In the series, we have explored quite a number of areas of the Old Testament

1. The Fall Feast (Part 1)
2. Pauls Explanation Of Col 2 (Part 2)
3. Day Of Atonement (Part 3)
4. Feast Of The Tabernacles (Part 4)
5. Clean And Unclean Meat (Part 5 , Part 6)
6. Burning Of Incense (Part 7, Part 8)
7. Lighting Of Lamp (Part 9)

As we are talking about the lighting of Lamp, the Jewish festival of Hanukkah is round the corner. One of the typical celebration of Hanukah is to light up the Menorah to commemorate the dedication of the altar. Some may confuse this with the lighting of lamp in Part 9.  For this section I would like to side track from the issue of lighting the lamp to discuss Hanukkah.

Year 2016 is special as it is one of the rare time where the festival is very close to Christmas. Therefore there are religious teachers who are advocating and encouraging the keeping of Hanukah. One of the biggest proponent is Mr Nehemia Gordon

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8BrNaj16_WU

He advocates that Christians ought to keep Hanukkah because of what it stood for. Though he did not say that that had something to do with Salvation. His lectures debunked many of the traditions i have heard about the festival. Lets take a quick look at the Festival.

Hanukah Festival Basics

Basically  Hanukah or the “Feast of the Dedication” (Jn 10:22) is a Jewish national holiday that is not founded in the Mosaic Covenant. The root of this feast began after the death of Alexander the great  before the arrival of the Romans in Judea. In those days, the land of Judea is ruled by the Seleucids.  One of the Seleucid king known as Antiochus IV started a policy to stamp out Jewish practices and religion

A group of priest known as the Maccabees rebelled against the King. They managed to defeat the Greeks against all odds, they recaptured the temple and Jerusalem. They rededicated the Altar in the temple as the Greeks had defiled it.

There were a myth regarding this that was added by Rabbis later. 
There was a miraculous story of a single vial of oil that burnt for 7 days to purify the temple. The Jews burnt the oil on the 7 branch lampstand (Menorah) and the fire purified the temple. That is why many Jews today burn candles for 8 days to remember this event. But this story is not a fact. It was added in around the second century CE after the destruction of the temple in Jerusalem 

Mr Gordon’s Lectures had talked about this extensively and I would not waste my time to repeat it here.

Christians and Hanukah

Basically this is what I think

1. Hanukkah is a Jewish national holiday, there is no link between the festival and salvation  

While the events regarding this is prophesied in Daniel and recorded in the book of Maccabees, there is no instructions from God to keep the festival . There is no necessity for Christians to follow this. 

2. Jesus did attend the feast of Dedication in Jn 10 but he did it because he was Jewish

Jesus did not instruct his disciples to keep this festival. He had given other instructions regarding salvation that we ought to follow. That is why it really doesn’t matter if we keep the festival or not. Basically my stand over the matter is the same as Pauls

“One person esteems one
  day above another; another
  esteems every day alike. Let
  each be fully convinced in his
  own mind. He who observes the
  day, observes it to the Lord;
 
and he who does not observe the day, 
  to the Lord he does not observe it.” – Paul (Rom 14:5-6)

3. It is ok to have traditions, but be mindful of its risk.

There is no need for us to add to what is taught by Christ and the apostles. We may think that creating a tradition can help strengthen our faith. But Pharisees and the Talmud were not created overnight. Every little tradition created had a potential to be misunderstood and abused. Worst still when others follow it and were not moved in the same way as the creator of this tradition.

Let us not start the process of creating our own Talmud by creating unnecessary instruction beyond what is instructed in the bible

Understanding  Dedication

As we read the myth about Hanukah, let us be clear about what is written in the law of Moses. The lighting of the lamp by the priest is meant as a statute before God. The lamps are not related to the Altar in anyway. (Ex 27:20-21).

The law of Moses did not specifically talk about how he dedicate the altar. But Num 7 tell us that just the dedication offering required 12days (Num7:10-84)

The Jews most likely took the example of Solomon and the instruction of Ezekiel to dedicate the altar for 8 days (2 Chron 7:9,Eze 43:26-27) . They would have followed the instruction of God to Moses as well (Ex 40:9-10).

Understanding  Purification

During the lecture there was a mentioned of Purification rite. IT is a known fact that in the law of Moses anyone who is unclean will remain unclean for 7 days. In the law of Moses, there were a few records of purification. Let us take a look at what is said.

Under the law of Moses a person can be made unclean when he encounter Childbirth, Have discharge, Leprosy or encounter death. God requires offering to be made to him for all the above except for death.  If one encounters death, he will need to be washed with the blood ashes of the Red Heifer . We will discuss the significance of the Red heifer later on in this series.

All these purification here are different from the purification of the altar as mentioned in Hanukah We need to differentiate between them

 

Paul And His Purification Rite

During the lecture Mr Gordon briefly mentioned about the fact that Paul perform the a purification rite. This was Recorded in the book of Acts 23. Interestingly, the dedication mentioned there had no relations with the dedication of Hanukah in any way,

The disciples in Jerusalem advice Paul to perform the rite. For there had been Rumours about him among the Jews in the Roman world.

“You see, brother, how many
  myriads of Jews there are who
  have believed, and they are all
  zealous for the law; 
  but they have been informed
  about you that you teach all the
  Jews who are among the Gentiles
  to forsake Moses, saying that they
  ought not to circumcise their children
  nor to walk according to the customs” – Disciples (Acts 21:20-21)

Therefore to debunk their rumours, they advise Paul to take part in the purification ritual the next day. This purification ritual is not related to Hanukah. For these men had taken a vow. They have to shave their heads and Paul had to pay for their expenses. (Acts 21:24)

What is this vow? It is likely that these men were Nazirites. (Ref Num 6:9-12). If a Nazirite encounter death near him, he will be declared unclean for 7 days. After that they were to shave their heads, and make sacrifices to the Lord before they can resume their vow as Nazirites. Whenever a Nazirite completes his period of vow, he is to shave his head and make sacrifices as well.  That practice was still practiced among the Jews during the time of Paul.

So Paul is not exactly bowing down to the Talmud, but he was in fact doing what was prescribed in the law of Moses. Paul had to do it to show the Jews that he has not forsake Moses and he kept the law of Moses.

Interestingly, the disciples repeated their decision made about the Gentiles in Acts 15

“But concerning the Gentiles
  who believe, we have written
  and decided that they should
  observe no such thing,  except
   that they should keep themselves
   from things offered to idols, from
  blood, from things strangled, and
  from sexual immorality.” – Disciples (Acts 21:25)

They have reiterated their stand about the gentiles needing to observe the law of Moses. Sadly when Paul follow their advice, the move backfired and he was arrested at the temple (Act 21:26-29)

It seems that Gods plan is for Paul to be captured so that he will eventually go to Rome. But that story is out of the discussion today.

Jesus And The Feast Of The Dedication

During the lecture Mr Gordon mentioned that even Jesus celebrated Hanukah. He is not wrong to say that, but Christians need to differentiate between requirements of the Mosaic Covenant, the custom and tradition of the Jews and the content of the New Covenant with Christ.

When Jesus is on earth, he is born as a Jewish man, and he kept some of the traditions of the Jews in his days. For example, he only came into the temple at the age of 12 (Bar Mitzvah). (Lk 2:41-42), that is a tradition of the Jews.

Jesus was circumcised on the eight day and his parent made offering of turtledoves(Lk 2:22-24), that is a requirement of the Law Of Moses.

Just because Jesus did those things, it does not mean that Christians ought to follow the tradition to do Bar Mitzvah for our own children, nor do we forbid them from coming to church until 12.  In the new testament, Circumcision in the flesh is not necessary, but the heart must be circumcise to obey God. That is why just because Jesus attended the feast of dedication it does not mean Christians ought to do it.

If there is one thing we need to remember, Jesus declared himself to be God on that day. He said “I and My Father are one.” (Jn 10:30) By declaring this so, Jesus is telling the world that he is the God whom the Jews worship. As the result, the Jews wanted to kill him for blasphemy.

Instead of mindlessly keeping tradition Hanukah, we ought to remember that Jesus is LORD and especially this that he had spoken

“I told you, and you do not believe.
  The works that I do in My Father’s name,
  they bear witness of Me.  But you do
  not believe, because you are not of
  My sheep, as I said to you.
 
My sheep hear My voice, and I know 
  them, and they follow Me. And I give
  them eternal life, and they shall never
  perish; neither shall anyone snatch
  them out of My hand  “ – Jesus (Jn 10:25-29)

According to Mr Gordon experience of reading the Old testament in 16:17 in the lecture he said

“But Kingdom of heaven is an ancient concept. When John the Baptist travelled through the land of Israel speaking about the kingdom of heaven. People wouldn’t say that "We do not know what that is.  We are Jews and we do not know about the kingdom of heaven"

No, when they heard about the Kingdom of heaven they said “We are looking forward to that when Yehovah comes down to earth and rules as the King of the World. Zechariah talks about him standing with one leg on either side of the mount of Olives and the Mount of Olives splitting in the middle. and he is going to be King on that day over the entire Earth”

What does the other half of the prophecy says? Says on that day he will be one, his name will be one”

Nehemia Gordon as a Karite understood that when the Messiah is Yehovah coming on earth and ruling as the King of the earth. In his case, he did not think that Jesus is the Messiah, therefore it is not surprising that he would prefer to call on the name of Yehovah. 

But Christians understood that the messiah had already come. That Messiah is Yeshua (Jesus) . We know form the gospel that before his birth , he instructed Mary to name him Yeshua (Jesus) . Right here on the feast of Dedication, he declared that he and the father are one. He is telling us that he is indeed YHWH who came to dwell in the flesh.

In another location he said “Most assuredly, I say to you, before Abraham was, I AM.” (Jn 8:58)

John tell us that the kingdom of God is at hand. When Jesus come he preach the same as well. He promised the disciples that the some of them will see the Kingdom of God present with power. He also promised his disciples that some will not taste death till the see the Kingdom of God. (Mk 9:1, Lk 9:27) . He himself tell us that his kingdom is not of this world (Jn 18:36), that kingdom is within us (Lk 17:20). This kingdom is establish by God when the Holy Spirit first came on Pentecost

While many like to say that Christians had no Jewish roots, they have forgotten the fact that the first group of Christians are all Torah believing Christians. They may not be a Hebrew Scholar like Mr Gordon. But they are well aware of all the prophecies about the Kingdom of God.

These people can read the scriptures, but but they are able to see that the Messiah is Yeshua (Jesus) and they started to call on his name and not YHWH.

Had the scriptures changed? Why is it that those Jews are so willing to accept it? They read the same prophecies mentioned by Mr Gordon, but they are able to see Jesus in the scriptures. They even have the gall to make this declaration before the Chief priest.

“Nor is there salvation in any other,
  for there is no other name under
  heaven given among men by
  which we must be saved.”

That is because they understood that the Messiah is God himself dwelling among them. That is why they have no fear to call on his name and keep the new covenant establish by him. When they saw God allowing the gentiles who do not keep the Law receiving  the Spirit of God just like them. They made the Jerusalem decree that the gentiles do not need to keep the Law of Moses or be circumcised.

Jesus declared himself as YHWH during the feast of Hanukah. He also told them that he had seen Abraham. Today Karites like Mr Gordon, are unable to accept it. They are still waiting for the Messiah.  Even they understood that the Messiah is God himself coming in the flesh. Their only issue is that they refuse to accept Jesus as the Messiah.

But what about us today? Are we willing to accept that the Messiah is Jesus? Do we know that the Kingdom of the Messiah is already established? Can we accept that he is the one true God who had dwelt in the flesh? 

Conclusion

Hanukkah is a Jewish festival, it had special significance to the Jewish people. This article is not here to condemn Hanukah or downplay its significance to the Jews. In fact I want to take the chance to wish Jews a happy Hanukkah

As an Ethnic Chinese, we have our fair share of traditions about national struggle. Whenever we eat dumplings or row the dragon boat, we remember the Chinese Poet / Statesmen Qu Yuan. Whenever we eat moon cakes, we remember how the Chinese rebels use the moon cakes as a form of communication to stage an uprising against the Mongolian Empire. 

I think traditions by themselves are harmless and they serve as a good reminder of the stories of the past and the lessons learnt. But we need to be careful when it comes linking such tradition to our faith. We may choose to begin little traditions to build up our own faith. But when this tradition is passed down to the next generation. They will become mere ritual for these traditions may not move them in the same way as they have moved us.

Eventually when  everyone starts adding their own traditions, we create our very own version of Mishnah and Talmud. We end up creating countless of traditions that does not bring anyone closer to God.

Instead of fighting to create traditions, let us  choose to keep only the instructions of God and the commandments of God. Let us not add or subtract from it. Let us keep what God had entrusted to us purely and commit them to our next generation

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