The Feast of Dedication
Seven-stem Temple menorah and nine-stem Hanukkah menorah (Wikipedia images)
Where Science Meets Religion by Trent Dee Stephens, PhD, for the Come Follow Me lesson April 24-30: John 7–10
We read in John 10:22, “And it was at Jerusalem the feast of the dedication, and it was winter.” What was/is the feast of the dedication?
The Bible Dictionary states, “The Feast of the Dedication was instituted in the days of Judas Maccabaeus [c. 190 - 160 BC] to commemorate the dedication of the new altar of burnt offering after the profanation of the temple and the old altar by Antiochus Epiphanes [a Greek Hellenistic king who ruled from 175 BC until his death in 164 BC]. The feast began on the 25th Chisleu, the anniversary of the profanation in 168 B.C., and the dedication in 165 B.C., and lasted eight days, during which no fast or mourning for any calamity or bereavement was allowed. It was kept like the Feast of Tabernacles with great gladness and with the bearing of the branches of palms and of other trees. There was also a general illumination, from which circumstance the feast received the name Feast of Lights.” Today, the feast is more commonly known as Hanukkah.
So when is 25th Chisleu? According to Wikipedia, Kislev or Chislev, in Hebrew, is the ninth month in the Babylonian calendar: Araḫ Kislimu. The Babylonian calendar was/is a lunar calendar of twelve months, each beginning with a new, waxing crescent moon. As a result, the beginning of each month changes from year to year when compared to our standard Gregorian calendar, which is a solar calendar. Because of the differences between a lunar and a solar calendar, the seven Jewish feasts throughout the year are referred to as “movable feasts” because their dates change each year according to the Gregorian calendar.
Hanukkah may begin as early as late November or as late as late December. The feast lasts eight days, each of which begins at sundown with the lighting of a new candle on the Hanukkah menorah. The original temple menorah (from the Semitic “to give light”) is described in Exodus 37: 17-19: “And he [Bezaleel, the chief artisan of the Tabernacle] made the candlestick of pure gold: of beaten work made he the candlestick; his shaft, and his branch, his bowls, his knops, and his flowers, were of the same: And six branches going out of the sides thereof; three branches of the candlestick out of the one side thereof, and three branches of the candlestick out of the other side thereof: Three bowls made after the fashion of almonds in one branch, a knop and a flower; and three bowls made like almonds in another branch, a knop and a flower: so throughout the six branches going out of the candlestick.”
According to Philip Birnbaum, in his 1975, A Book of Jewish Concepts1, “The menorah…symbolizes the creation in seven days, with the center light representing the Sabbath. The seven branches are also said to allude to the continents of the earth as well as the seven heavens, guided by the light of God.” The problem with the notion of seven continents is that before the era of exploration from 1492 to 1606, Europeans were aware of only three continents: Europe, Asia, and Africa. One the other hand, the seven layers of heaven dates back to the ancient Mesopotamians, who regarded the sky as a series of three or sometimes seven domes covering a flat earth. Each of the seven domes corresponded to one of the seven planets: the Moon, Mercury, Venus, the Sun, Mars, Jupiter, and Saturn.2 That concept was shattered by the discovery of the Julian moons by Galileo Galilei on January 7th, 1610.3
Concerning the nine-stemmed menorah, Brad Horwitz posted an essay, December 06, 2012 on the Jewish Community Center4, in which he stated, “The rabbinic legend found in the Talmud, recounts that when the [Maccabean] victory [over the Greeks] was secured, the Jews entered the Temple in Jerusalem and found it desecrated. There was only one small cruse of pure oil, enough to light the menorah in the Temple for one day. But it lasted eight days, in time to produce new pure oil and the menorah was able to remain lit and never burn out. This miracle is attributed to God and the faith that the Jews had in God.” As a result, Hanukkah lasts for eight days and the nine-stemmed Hanukkah menorah celebrates that miracle.
Did nine-stemmed Hanukkah menorahs exist in Christ’s day? The answer is apparently yes. In a 2014 essay on The Complete Pilgrim website, Howard Kramer stated, “In recent years the oldest nine-branched Hanukkah menorah ever discovered was unearthed in Jerusalem. The office of antiquities confirmed that it dated from the Second Temple era [586 BC - 70 AD; 164 BC – 70 AD for the nine-stemmed menorah]. Afterwards it was acquired by the Living Torah Museum in Brooklyn, which features a small but excellent collection of ancient Jewish artifacts.”5
Jesus and His disciples celebrated the Feast of the Dedication. During that feast, also known as the Feast of Lights, Jesus Christ, the “light of the world” (John 8:12) “…walked in the temple in Solomon’s porch.” (John 10:23) And said to the Jews gathered there, “I and my Father are one.” (John 10:30) And for this, “…the Jews took up stones again to stone him.” (John10:31)
Jesus Christ is the Light and the Life of the world. He said, “I am the resurrection, and the life: he that believeth in me, though he were dead, yet shall he live: And whosoever liveth and believeth in me shall never die.” (John 11:25-26) Of this truth I testify.
Please join me for my weekly discussions of Where Science Meets Religion – The Infinite Creation – 6 PM each Thursday at the Century Ward meeting house Primary room (at 4th and Fredregill, Pocatello). We’re still trying to make it to the dinosaurs, hopefully this week we will discuss: Dinosaurs Were Part of the Infinite Creation. I also will be Zooming the sessions: Meeting ID: 935 754 2152 Passcode: nka
Trent Dee Stephens
1. Birnbaum, Philip, A Book of Jewish Concepts, Hebrew Publishing Company, New York, 1975, pp. 366–367
2. Nemet-Nejat, Karen Rhea, Daily Life in Ancient Mesopotamia, Daily Life, Greenwood, 1998, 180
3. nasa.gov/feature/410-years-ago-galileo-discovers-jupiter-s-moons; retrieved 22 April 2023
4. jccstl.com/blog/hanukkah-miracles; retrieved 22 April 2023
5. thecompletepilgrim.com/worlds-oldest-hanukkah-menorah; retrieved 22 April 2023