Q & A

Was Jesus a Jew?

What did Jesus mean in John 4:22,

“Salvation is of the Jews?”

 

By Craig Bluemel

 

----- Original Message -----

From: Sezan

To: craig@bibleanswerstand.org

Subject: Salvation is of the Jews?

 

Greetings my Beloved Craig,

 

My Beloved friend, I thank you dearly, on the outset, for using your precious time to answer my questions with much wisdom and detail.  The quality of research you put in towards finding the answer to questions is simply brilliant.  Craig, let me say that I cherish your responses that have assisted me much from wondering in a maze of error and confusion.  I thank-you sincerely for your patience and wonderful efforts (a big hug from me) towards helping me understand important matters of faith and religion.  I simply cannot thank-you enough my friend.

 

Concerning the recent question I asked you in relation to Matthew 28:19, please take your time.  Even if it takes many months.  Thank-you kindly for your recent acknowledgement and links related to the topic.  I full acknowledge that you are occupied with 100's of other more important questions + managing important responsibilities related to family matters and especially dealing with your medical condition.  May the Most compassionate God grant you victory over your illness and give you strength to carry on with your research towards reaching the truth of all things about the one true God.

 

Craig, please forgive me for being selfish, but I have another question for you regarding what the correct understanding of a particular verse in John.

 

È       QUESTION #1 = In John 4:22, Jesus states that, “salvation is of the Jews'' (KJV).

 

What did Jesus mean by the statement, "salvation is of the Jews?’’  Keeping in mind the debate regarding the interpretation about what the actual Greek word Ioudaioi meant in the New Testament scriptures.  (Jew or Judean). 

 

È       QUESTION #2 = Was Jesus a Jew?  (John 4:9).

 

Craig, take all the time in the world to respond.

 

With love and my deepest affection for you,

 

Kindest regards,

 

Sezan

 

Craig’s reply AND answers

  

January 14, 2006

 

Hi Sezan,

 

My interpretation below has little bearing on the current debate regarding the actual Greek word in the New Testament scriptures, ‘Ioudaioi,’ typically translated Jew, Judean, Judah, etc.  All of the uses and applications of Ioudaioi are still subject to the overall context of any given scripture passage, and oftentimes, in his messianic teachings Jesus uses Ioudaioi as a spiritual metaphor, such as occurs in John 4:22.  Below, the chronological sequence of your two questions is reversed; I first give you the short answer to each question, and then following the short answer, you will read a more detailed explanation.

 

È       Question #1 - Was Jesus a Jew? 

 

Answer #1a – Identifying Jesus of Nazareth as a ‘Jew’ depends the relevance of the term, which means the answer is, “Yes,” and, “No.” 

 

!        Answer #1b – Genetically, in an exacting chromosomal technique that isolates ‘Jew’ as being unique to the tribe of Judah, the answer is, “No.” 

 

!        Answer #1c – Genetically in a Semitic, cultural, demographic, religious, and spiritual way, the answer is, “Yes.”

 

!        Answer #1d – From a Messianic view, as descendent of king David’s throne, a spiritual kingdom, Jesus was recognized by Pilate at his crucifixion as, “king of the Jews,” although Jesus denied his kingdom was related to the Jews Pilate spoke of.  the answer here too is, “Yes,” and, “No.”

 

During Christ’s era, the term ‘Jew’ described characteristics best suited to each of several individual categories.  John 4:22 is set in the brief 33 ½ years during the lifetime of Jesus of Nazareth, and at this time, the term Jew includes, but is not limited to the following:

 

L    Genetic Jew = somebody from ancient Judah: somebody who was born in ancient Judah and/or someone whose chromosomal heredity is innate, inborn, or native to the tribe of Judah (this is the original source of the word ‘Jew’).

 

L    Cultural - Semitic Jew = this could be a Jew as a Semitic person of Hebrew descent; i.e. - affiliated with one or more of Israel’s twelve sons and tribes.  In Christ’s day, a Jew was considered any one of the dispersed people of the northern ten tribes of Israel, (formerly captive in Assyria), or from the two tribes of the southern kingdom of Judah, which included Judah, Benjamin, and also the Levites, to whom was assigned the priesthood.  During the Babylonian Captivity of Judah and Benjamin, the term ‘Jews” referred only to these captive tribes, whereas the ten northern tribes in Assyria were at this same period called, ‘Israel.’ 

 

Following the Babylonian captivity, Jews were still from Judah and Benjamin, but gradually, after 300-400 years of history, the term ‘Jew’ gained almost universal distinction collectively and individually representing all those ethnic peoples who descended from the twelve tribes of Israel.  This is a highly complex topic to study itself, which involves a plethora of varied demographics in Jewish society, such as social structure, dialects, etc. 

 

Also a factor relevant to your question, the Samaritans, though every bit as worthy of the name, ‘Jew,’ were not regarded as worthy of the name ‘Jew” by most other Israelites; this unmerited distinction was simply racial prejudice, and found applicability in that day if one judged solely on the merits of untainted (with Gentile) Hebrew bloodline.

 

L    Geographic-Demographic Jew – These are the Hebrews living in or near the region and Province of Judea, or put another way, they are ‘Judeans,’ and called, “Jews.’

 

L    Religious Jew = this Jew is a believer in Judaism; i.e. - somebody whose religion is Judaism, making them a Jew by virtue of their doctrine & affiliated practices; this religious Jew has three basic categories involved (there are many more than I list here):

 

1.      Hebrew Jew whose religion was Judaism.

 

2.      Any Semitic ethnic person whose religion was Judaism.

 

3.      Any Gentile person (Greek ethnicity or otherwise, but not of Israelite heredity) who was a proselyte to Judaism (i.e. - a convert to Judaism).

 

4.      A Jewish religious leader, whose affiliation with Jewish religious sects makes him a ‘Jew’ of separate class; e.g. – the ‘Jews’ that sought to destroy Jesus’ teaching, such as certain sects of the Pharisees, scribes, lawyers, and Sadducees.  

 

L    Metaphorical (Spiritual) Jew – This is anyone whose faith causes him or her to be the true followers of Yahweh, whether under the law before Christ, or not under the Law before, during or after Christ’s ministry.  In fact, in the context in John 4:22, the TRUE Jew, which Jesus symbolically unveils to the Samaritan woman, is the intent behind his words, “salvation is of the Jews.”  No one can legitimately dispute this interpretation on the merits or basis of Jewish physical heredity (i.e. – bloodlines, or other forms of genetic lineage) or the fact that Yahweh gave the Law to the Jews first.

 

Messianic King  (Spiritual) Jew – Christ was given the mock title by Pilate and the Roman soldier and Jews that tortured him; but it was Pilate that demanded Jesus have a sign over his cross of death, where it hung saying, “Here is Jesus, King of the Jews, “written in Hebrew, Latin, and in Greek written in Hebrew, Latin, and in Greek.”  In his words to Pilate, Jesus did not acknowledge these Jews as part of his kingdom “My kingdom is not of this world.  If My kingdom were of this world, then My servants would be fighting, that I might not be delivered up to the Jews; but as it is, My kingdom is not of this realm37 Pilate therefore said to Him, “So You are a king?”  Jesus answered, “You say correctly that I am a king.  For this I have been born, and for this I have come into the world, to bear witness to the truth.  Everyone who is of the truth hears my voice.” 

 

From a genetic standpoint, if we rigorously, unflinchingly, specify that to be truly ‘Jewish’ one must descend directly from Judah’s bloodline, one is forced by the parameters of his premise to conclude that Jesus was (is?) not a Jew.  This conclusion, as I mentioned, is based upon one paradigm and disallows any other standard as the measure of truth.  On the other hand, there is sufficient evidence in the four gospel accounts to conclusively say that Jesus never called or referred to himself as a Jew. 

 

Nevertheless, Jesus was alleged by many others during his 3 ½ year messianic work as being a Jew, and/or affiliated with the Jews, as in the case of the context in John 4:9.  Here, the Samaritan woman asked Jesus, “How is it that you, being a Jew, ask me, a Samaritan woman, for a drink?  For the Jews have nothing to do with the Samaritans.”  She assumes Jesus is a ‘Jew’ based on the outward appearance (perhaps his accent, the way he dressed, or possibly both).

 

During Jesus’ lifetime, the term ‘Jew’ was used synonymously for all Israelites, excepting of course, the Samaritans, whom Jews considered unfit and unworthy of the name, “Jew.”  Samaritans were reckoned by Jews to be half-breeds because of their inter-marrying with the Assyrians, Greeks, and other non-Israelites, which were commonly labeled by strict, prejudicial Jews as being, ‘goyim,’ (goyim is a derogatory term that Jews used to describe Gentiles; it means ‘cattle,’ but was a Jewish euphemism for a pile of dung).  Thus, Jews excluded Samaritans from Yahweh’s covenant with the nation of Israel, based solely on manmade, fleshly, outward standards, which never did or ever will align with the view that God uses as criterion for salvation and/or worship.

 

This type of unbending, inflexible approach to understanding the true meaning of scripture differs little from what born-again Christians do when viewing Jesus from traditional concepts about him.  For example, 99% of Christians, if asked why Jesus is called, “the Lion from the Tribe of Judah,” will give the incorrect answer by saying, “Jesus was a bloodline descendent from the tribe of Judah,” but this view can never be reconciled in scripture, no matter how one bends or twists the genealogy of the Christ in Matthew and Luke’s gospel accounts.  For more info on this topic and related subjects in scripture, see the following links:

 

The Genealogy of the Messiah

 

Jesus, Descendent Of David, Resurrected Seed Of God

 

 Jesus Became The Only Begotten Son of God AT THE RESURRECTION

 

How God Conceived Jesus in Mary’s Womb  

 

The Search for a Man after God’s Own Heart: Will the Real King David Please Stand up - A study based on the text of 1 Samuel 13:14

 

 

John 18:33-37 Pilate therefore entered again into the Praetorium, summoned Jesus, and said to Him, “Are You the King of the Jews?”  34 Jesus answered, “Are you saying this on your own initiative, or did others tell you about me?”  35 Pilate answered, “I am not a Jew, am I?  Your own nation and the chief priests delivered you up to me; what have you done?”  36 Jesus answered, “My kingdom is not of this world.  If My kingdom were of this world, then My servants would be fighting, that I might not be delivered up to the Jews; but as it is, My kingdom is not of this realm37 Pilate therefore said to Him, “So You are a king?”  Jesus answered, “You say correctly that I am a king.  For this I have been born, and for this I have come into the world, to bear witness to the truth.  Everyone who is of the truth hears my voice.” 

 

John 19:1-3, 14-15, 19-22

1-3 Then Pilate therefore took Jesus, and scourged Him. 2 And the soldiers wove a crown of thorns and put it on His head, and arrayed Him in a purple robe; 3 and they began to come up to Him, and say, “Hail, King of the Jews!” and to give Him blows in the face. 

 

14-15 Now it was the day of preparation for the Passover; it was about the sixth hour.  And Pilate said to the Jews, “Behold, your King!” 15 They therefore cried out, “Away with Him, away with Him, crucify Him!”  Pilate said to them, “Shall I crucify your King?” The chief priests answered, “We have no king but Caesar.” 

 

19-22 And Pilate wrote an inscription also, and put it on the cross.  And it was written, “Jesus the Nazarene, the king of the Jews…  20 Therefore this inscription many of the Jews read, for the place where Jesus was crucified was near the city; and it was written in Hebrew, Latin, and in Greek.  21 And so the chief priests of the Jews were saying to Pilate, “Do not write, ‘The King of the Jews'; but that He said, ‘I am King of the Jews.’”  22 Pilate answered, “What I have written I have written.”  New American Standard Bible

 

Jesus did not claim kingly rulership of the Jews that crucified him; yet, it almost seems as if Pilate’s hand is guided by Yahweh to proclaim Jesus as, “The King of the Jews,” and doing so in Greek, Hebrew, and in Latin would have covered the gamut of Jews throughout the known world.  Would Jesus though have denied being king of this realm of earthly Jews, and contradict himself in John 4:22 by saying that “salvation is of the Jews?”  This is yet another proof among the many I have listed to debunk this view, and to prove that the intent of his words in John 4:22 was aimed at the spiritual realm, as was always the case in his teachings.

 

È       Question #2 - In John 4:22, what did Jesus mean, “salvation is of the Jews?”

 

!        Answer #2 – Jesus means this: “This particular Salvation originates in the praise of Yahweh.” 

 

Below is the text of John 4:8-30.  Please read it and use as a reference for the explanations offered following.

 

John 4:8-30

8 For His disciples had gone away into the city to buy food.

9 The Samaritan woman therefore said to Him, "How is it that You, being a Jew, ask me for a drink since I am a Samaritan woman?" (For Jews have no dealings with Samaritans.)

10 Jesus answered and said to her, "If you knew the gift of God, and who it is who says to you, 'Give Me a drink,' you would have asked Him, and He would have given you living water." 

11 She said to Him, "Sir, You have nothing to draw with and the well is deep; where then do You get that living water?

12 "You are not greater than our father Jacob, are You, who gave us the well, and drank of it himself, and his sons, and his cattle?"

13 Jesus answered and said to her, "Everyone who drinks of this water shall thirst again;

14 but whoever drinks of the water that I shall give him shall never thirst; but the water that I shall give him shall become in him a well of water springing up to eternal life. " 

15 The woman said to Him, "Sir, give me this water, so I will not be thirsty, nor come all the way here to draw."

16 He said to her, "Go, call your husband, and come here." 

17 The woman answered and said, "I have no husband." Jesus said to her, "You have well said, 'I have no husband';

18 for you have had five husbands, and the one whom you now have is not your husband; this you have said truly. " 

19 The woman said to Him, "Sir, I perceive that You are a prophet.

20 "Our fathers worshiped in this mountain, and you people say that in Jerusalem is the place where men ought to worship."

21 Jesus said to her, "Woman, believe Me, an hour is coming when neither in this mountain, nor in Jerusalem, shall you worship the Father.

22 "You worship that which you do not know; we worship that which we know, for salvation is from the Jews.

23 "But an hour is coming, and now is, when the true worshipers shall worship the Father in spirit and truth; for such people the Father seeks to be His worshipers.

24 "God is spirit, and those who worship Him must worship in spirit and truth." 

25 The woman said to Him, "I know that Messiah is coming (He who is called Christ); when that One comes, He will declare all things to us."

26 Jesus said to her, "I who speak to you am He." 

27 And at this point His disciples came, and they marveled that He had been speaking with a woman; yet no one said, "What do You seek?" or, "Why do You speak with her?"

28 So the woman left her water pot, and went into the city, and said to the men,

29 "Come, see a man who told me all the things that I have done; this is not the Christ, is it?"

30 They went out of the city, and were coming to Him.

New American Standard Bible

 

The Greek text of John 4:22b for the phrase, “salvation ‘is of’ the Jews,” reads, “hee sooteería ek toón Ioudaíoon estín.  These words are broken down individually below:

 

1.      hee sooteería  = should properly be translated as, “this salvation, or this deliverance,” and also a valid application, “the preservation of eternal life.”

 

2.      ek  = translated improperly, “is of,” the word ‘ek’ is a Greek preposition, which is used in the construction of this phrase to denote the spiritual origin  of “this salvation,” Jesus describes.

 

3.      toón Ioudaíoon = The Greek definite article ‘toón’ noun is used to emphasize the IDENTITY of  Jew.  The Greek noun for ‘Jew” used here is Ioudaíoon, derived directly from the Hebrew and Aramaic; literally, in means, “the praise of Yah,” or more properly to the context, “the worship of Yahweh.”  In other words, in John 4:22, Jesus is telling the Samaritan woman, “this preservation of eternal life originates {in} the worship of Yahweh.” 

 

In essence, he is telling her that the true Jew, (i.e. – worshipper of Yahweh) is whatever originates in the spirit of each worshipper and not form manmade traditions that give undo credence to mountains and cities.  Yahweh’s salvation comes from the inward, and is not based upon worship in this mountain, or in the city of Jerusalem, as she was trying to imply.  Furthermore, Jesus corroborates this view later in the text, in verses 24-24, saying the true worshipper does so, “in spirit and in truth.”

 

Jesus’ words in John 4:22 are predicated upon the previous context of John 4:19-20.  When Jesus reveals to the Samaritan woman that he knows she has been married to five men, his spiritual credibility in her eyes skyrocketed!  Can you imagine?  In her mind, she was 100% positive that Jesus was indeed a true prophet of God!  As if he needed to boost his standing as a prophet, the Lord then exposes the fact that she now cohabitates with would-be-husband #6, but she’s shacking up with him outside of the bonds of matrimony.

 

Put yourself in her sandals… how would you react and feel inside if something like this was said to you, and a man of God told you that he knew you had been watching pornography on the Internet last Tuesday evening, but then opened your conscience to full exposure and conviction by specifying the name of the pornography you had been watching earlier this morning!  Woe, that’s heavy dude.  God sees all, and wants only to have you humble yourself, and turn unto His merciful light, and cut off the deeds done in darkness.

 

Now, back to the topic at hand.  I felt the Lord led me to add that little word about porn for some brother out there that knows who the Father is dealing with.  There’s no way Jesus could have known these details about her, UNLESS of course, Yahweh had shown the woman’s life to His son Jesus.  When this happened, the spiritual lamp inside of her was lit, and in response, she proclaims in verse 19, “Sir, I perceive that you are a prophet!”  No kidding?

 

Regaining what little composure remains, she continues in verse 20, “Our fathers worshiped on this mountain, and you {Jews} say that in Jerusalem is the place where one ought to worship.”  Notice how I added a pair of {} brackets around her words {Jews} in verse 20, because the this word does not belong in the text, and all of the Greek manuscripts omit it altogether.

 

The word, “Jews,” was wrongly added to John 4:22 because Bible translators presume her intent.  Some scholars argue that “Jews” is implied; even if we conceded, it doesn’t change the true meaning, but muddies the purity of the text.  The Greek text of John 4:22b, “salvation ‘is of’ the Jews,” reads as follows: “hee sooteería ek toón Ioudaíoon estín.” 

 

Sooteería derives its basic meaning from a Greek root verb ‘sozo’ and sozo means, “to rescue from peril, to protect, keep alive.”  This Greek verb sozo means, “the preservation of life, either physical or spiritual.” 

 

Whenever the word sozo and word relatives are used, such as the Greek word sooteería in John 4:22, only the context of a given scripture determines whether the preservation of physical life (deliverance from physical death, sickness or peril) or spiritual life (deliverance from sin, Satan and hell) is in view.  As Jesus describes in John 4:14, the context is eternal life, “a well of water springing up to eternal life.”

 

The Greek definite article “hee” in John 4:22 is intentionally placed before the Greek noun, “sooteería,” for special emphasis on the unique.  In Greek, unlike English, definite articles are routinely constructed with nouns (person, place, or thing) to emphasize specific identity.  For example, a person’s name, such as Paul, might be used with the definite article, which in English would have an awkward literal translation as, “the Paul.”  However, let’s imagine there are two different people named Paul in a given passage; to mark one of them out, Greek writers would use the definite article, thereby emphasizing the identity of a particular Paul; as such, in English it might be translated, “this particular Paul.”

 

Having given you a very crude lesson in Greek grammar, which scholars will have a fit about, but everyone else will feel pretty happy to know, the Greek definite article “hee” is intentionally placed before the Greek noun, “sooteería,” and should read, “this particular salvation.  Jesus doesn’t mention ‘this particular salvation’ until after he first speaks to the Samaritan woman’s heart. 

 

This Samaritan woman, as revealed in John 4:28-30, was quite influential in her community, and after her encounter with the Messiah, persuaded large crowds of seekers to follow her and search for Jesus.  However, it would take more than the words of a man to break through the caustic animosity and resentment she felt toward Jesus, believing him to be a Jew.  This is proven true by John 4:10, when prior to the revelation given him by God, Jesus alludes to himself Messiah by saying to her, “If you knew the gift of God, and who it is who says to you, 'Give Me a drink,' you would have asked Him, and He would have given you living water.”

 

Though perhaps deep inside, she wanted some of this new living water, she spoke to Jesus with sarcastic contempt, chiding him, “You are not greater than our father Jacob, are you, who gave us the well, and drank of it himself...?”  To break thru this hard shell of pride, God the Father would have to impart his son Jesus a divine awareness of the woman’s past life and husbands, as well as unveiling her present domestic living partner.  In this way, she was humbled, resulting in her confidence in him as a man that hears from the spirit of God; next,  she is then able to let go of her own animosity and prejudice toward the Jews for their hatred of Samaritans.  Once this has been accomplished, according to the Father’s design, which was carefully followed by His son, the man Christ Jesus, the Samaritan woman’s heart was prepared to receive spiritual truth that transcends her preconceived ideas about the validity of past modalities of worship. 

 

In other words, Jesus first tears down the rotten foundational beliefs, aiming impartially at Jacob’s well (i.e. - ‘this mountain’) and Jewish Jerusalem.  In John 4:21Jesus said to her, "Woman, believe me, an hour is coming when neither in this mountain, nor in Jerusalem, shall you worship the Father.”  As Christians, we often read the Bible as though it has no modern day, contemporary to American society applications.  In verse 21, Jesus made clear that, “an hour is COMING…”for true worship of the Father, and this one statement by itself qualifies the meaning and use of, “salvation,” in John 4:22. 

 

Needless, Christians wrangle over the Greek word meaning of Ioudaíoon, as you have pointed out Sezan, in your own observations.  All along, our doctrinal prejudices blind us, as if the Samaritan woman’s prejudice toward the Jews also blinded her; thus, we let the clear revelation of God slip from our grasp.  One valuable, gold nugget of spiritual truth sparkles in the light of God, right on the pages of scripture’s surface; it is found by simply comparing John 4:21 with 4:23 below:

 

!        John 4:21 Woman, believe me, an hour is coming…nor in Jerusalem, you shall worship the Father…

!        John 4:23 But an hour is coming, and now is, when the true worshipers shall worship the Father in spirit and truth

 

These comparisons above prove beyond any question that verse 22 cannot mean salvation comes from ‘the Jews.’  Jesus denies the Samaritans their ‘mountain’ and ‘Jacob’s well,’ and denies the Jews their ‘Jerusalem,’ because neither are a valid basis for worship.  Whether it happens in an hour that is “coming,” or whether it occurs, “now,” true worshippers love the Father in the spirit, giving Him the “praise,” that it rightfully due His Holy Name.

 

As it always has been, true worship is done in the spirit (God is spirit) and in truth (Jesus is the truth), which always originates from the individual person’s, “praise of Yahweh.”  The apostle Paul makes distinctly clear in Romans chapter Two that it is wrong for the Jewish believer to support his arguments with a foundation that claims salvation is based solely on the fact that Yahweh gave Jews the Law first, making them superior in their worship compared to the faith of the Gentile believer (Read Romans chapters One, Two, & Three). 

 

In the context of Romans 2:11-29, Paul makes it abundantly clear that God does not show favoritism.  He uses the example that God will punish the Gentiles when they sin, even though they never had God's written law, using the same impartiality in judgment as He does to the Jews when they sin, even though they do have the law. 

 

The importance of the Paul’s epistle to the Romans is to prove that Jesus is not telling the Samaritan woman in John 4:22 that salvation originates from the Jews.  The true “praise of Yah” has been the same as it always was, before, during, and after the Law, in that it is not merely knowing the law that brings God's approval.  Those who obey the law will be declared right in God's sight.  One part of the Romans Chapter Two passage that stands out in this regard is:

 

L    Romans 2:14-16 Even when Gentiles, who do not have God's written law, instinctively follow what the law says, they show that in their hearts they know right from wrong.  15 They demonstrate that God's law is written within them, for their own consciences either accuse them or tell them they are doing what is right.  16 The day will surely come when God, by Jesus Christ, will judge everyone's secret life.  This is my message.  The Message Bible by Eugene Peterson 2002

 

Selah

 

 

 

 


 

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