Are Today’s Jews Descendants of the Israelites?
November 22, 2023
by Stuart DiNenno
Among professing Christians, it is commonly believed that the people who identify themselves as Jews today are the descendants of the Israelites. In this article I intend to demonstrate that there is no factual support for this belief.
Before I proceed with my arguments, it needs to be understood that there is no way for me to conclusively prove false the claim that today’s Jews are descendants of the Israelites, any more than it can be conclusively proved that any particular reader of this document does not have some Hittite blood flowing through his veins. However, it is an axiom beyond dispute that those who make claims must bear the burden to prove them; it is not incumbent on others to disprove claims before a case supported by evidence has been set forth by the proponents of them. The best I can do is to show that the belief has not been proved by those who hold it, and that it is incapable of being proved, and therefore there is no basis upon which to insist that others accept it. Also, it should be understood that this document does not present an alternative theory of the ancestry of modern-day Jews, nor is it necessary to do so. I make no claim to having knowledge of the lineage of any of those calling themselves Jews today, and I cannot be required to put forward propositions of my own in order to reject and expose the unsupportable propositions of others.
A Brief Statement of the Claimed Support
I will begin my examination of this matter by using, as a springboard upon which to launch my arguments, the following brief, but rather comprehensive, statement by a Christian minister friend of mine explaining his reasons for believing that today’s Jews are descended from the biblical Israelites. This statement is quite typical of Christian beliefs about today’s self-identifying Jews and likely would be affirmed by nearly all men employed in the professional ministry:
“Unbroken Rabbinic tradition that cross-references itself over centuries, back to before the time of Christ. Unbroken usage of spoken Hebrew (language and ethnicity are usually quite strongly connected), which is not true of any other people, back as far as we can tell to Moses’ time. The preservation by careful tradition of the Hebrew Bible, the very one received by Protestants. Uninterrupted presence throughout history of at least some in the area of Palestine, and common recognition that their ancestral home is there (though I reject Zionism and think the state of Israel is wicked). Inference from their general aversion today to marrying non-Jews. Their tendency toward other forms of social isolation, even that imposed on them by the hatred of their host nations, which tends to preserve ethnic identity. The universal testimony of nearly all mankind (which is a strong argument in its place), and especially of Christians, and of other enemies like Muslims who might have reason to undermine their claim to ancestry. The corroboration of modern genetics which shows a preponderance of near-eastern origin in Ashkenazi Jews.”
The “Genetic Evidence”
I am going to first deal with the last proposition in our Christian minister’s brief statement. He wrote “modern genetics shows a preponderance of near-eastern origin in Ashkenazi Jews.” I do not dispute that there are genetic studies which have advanced this claim. However, even if those studies are valid we should understand that although Near Eastern origin could mean Israelite, by no means is it necessarily so. It could mean a line of ancestors who were from the start only an admixture of Israelite and non-Israelite ethnicity, and soon became predominantly non-Israelite, or it could mean a Near Eastern group that adopted Talmudic Judaism and did not originate in the Palestine area, just as some of the Israelites themselves adopted foreign religions at times. The genetic and linguistic study linked below the next paragraph claims that Ashkenazi Jews originated from outside the Levant. Other studies say the opposite.
We must bear in mind that much of what is being called science today is driven by financial and political concerns and this is likely to be especially true in matters that bear on the claims of a group so socially influential as the Jews. Moreover, the men who publish papers on genetic research know that virtually no one who is made aware of their findings will have a way to confirm the veracity of them, and that makes the field fertile for bogus claims. Those like me, and at least 99.99% of the population who are not genetic scientists and have no access to the data even if we had the expertise to interpret it, cannot make a determination about the validity of any such studies and cannot honestly proclaim them as factual. The reality is that very, very few of us know enough to say whether it is even possible to pinpoint origins so far back in time with the accuracy necessary to make the claims that are so often made, and we ought not to make declarations as if we do. However, having said all this, I am providing the following link so readers of this article can see that the research in genetics, for whatever it is worth (if anything), is not unanimous on the point of connecting the modern-day Jews with a people located in Palestine two thousand years ago. https://www.frontiersin.org/articles/10.3389/fgene.2017.00087/full
The Supposed Linguistic/Ethnic Connection
In his listing of Jewish practices the minister mentioned the “unbroken usage of spoken Hebrew.” As far as I have been able to determine, there has not been any such unbroken usage. European Jews do not speak Hebrew today and they did not speak it in the past. If we were to go back 500 years in Germany, for example, we would find the Jews speaking both Yiddish and German but not Hebrew. Hebrew was used in connection with their religious devotions, and still is today, but it was never a language spoken by the Jews in Europe in their everyday lives, and even today’s strictest “orthodox Jews” are not Hebrew speakers (with the exception of those in so-called Israel). It is true that Yiddish uses the Hebrew alphabet and contains Hebrew words but it is a mixture of languages, mostly German and Slavic, and someone who spoke only Hebrew would not be able to understand a Yiddish speaker, or vice versa.
Now one could easily make the mistake of assuming that because the written form of Yiddish uses the Hebrew alphabet and because there are some Hebrew words in the language, that it springs from Hebrew roots. But this is not the case. Even Jewish sources admit that the language was originally Germanic but was judaized by incorporating Hebrew into it at a later date. It was not, at first, a written language but centuries after it came into use, the Jews then decided to make a written form of it and chose to use the Hebrew alphabet to do so. The Hebrewization of Yiddish has been reverse engineered, so to speak. The progression by which this occurred is described on the following linked page which is an article on the Development of Yiddish at the Jewish Virtual Library. It is plain to see that the people running this site are Zionists and so they would have a motive to exaggerate a Yiddish linguistic connection to ancient Hebrew, but they have not done so and admit what I have described above. Yiddish is not a Semitic language, let alone a dialect of Hebrew.
The fact that they have their own Yiddish language clearly shows that they are a distinct ethnic group and that they do possess a culture which is in some sense Jewish, but it is not at all evidence of Israelite racial lineage. While it is true, as our Christian minister stated, that Jewish scholars have preserved the Hebrew Scriptures and the Hebrew language through the centuries, this is not necessarily evidence of a continuous Hebrew ethnic lineage either, but rather may be only a matter of religious preservation in the same way that many non-Greek Christians have worked through the ages at preserving the Greek New Testament Scriptures and the Koine Greek language used in writing them, and they continue to do so today.
It is true that Hebrew is the language of the Jews residing in Palestine today, but spoken Hebrew appears to be a very recent introduction even there. Wikipedia has an article on the Revival of the Hebrew Language (that there needed to be a revival of it should tell us something) which begins with the following statement: “The revival of the Hebrew language took place in Europe and Palestine toward the end of the 19th century and into the 20th century, through which the language’s usage changed from the sacred language of Judaism to a spoken and written language used for daily life in Israel.” In other words, Jews in both Europe and Palestine were only using Hebrew in their religious services prior to the time that immigration to Palestine began in the late 19th century. The article also says that the few Jews in Palestine before Jewish immigration began to occur in recent times “were largely Arabic-speaking.” We know that the vast majority of today’s self-identifying Jews in “Israel” are descended from immigrants who never resided in Palestine prior to the 20th century, and these immigrants would not have been Hebrew speakers, but it appears that even those Jews living in Palestine before the modern immigration movement began did not speak Hebrew.
So while it can be said that the Jews have preserved Hebrew through the ages, this is true only in the sense of its connection with the religion of Judaism. The preservation of Hebrew biblical texts by Jewish scholars is no different than the preservation of Greek biblical texts by Christian scholars. Neither are tied to ethnicity. In addition, the verbal use of Hebrew in Jewish religious services is no different than the verbal use of Latin in some Roman Catholic religious services. In both examples where ancient languages are spoken during religious devotion, the practice is based on a superstitious belief that there is something holy about these particular languages, rather than the holiness being in the truths expressed by language. But just as the use of Latin by Roman Catholics in places like the Philippines or South American countries has no connection to their ethnicity, so the use of Hebrew by Jews in North America or Europe also has no connection to their ethnicity.
The modern nation of “Israel” that has been established very recently in the land of Palestine appears to consist of nothing more than large numbers of people who are Jewish in the sense that their ancestors at some point embraced the Talmudic religion, and who have, in only very recent times, emigrated to the same land occupied by the Israelites two millennia ago, and who also have usurped the national title of Israel and adopted the Hebrew language that was never spoken by their ancestors. None of it has any real historical or biblical basis, nor is there any support for their claim to having an ethnic connection with the original inhabitants. No doubt it is difficult for many Christians to swallow the proposition that the 20th century reconstitution of Israel is not only a complete misrepresentation but a massive fraud, however, it is not out of character with what we should expect of “them which say they are Jews, and are not, but are the synagogue of Satan” (Revelation 2:9).
It is true, as our Christian minister wrote, that “language and ethnicity are usually quite strongly connected,” but as demonstrated by the continuing use of Greek among Christians and of Latin among Roman Catholics, this is not always the case, and there is no linguistic evidence that I have seen to support the belief that today’s Jews in their newly planted “Israel,” or anywhere else in the world, are ethnically connected to the ancient Jews. If someone has some such evidence, I would like him to bring it to my attention.
No Reason to Believe in an Unbroken Ancestral Line
At first glance, it does seem that the most simple and straightforward explanation for why the Jews have for so long possessed the characteristics and persisted in the practices mentioned in the minister’s statement, is because they inherited their pseudo-biblical religion from their original Pharisee ancestors, and through the diaspora they have maintained their ancestral line, which has resulted in their culture and religion surviving to this day. However, as I have said, there is no linguistic evidence to support this belief (as far as I know), and the fact that the culture and religion persists, at least to some degree, does not necessarily mean that there has been an unbroken genetic line from the ancient Jews to today’s Jews. They very well could be an entirely different people maintaining the ancient laws and customs of a genetically unrelated race. I will give an illustrative example for consideration:
We know that there are many people residing in modern-day England who are of Indian descent and that more than a few of them have been there for two or three generations now. Suppose that a certain group of lawyers residing in England, all of Indian ethnicity, became experts in historic English law. Being born in England, they had been granted English citizenship at birth and now they are studying the ancient documents of England. Suppose also that their descendants over several generations dedicated themselves to the same study and so this ethnic group became known for its expertise in ancient English law. They all have lived in England for multiple generations, they all identify themselves as English, they all speak English, they all have adopted the English culture, and they all have devoted themselves to the preservation of early English texts and the study of English law. However, none of them have any racial connection to the true English people. If God had made specific promises to the racially English in the distant past, would we expect them to apply to these Indian usurpers in the future?
It is more than plausible to believe that a similar shifting of labels, culture, beliefs, and practices has occurred at some point, or points, among the Jews over their long history, or has happened through a gradual process of replacement over the centuries, so that the Jews of today may have no true blood relation to the Judahites from which their name originates. Like our “English” Indians, those of other ethnicities may have been incorporated into the Jewish community, given the title of Jews, and devoted themselves to the Jewish religion, including the preservation and study of ancient texts. I say it is more than plausible to believe so because we already know that they, at the very least, have been partially mixed with other ethnicities through the ages. The testimony of history is that there have been long periods during which many Jews maintained a strict separation from other people but it also tells us that there have been other times when many of them did not (such as in our day when marriages between Jews and non-Jews are common). I believe the following quote from a book about the Jews in Europe expresses the reality of both conditions:
“”The peculiarity of this race is that they refuse assimilation by inter-marriage, equally with Russians in Russia, with Arabs in Tunis, or with the English in England, just as rigidly as did their ancestors refuse intermarriage with Gentiles in the days of Nehemiah.” [the previous statement is the author quoting an unknown author] … But it can also be shown that at the present day this is only partially true in the countries which have genuinely adopted the Jews. It is estimated that there occur far more marriages in England between Jews and Christians than between Protestants and Catholics. By the Jewish law marriage between a Jew and a proselyte is perfectly lawful. The barrier is thus, after all, one of religion rather than of race. Naturally an inclination towards such intermarriage would not prevail on either side except in comparatively rare cases. Yet the strange fact remains that such mixed marriages are at least as common in the lower as in the upper classes of Jewish society.” (G. F. Abbott, Israel in Europe (1907), pages 449-450)
We should not think that this is only a late development. In addition to seeing much mixing happening in recent times (I will give an example from within my own family further on down the page), we know that in the time of Ezra and Nehemiah there was quite a bit of mixing occurring between the Judahites and other nations, we know the same happened during the inter-testamental period with both the Greeks and the Edomites, and we have the first century biblical example of a Jew/non-Jew mixed marriage from among the diaspora in Asia Minor which resulted in the birth of Timothy (which we have no reason to believe was anomalous). Recorded history of the Jews is sketchy for a long period after the first century A.D., but considering the enormous span between the apostolic age and today, it seems most reasonable to believe that more mixing has occurred at many other times and in many places, and unreasonable to believe that a strict separation has been maintained at all times through the many revolutions, wars, and displacements that have occurred during nearly two thousand years of Near Eastern and European history. Moreover, there is no reason to believe that a strict separation will be maintained by the so-called Jews into the future, when we see that much intermarriage has been occurring since the 19th century and is continuing today.
What Is Jewish Identity Today?
All we really know about today’s self-identifying Jews, is that they use a title derived from the name of Judah, they appear to share certain physical and cultural characteristics with one another (but we do not know that they share them with the ancient Jews), many of them practice a pseudo-biblical religion called Judaism which has ancient roots, and they are inveterate Christ-haters. However, none of this is evidence that today’s Jews have any substantial percentage of Israelite blood flowing through their veins, or even any at all.
I believe we can only say for sure that there has been, since the time of Christ, a continuously flowing river (not an unbroken chain) of people identifying themselves as Jews who have maintained a degree of commonality of religious beliefs and cultural practices, but I do not believe the evidence supports the view that they have maintained a blood separation over the last two thousand years to the extent that we can definitively say Israelites “after the flesh” exist today. The river that is modern Jewish identity appears to consist of a confluence of several different ethnic streams, some of which cannot be clearly identified, and which is mixing with other streams over time. No doubt, in terms of religion and culture, it originated in a spring flowing from some sect of ancient Jewry, but any genetic connection may have been severed long ago or become watered-down through repeated amalgamation as to be virtually non-existent.
We know that it was valid to claim Israelite ethnicity in first-century Palestine after the institution of the New Testament because we see Paul the apostle doing exactly that in Romans 11:1, but what is Jewish identity today? To answer this question, I will look at a case of Jewish/non-Jewish mixing within my own family:
My blond-haired, blue-eyed second cousin of non-Jewish English ancestry married a man who identifies as a Jew and now identifies herself as a Jew. This is a very curious thing because we know that one’s ethnicity does not change through marriage, so she cannot be a Jew in the ethnic sense. Also, she never embraced the religion of Judaism or renounced any other religion (she never was a Christian), so she has not converted in the religious sense.
Now, we know that no White woman in America marries a man who is racially Asian or African and from there on identifies herself as Asian or African, and no woman in America who is married to a Bhuddist or Muslim will identify herself as a Bhuddist or Muslim if she has not embraced his religion. However, this is not true of most women who marry Jews. They often assume the Jew label, regardless of the fact that they have no Jewish ancestry and do not observe Judaism. Why the difference?
I believe it is because identifying as a Jew is really making a statement — a statement that not only are you not a Christian within what is perceived to be a majority or nominally Christian nation, but that you are decidedly an opponent of the Christian religion and culture. Although when it suits them to do so the Jews will sometimes claim to be just another White ethnic group, the reality is that their identity consists primarily in being anti-Christian. Being a Christ hater is not only part of being a Jew, it is the principal component of Jewish identity.
If the reader does not believe it is so, then let him ask an Irishman, a German, an Italian or any other white European if he is a believer in Jesus Christ. He will tell you yes or no, and will either volunteer a reason for his belief or unbelief, or will give an answer if asked. But he will not reply, “No, I’m Irish”, or “No, because I’m a German”. Nor will he state “Italians don’t believe in Jesus” or something similar. However, if you ask a Jew the same question (no matter whether he considers himself to be “secular” or “religious”), probably nine times out of ten he will flatly, and often in an indignant tone, answer: “No, I’m a Jew” or he will simply answer “No” and when asked for the reason of his rejection will give his Jewish identity as a reason. This is because in his mind Jew = non-Christian. You are either one or the other. You are one of “us” (Jews) or you are one of “them” (Christians), but you cannot be both. This, of course, is not true of any other European ethnic group.
My cousin also has two daughters from this marriage, which makes them the offspring of an Ashkenazi Jew father who, if he has any Israelite blood in him at all, is almost certainly mongrelized, and a European non-Jew mother, who likely has no connection to the Israelites whatsoever. Neither the parents nor daughters observe Judaism (which is typical of most American Jews), yet they all call themselves Jews. Now my question to those who hold that there are biblical promises remaining to the Jews is: Are these women part of the race of people to whom those promises apply? Those who say that they are, must be able to tell us on what basis they know them to be so. While they are at it, let them tell us at what point of genetic dilution a person who may have had an Israelite ancestor two thousand years ago becomes something other than an Israelite.
True Christian Orthodoxy vs. Entrenched Assumptions
Perhaps some would reply that only God knows who are the true descendants of Israel. This could be a reasonable answer, however, it is not one that the churches actually teach. Regardless of whether they have a “Reformed” view of how the Jews are going to be brought into the kingdom in the latter days or if they hold another theory that is “non-Reformed” (such as Dispensational Baptists) the churches make no qualifications in regard to the Jews. In my experience, it is assumed by all the churches today that if one identifies himself as a Jew, then he is a descendant of the Israelites, without any regard to his location in the world, his particular religious sect (or lack of one altogether), or his true ancestry.
This assumption is made on a very large scale. Even the “Reformed” who do not accept the validity of the modern-day so-called nation of Israel, do acknowledge that the people in that land are what they claim to be. That is, that they are Jews. And the meaning of Jew, in the minds of the church leaders and their congregants, is that they are the fleshly descendants of the Israelites. So if, for example, my cousin’s daughters moved to so-called Israel, or started attending a synagogue here, or joined a Jewish organization like B’nai Brith, or only just called themselves Jews, almost all professing Christians today would consider them to be of the genetic nation of Israel to whom, they believe, there remains certain future promises of God. I find this absurd when it is very uncertain that they have any actual Israelite descent at all and probably would not even make the claim that they do. How many other so-called Jews are being considered by Christians to be Israelites based on such tenuous connections? Probably millions.
Why is there so little questioning of the Jews’ identity? Maybe some are afraid of being seen as someone on the extreme fringe if they deny that the self-identifying Jews are descendants of the Israelites. It is true that there has been unanimity, or very close to it, in the church on this point for many centuries, but I believe this agreement has been based on nothing more than assumption. It appears to be something which every Christian in the past uncritically accepted insomuch that no one even entertained the thought of conducting an examination into the matter. As far as I know there has not been a single document or book produced by any church or individual author since the advent of the printing press which contains arguments and cites supportive evidence that backs up the claim. It was never even called into question until very recent times, even by the strongest opponents of the Jews.
However, in regard to historical claims not expressed in Scripture, true orthodoxy does not say “many very scholarly and highly-esteemed Christian men have believed this to be true, so we also must believe it” nor does it say “the churches have never called this into question and have unanimously accepted it, so we also must accept it.” If there is no proof of the truth of a claim, then we cannot be required to believe it, regardless of its level of acceptance by other Christians — even if that acceptance has been nearly total. True orthodoxy says “this claim is true and here is how we can know it to be so” or “no one can be required to believe this because there is no evidence to support it.” If we follow the first definition of orthodoxy given in this paragraph, then we are only putting an implicit faith in the collective judgment of the church and repeating the error of Rome under a Reformed label.
So there can be a false orthodoxy. An example of this in our time is a belief about the so-called Jewish Holocaust by the Germans. There is no evidence to support the claims that there was a conspiracy to murder millions, much less any proof that the plot was actually carried out, and all indications are that the genocide stories were fabricated to divert attention away from the real genocide in Russia which was led by the Jews, and to create a sense of guilt in Whites so as to make them easier to manipulate. But if we were to survey the church leaders, I believe we would find them to be nearly unanimous in their affirmation of the truth of it all, and many people in the churches today will treat you as if you are a heretic if you deny the “Holocaust,” even though it has nothing to do with matters of the faith.
Another instance of false orthodoxy is the concept of “racism.” This is a pseudo-sin created by Jewish anti-Christs to demonize loyalty between White Christians. It has no basis in any scriptural teaching on morality, and yet it is treated by today’s churches as if it is firmly and unquestionably grounded in biblical law, and those Whites who show any preference for their own people, speak the truth about the differences between the races of men, and who advocate any separation between them are treated by the overwhelming majority of professing Christians today as if they have denied the faith.
Unless there are scholarly works by trustworthy historians which track the history of the Jews since the first century A.D. (which would be news to me), and they both support the claim that the modern-day Jews are the descendants of the Israelites and provide substantive and credible documentation to back it up, then it would appear that “the universal testimony of nearly all mankind and especially Christians” of which our Christian minister spoke may be nothing more than a universal assumption which has been uncritically accepted by the church for many generations, but does not have any foundation other than in the self-serving testimony of anti-Christs whom we have every reason to doubt and for whose claims no genuine evidence exists. Not only are we not bound to accept such baseless assumptions, regardless of how long they have been maintained or to what extent they have been unquestioningly accepted by others, but it is the Christian’s duty to reject them.