It is common to associate Abraham as "father of the faith" and the first Jew.

However, since Abram's family came from the land of Ur, isn't it more accurate to say that he wasn't a Jew but - in reality - a Babylonian that became a Jew because of his faith in God?

This is open for answer by all denominations. I would like to hear their thoughts on the matter.

3 Answers 3


The word “Jew” follows etymologically from the name “Judah”, Abraham’s great-great-grandson. Judah is Jacob’s fourth son and the fourth son of Jacob’s fist and less favored wife Leah. The second king of Biblical Israel is his descendent.

The first king was Saul, a descendent of Judah’s youngest brother Benjamin. But Saul sinned against Yahweh and while Saul was still king, he anointed David of Judah to be King of Israel by his prophet Samuel.

After David’s death, the kingdom of Israel split into two Kingdoms upon the succession of his grandson Rehoboam, the son of David’s son Solomon who built Yahweh’s temple in Jerusalem, though his Temple really resided in Solomon. The northern Kingdom retained the original name, Israel, and the Southern Kingdom was known as Judah. The Jews are judahites in that sense- cultural and ethnic successors of the southern kingdom. Both kingdoms were eventually lost to conquering empires.

Abraham was among the first people to practice what we would call the Jewish faith in earnest- monotheistic veneration of Yahweh, who he knew as El Shaddai, “Almighty God”, though not all of Abraham’s offspring are counted among his children according to the promise Yahweh made to him. Through much of the Biblical Narrative, Yahweh is called “The God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob.” It is not accurate to say he was the first Jew, since the name comes from his own offspring. It would be more appropriate to refer to him as the father of the Jews.

  • Aaah. So basically there IS a different when referring to God's chosen people as "Israelites" AND "Jews" because of sociology. How does "Hebrew" come into the picture, then? Also, could you please cite sources as well in your later edit? I think the mods will be looking for that as well. :D
    – Philip
    Dec 10, 2018 at 3:07
  • Hebrew in this sense means the cultural and ethnic descendants of Abraham and his promise through Isaac, the son of promise. The Jewish people are the only known physical descendents of Abraham within the covenant-- the other tribes were lost-- and so as commonly used in Christian literature, Hebrew, Jew and Israelite are synonymous.
    – Andrew
    Feb 25, 2019 at 16:03
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    Eber (Heber) was Abraham's great great great great grandfather. When Eber and his family split off in their own direction from Babel, they were speaking their own language = Hebrew. "Heber was he from whom they originally called the Jews Hebrews. Peleg was so named because he was born at the dispersion of the nations" (Josephus) Feb 28, 2019 at 5:35
  • @Philip said "there IS a different when referring to God's chosen people as "Israelites" AND "Jews" because of sociology". More than sociology. The first use of "Jew" in the KJV is 2Kings 16:5,6. At that time the Jews were fighting a war against Israel (which was allied with Syria). Nov 20, 2020 at 21:42

To call Abraham a Jew is to also call him Islamic, and therefore one may as well call Adam a Jew as well. I am a Christian because i follow the teachings of Christ...however since Jesus was a jew, I guess i am Jewish too.

Its a heck of a stretch in my view.

I cannot see the value in retrospectively attempting to assign a nationality to historical Biblical figures. The reason why i take issue with such things is because it allows for one to manipulate Early church beliefs that are in contrast with Old Testament doctrines, justifying such things by saying "oh but that was a Jewish culture/custom/covenant!?

  • 1
    I don't understand why you think that calling Abraham a Jew means that he would also be a Muslim. Please edit this to explain.
    – curiousdannii
    Nov 21, 2020 at 12:04
  • @Adam, I think I understand your thinking, in a way, but it's totally incorrect and flawed. [but I'm not downvoting it, because it's not heresy, or blatant falsehood.] I see the connection because Abraham is the father of Islam and Judaism. BUT, the analogy doesn't work, precisely because Islam is a religion, not a race. Being Jewish is both a race and a religion. Many Jews are ethnically Jewish but atheists. Conversely, a person can be Chinese or French ethnically, and Jewish by faith. Jesus was ethnically a Jew, of the line of Judah, and seed of David.
    – Tennman7
    Feb 4, 2021 at 21:14

Calling a person Babylonian is rather like calling someone a US citizen or a British citizen; it refers to their nationality rather than their religion. This is of course of immense importance when one is applying for passports or for support from the state administration. Of course, there was no such thing as nation states then, but something similar will have applied.

Abraham, like his father, was born in the city of Ur of the Chaldees, according to the Biblical narrative; and in 1927, Leonard Woolley identified this city with the Sumerian city-state of Ur founded in 3800 BCE and located now at Tell el-Muqayyar in southern Iraq's Dhi Qar Governate. At the time of its founding it was a coastal city near the mouth of the Euphrates but this has now shifted and do the city is now well inland, being around 16km from the river.

It's probably inappropriate to call Abraham a 'citizen', as this again is a modern term; Ur, although a city state, was a monarchy, with the first king of the first dynasty called Mesannapada; and the city's patron deity is Nanna (or Sin in Akkadian), the Sumeruan moon-god and from whom the city takes its name: Unug, literally, the abode of Nanna.

Whilst being a 'citizen' of Ur was important in terms of where he lived and how; this is, however, in the temporal order of things and the Bible is less concerned with this order than the spiritual order.

It's in this sense that we think of Abraham as primarily being the patriarch of Judiasm, Christianity and Islam; rather than Sumerian. What we can say is that the biblical Abraham, like his father Terah, was born in the Sumerian city-state Ur, in modern day Iraq, and was told by God to emigrate to the land of Canaan which had been given originally to Canaan, a son of Ham, and a grandson of Noah; and was now promised to him; and according to the Table of Nations in Genesis 10: it comprises all the land from Sidon or Hamath to the north of Gaza and Lasha to the southeast; in modern day terms, it is known as the Levant, and comprises all of Israel, Palestine, Lebanon, Western Jordan and Western Syria.

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