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The Twelve Tribes are described as descending from the twelve sons of Jacob.

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The growth of Yahweh-centric belief, along with a number of cultic practices, gradually gave rise to a distinct Israelite ethnic group, setting them apart from other Canaanites.

a book in the Ketuvim, the third section of the Jewish Tanakh.

As archaeological discovery relies upon researchers and scholars from diverse disciplines, the goal is to interpret all of the factual data, focusing on the most consistent theory.

The prehistory and ethnogenesis of the Jews are closely intertwined with archaeology, biology, and historical textual records, as well as religious literature and mythology.

These definitions of who is a Jew date back to the codification of the Oral Torah into the Babylonian Talmud, around 200 CE. Cohen, the status of the offspring of mixed marriages was determined patrilineally in the Bible.

Interpretations of sections of the Tanakh, such as Deuteronomy 7:1–5, by Jewish sages, are used as a warning against intermarriage between Jews and Canaanites because "[the non-Jewish husband] will cause your child to turn away from Me and they will worship the gods (i.e., idols) of others." A popular theory is that the rape of Jewish women in captivity brought about the law of Jewish identity being inherited through the maternal line, although scholars challenge this theory citing the Talmudic establishment of the law from the pre-exile period. He brings two likely explanations for the change in Mishnaic times: first, the Mishnah may have been applying the same logic to mixed marriages as it had applied to other mixtures (Kil'ayim).

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.

Historical definitions of Jewish identity have traditionally been based on halakhic definitions of matrilineal descent, and halakhic conversions.

According to the Hebrew Bible, the name of both the tribe and kingdom derive from Judah, the fourth son of Jacob.

Genesis and 49:8 connect the name "Judah" with the verb yada, meaning "praise", but scholars generally agree that the name of both the patriarch and the kingdom instead have a geographic origin—possibly referring to the gorges and ravines of the region.‎ Yidn).

Jews originated as an ethnic and religious group in the Middle East during the second millennium BCE, the experience of diaspora life, from the Ancient Egyptian rule over the Levant, to Assyrian captivity and exile, to Babylonian Captivity and Exile, to Seleucid Imperial rule, to the Roman occupation and exile, and the historical relations between Jews and their homeland thereafter, became a major feature of Jewish history, identity and memory.

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