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.
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.
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  Jews or to the  Greeks [Gentiles] or to the  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.
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.
- Elwood McQuaid, British-Israelism vs. the Bible: Who Is a Jew? (Bellmawr: NJ, The Friends of Israel Gospel Ministry, n.d.), 3.