What if Jesus were descended from the Israelite tribe of Judah, as the Scripture says that He is? Well, of course He is, because the Scriptures do not lie. But what if the people known as Jews today were NOT of the tribe of Judah? Nor even of Benjamin or Levi? Then how could Jesus possibly be a Jew? The answer is easy, Jesus is not a Jew because the people known as Jews today are not of Judah. The Bible itself tells us this.
For this reason Jesus Himself told the church at Smyrna, in Revelation 2:9: "I know thy works, and tribulation, and poverty, (but thou art rich) and I know the blasphemy of them which say they are Jews, and are not, but are the synagogue of Satan."
Just in case that is not understood, Jesus also said to the church at Philadelphia, in Revelation 3:9: "Behold, I will make them of the synagogue of Satan, which say they are Jews, and are not, but do lie; behold, I will make them to come and worship before thy feet, and to know that I have loved thee."
So according to Jesus Himself, the people calling themselves Jews at this time are not "real" Jews, meaning that they are not actually of the tribe of Judah. But how can that be? First, we will see that Paul of Tarsus agrees with Jesus, and the events which Luke recorded in Acts chapter 26 had actually transpired about 35 years before John recorded the Revelation.
In Acts chapter 26, as Paul addressed King Herod Agrippa II, he spoke about the promise of the Gospel and he said: "6 And now I stand and am judged for the hope of the promise made of God unto our fathers: 7 Unto which promise our twelve tribes, instantly serving God day and night, hope to come. For which hope's sake, king Agrippa, I am accused of the Jews."
So according to Paul, the promises in Christ are for "our twelve tribes", meaning the twelve tribes of the children of Israel. But the Jews, whom Paul mentions as an entity distinct and apart from the twelve tribes, were opposed to that promise, and therefore on account if it, they were making accusations against Paul. You won’t find too many modern so-called pastors preaching on this passage from Acts.
To Paul of Tarsus, the twelve tribes are not "Jews", and the Jews are not the twelve tribes. That is why Paul had a Gospel message to the nations of Europe, because that is where the twelve tribes were. But that is a different story entirely.
One place in the Bible where the confusion is cleared up a bit is in Romans chapter 9. Here are some excerpts, with brief explanations, and we shall use the King James Version:
1 I say the truth in Christ, I lie not, my conscience also bearing me witness in the Holy Ghost, 2 That I have great heaviness and continual sorrow in my heart. 3 For I could wish that myself were accursed from Christ for my brethren, my kinsmen according to the flesh: 4 Who are Israelites; to whom pertaineth the adoption, and the glory, and the covenants, and the giving of the law, and the service of God, and the promises; 5 Whose are the fathers, and of whom as concerning the flesh Christ came, who is over all, God blessed for ever. Amen.
So Paul is concerned for his “kinsmen according to the flesh”, those who are really Israelites, and here he is praying for them. He is grieved that many of them have not yet accepted Christ, because for them are the promises, covenants, and other things which should be associated with Christianity. Then he continues:
6 Not as though the word of God hath taken none effect. For they are not all Israel, which are of Israel: 7 Neither, because they are the seed of Abraham, are they all children: but, In Isaac shall thy seed be called.
Here it is evident, that not everyone in Israel, claiming to be an Israelite, or at that time least a Judaean ("Jew"), are legitimate descendants from or heirs of Isaac. Paul continues:
8 That is, They which are the children of the flesh, these are not the children of God: but the children of the promise are counted for the seed.
The promise was the promise made to Isaac, which was despised by his son Esau, and therefore it was inherited by his other son, Jacob. The people in Judaea claimed to be Judaeans, and they were not. They held the label of "Israel", but they were not the children of the promise, as Paul in the verse which follows tells us which promise he means:
9 For this is the word of promise, At this time will I come, and Sara shall have a son. 10 And not only this; but when Rebecca also had conceived by one, even by our father Isaac;
And Rebecca was the mother of Jacob and Esau, and as he explains here, she also had a promise. So Paul continues and shows how the Scripture distinguishes between Jacob and Esau:
11 (For the children being not yet born, neither having done any good or evil, that the purpose of God according to election might stand, not of works, but of him that calleth;) 12 It was said unto her, The elder shall serve the younger. 13 As it is written, Jacob have I loved, but Esau have I hated.
So the election might stand, as God had chosen and promised the inheritance to Jacob even before the two sons were born. Later in their lives, it was confirmed on several occasions in Scripture that Jacob was the recipient of the promises, and Esau was excluded.
Paul is comparing Jacob and Esau here because "they are not all Israel, which are of Israel", and he is explaining that it is because many of them are from Esau, they are Edomites, and not Israelites after all. For that same reason, Christ had told them in John chapter 10: "26 But ye believe not, because ye are not of my sheep, as I said unto you." Christ never told His enemies that they were not His sheep because they did not believe Him. Rather, He told them quite the opposite, that they did not believe Him because they were not His sheep.
If the Jews are from Esau, and if Jesus is of the tribe of Judah, then how could Jesus be a Jew?
In John chapter 8 we see the following exchange between Jesus and these Jews, starting with verse 32 where Jesus is speaking:
32 And ye shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free. 33 They answered him, We be Abraham's seed, and were never in bondage to any man: how sayest thou, Ye shall be made free?
The Israelites had always considered themselves as having been in bondage in Egypt. The true Judaeans had considered themselves as having been in bondage in Babylon. While Edomites were subject to Israel in the days of David and Solomon, these Pharisees obviously did not concede these things. So we continue in John chapter 8:
34 Jesus answered them, Verily, verily, I say unto you, Whosoever committeth sin is the servant of sin. 35 And the servant abideth not in the house for ever: but the Son abideth ever. 36 If the Son therefore shall make you free, ye shall be free indeed.
The children of Israel are freed from the bondage of sin in Christ, as Paul explained frequently, and as John also explained at length in his first epistle. Otherwise, there is no propitiation for sin after Christ. Again continuing with John 8:37, Christ tells His adversaries:
37 I know that ye are Abraham's seed; but ye seek to kill me, because my word hath no place in you.
They did not believe Him, as He explained, because they were not His sheep. The only Judaeans who could be Abraham's seed, and yet not be true Israelites, are the descendants of Esau, the Edomites, as well as those of Judah's Canaanite son Shelah, and the Ishmaelites. History and Scripture demonstrate that the Edomites were in Judaea at this time and in large numbers, and that they had taken on the laws and customs of the Judaeans. There is also evidence in Scripture for the presence of some people who were descended from other groups as well, but these are the main groups, Israelite Judaeans and Edomites Judaeans. In the first century, Judaea was a Roman province of diverse races, and not truly an ethnic description.
The famous Geographer, Strabo, who lived and wrote to about 25 AD, attested that the Idumaeans, or Edomites, were “mixed up” with the Judaeans, and that they “joined the Judaeans, and shared in the same customs with them” (Strabo, Geography, Book 16, chapter 2 [16.2.34]). The late first century Judaean historian, Flavius Josephus, supplies all of the historic details of Strabo’s statement. In Ezekiel chapter 35, in verse 10, we see a prophecy that Esau would take for himself the lands of Israel and Judah after the people were deported by the Assyrians and Babylonians. The Classical records tell us that this did indeed happen. Then, where he discussed the period of the Hasamonaean dynasty, called the Maccabees, which ruled Judaea from about 156 BC to the time of Herod around 36 BC, Josephus describes how certain of them forcibly converted to Judaism all of the Edomites of what later became known as Judaea.
In his Antiquities, Book 13, from line 257 Josephus described how the high priest John Hyrcanus, some time around 125 BC, had forced the conversion and circumcision of the Edomites of Dora and Marissa and their environs, where Josephus said that “they were hereafter considered to be Judaeans.” Then later, in that same book of Josephus' Antiquities, from line 393, we see the much greater extent of the conversion of the surrounding Edomite and other non-Israelite peoples to Judaism, which took place while Alexander Janneus was high priest and king, from 103 to 76 BC. Here Josephus described the conversion of at least 30 different cities and towns at this time, many of which places which were inhabited by Edomites and other Canaanites. Students of the Old Testament should understand that the Canaanites were a people accursed by God, and that Esau really lost his birthright because he had taken Canaanite wives.
From this point the Edomites eventually came to dominate all of Jerusalem and Judaea, including the Temple, which they had full control of by the time of Christ. Herod was an Edomite, as Josephus also attests, and began appointing his own cronies and partisans to positions in the Temple. That is why the position of priest is often distinguished from the Levites in the New Testament. That is why Christ, in John chapter 8, conceded that they were of Abraham's seed, because they were indeed descendants of Esau. That they were not Israelites is attested to both in that same chapter where Christ told them that they were children of the devil, that first murderer Cain, and in John 10:26 where Christ told them “But ye believe not, because ye are not of my sheep”. They were not His sheep because they were not Israelites, but Edomites. The links from Esau to Cain lie in the genes of his Canaanite wives, and the intermingling of Kenites and Canaanites which is evident throughout the history of the Old Testament, and suggested in Genesis chapter 15. So descendants of Esau are also descendants of Canaan and Cain.
Returning to John chapter 8, in the verse which follows, Christ denies that these Judaeans have a common origin with Himself:
38 I speak that which I have seen with my Father: and ye do that which ye have seen with your father. 39 They answered and said unto him, Abraham is our father. Jesus saith unto them, If ye were Abraham's children, ye would do the works of Abraham. 40 But now ye seek to kill me, a man that hath told you the truth, which I have heard of God: this did not Abraham. 41 Ye do the deeds of your father. Then said they to him, We be not born of fornication; we have one Father, even God.
Esau had married the daughters of the Canaanites, Hittites, and race-mixing is called fornication in the New Testament (i.e. Jude 7, 1 Corinthians 10). The Ishmaelites and children of Shelah were also mixed in this same manner. In the decades before Christ, many of the tribe of Judah were also mixing with these people. While these Judaeans denied it, they were indeed products of fornication. Here in this exchange between Jesus and the Jews we have a fulfillment of the prophecy found in Malachi chapter 2, especially at verse 11, where it says:
7 For the priest's lips should keep knowledge, and they should seek the law at his mouth: for he is the messenger of the LORD of hosts. 8 But ye are departed out of the way; ye have caused many to stumble at the law; ye have corrupted the covenant of Levi, saith the LORD of hosts. 9 Therefore have I also made you contemptible and base before all the people, according as ye have not kept my ways, but have been partial in the law. 10 Have we not all one father? hath not one God created us? why do we deal treacherously every man against his brother, by profaning the covenant of our fathers? 11 Judah hath dealt treacherously, and an abomination is committed in Israel and in Jerusalem; for Judah hath profaned the holiness of the LORD which he loved, and hath married the daughter of a strange god. 12 The LORD will cut off the man that doeth this, the master and the scholar, out of the tabernacles of Jacob, and him that offereth an offering unto the LORD of hosts.
Malachi was a prophet of the second temple period, and his book of prophecy foretold of John the Baptist as well as of Christ Himself. Malachi chapter 2 is therefore entirely relevant to the ministry of Christ. These Judaeans may have been descended from Abraham, but because they were not true Israelites, Christ told them "my word hath no place in you." Then he continues to explain to them that they are indeed bastards:
42 Jesus said unto them, If God were your Father, ye would love me: for I proceeded forth and came from God; neither came I of myself, but he sent me. 43 Why do ye not understand my speech? even because ye cannot hear my word. 44 Ye are of your father the devil, and the lusts of your father ye will do. He was a murderer from the beginning, and abode not in the truth, because there is no truth in him. When he speaketh a lie, he speaketh of his own: for he is a liar, and the father of it. 45 And because I tell you the truth, ye believe me not.
This is why Paul compared Jacob and Esau in reference to Judaea in Romans chapter 9, and in Hebrews chapter 12 Paul described Esau as a “fornicator, or profane person” because he was a race-mixer and had no legitimate offspring.
While some of the Pharisees, which were, basically, a political and religious sect, were indeed Israelites, many were not. But the high priests and most of the "gang" that ran the temple during the entire period from the death of the first Herod to the destruction of Jerusalem were not Pharisees, but Sadducees, a group which Jesus never even directly addressed, unless they accosted Him. The Sadducees were the most consistent adversaries of Paul and the other apostles as well. So while it cannot be imagined that all of the adversaries of Christ were of the same mind or origin, speaking to the leaders of the temple, whom John called "the Jews" in chapter 10 of his Gospel, Jesus said to them:
26 But ye believe not, because ye are not of my sheep, as I said unto you.
As we have just explained, Jesus did not tell the Jews that they were not His sheep because they did not believe Him. That is what the denominational churches teach, and they have it wrong. Jesus told the Jews that they did not believe Him because they were not his sheep! In other words, the Jews who opposed him were not the people of Israel for whom Jesus came. Paul later tells us in Romans, as we have also already described, that not all of the people of Israel were actually of Israel. So we see why these people were not His sheep, and we see why Christ later told us in the Revelation that there were "them which say they are Jews, and are not, but are the synagogue of Satan."
As Paul consistently taught in his epistles, the Judaeans who accepted Christ became one with Greeks who accepted Christ, and they lost their identity as Judaeans. Judaeans who were His sheep heard His voice and eventually lost their identity as Judaeans, becoming Christians. Today's Jews are descended from all of those Jews who rejected Christ, who were not His sheep in the first place.
So how could Jesus be a Jew?
Insisting that Jesus is a Jew like these modern Jews is like believing that the founding fathers of our own nation were negroes, because most of the current residents of Washington DC, Philadelphia and the rest of our major cities today are Negroes. There may be some White people in Washington, or Baltimore, or Atlanta right now, but neither does that make them negroes. Likewise, Jesus was not a Jew. He was a man of the tribe of Judah, and today's Jews are clearly not of Judah.