Jesus is a real, historical person, born in the Land of Israel, during the Roman occupation, in approximately the year 3 BCE. However, at the time His name was actually pronounced, “Yeshua,” and that is the name used in this article.
That Yeshua was born Jewish is one of the least contested truths of the Bible. The very first verse of the New Covenant reads: The book of the genealogy of Messiah Yeshua (“Jesus Christ”), the son of David, the son of Abraham (Matt. 1:1). Who were Abraham and David?
Abraham was the first Hebrew. God changed his name from Abram (Gen. 17:5). In Gen. 14:13 he is called Abram the Hebrew. So we can see that Yeshua (Jesus) is descended from “Abram the Hebrew.” Even to this day, Jews are also called “Hebrews”, and the language of the Jews is “Hebrew.”
Abraham and his descendants were given the unconditional covenant of the Promised Land (Gen. 17:8) and the covenant of circumcision (Gen. 17:10). Abraham is the father of the Jews (Acts 3:12-25). Isaac was his son and Jacob was his grandson (Matt. 1:2). Thus, Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob are known as the Patriarchs, the fathers of the Jews.
Jacob’s name was changed by God to “Israel” (Gen. 35:10-12) and he had twelve sons (Gen. 35:23-26) from whom come the Twelve Tribes of Israel. All of their descendants are known collectively throughout the Bible as the Children of Israel (Ex. 1:6-7).
One of those twelve sons was Judah (Gen. 35:23, Matt. 1:2) and it is from his name that we get the word ‘Jew’. Although Yehudah (Judah) was only one of the twelve, by 700 BCE, because of the course of Israel’s history, the word Yehudee (Jew) came to mean any person descended from Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob (Jer. 34:9). So, for instance, Saul haShaliach (the Apostle Paul) was of the tribe of Benjamin (Romans 11:1) yet he self-identified as a Jew (Acts 22:3).
Nevertheless, according to the Bible, the Messiah must be descended from the tribe of Judah (Gen. 49:10) as King David was (1Sam. 17:12, 1Ch. 28:4) and descended from King David himself (2Sam. 7:12-13, Isa. 9:6-7, Jer. 23:5-6). That is why the Messiah is called Son of David (Matt. 21:9).
Yeshua (Jesus) is from the Tribe of Judah (Heb. 7:14). His earthly father was descended from David (Matt. 1:6-16) and His mother was as well (Luke 1:27, 32-34, 3:23-31).
In addition, Yeshua was born King of the Jews (Matt. 2:2). The King of the Jews must Himself be Jewish (Deut. 17:15). His aunt Elizabeth was Jewish (a descendant of Aaron, Moses’ brother) and His uncle Zacharia was a Jewish priest (Luke 1:5, 36). Yeshua was circumcised according to Jewish law (Luke 2:21, Lev. 12:2-3), and redeemed according to Jewish law (Luke 2:22-23, Num. 18:15). His mother atoned according to Jewish law (Luke 2:24, Lev. 12:6-8). He is called The Consolation of Israel (Luke 2:25) and The Glory of Thy People Israel (Luke 2:32). Jesus was born a Jew.
Jesus lived as a Jew
Although He was born in Bethlehem (Matt. 2:1, Micah 5:2), Yeshua was raised in Nazareth (Luke 2:39-40). Both were Jewish towns at the time, according to archeologists and historians. Bethlehem is just south of Jerusalem while Nazareth is north, in the Galilee section. Both of Yeshua’s parents were from Nazareth (Luke 1:26-27, 2:4, 39) and they returned there with the Child when they had done everything according to the Law of the Lord that His birth required (Luke 2:39). His aunt and uncle were also Torah observant Jews (Luke 1:6) so we can see that probably the whole family took their faith very seriously.
Yeshua’s parents made the 140 mile (225 m.) round trip to Jerusalem every Passover (Luke 2:41) in observance of Deut. 16:16. It was at the age of twelve that Yeshua stayed behind an extra three days to learn from the Temple teachers (Luke 2:46). Although He already understood the Torah well (Luke 2:47), His attitude of listening and questioning indicates love of the Hebrew scripture and respect for the teachers. He also respected the Temple itself, calling it His Father’s (Luke 2:49). Near the end of His life, He praised a widow for giving all she had to the Temple (Luke 21:1-4).
In adult life, His disciples were Jews (John 1:47, Matt. 20:25-26) and they called Him ‘Rabbi’ (John 4:31). Mary called Him ‘Rabboni’ (John 20:16). They sought Him because they believed the Torah and the Prophets (John 1:45).
A Pharisee who had not yet come to faith in Him also addressed Yeshua as ‘Rabbi’ (John 3:2), as did a crowd of people (John 6:25). A Samaritan woman easily recognized He was a Jew (John 4:9).
Yeshua’s disciples spoke Hebrew (John 1:38, 41) and so did He, as well as Chaldean, a closely-related language brought back by the Jews from their captivity in Babylon (Matt. 27:46). In the sermon on the mount He affirmed the authority of the Torah and the Prophets (Matt. 5:17) even in the Kingdom of Heaven (Matt. 5:19-20). He regularly attended synagogue (Luke 4:16) and His teaching was respected by the other congregants (Luke 4:15). He taught in the Jewish Temple (Luke 21:37) and if He were not a Jew, His going into that part of the Temple would not have been allowed (Acts 21:28-30).
Although He differed with some of His contemporaries on how to keep the commandments (Matt. 12:12), He did not disagree on whether to keep them, saying such things as, “if you wish to enter into life, keep the commandments,” (Matt. 19:17). When He healed someone of leprosy, he instructed him to, “show yourself to the priest and present the offering that Moses commanded…” (Matt. 8:4, Lev. 14).
Yeshua not only taught others how to live a Jewish life, He lived it Himself. The outward signs of this were such things as wearing tzitzit (tassles) on His clothing (Luke 8:43, Matt. 14:36, Strong’s # 2899) to serve as a reminder of the commandments (Num. 15:37-39). He observed Passover (John 2:13) and went up to Jerusalem (Deut. 16:16). He observed Succot (John 7:2, 10) and went up to Jerusalem (John 7:14). He also observed Hanukah (John 10:22) and probably Rosh haShanah (John 5:1), going up to Jerusalem on both those occasions as well, even though it isn’t commanded in the Torah.
The inward sign of His Judaism was a circumcised heart (Deut. 10:16, 30:6).
When faced with temptation, Yeshua answered from the Hebrew Scripture (Matt. 4:2-10, Deut. 8:3, 6:16, 6:13). When teaching, He taught from the Hebrew Scripture (Matt. 22:42-45). When admonishing, He quoted from the Hebrew Scripture (Mk. 7:6-13).
Yeshua self-identified as a Jew (John 4:22) and as King of the Jews (Mk. 15:2). From His birth to His last Passover seder (Luke 22:14-15), Jesus lived as a Jew.
Jesus died a Jew
When Yeshua was taken prisoner by a Roman captain, his cohort, and some Jewish officials (John 18:12), He was delivered into the custody of the Jewish priests, elders, and scribes (Mk. 14:53). The Roman soldiers would not have placed Him under Jewish jurisdiction if He were not Jewish.
Later, Yeshua was brought before the Sanhedrin, the Jewish council (Luke 22:66). He was charged with an offense against Jewish Law (Matt. 26:65-66, Lev. 24:13-14, John 19:7). Pilate, head of the Roman occupation, also recognized Jewish jurisdiction over Yeshua (John 18:31). This was because Yeshua was a Jew (John 18:35).
He unequivocally identified Himself as the Messiah (Mk. 14:61-62) and as we have seen above, the Messiah must be Jewish. He said He is the King of the Jews (Matt. 27:11) and, as we have also seen above, the King of the Jews must Himself be Jewish. The Jewish crowd also called Him ‘King of the Jews’ (Mk. 15:12). He was mocked, spat on and beaten by the Roman soldiers as ‘King of the Jews’ (Mk. 15:16-20) and when they crucified Him, their charge was ‘King of the Jews’ (Matt. 27:37).
The place of judgment had a Hebrew place-name (John 19:13) and the place of crucifixion had a Hebrew place-name (Mk. 15:22).
Joseph of Arimethea, who took custody of Yeshua’s body, was Jewish (Luke 23:50-52) and he laid the body in his own new tomb (Matt. 27:59-60). Therefore, Yeshua was buried in a Jewish cemetery. He was also buried according to Jewish custom of the time (John 19:40). Without doubt, Jesus died a Jew.
Jesus was resurrected a Jew
Yeshua the risen Jew told his Jewish disciples to go out and teach all the Gentiles (Matt. 28:19, Strong’s # 1484).
Then, after eating, talking and walking with His disciples, Yeshua, “lifted up His hands and blessed them” (Luke 24:50). What blessing is spoken with lifted hands? The Aaronic Benediction (Num. 6:24-26) is given in Synagogues and in Churches even to our day, and in the Synagogues it is still given as it was more than a thousand years before the resurrected Jew Jesus gave it: with lifted hands. In fact, another name for the Aaronic Benediction is “The Lifting up of Hands.” (see Sketches of Jewish Social Life in the Days of Christ. Ch.XVII. A. Edersheim. Eerdmans pub.)
Rav Sha’ul (the apostle Paul) tells us that while he was on the road to Damascus Yeshua spoke to him from heaven in Hebrew (Acts 26:14). Sha’ul, a Jew who was born a Roman citizen (Acts 22:27-28), was fluent in Greek (Acts 21:37) and possibly many other languages, but Yeshua spoke to him in Hebrew, the language of the Jews.
Sha’ul did not become a believer until well after Yeshua’s death and resurrection, yet an important part of his message is that Yeshua is a descendant of the Jewish king David (2Tim. 2:8).
Many years after His resurrection, Yeshua testified that He is the root and offspring of king David (Rev. 22:16), and in a time yet future, two of His titles will be Lion of the tribe of Judah, and Root of David (Rev. 5:5).
In Matt. 24:20 He told us to pray concerning the coming tribulation, that we would not have to flee on the Sabbath. And in Matt. 26:27-29 Yeshua told the disciples that He will celebrate the Passover seder anew with us in His Father’s kingdom.
The standard He will use at the judgement is the Law God gave the Jews. To those who do not do the will of God, He will say, “Depart from Me, you who practice lawlessness” (Matt. 7:22-23, Strong’s # 458, 459).
In (Heb. 13:8) we are told Yeshua the Messiah is the same yesterday, today and forever. So, if He ever was a Jew He was resurrected a Jew, and He is one to this day.
He was born a Jew, He lived a Jew, He died a Jew, and He was resurrected a Jew. He is alive and Jewish now, and forevermore the same.