The Messianic Way


Anyone with one Jewish parent has a right to call himself Jewish: Why patrilineal descent is the more authentic tradition

For all those dealing with the issue of Jewish Idenity. Knowledge is power. Know your past, proclaim your future. Be not what you are called, but who you are called to be!

Matrilineal Jewish Identity is not biblical, it’s halachic. And taken from Roman culture of the time. When studied one finds a stark contrast in regards to matrilineal v.s patrilineal Jewish identity between the 2nd temple period historical writtings and after the destruction and establishment of a formal Christian religion of Rome.

convertsOne of the great schisms in Judaism today is what “rules” we follow to define or identify who is Jewish. This may come as a surprise, but this is actually nothing new. We have been trying to keep people out of the tribe for as long as we stopped actively trying to bring people into the tribe.

When and why did such an enormous ideological change happen?

About 2,000 years ago, under the Roman empire and then the early Christian empire, where conversion to Judaism became a crime punishable by death. Up until then, we have evidence that conversion to Judaism was widespread and indeed very simple to do. No one in the Jewish community was trying to make it “difficult” for a person to self-identify as Jewish.

But let me start this story from a different angle: This post is meant to be a passionate argument in favor of…

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Humility is the beginning of ones relationship with God, or the reminder of it's existence...... LOVE ~ Life's Only Valuable Emotion

One comment on “Anyone with one Jewish parent has a right to call himself Jewish: Why patrilineal descent is the more authentic tradition

  1. Shimshon
    January 8, 2015

    This section was taken from “Women in Judaism

    [2] In his recent book, The Beginnings of Jewishness, Shaye J.D. Cohen rightly says:

    [3] “This is surprising within the context of ancient culture especially Jewish culture, where the important parent was always the father”.4 With only a few exceptions rabbinical family law is patrilineal, the status of kinship succession is determined through the father. “The family of the father is considered family, the family of the mother is not considered family”.5

    [4] So why did the Rabbis use the matrilineal principle for the offspring of mixed marriages?

    The Matrilineal Principle

    [5] The central rabbinic text concerning a matrilineal principle can be found in m.Kiddushin 3:12 and reads as follows:
    •Wherever there is potential for a valid marriage and the sexual union is not sinful, the offspring follows the male. And what is this? This is the daughter of a priest, Levite, or Israelite who was married to a priest, Levite or Israelite.

    •Wherever there is potential for a valid marriage but the sexual union is sinful, the offspring follows the parent of the lower status. And what is this? This is a widow with a high priest, a divorcee or a related woman with a regular priest, a mamzeret6 or a natinah7 with an Israelite, an Israelite woman with a mamzer or a natin.

    •And any woman who does not have the potential for a valid marriage with this man but has potential for valid marriage with other men, the offspring is a mamzer. And what is this? This is he who has intercourse with any of the relations prohibited by the Torah

    •And any woman who does not have the potential for a valid marriage either with this man or with other men, the offspring is like her. And what is this? This is the offspring of a slave woman or a Gentile woman.8

    [6] These passages exemplify the four possibilities in determining status: A: the offspring follows the father, D: the mother, B: either parent, or C: neither parent. However, these passages only account for one half of the matrilineal principle, they do not account for the status of the offspring of a Jewish mother and a Gentile father. B.Kiddushin 73a says that Israelite women of good pedigree are not prohibited from men who are unfit. Similarly there are a few texts from the Second Temple period that deal with the status of such offspring. The most obvious one occurs in Acts: 9″And he (Paul) came also to Derbe and to Lystra. A disciple was there named Timothy, the son of a Jewish woman who was a believer; but his father was a Greek. He was well spoken of by the brethren at Lystra and Iconium. Paul wanted Timothy to accompany him; and he took him and he circumcised him because of the Jews that were in those places, for they all knew that his father was a Greek.”

    [7] Although there has been a considerable debate over Timothy’s ‘Jewishness,’ it is accepted by most scholars that he was not previously considered Jewish but Greek like his father.10

    [8] The status of such offspring is, however, accounted for elsewhere in the Mishnah. m.Yevamot 7:5 states that the offspring of a Jewish mother and a Gentile father is a mamzer: “If the daughter of an Israelite was married to a priest, or if the daughter of a priest was married to an Israelite, and she bore him a daughter and if that daughter went and was married to a slave or to a gentile and bore him a son he is a mamzer.”11

    [9] Most commentators assume that it is because the woman cannot enter into a valid marriage then her children are rendered fatherless; but there is also another explanation suggested by R. Simeon in the Tosefta Kiddushin 4:16, which paraphrases Simeon the Temanite in m.Yevamot 4:13: that a mamzer can only issue from a forbidden union that entails “extirpation” (karet):

    Who is a mamzer?

    (The offspring of a union with) any of one’s own flesh that is included in the (scriptural) prohibition of intercourse.

    (These are) the words of R. Akiva.

    Simeon the Temanite says,

    (The offspring of a union with) any of those on account of whom they are liable to extirpation at the hands of heaven.

    And the law is according to his words.

    R. Joshua says,

    (The offspring of a union with) any of those on account of whom they are liable to death (at the hands of) a court.

    [10] However, the anonymous authority in the opening statement of the Tosefta declares that a mamzer issues from any prohibited union, not only an incestuous one: A gentile or a slave who had intercourse with an Israelite woman and she gave birth to a child — the offspring is a mamzer.12 As Cohen13 points out, if this is correct then the Mishnah does not consistently follow a single matrilineal principle.

    [11] Both versions of the matrilineal principle are contained, however, in a Babylonian discussion of m.Kiddushin 3:12. In order to prove that the offspring of a Gentile mother takes her status the two Rabbis quote a statement of R. Yohanan in the name of R. Simeon b. Yohai: “Learn from this (the exegesis of R. Simeon) that your daughter’s son who is fathered by a gentile is also called your son.” If this is correct then R. Simeon first connected the two halves of the matrilineal principle, circa middle 2nd century CE.

    [12] Nevertheless, there continued to be great debate about the status of children born of a Jewish mother and non-Jewish father, some of the amoraim followed the Mishnah ruling, while others regarded the offspring of such unions as Jewish but blemished. Others followed R Simeon and declared the offspring to be kasher (fit) and legitimate.14 However, despite the controversies, Cohen says that “within rabbinic society the matrilineal principle commanded universal respect”.15

    Timothy was not circumcised because his mother was Jewish. If this was the case he would have already been circumcised on the 8th day. But he was not, because his father was Greek, and according to halacha he was a mamzer! Not Jewish at all. Accordingly Paul thought it wise to clean him up before he attempted to witness to the circumcision crowd. His mother was Jewish but his father was not and by Jewish law that meant he was not legitimately Jewish but Greek because the lineage falls through the fathers side in Judaism. Biblically anyway…


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This entry was posted on January 8, 2015 by in Shimshon's Blog, The Messianic Way Blog and tagged , .
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