Christians are the only true Hebrews today!
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Hebrew: Likely derived from "to cross over", meaning: sojourner in a foreign land.

Etymological origin of "Hebrew" and spiritual application to Christians:

  1. The first time the word "Hebrew" is used in the Bible is in Gen 14:13. Just as Abraham is first called a "Hebrew" in Gen 14:13, so also the disciples first called Christians in Acts 11:26.
  2. The etymological origin of "Hebrew" is uncertain. The most likely origin of word "ibri" [Hebrew] is derived from "br" which means "to cross over a boundary". (ISBE, revised, Hebrew) Included in this thought is that a "Hebrew" would be one "who crossed over" or one who went from place to place, a nomad, a wanderer, an alien. This designation that would fit some aspects of patriarchal behavior. If this is correct, then a Hebrew is one who travels into another land as a nomad and resides as an alien. It also means that the term has origins outside of Palestine and is a common expression that was etymologically modified from a nomad to specific ethnic group (Jews) whose origin was nomadic through Abram.
  3. The likely fact that the word Hebrew means "sojourner" underscores the importance of the land promise. Further, while possessing the land, they would always be reminded by the root meaning of their name, "Hebrew" that the land was a gift given to their forefathers who, for 500 years, were literally "Hebrews" in the "alien" sense of the word. This means that calling Palestine "the land of the Hebrews" in Gen 40:15 was a deliberate paradox, for sojourners don't have a land! Notice the powerful history of the Jewish people as sojourners: (Hebrews)
  4. Click to ViewAbram, crossing the Euphrates or Jordan, when he was told by God to leave the land of Ur in central Mesopotamia: Heb 11:9-10
    Click to ViewAbraham, Isaac and Jacob were all characterized by nomadic living in a foreign land: Heb. 11:13f
    Click to ViewMoses was described as an alien in the land of Midian: Acts 7:6
    Click to ViewThe Jews, like Abram, were said to sojourn in Egypt 430 years. (Acts 7:6; 13:17)
    Click to ViewThe Israelites crossed the Jordan itself to enter the promised land: Joshua 1:2 Although the Jews were no longer considered literal sojourners after Joshua crossed the Jordan and entered the promised land, yet Heb 4:8, shows that they were still spiritual sojourners of the same city Abraham looked for: Heaven.
  5. The word "Hebrew" is used exclusively in the New Testament as a literal ethnic sect and never in a spiritualized way, (as the word "Israel" and "Jew" are spiritually applied to Christians: Rom 2:28; 9:6.) Having said this, Christians are described as offspring of Abraham by faith, not flesh in Galatians 3:7,27. This strongly implies that Christians are Hebrews, although the NT never calls them such. Further Eph 2:12-14 teaches that Christians are part of the "commonwealth of Israel."
  6. There are two other secondary uses of the concept of one who "crosses over" that may be an allusion to the original meaning of the word "Hebrew" as one who "crosses over".
  7. Click to ViewThe idea of "crossing over" is also used twice of Hades as a barrier between saved and lost: Luke 16:26.
    Click to ViewSpiritually Christians "cross over" from darkness to light: Col 1:13.
  8. Jehovah calls Himself "the God of the Hebrews" (ie God of those who cross over or nomads) to Moses in Ex 3:18, perhaps in a deliberate double play on words in preparation for their soon "crossing over" the Red Sea (Heb 11:29). Moses walks in and says to Pharaoh that the "God of the nomads [Hebrews]" demands that he release His people so that they can resume their "sojourning". Perhaps the message Pharaoh got was that having "Hebrews [nomads]" in Egypt, where they cannot sojourn, is like caging a bird or preventing pigs from wallowing. God's people are by nature, sojourners.
  9. Christians likewise "cross the sea" at baptism: 1 Cor 10:1-2 in an unmistakable antitype. Just as the Hebrews "crossed over" from darkness of Egypt to the neutral light of Egypt... then again the Jordan to the positive light of Palestine, so too Christians IN LIKE MANNER earn their "HEBREW" name by crossing the Red Sea of baptism, from darkness of sin to the light of salvation. Christians are currently in the "wilderness" awaiting to cross the Jordan into eternal rest at the second coming of Christ!
  10. The idea of "Abram the Hebrew", as a nomad/wanderer and alien/sojourner (Hebrews 11:13-16), is also directly applied to Christians in 1 Pet 1:1,17; 2:11; Eph 2:19, with Abram as a foreshadow.
  11. Abram was a physical/literal sojourner up until Gen 15:8,18, when he was told he would personally not inherit the land, but his descendants would 500 years later. After Gen 15:18 Abram changed from a physical sojourner to a spiritual sojourner as Heb 11:13-16 clearly teaches. Up until Gen 15, Abram was looking for a physical inheritance. After Gen 15, Abram started looking for a spiritual inheritance... JUST like Christians!
  12. Yet even when the Jews finally did inherit the physical land in Joshua 1:2, they really hadn't "entered into the rest" that God intended for them. (Heb 4:8) Like Abraham, they were still sojourning for that spiritual land of heaven! (Heb 11:13-16)
  13. So Abram changed from a physical sojourner to a spiritual sojourner when he learned he would never inherit the physical land in Gen 15; and the Jews changed from a physical to spiritual sojourner the moment they crossed the Jordan to actually inherit the physical land. So God's people, from Abram to the Jews, to Christians have always been "Hebrews" or aliens sojourning for the heavenly land!
  14. Eph 2:11-19 adds another interesting point to all this. It says that the Gentiles were once "Hebrews" [strangers and aliens] in regard to the physical Jews [commonwealth of Israel], but not as Christians, they are NO LONGER "strangers and aliens" but are fellow citizens of the true promised land: Heaven (Phil 3:20). In other words, Christians in one sense, have inherited heaven now in that they are citizens now, but in another sense, they must wait for the second coming to enter into that spiritual kingdom that God will grant the righteous!
  15. Three words that are related to the word "Hebrew" as one who "crosses over", is used of both Abraham and Christians in an unmistakable antitype:

Three basic NT words that share meaning with the word, "Hebrew" are used both of Abraham in a literal sense and Christians in a spiritual sense:

WORD #1:

parepideÁmos (3927): "Alien" signifying "sojourning in a strange place, away from one's own people" (Vine) is used in only in Heb. 11:13; 1 Pet. 1:1; 2:11, and means "an adjective

Used of Patriarchs:

  • Heb. 11:13: "All these [Patriarchs] died in faith, without receiving the promises, but having seen them and having welcomed them from a distance, and having confessed that they were strangers and EXILES on the earth. 14 For those who say such things make it clear that they are seeking a country of their own. 15 And indeed if they had been thinking of that country from which they went out, they would have had opportunity to return. 16 But as it is, they desire a better country, that is a heavenly one. Therefore God is not ashamed to be called their God; for He has prepared a city for them."

 Used of Christians:

  • 1 Pet. 1:1 "Peter, an apostle of Jesus Christ, to those who reside as ALIENS, scattered throughout Pontus, Galatia, Cappadocia, Asia, and Bithynia, who are chosen."
  • 1 Pe 2:11 "Beloved, I urge you as ALIENS and strangers to abstain from fleshly lusts, which wage war against the soul."

WORD #2:

paroikos: (3939,3940,3941), "a sojourner" (Vine) Acts 7:6; 29; Eph 2:19; 1 Pe 1:17; 2:11; Acts 13:17; Hebrews 11:9.

Used of Patriarchs:

  • Acts 7:6 "But God spoke to this effect, that his offspring would be ALIENS in a foreign land, and that they would be enslaved and mistreated for four hundred years." (Quoting Gen 15:13)
  • Acts 7:29 "And at this remark Moses fled, and became an ALIEN in the land of Midian" (quoting Exodus 2:15,22)
  • Acts 13:17 "The God of this people of Israel chose our fathers, and exalted the people when they dwelt as STRANGERS in the land of Egypt"
  • Hebrews 11:9-10 "By faith he [Abraham] SOJOURNED in the land of promise, as in a strange country, dwelling in tabernacles with Isaac and Jacob, the heirs with him of the same promise: For he looked for a city which hath foundations, whose builder and maker is God."

 Used of Christians:

  • Eph 2:19 "So then you are no longer strangers and ALIENS, but you are fellow citizens with the saints, and are of God's household"
  • 1 Pe 2:11 "Beloved, I urge you as aliens and STRANGERS to abstain from fleshly lusts, which wage war against the soul."

WORD #3:

xenos (3581) Lit: "strange... denotes a stranger, foreigner" (Vine) used of Patriarchs in general in Heb. 11:13 and of Gentiles in relation to Israel in Eph 2:19

Used of Patriarchs:

  • Heb. 11:13: All these [Patriarchs] died in faith, without receiving the promises, but having seen them and having welcomed them from a distance, and having confessed that they were STRANGERS and exiles on the earth.

 Used of Christians:

  • Eph 2:19 "Now therefore ye are no more STRANGERS and foreigners, but fellowcitizens with the saints, and of the household of God"

Steve Rudd 

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