Friday, February 1, 2019

Get Back to the First Century: Who is a Jew?

Who is a Jew?

This is the million-dollar question in Judaism, and everyone seems to have an opinion and weighs in on the answer. I will not dilly-dally or give out a long drawn out explanation. I will try to be short and sweet and to the point, because in reality, the answer to this question is actually not that complicated.

When you say someone is a Jew, or ask if someone is a Jew, you can mean one of two different things.

1.    One is a Jew ethnically because one or both of their parents were ethnically Jewish.
2.    One is a Jew because they have converted to and practice the Jewish religion.

In the times of the Tanak, a Jew was considered someone whose father was Jewish, note that Patriarchs were Jewish and not the Matriarchs. The lineage of a Cohen (Levitical Priest), and what scientists refer to as the Cohen gene is passed down through the father. However, because of the persecution of the Jews through the various worldwide pogroms, the Inquisition, the Holocaust etc., many Jewish women were raped and impregnated by Goyim (Gentiles) and a myriad of children who were born to Jewish mothers had Goyish fathers. Unless you are adopted, you know who your mother is, but you do not always know who your father is. As a result, a paradigm shift was made in Judaism and declared that you are Jewish via your mother’s side for reasons I just stated above.

I accept both methods. I say if either of your parents is Jewish, then you are Jewish.

There are, I believe people who are walking the earth who are Jewish/Hebrews/Israelites and don’t even know it on account of the Diaspora of the lost ten tribes of Israel who were scattered and never returned to Israel due to the Assyrian Captivity. For the people we recognize as Jews today are the ones from Judah and Levi (and a bit of Benjamin) who returned to the Land from the Babylonian Captivity.

“According to Eliezer Shulman in his book, “The Sequence of Events in the Old Testament”, Abraham was born in the year 1948 from creation (approx. 2050 BCE). His son of promise Yitzchak, (Isaac) was born one hundred years later in 2048 from creation (approx. 1950 BCE). This places the birth of Yitzchak some 3950 years from the present time. Using 25 years as a generation means that today we are 158 generations removed from Abraham. Using 40 years per generation still removes us nearly 100 generations.

The number of ancestors for any single person increases exponentially with each generation (two parents, four grandparents, eight great grandparents, etc.). Going back only 40 generations yields a potential of over one trillion direct ancestors for a single individual. This number far exceeds the total number of people who ever lived on earth since the beginning of time. With such immense numbers involved, it should be no surprise that we are all more closely related than might have been imagined.

Abraham lived nearly four thousand years ago. Surely, if this statistical model is anywhere near correct, every person on earth could conceivably be descended from him, just as Nivrecu Theory suggests. Equally possible is the theory that every person on earth could be descended from the twelve sons of Ya’acov (Jacob), the progenitors of the children of Israel.” – “Abraham’s Math” Hebrew Roots Issue 02-2 pg. 20

I also believe if one converts to Judaism, it does not matter whom or what their parents may be; they have become Jewish by entering the Covenant of Abraham. This is what I believe that Rav Sha’ul said is a, “Spiritual Jew,” one who is a Jew inwardly and has accepted the religious Jewish way of life upon themselves through conversion or obedience to Torah (Rom. 2:25-29). Here Rav Sha’ul (Apostle Paul) is making a distinction between an ethnic Jew and a religious Jew. Mystics say that these people who convert have been drawn to Judaism because they are Jewish in the first place. It is said that God has put a Spark of the Divine, Himself, within every Jew and no matter how far away from Judaism they go, that they will eventually return, because the Spark within them desires to be reunited with its source which is God Himself.

Abraham, Isaac and Jacob were "Jews": A Response to World Net Daily
by James Trimm:

“There is a misunderstanding going around that Abraham, Isaac and Jacob were not "Jews" which has recently been propagated by World Net Daily.

This statement is made based on the fact that the Hebrew word behind "Jew" (Y'hudah) referred originally to the Tribe of Judah only. Later the term "Jew" (Y'hudah) came to refer to the "House of Judah" (Southern Kingdom) as opposed to the "House of Israel" (Northern Kingdom). Thus, this usage of the word came to refer to Mordechai and Ester in the Book of Ester (who were Benjamites) as well as Paul (who was also a Benjamite). Since only the House of Judah continued in the true worship of ADONAI after the division of the Kingdoms, the true faith of ADONAI became known as "Judaism" (2Macc. 2:21) and anyone who accepted that faith was known as a "Jew". In Tobit 11:17 Ephaimites (Israelites from the ten tribes of the Northern Kingdom) are called "Jews" and in Ester 8:17 even Persians who convert to the faith of ADONAI are termed "Jews". The modern dictionary definition for the English word "Jew" allows the word to refer to a follower of the Jewish religion, or as a synonym for a "Hebrew".

While it is true that if you could go back in a time machine and ask Abraham is he is a "Jew" he would say "no", that does not mean he was not a Jew. First of all, the word "Jew" is English, and Abraham would not recognize it. The Hebrew word "Y'hudah" literally means "Praiser [of Yahweh]" and no doubt Abraham would have agreed that he is a "Praiser of YHWH (ADONAI)". Certainly, in English today, it is perfectly correct to refer to Abraham as a "Jew" because he was a "Hebrew" and because he was a follower of the religion that came to be known as "Judaism". If you had asked Yeshua if Abraham was a "Jew" (Y'hudah) he would certainly have agreed that Abraham was a Jew, not because he was of the House of Judah, but because Abraham was a follower of the religion that, by Yeshua's time, had come to be known as "Judaism".”

Scripturally we discover that ethnicity does not necessarily makes one a Jew, an Israelite. Ruth the Moabite, a Gentile, which is actually in the linage of Messiah Yeshua (Matt. 1:5). What made her an Israelite, a Jew?

16 And Ruth said, Intreat me not to leave thee, or to return from following after thee: for whither thou goest, I will go; and where thou lodgest, I will lodge: thy people shall be my people, and thy God my God:
17 Where thou diest, will I die, and there will I be buried: the Lord do so to me, and more also, if ought but death part thee and me. – Ruth 1:16-17
Ruth first became an Israelite/Jew through marriage (Ruth 1:4) and then after her husband’s passing chose to attach herself to the nation of Israel and follow the God of Israel. She didn’t go through any conversion ritual.

But when he saw many of the Pharisees and Sadducees come to his baptism, he said unto them, O generation of vipers, who hath warned you to flee from the wrath to come?
Bring forth therefore fruits meet for repentance:
And think not to say within yourselves, We have Abraham to our father: for I say unto you, that God is able of these stones to raise up children unto Abraham. – Matt. 3:7-9

Romans 11 speaks of Gentiles (Non-Jew), and hellenized Jews (might as well be Gentile) being grafted into the Nation of Israel, making one a Jew/Israelite. Scripturally ones genetic make-up does not determine if one is a Jew or not.

Also what has been failed to be taken into consideration is that the word Gentile in Scripture must be seen in context. Sometimes Gentile meant Gentile (Non-Jew), but other times depending on the context Gentile meant Hellenized, or assimilated Jew.

And in those days, when the number of the disciples was multiplied, there arose a murmuring of the Grecians against the Hebrews, because their widows were neglected in the daily ministration. Acts 6:1

The word Grecians in the Greek is actually the word “Hellenists,” meaning Jews who have accepted and assimilated into the Greek culture and were returning to faith; because there were no non-Jewish Gentiles coming to the Faith until Acts 15. The book of First Maccabees details this.

At that time there appeared in the land of Israel a group of traitorous Jews who had no regard for the Law and who had a bad influence on many of our people. They said:

    “Let's come to terms with the Gentiles, for our refusal to associate with them has brought us nothing but trouble.  This proposal appealed to many people, and some of them became so enthusiastic about it that they went to the king and received from him permission to follow Gentile customs.  They built in Jerusalem a stadium like those in the Greek cities. They had surgery performed to hide their circumcision, abandoned the holy covenant, started associating with Gentiles, and did all sorts of other evil things.” – I Maccabees 1:11-14 (GNT)

Antiochus now issued a decree that all nations in his empire should abandon their own customs and become one people. All the Gentiles and even many of the Israelites submitted to this decree. They adopted the official pagan religion, offered sacrifices to idols, and no longer observed the Sabbath.
The king also sent messengers with a decree to Jerusalem and all the towns of Judea, ordering the people to follow customs that were foreign to the country. He ordered them not to offer burnt offerings, grain offerings, or wine offerings in the Temple, and commanded them to treat Sabbaths and festivals as ordinary work days. They were even ordered to defile the Temple and the holy things in it.  They were commanded to build pagan altars, temples, and shrines, and to sacrifice pigs and other unclean animals there.  They were forbidden to circumcise their sons and were required to make themselves ritually unclean in every way they could, so that they would forget the Law which the Lord had given through Moses and would disobey all its commands.  The penalty for disobeying the king's decree was death. – I Maccabees 1:41-50 (GNT)