Was Jesus Palestinian?
Jesus of Nazareth spent His earthly ministry serving and teaching before dying for the sins of the world. Who Jesus was and where He came from was an important part of Jewish tradition; the Jewish people were waiting and praying for a Messiah to come.
When Jesus came, not everyone recognized Him as the Messiah and instead rejected him, but not before Christ established His gospel on the earth. His gospel that was established so long ago in ancient Israel, ancient Palestine, and other regions of the Middle East reflects the principles that the New Testament teaches us today. Knowing who Jesus is, where He came from, His purpose, and His message will help each of us better understand the transforming power of Jesus' atonement, death, and resurrection.
The Ancestry of Jesus
An important part of Jesus' identity is His family line, especially how it relates to the events in the Bible. He is from the line of King David via His mother Mary, meaning He’s of Jewish descent (Matthew 1:1-17). More specifically, Jesus was a rabbi, a teacher of Judaism. Judaism was the primary religious faith in Jerusalem, the place in which Jesus was crucified and resurrected. His Jewish ancestry is a significant part of both Jewish tradition and the Christian faith.
In the Bible, the Jews, stemming back to Abraham and Isaac, were a chosen people of God who covenanted with the Lord. The covenant people of Israel were promised the land of Canaan (which is now correlated with modern-day Israel and Palestinian Territories), and other blessings should they fulfill their responsibilities as God’s chosen people. The Jewish faith and cultural identity were and still are deeply tied to their promised land. Because of His ancestral line and His life documented in the Bible, we know that Jesus was Jewish and that he was deeply involved in Jewish culture.
The Places Jesus Lived and Served In
Jesus was born in Bethlehem, which was a town located in Judea, just south of Jerusalem. King Herod ruled at the time as a client of Rome, meaning He was given the authority to rule over Judea by the Romans. To get rid of Jesus and the threat Jesus posed to his reign, Herod issued the mass murder of all male infants, which caused Joseph and Mary to flee into Egypt with Jesus (Matthew 2:14-16).
However, after approximately three years, Jesus returned to the area of Judea, first in Nazareth where He was raised, and later in other parts of Galilee. The Bible refers to Him as Jesus of Nazareth; even when Christ was crucified, his cross read “Jesus of Nazareth, the King of the Jews” (John 19:19).
Galilee was located in a region of the Holy Land, which is referred to as both ancient Palestine and the Lands of Israel, according to certain scholars. In Jesus’ time, ancient Palestine was a part of the Canaan region, which encompassed the kingdoms of Israel and Judah.
Was Jesus Palestinian?
Some refer to Jesus as a Palestinian Jew, a Jew who lived in a Palestinian region. These regions are assumed to be Nazareth, Galilee, etc., though some scholars attribute these areas to Israel. Others call Jesus a Galilean Jew. Depending on one’s understanding of the regions in the time of the Bible, Jesus was born in and lived in the regions of Palestine and Israel, and He was raised by a righteous Jewish family.
It’s important to portray a more accurate image of Jesus since He is typically portrayed as having lighter, more Westernized features. Portraying Jesus more accurately helps people better understand the culture He lived in and gives a better view of what He actually might have looked like. It’s also important to recognize the cultural and religious significance of Jesus’ ancestral line.
The Mission and Message of Jesus Christ
Jesus was a Jew that lived, traveled, and taught in several areas known as the Middle East, including Palestinian areas. Christ ministered to and served with people of different social, political, and economic backgrounds, and all who embraced His word and teachings were welcomed into his fold with open arms.
Take the story of the woman at the well, a beloved biblical story about a Samaritan woman who meets Jesus. Jesus asks the woman for a drink from the well, and because Jews and Samaritans were prejudiced toward one another, she says to him, “You are a Jew and I am a Samaritan woman. How can you ask me for a drink?” Jesus tells her that He is the Messiah that will bring about eternal life, and that “true worshipers will worship the Father in the Spirit and in truth, for they are the kind of worshipers the Father seeks” (John 4:9, 23).
If you haven’t already, check out Angel Studios’ The Chosen to view the first-ever multi-season show about the life of Jesus. This historical drama set in Judaea and Galilee in the first century CE follows Jesus and those whom He met and ministered to.