The Loss of Identity: Who Is Israel? – #1
Needless to say, the identity of Israel in the modern evangelical world is a subject of endless discussion. The Zionist / Dispensationalists tell us that there is really no debate, the nation calling itself Israel, in the land of Palestine, is in fact the covenant people of God. Not only that, they must, absolutely must, be supported by America, or we as a nation risk incurring God’s wrath as John Hagee and other noted (infamously false teachers) remind us constantly.
The truth is that it is a very legitimate study to ask the question, is the nation of Israel as it exists today actually descended from Abraham, by blood, and, should America and the rest of the world support her right to the land called “Israel” regardless of anything.
Now, let me say this: everyone has a “right” to live somewhere, regardless of their national identity. It is simply wrong to say that a person, because of their ostensible lineage, has no right to live anywhere– or to even live!
With that said, however, to acknowledge that everyone has a right to live somewhere is not the same as saying that a given people are God’s covenant people and that a given piece of real estate is their’s by divine right! Those are separate issues.
The issue of whether the people called “Israel” today is genuinely racially related to Abraham is one that is hotly debated. This continues to be debated based on DNA studies, a field far beyond my expertise, and totally unrelated to what I want to share here. While I am unqualified to address the issue of DNA, it should be noted that several studies have concluded that modern “Israel” is not, in fact, descended from the physical lineage of Abraham. Those studies, needless to say, have come under severe attack by the “pro-Israel” camp, that claims that the counter studies are “anti-semitic” and even promote Nazism!
In spite of that controversy, which, needless to say, is sometimes extremely emotionally based, I think it is more than worthwhile to take note of what anthropologists and even what the “Jews” of the day say about the issue. I will give here only a few citations, because this information is not the point of this discussion. Nonetheless, I think it important to offer just a small sampling of evidence for the reader to consider.
The Encyclopedia Americana, (1986, vol. 16, p. 71), under the heading: “Racial and Ethnic Considerations” says this:
“Some theorists have considered the Jews a distinct race, although this has no factual basis. In every country in which the Jews lived for a considerable time, their physical traits came to approximate those of the indigenous people. Hence the Jews belong to several distinct racial types, ranging, for example, from fair to dark. Among the reasons for this phenomenon are voluntary or involuntary miscegenation and the conversion of Gentiles to Judaism”
Collier’s Encyclopedia (1977, vol. 13, p. 573), offers this:
“A common error and persistent modern myth is the designation of the Jews as a ‘race! This is
scientifically fallacious, from the standpoint of both physical and historical tradition. Investigations by anthropologists have shown that Jews are by no means uniform in physical character and that they nearly always reflect the physical and mental characteristics of the people among whom they five”
Today, being a Jew simply means that one is of the Judaistic religion or a convert to it, or else in a “brotherhood” of those who are. Therefore, being a Jew has nothing to do with race. We are familiar with a number of notable figures, such as Sammy Davis, Jr., Elizabeth Taylor, and Tom Arnold, in fact, who became Jews by conversion to the religion of Judaism. In fact, one is defined a Jew by legal dispensation or coercion, with race playing no part at all.”
The Encyclopedia Brittanica, (1973, vol. 12, page 1054):
‘The Jews As A Race: The findings of physical anthropology show that, contrary to the popularview, there is no Jewish race. Anthropornetric measurements of Jewish groups in many parts ofthe world indicate that they differ greatly from one another with respect to all the importantphysical characteristics.”
Finally, from a host of other sources that could be cited, we offer this from the Jewish Encyclopedia, which, I think it is safe to say, is not anti-semitic, nor in favor of “Nazism”:
Encyclopedia Judaica Jerusalem (1971, vol. 3, p. 50; 1986):
“It is a common assumption, and one that sometimes seems ineradicable even in the face ofevidence to the contrary, that the Jews of today constitute a race, a homogeneous entity easilyrecognizable. From the preceding discussion of the origin and early history of the Jews, it shouldbe clear that in the course of their formation as a people and a nation they had already assimilated a variety of racial strains from people moving into the general area they occupied. This had taken place by interbreeding and then by conversion to Judaism of a considerable number of communities.
. . .
“Thus, the diversity of the racial and genetic attributes of various Jewish colonies of today renders any unified racial classification of them a contradiction in terms. Despite this, many people readily accept the notion that they are a distinct race. This is probably reinforced by the fact that some Jews are recognizably different in appearance from the surrounding population. That many cannot be easily identified is overlooked and the stereotype for some is extended to all – a not uncommon phenomenon”
With this scientific evidence to consider, what I want to is to examine what identified a Jew / Israelite, in the ancient world. In light of the above, let it be noted that for my purposes, I am not denying the existence of a group of people that had – in the first century – some connection, some racial, blood line connection to Abraham. There were genealogies in the Temple that established that, and that is how the identity of Jesus as Messiah could be fully established beyond disputation. However, with the catastrophic destruction of the Temple in AD 70, those genealogical tablets– the only way of proving a physical connection to Abraham – were destroyed! The significance of this can hardly be over-emphasized, and yet, many people today simply ignore it.
With these preliminaries before us. We will begin our investigation.
Be sure to get my book, Israel 1948: Countdown to No Where, for a more thorough study of the issues raised in this article.