of Israel’s life, would give birth to Joseph, who would become the heir of Israel, and also his younger brother Benjamin.  Sadly, Rachel would die giving birth to Benjamin, and she would be buried in a city that would eventually be called Bethlehem, which is the city of David and the city of Christ.

Throughout the book of Genesis, Judah is portrayed more as a villain and less as a righteous son. While the sons of Israel plotted to murder their brother Joseph for being their father’s favorite, Judah suggested that they should sell Joseph as a slave for silver instead of murdering him.

Judah would leave his father’s house and marry a Canaanite woman named Shuah (Genesis 38:2), and he also married his son to a Canaanite girl named Tamar (Genesis 38:6).  This means that the matriarchs for the tribe of Judah are in fact Canaanite women.  It’s interesting that modern-day Judaism states that anyone born of a Jewish woman is a Jew, meanwhile, the maternal line of the tribe of Judah was founded by Canaanite women.

Judah will redeem himself at the end of the story, by offering to sacrifice his own life to save the life of Joseph’s brother Benjamin.  This duality in Judah will be shown again in the story of Christ.  Christ would be sold for silver by Judas and then murdered by His fellow Jews, but, at the same time, many Jews would willingly sacrifice their lives for the sake of Christ and the Gospel.

FROM TRIBE TO NATION

Israel and his sons would eventually leave the land of Canaan and settle in Egypt, in the land of Goshen, where Joseph had risen to become the Prime Minister of Egypt and second in command to Pharaoh himself.  It is in the land of Egypt where the Israelites would grow from tribes and into small nations.

While the tribe of Judah was founded by Canaanite women, we learn that Joseph had been married to the daughter of an Egyptian priest named Asenath (Genesis 41:45) and fathered two sons named Ephraim and Manasseh.  Israel would adopt Joseph’s two eldest sons making them his heirs and passing the promises made to Abraham and Isaac down to them.  According to the Bible, the chosen sons and heirs to Israel are not Jewish, but rather, Egyptian-Hebrews descended from Israel’s son Joseph (Genesis 48). 

While they are commonly referred to as the twelve sons and tribes of Israel, there are in fact fourteen sons and tribes of Israel, when considering that Israel adopted Joseph’s two eldest sons.  Similar to Christianity, when we think of Jesus and the twelve Apostles, there were actually fourteen, when counting Paul and Matthias who replaced Judas. 

After the Israelites’ exodus from Egypt in the 16th century BC and the destruction of the Hyksos kingdom, the Israelites would conquer and settle in the land of Canaan. Canaan was dominated by the Amorite tribe that managed to conquer territories as far as Babylon.  The famous lawgiver of Babylon, known as Hammurabi, was in fact an Amorite king

God had promised Abraham that his children would not inherit the land until the fourth generation and until the sins of the Amorites had reached God’s limit:

“But in the fourth generation they shall come hither again:
for the iniquity of the Amorites is not yet full.” 

Genesis 15:16

It’s important to note that the Covenant made at Sinai between God and the Israelites also included a mixed multitude of nationalities.  There were Egyptians, Medians, and other people mixed in among the Israelites (Exodus 12:38).

FROM NATION TO KINGDOM

After centuries of wars between the Amorite kings and the various tribes and factions living in Canaan, Israel would eventually unite under King David and become the Kingdom of Israel.

King David was a mixture between Judah, Joseph and Moab, which helped unite the Northern and Southern factions, as well as the neighboring nations. (1st Samuel 17:12 and The Book of Ruth)

The Aryan Mycenaean Greeks known to us as the Philistines, who settled along the coastal region of Canaan, also play a major role in the story of Israel.  The name Palestine is attributed to these Greeks who mingled and mixed with the tribes of Israel.

The kingdom of Israel would reach its peak during the reign of David’s son, King Solomon, and his alliance with Tyre and Sidon. They are known to us today as the Phoenicians (1st Kings chapter 9). 

The kingdom would then be severed into two separate kingdoms after Solomon’s death.  The Northern kingdom of Joseph and the ten tribes would keep the name Israel, while the Jews in the south would become the kingdom or house of Judah.

THE DIVIDED KINGDOM OF ISRAEL

“And when Rehoboam was come to Jerusalem, he assembled all the house of Judah, with the tribe of Benjamin, an hundred and fourscore thousand chosen men, which were warriors, to fight against the house of Israel,
to bring the kingdom again to Rehoboam the son of Solomon. 

1st Kings 12:21 

FROM KINGDOM TO RELIGION

Both kingdoms would be destroyed by God when they had forsaken His ways and broke the Covenant made to them at Sinai.  The Northern Tribes would be shattered into pieces and scattered into the winds by the might of the Assyrian Empire in 722 BC.  

The Kingdom of Judah was destroyed along with the Temple, while the Jews and remaining Israelites would be taken into captivity by the king of Neo-Babylon, Nebuchadnezzar, in 586 BC.

The Tribes of Joseph and Northern Israel would lose their identity and be settled throughout the Assyrian empire, most notably in the cities of the Medes, who would eventually conquer Neo-Babylon in 539 BC (2nd Kings 18:11).  The Jewish historian Flavius Josephus records how many of the Israelites took refuge in the lands beyond the Euphrates River, where he states:

“Wherefore there are but two tribes in Asia and Europe, subject to the Romans: while the ten tribes are beyond Euphrates till now;
and are an immense multitude, 
and not to be estimated by numbers.

Josephus – Antiquities of the Jews – Book 11, Chapter 5, Section 2. 

“And the king of Assyria did carry away Israel unto Assyria, and put them in Halah and in Habor by the river of Gozan,
and in the cities of the Medes:

2nd Kings 18:11   

DISPERSION OF NORTHERN ISRAEL

The Jews would return from Babylonian captivity after Cyrus the Great and the Medo-Persian Empire had conquered Babylon in 539 BC.  The Jews would rebuild the Temple, but they would remain a vassal state to the Medo-Persian Empire, and then later to the Hellenic Greeks, after the conquest of Alexander the Great in 332 BC.

In 167 BC, the Jews would launch a successful revolution against Antiochus IV and the Seleucid Greek Empire known as the Maccabean Revolt.  They would establish a brief monarchy raised up from the priest tribe of Levi, this became the Hasmonean Dynasty.  They forcefully converted their Edomite neighbors, who were descended from Israel’s twin brother, Esau.  This would prove to be their undoing, since the Romans would eventually replace the Hasmoneans with an Edomite dynasty known as the Herodians.  

The Edomites would also sack Jerusalem during the Jewish Revolt in 70 AD. They raped, tortured and killed the Jews who were loyal to the provisional Jewish government, even killing the High Priest Ananias (Josephus War of the Jews, Book 4 Chapter 5).

It is somewhere among the chaos during the second temple era that a mysterious group calling themselves the Perushim  פרושים  (the separated ones) known to us as the Pharisees would emerge as a major political and influential faction.  They claim to be the guardians of the Oral Torah that was apparently given to seventy elders when Moses was on Mount Sinai, meanwhile there is no mention of them in the books of Moses nor the entire Old Testament. They most likely emerged from a sect of Jews during Babylonian captivity in an attempt to preserve Jewish identity, while the first Temple laid in ruins.  There is no conclusive proof or trace of their origins.  

Their teachings can be found today in what they call the Mishnah and the Gemara. Combined, they form a collection of books and teachings called the Talmud.  Their teachings are the main sources for modern Jewish law, known as Halakha Law, and these laws and traditions would transform the tribe of Judah from race to ideology.

The Pharisees are the main villains throughout the Gospels and the Roman revolts that will follow after the crucifixion of Christ.  They exist today under the name Orthodox Judaism, which brings us back to our original question, what is a  Jew?

It is recorded in the New Testament and by Roman historians that the Pharisees were converting non-Jews to their religion. Even King Herod the Edomite was considered a Jew because of these laws and traditions:

“And now it was that a great sedition arose between the Jews that inhabited Cesarea, and the Syrians who dwelt there also, concerning their equal right to the privileges belonging to citizens. For the Jews claimed the pre­eminence;
because Herod their King was the builder of Cesarea; and because he was by birth a Jew.

Flavius Josephus – Antiquities of the Jews 20.8.7

Woe unto you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! for ye compass sea and land to make one proselyte (convert),
and when he is made, ye make him twofold more the child of hell than yourselves.

Matthew 23:15

Let us look at another example that will show a complete reversal, a Jew who became a famous Roman General and a Gentile who became a famous Jewish Rabbi. In my opinion, there is no greater example that can be given than the contrast between a Jewish-Roman General named Tiberius Julius Alexander and Gentile named Rabbi Akiva.

TIBERIUS JULIUS ALEXANDER

Tiberius Julius Alexander came from a very prominent and wealthy Jewish family in Egypt.  There were more Jews living in Egypt during this time than there were Jews living in Judea, and there was a serious clash of cultures between the Greeks and Jews living in Alexandria. 

Tiberius abandoned the Jewish religion and proved his loyalty to Rome on several occasions.  He was made the Procurator of Judea under Caesar Claudius, and later became the Prefect of Egypt.  When Jews rose up in rebellion in Egypt, Tiberius Alexander deployed his legions and showed no mercy towards his rebellious Jewish countrymen. He also distinguished himself as a Roman officer during the Roman-Parthian Wars. 

Tiberius Alexander had his legions declare Vespasian and the Flavians to be the new Caesars of the Roman Empire during the year of the four emperors, and he was second-in-command to Vespasian’s son Titus during the destruction of Jerusalem.  If Titus were to be wounded or killed fighting the Jews, the destruction of Judea would have fallen upon the shoulders of this Roman-Jewish General.

The Roman historian Tacitus, who had no love for Jews nor Christians, addresses Tiberius Alexander as a distinguished Roman knight:

Tiberius Alexander, a distinguished Roman knight, sent to assist in the campaign, and Vinianus Annius, Corbulo’s son-in-law, who, though not yet of a senator’s age,
had the command of the fifth legion as “legatus,”

Tacitus – Annals 15.2

RABBI AKIVA

Rabbi Akiva, on the other hand, was from a family of converts to Judaism and was not descended from the tribe of Judah.  He rose up to become one of the most beloved and prominent rabbis of Orthodox Judaism.  He was also one of the biggest enemies to the Roman Empire.

Rabbi Akiva was one of the main contributors to the Mishna (Talmud) and is considered “Chief of the Sages“.  He was instrumental to the Bar Kokhba Revolt against the Roman Empire in 132 AD  and helped proclaim Simon Bar Kokhba the Jewish messiah.  They temporarily gained Jewish independence from Rome.

Due to the two previous Jewish Revolutions, the Great Revolt 66 AD – 73 AD and Kito’s War 115 AD- 117 AD, where Jews slaughtered over 400,000 Romans and Greeks, Emperor Hadrian would show no mercy to the Jews.  The Jews would suffer almost equal losses as the Romans did during Kito’s War, and Rabbi Akiva along with the other Jewish leaders were executed.

Judea was then renamed to Syria Palaestina, and the Romans forever banished the Jews from returning to this land for religious reasons.  The Jews would eventually retreat to Babylon where they finished compiling the Talmud.

CONCLUSION

So, how do we answer our question, what is a Jew?  We have seen the Jews transform from a man to a tribe, from a tribe to a nation, from a nation to a kingdom, and from a kingdom to an ideology.  We have seen a Jew rise to become one of the most important Roman Generals in history and to fight against his own Jewish people to save the Roman Empire. In contrast, we have seen a Gentile convert to Judaism rise to become the chief of Jewish sages and one of the greatest enemies to the Roman Empire.

My answer is, modern-day Judaism is not a race, but an ideology that contains a racial component.  Non-Jews are more than welcome to convert to this ideology and rise to its highest ranks.  However, inside this religion, there are laws that can automatically make a person Jewish, as there are laws that can remove one’s Jewishness and strip them of their Jewish descent, based on laws that are not found in the Bible. 

Converts to Orthodox Judaism and their children born after their conversion are considered fully Jewish.  Meanwhile, a child born from an Orthodox Jewish man and an unconverted Aryan woman must go through a conversion process, if they want to be considered a Jew in accordance with Jewish law.

If an Aryan man impregnates a Jewish woman, the child will inherit an Aryan name and will still be considered fully Jewish in the eyes of Jewish Law. Meanwhile, if a Jewish man impregnates an Aryan woman, the child will inherit a Jewish name and will not be considered a Jew by the same law system.

Something similar can be said about the Romans, since most Romans did not come from Rome, nor did they ever step foot in its capital, and yet a Roman citizen born in the provinces of Britannia or Spain would be considered fully Roman if his parents held Roman citizenship.  To be a Roman had nothing to do with whether you were descended from a Roman or not. 

In the religion of Islam, we see a similar thing, where one is automatically made a Muslim if their father is one.  If a Muslim man impregnates a Jewish woman, then the child is considered both.  The State of Israel allows half-Jews born of a Jewish father to apply for Israeli citizenship, but they can only marry another Jew after converting to Judaism. 

Christianity, on the other hand, is a choice, you cannot be born a Christian.  Christianity is a religion that is based on one’s individual and personal relationship with God and does not allow using racial laws to determine one’s belief.

My answer is caution.  I warn the reader of the dangers of allowing into your country religions that contain racial laws.  These ideologies have the power to transform its citizens into a foreign religion that can help divide a person and turn them against their own nation.  One of the most dangerous parts about Judaism and Islam is their ability to transform from religion to race.  Jews and Muslims can say they are Russian or American when it is convenient for them to appear as one, but inwardly, what are they really?  Where does a person’s loyalty truly lie? 

The very definition of hypocrisy is the Jews and the world screaming at Adolf Hitler and the Germans for imposing Aryan racial laws to combat the Jewish racial laws – laws that were transforming Germans into Jews who could hide behind German names.

Remember, a little bit of leaven leavens the whole lump, and the heart is deceitful above all things and desperately wicked, who can know it?

– Reuvin Matveev