Was Jesus a 'Palestinian?' No.

The term Palestine was not formally used to describe the region during the time of Christ's life, which is commonly accepted as ending at approximately 33 A.D.

In recent times, left-wing, anti-Israel activists have become especially accustomed to rebuking conservative Christians who support the Jewish State by falsely claiming that Jesus Christ was a “Palestinian.” 

On Thursday, Campus Reform reported such an instance when a group called the Union Theological Seminary Students for a Liberated Palestine denounced pro-Israel Christian counterprotesters in New York City by arguing that “Jesus was a Palestinian Jew,” and that “Christianity came out of Palestine.”

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The term Palestine, however, was not formally used to describe the region during the time of Christ’s life, which is commonly accepted as ending at approximately 33 A.D.

As noted by Douglas Feith of the Hudson Institute:

”In 135 CE, after stamping out the province of Judea’s second insurrection, the Romans renamed the province Syria Palaestina—that is, ‘Palestinian Syria.’ They did so resentfully, as a punishment, to obliterate the link between the Jews (in Hebrew, Y’hudim and in Latin Judaei) and the province (the Hebrew name of which was Y’hudah). ‘Palaestina’ referred to the Philistines, whose home base had been on the Mediterranean coast.” 

Feith suggests that, contrary to what some modern texts may argue, a region definitively designated as Palestine had yet to exist during Christ’s life:

”The term ‘Palestine’ was used for millennia without a precise geographic definition. That’s not uncommon—think of ‘Transcaucasus’ or ‘Midwest.’ No precise definition existed for Palestine because none was required. Since the Roman era, the name lacked political significance. No nation ever had that name.”

In a Christmas Day message posted to Instagram, New York Congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez stated that “Jesus was born in modern-day Palestine,” and that the Holy Family would be considered “Jewish Palestinians” today.

Such controversial claims prompted a Washington Post op-ed by Boston University’s Professor Emerita of Scripture, Paula Fredriksen, in which she writes that Ocasio-Cortez’s statements were “historically false,” as well as “inflammatory”:

”To the east [of the Mediterranean], the region of the biblical highlands was called Yehudah. The name predates Herodotus by centuries. By Jesus’ lifetime, the Romans labeled this whole area, coast and highlands together, as ‘Judaea,’ a Latinization of ‘Yehudah.’ The people living in Judaea were called ‘Iudaei’: ‘Judeans’ or ‘Jews.’ Their temple in Jerusalem, the focus of their ancestral worship since the first millennium B.C., was sacred to Jesus, which is why the gospels depict him as journeying there for pilgrimage holidays. An ethnic Judean, Jesus was, accordingly, a Jew.”

Fredriksen also asserts that the name “Palestine” was used as part of the Romans’ efforts to “de-Judaize” the region years after Christ’s death:

”Jesus was not ‘Palestinian.’ Nor was he a ‘Palestinian Jew.’ This is so for a simple reason: There was no political entity called ‘Palestine’ in his lifetime. If Jesus was born in Bethlehem, he was born in Judaea as a Jew. He certainly died as one, under Rome’s heavy hand — the political condition that led to the two Jewish revolts.”

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Fredriksen makes the important point that, beyond for the sake of divisive modern-day political arguments, such erroneous claims about Christ serve to “[rip] Jesus out of his Jewish context,” just as they serve to”[rip] 1st-century Jews — and 21st-century Israeli Jews — out of their ancestral homeland.”

”There have already been too many casualties since Oct. 7,” the scholar concludes, “Let’s not allow history to be one of them.”