1. What is a Hebrew? Consult Genesis 14:13;
40:15 and Exodus 5:3.
First used of Abraham (Gen 14:13), it was also
used to differentiate the race of slaves (Gen 39:14, 17). It was a
well known term that designated Abraham’s land (Gen 40:15) and
Abraham’s God (Ex 3:18; 5:3).
While it is unknown, scholars suspect that the etymology of the term "Hebrew" is based on the name
"Eber" who was a descendant of Noah though Shem (Gen 10:21, 25;
11:10-26) and ancestor of Abraham.
After David establishes the nation of Israel as a monarchy, the term "Hebrew" disappears from the
2. What is an Israelite? Study Genesis 32:24-30 and
1 Samuel 14:21.
After wrestling with Jacob, God blesses him and changes his name to Israel, which means "he
strives with God" (Gen 32:24-30;
35:9-13). Subsequent to Jacob, the name Israel designated all of his
descendants; the twelve tribes were known as "sons of Israel" (Gen 32:32;
36:31; Ex 1:7-13;
Ex 2:25), "children of Israel"
(Deut 1:3), "Israelites"
(Ex 35:29; 1 Sam 14:21;
Rom 9:4) and "house of Israel"
(Ex 16:31; Lev 17:3).
With the Exodus, the offspring of Jacob became the nation of Israel, and any citizen of it became
known as an Israelite.
Thus, while Israel began as a tribal group within the ethnic race of Hebrews, it eventually became
a national identity.
3. What is a Jew? Observe Exodus 31:2;
2 Kings 25:25 and
The Hebrew term for Jew was originally a tribal term; it represented the descendants of Judah, the
fourth son of Jacob (Israel) (Ex 31:2;
Num 2:9; 2 Kings 18:26).
Thus Judeans are a tribal subset of Jacob (Israel).
When the monarchy divided into the kingdoms of Israel and Judah, the tem "Jew" took on a geographical
and national meaning; it represented the citizens of Judah, the kingdom ruled by the royal line of David
(2 Kings 25:25; Ezra 5:1;
At some point during or after the Babylonian Captivity, the term "Jew" began to have a religious
designation; it represented those who followed the Mosaic Law (Esth 9:20-27).
By the time of the New Testament, the term "Jew" is used as a reference to an ethno-national
religious group. However, Jesus does not appear to see the term "Jew" as a genetic descendant of Abraham; instead,
one is considered a child of Abraham if they have faith in Jesus Christ, the "seed" of Abraham
(John 8:31-47; Rev 2:9;
4. What is a Christian? See Acts 11:26;
26:28 and 1 Peter 4:16.
The Greek suffix "ianos" in "Christianos" (which means "follower of Christ") originally applied
to slaves; thus, Christians are a slave (or adherent) to Christ.
It was first used for Christians in Syrian Antioch
(Acts 11:26), scholars believe that its early use was with ridicule
by outsiders. Prior to the adoption of the term, Christians called themselves "Believers"
(Acts 5:14), "brothers"
(Acts 6:3) and "saints"
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