A Short Description of Jews and Gentiles

Question from a Site Viewer
Hi! I was just wondering if you could explain what a “Jew” is and the difference between Jews and Gentiles? Jews are referred to a lot in the Bible and I don’t quite understand what the difference is or who they are. What do Jews believe? Do Jews believe in Jesus? Please explain. Thanks.

Tim’s Answer
I will attempt to answer your questions without getting into a lot of detail. As you note, the Bible speaks a lot about the Jews. This is because the Old Testament is largely a history of how God interacted with the Jewish people and how that through the Jewish people the Messiah would be born.

Briefly, a “Jew” is a descendant of the patriarch Israel and a “gentile” is any person who is not a Jew (the rest of us). The term “Jew” and “Israelite” are used generally interchangeably in Scripture. When God came to Abraham about 2000 years before Christ was born, as recorded in Genesis 12:1-3, God promised Abraham that he would have descendants through whom all the nations of the earth would be blessed. This promise was made again to Isaac, Abraham’s son by promise and then to Jacob, Isaac’s son. Jacob later was given the name “Israel.” His descendants became known as the Israelites and later as the Jews.

There is a reason for calling Israelites “Jews.” Approximately 930 B.C., the Israelites split themselves into two countries. The northern country was known as Israel and the southern country (with Jerusalem as its capital) was known as Judah. Judah was a son of Jacob (Israel). The northern country of Israel was captured and taken into exile in 722 B.C. by the Assyrians. This left only the southern country of Judah. The country of Judah continued until around 586 B.C., when it was destroyed by the Babylonians. Because of the predominance of the people from the country of Judah in the exile of the Israelites, slowly all Israelites who were dispersed began to be known as Jews. Thus, Mordecai, though a descendent of Benjamin (a brother of Judah), is called a Jew in the book of Esther. (Esther 2:5). The wise men from the East were looking for the King of the Jews in Matthew 2. The great apostle Paul called himself a Jew, though he also was of the tribe of Benjamin. (Acts 22:3; Phil. 3:4) A Jew is a descendant of Israel. Everyone else was known as gentiles.

You ask what Jews believe. This is a difficult question because not all Jews believe the same thing. In the time of Jesus, some Jews were known as Sadducees and they did not believe in angels or an afterlife. They believed that once you died, that was the end. There were other Jews known as the Pharisees who believed in an afterlife and in angels and in miracles. In addition, there were many other groups with various beliefs among the Jews. Some of the Jews believed in Jesus. Some did not.

So it is today. There are Jews today who are atheists and do not believe in any God. There are Jews today who believe that Jesus is the Messiah. There are Jews today who believe that their Messiah has not yet come. It is as hard to say what Jews believe as it is to say what Americans believe. Belief is individualistic. There are Jews who believe in Jesus. However, the majority of Jews do not believe in Jesus, even as the majority of gentiles do not believe in Jesus.

I trust this has been helpful. May the Lord Jesus bless you and be with you and guide you into His truth.

His servant,

tim

38 thoughts on “A Short Description of Jews and Gentiles

  1. Kerrie

    I am so glad that question was asked. I was confused myself.
    So the Pharisees were followers of Christ?
    Jews are basically the same as Israelites and Gentiles are everyone else?
    But if Jews do not believe, why was Jesus considered a Jew? Was it because Mary gave birth to Him and she was a Jew?
    Also, if God, Son, and the Holy Ghost are all one in the same, then when Jesus was nailed to the cross, why was He speaking to God as if He was a whole different entity (for lack of a better word)? Throughout the Bible, “Lord” is used many many times. Who is actually referring to?
    Kerrie

    Reply
    1. truthsaves Post author

      1). Some of the Pharisees followed Christ, but most of them did not.

      2). After the return from the Babylonian captivity, the Israelites became known as Jews, largely because of the association of Israel with its now dominate tribe, Judah. Anyone who was not a Jew was a Gentile.

      3). Jesus was a Jew because He was born of a Jewish mother, Mary. He also was raised in a Jewish family, kept the Jewish law, worshipped in the Jewish temple, attended the Jewish synagogue, and was in every way a Jew. Pilate put this inscription on the cross: “the King of the Jews.”

      4). Christians do not believe that “God, the Son, and the Holy Ghosts are all one in the same.” Rather, Christians believe in the Trinity. The teaching of Scripture is that there are three persons in one essence or substance that composes the one God. The Father did not die on the cross, or become incarnate for us, and nor did the Holy Spirit. As you point out, the members of the one Godhead communicated with each other. Yet, there are not three gods, but only one God. The Father is in the Son and the Son is in the Father, the Son and the Spirit proceed from the Father, and the Son and the Spirit are distinguished from one another and from the Father. Given the Scriptural teachings on God, theologians have tried different formulations to describe the Trinity, but in the end I find none of them fully satisfying. There is a mystery in the Trinity that is perhaps linked to our incomplete understanding and to God being far greater than we can comprehend. If you want to review some of the Scriptures that support the Trinity, we have several articles on the subject. Just type “trinity” into the search box on the truthsaves website.

      I will add that there is a sect of Pentecostals who are know as “Oneness Pentecostals” who do not accept the teaching of the Trinity. What they teach, however, is not historic Christianity nor does their position find support in Scripture. One cannot say that the Father died on the cross and be Biblical. Jesus did not pray to Himself, but to another person whom of He called “God” and “the Father.” Jesus did not submit His will to Himself, but He submitted His will to another whom He called His Father.

      5) when the Bible speaks of “Lord,” in the Old Testament the reference is generally to God as a whole, without differentiating between the members of the Trinity. In the New Testament, generally the reference is to Jesus. However, there are exceptions in both Testaments. Always, one must look in the immediate context to see what the writer had in mind.

      Reply
      1. Mindy Jaffar

        Whoever wrote this thank you!!! I have. great study bible but sometimes need clarification. As I write for my blog I will be sure to visit this site. Thanks!
        Xoxo & blessings
        Mindy Renee

        Reply
    2. Nicole

      I’ve always understood that when Jesus was on the cross calling out to God when he said “My God, My God why hast thou forsaken me?” That he was actually quoting the first verse of Psalm 22 as was the customs of the rabbis in the synagogues of those days. When a rabbi wanted to read from a scriptural text they would often quote the first verse of whatever scroll they were going to read that day so as to let their brethren know which scroll they wanted, and to let the parishioners in attendance know what was going to be taught that day. When Jesus quoted the first verse of Psalm 22 I believe he was answering the peoples question as to who he REALLY was/is. ..

      Reply
      1. Nicole

        And in doing so he was declaring YES I am the son of God, BC If you read Psalm 22 its an exact prophesy of Jesus Christs Crucifixion. He was quoting the prophesy written in Psalm of his own death written years and years before his coming. It’s just remarkable and Miraculous and Glorious!!! That always just blew me away. God IS so magnificent!!! Hope this helped. GBY and TC

        Reply
      1. Ervin

        The seed of the father is what is supported by scripture, and scripture states Jesus the messiah was of the seed of David.

        Reply
  2. Manu

    Does God gives the Ten Commandments only to Jews or Isreal? Why our Christians Gentiles has to argue about special topic “Keep Sabbath Holy”? We Christians worship on Sunday and Other Religious groups as SDA and Church of God see us as we are not following the God’s Law Ten Commandments and do sin.

    Reply
    1. truthsaves Post author

      God originally gave the Ten Commandments to Israel (Exodus 19:2, 17; 20:22; Deuteronomy 5:1-22). Paul speaks of the Jews who have the law and the Gentiles who do not (Romans 2:12-27). In Romans 9:4 he speaks of the privileges of Israel in that they were given the law. In Galatians 3, Paul argues that we are not saved by the law and we should not live by the law. In Acts 15, the church concluded that the Gentiles were not required to keep the law (Acts 15:24-29). Paul demonstrates this freedom from the law in Romans 14:5-10 stating that we should not judge one another based on whether we observe a special day to the Lord or not. He argues in Romans 7:1-6 that we have died to the law that we may be married to Christ. So, my view is that we should not judge one another but also we should not let others take away the freedom we have in Christ to worship Him on any day or all days. We have a few articles on the Sabbath issue if you are interested, but our intent is to in no way denigrate others who wish to worship Christ on Saturday.

      Reply
      1. Alvin

        Thank you so much may the Lord continue bless you and use you as well… very helpful…
        May i ask too?
        What is your stand when it comes in tithing? Thank you so much in advance!

        Reply
  3. Kim

    Hi, I just wanna say thank you for these great articles of yours. These materials are great help for such people like me who wants to understand more about the Bible. Kudos to all the people behind this site. God bless you!

    Reply
  4. Nagina

    I am reading Romans from the bible and I wanted to know about gentiles as depraved society The explanation you gave is very helpful. Thank u GBU

    Reply
  5. Stadi

    If we are eternally secure through Christ, and I believe that we are; why does Revelation 22:19 speak of God removing our name from the Book of Life?

    Reply
    1. Michael

      In Revelation 22:19, the words are: “and if anyone takes away from the words of the book of this prophecy, God will take away his part from the tree of life and from the holy city, which are written in this book.” You are missing half of the verse in your question. He will remove our name from the book of life IF WE TAKE AWAY FROM THE WORDS OF THIS BOOK OF THIS PROPHECY. You are correct when you say that we are eternally secure in Christ. One of the reasons Christ went onto the cross was to provide us with eternal security in him. The security is in relation too suffering. That gives us hope too make it through our suffering, knowing that we have a greater reward ahead. Hope this explains/answers your question.

      Reply
  6. Kevinho

    Well, this is because No one is suppose to make any amendments in the word of God as God himself have signed a contract to himself that his word will remain unchanged forever and ever. Therefore if anyone adds or remove anything in this scroll(God’s word, message) then he is not of God.

    Reply
    1. Ann Calderon

      Then how come there’s so many revisions of the Bible? “No one is suppose to make any amendments in the word of God as God himself have signed a contract to himself that his word will remain unchanged forever and ever. Therefore if anyone adds or remove anything in this scroll(God’s word, message) then he is not of God.” This means that the Bible you are reading now is corrupt and not the word of God himself.

      Reply
  7. Munachiso

    This is really mind blowing. There’re some personal questions I ve asked myself in quiet time but my thought becomes so elaborate without getting d true answer…Now I can say that d Gentiles n the Jewish principles of faith re truly explained n detailed. Thanks so much.

    Reply
  8. Nikki Nunn

    To God be all the glory for such truth spoken in these answers. Like the Bereans…I compare answers to the Word. Thank you for yielding to the spirit. Gently you spoke truth. AWESOME!

    Reply
  9. geoffrey mokaya

    Am really confused about the two groups, first, Who between the two controlled the governance of the earth in those days when Jesus was born. did the gentles make other churches………………….

    Reply
  10. Chukwu Snowee

    Jesus is God. Isaiah 9:6: For unto us a child is born, unto us a son is given: and the government shall be upon his shoulder: and his name shall be called Wonderful, Counseller, The mighty God, The everlasting Father, The Prince of Peace.
    John: 1 vs 1: In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.
    John:1 vs 14: And the Word was made flesh, and dwelt among us, (and we beheld his glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father,) full of grace and truth. ((Snowee: the WORD here is Jesus. The WORD was God)).

    Reply
  11. Chukwu Snowee

    John:10 vs 30: I and my Father are one. John:14.8:Philip saith unto him, Lord, shew us the Father, and it sufficeth us.
    John:14 vs 9:Jesus saith unto him, Have I been so long time with you, and yet hast thou not known me, Philip? he that hath seen me hath seen the Father; and how sayest thou then, Shew us the Father? John:14 vs 11:Believe me that I am in the Father, and the Father in me: or else believe me for the very works’ sake

    Reply
    1. louis

      John:10 vs 30: I and my Father are one. John:14.8:Philip saith unto him, Lord, shew us the Father, and it sufficeth us?
      when Jesus said he and is father are ‘one ‘ he was actually referring to ONENESS IN PURPOSE ,why will i say so?as we can see in the later chapter of JOHN. John 17:11 I am no longer in the world, but they are in the world, and I am coming to you. Holy Father, watch over them on account of your own name, which you have given me,(so that they may be one just as we are one).Question for thought -can people be equal to God? if no then we can conclude with the fact that he,Jesus was referring to the ONENESS OF PURPOSE that he shares with his father his creator.

      Reply
  12. Princess of the King of Kings

    Please take the time to read the entire bible.. Old Testament and New Testament. You will not understand one without the other. View the bible as complete truth and ignore what others tell you on various websites. PLEASE! I urge you to read the holy bible. It will take time. You will by complete it in one weekend… And please do not try to decipher complete truth by reading one chapter. READ THE WHOLE THING!!

    However, Jews are
    Biblicaly gods chosen people of Israel. This is not to be confused with religious denominations of today. Gentilese are other believers in Christ… Not just ‘everyone else’. In bible times you could be a believer in Christ and not be a Jew.

    Reply
  13. morgan e. o.

    Having a good knowledge about God helps any individual to serving Him better even though no one can comprehend Him in totality. I have been blessed richly. My understanding about this subject has really blossomed.

    Reply
  14. truth

    Christianity is not a true monotheistic religion. You cannot worship God AND Jesus and say that you are a monotheist. Likewise, you cannot say that Jesus is the son of God but that he also IS God or that he is one-third of God. The holy trinity is nothing more than a subterfuge designed to trick people into thinking that Christianity is a monotheistic religion when in fact it is not. By the way, this is why Jews and Muslims look down on Christians.

    Reply
  15. kehinde

    This site is an eye opener for me, the article really helps, I now know the difference between Jews and gentiles. Thank you admin.

    Reply

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