Can Christians celebrate Hanukkah? This week we answer the question: what is Hanukkah? In our last episode, we explored Daniel 11 and how it predicts the events leading up to Hanukkah. In this episode, we take a look at the roots of the holiday and whether or not Christians can celebrate the Festival of Lights.
What do you think? Can Christians celebrate Chanukkah? Leave us a comment!
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CS: Chris Staron
BG: Bruce Gore
BS: Bob Stephenson
JW: John Wilkerson
This is the second part in a series. You may want to go back and listen to the first half to get a little context. In the last episode, we talked about the things we so often hear this time of year. That there is a war on Christmas. December should be reserved just for the birth of Jesus, none of this happy holidays stuff.
Which is a little strange. I don’t think this is breaking news, but Christmas isn’t the only holiday in December. It’s not even the only one having to do with biblical events. What about… Hanukkah? There’s really no reason we Christians can’t get behind this holiday. Or maybe there is.
To get a little feedback, I put out a call on our social media feeds to see what people think about Hanukkah. Can Christians celebrate it? John Wilkerson of the Wired Homeschool and Struggling for Purpose podcasts said this:
JW: I think there is a way for us to show solidarity with the believers of the root faith of Christianity.
CS: I also asked around my church.
CS (on location): Do you think Christians should celebrate Hanukkah?
FEMALE 1: I, you know, maybe. Like I was telling you earlier, our family likes to cel
Thanks for the comments, friends. Keep them coming.
It’s controversial. Can we celebrate Hanukkah or not? I think we need to understand what we’re talking about before we make a judgment call. In the previous episode we discussed Daniel 11, which predicts a lot of the events leading up to this holiday. It demonstrates to us that scripture is reliable, if nothing else, because so many prophesies have come true.
Today, we’ll continue in that vein, and uncover the reason for Hanukkah. Once we have a base then we’ll ask, can or should we, pay more attention to the Festival of Lights?
You’re listening to the show that uses journalistic tools to look inside the Christians church. We press pause to explore how we got here and how we can do better. I’m Chris Staron. This is Truce.
My guest today is Bruce Gore. With his permission I’m using audio from lectures he’s given. He’s the author of Historical and Chronological Context of the Bible. There are links on our website.
Let’s pick up with Daniel 11:33-35, read in a rich, buttery voice by my friend Bob Stephenson.
“Those who have insight among the people will give understanding to the many; yet they will fall by sword and by flame, by captivity and by plunder for many days. Now when they fall they will be granted a little help, and many will join with them in hypocrisy. Some of those who have insight will fall, in order to refine, purge and make them pure until the end time.” (Daniel 11:33-35 NASB)
The verse says there are going to be two groups: one that goes with the greeks and worships idols and the resistance. There’s going to be bloodshed. We’re going to cover it broadly, but you can read more information about it in the apocryphal books of the Maccabees.
Two groups. One that follows God, and one that doesn’t. They would appear later in the Bible, in the New Testament and under new names.
BG: One group is called the Jewish Hellenists. These were the proto-Sadducees.
CS: In Jesus’ time the Sadducees1 were the religious leaders who denied that people could be raised from the dead.
BG: They basically embraced the pagan worship at this point. They were willing to not put up a fuss and simply allow the terms of new life in Jerusalem to be implemented as indicated.
CS: They gave in! Greek kings wanted their subjects to behave in greek, Hellenistic ways. These proto-Sadducees were the ones who said, “wait, we can look more like the culture?” and then thye changed. Like a teenager who really wants to be a part of the mean girl clique. They’ll do anything to look like the cools kids.
BG: The others were called the “pious ones”. These were the proto-Pharasees.
These guys in the time of Jesus were the group that did believe in the resurrection of the dead. They’re part of the resistance to the greeks2. They take a stand. It doesn’t work out for them.
In Daniel 11says they’ll fall by sword and flame.
Sadly, that came to pass. And thousands died.
Which leads us to… the Maccabean Revolt.
Don’t know anything about this revolt? That’s fine. You’ve probably heard of the holiday that celebrates this uprising: its called Hanukkah. That’s right. Hanukkah is about the resistance. Like Star Wars and May the 4th. As in, May the 4th be with you.
167 BC. There’s a little town called Modiin (Mo-dee-en). It looks like it should be pronounced Mo-deen. Which sounds WAY cooler. Like it belongs in an old western movie.
Modiin. There’s a band of soldiers going around and harassing all of the small towns around Jerusalem. Modiin is 20 miles outside the city.
BG: So these Syrian troops come and as they commonly did, demanded that the people engage in public pagan worship.
CS: If this were an old western they’d be riding into town on horses, guns blazing, spitting tobacco juice and making demands of a tiny mining town north of Cheyenne? Just asking for a posse to show up.
What these soldiers wanted was pagan worship. If you, as the king, could unify your empire under a religion, you’d just might be able to control them.
BG: The priest in that town was Mattathias, he was about 80 years old.
CS: I want to imagine this guy sitting on a wooden sidewalk, rocking back in a chair, polishing his rifle. And then…
BG: He actually manhandled one of them, grabbed his sword and slew about eight of these Syrian soldiers and two or three of the Jewish people who were about to go ahead and do this thing. He just went crazy, you know?
CS: The old guy does it. Tired of being pushed around, his belief system being made a mockery of, he kicks them out of Dodge. He would not worship a pagan god. Not even under the threat of death. This is one tough old bird.
He started… the Maccabean Revolt.
Mattathias, this old guy, gathers all of these people and they go out into the wilderness in a gorilla style campaign against the Syrian Greeks. Mattathias died one year into the revolt. But, lucky for the revolt, he had 5 sons. Five boys in one house. Thousands of years before deodorant.
The middle son is a guy named Judas. This, by the way, was well before it was taboo to name your son Judas. He was eventually nick-named Judas Maccabeus.
The Syrian translation for Maccabeus means hammer.
Judas the Hammer. Best nickname in the apocrypha, hands down.
Judas rises as leader of the revolt. Winning a bunch of stunning victories, and becoming a real problem for these Syrian Greeks.
BG: Finally in 165 Judas was able to retake Jerusalem and rededicate the temple.
CS: The temple in Jerusalem! That’s the one that Antiochus Ephiphanes desecrated with the pig – the abomination of desolation.
If you’ve read the Old Testament, you know that there are all of these instructions for how to take care of the temple. There are ways to cleanse it, clean it up, get things running again. That’s just what these guys did.
In 165 BC they took back the temple and celebrated. But they ran into a snafu. They didn’t have enough special consecrated oil for the lamps.
BG: And so in faith they went ahead and lit the lamp stand in the temple, and, as the story goes, I’m not willing to deny it, miraculously the lamp kept burning for eight days even though there was clearly not enough oil to keep it going.
CS: It was about keeping light going with too little oil. Jewish people remember this special event as the Festival of Lights. Or, Hanukkah. Where they light a candle every day, one for each of the eight days the lamps stayed lit. They do it to remember when the Jewish people kicked out the Syrian Greeks and rededicated the Temple.
There are two main reasons I like this story so much: it demonstrates to us the importance of remaining faithful even when the culture tells us do do otherwise.
Second, it speaks volumes about the reliability of the Bible. Because so many of these events, the breaking up of Alexander’s kingdom, the kings of the north and south, the marriage between the two, even the desecration of the temple, were foretold hundreds of years before they happened.
Which is amazing. When a prophet gets it right… you kinda gotta listen.
There is a twist, of course, when it comes to Hanukkah. There always is. For Christians, we are told in 1 Peter to obey every human authority. That’s not what the Maccabees did. They fought back, in a literal, physical war. It’s kinda hard to be subject to human authority when you’re in the midst of a war, isn’t it?
Yes it is.
Here’s Bruce with his thoughts on the subject.
BG: Oh, I think the original spirit of the Maccabean Revolt was entirely legitimate. The father, Mattathias, the old man who actually launched the whole thing in the first place, he had five sons, you know, Judas was the middle of five sons. He was doing what I think any thoughtful Christian would incur was the right thing to do because the New Testament itself allows that when the civil government is pushing me to disobey my fundamental loyalty to Christ, then the civil government can legitimately and must be disobeyed. Peter, who wrote the letter you just mentioned, also said to the Sanhedrin one day, recorded in Acts, ‘you judge, should we obey God or man?’. There is a point where there is a parting of the ways between obeying the civil government and following a higher authority. It only applies, however, when the higher authority demands that I do something that violates my conscientious duty before God and that’s exactly what the Jewish people were facing.
CS: This time of year we can celebrate the trials we go through to keep the faith, to worship God as He wants to be worshipped. But Hanukkah also calls into question where we stand when it comes to opposing earthly leaders. Can we fight back? When do we resist? Where does our help ultimately come from?
I’d love your feedback. What do you think? Can Christians fight back against our leaders? Is it okay for us to celebrate Hanukkah? Record a voice memo of your thoughts and email it to trucepodcast [at symbol goes here]] yahoo.com.
The Truce podcast is listener supported. Consider giving us a few dollars each month. Just think about it. Find us on all the social medias, on our website at www.trucepodcast.com. Special thanks to Bruce Gore, author of Historical and Chronological Context of the Bible. You can find his videos on our website, including the full versions of the ones we took clips from. They are nerd bliss. Our logo is by Andy Huff, Roy Browning of the Business Acumen podcast is teaching me marketing and built our website. Thanks also to Bob Stephenson for his voice and all of my friends at church who lent their voices. The Bible verses today were from the New American Standard. Please please tell your friends about this show. I need your help to spread the word. If you get time, check out my movies Bringing up Bobby and Between the Walls on Amazon and Pureflix. My novel Cradle Robber is on your favorite ebook platform. Thanks for listening.
Merry Christmas, Happy Hanukkah, Happy New Year.
I’m Chris Staron. This is Truce.