Most Jews, following Orthodox Rabbinic decrees, state that a Jew is a person born of a Jewish mother or is a person who officially converts to Judaism. They are not entirely wrong, but they miss many points that the Most High would disagree with.
Biblically, a man or woman born of the bloodline of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob was and is an Israelite…and an inheritor of the Abrahamic bloodline and the promises given to Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. Thus a man’s children, whether born of an Israelitish woman or not, if brought up in the traditions of their father, worshipping only YHVH, and keeping Torah fully was an Israelite too.
According to Moshe, the Tribal bloodline goes through the father, not the mother in Biblical thought, and Moshe is the one and only authority in the Bible on the commandments of G-d, as Yeshua ha Notsri said himself when he stated that Torah would stand as it was until G-d’s plan was completed.
Matthew 5:17-20 (CJB)
17 “Don’t think that I have come to abolish the Torah or the Prophets. I have come not to abolish but to complete.
18 Yes indeed! I tell you that until heaven and earth
pass away, not so much as a yud or a stroke will pass from the Torah — not until everything that must happen has happened.
19 So whoever disobeys the least of these
mitzvot and teaches others to do so will be called the least in the Kingdom of Heaven. But whoever obeys them and so teaches
will be called great in the Kingdom of Heaven.
20 For I tell you that unless your righteousness is far greater than that of the Torah-teachers and P’rushim, you will certainly not enter the Kingdom of Heaven!
How Did Judaic Identity Get So Confused?
In time, things Judaic changed, and adapted to the pressures of existence, and with a diminished population, and a culture that was fast being over-run by the Christian corruption of Nazarene Judaism, the Rabbi’s decided it was easier to be sure of the inheritance of blood through the mother. This was particularly important since no one had proof of their tribal identities after 70 CE, and the destruction of the Temple with all the relevant family records.
The remaining Jewish authorities over the following few centuries also decided it was easier to be sure of just who was a Jew by making sure everyone toed their particular line of tribal and religious identity by ensuring Jewish children would be raised by known Jewish mothers from known Jewish Communities. Since they were being persecuted by Christians and Non-Christians alike, and scattered over the face of the earth in the face of that persecution, it was somewhat reasonable as a practical decision. With families scattered and abused only the mother can be positively known to be a Jew, and thus all her children, are, by definition, Jewish.
As a matter of survival of the culture and heritage, it worked very well, but for Jewish thought and practice, it became a bit limiting once the grip of the Christian Church began to loosen in the 1500’s, and Protestant Christians were able to read the Tanakh along with the badly interpreted Apostolic Writings that are known as the Brit Chadashah…or the New Testament, in Christian parlance.
When Did It Get So Confused?
All of a sudden, a few Christians read all those commandments in the first five books of the Hebrew Bible and were struck by the fact that Yeshua of Nazareth said they were to be kept and kept in accordance with those who sat in the seat of Moshe. This important seat of Judgement rested with the Sanhedrin in Yeshua’s time, and although they were a very Pharisaical bunch, Yeshua did not disagree with their rulings.
Yeshua only criticized some of the Pharisees when their personal interpretation and adherence to those rulings were hypocritical…like divorcing your wife over a burnt dinner, or insisting on added rules of living that merely burdened those already keeping Torah. In Yeshua’s view, some of the Pharisees also nit-picked people to death over the letter of the Torah, used rabbinical decisions about Torah to circumvent Torah, and sometimes had no common sense in their interpretations.
But as Perushim, they were trying to be perfectly holy separated Jews, and as many perfectionists do, overdid it from time to time. And being lawyers, some Perushim used the law to their personal, non-religious advantage.
Still, Torah observant Nazarene Judaism reappeared in tiny pockets of the non-Jewish Believers in Yeshua as Mashiach…and continue to do so. And those believers in Yeshua as Mashiach that are Torah observant consider themselves to be part of the greater Commonwealth of Israel…in accordance with the Torah of Moshe.
These Torah Observant G-d Fearers are not Jews, and they do not think that they are…at least not the ones who have studied history, and Judaism along with the many ramifications of Christianity, which to any Torah Observant Messianic Believer in Yeshua is a pagan perversion of Judaism. Nazarene Judaism is no less a Judaism than any other Torah Observant Judaism, such as the Sadducean Jews and Essene Jews were, or the Orthodox, Chasidic, Karaite, Conservative, Reform and Reconstructionist Jews still are.
Why Did Being Jewish Stop Being A Problem?
As more and more Believers in Yeshua noticed that they were supposed to be keeping the Torah if they wished to be considered a disciple of Yeshua, and thus be more than the least of those in the Kingdom of G-d, people changed their views about those they considered separate and different. Then, as fewer Jews were being persecuted, and even became more and more socially acceptable, Jews and Non-Jews married, more and more frequently.
Personal identity began to enter the picture. If part of your family is Jewish are you Jewish? Hitler seemed to think so, and frankly, so did all the Christian authorities throughout the last 2000 years, and as anti-Semitism is again on the rise, it will continue to be a matter of importance.
The problems that are coming to the surface these days is not who is Torah Observant, whether Jew or Grafted-in Gentile, but with all the intermarrying having been done over the centuries, people are no longer sure which group they have their primary cultural, religious and national allegiance to. Are they Europeans, or Anglo-Saxons, or Asians or Africans? Does the continent they live in matter more than their heritage from Abraham, Isaac and Jacob? And particularly since WWII, there is a quasi-acceptance of Judaism in normalized society everywhere.
Many Christians openly support and love Jews as Jews, or at the least, are unconcerned about Jewishness. Non-Christians that are not Muslm are mostly uninterested and unconcerned. Thus, Jewish Heritage has entered the forefront of who you are only as a person, and how you view yourself. Socially, religiously, and nationally, the question arises as to who amongst those people with a parent or grandparent that was Jewish in origin is also a Jew. Fortunately, there is an answer from a legal standpoint.
How DO You Figure Out If You Are Jewish?
If you wish to be an Israeli Citizen, or live in Israel, and have sufficient proof of your Father’s or a Grandfather’s Jewish heritage through a properly attested Jewish Mother, you have the right of return to Israel. But if you are not Torah observant in the Orthodox manner, and accepted to be so, you will not be given citizenship there, but merely receive an uncertain asylum, along with refugee status, and you will not be considered Jewish by other Jews, and will not be permitted to marry in Israel any Israeli Jewish person. If you are a non-Jew married to a Jew and make Aliyah to Israel, you are accepted as a part of the Jewish spouse, and even welcomed if you are Torah Observant as well. The concern is always over the children.
Biblically, you may be an Israelite, and a tribal inheritor of the bloodline of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, and subject to the Covenant of YHVH according to the Bible, but you will not be recognized as such unless your way of keeping Torah matches the community you wish to be a part of. It might sound unfair, but it is about the survival of a distinctly different way of life…a set apart life.
Without the unanimity of behaviour in certain points…like keeping a proper Shabbat, observing the Festivals, and eating in a Kosher manner…the children will not be sufficiently Jewish to maintain the nation of Israel…in Israel or out of it. Jews who marry out of Judaism have a 70% chance of their grandchildren not being Jewish in thought or culture and thus cannot hand on the Oracles that were entrusted to the Israelites by G-d.
So, What To Do?
If you cannot prove your Jewishness because your parents or grandparents hid their identity for their survival, or for their economic and social advancement in the face of persecution, you will need to take instruction from Orthodox Jews, who maintain the standard of Judaism that all Jews accept…even if they don’t agree with all the Orthodox standards or ways of Torah keeping, nor even believe personally that YHVH exists. They were born and trained as Jews, no matter how secularly they may act or feel…and that is sufficient to keep the nation going forward.
Secular Jews, if they marry other Jews, will find themselves raising their children as Jews in a community of Jews, lest their heritage be lost, even if they themselves care little for YHVH or for the Torah. At that point, it becomes a matter of family solidarity, community, and the impetus of destiny.
Those with Jewish Heritage that wish to be accepted as Jews that were raised outside the Jewish Community need to learn to live Jewishly within a Jewish community according to Orthodox standards…no matter how much of their blood is directly derived from Jewish Ancestry. If their mother was Jewish, and it can be documented, they are considered to be Jewish even if they have never set foot in a synagogue.
If it was their father that had a Jewish mother, or their grandfather that had a Jewish mother, and they were not raised as a Jew, and thus did not formally assert their Jewishness, it’s necessary to do so to be considered a Jew by other Jews. So, those that are not the offspring of a Jewish mother must take the conversion classes, join a community of Jews, get ‘officially’ circumcised if you are a man, enjoy a mikveh, and absorb all that should have been taught you in your youth.
What If You Believe that Yeshua is Mashiach?
If you happen to believe that Yeshua ben Yosef of Nazaereth was and is Mashiach…stay tuned for part two of ‘Who IS a Jew?’.