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The Busted Halo Question Box
Ask our spiritual experts virtually anything!
This is the place where you can ask all of those burning questions that you wouldn't dare ask in person. We will post questions here (using your byline only with permission); we guarantee an answer to everyone.

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Ann Naffziger, M.A., M.Div.
Mike Hayes
Our readers asked:

Are the “Israelites” mentioned so often in the Old Testament the same as the “Jews”?

Ann Naffziger Answers:

Generally speaking “Israelites” refer to the ancestors of the Jews whose story is told in the Old Testament. In the book of Genesis, Abraham’s grandson Jacob was renamed “Israel”(Genesis 32:28) and following that renaming, Jacob’s descendants were commonly referred to as Israelites. It was centuries before the religion of the Israelites coalesced into the more unified practices we sometimes associate with Judaism in Jesus’ time. Even then there were many ways to practice “Judaism,” just as today there are a myriad ways that Christians practice Christianity. Consequently, it is more accurate to refer to Jesus’ (and our) distant ancestors in religion as Israelites, rather than Jews.

The Author : Ann Naffziger
Ann Naffziger is a scripture instructor and spiritual director in the San Francisco Bay area. She has has written articles on spirituality and theology for various national magazines and edited several books on the Hebrew Scriptures.
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  • Tom Mirizio

    oops. guess I better correct myself before I understand completely: The tribe of Levi and Judah were both around during 2nd temple days. sorry

  • Tom Mirizio

    Yes, and technically, isnt Israelite used before the 12 tribes were scattered? and Judah being the tribe that were the Jews mentioned in the Bible?

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