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Tuesday, November 26, 2013

Chanukah Thoughts

In case I'm too busy tomorrow--

Why should  Christian write about Chanukah?  Simple.  I have Jewish relatives, friends, and lurkers, and wish them a happy celebration.

But there are other reasons as well. 

How many of you out there know that if you pick up the standard, hotel room Gideon Bible, the only mention of Chanukah is in the New Testament--namely John 10, in which Jesus appears at the Jerusalem Temple for the festival?

Of course, in a Roman Catholic or Eastern Orthodox Bible, the Books of the Maccabees are present in the Old Testament.  In some editions of the King James Version,Geneva Bible,and other Protestant translations, the Books of the Maccabees, along with other apocryphal works, appear as a separate section between the Old and New Testaments.  So, why should a Protestant take an interest in the Chanukah story?

Chanukah shows the Jews beleaguered by an oppressive ruler, Antiochus Epiphanes, who sought to end Jewish distinctiveness. Circumcision was banned, pigs sacrificed at Jerusalem, and offerings to pagan deities made.  However, Judas Maccabaeus led a revolt which ended in Jewish independence and the re-dedication of the Temple.  A threat to the continuing existence of the Jewish people--including the Messiah to come--had been met and overcome.  The Great Serpent had sought to swallow up the woman clothed with the sun (Israel) and her man-child the Messiah, and had failed (Rev. 12:1-6).

This was part and parcel of Jesus' upbringing, and so he observes the holiday and reveals his own mission as the ultimate savior of Israel (and the world) on this holiday (John 10).

I have no plan to repeat Jewish prayers or buy a dreydl, but I remain grateful that God protected the Jewish people in those dark days of the 2d century B.C.  In these days where even in the USA there are judges and others who would force our conformity to the world, perhaps we may dare to hope that the Lord would send a new Judas Maccabaeus in his church's time of need.

First Maccabees records how the Seleucid Graeco-Syrian forces sent war elephants against the Jews.  Perhaps Tolkien, and those who made his Lord of the Rings into a movie, had this episode in mind when they crafted the mammukil!

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