Hope of Israel Ministries (Ecclesia of YEHOVAH):
Are Modern "Jews" Really Descended from the Sons of Jacob?
A religious doctrine obtaining a considerable following in these hectic times is the idea that the Jews are the "serpent's seed" and are not really Jews at all but Edomites, whom YEHOVAH God hates! This theory denies the holocaust and insists that the "Jews" persecuted by the Nazis were not true Jews at all but Asiatic Monguls or "Turks" descended from the "Khazars." Can this be true?
After the fall and dissolution of the Khazarian Empire circa 969 A.D. (it was conquered by Russia) the surviving Khazarian nobles migrated into eastern Europe from the Black Sea area. The vast majority of the Khazarian lay population accepted membership in the Eastern Slavic Church, while the nobles (who were in the Khazarian minority) remained faithful to Judaism, trekked westward, and joined their Jewish kinsmen of the faith in Europe. That the Khazarian nobility were officially converted to the Jewish religion is clearly acknowledged by Rabbi Dan Cohn-Sherbok:
"Khazars (Chazars; Hazars). Turkish or Finnish tribe which settled in the lower Volga region. From the 8th to the 10th centuries the Khazar state extended westward as far as Kiev. In the 8th century a Judaizing movement manifested itself among the people and their king, Bulan, and thousands of nobles converted to Judaism. The central theme of Judah ha-Levi's Kuzari is the legendary disputation which resulted in this conversion. Chasdai ibn Shaprut believed that the Khazars were one of the Ten Lost Tribes of Israel; according to tradition, he entered into correspondence with their king, Joseph, in the 10th century" (The Blackwell Dictionary of Judaica, p.290; c1992, Blackwell Publishers: Oxford, England).
Isaac Sangari -- NOT Judah ha-Levi
According to the book Kitab Tathbit Dala'il Nubuwwat Sayyadina Muhammad (The Book of the Establishment of Proofs about our Master Muhammad's Status as a Prophet), written by one 'Abd al-Jabbar ibn Muhammad al-Hamdani around the year 1009 or 1010, there was a Jewish missionary in particular who was responsible for persuading King Bulan and the tribes in the Khazar Empire to convert to Judaism.
Medieval Jewish scholars, including Rabbi Moses ben Nahman (Nahmanides) in Torat Adonai Temimah written in the 13th century and Rabbi Yehuda Aryeh ben Joseph Moscato in Kol Yehudah written in the 16th century, both name Yitzhak ha-Sangari (Isaac Sangari) as the Jewish rabbi who was involved in the religious disputation at King Bulan's court and who converted the king and taught him the principles of Judaism.
Some have thought that the Sephardic Jewish religious thinker by the name of Yehudah ben Samuel ha-Levi (Judah ha-Levi -- circa 1080-1141) was responsible for the conversion of King Bulan and his nobles, but this simply is not true. Judah ha-Levi, a native of Toledo, Spain, recorded the conversion in his famous masterpiece Kitab al-Hujjah wa'l-Dahl fi Nasr al-Din al Dhalil (The Book of Argument of Proof in Defense of the Despised Faith), which was composed in 1120-1140 and translated from Arabic into Hebrew in the mid-12th century. Popularly known as The Book of the Khazars (Sefer ha-Kuzari in Hebrew, Kitab al-Khozari in Arabic), it consists of five chapters and presents the merits of Judaism. In it, Judah ha-Levi clearly states that Isaac Sangari was the one responsible for the conversion of King Bulan and the nobles --
Ultimately, the king [Bulan] and all the subjects of his kingdom converted to Judaism. The arguments of the rabbi [Sangari] were the catalyst for this event, for, through them, the king found spiritual peace and intellectual harmony (Yehuda HaLevi, The Kuzari, trans. N. Daniel Korobkin -- Northvale, NJ: Jason Aronson, 1998, p. 1).
According to Kevin Alan Brook,
The adoption of Judaism by the Khazars was one of the most interesting events in medieval European history. It was once thought that Yehudah ha-Levi created the conversion episode [in his book] as an imaginary tale, but it has become clear that the story of the conversion of the Khazars in the Kuzari reflected actual events. In 864, only a few years after Saint Cyril's Khazarian mission, the Khazars were described for the first time (in Expositio in Matthaeum Evangelistam) as observers of Judaism (see Chapter 1). -- The Jews of Khazaria, Northvale, NJ: Aronson, 1999, p. 128.
The Origin of "Ashkenaz"
That Ashkenazic Judaism pre-dated the Khazarian Empire is a matter of clear historical record. The Ashkenazic Jews were the TYPE of Jews living in the Holy Land during the First Century A.D., and they migrated to areas where Ashkenazic Jewish colonies existed. Explains Kevin Brook --
In the premedieval period, thousands of Jews from Egypt, Judea, Syria, and Asia Minor migrated to the Hellenic kingdom of Bosporus, settling in Crimean towns (including Pantikapeum [later called Kerch] and Theodosia [later called Feodosia]), the towns of Gorgippia (later called Anapa) and Phanagoria (later called Tmutorokan; both Gorgippia and Phanagoria were located across the Kerch Strait from Crimea, in the present-day Krasnodar region), and the town of Olbia, (located northwest of Crimea, at the Bug River's estuary, along the Black Sea coast) -- ibid., p. 115.
As we have seen, large Jewish communities existed in eastern Europe even before the Khazar Empire was established. The Romans and Byzantines later took control of the ancient Greek colonies, and the Crimean Jews began to trade frequently with the Byzantine capital, Constantinople. Several centuries later, most of Crimea was incorporated into the Khazar Empire. It is uncertain to what degree the Jewish communities of ancient Crimea survived through the centuries into the Khazar era. Many scholars believe that descendants of the early Jewish populations of the Crimea and Caucasus influenced the decision of the Khazars to convert to Judaism (ibid., p. 116)
In order to solve the mystery of Ashkenazi origins, we must determine the origin of the ethnic name Ashkenaz. "In ancient times," writes Kevin Brook, "the Scythians were called Ashguzai (Ashkenaz). The geographical location of the Ashkenaz, based on references in the Torah, may be centered around southern Russia, Armenia, and Asia Minor. The Ashkaenoi (Askae or Askai) were the people also known as Phrygians or Mysians (Meshech)."
Continues Brook: "Ashkenaz originally meant Iranian peoples and the lands they inhabited. Saadiah Gaon considered the Khazars to represent the kingdoms of Minni (Mannai), Ararat (Urartu), and Ashkenaz, who, according to the scriptures, were going to destroy Babel. According to the mid-tenth-century Jami' al-Alfaz by the Karaite David ben Abraham al-Fasi, Ashkenaz may be equal to the Khazars or the Franks. It should also be pointed out that Ashkenaz did not become a definite Jewish designation for Germany until the eleventh century" (ibid., p. 300).
"To summarize," writes Brook, "the term Ashkenaz referred at first to Iranian, Armenian, Phrygian, and Mysian territories, then to Khazarian and Slavic lands, and later to German lands. It can therefore be postulated that a TRIBAL GROUP CALLED ASHKENAZ chose Judaism, mingled with the Israelites, and formed part of the northward migrations of Byzantine, Armenian, and Persian Jews into Khazaria. The Ashkenaz of eastern Europe then intermarried with the Khazar Turks, who were descended from Togarmah" (ibid., pp. 300-301).
Ashkenazic Jews Overseas
The Ashkenazic Jewish merchant, Joseph of Arimathaea, was known to have maintained a Jewish colony in early Briton (pre-Christian Britain); after the destruction of the Jerusalem Temple, some of the "Jewish refugees" appeared in Briton, and, having joined themselves with the already-existing Jewish colony there, were called by the name "Culdees" indicating their status as Pharisaic Judean refugees (Celt, Druid and Culdee, by Isabel Hill Elder, p.94; The Covenant Publishing Co., Ltd., London, England).
Within Judaic history, it is well known how many wandering Jews sought employment as musicians, medical doctors, poets, jesters (comedians), and psychics in the royal courts of early England and Europe. Perhaps the most famous Ashkenazic Jew in early Britain was the Kabbalistic practitioner, Merlin, who is called both a "magician" and a "prophet," i.e., one who is adept in Kabbalah Maasit (Practical Kabbalah). Merlin served as the personal Kabbalist to the British general Arturius who was later legendnated from "Comes Britanniarum" ("Count of the Britains") into "King" Arthur (Le Morte D'Arthur, by Sir Thomas Malory, "Introduction" by Robert Graves, p.xii, and, p.22; c1962, Bramhall House: New York). Both legends and historical accounts exist which indicate the presence of Ashkenazic Jewish people scattered throughout British and European society long prior to the introduction of Khazarian survivors into eastern European Ashkenazic Judaism.
The Jews of Khazaria
Khazaria became a safe haven for a large number of persecuted Jews from Europe and Asia. According to Kevin Brook:
Byzantine emperor Romanus I Lecapenus (reigned 920-944) began to persecute Jews in around 932 and, like his predecessors, attempted to convert them to Christianity. Romanus I's actions led to the murder of hundreds of Jews and the destruction of numerous synagogues. Jews continued to migrate to Khazaria from the Muslim and Byzantine lands circa 943, because Jews were still being forcefully converted to Christianity by Romanus I, according to al-Masudi. With the continuing flight of Jews from Byzantine, Joseph, the king of the Khazars, welcomed them to his country. Obviously, the Khazar Jews despised Romanus for his persecutions, calling him "the evil one." Circa 943, King Joseph reacted to Romanus' persecutions by ordering vengeful attacks upon the Taman peninsula, as well as the killing of Christians (Jews of Khazaria, p. 118).
A 10th-century historical account known as the Schechter Letter indicates that Jews came to Khazaria to get away from "the yoke of the idol-worshippers" -- an obvious reference to the apostate Christianity of the time. The Letter further states that the Jews who reached Khazaria by way of Armenia intermarried with the Khazars and introduced the custom of circumcision which became widespread amongst the Khazars. However, YEHOVAH God's Sabbath-day was not universally adopted by the Khazars prior to their official conversion. The Jewish immigrants evidently learned the customs of the Khazars and fought alongside them in wars against enemy nations.
The Schechter Letter also confirms that Jews entered into Khazaria from Baghdad -- as well as from the Byzantine Empire and eastern Persia.
Writes Kevin Brook --
The multiple waves of Jewish settlers coming to the Khazarian lands appear to have played a major role in encouraging the Khazars to convert to Judaism. This is indicated by the following brief statement by the Arab historian Dimashqi (written circa 1327):
Ibn-al-Athir [or al-Masudi?] tells how in the days of Harun the Emperor [of Byzantine] forced the Jews to emigrate. They came to the Khazar country, where they found an intelligent but untutored race and offered them their religion. The inhabitants found it better than their own and accepted it.
Harun al-Rashid was the Abbasid caliph from 786-809. Thus, according to Dimashqi, the conversion took place at the end of the eighth century or the beginning of the ninth century.
Other historians suggest that the Khazars adopted Judaism as a conscious political decision designed to help preserve the political independence of Khazaria from the Christian and Muslim empires surrounding them. Thus, Khazaria held the balance of power between the Christian Byzantine Empire and the Muslim Caliphate.
Omeljan Pritsak, on the other hand, attributed the conversion of the Khazars solely to the influence of the traveling Radhanite and Iranian Varaz merchants, who were Jewish. This inference cannot be drawn from any of the surviving historical sources, but should not be entirely dismissed (Jews of Khazaria, pp. 119-120).
The Myth of Hebraic Descent
The reason most of the descendants of the Khazars no longer called themselves "Khazars" -- or descendants of Togarmah -- is because converts to Judaism are required by Jewish law to become part of the overall Jewish community and are considered to be the children of Abraham. "The convert is said, by Talmudic scholars, to be like a newborn child, in possession of a new soul, and any relatives he or she had before conversion are no longer considered his or her relatives" (Jews of Khazaria, p. 304). After conversion, Jewish prayers and holidays among the Khazars also emphasized a connection to the ancient land of Israel -- not to Khazaria. Notes Jacob Agus --
When non-Jewish groups accepted the Jewish faith, they also embraced the myth of Hebraic descent....Even the Khazars who were converted to Judaism in the light of history regarded themselves as somehow of the "seed" and the "blood" of ancient Israel. They belonged [so they thought] at least in part to the tribe of "Simeon" or the "half-tribe Menasseh" (The Meaning of Jewish History, vol. 1, New York: Abelard Schuman, 1963, pp. 42-43).
Adds Kevin Brook:
It should be added that the descendants of Khazars did not attach the appellation "ha-Kuzari" to their Hebrew names, because it was not officially recognized by Jewish authorities (even though "ha-Kohen" and "ha-Levi" are). Thus, the Khazar converts began the process by which they would eventually forget their TURKIC ORIGINS when they embraced Judaism (Jews of Khazaria, p. 304).
As to the possibility of the Khazars being descendants of the Lost Ten Tribes of Israel, the Khazars themselves refuted this argument:
One of the most important Khazar kings, Joseph, wrote in his celebrated Reply to Hasdai ibn Shaprut that the Khazars were descended from "Kozar," the seventh of Togarmah's ten sons. Medieval Hebrew essays substantiated this claim. For example, the tenth-century Hebrew historical work Sefer Yosippon, by Joseph ben Gorion, stated that Togarmah's son Kozar had nine brothers, who represented the ancestry of the Bulgars, Penchenegs, and other Turkic groups. Genesis 10:2 and 10:3, in turn, traced Togarmah's ancestry back several generations. It is also worth mentioning that Shem Tov ibn Shem Tov called Khazaria "the country of Togarmah" in his Sefer ha-Emunot (early fifteenth century). -- Jews of Khazaria, p. 7.
It is true, however, that some of the Jews that were incorporated into the Khazarian Empire were indeed descended from various of the tribes of Israel. Jewish authors often speculated that the Jews in Khazaria were descended from some of the twelve tribes of ancient Israel. "For example," writes Kevin Brook, "the author of the Schechter Letter mentioned a tradition among his people that [some of] the Khazarian Jews were descended from the tribe of Simeon. Simlarly, Eldad ben Mahali ha-Dani (Eldad the Danite), a Jew who may have hailed from eastern Africa or Khazaria, wrote (in the late nineteenth century) that the tribe of Simeon and the half-tribe of Menasheh lived in 'the land of the Khazars'..."
The Unavoidable Conclusion
As a result of widespread conversions over the centuries, today's Jews do not represent a distinct "race" or a homogeneous ethnicity. "After considering the strong evidence for cultural, linguistic, and ethnic ties between eastern Ashkenazic Jews and the Khazar Jews, as well as the equally strong evidence for Jewish migrations into eastern Europe from the south and west, one can come to ONE CONCLUSION: that the eastern European Jews are descended from BOTH Khazars and other [non-Israelite] converts, AS WELL AS FROM JUDEANS" (ibid., p. 305).
This also applies to the modern state of Israel -- not all of its citizens are descended from Judah or any other of the tribes of ancient Israel. Many -- maybe a major percentage -- are descended from converts to Judaism from other non-Israelite peoples such as the Khazars and Ethiopians.
In answer to the title of this article -- no, not all Jews today are really "Jews"! A certain percentage of today's "Jews" are not descended from Judah (or any of the other eleven tribes) but from Gentile tribes and groups that converted to Judaism over the centuries. What that percentage might be -- who knows? Now, does that mean that these particular "Jews" are the "serpents seed" and are to be treated with disdain and distrust? No, not at all! For more information read our article, Could Modern "Jews" Be Israel? -- send for it today!
-- John D. Keyser and David C. Whitaker
Hope of Israel Ministries -- Taking the Lead in the Search for Truth!
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