Identifying Identity

In today’s Jewish American world, the intermarriage rate is at 58 percent, up from 43 percent in 1990 and 17 percent in 1970.  Among non-Orthodox Jews, the intermarriage rate is 71 percent. This data comes from the Pew Research Center Survey of U.S. Jews http://www.pewforum.org/2013/10/01/jewish-american-beliefs-attitudes-culture-survey/ As a result of this phenomenon, many in the more traditional segments of the Jewish community view intermarriage as a threat to Jewish survival; in some cases even equating it with Hitler and the Holocaust. In this post, I will argue that the definition of the term “Jew” is not subjectively determined by shifting human sensibilities, but rather its true meaning is grammatically and historically extracted from the authorial intent of settled Divine revelation.

A Jewish person is a physical descendent of the Hebrew patriarchs Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob (cf. Gen. 12:1-3; 13:15-16; 15:4-5; 26:2-5, 24; 28:13-15). From the repeated statement in the Abrahamic covenant that a nation will come through the biological blood line of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob; the Hebrew Scriptures clearly define Jewish identity in terms of a specific ethnic nationality. This nationality is based on physical descent not geographical location. Therefore, it is not confined to the state of Israel alone. It includes all Jewish people wherever they live. And it includes all Jewish people regardless of their religious affiliation including Jews who recognize 1st century Jesus of Nazareth as the Jewish Messiah promised in the Jewish Scriptures. So then, the way one answers the question “Who is a Jew?” is ultimately determined by what one considers as his or her supreme source of authority; namely human tradition or the inspired Word from the God of Israel Himself!

It’s truly tragic when Jewish belief in the messiahship of Jesus results in cultural assimilation to the extent that one denies or renounces their God-given Jewish identity. However, if one is thinking and acting in accordance with what God has told  Jewish people in Tanakh, that will not happen! In fact, the very opposite will take place. One’s Jewish identity is actually enhanced and magnified by virtue of trusting in Yeshua for forgiveness of sin and eternal life because now there’s not only a physical component of Jewish identity present, there’s also a spiritually redeemed component present as well.  And the truth of the matter is, for my people there is no greater way to shame and counteract the demonic legacy of Hitler than to faith embrace the fact that Messiah has come, Messiah has provided atonement, and that this same Messiah who is Jesus, our literal physical brother; is soon coming again to completely uproot and overthrow the present world order and establish His righteous Kingdom.  And in the absolute best sense of the term “Jew,” (cf. Hebrew Derivative Yehudi – One who acknowledges God’s existence and praises Him while submitting to His authority); it simply doesn’t get any better or more Jewish than this!

When I have opportunity to talk about these issues with Jewish non-believers in the messiahship of Jesus, the usual default/knee-jerk response is, “I respect your beliefs respect mine.” Which of course is politically correct deflection code for, “I think you’re dead wrong and I don’t want to talk about it!” And so if someone is not interested in having a forthright civil discussion about the most important thing to have a forthright civil discussion about; namely how to be certain of spending eternity with God, I move on.  After 42 years of most of my fellow Jews not appreciating my attempts to articulate the gospel and most non-Jews not understanding my attempts to appropriately contextualize my articulation of the gospel for a Jewish audience; I’ve learned to roll with rejection and ridicule.  In fact, in the big of picture of things, it’s really not a big deal at all because it’s not about me anyway! I’m just a deeply flawed messenger trying to be faithful in doing what I’ve been redeemed for and called to do.  Any discussion involving biblical truth is about the receiver of the message and their relationship to God. This perspective, which was courageously modeled by the Hebrew prophets; removes the bondage of human validation while simultaneously imparting the priceless peace and contentment of playing for an audience of One. Baruch Ha Shem!

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