Hanukkah, the Messiah, and the rest of the story

 

In the 39 books of the Tenakh accepted by the Jews and Protestants, there is no mention of Hanukkah. It is mentioned in the New Covenant scriptures. It can be found in John 10:22-39. Yeshua is walking on the Portico of Solomon in the Temple during the winter Feast of the Dedication (Hanukkah). Obviously, Yeshua knew about the feast since he made a point of being there during the feast. If the feast is not recorded in the Tenakh, how did he know about it? Today, we have four sources that tell us about Hanukkah: (1) 1 Maccabees; (2) 2 Maccabees; (3) The Antiquities of Flavius Josephus; and (4) the Talmud. Of these four sources, only two were available to Yeshua 2000 years ago. He would have known about 1 and 2 Maccabees. This is because both of these works were written approximately 100 years before his birth, or about 70 years after the Hanukkah event. Josephus was not born until seven years after Yeshua’s crucifixion (37 AD). The Talmud, at the time of Yeshua, was not in the current form and was known as the Tradition of the Elders. This begs the question: Why were 1 and 2 Maccabees not included in the Jewish Tenakh?

Collectively, 1 and 2 Maccabees cover the period from 180 BC to 134 BC. Considering that we have a 400 year gap between the Testaments these works are worth reading. The Lord, the Hasmoneans, and the Hasideans (forerunners of the Pharisees and Essenes), who were zealous for the Torah, are all mentioned throughout these works. The Book of Esther (Hadassah) never mentions the Lord and is included in the Tenakh. So what happened to 1 and 2 Maccabees? Strike one: They were written in Greek not Hebrew. Strike two: Both books speak favorably of the Romans. Strike three: The Hasidean’s eventually came to oppose the Maccabean revolt as being too political. For these reasons they came to be considered apocryphal by the Judeans who finalized the Tenakh prior to Yeshua. The Catholics came to accept these books and others by the fourth century after Yeshua because they perceived that God’s favor was removed from Israel and they were now bestowed that authority. They saw value in including these ancient works in the Catholic Canon. The Eastern Church, which became Orthodoxy, also accepted these additional works which were part of the Septuagint Greek translation from Alexandria, Egypt. The Reformers rejected 1 and 2 Maccabees and other Apocryphal works because the Jews rejected them and also because the Catholics accepted them. When the Reformers rejected these books there was not an abundance of good feelings between these groups.

Now to our story. Alexander of Macedon, known as Alexander the Great, made war with the Persian empire in 336 BC. After defeating Persia, he continued to reign until his death in 323 BC. Before he died he named four generals to rule over the Greco-Macedonian Empire. These events were foretold by the Prophet Daniel in chapter 8:1-8; 11:1-4. Seleucus received Syria, Babylonia, and Media (EAST). Cassander obtained Macedon, Thessaly and Greece (WEST). Ptolemy ruled over Egypt and Cyprus (SOUTH), and Lysimachus received Thrace, Cappodocia and Asia Minor (NORTH). The Reign of the Seleucid Empire began in 312 BC. During this time many leaders were named Seleucus. In 175 BC, a certain Seleucus was murdered by Heliodorus. Heliodorus was the King’s minister who was sent to Jerusalem to confiscate the Temple treasury. According to the Maccabees, he was beaten by angels and repented for what he did to the High Priest Onias III. When he returned to the Greco-Syrian King, he murdered him and Antiochus Epiphanes IV became the new King.

After Epiphanes became King, Joshua (Jason), the brother of Onias became High Priest. Three years later in 172 BC, Menelaus’ brother, Simon the Priest, outbid Jason and became the High Priest while Onias accused Menelaus of theft. Then Menelaus hired one Andronicus who murdered Onias. Epiphanes did not approve of this murder and had Andronicus executed. Menalaus, the High Priest, then appointed his brother Lysimichus as a pseudo-priest to steal from the religious treasury. When the Judeans learned of this they rioted. After Lysimichus attacked them the Judeans killed him. A case was then brought against Menelaus by three representatives of the people who informed Epiphanes.  Before the hearing, Menelaus was able to bribe Ptolemy, the king of Egypt, to convince Epiphanes of his innocence.  Epiphanes had the three representatives executed. Jason then attacked Menelaus who hid in the Citadel at Jerusalem. After killing many Jews, Jason was driven from the city and died in exile. In 169 BC, Antiochus, hearing that the city was in revolt, attacked it. He killed 40,000 and sent another 40,000 into slavery. In 167 BC, Antiochus sent Apollonius, commander of the Mysians, with 22,000 troops against Jerusalem. He burned much of the city and took many captive. He dedicated the Temple to Zeus. These invaders had sex with prostitutes in the sacred court. Unclean animals like pigs were slaughtered there. Judaism was forbidden. Many Israelites left the faith when the decree of death was made for anyone who practiced Judaism. Philip the Phrygian carried out the cruelty that followed. Babies who were circumcised were hung to death from their mothers necks and then both were thrown off the city walls. A scribe named Eleazar was scourged to death for not eating pork. In another instance, a mother and her seven sons were scourged, had their tongues cut out, were scalped, had their feet and hands cut off and then were placed in a cauldron and fried in oil. All of these things can be found in 1 Maccabees 1 and 2 Maccabees 4-7.

The Hasmoneans: The stories leading up to and including Temple purification can be found in 1 Maccabees 2-4 and 2 Maccabees 10. The Hasmoneans were descendants of Joarib, who was of the priestly class. Their father Mattathias had five sons: (1) John Gaddi; (2) Simon Thassi; (3) Judah Maccabee; (4) Eleazar Avaron; and (5) Jonathan Apphus. Once Philip initiated the persecution, Mattathias and his sons rebelled by killing apostate Jews. In return, 1000 Judeans were killed by the Seleucids. Mattathias himself died one year after the uprising in 166 BC. Before his death he named his son Judah Maccabee to be the leader. Judah and his forces defeated Apollonius and then Seron, killing over 800. In 165 BC, Antiochus advanced with 40,000 troops plus 7000 calvary. With 3000 Israelites, Judah killed 3000 Syrians. In 164 BC, Judah with 10,000 Israelites took on Lysias with 60,000 troops plus 5000 Calvary, including Edomites and Philistines. After Lysias lost 5000 troops, Judah was free to take Jerusalem.

The Dedication of the Temple is recalled in 1 Maccabees 4:56 and 2 Maccabees 10:4-6. It can also be found in Flavius Josephus’, Antiquities of the Jews, Volume III, Book XII, Chapter VII.  In all of these accounts, there is no mention of one day worth of oil burning miraculously for eight days. Josephus uses the Maccabees as his source documents.  2 Maccabees recalls a series of miracles but says nothing of one day worth of oil burning for eight days.  Where did this story come from? In addition to its absence in these sources, it also cannot be found in the Mishnah. The Mishnah is the core text of the Talmud. The Mishnah was completed 200 years after Yeshua. The Gemara is the Rabbinical commentary and analysis on the Mishnah, which was not completed until 400 years after Yeshua. It is in these works Gemara Shabbat 21b where we first find evidence of the Hanukkah miracle. This means there is nothing written about this miraculous event until 564 years after it supposedly occurred and, at that, in a rabbinical commentary. This raises the question of its authenticity. Yeshua observed the Feast of Dedication, as was the Jewish custom, but this was not mandated by God. Daniel 8:9-27 does not track exactly with Maccabees or Josephus. Therefore, the little horn is not Antiochus Epiphanes IV, but rather the future evil one who will arise from land encompassed by the Greco-Macedonian empire. Daniel 11:5-35 predicts what is recorded in the Maccabean scriptures cited above.

Therefore, we find fulfillment of Daniel’s prophesy in 1 and 2 Maccabees. 1 Maccabees 4:46; 14:41 speak about the coming of a future prophet. These Jews also claimed to get their inspiration from their scriptures 1 Maccabees 12:9. That Prophet came. As we continue with John 10, Yeshua is asked by the descendants of those portrayed in Maccabees if he is the Messiah. Yeshua responds that they do not believe and are not of his sheep because if they were, they would follow him. He then said, “The Father and I are one.” At this moment, they tried to stone him for blasphemy. The prophet they awaited came but they could not accept what he said despite his works. In the future perhaps God will tell us if he created a miracle at the Dedication of the Temple based on the works of the Hasmoneans.

Following the Temple dedication, warfare ensued. Judah was successful in slaughtering many who came against the Judeans. Afterwards, Antiochus Epiphanes IV died of a consuming disease in Persia in 163 BC. In 162 BC, Eupator sent a large army against Judah Maccabee. His brother Eleazer Avaron was killed. Eventually, Judah was forced to flee Jerusalem in 161 BC by governor Nicanor. After Nicanor threatened the Temple, Judah and the Israelites rose up and killed Nicanor in 160 BC. After Nicanor’s death, Bacchides and Alcimus came against Jerusalem with a large army. They gained control of Jerusalem and killed Judah Maccabee. His brother Jonathan took control but in a subsequent battle their brother John Gaddi was killed. Eventually, Jonathan was captured and murdered by Trypho. The last brother Simon was murdered by Ptolemy Abubus at Jericho.

With the Hasmonean saga concluded, what can we conclude about the Feast of Dedication? Do these stories speak of God’s favor with his people?  Since the miracle of the oil is not included in a written text until 400 AD by descendants of the Hasidim, it seems more likely that this was added by them to show God’s favor with their new form of Post Temple Judaism. If we are to believe the accounts in 1 and 2 Maccabees, then Gemara Shabbat 21b appears less likely to be true. What is true is that the servant candle of the Hanukkah menorah is the Light of the World as portrayed in the Festival of Lights. He is the one who declared his unity with “the Father”.

 

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