Who Is a Jew?

Romans ch 2 vs. 29

The selection can be read in context here Romans 2 vs 25-29.

Romans ch 2 vs 29 But he is a Jew, which is one inwardly; and circumcision is that of the heart, in the spirit, and not in the letter; whose praise is not of men, but of God. (King James Version)

Who is a Jew? Sounds like a pretty simple question to answer. If you are of the Jewish faith the answer is simple. A Jew is a descendent of Jacob. A Jew is also a person who converted to Judaism. It is taken for granted that a Jew will be a follower of the law as handed down through Moses. Yet the apostle Paul takes time to point out that the Jew is a breaker of the law.

Is it a dichotomy? We have one person, the Jew, who follows the law and also breaks that same law. Perhaps the problem is in the word "follow." Instead of follow and follower let us exchange those words with under and a person under the law. That simplifies the matter. Then the Jew, those born in the line of Jacob and the convert, are people who are under the law. Those who are under the law may break the law but the law itself contains the path for correction. The forms of correction can be anything from repentance and a small sacrifice up to and including the death of the person who broke the law. The remedy is not always in the best interest of the lawbreaker. It is, however, in the best interest of the nation of Israel.

Circumcision! It is the act of removing all or part of the foreskin of the penis. It is the sign given to Abraham to show that he is under a covenant relationship with God. He, his male children and those men of his household who were bought with his money were circumcised. This covenant relationship, with its promises and the sign of circumcision, was extended to Isaac and then to Jacob. Approximately 450 years later a new covenant relationship was established between God and the children of Israel. Laws were given to the children of Israel at that time. One of those laws was the rite of circumcision. Circumcision was then the sign that you were under this special covenant relationship with God.


Circumcision was practiced in ancient Egypt among the Egyptians themselves. It was a mark of passage into manhood and opened the opportunity to take part in the religion of the Egyptian gods. I will leave it to scholars to explain if circumcision was also practiced among the descendants of Ishmael and of Isaac down to our present age. Some Christian communities also practice circumcision. The religion of Islam practices the same rite but on older boys. We can understand that circumcision itself is practiced among a great number of people who are not Jewish or under the law of God as handed down through Moses. Circumcision is not proof that the person bearing this sign is a Jew. It is not even proof that you are under a covenant relationship with the God of the Bible.

If you are under the law of God as handed down through Moses then it is necessary to partake in the rite of male circumcision. The Jew has the obligation to judge others who are in the Old Testament covenant established through Moses. Yet God the father has given a gift to his son. This gift was a new covenant, established by a better sacrifice and containing better promises, and was given to the world through the Jewish nation. It is based on faith in Jesus and empowered by the work of the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit circumcises the heart of men and women and in essence creates a new man. Furthermore the Holy Spirit teaches the new man the truths of God through the word of God (the Bible) and through the words of Jesus who is "the Word of God" and the teachings of the apostles.

In the Old Testament we have the establishment of the written law. In the New Testament we have the establishment of the spirit of the law. The new supersedes the old. Why? The old uses human judges to interpret and extend the written law. In the new the Holy Spirit is the judge and teaches individuals the way of God.

In the beginning I asked the question, "who is a Jew?" The first answer I gave were those who were under the law. Yet with the New Testament the definition of who is a Jew has changed. A Jew is anyone who has been born again and is being led by the Spirit of God. That is what the apostle Paul declares in Romans chapter 2 verse 29. We who are under the Lordship of Jesus are: The New Man and A New Creation under A New Covenant and can be called "The New Jew." This New Jew is made up of Jew and Gentile converts to the new covenant. We are held to a higher standard. God expects more from us. The only way we can do this is to be led and empowered by the Holy Spirit. Who is a Jew? We are!

Author: Joseph A Raymond
4 August 2011

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Hamilton, Ontario, Canada