That is an age-old question.
A Jew is someone who was born of a Jewish mother. However, there are different views on that because according to the Orthodox, once born a Jew, always a Jew, but the Reform Jews believe if a Jew converts, he or she is no longer Jewish.
A Jew is someone who is a descendant of Judah, the 4th son of Jacob.
A Jew is someone who is from Y’hudah, or Judah (Judea).
A Jew is someone who speaks Hebrew.
I once read that some Rabbi had said anyone who worships the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob is a Jew.
A Jew is one of the Chosen people of God.
The Replacement Theologists will tell you that they, the Right-Wing Christians, are now the only “real” Jews (their justification for saying this is that since the “old” Jews rejected Jesus, God has rejected them. That’s just plain silly.)
So, nu? What is a Jew, or more correctly phrased, who is a Jew?
If you ask me (and by reading this blog, you are pretty much asking), there are two kinds of Jews:
- Someone who is a descendant of the Patriarchs Abraham, Isaac and Jacob through one of the 12 sons of Jacob; or
- A Jew is someone who worships God the way God wants to be worshiped, which means worshiping God in accordance with the Torah.
Now, does that imply if someone who was born of Jewish parents but converts, or simply doesn’t worship God according to the Torah, is not a Jew? Or, if someone is a Gentile but worships God in accordance with the Torah, is now a Jew without any formal conversion classes, circumcision, etc?
My answer is: Yes. To both.
Again, for me, the term “Jew” or “Jewish” is not confined to the practice of Judaism- after all, there are 6 sects within Judaism: Chasidic, Orthodox, Conservative, Reform, Reconstructionist and Messianic. They are so very different in their daily practice that they could almost be considered separate religions.
And as I have always said and will always say: God has no religion.
Someone who is born from Jewish parents is a Jew, but if they do not practice Judaism (any one of the above forms) then how can they be identified as a Jew? If you’re born into a Quaker family but have a cell phone, watch TV, and own a car, how can you call yourself a Quaker? You are not living as a Quaker lives, so you can’t be a Quaker.
God separated the Jewish people from everyone else in the world. To help keep them that way, He gave them the Torah, His set of instructions on how to worship Him and how to treat each other. In other words, how to live a “Jewish” life.
People don’t mean what they say, they mean what they do- I have said that often, and will continue to say it because it is a simple and absolute truth about human nature. Therefore, if I say I am a Jew but I do not live (or, at least, try to live) and worship God in accordance with the Torah He gave us, then how can I call myself a “Jew”? I can’t, because what I do is not ‘Jewish.’
This all started with Abraham, who had no justification to call himself a Jew- he didn’t come from Judea, he didn’t have Jewish parents, and he didn’t worship in accordance with Torah because there wasn’t any Torah. And yet, pretty much everyone considers him the Father of the Jewish people. I would call him a Jew for one reason, and one reason only- he worshiped God as God said he should. That is why I believe a Jew is anyone, no matter which religion they were born into, who worships God as God said we should.
In the letter to the newly Messianic congregation in Ephesus, Shaul (Paul) tells them that the difference between the way people worship will be all gone because through Messiah there will be one, new man- a person who, spiritually, will be separate and distinct, and who will find total peace in his (or her) worship of God by following what Yeshua (Jesus) taught. And, for the record, Yeshua did not teach anything different from what the Torah says. He did not, as we have been lied to for millennia, create a new religion or teach that Torah is no longer valid- the truth is that Yeshua taught us not just the word of Torah but the deeper meaning, the “drash” of God’s word, so that we would not just live it, but be living examples of it, as He was.
And God tells us that anyone who sojourns with the Jewish people is to be treated as one of them, as an adopted son or daughter of Abraham. God, Himself, tells us throughout the Tanakh that anyone, no matter who they were born from, is an adopted son or daughter of Abraham if they worship God in accordance with His Torah.
Therefore: if anyone asks me what a Jew is, I will say someone who worships the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob in the way God said to worship Him, which is in accordance with the Torah. That’s it: it’s that simple, it’s that easy to understand, it’s that basic.
It doesn’t matter what religion you were born into, how you were raised or where you are from, if you believe in God and worship Him as the Torah says to, you are a Jew.
And if you do all that, and also accept that Yeshua is the Messiah God promised us, then you are a Jew who has found fullness and completion of Torah in that you have found and are one with the Messiah.
It don’t get no better than that!