Is Chanukah Relevant
for Christians?

Tricia Miller, Ph.D. and Dexter Van Zile

Dear Christian Leaders,

As Jews around the world are in the  midst of celebrating Chanukah, we would like to take this opportunity to  offer some thoughts concerning the relevance of the festival for  Christians. The Hebrew word, Chanukah, means dedication,  and the holiday is an eight-day "Festival of Lights" that commemorates  the rededication of the Temple in Jerusalem approximately 2,200 years  ago. This year Chanukah began Thursday evening, December 10th, and will  end Friday, December 18th.

Chanukah memorializes the victory of a small band of faithful but poorly  armed Jews, led by Judah the Maccabee, over the mighty Greek Seleucid  army, which occupied Judea in the early second century before the birth  of Jesus. After years of fighting, the Maccabees successfully regained  Jewish control of Jerusalem and forced the Seleucids out of the land of  Israel.

Upon recapturing Jerusalem, the Temple had to be cleansed and  rededicated because the Greek king, Antiochus Epiphanes, had desecrated  the Temple by erecting an altar to the god Zeus and by sacrificing pigs.  When they entered the Temple, the victorious Maccabees found one jar of  oil to light the Temple menorah, which was only enough for one day.  However, the oil lasted eight days, which is why the celebration of the  rededication of the Temple during Chanukah is observed by the lighting  of candles for eight days.

The Seleucid occupation of Israel was a dangerous time for the Jewish  people because the very survival of Jewish identity was at stake. This  is because the Greeks attempted to force the people of Israel to reject  their belief in the one true God and accept instead the polytheism of  the Greek Empire. Jews were also expected to abandon their obedience to  Torah, and indeed, central tenets of Judaism such as Sabbath observance  and circumcision were outlawed.

However, in the face of incredible persecution and against all odds, the  Maccabees refused to reject their faith, drove the mightiest army on  earth at the time from the land of Judea, and rededicated the Temple in  Jerusalem to the service of God.

These historical events are significant for us as Christians today for two important reasons.

First, if Judah the Maccabee and his Jewish army had not been  victorious, it is entirely possible that the Greeks would have been  successful in their efforts to wipe out Jewish identity and observance  in the land of Judea almost two hundred years before Jesus was born.

If that had happened, Jesus would not have been born as the  recognizable, clearly identifiable Jew who is revealed as such  throughout the Christian Testament. In other words, Jesus would not be  who we know him to be and the events of his life would not have happened  as revealed throughout the Scriptures. In short, there would be no  Christmas without the events that are celebrated at Chanukah!

Furthermore, there would be no Christian faith, since our faith is  deeply rooted in the faith of Israel. As the Apostle Paul demonstrates  through his analogy of the olive tree in Romans, chapter 11, Israel is  the root of the tree of faith and Gentile believers are branches that  have been grafted into that tree.

Secondly, the events that Chanukah commemorates are significant because  they provide inspiration and encouragement at a time of increasing  world-wide opposition to the Christian faith in particular and to  religious freedom in general. May we as Christians be strengthened to  stand as the Maccabees did in the face of persecution and against all  odds.

Moreover, in light of the rise of global antisemitism and anti-Israel  activism, let us rededicate ourselves in our commitment to stand in  solidarity with the Jewish people and in support of Israel's right to  exist as a Jewish state.

May the celebration of Chanukah be a reminder of the necessity of the  survival of Jewish faith and identity, and of the importance of the  victory of good over evil, of godliness over paganism, and faithfulness  to the one true God over polytheism.

As we look forward to our celebration of Christmas, remember that there would be no Christmas without Chanukah!

For the sake of Israel,
Tricia Miller and Dexter Van Zile

BE INFORMED and EQUIPPED!

CAMERA’s  Christian analysts are able and available to equip you and your  congregation with the facts necessary to tell the truth about Israel,  combat anti-Zionism in the church, and oppose antisemitism in whatever  form it appears.

Please contact us to schedule a single speaker or to plan a multi-speaker conference either online or in person!

Contact Tricia at tricia@camera.org for more information.