the Week of Christ the King / Proper 29 / Ordinary 34
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Hastings' Dictionary of the Bible
ISRAELITE ( John 1:47 ). This is the only instance of the use of the word ‘Israelite’ in the Gospels. It has the particular significance, suggested by the story of Jacob in Genesis 32:28; Genesis 35:10 , of one belonging to the Jewish race, with special reference to the privileges conferred by God on His people: ‘whose is the adoption, and the glory, and the covenants, and the giving of the law, and the temple service, and the promises’ ( Romans 9:4 ). Its use (as distinct from ‘Jew’ and ‘Hebrew’) became closely associated with belief in the Messianic hope (cf. John 1:45 ), and the expression ‘Israelite indeed,’ addressed to Nathanael, breathes that sense of tragedy so apparent in the Fourth Gospel, inasmuch as those who were specially ‘His own’ received Him not. We may compare the attitude of ‘the Jews,’ in ch. 6, who blindly claimed race privileges, and yet were enemies of Christ, and who cherished the very prejudice that Nathanael overcame (cf. John 1:46 with John 6:42 , where the objection in both cases is to the commonplace origin of Jesus), when he readily responded to Philip’s invitation, ‘Come and see.’ It is in this sense that Nathanael is ‘without guile.’ He does not allow his devout sense of privilege to destroy openness of heart towards the claim of Jesus of Nazareth. His action shows that he is sincere, frank, and without sinister aim (cf. 2 Corinthians 12:16 , 1 Thessalonians 2:3 ). To Jesus, therefore, he is an object of surprise.
R. H. Strachan.
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Hastings, James. Entry for 'Israelite'. Hastings' Dictionary of the Bible. https://www.studylight.org/​dictionaries/​eng/​hdb/​i/israelite.html. 1909.