Hanukkah 2012

It’s a bit early this year, but as always there’s some good music to go with it.

For those not familiar with Hanukkah, it’s the last miraculous saving act of God in the life of Jews before the coming of Jesus. As such it stands in a long line of types of Christ in the Scriptures and Apocryphal texts foreshadowing the events we are preparing to celebrate this Christmas.

The Hanukkah festival of lights, which Jesus himself celebrated (John 10:22-30) recalls the legend how, when it came to light the menorah in the Temple again after casting out the Greek Seleucids who had sacrificed a pig on the altar of the Temple, there was only enough oil available for one day’s burning. However, that oil lasted 8 whole days (one Sabbath to the next Sabbath – oil burning for 8 times it’s normal time is generally considered a miracle) so each day in Hannukah you light the servant candle in the middle first (the “shamash” candle) and then one extra candle starting from the right.  The Shamash candle reminds us that Jesus came not to be served but to serve. He is the light of the world, the one whom the darkness can never put out.

But there’s more. As I wrote a few years ago, when you start to explore the timings around Jesus’ birth, you find yourself drawn to the conclusion that the annunciation of Gabriel to Mary that she was carrying the Son of God occurs on the final day of the Hanukkah festival.

  • May 7BC – Conjunction of Jupiter and Saturn in the Constellation of Pisces
  • Feb 6BC – All the bright planets conjoin in Pisces (including an occultation)
  • 20th Feb 5BC – The moon and Jupiter and Mars and Saturn are close, again in Pisces
  • March 5BC – A SuperNova in the sky – the “Star of Bethlehem”

Pisces is important because in Babylonian astrology it signifies Judea.

So this leaves us with a date after March 5BC for the Wise men to set off on their trek to Jesus. That still doesn’t help us work exactly when Jesus was born. For this we turn to Luke’s Gospel. Luke 1:5 tells us that John the Baptist’s father Zechariah belonged to the priestly division of Abijah. We know that this division was the 8th of 24 to serve in the temple and this information helps us put a date on when Zechariah was in the temple – roughly the ninth or tenth week of the Jewish year or to put it another way (if this chart is right) towards the end of May 6BC. He goes home, has sex with his wife and they conceive (Luke 1:24). This would have been around early to mid June.

Now let’s leap forward to Luke 1:26. In the sixth month (after John’s conception) Gabriel visits Mary. Now if John was conceived early to mid June then this takes us to early – mid December 6BC. What’s important about this date? Well it’s bang smack during Channukah, the festival of lights. Channukah celebrates the cleansing of the Temple in Jerusalem after the Maccabean revolt. During Hanukkah candles are lit every day to remind Jews that though there was only enough oil to light the flame in the Temple for one day, the flame lasted eight days allowing a full consecration of the Temple to take place.

Why is this important? Well, without a proper consecration YHWH couldn’t return to the Temple. The fact that the flame lasted eight days meant that YHWH would have returned to dwell in the Holy of Holies.

Let’s now look at what Gabriel says to Mary in Luke 1:28 – “Greetings, you who are highly favoured! The Lord is with you.” These last 5 words are not insignificant. Just in the same way that YHWH returned to the Temple after the consecration to be with his people, so Gabriel’s annunciation to Mary on the last day of Hanukkah signifies that YHWH is once again with his people, but this time he is living inside a human, not a stone building. Jesus’ conception at the climax of Hanukkah, the Festival of Lights, is a clear sign that he is indeed the Light of the World.

And now we simply need to count 40 weeks forward from the end of Hannukah in 6BC. This takes us to the 14th of September 5BC which is the first day of Sukkot, the Feast of Tabernacles, surely the perfect day for the one who “dwelt (tabernacled) amongst us” (John 1:14) to be born. Sukkot remembers the Israelites in the wilderness before they entered Canaan, when YHWH was with them in the Ark. In the same way Jesus was born so that God would finally be with us forever (Immanuel).

Not convinced yet? Each day during Sukkot the worshippers in the Temple would have walked around singing Psalm 118:25-27:

O LORD, save us;
O LORD, grant us success.

Blessed is he who comes in the name of the LORD.
From the house of the LORD we bless you.

The LORD is God,
and he has made his light shine upon us.
With boughs in hand, join in the festal procession
up to the horns of the altar.

Assuming Jesus was born on the first day of Sukkot, that would have meant that these words would have been sung in the Temple every single day up until he was brought by Mary and Joseph for the customary offering, at which point Simeon would have taken him in his arms and said:

“Sovereign Lord, as you have promised,
you now dismiss your servant in peace.
For my eyes have seen your salvation,
which you have prepared in the sight of all people,
a light for revelation to the Gentiles
and for glory to your people Israel.

Pop Psalm 118:25-27 and Luke 2:29-32 next to each other and you see even more the context of Simeon’s prayer:

O LORD, save us;
O LORD, grant us success.
Blessed is he who comes in the name of the LORD.
From the house of the LORD we bless you.
For my eyes have seen your salvation,
which you have prepared in the sight of all people,
The LORD is God,
and he has made his light shine upon us.
a light for revelation to the Gentiles
With boughs in hand, join in the festal procession
up to the horns of the altar.
and for glory to your people Israel.

Of course Psalm 118 itself is a great messianic Psalm, full of prophecy of Jesus.

Now, where did I put my Menorah?

Posted in Advent, Chanukkah Tagged with: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,
  • There is an interesting piece in today’s Sunday Times which suggests that the Government having struggled to come up with a satisfactory definition of ‘consummation’ of a marriage between two people of the same gender, have decided that rather than try and work it before legalising same sex marriage have decided to let the courts work it out after it has been introduced.

    The same is the case for defining what ‘adultery’ will mean for same-sex couples.

    The potential legal aspect for heterosexual couples who are seeing their own marriage redefined could be interesting.

    • sheppied007

      Very interesting, as the government is finally showing its hand. BTW, here’s the link to the news article: http://www.thesundaytimes.co.uk/sto/news/uk_news/National/article1170451.ece

      I don’t think they had a choice, since consummation is a standard part of contract law. There’s no possibility of a genderless definition of consummation, so it’s a fudge to leave judges to make sense of it. Heterosexual intercourse triggers a range of potential legal consequences (issues of consent, abortion rights, parental and extended kinship rights and responsibilities and inheritance) that other kinds of interaction don’t. As with other contracts, consummation demonstrates the sober intent of both parties to be bound by the legal contract of marriage. It is expected that both parties to a valid contract have the capacity to fulfil it.

      Here’s my own take on the issue of valid marriage and annulment:

      • It’s such an interesting case because it is the prime example of how guarantees that the Law will protect people might be worthless. Letting courts decide us abrogating law making to them and NO-ONE knows what decision they will make.

        • Fiddlesticks

          This is just bizarre. A lot of civil servants sitting down to decide what particular intimate sexual act needs to be performed before the government decides to accept your relationship as legitimate or not. ‘What do you mean you’re not into that kind of thing? What kind of a homosexual are you? No. Your love just doesn’t meet government guidelines. Sorry.’ I can see why gay rights groups want to leave out the whole issue of consummation altogether. Are you really sure you want the government this involved in your private life, Linus?

          • sheppied007

            Plaintiff: ‘So, we met on holiday and kept in contact. We fell in love, or so I thought. She/he came to England to stay with me on holiday. I guess I wanted to keep our marriage special, for the wedding night to mean something. We got married a year ago, but since the wedding, there’s been some intimacy, but specifically no intercourse. Things have deteriorated so much and she/he now wants half of the estate in exchange for a quick divorce. I just don’t think it was ever a real marriage’

            Solicitor: ‘Well, there is the remedy of annulment that would simply treat the marriage as invalid. You both walk away with what you each owned before the wedding. The courts need to decide whether you are still bound by your partner or not, that what was withheld showed that she/he never intended to fulfil the basic expectations of marriage. Although there was intimacy, it appears that it was never consummated.’

            Plaintiff: ‘What do you mean by consummated?’

            Solicitor: ‘That’s a bit vague now’

            • Linus Wilmington

              Marry in haste, repent at leisure.

              If the person in your example wants a religious annulment, all they have to do is explain their circumstances to their church and they’ll be free to marry again.

              If they can show bad faith on the part of the spouse, then the courts will probably grant a civil annulment. Basing this on a specific sexual act, or rather the lack of it, is in this day and age virtually impossible to prove. Upwards of 90% of heterosexual women have had sex before they marry, so there will be no physical evidence of non-consummation. At the end of the day the courts will make their decisions based on the credibility of each spouse during cross-examination, supported by witness statements and other proof of unreasonable behaviour.

              The infinitesimal number of women who can prove physical virginity will certainly be able to use this fact as supporting evidence of unreasonable spousal behaviour, but it won’t be in and of itself the only reason for annulling a marriage.

              • sheppied007

                As you well know, consummation and nullity are standard parts of contract law, not just marriage. There is no reason for a special pleading to exclude either frrom marriage.

                Permanent medically incurable impotence of an individual does not demonstrate bad faith. They may not have been aware until the wedding night and sought treatment. It does limit the extent to which their faithful partner can fulfil the reasonable intimacy with a spouse who is discovered to be incapable of intercourse. The law says that there is the right to treat the marriage as if it hadn’t occurred. A religious annulment will not return both parties to their position before the marriage was contracted, so it’s not the correct or complete remedy.

                The fact that, as you say, it may be hard to prove is no reason for a special exception of excluding it as nullifying the marriage contract, especially not as a means of shoe-horning into the institution of marriage those fully potent individuals who, only by the very paired constitution (which is the focus of legal invalidation) lack the capacity and are declared void ab initio. Just as the fact that a spouse has had previous sexual partners, or the difficulty in obtaining evidence is no reason to exclude adultery as a fact of divorce.

          • Linus Wilmington

            The whole concept of consummation is a hangover from medieval times when women were regarded as vaginal real estate and a husband quite literally had to “move in” to his new possession in order to validate the acquisition. It has no place in a modern society predicated on notions of gender equality.

            Personally I believe that the government is leaving this issue up to case law because that’s the best and fastest way of consigning “consummation” to the dustbin of history without making a political football out of it. If a marriage can only validated by a specific sexual act that same-gender couples cannot perform, it will be argued that the requirement is discriminatory and must therefore be abrogated.

            Of course conservatives will shriek about “one more nail in the coffin of traditional marriage”, but here’s the thing: no matter what the law says, they’ll still be able to consummate their marriages according to the traditional manner. There will be no legal recognition of their first act of vaginal coitus, but then, why should there be?

            I have no fear that the government will interfere in my private life, and when the concept of consummation is abandoned it will stop interfering in the private lives of straight couples too. Less government interference makes for more personal freedom, as our American cousins would say. I see this as a good thing.

            • So this begs a question. If we remove all reference to consummation from marriage law (which would essentially remove the idea that marriage is a monogamous sexual union), does that mean that adulterous sex isn’t grounds for divorce?

  • cerebusboy
    • Was waiting for the obligatory “Christians pretending to be Jews” comment from you

      • cerebusboy

        It’s a legitimate one! From the (orthodox) Jewish perspective, conversion is infamously very difficult, suggesting that members of other religions pretending to be Jewish (I’d imagine you’d have a problem with a non-Christian participating in the Eucharist!) is a tad problematic. From the Christian perspective, is the church calendar really so deficient that we have to celebrate the feats of other religions? From a logical perspective, don’t the Jewish holy days gain much of their meaning from their relationship to each other? Is it safe to say that, in contrast, you probably will not be drinking until you don’t know the difference between “cursed be Haman” and “blessed be Mordechai” on Purim, suggesting something of a problematically pick-and-choose approach?
        At least I (or rather Jerry Seinfeld) was funny this time ;-)
        Would you agree that even if someone did agree with your biblical interpretation above that would not make observing Hannukah a good (let alone necessary) action?

        • You obviously weren’t with me last Purim….

          This evening Reuben and I Iit the servant candle and the first candle. We talked about how this remembered the last miracle before Jesus was born. We even talked about how when Mary lit her eighth candle the angel Gabriel appeared to her to tell her she was carrying a special baby – Jesus. Then we sat in the dark playing Coin Dozer on my tablet while the candles burnt in the window for all to see (as instructed).

          And if that’s a bad thing well, then we did a bad thing. Sue me.

          • cerebusboy

            A lovely vignette (seriously), but would you say that you are a Christian engaged in ‘Christianised’ Jewish worship, or are some (but not all?) Jewish rituals/Holy Days potentially/inherently Christian? You’d agree that Christians, at best, will have to be pretty ‘pick and choose’ about what aspects of the Jewish faith and practice they endorse? Would you also agree that some Jews might have problems with non-Jews celebrating Jewish festivals, perhaps especially if said festivals are being interpreted as being about Jesus?

            • Would be more than happy to say:

              (i) They are unashamedly Christianised
              (ii) That they aren’t in any sense obligatory and no Christian is missing out by not marking them
              (iii) Yes, I’d expect some Jews to be very unhappy about Christianising these things, but that’s not rocket science!

  • Ian

    Sir, a friend of mine stumbled across your website and gave me the link. He did this because I gave him a copy of a paper documenting research I did some years ago. Eschewing astrology as unbiblical and relying mostly on Hoehner’s ‘Chronological aspects of the Life of Christ’. I did some research modifying Hoehner with Tabernacles/Sukkot. I had some date calculation software and using that I discovered how the Magi not only knew the birthdate of Jesus but also His death and resurrection. I think the second time they were more discreet and the Gentiles who would see Jesus were treated to a reference to the Son of Man. It’s all in Daniel, a book they would have possessed due to his pre-eminence in his time. The dates I have for His birth are the same as yours. There are many other significances that I have discovered since then and I am in no doubt that Chanukah is the Incarnation.

    As to cerebusboy: it’s not about being Jews or Christians. The feasts are the feasts of the LORD are prophetically related to the Messiah so it’s about the identity of the Messiah. Tabernacles will , one day be celebrated by the whole world, Zechariah 14. It’s His birthday feast as well as His wedding feast. Jews and Christians are now in the same place, waiting for the coming of the King Messiah. The difference is that we know who He is.

    • I’m curious that you think the Magi knew the date of Jesus’ death and resurrection. Not sure I can find any evidence for that in the Scriptures. Perhaps you’d like to expand that idea?

      • Ian

        It’s based on the numbers generated by the relationship between the Babylonian 360 day year and the observable year. These numbers come up in apocalyptic books. The crucifixion is calculable from Daniel 9:24 ff. What seems to be a mysterious reference in Daniel would be a big hint to the Magi. After that it’s just a case of counting back from the crucifixion, adjusting by a few days for Sukkot and then discovering that your start point has moved from the crucifixion to the Barley havest feast of first-fruits(not Pentecost). At that point, you have the whole story. I haven’t published so I don’t wish to give too much away.

        • I’m afraid you might have to do the math for me to get me convinced!

          • Ian

            The Daniel 9:24ff calculation is well known in conservative evangelical circles and Hoehner’s ‘Chronological aspects of the Life of Christ’ does the work for you. You already know the date of His birth. Using Hoehner’s work and what you already know, together with date calculatoin software and you can duplicate my work. it’s that easy.This is far more than an unpublished researcher shoud give anyone.


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Two Final Things

Aber mit der Heimat
geht man immer herum,
durch die Welt,
dort und dort
Peter Handke

No one could describe
the Word of the Father;
but when He took flesh from you, O Theotokos,
He consented to be described, and restored the fallen image to its former beauty.
We confess and proclaim our salvation in word and image.
Kontakion of the Triumph of Orthodoxy