Dispensationalists insist that God owes promises to ethnic Jews, those who are blood descendants of Abraham through Isaac and Jacob.
However, defining an ethnic people is never an easy task, especially when dealing with intermarriage between Jews and Gentiles.
Some Dispensationalists have asserted that lineal descent defines Israel/Jew. At least one Jewish parent means that the children are Jewish.
In previous posts, I have explored some of the problems of using lineal descent to define an ethnic group. See here and here.
Let’s look at a real example, pertinent to both ancient and modern society: the Samaritans.
The Samaritans are generally regarded as the descendants of those Jews who survived the Assyrian attack on the Northern Kingdom. They inhabited Samaria, which is why they are called Samaritans.
The Samaritans were despised by the Jews because they may have intermarried with the other nations. Some considered them to be half-breeds. It is clear from the gospels that Jews hated Samaritans and did not consider them to be Jews (cf. John 4:9; 8:48).
However, if lineal descent defines Israel/Jew, then the Samaritans were still Jews. Dispensationalists insist that blood alone determines who is Israel/Jew. The Samaritans were still Jews and heirs of the promises to Abraham, regardless of what the Jews of that day thought.
The problem with this is that Jesus did not consider the Samaritans to be Jews. Jesus did not regard them as part of Israel. This is obvious from what Jesus said to his disciples:
“Do not go into the way of the Gentiles, and do not enter a city of the Samaritans. But go rather to the lost sheep of the house of Israel” (Matthew 10:5-6).
Jesus was often kind to the Samaritans (cf. Luke 10, John 4) and went out of his way to help them, but he did not regard them as Jews or part of Israel. They were in a different category.
All of this points to the fact that Israel/Jew was never defined strictly by blood. The Samaritans were blood descendants of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, yet Jesus declared that they were not part of Israel. They were not Jews.
How do we explain this?
This is the “pruning” principle. The Samaritans were pruned off of Israel. They were cut off and no longer consider Jews.
What caused the Samaritans to be pruned? Were the Samaritans pruned off because they intermarried with non-Jews? Did the dilution of Jewish blood result in their pruning?
No, many Jews intermarried, and they, and their children, retained their status as Jews and part of Israel. Many Jews lacked pure Jewish blood, including Boaz and Jesus.
The Samaritans were pruned off when they abandoned the worship of the true God. They worshiped at their own place and in their own way (cf. John 4). They did not worship the one true God.
The Samaritans were not considered Jews because of their religious apostasy, not because of any dilution in their Jewish blood.
Interestingly, there are still Samaritans alive today. They are descendants of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. Jewish blood runs through their veins. Ethnically, they have just as strong of a claim to the promises to Abraham as Modern Israel.
But, it was never about the blood. It was always about religion. The promises were not made to the blood descendants of Abraham but to the spiritual descendants.
Galatians 3:29 is not merely a truth for the church age. It is a truth for all ages.