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A Learning Journey – Defining the Term “Jew” – Part 1

Today, I am sharing a new learning journey. I have stumbled across a definition of “Jew” that is quite different from anything I had ever seen before. As promised, when I come across things like this, I would like to take you with me down this path of revelation. Then together, we can discover whether this road leads to a new interpretation of an old idea or a dead-end that reinforces our current understanding.

What Caused Me to Chance Upon This

I stumbled upon this when I was looking for the correct word to describe someone from Judah. It occurred to me that the term “Israelite” was proper when I was writing about the descendants of Israel[1] prior to Rehoboam and Jeroboam.

Once the united kingdom divided into two nations, the northern nation continued to be called Israel but the southern nation became Judah. Obviously, the inhabitants of the northern nation would continue to be called Israelites. However, what about the southern nation?

By the time of Jesus, the southern region would be called “Judea” by the Romans. I know at that time, we would call the inhabitants “Judeans”. This didn’t help me determine the name of the people of Judah prior to the New Testament.

Since the people of Israel were called Israelites, my best thought was “Judahite” for the people of Judah. That didn’t sound familiar. When I typed that into MS Word, it underlined it in red, telling me that it wasn’t a word found in its dictionary. Time to search the internet.

What I Stumbled Across

I typed “Judahite” into my Google search bar and as I would expect, Merriam-webster.com and dictionary.com were the first two search results. Both defined the tern “Judahite” as a member of the tribe of Judah or the Kingdom of Judah. Ding! Got what I was looking for – back to work…

But not so fast. My eyes happened to glance at the next search result. It was from a site called Biblicism Institute. The title of the article was “Jew or Judahite.” Hmmm… Interesting. I thought, “Is the right term ‘Jew?’” The next search term was from a site called oraclesofyah.org. The title of this article was “’Jew’ or ‘Gentile’ : Two misunderstood words.”

Defining Jew

I haven’t had time to delve deep into this yet, but here are the upfront quotes which made me curious.

From ‘”Jew’ or ‘Gentile’”:

“There seems to be an incredible amount of confusion concerning the word Jew as used in the scriptures. As I chat with people I find that almost no one really understands it.”

“So we can see from the above that the word Jew should have been translated Judaite. A Judahite was someone from the tribe of Judah. A “Jew” in this case is an Israelite…”

“In the new testament the word most commonly translated Jew was a general term for those who lived in Judaea. It would have been been better translated as Judaean and does not necessarily mean a Judahite or even an Israelite.”

From “Jew or Judahite”:

“The word “Jew” did not come into existence until the year 1775.”

“Its modern connotation points to someone who follows and adheres to a faith similar to that of the Pharisees of Judah, but is not of the tribe and stock of Judah. In other words, Jews are people from nations other than the 12 Hebrew tribes who practice a religion known as Judaism/Pharisaism, the doctrine of the Pharisees.”

“In fact, the religion that is known as Judaism is actually Pharisaism. Judaism – as it pertains to Pharisaism – is a misnomer since it is neither the doctrine of Judah nor the doctrine that Christ practiced.”

That’s what I’m up to. I’ll do some research and let you know what I find.

Your Turn

Until then, let me know what you think. If this is true, what do you see as some consequences to this? Have you run across this before? Do you think the term “Jew” has been misunderstood all these years? Leave your comments below. God bless…


[1] The name given to Jacob after he wrestled with The Angel of the Lord