Then came Hanukkah in Yerushalayim. It was winter, and Yeshua was walking around inside the Temple area, in Shlomo’s Colonnade. (Yochanan (John) 10:22,23 Complete Jewish Bible)
Most often translated as the Festival, or Feast of Dedication, many Gentiles, and perhaps an equal percentage of Jews, have held the annual celebration of Hanukkah to be not much more than “a Jewish response to Christmas.” There are, after all, gifts given, and the holiday’s falling each year in December seems beyond coincidence. And yes, as it happens, Hanukkah’s anniversary is beyond coincidence, but from an unanticipated direction. Some scholars believe that, without the well-documented heroics of Judas Maccabee in Judea, 160 years before the birth of Yeshua (Jesus), the celebration of Christmas would have never come into being.
Per Craig S. Keener, Professor, Asbury Theological Seminary, “John’s historically plausible claim about Jesus’ observance of traditional festivals is of interest today. After nearly two millennia of separation and often alienation between Jewish people and Christians, generated by inexcusable anti-Semitism in Christianized cultures, both Jewish and Christian readers can look back to the Jewish figure at the heart of the Christian faith.
“We might not always agree on the meaning of Jesus’ participation in Jewish festivals, but we can agree that Jesus honored these traditions of his people. For Christians, this model should invite an appreciation for Jewish tradition … The Gospels offer countless examples affirming Jesus’ Jewish identity. The tradition about Jesus observing Hanukkah is merely one of these, but it is one that invites our attention at this season. Everyone recognizes that Jesus himself was never in a position to celebrate Christmas. Nevertheless, first-century memories about Jesus do associate him with one festival at this season: the festival of Hanukkah.” [Read more…]