Who is a Jew? Today many Rabbinic and Karaite Jews deny that Messianic Jews are Jewish, whether they are of Jewish or Gentile background. They say that the person of Jewish background has forfeited his Jewishness by believing in Yeshua. And that the person of Gentile background has not become Jewish because he has not converted to a legitimate sect of Judaism. Sadly many Messianic Jews of Jewish background will defend their own Jewishness based on the legitimacy of Rabbinic Judaism by claiming descent from a woman who practiced Rabbinic Judaism. But is this what the Scriptures say makes a person Jewish? What is just as sad is the fact that many Messianic Jews will vehemently deny the Jewishness of their fellow congregants who are of a Gentile background. But they do not realize that by doing so they are admitting in a very real way that their form of Judaism is illegitimate. I've actually heard Messianic Jews of a Jewish background say that in order for a Gentile to become Jewish they must convert to Rabbinic Judaism(which requires denial of Yeshua). And some go so far as too say that it is impossible for a Gentile to become Jewish at all. But is that what the Scriptures say? Who is a Jew? I will attempt to give an answer in this article.
First lets look at the Scriptures to see how the word Jew is used. The Hebrew word for Jew is Yehudi which comes from the name of Yehudah(Judah) the fourth son of our father Yaakov(Jacob). See Bereshit(Genesis)29:35. So one of the obvious definitions of the word Jew is a descendant of the Patriarch Yehudah. The word Jew can also refer to a citizen of the Kingdom of Yehudah. Which included the the tribes of Yehudah, Benyamin(Benjamin), Levi and members of the ten tribes of Yisrael(Israel) who remained faithful to YHWH. See 2Chronicles 11:12-17 and Esther 2:5. I agree with the Rabbinics that the ten lost tribes are out there somewhere, but I don't want to get into that subject right now because it distracts people from the point I'm trying to make. The word Jew can also mean any descendant of our father Yaakov. See Romans 2:9-10. When used in this way it would make the word Jew a synonym of Israelite. This is also what most people think of when they hear the word Jew today.
This is where this article is going to get a little bit controversial. Are the Jewish people today the physical descendants of our father Yaacov? Lets look at the genetics. Now most people have been told that most of the Jewish people all over the world are genetically the same, proving that the vast majority of them are the physical descendants of our father Yaacov. Look at this quote.
"Recently published research in the field of molecular genetics –- the study of DNA sequences –- indicates that Jewish populations of the various Diaspora communities have retained their genetic identity throughout the exile. Despite large geographic distances between the communities and the passage of thousands of years, far removed Jewish communities share a similar genetic profile. This research confirms the common ancestry and common geographical origin of world Jewry."
This statement is somewhat misleading. Here is another quote from that same article. Only I'm going to emphasis some key words.
"Despite their long-term residence in different countries and isolation from one another, most Jewish populations were not significantly different from one another at the genetic level. The results support the hypothesis that the paternal gene pools of Jewish communities from Europe, North Africa and the Middle East descended from a common Middle Eastern ancestral population, and suggest that most Jewish communities have remained relatively isolated from neighboring non-Jewish communities during and after the Diaspora." (M.F. Hammer, Proc. Nat'l Academy of Science, May 9, 2000)
Notice that the Jewish people have multiple paternal gene pools that come from an ancestral population not a paternal gene pool that comes from a singular ancestor. Paternal gene pools are often referred to as haplogroups in genetic studies. When the above quote says that "most Jewish populations were not significantly different from one another at the genetic level" it means that the same haplogroups were found among them at approximately the same percentages. It is not saying that all those haplogroups trace back to our father Yaakov. Here is a list of the different haplogroups found among the Ashkenazi Jews.
Obviously there is a lot of wiggle room when it comes to the percentages of the different haplogroups. It depends on what study you use. I've tried to give you the extremes based on different studies. A good overall source of information on the genetics of the Jewish people is http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Genetic_studies_on_Jews The Sephardic Jews are basically the same except as far as I can tell they have a slightly higher percentage of R1b. So why do I bring this all up? You have eight different haplogroups listed above which were fathered by eight different men, and none of them are descended from any of the others. Now it is true that some of the men are closely related. Such as J1 and J2. And the same goes for R1b and R1a. So here is the question. What haplogroup was fathered by our father Yaakov? We can only pick one. So which is it? Most geneticists pick J1 because the famous Cohen Modal Haplotype is a subgroup of J1. So the best case scenario is that only 25% of the modern Jewish population are the physical descendants of our father Yaakov. And even that is wishful thinking, because J1 is also the father of a lot of Arabs which would mean that J1 is more likely to be our father Avraham than our father Yaakov. Look at this quote.
In Arabic countries, J1 climaxes among the Marsh Arabs of South Iraq (81%), the Sudanese Arabs (73%), the Yemeni (72%), the Bedouins (63%), the Qatari (58%), the Saudi (40%), the Omani (38%) and the Palestinian Arabs (38%). High percentages are also observed in the United Arab Emirates (35%), coastal Algeria (35%), Jordan (31%), Syria (30%), Tunisia (30%), Egypt (21%) and Lebanon (20%)
So unless your willing to say that all those Arabs are Jewish you have no other choice but to say J1 is (best case scenario) our father Avraham. So now we are down to less than 25% of the Jewish population being descendants of our father Yaakov. Because some of those Jews that are J1 are going to be descendants of Ishmaelites, Edomites, Moabites and Ammonites who have converted to Judaism. So the Messianic Jews of a Jewish background better hope that a Gentile can become Jewish, because if they can't over 75% of them are actually Gentiles. I'll say one more thing regarding genetics. It is a very young science and there is a lot that we don't understand. So there might be a chance that this is all wrong but as far as we can tell there is not any other way to interpret the evidence. At least not until further discoveries are made. Now that we know that as far as genetics is concerned that most Jews today are no more Jewish physically than their Gentile neighbors down the street, what are we supposed to do? Should we declare that over 75% of the Jews today are Gentiles and that there is no way they can be Jewish? This is a question all those Messianic Jews of Jewish background that think that it is impossible for a Gentile to become Jewish needs to ask themselves.
So, can a Gentile become a Jew? Lets see what the Scriptures have to say about it.
Esther8:17 And in every province, and in every city, whithersoever the king's commandment and his decree came, the Jews had joy and gladness, a feast and a good day. And many of the people of the land became Jews; for the fear of the Jews fell upon them.
This passage makes it clear that Gentiles can indeed become Jewish. In fact this passage is so clear that I'm surprised that there are even people who deny that it is possible. But how does a Gentile become a Jew? The Rabbinics would say convert to Rabbinic Judaism and sadly many Messianic Jews of a Jewish background would agree with them. But is this what the Scriptures say?
But now in Yeshua HaMashiakh ye who sometimes were far off are made nigh by the blood of Mashiakh.
This Passage should make it clear to any Messianic that Gentiles become Jewish through belief in Yeshua. Notice that they were Gentiles in the past. So if they are no longer Gentiles then they must be Jews.
Galatians3:29 And if you are Mashiakh’s, then you are Avraham’s seed, and heirs according to the promise.
Need I say more? You have Jews who were born Jewish and you have Jews who became Jewish. So, Who is a Jew? I am!
"I consider as Jewish anyone who is meshuge(crazy) enough to call themselves 'Jewish.'"
David Ben Gurion