Was Jesus A Jew … A Disambiguation and Clarification

At that time Rezin king of Syria recovered Elath to Syria, and drave the Jews from Elath: and the Syrians came to Elath, and dwelt there unto this day. II Kings 16:6

This is a translation the King James Bible gets wrong. Most other translations properly label the people that Rezin “drave” as Judahites. In this war where Syria and the Northern tribes were aligned against the Southern Kingdom Rezin drove out a gathering of men from the tribe of Judah out of Elath. Those who were driven out were not Jews. They were Judahites. In the Bible the designation of “Jew” has to do with what religion one was a practitioner of and did not have to do with where one was from.

The Hebrew word mistakenly translated in II Kings 16:6 as “Jew” is the Hebrew word “Yehudi,” which literally means a Judahite or a descendant of Judah. The word is used in the bible in at least five ways;

1.) A person(s) from the tribe of Judah

2.) The Kingdom of Judah

3.) The land of Judea

4.) The nation of Judah

5.) The house of Judah

So, in II Kings 16, we are being told that it was men from the tribe, kingdom, land, nation or house of Judah who were driven from Elath.

Now when we come to the NT the Greek word is Ioudaias which means Judean — the sense of “from the country of, or from the land of Judea.” Just as those who lived in Samaria were Samaritans so those living in the land of Judea were Judeans or Judahites.

What we do today is this. When the word “Jew” is used today it is not used to refer to someone who is from the House of Judah, or the land of Judah, kingdom of Judah, or the nation of Judah When we use the word today we redefine it to mean someone who practices the religion of Judaism.

Consider, as an example, Galatians 1. This is one of the few times you will see the Greek word “Jew” refer to the religion of Judaism. Most other times it refers to someone from the land, house, nation, kingdom of Judah.

13For you have heard of my former way of life in Judaism, how severely I persecuted the church of God and tried to destroy it. 14I was advancing in Judaism beyond many of my contemporaries and was extremely zealous for the traditions of my fathers.

Now the Jewish religion or Judaism was antagonistic to and contrary to the Christian faith. It was Judaism, under the parties of the Pharisees and Saducees, who constantly opposed Christ the Judahite. Paul who would later write Galatians was before conversion a Benjamite who practiced the Jewish religion. At that time Paul was not a Jew who practiced the Christian religion. When Paul converted he was a Benjamite who practiced the Christian religion in defiance of his former Jewish religion. When Paul converted he went from being a Benjamite who practiced the Jewish religion to being a Benjamite who practiced the Christian religion.

Because of all of the above we are not now, nor were we ever properly labeled “Judeo-Christians.” Nor are we part of some group called the “Judeo-Christian” faith. One can not more combine these two radically different faiths than we could combine Monogamous-adulterers. Those who are practitioners of the Jewish faith have no more in common with those who practice the Christian faith than cannibals have in common with debutantes who graduated from the finest finishing schools. Every time we use the phrase “Judeo-Christian” we dishonor Christ who was the Lion of the Tribe of Judah but who was no Jew as is seen in the NT by the fact that Jesus was always attacking the Jewish religion. Jesus the Judahite had no greater enemy than the Jews and the Jews plotted to kill Jesus the Judahite.

When Pilate hangs that sign over Jesus saying “King of the Jews” he did not order that sign hung there because he understood that indeed that was what Jesus really was. Pilate hung that sign there to anger the Jews. And it worked.

When Paul the Benjamite boasts of having once been a Pharisee he is boasting of who he was in His former religion. He is not boasting of where he hailed from. Notice the way Paul puts it. He says he was, “of the stock of Israel, of the tribe of Benjamin. A Hebrew of Hebrews.” With that He gives his nationality and blood line. When it comes to matters of religion though he says, “as touching the law, a Pharisee.” He could have as easily said, “as touching the law, a Jew.”

Now we gladly concede that the religion of today’s self styled Jews was and is commonly Judaism but it is possible to be an Israelite and not be a Jew, just as was true of St. Paul after he was converted.

We need to quit with the phrase “Judeo-Christian,” if only because the phrase causes us to let our guard down against those who are members of a religion who often remain the enemies of Christ just as members of all non-Christian religions are enemies of Christ.

These distinctions above are important because of the confusing way “Jew” can be used. For example, former Prime Minister of Israel David Ben-Gurion was, for a time, a Buddhist by way of religion but of course never quit being thought of as a Jew by way of birth. Similarly, theoretically a China-man or African can embrace Judaism and so, in terms of religion become “Jewish.”

So, we have seen in the above, that by way of religion Jesus was never a Jew. Indeed the religious Jews were his greatest enemies and that is because the religious Jews had abandoned the faith of the Hebrews to embrace Babylonian Talmudism. In the NT Babylonian Talmudism was referred to as “the tradition of the Elders.” That Jesus was practicing a different religion from the religious Jews (Pharisees/Saducees) of His day is stamped all over scripture;

Matthew 15 Then the scribes and Pharisees who were from Jerusalem came to Jesus, saying, “Why do Your disciples transgress the tradition of the elders? For they do not wash their hands when they eat bread.” 3 He answered and said to them, “Why do you also transgress the commandment of God because of your tradition? 4For God commanded, saying, ‘Honor your father and your mother’; and, ‘He who curses father or mother, let him be put to death.’ 5 But you say, ‘Whoever says to his father or mother, “Whatever profit you might have received from me is a gift to God”— 6 then he need not honor his father [a]or mother.’ Thus you have made the [b]commandment of God of no effect by your tradition.7 Hypocrites! Well did Isaiah prophesy about you, saying:

8 ‘These people [c]draw near to Me with their mouth,

And honor Me with their lips,

But their heart is far from Me.

9 And in vain they worship Me,

Teaching as doctrines the commandments of men.’ ”

Note the religious conflict here. The Babylonian Talmudists have one religion referred to as “the tradition of the Elders,” while Jesus is operating under the ancient Hebrew religion called “the commandment of God.” They are two different religions.

To underscore all this the late Rabbi Stephen Wise wrote;

“The return from Babylon and the adoption of the Babylonian Talmud marks the end of Hebrew-ism and the beginning of Judaism.”

That the religious Jews of Jesus time understood what Rabbi Wise centuries later explicitly said is testified to again in John’s Gospel,

5:46 For if you believed Moses, you would believe Me; for he wrote about Me. 47 But if you do not believe his writings, how will you believe My words?”

The point here is that those who owned a different religion than Jesus owned did not believe Him because they did not believe the Biblical Moses preferring instead to believe a Moses made to their own Babylonian Talmudic liking. They owned a different religion.

The point to take away here is that the entire ministry of Jesus served to expose the fact that the religious Jews were practitioners of an entirely different religion than the one found in the Old Testament. Jesus was not a Jew, religiously speaking.

Now as to Jesus. Was Jesus a Jew in terms of stock?

The answer is resoundingly no! Just as Paul identified himself not as a Jew but as a Israelite so Paul can say of Jesus,

3 For I could wish that I myself were accursed from Christ for my brethren, my [a]countrymen according to the flesh, 4 who are Israelites, to whom pertain the adoption, the glory, the covenants, the giving of the law, the service of God, and the promises; 5 of whom are the fathers and from whom, according to the flesh, Christ came, who is over all, the eternally blessed God. Amen.

Now, certainly Jesus was a Jew in the sense of coming from a land, kingdom, and nation that was predominated by the religious Jews but Jesus was the Lion from the tribe of Judah and so no Jew, either physically, or religiously.

Now, there is one application we should take from this that is monumental. Keep in mind that both Jesus and the Jews, though having different religions, both appealed to Moses and the prophets as their Holy book providing their texts from which they found warrant for their beliefs. And yet from those same texts they were practicing two completely different religions that had absolutely nothing in common with one another except for the formal text. They shared a text that yielded two different religions that hated one another.

Much the same is happening in what remains in modern Christendom. We have different religions all appealing to the same Scriptures and yet they really have nothing in common save the formal text. For example, I have nothing in common with epistemologically self-conscious Roman Catholics, Radical Two Kingdom Practitioners, Arminians, Eastern Orthodox types, Amyraldians, etc. Luther understood the idea I’m getting at when he told Zwingli at the Marburg colloquy, “Your spirit and our spirit cannot go together. Indeed, it is quite obvious that we do not have the same spirit.” Both Luther and Zwingli were reading the same Bible but so different were their interpretations that they did not share the same faith.

It was the same with Jesus, the Judahite and the Jews. They were reading the same Law and the Prophets but they were not practicing the same religion and for that reason Jesus was not a Jew.

Author: jetbrane

I am a Pastor of a small Church in Mid-Michigan who delights in my family, my congregation and my calling. I am postmillennial in my eschatology. Paedo-Calvinist Covenantal in my Christianity Reformed in my Soteriology Presuppositional in my apologetics Familialist in my family theology Agrarian in my regional community social order belief Christianity creates culture and so Christendom in my national social order belief Mythic-Poetic / Grammatical Historical in my Hermeneutic Pre-modern, Medieval, & Feudal before Enlightenment, modernity, & postmodern Reconstructionist / Theonomic in my Worldview One part paleo-conservative / one part micro Libertarian in my politics Systematic and Biblical theology need one another but Systematics has pride of place Some of my favorite authors, Augustine, Turretin, Calvin, Tolkien, Chesterton, Nock, Tozer, Dabney, Bavinck, Wodehouse, Rushdoony, Bahnsen, Schaeffer, C. Van Til, H. Van Til, G. H. Clark, C. Dawson, H. Berman, R. Nash, C. G. Singer, R. Kipling, G. North, J. Edwards, S. Foote, F. Hayek, O. Guiness, J. Witte, M. Rothbard, Clyde Wilson, Mencken, Lasch, Postman, Gatto, T. Boston, Thomas Brooks, Terry Brooks, C. Hodge, J. Calhoun, Llyod-Jones, T. Sowell, A. McClaren, M. Muggeridge, C. F. H. Henry, F. Swarz, M. Henry, G. Marten, P. Schaff, T. S. Elliott, K. Van Hoozer, K. Gentry, etc. My passion is to write in such a way that the Lord Christ might be pleased. It is my hope that people will be challenged to reconsider what are considered the givens of the current culture. Your biggest help to me dear reader will be to often remind me that God is Sovereign and that all that is, is because it pleases him.

One thought on “Was Jesus A Jew … A Disambiguation and Clarification”

  1. Well written!

    I know this was an old post, but I have only just recently discovered your blog, and have sifting through these same issues for the past, going on 4 years now.

    What do you make of the following?
    “Ye worship ye know not what: we know what we worship: for salvation is of the Jews.”
    ‭‭John‬ ‭4‬:‭22‬ ‭KJV‬‬

    I have heard different views. I currently believe it saying that salvation is going out of Judea.

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