By Cris D. Putnam
I was emailed an offensive video over the holiday called “How the Jews Stole Christmas” sent to me by Joe Ortiz. Ortiz has written a couple books criticizing the pretubulation rapture position and dispenationalism. Over a year ago, he approached me about his book The End Times Passover of which I read one chapter but quickly put it down as it was immediately obvious to me that he was misrepresenting what pretiribulational dispensationalists believe so badly that he could not offer a meaningful critique. In case you are wondering, I do not identify as pretribultional so this was not driven by bias. Ortiz misunderstands dispensational theology in very fundamental ways and fails to make distinctions between classic, revised, and progressive dispensationalism, that is, if he is even aware of them. But this Christmas video is something altogether different:
This video is fallacious on a number of levels. First, Christians historically have not celebrated Christmas. The Puritan community found no Scriptural justification for celebrating Christmas, and associated such celebrations with paganism and idolatry. It is a twentieth century development largely at the hands of American department stores. Second, the video is transparently racist. I define “Jew” as a person who descends from Jacob. Historically, it referred to the tribe of Judah but any good bible dictionary will tell you it assumed a broader definition after the Babylonian captivity:
The Intertestamental Period The Greek name Ioudaios (plural Ioudaioi) was used for the Israelites in the Greek and Roman world. This is the name used in the treaty between Judas Maccabeus and the Romans, described in 1 Macc. 8:23–32: “May all go well with the Romans and with the nation of the Jews” (v. 23).
It’s an ethnic group, a race of people like Hispanics or Italians. So when someone titles a video “How the Jews Stole Christmas” they are engaging in racism by making a broad sweeping generalization accusing all Jews — obviously not all Jews are in on some dubious conspiracy to “steal Christmas” even if a few of them actually were — so anyone who promotes material like this is promoting racism. Joe Ortiz mass emailed the above video two days prior to Christmas. I replied to Joe how disappointed I was, because making such a broad accusation is obviously racist and that Jesus himself was Jewish.
Cris: “Joe, What’s up with the racism? Please don’t send me this bigoted trash. BTW Jesus was Jewish.”
Joe: “He was? I thought He was Aramaic, but born in the area known as Judah? Did He practice what is written in the Talmud? Isn’t that what it means to be Jewish?”
Cris: “Wow Joe this is very disappointing, I’m sorry but you are really uniformed about the most basic facts. Yes, Jews are people descended from Jacob, David descends from Jacob and Jesus was from the line of David, read the genealogies in Matthew and Luke. Aramaic is a language not a race of people… the Talmud came after the destruction of the temple many years later. I challenge you to dispute any of those statements with documented evidence. Racism is not fitting for anyone who follows Jesus, the Jewish Messiah.”
Joe: Jews came from the tribe of Judah, one of the 12 tribes of Israel. But yet, you believe that Abraham, Isaac and Jacob were Jews, don’t you? Is Hebrew a language or a people? When Jesus spoke to the Pharisees about the traditions of their fathers (which happened before the destruction of the Temple), was He not speaking about the Talmudic mentality? I suppose the racism put out by John Hagee, and most Christian Zionists, against Arabs is fitting?
Cris: Hebrew is both a language and Jews are called Hebrews as well. Since, the Babylonian captivity the term “Jews” includes all 12 tribes. You need to pray over John 4:22 “Jesus said to her, “Woman, believe me, the hour is coming when neither on this mountain nor in Jerusalem will you worship the Father. You worship what you do not know; we worship what we know, for salvation is from the Jews.(Jn 4:21–22) I think Hagee is wrong about a lot and I don’t pay attention to him – so I’m not chasing that red herring.
Joe then sent me this article Jesus Was Not a Jew. I am forced to assume he endorses it because he sent it to me as his defense. Read it yourself to understand the level of absurdity he is willing to stoop too. Jesus is even explicitly described as from the tribe of Judah – a true Jew even in the original usage of the term: “And one of the elders said to me, “Weep no more; behold, the Lion of the tribe of Judah, the Root of David, has conquered, so that he can open the scroll and its seven seals.” (Re 5:5)
A scholarly lexicon shows that the New Testament used Jew for all 12 tribes descended from Jacob.
Ἰσραήλ—Ἰουδαῖος in Jewish Literature after the OT.
After the collapse of Northern Israel in 722 b.c., only the comparatively small territory around Jerusalem, the kingdom of יהודה, was left to maintain the ancient tradition and name of what was once the whole people ישראל. Thus in pre-exilic times the total designation ישראל can be used in passages where strictly the reference is only to the kingdom of יהודה. After the return from exile the people is even more exclusively restricted to the province of Judah, and all those who live in Palestine outside this province are non-Israelites. It is thus quite natural that the name which derives from the territory, Heb. יְהוּדִי, Aram. (יהודאי) יְהוּדָי or Greek Ἰουδαῖος, which originally denotes an inhabitant of the kingdom or province of Judah, should come to be used more generally for a member of the people of Israel. To denote, not a member of the Jewish state or an inhabitant of Judaea, but a member of this people, two terms can thus be used, namely, ישלראἸσραήλ “Israel(ite)” and יהודיἸουδαῖος, “Jew.”
Thus, in the New Testament era “Jew” was equivalent to Israelite or Hebrew. The conversation digressed, I accused him of being a racist and Joe repeatedly threw out red herrings and logical fallacies rather than defend his assertion that Jesus was not Jewish. As I argued to no avail, the word “we” in John 4:22 is inclusive, “we worship what we know, for salvation is from the Jews.” According to John, Jesus said that and His use of “we” is His identification as a Jew. It seems to me that based on this statement, you are faced with 3 options:
- The Bible has an error Jesus never said it.
- Salvation comes from the Jews but Jesus was not a Jew.
- Salvation is through Christ alone as the Jewish Messiah.
It’s not clear what Ortiz believes because Jesus statement in John 4:21-22 infers that God used the Jewish people to deliver His word and to incarnate himself as the Jewish Messiah. Furthermore, the NT and the OT were written by Jewish people except for Luke who wrote Luke/Acts and of course, the primary dispute, Jesus was an ethnic Jew. So in that sense salvation was delivered to mankind through the Jews. I never got a straight answer out of Joe because he kept changing the subject to Zionism or dispensational theology. I challenged him to debate the topic “Jesus was a Jew” on Youtube but he only made excuses. Doesn’t this seem like a case of “protocols of the learned elders of Zion” mythology inspiring anti-Semitism in Joe?
Edwin Yamauchi, “Jews in the New Testament” In , in Holman Illustrated Bible Dictionary, ed. Chad Brand, Charles Draper, Archie England et al. (Nashville, TN: Holman Bible Publishers, 2003), 920.
 Personal to Cris Putnam email dated 12-27-2012
 Ἰσραήλ—Ἰουδαῖος , vol. 3, Theological Dictionary of the New Testament, ed. Gerhard Kittel, Geoffrey W. Bromiley and Gerhard Friedrich, electronic ed. (Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans, 1964-), 359.