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According to the Hebrew Bible narrative, Jewish ancestry is traced back to the Biblical patriarchs such as Abraham, his son Isaac, Isaac's son Jacob, and the Biblical matriarchs Sarah, Rebecca, Leah, and Rachel, who lived in Canaan.The Twelve Tribes are described as descending from the twelve sons of Jacob.

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The region was under control of the Achaemenids until the fall of their empire in c. Jews were also politically independent during the Hasmonean dynasty spanning from 140 to 37 BCE and to some degree under the Herodian dynasty from 37 BCE to 6 CE.

Since the destruction of the Second Temple in 70 CE, most Jews have lived in diaspora.

In a sentence such as There are now several Jews on the council, which is unobjectionable, the substitution of a circumlocution like Jewish people or persons of Jewish background may in itself cause offense for seeming to imply that Jew has a negative connotation when used as a noun.

Generally, in modern secular usage Jews include three groups: people who were born to a Jewish family regardless of whether or not they follow the religion, those who have some Jewish ancestral background or lineage (sometimes including those who do not have strictly matrilineal descent), and people without any Jewish ancestral background or lineage who have formally converted to Judaism and therefore are followers of the religion.

Grabbe asserted that the "alleged decree of Cyrus" regarding Judah, "cannot be considered authentic", but that there was a "general policy of allowing deportees to return and to re-establish cult sites".

He also stated that archaeology suggests that the return was a "trickle" taking place over decades, rather than a single event.The prehistory and ethnogenesis of the Jews are closely intertwined with archaeology, biology, and historical textual records, as well as religious literature and mythology.The ethnic stock to which Jews originally trace their ancestry was a confederation of Iron Age semitic-speaking tribes known as the Israelites that inhabited a part of Canaan during the tribal and monarchic periods.The Kingdom of Judah is described as comprising the Tribe of Judah, the Tribe of Benjamin, and partially the Tribe of Levi, and later adding other tribes who migrated there from the Kingdom of Israel.with it being reframed as constituting the Israelites' inspiring national myth narrative.In such contexts Jewish is the only acceptable possibility.

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