I can see the email we're going to get already...
"WHAT DO YOU MEAN THEY'RE NOT JEWISH?"
"THEY'RE THE PATRIARCHS OF THE JEWISH FAITH!"
"HOW CAN THEY NOT BE JEWISH?"
It all depends on how you define "Jewish."
What is "Jewish"? What does that mean?
The Hebrew word is יהודים (Yehudim) and it literally means "of Judah"1 ... a descendant of Judah.
Let's trace this out:
- Abraham is the father of Isaac. (Genesis 25:19)
- Isaac is the father of Jacob. (Genesis 27:22)
- Jacob is the father of twelve sons including Judah. (Genesis 35:22-23)
It is impossible for Abraham, Isaac, or Jacob to be descendants of Judah. They can't be from Judah. They are his ancestors.
The sons of Judah were Er, Onan, Shelah, Perez, and Zerah (Genesis 46:12). Judah's sons, grandsons, great-grandsons, etc., these are "Jews" in the most literal sense of the word. As a descendant of Judah Jesus (Yeshua) is a Jew (Matthew 1:1-2) and is thus Jewish.
In the sense of "Judaism"—the Jewish faith of Judaism—in that sense, yes, Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob are completely Jewish.
You might be asking yourself, "why is this even remotely important"? This article is an object lesson that words have power.
We often invest a word with meaning, with a previously formed conclusion. Unfortunately, we often don't revisit those conclusions and challenge them. We just package up a word with a particular meaning, stick it on the shelf and admire it. We might bring it out from time to time and use it but do we ever challenge and test the conclusions, the assumptions, and the meaning that we have invested in the word? Are those conclusions accurate? Are the assumptions correct?
We should be like the Bereans and test everything against the Word of G-d!