Of course Hanukkah is old Aramaic for “Dedication.” Aramaic plays an important part in the story of Hanukah. Judas changed his name to Maqqaba for the Aramaic word for “hammer” or “sledgehammer.” This Aramaic word gives us the name “Maccabee.” (Robert Graves in “King Jesus” argues that all the Maccabee brothers were “similarly nicknamed by their father after tools in his joiners chest-for example, Eleazar was called ‘Avaran,” the awl and Judah was named “Maqqaba” for “the Hammer.”) A Jewish account of the story of the Maccabbees is entitled “Megillat Aniochus” and is written in Aramaic. The story of Chanukah is found in the First and Second Book of Maccabees in Roman Catholic versions of the Holy Bible, or in translations of the Bible that include the Apocrypha. The story of the Maccabees (or the Hasmoneans) is also recorded in the books written by Flavius Josephus.
The Aramaic word Chanukah is found in the Aramaic sections of the Holy Bible (Ezra 6:16-17, Daniel 3:2-3). The Hebrew equivalent word is also found in the Old Testament (Numbers 7:84, 2 Chronicles 7:9, Nehemiah 12:27). It is defined in Strong’s Concordance as “consecration” and “dedication.” The Hebrew form can also mean initiation. The Greek word used to refer to Chanukah in the Gospel of John is “Egkainia” which is defined as renewal and dedication.
To understand the story of the Maccabees, you need to understand its historical background. This means understanding the Temple and understanding hellinization.
An important part of Hannakah is the Temple. What is the Temple? When Moses was on Mount Sinai God showed him a vision of a place of worship. When he came down he instructed them to build a mobile temple, that was called the Tabernacle. A rectangular partition of curtains was erected. Inside was a tent. The tent had two divisions, a holy place and a most holy place. The inner sanctum is known as the Holy of Holies. There were important temple furnishings, including a seven branched lamp known as the Menorah and a chest that contained the tablets of the Ten Commandments. This chest was called “The Ark of the Covenant.” (Of course the Ark of the Covenant movie was featured in the popular movie “Indiana Jones and the Raiders of the Lost Ark.”) God told the Israelites that there would be a place revealed to them when they settled in the land that would be set apart as a place of worship.
There were several “temples” built. Apparently, a “temple” was built in Shiloh. Samuel ministered to Yahweh in the Temple at Shiloah (1 Samuel 3:21). This temple was destroyed by the Philistines. Jeremiah prophesied that the temple of Yahweh would be destroyed the same way as the temple of Shiloah was destroyed (Jeremiah 7:12-14. 26:6-9). David had erected the “Tabernacle of David” on the Temple Mount in Jerusalem. King Solomon, with the aide of the Phoenicians, built the temple on “Mount Moriah” in Jerusalem. (Mount Moriah, Zion and the Temple Mount are all names for the same place in Jerusalem.) The Babylonians destroyed the Temple on August 9, 587 BC.
The “Second” Temple was rebuilt by Zerubbabel seventy-two years after its destruction. It was completed on March 12, 515 BC. In 19 BC, King Herod had the structure built by Zerubbabel totally demolished in order for a new much more lavish temple to be built. The Temple was completed on 64 AD, soon before the beginning of the Jewish War. When the Jewish War ended in 70 AD the Temple was destroyed. (The Jewish people call both Zerubbabel’s and Herod’s Temples the “Second Temple” although they were two entirely different structures.) The Temple Mount was left a ruin for many years. Finally, the Moslems built a mosque called the Dome of the Rock or the Mosque of Omar. It still stands there today. This mosque was used as a Christian chapel when the Christians ruled over Jerusalem during the Crusades. The mosque was designed and built by Christians for the Moslems initially. There hasn’t been a temple in Jerusalem for almost “two thousand years.”
There were other “Temples of Yahweh” that we know of. When the Jewish people returned from exile in Babylonian they refused to allow the Samaritans to help them build the temple. The Samaritans built their own temple on Mount Gerizum, which they still believe to be the place chosen by God. The Romans destroyed this Temple.
Onias IV was the son of the murdered Jewish High Priest Onias III. He felt he was the legitimate high priest but his rightful place had been usurped by the new High Priest Alcimus. Onias fled to Egypt where he built a Jewish temple at Leontopolis which was built on the same pattern as the Temple of Jerusalem and offered the same rituals. This temple was in use for 230 years until it was destroyed by the Romans.
A Jewish community at Elephentine (Yeb) in southern Egypt also built a temple of Yahweh in Egypt. It stood from around 586 until 404 BC. A partially preserved temple of Yahweh built by King Solomon has been discovered in Arad, Israel. There have been 8 temples of Yahweh that we know of.
(Concerning how the Ark of the Covenant appeared. I believe a very interesting representation can be seen on the bibleorigins.net website, which is a secular humanist website.)
The Holy City
According to normative Judaism the only legitimate Temple is that of Jerusalem Even today in Judaism there is a strong belief that Jerusalem is a holy place-a link between earth and heaven. This is why many Jews pray at the “wailing wall” in Jerusalem. The Temple in Jerusalem is very important in Biblical Judaism. This is the place where the name of the Lord is to be made great before all of the world. It was the only place were animal sacrifices for the atonement of sins could be offered. For Jesus and the Apostles Jerusalem was a place of prayer.
The Rise of Greek Civilization
Alexander the Great was a Macedonian. Macedonians were probably Celtic (they had their own non-Greek language) but became “hellenophile.” They copied Greek ways and promoted Greek culture. They were a warrior people. Alexander’s father was Phillip of Macedon. He united all the Greeks under his rule. Alexander as a child studied under the great philosopher Aristotle. When Phillip was assassinated Alexander became king. Some people suspect Alexander of being behind the assassination. If he wasn’t it is very possible his mother was. Alexander then went on the fight the Persian empire and to destroy it and its ruler, Darius. Alexander then went on to attempt to conquer the known world. He made it as far as India and had to turn back due to lack of morale among his soldiers and his being injured in a battle. After returning to Babylon he died in the year 323 at the age of 32. There are several good books on Alexander the Great. Oliver Stone made a movie on Alexander. There are three versions of the film. Two of them over-emphasize the fact that Alexander was bi-sexual. The film leaves out certain important episodes in Alexander’s life such as his battle against the Phoenicians and his time in Egypt, which was pivotal in his life. It also spends too much time on his relationship with his gay lovers and Roxana and fails to show the fact that he had other wives. It does have good sequences in it such as the Battle of Gaugamela and a battle in India.) After Alexander died his kingdom was divided among four of his generals. Alexander spread the Greek language and culture across the world. Some of the early church fathers felt that this was divine providence, that God was preparing the world for the coming of the Gospel through Alexander spreading Greek, a unified language, and the Romans who brought peace and built roads, which the apostles would use to travel the world and share the message of Jesus. There are stories that Alexander was received into Jerusalem in peace and that he went and prayed to God at the temple. This is probably true. Alexander was respectful of different traditions and different gods. When the empire was divided Israel was under the rule of the Ptolemys’ in Egypt. There was peace. However, later Israel came under the control of the Seleucid Greeks of Syria. Many of the Jewish people preferred Ptolemaic rule and there was dissent. (I think that we should remember that the Greeks made many positive contributions, in science, in medicine, in art, and literature and in the philosophy and ethics of Aristotle. The Selucid paganism was not normative of all Greek culture. However, there were also negative aspects of Greek culture, especially from a conservative Jewish perspective. In the gymnasiums young people exercised and competed in the nude. This was viewed as offensive and improper by observant Jews. Certain Greek men used little boys as catamites, children to be kept as slaves for the purpose of being sexually abused. Practices like this rightly offended religious Jews. Many young people abandoning the traditional Jewish way of life and beginning to ape Greek ways was also a source of conflict.)
The Chanukah Story
Finally, their arose a Syrian Greek leader named Antiochus Epiphanes. He decided that he would eliminate the Bible and all those who believed in it and lived their lives by it. He had all copies of the Bible confiscated and destroyed. The implemented an aggressive program of Hellenization. All Jews were to become Greek. They were to cease speaking Aramaic and Hebrew and to begin to speak Greek but also to adopt Greek modes of dressing, thinking and even worshiping. Copies of the Bible were confiscated and destroyed. Anyone who practiced Judaism was pronounced an enemy of the state. Antiochus then had to altar in the Temple of the Lord in Jerusalem profaned. He had a statue of Zeus erected in the Inner Sanctum and had a pig sacrificed upon the altar. Soldiers came to the city of Modein in Judea and attempted to press the elderly Mattathias, a priest, to offer sacrifice to an idol. He refused. Then a Jewish man stepped up to volunteer. Suddenly, Mattathias was filled with righteous indignation. He quickly overcame the soldier and took his sword. With it he killed both the priest and the apostate Jew. Then he cried out, “All who are zealous for the Bible, follow me!” and he escaped into the hills with his sons.
NOTE: Just War Theory
Mattathias exercised his legitimate authority as the village elder of Modein. He took a stand-as a hero-his heroic act serves as an inspiration to others. Through his courageous act he changed the tide and altered the course of history.
Eventually, a small group of guerrillas organized there. Not long after Mattathias died of old age. Judah began to lead his small unequipped and untrained army. They defied the most powerful military force in the world and miraculously overcame it. In victory they took the Temple and cleansed, purified and re-dedicated it. They decreed that hereafter in thanksgiving, all Jews should remember this great victory and the dedication of the Temple. This new holiday was called Hannakuh, Aramaic for “Dedication.” In John 10:22, we find that Jesus celebrated this holiday. Unlike the holidays established by Moses, this holiday is not obligatory for the Jews to observe and yet Jesus chose to celebrate it and even travel to Jerusalem from Galilee in order to join in this celebration. On this day, Jesus revealed that he is part of the Trinity. Judah Maccabee went on to fight in other battles. Eventually, he died in battle. It seems to me that after Judah died, the Maccabees quickly declined. They continued to fight more, unnecessary battles. After the temple was liberated and religious freedom was established, in my view, it was time to lay down the sword. The Hasmonians also became corrupt and immoral and eventually were replaced by the rule of the Edomite King Herod
Where Does the Bible mention all of this?
The events celebrated at Hannukah and described in the Books of the Maccabees happened in what some Christians call “the 400 silent years.” The last book of the Old Testament, Malachi was written very close to the year 400 AD. Jesus was born near 1 AD and John began prophesying sometime before 27 AD. This could also be called the “Inter-testamental” period, that is the period between the Old and New Testaments. Jesus spoke of this “Abomination of Desolation” in Matthew 24:15. In Daniel 11:31 this events were prophesied... Before Judah began his revolution there was terrible persecution and many martyrs were slowly tortured to death by the Greek pagans. This seems to be alluded to in the Book of Hebrews 11:33-39 were we find allusions to 2 Maccabees 6:18-31 and 2 Maccabees chapter 7. In John 10:22 the story of Christ’s celebration of Hannukah is recounted.
That winter, Jesus was in Jerusalem for Hannukah, One day he was walking in that part of the Temple known as Solomon’s porch. And the people gathered all around him. They said, “How long are you going to keep us in suspense? If you are the Messiah, tell us plainly!” Jesus answered, “I have told you and you refused to believe. The things that I do in my Father’s name show who I am…I and my Father are one.” Once again the Jewish leaders picked up stones in order to kill Jesus. But he said, “I have shown you many good things that my Father sent me to do. Which one are you going to kill me for?” They answered.” We are not stoning you because of any good thing you did. We are stoning you because you did a terrible thing. You are just a man, and here you are claiming to be God.” Jesus replied, “In your Scriptures doesn’t God say, “You are gods”? You can’t argue with the Scriptures, and God spoke to those people and called them gods. So why do you accuse me of a terrible sins for saying that I am the Son of God?”
Jesus was quoting from Psalm 82
“God stands in the assembly of the gods, in the midst of the gods He judges. “ How long will you judge unjustly and respect the persons of the wicked?” Selah. Judge the poor and the fatherless; do justice to the afflicted and destitute. Rescue the poor and needy; deliver them out of the hand of the wicked. They know not, neither do they understand; they go about in darkness; all the foundations of the earth are moved. I said, “You are gods, and all of your sons of God. Nevertheless you shall die like men, and fall like one of the princes.” Arise, O God, judge the earth; for You shall possess all the nations.
The gods referred here seem to be unjust human rulers, kings, princes and judges.
Without a Hannukah there wouldn’t have been a Christmas
If the Hasmonians had not resisted and the efforts of the Greeks were successful, the Jewish people would have been exterminated. If that was the case there wouldn’t have been a people for the Messiah to come through. These events are important in how they prepared the world for the coming of Jesus and also influenced and created the historical background for the world of the New Testament.
The Festival of Lights and The Feast of Tabernacles
People often think of Chanukah as the Festival of Lights. This is not how it is presented in the Bible or how it was observed by Jesus Christ. There is story about a days supply of oil miraculously lasting eight days and for this miracle the celebration. Jewish people celebrate Hannakah with the Menorah. They have a special nine branched menorah for Hannakuh.
Hannakuh seems to have eight days because it is a second feast of Tabernacles. One of the reasons may have been because, due to the war, the Jewish people hadn’t been able to celebrate Sukkot.
The real “Festival of Lights” is the Feast of Tabernacles. Jesus speaks of Himself being the “light of the world” when he was celebrating Sukkot-not when he was celebrating Chanukah (see John 8:12).
The Cleansing of the Temple
The Bible speaks of our “bodies” being the temple of God. Peter speaks of his body being a “tabernacle.” Jesus re-enacted his own “cleansing of the Temple” shortly before his crucifixion. According to the Gospel of John, the body of Jesus is the new Temple (John 2:19-22). John also identifies Jesus as Beth-el, meaning “House of God” in John 1:50. (Angels ascending and descending on the Son of Man, who is Jesus, is an allusion to “Jacob’s Dream/Latter” that occurred at Beth-el, meaning “House of God” (Genesis 28:10-17).
Are our bodies or lives polluted or corrupted by things displeasing to God. What about our minds-do we have the mind of Christ? The Bible says, “Do not be conformed to the world but be ye transformed by the renewing of your mind.” Jesus says out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaks. The good man brings forth goodness from with in the evil man evil from within. Perhaps we need to do a spiritual house cleaning and a searching moral inventory.
It seems to me that we are again in a conflict with paganism-the way the Maccabees are and we need to stand up and work to defend God and his holy word in a wayward and sinful generation. We also see great intolerance and warring coming from Islamic extremist.
We see this in hostility to speaking the name of Jesus Christ. People are afraid to say “Merry Christmas” lest they cause offense! That is why you have “Seasons Greetings” and “Happy Holidays.” We have come to such a hostility towards religion in society that saying “Merry Christmas” has become a religious statement! Radical groups like the ACLU and “People for the American Way” even attack memorials to the dead if they have a cross or a Star of David. Most scholars no longer used “BC” and “AD.” History is being re-written either to omit contributions of Christianity or to characterize Christianity in as negative a light as possible. What can we do about this?
Historical Timeline of the Events Related to the Maccabees
223-166 BC Seleucid Rule
175-164 BC Antiochus IV Epiphanes
168-167 Judaism prohibited
166-161 Judas Maccabeus
December 164 BC Temple re-taken and rededicated. The first Chanukah.
143-135 BC Simon (in 142 BC Simon was granted the status of ruler of an independent Judea)
RESOURCES on Chanukah: There were rumors of Mel Gibson’s planning on making a movie on the Maccabee’s but nothing ever came of it. Howard Fast My Glorious Brothers is a historical fiction novel that retells the story of the Maccabees. 1-4 Maccabees, The Works of Flavius Josephus. F.F. Bruce Israel and the Nations: The History of Israel from the Exodus to the Fall of the Second Temple, Mark Healy Warriors of the Old Testament, Joshua, King David, Nebuchadnezzer, Judas Maccabeus. Gregory Hildebradnt Treasures of Chanukah. .
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New Resources on Aramaic: See the December 2, 2007 program on 60 minutes on the Aramaic Christians of Iraq entitled “The Purge.” Also please see “The Barnabas Fund” on how to help Iraqi Christians. I am preparing “Aramaic: The Language of Jesus of Nazareth” which lists historical information confirming that Jesus spoke Aramaic and also explains why this is Important. Remember my books "The Words of Jesus in the Original Aramaic" "Mary of Magdala" and "Treasures of the Language of Jesus"