Presentation on theme: "Assimilation? Chanukah is for Christians, too! A Brief Examination of the history of Chanukah Followed by the Relevance for Christian Believers Today."— Presentation transcript:
Assimilation? Chanukah is for Christians, too! A Brief Examination of the history of Chanukah Followed by the Relevance for Christian Believers Today. By Barbara L. Klika, MSW Undershepherd Set Apart Ministries, Inc.
Outline Meaning of the word – Chanukah Current misunderstandings Historical Background Current Practices How We View These Practices Demonstration of Differences between Menorah and Chanukiah Significance for Christians Traditional Lighting Practices Demonstration Chanukah Traditional Blessings Chanukah Song
Various SpellingsSame Feast Chanukah is a transliterated Hebrew word, meaning Rededication. There are many different ways to spell it in English. There is no standard way to transliterate. Most common in America: Chanukah & Hanukah It is also known as the Feast of Dedication, and the Festival of Lights.
A Jewish Christmas? If they know anything at all of it, most Christians associate Chanukah with Christmas though there is no connection at all between them other than the time of the year. Chanukah is the remembrance of a terrible time in the history of the God of Israels people in which they were lulled and yet also strong armed into assimilating into the culture. This time period was in what Christians call The Inter- testamental Period and is written about in the Books of 1 and 2 Maccabee.
Historical Events There has been a continual series of wars over control over most of the middle east. Here is a brief history lesson. It may take a moment to load when you click on the screen.
Historical Events Alexander the Great – Born 356 BCE Son of a Macedonian General & a Princess Ambassador to Athens at age 18; King of Macedonia at age 20 Quelled a Greek states rebellion and formed The League of Nations of which he became president. He went on to conquer Persia, Syria and eventually Egypt where he was received as a welcomed deliverer from the harsh rule of the Persians. He went on to conquer India and Babylon and had a plan to unite all of Asia and Europe into one country.
Alexander the Greats Plan Encourage intermarriage, Clean up government from corruption Introduction of Greek culture, customs and laws throughout all of Asia Goal: a unified country Otherwise tolerant of people groups practicing their own customs and faith. This resulted in many people becoming comfortable and assimilated, among them, the Jews. His plans came to an end for him after his death from malaria while in Babylon, the newly designated capitol city. Death: June 13, 323 BCE
Macedonian General to Egyptian Pharaoh Dynasty divided under 4 leaders with 2 of the 4 prominent in the History of Israel: Ptolemy & Seleucid. Ptolemy I Soter I (or Ptolemy Lagides) the Savior Born: 367 BCE Lived to age of 84 One of 7 intimate friends/bodyguards of Alexander Ruler of Egypt: 323 – 283 BCE Founder of Ptolemaic Kingdom and Ptolemaic Dynasty & the Great Library of Alexandria Took title of Pharaoh : 305/4 BCE.
Intersection: Biblical & Secular History Did you know that Cleopatra was a descendant of the Ptolemy family and was the last reigning Pharaoh of Ancient Egypt? She was appointed at age 18 and presented herself as a reincarnation of Isis. She lived 69 – 30 BCE, less than 50 years before Messiahs birth.
Macedonian General to King Seleucus Later given surname Nicator Fathers name: Antiochus Mothers Name: Laodice Born 358 BC (disputed) Lived to age 77 Nominated as Satrap of Babylon in 320 BC Founded a number of new cities, including Antioch and Seleucia. Presented his true father to be the God Apollo Led in long series of battles over control of his territories and was assassinated by a Ptolemy in 281 BC. His successor was his son, Antiochus I Soter.
Continual Battles over Control Battles over southern Syria, including Judea, continued for a hundred years between the Ptolemy and the Seleucids. A strong Hellenistic influence was established. A thorough yet reasonably short description of this time period of history and its remarkable similarities to Daniels visions can be found at: of-antiochus-epiphanes of-antiochus-epiphanes (NOTE: This does NOT constitute a recommendation for every thing presented in this website.)
Daniels Prophecy Behold, three more kings shall arise in Persia, and a fourth shall be far richer than all of them. And when he has become strong through his riches, he shall stir up all against the kingdom of Greece Then a mighty king shall arise, who shall rule with great dominion and do as he wills And as soon as he has arisen, his kingdom shall be broken and divided toward the four winds of heaven, but not to his posterity, nor according to the authority with which he ruled, for his kingdom shall be plucked up and go to others besides these (Dan. 11:2-4).
Succession within Family Led to the Reign of Antiochus Epiphanes Known as a contemptible person. Obtained throne through flattery & subterfuge. First Seleucid King who wanted divine status. Wanted to be known as God Manifest Antiochus Epiphanes but instead was called The Mad Man Antiochus Epimanes
Primary Contested Practices According to Scripture, they were to worship no other god than THE God of Israel in all His ways. Honor the seventh day, Shabbat & Feast Days. Observe the Levitical dietary laws. Circumcise their male children on the 8 th day. Study the Scriptures. Antiochus wanted their loyalty & worship. Stop honoring Shabbat and honor practices/holidays of Greek culture instead. Eat pork & other foods common to Greek culture. No more circumcision on the 8 th day. Study of the Scriptures was prohibited.
Tolerance to Terrorism The Mad Man knew how to intimidate people. Military men patrolled the neighborhoods. When people were caught lighting the Shabbat Candles, studying the Scriptures or circumcising their baby boys, the punishment was made very public. One example is that mothers were killed and their babies tied around their necks to die of starvation while lying on a street corner.
Dishonoring the God of Israel Above and beyond these acts, after putting a stop to their daily sacrifices, he also defiled the Temple; the most holy and sacred place that Our God Says is His place.
An Idol in the Temple! Apparently, on the advice of Hellenized Jews, those who had more comfortably been assimilated into the Greek culture, Antiochus Epiphanes attempted to put a statue of the Greek God, Zeus, perhaps similar to this one, into the Temple. Clearly a violation of the First Commandment. Zeus
Assimilate! Resistance is Futile! The message was one of control. You will not be able to overcome us; we are too powerful. You must do as we say because we own you. Your god will not deliver you. You are to worship Antiochus Epiphanes!
Go Along to Get Along? This choice is so often the predominate choice whenever there is some kind of controversy. It is a VERY modern connection to this story for us! It certainly seems much better in the short run to just go along with what those who appear powerful want, especially when there are military personnel on every corner! Yet, this amounts to denying that we belong to our God, the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob! "But whoever denies Me before men, I will also deny him before My Father who is in heaven. Matthew 10:37
Typical Pattern of Conquest The persecution and control began in the cities as is usually the case when a conquering army invades a land. Each major city that is subdued provides demoralization and resignation to the inevitability of what is happening. As their control was solidified in the cities they began to move out into the Countryside with their military personnel.
One Family Stood Against Them Ultimately, they met the person and family who would take a stand against them. Their sacrifice and willingness to stand encouraged others to do the same. When they tried to force Mattathias of the priestly Hasmonean family, to sacrifice to an idol, he refused and killed the Greek official. He and sons, known as the Maccabees, led a long battle in guerilla warfare style, ultimately overcoming the mighty conquering army.
Rededication of the Temple When the Priests of Israel were able to return and reclaim the Temple in Jerusalem they found that it was in terrible condition, having been used in many ungodly ways, but especially in profaning the altar in sacrifices to other gods and the introduction of idols. There is a cleansing process to sanctify the holy place but it needs clean oil to burn in the lampstand. In all the destruction, they could find only enough pure, set apart, holy oil to burn for one day, instead of the entire time needed.
A Great Miracle Happened Here! Though it is unclear if it is legend or fact, it is said that the oil that had been enough to burn for only one day, instead burned for the entire 8 day period of cleansing! Light One Candle – A Chanukah Song by Peter, Paul & Mary
Ultimately, the Hasmonean kingdom That resulted from this long struggle nearly equaled the size of King Solomons Kingdom. This was Israel of the First Century BCE.
8 Day Chanukah Festival In memorial to this miracle and the miraculous deliverance from the hand of Antiochus Epiphanes, the Mad Man, it was determined to celebrate these 8 days every year. It was also determined at some point to add two more candles to the Menorah, making it a Chanukiah, with 8 candles, one for each of the days of cleansing, as a symbol of what happened, along with the central candle. The earliest note of a 9 branched chanukiah I have found is from the 12 th century CE.
Traditions Are Many! Established rules and rituals about lighting the candles and prayers. Enjoy foods made with oil, especially latkes, which are potato pancakes. The Dreidel Game is played for coins…or chocolate money called gelt! (German for Money) This is a Yiddish tradition.
The dreidel is one of the best known symbols of Chanukah. A four-sided top with a Hebrew letter on each side, the dreidel is used to play a fun Chanukah game of chance. SHIN HEY GIMEL NUN The letters on the dreidel stand for the Nes Gadol Haya Sham, which means A Great Miracle Happened There.
This Brings Us to Modern Day As is so often the case, the roots of a celebration can get lost in the tradition that grows up around it. On the positive side, we have seen large Chanukiahs on the rooftop of every synagogue in Israel. We were told they are there as a calling out to the people to stand against the pressure to assimilate with the nations or be destroyed, just as Israel was under pressure in the days of the Maccabees.
Not a Jewish Christmas, but… In America, in many homes, Chanukah HAS become a time to try to compete with the gifts and celebrations that the Christians are enjoying through the Christmas holidays. You will find chanukiahs in the traditional style but also in every other style imaginable, creative artistic designs or using trademarked cartoon characters, or any number of colorful symbols. Many Jewish families give a gift each day of the 8 day gathering. This is, of course, in addition to the lighting of the candles with a reading of the Maccabee story and enjoying latkes!
An Extra Biblical Feast This commemoration is NOT listed in the Book of Leviticus as a commanded Feast Day though Messiah celebrated it. (John 10:22-23) Messiah also referred to this event in History. (Mathew 24 and Mark 23) Many Chanukah traditions are often treated as though they were commands of God though we see no such thing in the Scriptures. The story of the oil may be fact or it may be legend.
Tradition vs. Scripture We find that it is often important to differentiate between what the Scriptures teach and what Judaism teaches. If a tradition does not cause any harm or damage to faith, it can be an encouragement, but we do not see that to be the same standard as being a commandment of God. Though we appreciate the symbolism, we do not see that God commanded us to kindle the lights of Chanukah though this is a part of the traditional prayers. The menorah as designed by our God is a wonderful teaching tool that is first seen in the Tabernacle and finally spoken of in the Book of Revelation.
The Center Servant Candle Then a shoot will spring from the stem of Jesse, And a branch from his roots will bear fruit. The Spirit of the LORD will rest on Him, The spirit of wisdom and understanding, The spirit of counsel and strength, The spirit of knowledge and the fear of the LORD. Isaiah 11: 1-2
Menorahs Changed? "Whatever I command you, you shall be careful to do; you shall not add to nor take away from it. Deuteronomy 12:32 Do not add to His words Or He will reprove you, and you will be proved a liar. Proverbs 30: 6 I testify to everyone who hears the words of the prophecy of this book: if anyone adds to them, God will add to him the plagues which are written in this book; Revelation 22:18
The Light of the World-Messiah! Chanukah, also called the Festival of Lights may be the time of the conception of our Messiah! Following through the time period of Elizabeths pregnancy and Marys visit to her we can see the connection. Wouldnt it be like our God to bring His light to the World during a celebration of Light? Even in Israel, it is too cold in the winter for the shepherds to watch their flocks out in the fields by night. The angels announced His birth to shepherds in the field, so we believe He was born during the Fall Feasts when sheep would still be out in the field which would support the likelihood of His conception during the Festival of Lights.
Modern Day Idol Controversy There are many kinds of idols we can raise up in our own hearts and lives: wealth, fame, beauty, pride, arrogance and so forth. We may also see idolatry in similar ways to what happened in the first century BCE. There have been many reports that the statue that was brought into the Temple by Antiochus Epiphanes is the same one that currently stands in the Vatican in Rome and is venerated as being Saint Peter, said to be the First Pope. I will provide some pictures and information for your consideration here as it is such an important issue.
Statue of St. Peter in Basilica Rather than claiming to be the same one, some say that it is very like the same statue, having originally been made in the image of Zeus. This statue which is inside the Vatican is officially said to be from the 13 th century though some insist it is from the 3 rd or 5 th century. It is said that the toes are wearing down from the practice of kissing them.
Current Statue Outside Vatican According to one source, Pope Pius IX, replaced the older statues with larger ones for Easter in 1847.
Comparison Opportunity Zeus 1857 Replacement 3 rd, 5 th or 13 th Century The Original statue? Unknown
Past & Future Events Declaring the end from the beginning, and from ancient times [the things] that are not [yet] done, saying, My counsel shall stand, and I will do all my pleasure: Isaiah 46:10 We understand the Scriptures to be thematically teaching the same message repeatedly, teaching us the patterns of the way our God works in His creation, ultimately for our good. We need to heed that counsel! " But when you see the ABOMINATION OF DESOLATION standing where it should not be (let the reader understand), then those who are in Judea must flee to the mountains. Mark 13:14
Intermediate & Final Fulfillment Our Messiah, Jesus of Nazareth, warned that similar circumstances will occur as we near the time of His return. It is recorded in both Matthew (Chapter 24) and Mark (Chapter 13). He said to get out of the cities! Dont hesitate! Now, as it was then, the most intense persecution begins in cities. So it will be when the time that Messiah spoke of comes in our day.
Should Christians Honor Hanukah? Though we advise discernment as to the various traditions practiced, our resounding answer is… Yes! The message of rededication of our lives to our God is a crucial one for this time of great upheaval, whether Jew or grafted-in Gentile, both natural and wild branches. But now in Messiah Yeshua you who once were far off have been brought near by the blood of Messiah. Ephesians 2:13
First the Saturday people… … Then the Sunday people. This is the stated intent of Islam for the destruction of Jews and Christians. Assimilate with them, or die. Not so different from the Crusades in which Jewish people were told to become Christian or die; or the Holocaust… We are all viewed as people of the Book. Yet there are distinctive differences which are too much to thoroughly go into here. There are many similar dangers in the world today as well.
We know that already, in many ways people of faith in America are being looked upon as suspect or potential terrorists. Many churches have adopted the ways of the world in order to draw people in. We who have the Holy Spirit are the spiritual Temple of Living Stones to the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob; both natural and wild branches grafted in by faith in Messiah. Our hearts are like the altar of our Temple to Him. What idols have we put up in our hearts?
Will our hearts and our lives bear clear testimony that we belong to the God of Israel through His Son, our Messiah Yeshua, Jesus of Nazareth? Have we already been assimilated? Compromised? Where we have been lost, please restore us, Messiah! Draw us back under Your Wings! This is the message of Chanukah for Christians!
A Chanukah Blessing Song From Marty Goetz CD Festival of Lights From Marty Goetz CD Festival of Lights (You will see pictures of many of the traditions we have described here depicted though the message of the song is for us all.) Please contact us if we can be of any help to you as you consider your faith walk! Barbara L. Klika, MSW Undershepherd Set Apart Ministries, Inc. P. O. Box 5584, De Pere, WI (920)