A daily double: an article and a podcast! The article is from the July 1991 issue of James Jordan’s Biblical Horizons newsletter. It shows how Jordan’s thinking and views of the whole debate over ancient and modern Jews and the state of Israel changed from his previous views that essentially followed the Puritans and the Westminster Divines.
It is vital that Christians understand this issue and don’t fall into the political traps being laid everywhere both in the Middle East and the media’s evaluation of the ongoing Israel/Palestinian hostilities. What is happening in Gaza right now is not a fulfillment of biblical prophecy and doesn’t get us any closer to “the end.” It is a political war being fought for political reasons, as Gary points out in today’s podcast.
What is a Jew?
Most Christians think of the Jews as a race of people descended from Abraham. When God called Abraham and made him a priest to the gentile nations, He commanded him to use the sign of circumcision to mark out the Hebrews from the other nations. Abraham’s household at this time included at least 318 fighting men (Gen. 14:14), as well as their wives and children, possibly many more servants. All of these men were circumcised. We see these servants mentioned in the book of Genesis several times (Gen. 26:19ff.; 32:16), and when Jacob went down to sojourn in Egypt, so many people went with him that he had to be given the whole land of Goshen to dwell in. Genesis 46 provides a list of only 70 actual blood descendants of Abraham who went into Egypt. Thus, from the very beginning, the Israelites were defined by covenant, not by blood and race.
The same was true for each of the tribes within Israel. A Levite was not necessarily a blood descendant of Levi, but more likely was a descendant of one of the patriarchs’ servants who was a part of Levi’s company. Only a small percentage of Levites would actually have been descendants of Levi.
These several thousand people became over two million by the time of the Exodus 215 years later. Only a small percentage of the people who came out of Egypt had any racial connection with Abraham. Moreover, added to the company of Israel at this time was a vast mixed multitude, many of whom became circumcised members of the nation, and therefore members of individual tribes as well.
There was another admixture of converts in the time of David and Solomon. Think of Uriah the Hittite, for example. Then again, the book of Esther tells us that during and after the Exile many more gentiles became Jews (Esther 8:17).
What this means is that very few Jews at the time of Christ had any of Abraham’s blood in them. They were a nation formed by covenant, not a race formed by blood. To be sure, Jesus Himself was a true blood descendant of Abraham, and His genealogy is important for theological reasons, but few other Jews could trace their genealogy to Abraham.
With the passing away of the Old Covenant, there is no longer any such thing as a Jew in the Biblical sense, unless by “True Jews” we mean Christians. There is no covenant, and therefore there is no nation, no “race.”
What, then, are modern Jews? Modern Jews are people who choose to think of themselves as descendants of Israel. Most modern Jews are not Semites, but are descended from Eastern European tribes that converted to Judaism in the middle ages. Modern Jews do not worship the God of the Old Testament. They are either secular humanists, or else Talmudists, and the Talmud has no more relation to the Old Testament than does the Quran or the Book of Mormon. Like the Quran and the Book of Mormon, the Talmud and Mishnah are designed to add to and reinterpret the Old Testament in such a way as to obliterate completely the revelation of God through Jesus Christ (compare Luke 24:27). The “God” of Judaism is as much a fiction as the “God” of Islam and the “God” of Mormonism.
It is entirely possible that there is not one drop of Abraham’s blood in any modern Jew. Of the tiny percentage of Israel that had any of Abraham’s blood in the first century, it is possible that all such either became Christians or were slain in the Jewish War of A.D. 70. No one can know for sure about something like this, and it does not matter in the slightest.
Modern Jews are a separate nation of people with a self-identity, spread out among many other nations. The closest analogy to them are the Gypsies. The only difference between Modern Jews and Gypsies is that the Modern Jews claim to have a relation to the Biblical Jews, a claim I maintain is false.
An analogy may help. Mormons think of themselves as Christians, and call themselves Christians, but they are not Christians. They are counterfeit Christians. Just so, Modern Jews think of themselves as Jews, but they are not Jews. They are counterfeits of Biblical Jews. I say this not to disparage them, but to be accurate. In fact, I shall argue later in this paper that this business of treating Jews as special is directly related to the persecution the Jews have so frequently experienced…