What is a Jew?


Originally written under the title “Thirteen Questions Answered” by John Thomas in 1843

and republished in the Christadelphian Advocate in December 1886.



  1. What is a Jew?

Ans. One descended from Abraham in the line of Isaac and Jacob, and one who is their son by ADOPTION.

  1. Of what is the Jew by nature and heir?

Ans. Of Palestine during natural life, and all things related to it as constituted by the Mosaic Code.  As long as the Natural Jew preserved the Constitution and Laws of Moses inviolate, so long they possessed and enjoyed their country in peace; but when they trampled these under foot, then famine, pestilence, and wars beset them, and if unreclaimed by these judgments, their country was taken from them, and they became outcasts and vagabonds among the nations.

  1. Is an Israelite a Jew in any other sense than a natural one?

Ans. Yes.  All natural Jews are also spiritual Jews, if they walk in “the footsteps of the faith of their father Abraham;” so that from the giving of the Law by Moses until the proclamation of the Law of the Spirit of Life and Liberty by the Apostles, the Jewish nation was composed of two classes of Jews, first, the natural or native Jews, who kept not the Law in faith and hope; and secondly, the spiritual or “inward” Jews the true seed of Abraham, who could not only trace their descent up to him as their natural ancestor, but who also imitated him in faith, hope, and obedience to the precepts of the Most High.

  1. Are natural borns of the Jewish nation alone Jews or Israelites?

Ans.  No.  A man of any other nation may become a Jew, in the same way as a man of any other nation may become an American in every particular save that of birth.

  1. How may a Gentile become a Jew?

Ans. By adoption.

  1. True.  But what does that adoption consist in?

Ans. In believing the gospel, which Peter and Paul preached, and in obeying it; which is the same thing as being “born of water,” without which a man cannot enter the kingdom of God, let whosoever will affirm the contrary.

  1. Upon what principle, or how is a man constituted a Jew by obeying the gospel?

Ans. Jesus of Nazareth was a natural born Jew, and by eminence styled THE SEED of Abraham.  If a Gentile believe the gospel or promise covenanted to the fathers concerning the Christ, and obeys it by being immersed into the name of Jesus Christ for remission of sins, he gets into Christ, or “puts him on.”  In this way he becomes Christ’s; he is “IN HIM,” and therefore as Jesus is a Jew, the seed of Abraham, a priest, a king, a judge, the son of God, the heir of God, circumcised, &c., so the Gentiles who put him on are also styled Jews, children of promise, or seed of Abraham, priests, king, judges, the sons of God, heirs of God, circumcised, &c.  “If ye be Christ’s,” says Paul “then are ye Abraham’s seed, and heirs according to THE promise” of eternal life and the inheritance made to Abraham and the Christ 430 years before the law was given by Moses.

  1. Is it to be understood then that there are two Jewish nations?

Ans.  Such is indeed the fact.  Israel is an imperium in imperio, as it were, a nation within a nation, which bear a similar relation to one another that a nut doth to the shell by which it is enclosed.  That which is spiritual, however, is not first; but that which is natural, and then that which is spiritual, as Paul saith concerning the animal and spiritual bodies.

            The animal Jewish nation is composed solely of native born Jews, while the spiritual Jewish nation is made up of all, both Jews and Gentiles, from the Fall to the Resurrection, who, under the several dispensations under which they live, believe what God says to them and do what he commands them; for it is upon a principle of faith and obedience that the sons of Adam become the sons and heirs of God.

  1. If the animal Jewish nation be the heirs of Palestine under a Mosaic constitution, of what is the spiritual Jewish nation the heir?

Ans.  Of Palestine under a heavenly constitution, by which it is made “a heavenly and better country.”

  1. What is Palestine, thus constituted, termed in the scriptures of truth?

Ans.  A new heavens and a new earth,” Isa. 65.  This constitution, which has reference to Palestine as to the nucleus or royal demesne of the new empire, remodels the social fabric of the globe.  It constitutes “new heavens” or form of government upon the earth, and a “new earth” or system of things among the population of the world.

  1. Who is to be the Head of this government, and who are to share with him in the glory and honor of his reign?

Ans.  A king who is to come from heaven, even Jesus the Anointed of Jehovah, who is to be the Supreme Ruler upon earth, and the fountain of all glory and honor.  He is to sit upon his father David’s throne, and to hold his court in Jerusalem, where he is to reign amid his Ancients gloriously; hence it is termed the City of the GREAT KING.  The head of this government is the King of kings and the Lord of lords, and is so styled because all who will share with him in the administration of the kingdom are themselves kings and lords or rulers, associate with him.  He is the King Immortal, whose domination will not be transferred to a successor.  Such is the head of the government of the world, whose palace will be on Mount Zion, the ancient site of his father David’s throne.

            The spiritual Jewish nation – a nation which will be born in a day – is a nation of kings and priests elect, who, as yet, have not received their royalty, but are enrolled in heaven’s scroll as the future sovereigns of the world.  In Daniel, they are styled “the saints who shall possess the kingdom,” and who are now sleeping in the dust, or who, now living, instead of founding colleges in perpetuo, are preparing to meet today, tomorrow, or in years to come, the Founder of the Everlasting Age, the King Almighty, and the Prince of Peace.  These are they and they alone, who are to share with King Immanuel in the new heavens which Jehovah will soon create.

  1. Is it to be understood, then, that the spiritual Jewish nation will all settle and dwell in Palestine?

Ans.  By no means.  By their right to the soil of the Holy Land being established, their right to share in the dominion of the King of Israel over the globe is also demonstrated.  This is a first principle which should never be lost sight of.  The rights, privileges, glories, and honors of the saints are all indissolubly attached to Palestine, which is the camp of the saints, or the royal province of the Universal Empire of the Great King.  God gave this country to the Christ when he promised it to Abraham and his seed.  Whoever, therefore, in after ages, could prove his right to the country, also established his right to universal sovereignty.  Jesus established his right, hence the necessity of his second coming that he may take possession of his inheritance and commence his reign.  Hence all who are in him have a title with him to the country and all things related to it.

            But it does not, therefore, follow, that they will all dwell in the country although it will be their country.  Would it be reasonable to suppose this?  Do the Governors, Governors-General, &c., of the British provinces all dwell in London or even Britain?  Certainly not.  They are distributed to their posts of honor, power, and glory by the supreme ruler of the empire; so also will it be with the kings and priests of Jehovah.

            He will establish his one Anointed in Jerusalem, who will be surrounded by a retinue of immortals, who will form his courts of ancients; each of the Twelve is to rule a tribe of the natural Jewish nation near the person of the King.  Paul may perhaps head an extensive jurisdiction over the Gentiles, but I cannot say assuredly.  These are stars of the first magnitude in the new heavens; the rest shine brilliantly in the kingdom of their Father, though the stars, or nobility, among them differ from each other in glory.  They are all glorious and honorable, but not all equally so, as saith Paul.  They all have power over the nations, ruling them with a scepter strong as iron.  But while one may be chief ruler over a nation another may rule only over two, five, or ten of that nation’s cities.

  1. Will nations exist under this “new heavens and new earth”?

Ans.  Assuredly.  The nations are not to be blotted out at the return of Jesus; prophecy no where teaches this.  It is the power of self-government which is to be taken from them, but their existence as nations will be prolonged for “a season and a time,” or a millenary of years.  This is what is meant by the kingdom of this world becoming the kingdoms of Jehovah and his Anointed King.  The government of the world is changed, but not its national constitution.