December 4, 2016
“What is Hanukkah and How does it Relate to Christianity?”
Known today as Hanukkah, or the Feast of Lights (because of the lamps and candles lit in Jewish homes as part of the celebration), the Feast of Dedication was celebrated on the twenty-fifth day of the Jewish month Chislev (Nov.-Dec.). It was not one of the feasts prescribed in the Old Testament, but originated during the intertestamental period. The feast commemorated the Israelites’ victory over the infamous Syrian king Antiochus Epiphanes (175-164 B.C.). A devotee of Greek culture, Antiochus, in a decree given by him in 167 B.C., sought to impose it on his subjects (a process known as Hellenization). Antiochus captured Jerusalem and desecrated the temple (170 B. C.) by sacrificing a pig on the altar, setting up a pagan altar in its place, and erecting a statue of Zeus in the most holy place. As he attempted to systematically stamp out Judaism, Antiochus brutally oppressed the Jews, who clung tenaciously to their religion. Under his despotic direction, the Jews were required to offer sacrifices to pagan gods; they were not allowed to own or read the Old Testament Scriptures, and copies of it were destroyed; and they were forbidden to perform such mandatory religious practices as observing the Sabbath and circumcising children. Antiochus was the first pagan king to persecute the Jews for their religion (cf. Dan. 8:9-14, 23-25, 11:21-35). Antiochus’ savage persecution caused the pious Jews to rise in revolt, led by a priest named Mattathias and his sons. After three years of guerilla warfare the Jews, under the brilliant military leadership of Judas Maccabeus (the son of Mattathias), were able to retake Jerusalem. On 25 Chislev 164 B.C., they liberated the temple, rededicated it, and established the Feast of Dedication.
The Parallels with Biblical Christianity