Ask Augustine with Dr. Paul Tambrino
Ask Augustine is a weekly column where professor/author Dr. Paul Tambrino discusses various theological questions with wit, clarity and substance.
Question #44 – What is Hanukkah?
Hanukkah is the Hebrew word for dedication and is pronounced CHA-nu-ka. Although it is a Jewish holiday, the only mention of it in the Bible is found in John 10:22-23 in the New Testament, “And it was at Jerusalem the feast of the dedication, and it was winter. And Jesus walked in the temple in Solomon’s porch.“
However, the story is found in First and Second Maccabees, books which are not recognized as part of the canon of Scripture by either the Jews or the Protestants, but which are considered canonical by Roman Catholics.“The holiday lasts for eight days; starting at nightfall on December 18 and ending at nightfall on December 26.”
The Jewish historian, Josephus mentions the term Hanukkah in his history of Hanukkah. He explains, “The festival acquired this name because the right to serve God came to the people unexpectedly, as a light.”
The holiday lasts for eight days; starting at nightfall on December 18 and ending at nightfall on December 26.
When kindling the lights, two benedictions are recited, one is a blessing on the lights and the other for the miracle.
On the first night the blessing for the season is added and short prayer follows the kindling of the light.
The entire Hallel (Praise of God), Psalms 113-118, is said on each of the eight days. The reading of the law is from the portion of the Torah, which describes the sacrifices brought by the princes at the dedication of the sanctuary, and the kindling of the candelabrum (Num. 7:1–8:4).
The story of Hanukkah is the age-old story of Jewish struggle for survival in a hostile gentile world.
During the second century the Greek King Antiochus Epiphanes ruled Israel. The Greeks at that time worshiped many gods and goddesses.
The Jewish people were divided into two groups, the Hellenists who adopted the Greek way and the Hasidim who adhered to the laws of the Torah and refused to pay homage to the Greek gods.
King Antiochus was intolerant of the Jewish ways. He converted the Holy Temple in Jerusalem into a temple of Zeus. He placed a statue of himself in the temple, declared himself to be a god and held drunken orgies in the rooms of the temple.“A small amount of pure oil was found that was enough to keep the Temple menorah burning for one day, yet it miraculously lasted for eight days.”
A family (the Mattathias family) of righteous Jews, who lived in the village of Modin, revolted. Judah Maccabee, the son of Mattathias, led the revolt, which lasted almost three years.
When the Maccabees reclaimed Jerusalem they found the Temple in ruins. They began to restore the Temple and on the 25th day of Kislev the Temple was rededicated.
A small amount of pure oil was found that was enough to keep the Temple menorah burning for one day, yet it miraculously lasted for eight days.
Hence, the origin of the eight day celebration of Hanukkah and the eight branch menorah that is lit on each of the eight nights.
A ninth candle, the shammash (servant) is used to light the others.
To read more Ask Augustine articles like this one about Hanukkah, subscribe to our email list.
Are you a Christian writer looking to publish? Learn more.
Purchase Paul’s Christmas children’s book just in time for Christmas here.