Who is a Jew?

For centuries, Jewish people have been asking themselves, “Who is a Jew?” Today a new wrinkle has developed, and it involves Christians.

If a Jew is not a Jew,
then who’s a Jew?
Of late I’m told that I,
a Gentile, am a Jew—
are you one too?
Now I’m confused!
Will someone please
provide a clue
Who on Earth is a proper Jew?
1

I am not confused. I know I’m Jewish, 99 percent European Jewish, in fact. Confirmed through DNA testing. My mother is 100 percent European Jewish.

So where does the confusion come in? Through farmisht (Yiddish for “confused”) theology.

Last fall I participated in a panel to help clear up theological confusion about eschatology, which is the biblical teaching about the future. Panelists presented various views, and I presented Premillennialism and Pretribulationalism—positions firmly held by The Friends of Israel Gospel Ministry. Premillennialism holds to a literal, 1,000-year Kingdom of God on Earth and maintains that Christ will return to establish that Kingdom before the thousand years begin. Pretribulationalism maintains the church will be raptured from the earth before the seven-year Tribulation (70th week of Daniel 9:27).

The evangelical, Bible-believing Christians who assembled the panel hold strongly to the inerrancy of Scripture but had no formal view on eschatology.

After my presentation, a young man asked if we could talk. He is a godly believer, sincerely loves the Jewish people, and is truly interested in growing in the grace and knowledge of Christ. He was extremely concerned that I had said Replacement Theology, which teaches the church has replaced Israel in God’s plan, is anti-Semitic.

His theology sees only one people of God and makes no distinction between Old and New Testament believers. My theology sees two people of God: the Jewish people and the church. I told him the ideology that the church replaces Israel is anti-Semitic, but not necessarily the person who holds such a position. Then he asked, “Why shouldn’t all the blessings God promised be mine in Christ?” He truly believed they were, including the blessings promised to Israel.

Then he said three words that jolted me: I am Jewish. He uttered them slowly and softly, without malice, and with kindness from a Christian brother. Yet I must confess, when I heard them, I felt robbed, not by the young man, but by his farmisht theology.

Double Everything
God promised the Jewish people both double punishment and double blessing. When the children of Israel failed to walk with Him, He punished them. First, He carried the 10 northern tribes into exile in Assyria, then He carried the remainder into exile in Babylon. Both Isaiah and Jeremiah prophesied that Israel would receive “double” for its sins. God said, “I will repay double for their iniquity and their sin, because they have defiled My land; they have filled My inheritance with the carcasses of their detestable and abominable idols” (Jer. 16:18).

True to His Word, God has allowed the Jewish people to suffer. They have been hunted, persecuted, and slain more than any nation on Earth. The curses in Deuteronomy 28:15–68 read like the past 10 centuries of Jewish history. Many Jews, when told they are God’s Chosen People, reply, “I wish He would choose someone else.”

Yet God also promises great future blessing for Israel:

But you shall be named the priests of the LORD, they shall call you the servants of our God. You shall eat the riches of the Gentiles, and in their glory you shall boast. Instead of your shame you shall have double honor, and instead of confusion they shall rejoice in their portion. Therefore in their land they shall possess double; everlasting joy shall be theirs (Isa. 61:6–7, emphasis added).

God said, “Return to the stronghold, you prisoners of hope. Even today I declare that I will restore double to you” (Zech. 9:12).

God filled His Scriptures with promises to bless His beloved Israel, whom He has loved “with an everlasting love” (Jer. 31:3)—and it is these blessings Replacement Theology (RT) appropriates for the church. Yet it completely discards the curses. When it comes to the curses, RT maintains that Israel still means biological Israel—a clever feat of theological gymnastics.

The Jews are a unique and separate people, the physical descendants of the patriarch Jacob, whose name God changed to Israel. When Gentiles become believers, they do not become children of Jacob—nor should they want to. Jews and Gentiles who place their faith in Messiah Jesus for salvation become new creations—members of the body of Christ, which is the church.

Separate Entities
The Bible presents two peoples of God with two histories and two sets of promises.

First Corinthians 10:32 says, “Give no offense, either to the [1] Jews or to the [2] Greeks [Gentiles] or to the [3] church of God.” The church and Israel are different. Israel is a specially loved people (Dt. 7:6), the apple of God’s eye (Zech. 2:8). God has promised the Jews a special land (Gen. 17:6), a special Redeemer (Isa. 53), and a special blessing (Jer. 31). They are an earthly people who will receive a future, literal, earthly Kingdom.

The church, on the other hand, is blessed “with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places in Christ” (Eph. 1:3). God loves the church and “gave Himself for her” (5:25). The church is the bride of Christ. Israel is not. Believers are ambassadors for Christ (2 Cor. 5:20) on Earth. Our citizenship is in heaven. We eagerly wait for the Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ, to meet us in the air (1 Th. 4:17) or take us in death to be with Him, when we will be absent from the body but present with our Lord (2 Cor. 5:8). When He returns to Earth, we will return with Him in immortal bodies.

The church is gloriously composed of both Jews and Gentiles who are saved by grace through faith in our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. Amen and amen.

‘By His Stripes’
By God’s grace, I was born and raised an Orthodox Jew. Therefore, I knew certain foundational truths: I knew the Jewish Scriptures were the very words of God, not the traditions of men. I knew I was responsible to keep the Law, and I knew heaven and hell were real. I also knew my Messiah would come someday to gather all Jews from around the world to the Promised Land of Israel.

God took what I knew to show me what I did not know.

It was also by God’s grace that I became a believer in Jesus (Yeshua) as my Lord, Savior, and Messiah. God took what I knew to show me what I did not know. I knew the Law was good and that I was not. I knew God saw all my righteousness as “filthy rags” (Isa. 64:6).

I had learned the prophet Isaiah said, “But He was wounded for our transgressions, He was bruised for our iniquities; the chastisement for our peace was upon Him, and by His stripes we are healed. All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned, every one, to his own way; and the LORD has laid on Him the iniquity of us all” (53:5–6).

I am not farmisht. I am a Jew and part of the body of Christ, the church. I know the truth: Yeshua is “the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through [Him]” (Jn. 14:6). He is my only hope and the world’s only hope for salvation.

If you are interested in a better understanding of how Jewish people think and see themselves, I recommend you read I Am Jewish: Personal Reflections Inspired by the Last Words of Daniel Pearl, compiled by Judea and Ruth Pearl. It was written as a tribute to their son, Wall Street Journal reporter Daniel Pearl, who was kidnapped and savagely beheaded in Pakistan by radical Muslims in 2002. Before he was murdered, Daniel read this statement: “My name is Daniel Pearl. My father is Jewish. My mother is Jewish. I am Jewish.”

If you are Jewish or Gentile and don’t believe in Jesus, please consider this admonition: “Now is the accepted time; behold, now is the day of salvation” (2 Cor. 6:2).

If you are a Gentile believer in Jesus, you are a member of the body of Christ, as am I; and that should be blessing enough for anyone.

ENDNOTES
  1. Elwood McQuaid, British-Israelism vs. the Bible: Who Is a Jew? (Bellmawr: NJ, The Friends of Israel Gospel Ministry, n.d.), 3.

11 thoughts on “Who is a Jew?

  1. Baruch ha Shem, thanks for the concise explanation of how Replacement Theology has infiltrated the church. I am a believing Gentile and most grateful for IMG and the information it provides to us who are lacking in understanding the Jewish roots of our faith. Would be nice if we could claim the blessings without the curses, but I don’t think that’s what Yeshua would support. (Psalm 122:6)

  2. Thank you brother Steve for your concise and well-written article. I believe that this issue is such a major source of confusion in the Church that it messes with our interpretation of the Scriptures on almost every level. Down here in Australia the problem of Replacement Theology is as widespread as it is in the USA. On the one hand we have those who believe in the traditional reformed view of Israel and the Jewish people where the Church is the new Israel. On the other hand we have the new replacement theology of the Messianic Movement, who in their passion to engage with everything Jewish believe that they are the fulfilment of the Kingdom age when Messiah will reign in the midst of His people NOW!

  3. The Lord put on my heart to write a book about RT. I agree wholeheartedly that it is anti-Semitic.

    The name of book is called Israel: Replaced or Not? You can purchase a copy of the book on Amazon Kindle.

  4. Three distinct groups! How have I missed 1 Cor 10:32 all these many years?!? Thank you for your deep insights into God’s Word.

  5. First of all, let me establish my position that I subscribe to Premillennialism and Pretribulationalism. I do not subscribe to Replacement Theology, and I believe that Jesus will literally return to this earth and rule on the throne of David in Jerusalem for 1,000 years.

    I do have something to say about this article, and I quote below:

    “Give no offense, either to the [1] Jews or to the [2] Greeks [Gentiles] or to the [3] church of God.” The church and Israel are different.

    In the context of the scripture being quoted, this simply warns stronger Christians not to offend Jews and Greeks, and their own weak brother’s and sister’s in Christ when it comes to eating food offered to idols, for a strong Christian knows that the idols don’t exist, and it won’t defile him if he eats it. If you want to win over the Greek, the unbelieving Jew, and not offend the weak Christian, then one must refrain from eating the meat in front of them. It was in the Greek marketplace where this meat was sold after being offered in sacrifice.

    As far as referencing these 3 groups, they just simply cover all humanity and we must be careful to offend none. The Greeks (which represent the gentile world) believed in false gods, the Jews believe in the right God, but rejected the Messiah, and the church are those that believe in the right God and His Messiah, Jesus.

    I am not saying that God does not have a unique relationship and special plan for the Jewish people, but that stopped when they rejected Christ and will pick back up again during the Tribulation after the church is removed. In this age of grace, until Jesus comes again, whether you are an unbeliever (whether Jew or Greek), ALL must accept Jesus as Messiah NOW or be cast from His presence if you die without accepting Him. As far as the future when Christ returns, all the Jews, the remnant will be saved.

    I get the impression when reading IMG, because I never see it emphasized in the articles, that Jews won’t go to hell if they reject the Messiah here and now if they die without Him before His return. There is although in the articles much about honoring the Jewish people, past and present, but not enough about evangelizing them they will also die in their sins if they reject Jesus. Even Zvi Kalisher knew this and that is what his articles were all about.

    Please correct me if you think my impression is wrong.

    Thank you,
    James

    1. Those, Jew or Gentile, who reject Jesus Christ as the Messiah and the Son of G-d, before the sound of the trumpet will spend eternity in hell. They will have heard the salvation message and will have had every opportunity to accept Christ as their personal Saviour just as the Gentiles will have. There will be those Jews and Gentiles who hear the 2 prophets and the 144,000 preaching the Word of G-d during the Tribulation that will STILL reject Him. It does not matter who you are, Jew or Gentile, rejection will earn you a trip to unspeakable horror, terror, pain, and cruelty unimaginable for eternity. I pity those who choose to reject Jesus Christ as Saviour.

      1. Thank you Kenneth. Although I agree with everything you say, the point of comment is that if the FOI truly are “Friends” of Israel, why are there not more articles about bringing the Gospel to the Jewish community in Israel? I am sure most people who read the magazine are Christians. I was curious as to how much of the financial support goes to sharing the Gospel. I mean, what is FOI’s point of supporting Israel as “friends” and providing articles about the great things the Jewish people are doing in Israel and for the world if the majority of them die without Christ? If someone at FOI would like to respond here or to my email provided, I would greatly appreciate it.

        James

        1. James, may I remind you that we are told in scripture that the chosen people in general were blinded to the good news of Christ for the sake of the gentiles. If they had believed in the risen Christ in huge numbers, the gentiles would have been left with the idea that He had started just another sect of Judaism.
          Your love and concern pales into insignificance to that of Our Lord, let us each follow the Holy Spirit as we are called.

  6. I remember that a shoot was to spring from the stump of Jesse and a BRANCH of that shoot would produce the Messiah.
    This is not replacement but difference. The other branches gave rise to the people who live in Israel and in the diaspora who have an amazing destiny in the future.

    I follow Christ and have been told that one of my roots was in Ireland from Jews who escaped pogrom in Spain. I have loved the Chosen people since in childhood I learned that Jesus and Mary were Jews as well as Peter and Paul.

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