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Was Jesus a Palestinian?

translate was Jesus a Palestinian

To answer this question, we should carefully define terms. References to Palestine have taken on different meanings and different implications from their historical use. Jesus’ first coming to earth was as a Middle Eastern man, native-born in Bethlehem; this is currently part of territory assigned to the West Bank. He was raised in Nazareth, in the north of modern-day Israel. However, His religion and ethnicity were inarguably Jewish, not Arabic. Depending on which version of Palestinian one chooses, Jesus may or may not fit. However, based on the typical sense in which the word is used today, Jesus was not “Palestinian.”

Jesus would fall under the definition of Palestinian in a historical and geographical sense: He was born, raised, died, and resurrected in a region which, for millennia, was called “Palestine.” Prior to the establishment of the modern nation of Israel, the term Palestinian was as likely to apply to Jewish residents of the area—or anyone living there—as it was to Muslim or Arabic citizens.

Over time, the terms Palestine and Palestinian have been narrowed. In modern use, these typically refer to the majority-Muslim-and-Arabic people living in the territories currently called the Gaza Strip and the West Bank. For the statement “Jesus was Palestinian” to be meaningfully true, one cannot use the modern definition of the term. Expanding the definition to include Jesus would require including the current Jewish residents of Israel—which would defeat the purpose of using Palestinian to identify an ethnic or regional group.

When seeking to disrupt stereotypes about Jesus, we sometimes oversimplify ideas or stretch their definitions. For example, Jesus was not a “refugee” in the modern sense, yet aspects of His life echo the experiences of people today. It’s valuable to remember that Jesus was not among the cultural elites of His era. But we can’t ignore modern implications of the term refugee, lest we associate Jesus with things that weren’t part of His story.

In the same way, a person might claim “Jesus was a Palestinian” when seeking to emphasize His experience as a poor Middle Eastern man living in occupied territory—much as some would characterize those living in the West Bank or Gaza today. Jesus lived in a region historically called “Palestine,” which included territory currently associated with the modern-day “Palestinian” people. Yet He was not ethnically or religiously part of the group labeled “Palestinian” in the modern sense. Jesus was no more a modern Palestinian—in ethnicity or religion—than He was a modern American or Russian or Indian or Brazilian or Ethiopian.

Jesus’ gospel is intended for all people, of all cultures and backgrounds (Matthew 28:19; Galatians 3:28; Revelation 7:9). The most important association He took on was as a member of the human race (John 1:14; Hebrews 4:15) in His role as the One intended to save all people (John 3:16).

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Was Jesus a Palestinian?
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This page last updated: January 30, 2024