Hanukkah commemorates the dedication of the Temple in 164 BCE. Led by Judah Maccabee, the Jewish people revolted against the Seleucid king Antiochus IV Epiphanes, and regained control of their Temple and traditions. Many years have passed since the first Hanukkah, or “dedication” (חנכה), but the ancient Jews who chronicled the event believed that the defilement of the Jerusalem Temple was tantamount to the end of the world, and that its rededication marked a new creation.

First Maccabees draws on prophetic rhetoric in its description of the Temple’s desecration: Jerusalem’s “sanctuary became desolate like a wilderness; her feasts (ἑορταὶ; eortaì) were turned into mourning (πένθος; pénthos)… her exaltation was turned into mourning” (1 Maccabees 1:39-40). This language recalls the prophecy of the day of the Lord according to Amos: “On that day, says the Lord God… I will turn your feasts (ἑορτὰς; eortàs) into mourning (πένθος; pénthos)…. I will make it like the mourning for an only son, and the end of it like a bitter day” (Amos 8:10 LXX). In echoing Amos, 1 Maccabees suggests that, for Jews of the second century BCE, the defilement of the Temple signaled the destructive day of the Lord; put another way, it was the end of the world!

Yet, the story of Hanukkah does not end with desolation. When the Maccabees defeat the Seleucids and rededicate the Temple, God inaugurates a new creation. At Judah’s behest, the priests “made new holy vessels, and brought the lampstand, the altar of incense, and the table into the Temple. Then they offered incense on the altar and lit the lamps on the lampstand, and these gave light (ἐφαίνοσαν; ephaínosan) in the Temple…. Thus, they finished all the work they had done (ἐτέλεσαν πάντα τὰ ἔργα ἃ ἐποίησαν)” (1 Macc 4:49-51). The activity in the Temple recalls the first day creation: “God said, ‘Let there be light (φῶς; phõs) and there was light” (Genesis 1:3 LXX). At the end of the Lord’s initial creation, “God finished (συνετέλεσεν) his work that he had done and he rested on the seventh day from all his work that he had done (πάντων τῶν ἔργων αὐτοῦ ὧν ἐποίησεν)” (Gen 2:2 LXX). In drawing on the Greek translation of Genesis, 1 Maccabees presents the Temple’s dedication as a new creation. The Jews of the Second Temple period experience the end of the world and come out the other side. God rescues the people of Israel from devastation, and inaugurates a new creative act at the first Hanukkah.

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8 COMMENTS

  1. Morning Dr. Anna Gromova refer me to write ny request here. My son wants to register his ministry and wants the name in Hebrew- "Holy Fire Ministries." We don't want to do direct translation that would probably be wrong. Can you help me for the correct phrase?
    • It kind of depends on one's translational philosophy, Pepler. There's not really an exact equivalent in Hebrew to "ministries" as a Christian would think of it. You may want to go with the biblical word שרת (to minister or to serve) -- it's the word used for ministry at the Tent of Meeting in Exodus. Thus, "Holy Fire Ministries" would be:
      שירותי האש הקדושה
  2. Hi Dr. I am part for more than a year now. I have put my studies uphold for the last few month's to study for my doctral in my country. I am finish now, and tend to continue in January again. Due to loyalty received full acces. HASHEM BLESS iBC
  3. Shalom Prof. My attention was caught by Pepler's seeking of advice from you and I wondered if, really, there is a difference between an Assembly of the called (the church, as Paul would describe it) and Ministry? Is there a difference between the two, Prof?
    • Ministers are certain workers within the broader assembly; i.e., some members minister, others teach, others administer, etc. (see 1 Cor 12:28-29).
  4. Others believe that the name of the assembly must always have the name "The Church of God" or "Church of Christ" or "Saints of Christ". Apparently this is consistent with how Paul named the churches he established in the lands of the nations. Does this claim have any biblical support?
    • Insofar as Paul never used the English word "church," it is not necessary for assemblies to have "church" it their names. In Paul's time, there weren't "names" for "churches" as there are toady.

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