Hebrew - Trench's New Testament Synonyms
HebrewHebraios (G1445) Hebrew
Ioudaios (G2453) Jew
Israelites (G2475) Israelite
Although all of these names are used to designate members of the elect family and chosen race, the terms may be distinguished.
Because it is the oldest term, Hebraios deserves to be considered first.Most likely Hebraios is derived from 'eber(G5676), the same word as hyper (G5228) and the Latin super (beyond). Hebraios alludes to the passing over of Abraham from the other side of the Euphrates. In the language of the Phoenician tribes among whom he came to live, he was "Abram the Hebrew, " or ho perates as it appears in the Septuagint (Gen. 14:13), because he was from beyond (peran, G4008) the river. Thus Origen correctly spoke of "Hebrews, which is translated foreigners [peratikoi]." Therefore Hebraios is not a name the chosen people adopted for themselves but one that others gave them. It is not a name they have taken but one that others have imposed on them. The use of Hebraios throughout the Old Testament is entirely consistent with this etymology. In every case Hebraios is either a title foreigners use to designate the chosen race or one the chosen people use to designate themselves to foreigners or when they set themselves in tacit opposition to other nations. Hebraios is never used without either a latent or an expressed sense of national antagonism.
Later when Ioudaios came into use, the meaning of Hebraios changed. Frequently when a new term appears, a related word's meaning will contract and be more narrowly defined. This happens when new terms arise and all the various meanings of related older terms are no longer needed. At the same time, such older words lend themselves to new shades of meaning, as was the case with Hebraios. In the New Testament the "external perspective" on the Hebrew nation no longer existed. Not every member of the chosen family was a Hebraios, only those who retained Hebrew as their native language (whether they lived in Palestine or elsewhere). The true complement and antithesis to Hebraios is Hellenistes (G1675), a word that first appeared in the New Testament to designate a Jew of the Dispersion who spoke Greek, not Hebrew, and who read or heard the Septuagint version of the Scriptures in the synagogue.
The distinction between Hebraios and Hellenistes first appears in Acts 6:1 and is probably intended in the two other New Testament passages where Hebraios occurs (2 Cor. 11:22; Phil. 3:5), as well as in the superscription of the Epistle to the Hebrews. It is important to remember that the language one spoke, not the place where one lived, was the defining factor in being considered a "Hebrew" or a "Hellenist." As long as a person's mother tongue was Hebrew, he was considered a "Hebrew," regardless of where he lived. Thus Paul, though settled in Tarsus, a Greek city in Asia Minor, described himself as a "Hebrew" of "Hebrew" parents and as "a Hebrew of Hebrews" (Phil. 3:5; cf. Acts 23:6). Although the greatest number of "Hebrews" were resident in Palestine, it was their language, not their place of residence, that gave them this title.
The distinction between Hebraios and Hellenistes is a distinction within the nation and not between it and other nations. This distinction is exclusively a scriptural one, though it was hardly recognized by later Christian writers and not at all by Jewish and heathen ones. Thus Eusebius said of Philo, an Alexandrian Jew who wrote exclusively in Greek, "By race he was a Hebrew [Hebraios]." Clement of Alexandria always made Hellenes (G1672) and ethne (G1484), not Hellenistai, the antithesis to Hebraioi. Theodoret styled the Greek-writing historian Josephus as "a Hebrew [Hebraios] author."
No traces of the New Testament distinction between Hebraios and Hellenistes exist in Josephus, Philo, or in heathen writers. Hebraios, however, though rarer than Ioudaios, always refers to the people in terms of their language, a rule observed by Jewish, heathen, and Christian writers alike. Even today we speak of the Jewish nation but of the Hebrewtongue.
The name Ioudaios is of much later origin. It did not originate at the birth of the chosen people, when Abram passed over the river and entered the land of inheritance, but later at a time of national disruption and decline when the Jewish tribes separated into the rival kingdoms of Israel and Judah. At that time the ten tribes assumed "Israel" as their title, and the other two tribes took the name yihûdîm (G3064), or Ioudaioi, from the more important of the two. Josephus's first use of Ioudaioi was in reference to Daniel and his young companions, not in the earlier history of the Jewish people. In reference to Daniel, however, Josephus used Ioudaioi by anticipationnamely, that it first arose after the return from Babylon, because the earliest colony to return was of that tribe: "They were called by this name from the day they went up out of Babylon, [taken] from the tribe of Judah as it was the first to enter those regions; both they and the land adopted this very name." But Josephus's account is clearly erroneous, Ioudaioi, or its Hebrew equivalent, first appears in biblical books that were composed before or during the captiv--ity as a designation of those who belonged to the smaller group of the tribes, the kingdom of Judah, not first in Ezra, Nehemiah, and Esther, though the term occurs more frequently in these books (especially in Esther).
It is easy to see how Ioudaioi was extended to the nation as a whole. When the ten tribes were carried into Assyria and were absorbed and lost among the nations, the smaller group of Jews who remained behind came to represent the entire Jewish nation. Thus it was only natural that Ioudaios should refer to any member of the nationa "Jew" in the wider sense of one who was not a Gentileand not just to someone from the kingdom of Judah as distinguished from the kingdom of Israel. In fact Ioudaioi underwent a process exactly the converse of the one Hebraios had undergone earlier. On the one hand, Hebraios initially referred to the nation as a whole but later came to refer only to a part of the nation. On the other hand, Ioudaios initially referred only to a part of the nation and later to the nation as a whole. The later use of Ioudaios, like the earlier use of Hebraios, was employed as a national self-designation to distinguish a descendant of Abraham from other peoples (Rom. 2:9-10). Consequently the Scriptures contrast "Jew and Gentile" but never "Israelite and Gentile." Additionally, Ioudaios was used by others to maintain the distinction between Jews and Gentiles. Thus the wise men from the East inquired, "Where is He that is born King of the Jews?." (Matt. 2:2). The form of this question implies that the wise men were Gentiles. Had they been Jews, they would have asked for the King of Israel. So, too, the Roman soldiers and governor gave Jesus the mocking title "King of the Jews" (Matt. 27:29, 37), but his own countrymen challenged him to prove by coming down from the cross that he is the "King of Israel" (Matt. 27:42).
Israelites is the absolute name used to express the dignity and glory of a member of the theocratic nation in a unique covenant relation with God. Israelites rarely occurs in the Septuagint but often was used by Josephus in his earlier history as a synonym for Hebraios. In the middle period of his history, Josephus used Israelites to refer to a member of the ten tribes and toward the end of his history as a synonym for Ioudaios. We will only consider the last meaning here. Israelites was the Jew's special badge and title of honor. The honor of being descendants of Abraham was shared with the Ishmaelites (Gen. 16:15), and the honor of being descendants of Abraham and Isaac was shared with the Edomites (Gen. 24:25). Only the Jews, however, are descended from Jacob, a name that is declared in the title Israelite. The Jews did not trace their descent from Jacob as Jacob but from Jacob as Israel, who as a prince had power with God and with men and prevailed (Gen. 32:28). There is ample proof that this title was the noblest of them all. When the ten tribes cast off their allegiance to the house of David, they pridefully and pretentiously took the title "the kingdom of Israel" thus implying that their kingdom was heir to the promises and the true successor of the early patriarchs. Jesus could not have given a more noble title to Nathanael than to have called him "an Israelite indeed" (John 1:47), one in whom all that the name involved might be found. When Peter and Paul wanted to obtain a hearing from the men of their own nation, they addressed them with the name they would most welcome, andres Israelitai, by whose use they sought to secure their favor.
By restricting ourselves to the New Testament usage and distinctions among these three words, we may say that Hebraios refers to a Hebrew-speaking as contrasted with a Greek-speaking or Hellenizing Jew, that Ioudaios refers to a Jew nationalistically in distinction from Gentiles, and that Israelites, the most majestic title of all, refers to a Jew as a member of the theocracy and heir of the promises. The first word predominantly refers to a Jew's language, the second to his nationality, and the third to his theocratic privileges and glorious vocation.