A Response to a Recent Comment
Earlier this week we received a comment which challenged the Jewishness of Jesus on one of our video posts featuring Dr. Michael Brown. The comment went on to make claims about the geographical and political situation of Palestine which, in addition to the claim that Dr. Michael Brown is being audacious when he states plainly that Jesus was Jewish, show a certain ignorance – wilful or otherwise – about some fairly basic and attested biblical and historical facts.
This man [Dr. Michael Brown] has a nerve to say that Jesus was “Jewish”, HE WAS A GALILEAN: HE was not from Judea, he came from Nazareth, GALILEE. And yes HE was crucified by the Romans who at the time were friends with the Jews of the Temple and obeyed their orders. The region had been called Palestine by no less than the historian Herodotus in the fifth century BC. In the Bible which Zionist Jews use as a history book when it suits them, Abraham stayed in the “Land of the Philistines” for some time! As to the Christian Palestinians, they are PALESTINIANS first, the most famous being the late Edward Said who deplored the deceitful “Oslo Accords” which were a Palestinian surrender. The Christians of Gaza, the WEST BANK and “israel” are PALESTINIANS and TOGETHER WITH THE MUSLIMS, WANT THEIR COUNTRY BACK.
The comment wasn’t exactly written in long form with all the angles covered, most internet comments aren’t. However, the claims are made with a confidence behind them that needs addressing, to check whether the facts presented are true.
Claim One: Jesus was Galilean, not Judean, therefore he was not Jewish
This man [Dr. Michael Brown] has a nerve to say that Jesus was “Jewish”, HE WAS A GALILEAN: HE was not from Judea, he came from Nazareth, GALILEE.
This statement seems rife with misunderstanding as to both who or what Jewish people are, and how Jewish ethnicity works. I guess my first response would be to ask, “Have you read the Bible?”. In all seriousness however, the points below are a count of how incorrect that statement is:
- First and foremost to assert that Jesus came from Nazareth and therefore was a Galilean, is to make the same mistake his contemporary detractors made in overlooking the fact that he was in fact, born in Bethlehem. Bethlehem was at (and prior to) that time, a Judean city in Judah. This is demonstrably true, especially since an archaeological discovery in 2012 in the City of David of a bulla (an official seal made of dried clay). This particular bulla features an ancient Hebrew inscription which reads “From the town of Bethlehem to the King” indicating that it was used to seal the string closing a shipment of grain, wine, or other goods sent as a tax payment in the 8th or 7th century BCE.1 Jesus grew up in Nazareth, but he was not ‘from there‘ in the sense that most of us understand the term ‘from there‘. I have lived in England for most of my life, but I am not from there, even if everyone were (for arguments sake) to refer to me as ‘Joe Bloggs of England’. Jesus also spent some time in Egypt but we don’t claim he is Egyptian or from Egypt.
- The first chapter of Matthew2 lays out the lineage of Jesus from Abraham to Joseph as being from the tribe of Judah. Historically, a Judean of a member of the tribe of Judah, so by virtue of his non-biological father’s lineage, Jesus was of the tribe of Judah and therefore, a Judean.
- If the above point wasn’t enough then Mary herself was also likely to be from the tribe of Judah, since she is told by the Angel in Luke 1:32-33 that her son will be great and be given the throne of His father [as in ancestor], David.
He will be great, and will be called the Son of the Highest. And the Lord God will give Him the throne of His father David, and He will reign over the house of Jacob forever. And of His kingdom there will be no end.”
Later in Hebrews 7:14 we see that the author states that Jesus was from the tribe of Judah;
For it is evident that our Lord descended from Judah, a tribe concerning which Moses said nothing about priests.
So here, where more modern detractors like to claim that Mary was from the tribe of Levi, there isn’t really any evidence for that besides the small hint that her relative Elizabeth (not expressly Mary) was a Levite. Since tribal lineage was from the father at that time, and inter-tribal marriage was commonplace, this tribal difference between Mary and Elizabeth is quite possible.
- Jesus is shown in Luke 4 reading from the scroll of Isaiah at the synagogue. While common Israelites were permitted to read at the gathering, they still had to be an Israelite/Jew. He was not Palestinian as many try to assert.
- This claim forgets to recall the fact that Jesus was in fact, as stated above, born in Bethlehem, which is significant, since the Jews were expecting their Messiah to come from there. It’s a shame they weren’t paying more attention.
Claim Two: He was crucified by the Romans who at the time were friends with the Jews of the Temple and obeyed their orders.
Truly, I have never in 20-odd years of believing the Bible, heard the relationship between the 1st century Jewish leadership and the Romans being presented as a friendship, much less that the Romans were subservient to them! This honestly seems like great intellectual dishonesty at best. We know from Josephus that Pontius Pilate, far from being the fairly placid prefect he might appear to some as from the biblical account, crucified up to 500 Jews a day during his time in office. We can be confident that Herod and Pilate did not get on and only briefly saw eye-to-eye while deciding what to do with Jesus. The High Priest position would be banded back and forth between Caiaphas and Ananias, depending on whom the Romans favoured at any one time, this hardly seems like the situation claimed by the author of the recent comment. No, I think historical record is replete with examples of the exact opposite of what is being claimed here.
Claim Three: The region had been called Palestine by no less than the historian Herodotus in the fifth century BC.
Now this claim does seem to hold some water. The Histories of Herodotus is often used to combat a common pro-Israel argument. This is the argument which claims the regional name of Palestine comes from the name the Romans gave the land of Judea and Samaria around 135AD namely, Syria-Palaestina. Before we concede this point though, when looking at place names in the 5th century BC, it would be a good idea to have a look at who was living in those places. Archaeological research shows the land called Philistia was inhabited by people who’s DNA was significantly Aegean. Also, contrary to the slur the word ‘Philistine’ has been over time, these people were very Mediterranean, mercantile with a great appreciation for fashion among other things.3 The research on the ground seems to strongly suggest that whoever was living in the strip of land Herodotus was writing about, in fact shared no heritage with the modern Arabs who have been dubbed Palestinians for the last few decades.
One also wonders if their land was of such importance, why has the Palestinian flag existed for less than a hundred years? Should we read anything into why it looks almost exactly like the Jordanian flag? Perhaps a former leader of the Palestinian Liberation Organisation can shed some light on this. Zuheir Mohsen, who was leader of the PLO in the 1970’s was quoted as saying the following in an interview for the Dutch publication, Trouw Magazine:
The Palestinian people does not exist. The creation of a Palestinian state is only a means for continuing our struggle against the state of Israel for our Arab unity. In reality today there is no difference between Jordanians, Palestinians, Syrians and Lebanese. Only for political and tactical reasons do we speak today about the existence of a Palestinian people, since Arab national interests demand that we posit the existence of a distinct “Palestinian people” to oppose Zionism. Yes, the existence of a separate Palestinian identity exists only for tactical reasons, Jordan, which is a sovereign state with defined borders, cannot raise claims to Haifa and Jaffa, while as a Palestinian, I can undoubtedly demand Haifa, Jaffa, Beer-Sheva and Jerusalem. However, the moment we reclaim our right to all of Palestine, we will not wait even a minute to unite Palestine and Jordan.
That almost sounds like the leadership in Palestine knew they were bluffing. It also sounds like they considered the term ‘Palestine’ – as they had been using it – little more than a political fiction. Particularly when they use words like ‘struggle’ which in Mohsen’s native Arabic is jihad, which opens up a whole can of worms I’m not going to get into in this response. The admission here, that Jordan is essentially where all Palestinians would call home should they win this struggle is quite illuminating. It certainly would go some way to explain why much of the Arabic literature from the PA is so aggressive, featuring youngsters throwing rocks and holding daggers, while the English language versions tend to be more pleading and cries for assistance and moral support.
Claim Four: In the Bible which Zionist Jews use as a history book when it suits them, Abraham stayed in the “Land of the Philistines” for some time!
The Bible does indeed make reference to the ‘land of Philistines’ and that Abraham stayed there for some time.4 but no one is denying Abraham stayed in the land of the Philistines or that Philistines were a people. However, my counter argument is that the Philistines who Abraham knew were not the Palestinians we refer to today. This claim by the comment above also doesn’t really account for centuries of history, and the fact that the Philistines that Abraham knew were being dominated repeatedly throughout history and that by around 1000BCE-700BCE, the Aegean cultural DNA markers start to disappear. In fact from 603BCE, there is a surviving tablet from a shrine in Ekron (which is the first tablet found in situ where the date is not in question), from the time of the destruction by the King Nebuchadnezzar. This confirms that Archeologists were in fact excavating Ekron. The people who were there disappeared long ago. This flies in the face of the persistent claims by the Palestinian authority that there has been a continued Arab Palestinian presence which negates any Jewish claims to the land.5
Claim Five: As to the Christian Palestinians, they are PALESTINIANS first, the most famous being the late Edward Said who deplored the deceitful “Oslo Accords” which were a Palestinian surrender.
One might say, that if the Palestinian Christians consider themselves Palestinians first, this may in fact be their first mistake. I believe Christians are urged to firstly find and ground their identity in Christ6, before any geopolitical situation7. If I spent more time expanding this argument, I imagine I would find many examples of un-Christ-like behaviour coming from all manner of Christians whom did not first consider themselves Christians. It would seem that for some Christians who consider themselves Palestinian first and Christian second, that the principle of loving one’s enemies and praying for them, does not apply to Israel or the Jews. When this kind of thinking takes root, it is obvious to see why Palestinian Christians would seek to cleanse Jesus’ Jewish ethnicity so as to spare him their ire. On that note, I am very thankful that leaders and partners of TJCII are making significantly positive strides in bringing Messianic Jews and Arab Christians together. I would also like to encourage all Christians within Gaza and the West Bank to focus more intently on the genuine person and deity of Christ Jesus.
I will address some of what Edward Said wrote about the Oslo Accords here, to see if that makes any difference to the identity of Jesus. Edward Said indeed called the Oslo Accords a kind of Palestinian surrender. He laments that Israel expelled 800,000 Palestinians (whose descendants now number three million). While the expulsion Said referred to may have occurred (though I believe it is contested whether these people were expelled or called into the surrounding countries while the Jewish problem was dealt with) it certainly quashes the idea that Israel is engaged in some sort of genocidal plan. If so, they’re doing a terrible job, especially since the Palestinian population has been rapidly increasing since Israel regained its nationhood. One wonders what Said’s opinion would be of Palestinian politics now, over a decade later. Would his criticisms lie with Israel, or with the Palestinian Authority and Hamas? Perhaps the situation would improve if foreign aid sent to the Palestinian Authority were spent on schools which didn’t teach a brand of revisionist, anti-Israeli history?8 We might also see huge advances in the region if hospitals weren’t commandeered in order to become weapons caches and rocket launch sites.9 It might also help the image of the Palestinian cause if, when one of their number sneaks into a Jewish home to kill families with no regard for age or gender, (or who their victims even are) the PA wouldn’t pay these terrorist criminals large amounts of money while they are imprisoned. They see fit instead to send money to the attackers’ families thereby encouraging others to do the same and leads Palestinian mothers to praise their murderous children on national television. None of this particularly sounds like surrender to me.
Side Note: I must point out that the claim that Edward Said was a notable Palestinian Christian is entirely false, since he was, by all accounts, agnostic and in some cases heralded as an atheist on various lists of celebrity atheists.
Final point for this claim. I am a grandchild of refugees. I was born in a city far from my grandparents original home yet I have no right of return to Lleida, an ancestral home from which my great-grandparents were given very little choice about leaving. The reason being six Francoist priests having shot at their eleven year old daughter during the Spanish Civil War. This daughter, who, either by poor aim, divine intervention, or both, survived the attack with no more than a broken arm (and would later become my grandmother), lived on a freezing cold beach for 2 years, surrounded by barbed wire with little more than a hole in the sand and driftwood covered by coats and blankets to call home. They were eventually led out of the camp as my great grandfather’s services as a veterinarian were required by a French Marquis and settled in Rosello/Rousillon. In the decades since the Spanish civil war, our family has never been given the right of return to the Catalan County in which the family had lived from as far back as the 12th century.
So why the decades long referral to children of grandparents who left ‘Gaza’ and the ‘West Bank’ as refugees when in reality, (as in my case I was registered as French by the local government) they were born in places like Jordan and should by all rights be considered fully-fledged Jordanians. Why are they not granted full rights to education, work and land purchase etc…? It seems to me and others that organisations like the UN seek to keep the Palestinians in a permanent state of victim-hood.
I think it is safe to say that whatever anti-Israeli commentators like Edward Said have to say, it does nothing to detract from the very real Jewishness of Jesus. For as we read from Paul in Romans 1:1-4;
Paul, a servant of Jesus Christ, called to be an apostle and set apart for the gospel of God, which He promised beforehand through His prophets in the Holy Scriptures, concerning His Son, Jesus Christ our Lord, who was born of the seed of David according to the flesh and declared to be the Son of God with power, according to the Spirit of holiness, by the resurrection from the dead.
It is evident that the Biblical claim is that Jesus was a Judean (as in tribe of Judah) according to his birth by the flesh. This will be one of the places we get the implication that Mary was also of the tribe of Judah, since hers was the only flesh involved in the birth of Jesus.
Claim Six: The Christians of Gaza, the WEST BANK and “israel” are PALESTINIANS and TOGETHER WITH THE MUSLIMS, WANT THEIR COUNTRY BACK.
I have left this claim as it was written since, while the claim itself may be an incorrect assumption, it is also possible that the use of the word ‘Israel’ with no capital letter while ‘Palestinians’ is in all caps is another indicator of the bias of the writer. Perhaps when they wrote ‘together with the Muslims, want their country back‘ they simply meant they both have the shared aim of regaining control of a territory. Another possibility is that they were speaking of a closer relationship than that. If the latter is the case, I am always fascinated as to how that can be when the revered scriptures of the Muslim describes Christians (in addition to Jews and Polytheists) as the ‘worst of creatures’ who will abide in hell forever.10 Perhaps some Palestinian Christians are willing to be considered less than pigs so long as their territorial aims are achieved? Though I do wonder what would happen to those Christians should the aims of reclaiming the land ever be fulfilled since, you know, their number has been dwindling for years already?
The claims made in the comment we received, comprises much of what I would brand as a more modern Political Supersessionism,11 based on revising geopolitical as well as religious history which, when successful, results in motions being overwhelmingly passed by the UN to declare Zionism as racism12, and that there is somehow no Jewish connection to the Temple Mount13 (a move which, I might add, is outrageously insulting to Christians as well as Jews, not that UNESCO seems bothered by actual details) and flies in the face of reality, irrespective of whether anyone believes Judaism or Christianity to be true!
I would hope that I have provided some more accurate information than was presented in the original comment, though I would like to thank the person who left it for the opportunity to answer some common objections.
References / Endnotes
- http://www.antiquities.org.il/article_eng.aspx?sec_id=25&subj_id=240&id=1938&module_id=#as ↩
- https://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=matthew+1&version=MEV ↩
- Do the Palestinians Descend from the Philistines? ↩
- Gen 21:34 ” ↩
- https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jvnDlBX1-3k ↩
- John 1:12-13 “Yet to all who received Him, He gave the power to become sons of God, to those who believed in His name, who were born not of blood, nor of the will of the flesh, nor of the will of man, but of God.” ↩
- John 17:14 “I have given them Your word. And the world has hated them because they are not of the world, just as I am not of the world.” ↩
- UN-sponsored schools using anti-Israel textbooks from Palestinian Authority ↩
- Media cover-up of Hamas crimes starting to unravel ↩
- Quran 98:6 – “Verily, those who disbelieve (in the religion of Islam, the Quran and Prophet Muhammad (Peace be upon him)) from among the people of the Scripture (Jews and Christians) and Al-Mushrikun (Polytheists) will abide in the Fire of Hell. They are the worst of creatures.” ↩
- As opposed to the theological Supersessionism we ordinarily contend with at TJCII ↩
- United Nations General Assembly Resolution 3379 ↩
- UNESCO VOTES: NO CONNECTION BETWEEN TEMPLE MOUNT AND JUDAISM ↩