Not only has the nature of Jesus been debated over the centuries, so has the claim that he is a Jew. One theory is that he was “Judean” because he lived in Judea but not a Jew because those ancestors who were originally from Judah actually lived in Asia at the time of Jesus. Then there are those who assert that his ancestors were from Edom. The Edomites were allegedly converted to become “Jews” when they migrated to Judea prior to the birth of Jesus.
There is much Biblical evidence to prove these views are false. Ethnically, Jesus is a Jew because his ancestry is traced back to David and Abraham (Matthew 1; Luke 3:23-38). David was from the tribe of Judah through whom the Messiah would come (note: “the sceptre of Judah,” Genesis 49:8-12; Psalm 2:4-9; 60:7; 72:8; 108:8 in connection with Jesus Messiah: “The book of the genealogy of Jesus Christ, the son of David, the son of Abraham,” Matt. 1:1; also Luke 1:32-33). Jesus is called Christ (Greek) or Messiah (Hebrew), “the Anointed of God,” and “son of David,” (Matt. 21:9). The Apostle Peter pointed out that Jesus is also the son of Abraham, the father of the Jews (Acts 3:12-25). He also points out that this son of Abraham is Messiah in fulfillment of prophecy (vss. 17-26).
Even though the Hebrew people who came from the line of Jacob were themselves Israelites, by the time of Christ they became identified as “Jews” regardless which tribe they were from. One example is the Apostle Paul. Even though Paul was from the tribe of Benjamin, he considered himself a “Jew” in the general sense (Philippians 3:5; Acts 21:39; 22:3; Rom. 11:1; 2 Cor. 11:22). But Jesus’ roots came directly from the tribe of Judah, so he truly was a Jew according to his bloodline.
The birth of Jesus the Jew is evidenced by the many references in both Old and New Testaments. For example, the magi sought the One who was born “King of the Jews” in accordance with Old Testament prophecy and, therefore, is Jewish, (Matt. 2:1-6). Another example is Hebrews 7:14-17 which connects, “It is evident that our Lord was descended from Judah, a tribe…” with the priesthood of Jesus according to the order of the King/Priest Melchizedek, a type of Christ (Gen. 14:17-24; Psa. 110:4; Heb. 7:1-8:13). By the way, Jesus came from a close Jewish family: His mother, Mary, a relative of Elizabeth (descendant of Aaron), wife of Zacharias, a priest, and his cousin John (the baptist) were devout Jews (Luke 1:5-25). A third example is that Jesus’ circumcision was performed according to Jewish law (Luke 2:24; Leviticus 12:6-28). (reference: http://jesusisajew.org/Jesus_is_a_Jew.php#8
Jesus’ biological mother, Mary, and his foster father, Joseph, could trace their heritage to the tribe of Judah. Matthew 1:2-17 records the genealogy of Joseph and Luke 3:23-38 records the genealogy of Mary. Both Mary and Joseph were descendants of David. Joseph and Mary who was expecting Jesus at the time had to register in Bethlehem “because he was of the house and family of David,” according to Luke 2:4-5.
Matthew traces Joseph’s ancestry to David’s son, Solomon, whereas Luke traces Mary’s ancestry to another son of David, Nathan. It is also shown that while Joseph was the son of Jacob (Matt. 1:16) he was also son-in-law of Heli who was Mary’s father (Luke 3:23). Note that Joseph did not “begat” Jesus but was, instead, the foster father since he is recorded as “the husband of Mary, of whom was born Jesus, who is called the Christ,” Matt. 1:16). (Dr. Alva G. Huffer, Systematic Theology)
Even though Joseph was not the natural paternal father of Jesus, he had legal right to be called his father according to the law. John 1:45 says, “We have found him, of whom Moses in the law, and the prophets, did write, Jesus of Nazareth, the son of Joseph.” I imagine Joseph probably felt very humbled and honored to learn he would raise the One who “will save his people from their sins,” (Matt. 1:18-25). Naturally, Joseph and Jesus had a special father-son relationship which many in the Jewish community recognized (Matt. 13:55; John 6:42). In the context of this relationship, Mary referred to her husband as Jesus’ father when she expressed their sorrow the time they found him in the temple (Luke 2:48). But the youthful Jesus respectfully replied that he was there doing the business of his heavenly Father (vs. 49). (ibid.)
In addition to his ethnicity, Jesus Christ is not only the Son of Man through the lineage of David and Abraham, he is also divine—that is, he is the Son of God. Peter confessed, “Thou art the Christ, the Son of the living God,” (Matt. 16:16). Jesus Christ the Jew is the only begotten Son of God born in the flesh (John 1:13-14; 3:16). The divinity of Jesus as God’s Son and his humanity gives even more credence to the relevancy that he is a Jew. For, through him, God’s promises are fulfilled in the fact that he, a Jew, was born for the Jews first and then the Gentiles to save them from sin and to provide eternal salvation. This is what the Good News or Gospel is all about: Rom. 1:16; 2:9-10.
Though the Jewish leaders and their supporters rejected Jesus as God’s only begotten Son and Messiah and had him crucified on the cross, God used their disbelief to provide hope and salvation to the rest of those who would believe including Gentiles. For this, we can praise our wise and gracious God. Quoting Psalm 69:22-23, the Apostle Paul wrote concerning Israel, “And David says: ‘Let their table become a snare and a trap, a stumbling block and a retribution to them. Let their eyes be darkened so they cannot see, and their backs be bent forever.” I ask then, did they stumble so as to lose their share? Absolutely not! However, because of their trespass, salvation has come to the Gentiles to make Israel jealous. But if their trespass means riches for the world, and their failure means riches for the Gentiles, how much greater riches will their fullness bring!…” (Rom. 11:9-11, Berean Study Bible, BSB)
There’s more Good News: The day will come when the Jewish nation whom Jesus came to save will be converted. Ever since Israel has returned to the land God promised to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, they are still “blind” to the truth concerning Jesus (Rom. 11:7- 10, 25-27). This blindness will continue in part until the “fullness of the Gentiles” takes place signalling the end of this age.
We also know there will be “a time of Jacob’s trouble” (Jeremiah 30:7) in which there will be “great tribulation” upon the nation of Israel like never before (Dan. 9:27; Matt. 24:15-31; Zechariah 13:8). But Jesus Christ will come to deliver his Jewish people at which time they will finally recognize that he is the One who, all along, has been the true Messiah, the Son of God (Zech. 13:9; 12:10; Revelation 1:7). So, “all Israel will be saved,” (Rom. 11:26; Ezek. 36:27; 37:15-28). It will be then that Israel will be exalted among the nations of the earth and all the world will be blessed (Isaiah 60:1-22; Jer. 31:27-34; Zech. 8:18-23; 14:16-21).
Since Jesus Christ, the Jew, is the Son of God as well as the Son of Man, he has the divine right to claim his position as prophet, priest, and king. To believers in Christ this truth is most relevant whether one is born a Jew or a Gentile. As prophet, Jesus the Jew teaches us about God’s plan of salvation and events that he will fulfill not only in this age but the Kingdom age to come (Matt. 21:11; Deut. 18:15, 18; Acts 3:21-23; 7:37). As priest, Jesus the Jew intercedes for us and performs the perfect atonement for our sins (Heb. 5:5-10; 7:1-3). Interestingly, both as prophet and priest, Jesus is greater than Moses (Heb. 3:1-6, “Christ was faithful as a Son over his own household….”). As king, Jesus the Jew has divine authority which he will use to rule over Israel and all the nations as King of kings and Lord of lords on the throne of his father, David, in Jerusalem the coming world capital (Isaiah 9:7; Zech. 14:16; Luke 1:31-33; Rev. 19:11-19).
In summary, Jesus is a Jew in his ethnicity, divinity, and position as prophet, priest, and king. If he were not a Jew he would not be qualified to be our Lord and Saviour according to the scriptures (for example, “the seed of Abraham,” Gal. 3:16 and David, Rom. 1:1-6; John 7:42). We eagerly look forward to the King of the Jews to take his rightful place when believers rule with him in his kingdom (Rom. 8:17; Rev. 5:5,10). What a glorious day that will be!
Here is a song about the time the Jews hailed Jesus proclaiming him, “Hosanna to the Son of David,” and how it points to his return (Matt. 21:9; 23:39; Mark 11:9-10; Luke 19:38):
Good News to YOU!