This evening begins Hanukkah, also known as Chanukkah. Why am I posting about a Jewish holiday on a Christian blog? Other than the roots of the Christian faith comes directly from Jesus, a Jew, Hanukkah is not mentioned in the Old Testament but only in the New Testament. It is also mentioned in sources outside of scripture such as the Macabees which are really good historical resources. Jesus celebrated Hanukkah as did all the Jews of His time. It is not a holiday that God commanded the Israelites to observe yet it is observed by all Jews as well as by Jesus.
- At that time Chanukah took place in Yerushalayim; (Joh 10:22 Messianic Renewed Covenant which uses the transliterated Hebrew word)
Hanukkah or Channukah comes from the Hebrew word meaning to dedicate. As such, in our bibles, it is translated as:
- At that time the Feast of Dedication took place at Jerusalem. It was winter, (Joh 10:22 ESV)
Hanukkah was instituted by Judas Macabaeus in 164 B.C. in commemoration of the purification of the Temple after it was defiled by the Syrians. The Maccabees were a small group of Jewish fighters who liberated Israel from the Syrian Greeks who were under the reign of Antiochus IV Epiphanes. These Syrian Greeks imposed their culture upon the Jews including attempting to force them to bow to their Greek gods/idols. Eventually Antiochus stepped up his game plan and defiled the Temple in Jerusalem and banned Jewish practice. The Maccabees fought for three years and eventually won. Tradition holds that when the Jews came to rededicate the Temple, there was only enough oil for one day. Well, as the story goes, that one day’s supply of oil lasted for eight days, long enough for the Israelites to produce more oil so that the flame would not extinguish according to God’s commandment to the Israelites.
I use the word “tradition” for it is not stated in scripture that there was only oil for one day but miraculously it lasted for eight days. Obviously God had His hand in those events and it certainly could have happened. The fact is that Jesus celebrated Hanukkah for He was at the Temple, walking in the colonnade of Solomon (John 10:23).
Josephus states “And from that time to the present we observe this festival, which we call the festival of Lights, giving this name to it, I think, from the fact that the right to worship appeared to us at a time when we hardly dared hope for it” (Ant. 12.7.6 [12.325]).
(above photo is an ancient Hanukkah lamp unearthed near Jerusalem. It is likely the type of lamp that Jesus would have used.)
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