Letter to the Editor: Jesus’ Ethnicity?

FILE - The Church of the Holy Sepulchre, traditionally believed by many Christians to be the site of the crucifixion and burial of Jesus Christ, is seen in Jerusalem, Wednesday, Feb. 28, 2018. (AP Photo/Mahmoud Illean)

Dear Editor,

I am an American-born, lifelong member of the Greek Orthodox Church. When I was a member of the Annunciation Greek Orthodox Church in Manhattan, I served as a choir director and soloist.

What I’ve witnessed recently, which is quite disturbing, is that many Greek Orthodox priests are not on the same page theologically or Biblically. I happened to be listening to a Greek radio station based here in the United States that had a guest speaker, one of many, who was a Greek Orthodox priest from Greece.

He was preaching that Jesus Christ was NOT Jewish, but that he was “Greek.”

I was quite taken aback, as I was taught that Jesus Christ was indeed JEWISH and I recall listening to Greek Orthodox services in church in which the priest recited the entire Genealogy of Jesus Christ.This guest priest said that lineage of the mother did not matter, but in Jewish tradition the lineage of the mother DOES matter. Mary, the Mother of Jesus carried Him in her womb.

In Judaism, Jewish lineage is passed down through the mother, because only from the mother is parentage assured. Today, one can have his DNA tested to discover parentage and ethnic heritage. I’ve heard other Greek Orthodox priests insisting that Jesus Christ was Galilean and therefore “Greek” because “Galileans were Greeks,” which is news to me!

We must remember that according to Judaic Tradition and Scripture, Jesus was circumcised according to Jewish Law, and after 40 days He was presented into the Temple. Jesus was also a Rabbi and preached from the Torah inside the Temple.

I believe it is incumbent upon all our spiritual leaders who preach to us from their pulpits to always be truthful and base their sermons and speeches on facts and not put a Greek-nationalistic spin on the Genealogy of Jesus Christ. Sadly, I attribute this fundamentalism to nothing else but anti-Semitism.

In closing, I would like a Greek Orthodox priest to have the courage to step up to the plate and set the record straight and please answer my question. Is Jesus Christ Jewish?


Vivian T. Arfaras

New Port Richey, FL


  1. Of course He was, Scripture bears this out as does the early writings of the infant Church,

  2. @Vivian T. Arfaras…nice post!

    The royal Messiah will be descended from the tribe of Judah, as it say, “And it shall come to pass in that day, that the root of Jesse, that stands for an ensign of the peoples, unto him shall the nations seek” (Isa 11:10)
    (Genesis Rabbah 97)

    “Turning to the New Testament, we can discern in Gabriels words, addressed to the virgin “Mary of Nazareth”, the ideal king, of “Davidic” origin, the long-awited King – Messiah. This person is, of course, none other than Jesus, whose birth Gabriel is about to announce, “He will be great, and will be called the Son of the Most High, and the Lord god will give to him the throne of his ancestor “David”. He will reign over the house of Jacob forever, and of his kingdom there will be no end”. (Luke 1:32-33 NRSV) (Jesus The Messiah in the Hebrew Bible – Eugen J. Pentiuc)

    It is truly sad how little we know about our own faith – about the origins of Christianity. It is unfortunate how little our priests and bishops teach us (their flock). It is rare to see a Greek Orthodox church (especially in the tri-state area) with a full scale teaching ministry. My church does not offer such a ministry.

    Our faith begins with the word of God which in written down in the Old and New Testaments. It is not enough to attend a portion of the divine liturgy on Sundays or a few of the services during Holy Week. To be a Christian takes work.

    The ultimate goal in life is to find out, who we are? We can only figure this out up to a certain point. The answer to this and many other questions will come from the Bible.

  3. Indeed the chauvinism is much worse, owing to the Bizmarkian nation building of Metaxas and Venizelos. Do you remember the 1970s song “είμαστε ο αφέντης λαός, του κόσμου το φως, όπως είπε και ο Χριστός” (We are the master race, the light of the world as Christ said). The nation builders also adulterated the Ancient Historians Thucydides and Herodotus, which is why they arrive at some really bizarre conclusions.

  4. This story about Jesus’ ethnicity reminds me of a hilarious incident that happened years ago, during a Bible Class I had in my Parish: Frank and Maria, an older immigrant couple were in attendance, not being able to fully understand our discussion. At some point Frank heard about the Lord’s Jewishness and turned to his wife, saying, “Maria, did they say Christ was Jewish?” “Yes, Frankie, He was Jewish!” Frank arose rather angry and told her, “Let’s get out of here! They don’t know what they’re talking about! Christ was Greek!”
    I had a hard time to bring Frank back to Church!

  5. Fr. B – I find the Frank and Maria story funny.
    But the reality is, there are a lot of Frank and Maria’s in our churches who are totally in the dark when it comes to our faith and Christianity as a whole. How can we be saved if we do not know who Jesus is? Do not receive the Agape – Heavenly love only He can offer?
    Lord have mercy!

  6. Christopher Columbus perhaps. Jesus Christ, never! Did anyone call out this priest when he made those comments? Sounds like a story I heard (which turned out to be true) that a prominent Orthodox theologian (Greek) said that one had to be Greek in order to correctly understand the Fathers of the Church!

  7. Pops cracked my ribs when I said Jesus said to leave my parents. He claimed I had a bad translation. So we found his “Greek ” Bible, printed by the British Bible Society. That’s why I have been happily married to a nice Jewish girl for forty years.

  8. Mircea Eliade (Romanian Theologian) says Greeks mispelled Elijah to conform with Helios or Apollo. Also, Athena=Mary, Mars=Jesus, Mokos=Paraskeva. As to Columbus, no he wasn’t Greek or Jewish, either, but he did leave the day after the Inquisition evicted Jews, having closed his ship doors the day before because half his crew was Jewish. Jews and Greeks are their own worst enemies in claiming averyone as their own. (on COlumbus, see https://forward.com/opinion/207285/why-columbus-day-should-be-a-jewish-holiday/)

  9. My folks died of HPV which my dad picked up from his syllurgo before they met.
    Doc said long latinsie. Now I’m dying of it, too.
    He used to drive long to church us in Astoria, because he didn’t like modern.
    So we only went five times a year.

  10. All year round they claim to only venerate “timein” icons but on Scamday of Ochrfuxy they fess up to idolatry “Acrad eikon proskein”

  11. Michael Jackson, Bo Jackson and Andrew Jackson were also Greek.

    So are Bono and LeBron.

    On the other hand, Socrates, Plato and Aristotle were Jews. Got that ?

    Please correct your reporting. This is too important to get wrong.

    1. LMC: the Aeolians were Pelasgian Albanians, the Dorian were Alpines, the Ionians were Asiatic, the Minoans were Lebanese Phoenicians, and the Achaians were Hamitic Africans.

  12. Have you heard the latest Nigerian scam? Some old guy appears in church claiming to be a seminarian from Nigeria. He sells a little pamphlet for a huge amount, claiming high costs. Well, my kids buy textbooks online from third world countries at huge DISCOUNTS. Meanwhile, the usual chief scam artist of the parish has a big “cat swallowed canary” grin as he collects the money.

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