(June 12, 2021) Robert McQuillan responds to a question that comes up occasionally…
Dear Dr Robert
I think I heard a preacher mention briefly that not all Israelites are Jews and not explaining. Did I hear correctly? Maybe I just heard wrongly… or can you explain a bit more. Stan
No, you heard correctly. But, let me share some background…
Old Testament characters such as Abraham are often referred to as Jews (especially in old movies). The reality is that Abraham was originally a Hebrew (Genesis 14:13), and the term ‘Jew’ was not used until after the return of the exiles from Babylon (Ezra 4:23).
This term – Jew – is from the Hebrew word Yehudi, meaning from the ’Kingdom of Judah.’ It indicated a ‘worshipper of one God’ and related to returning exiles – Israelites, mainly from the tribe of Judah but also including some Benjamites (In Esther 2:5, Mordecai is referred to as a Jew of the tribe of Benjamin). This was years before the other ten tribes of Israel had been taken to the old Assyrian empire.
Actually the term Israel (or Israelites) goes back to the nation that came from the sons of Jacob (who himself was renamed Israel by God in Genesis 32:28).
Here’s the sting: It appears that the term ‘Jew’ has both narrow and wide usage. During the time when Israel was divided, the two ‘new sub-nations’ were distinguished as ‘Judah’ and ‘Israel.’ Consequently the term ‘Israel’ can have more than one meaning.
Further ambiguity is found in the New Testament! We find the Romans calling Israel by the name Palestine, and Jesus referring to Nathanael as an ‘Israelite’ in a time when only people from Judah were in that land!
Then we find Paul in Romans 1:16 using the term ‘Jew’ in a broad sense as opposed to non-Jews. The apostle also throws in a curve, stating that ‘not all who are descended from Israel are Israel’ (Romans 9:6). In verse 8 he then explains: ’It is the children of the promise who are regarded as Abraham’s offspring.’
Sorry, Stan, if I’m now confusing you! But it is evident that in some cases the term ‘Jew’ refers to the same group as ‘Israelite’ means, while in others it doesn’t. Paul throws in yet another curve to get us thinking: In Galatians 6:15-16, after pointing out that circumcision (that special sign for male Israelites) is unimportant to every male under the new covenant of salvation through Jesus, he refers to Christians as the Israel of God.
Your query enlarges itself when pursued! Why don’t we keep it simple… everyone, Jews from the nation of Israel or wherever, and any Gentile (non-Jew) from any nation, can be saved from sin! Consequently it’s good to know that all saved are Christians – born again children of God through Jesus Christ’s Calvary hill cross sacrifice (John 1:12-13).
David Ingles’ lyrics: ‘I’m of the seed of Abraham and his blessings rest on me’ still ring true for all of us.
Got a question for either Dr Robert or Pr Maureen McQuillan? Email to OnlinerConnect@gmail.com