HANUKKAH OR THE WINTER FESTIVAL?
It’s no secret how pagan holidays have been cloaked with biblical themes to get them accepted, and later embraced as the absolute undisputed truth. Easter and Christmas are both undeniable proof this highly successful trend of cloaking still lurks in today’s modern culture. Can Hanukkah be the exception; is it possible that it has escaped the cloaking scam?
Those who have “Fear of the Lord” want to learn the truth in all matters so they can respond by making Godly changes in their life. Strangely enough, others prefer to turn a deaf ear to anything that might test their faith, or ruffle their nest full of “traditions of men.” They, rather than responding to the truth, usually display a horrified reaction as if they have just been tempted by some newly discovered antichrist, only to withdraw themselves from future fellowship. Paul said it plain enough in Galatians 4:16, “Am I therefore become your enemy, because I tell you the truth?” This paper is research based on historical facts.
THE HANUKKAH SCRIPTURE
In John 10:22 we find the only reference made of a feast of dedication, during winter, and Yeshua was in Jerusalem. From this one and only instance, a whole doctrine has been built claiming that Yeshua was there to celebrate the Hanukkah festival. First of all, the Word of God says that truth is only established by two or three witnesses; Secondly, if an entire doctrine can be implied by one slight mention, which was so vague that it doesn’t prove anything, then how much more so should a history of evidence determine if any of the festivities at Hanukkah were influenced by pagan origins?
If any part of the Hanukkah festivities were entwined with paganism, is it even remotely possible that Yeshua, the Son of God, by whom and for whom everything was created, could have been be so un-informed that He unknowingly participated in any disguised rituals? If your answer is yes, there is no point reading any further.
A BRIEF HISTORY ABOUT THE SEASON
The winter solstice (late December) is the longest night and the shortest day of the entire year. "Solstice" comes from the Latin words: "sol" meaning the sun and "sistere" which means, “to cause to stand still.” The winter solstice marks the beginning of the winter season and the birth of a new solar year. This birth also marks the celebration of “light” or the rebirth of the sun re-lighting the earth and the other planets. In old Europe, the solstice was also known as Yule, deriving its name from the Norse word "Jul," meaning wheel. The winter festival, cloaked or not, is linked to almost every religion past and present; Judaism and Christianity do not seem to escape its grasp.
The winter solstice played host to other pagan beliefs. Long before the Roman domination, Israel was under bondage to the Egyptians over 400 years. Ancient Egypt observed the death and burial of their god-man, Osiris, at this same time of year (December 21). During the Roman Empire, which also controlled Israel (63 BCE to 313 CE), two festivals were combined to cover a full seven-day week, from December 17 to December 23. One was “Saturnalia” (Saturn-alia: Saturn-feast), the god of agriculture, and the second was “Opalia” (Op-alia: Ops-feast), the goddess of plenty. Then, on December 25th, a third festival called the “Birthday of the Unconquered Surl” (or Invincible Sun) occurred to celebrate the birth of blending pagan gods with mortals producing pagan god-men, like Hercules, Perseus, and Apollo.
Even though it took centuries to accept, at some point, the church leaders ironically selected this same date, December 25th, as the birth date of Yeshua (Jesus) and celebrated the birth of the “Son” rather than the “Sun”. This date really doesn’t come as any surprise, since multiple celebrations were already going on at this time of year throughout the Roman Empire, which included Israel. The Romans, like the Egyptian had a god for everything and every season. Pagan gods and their symbols were already being honored including Yule, gift giving, candlemass, and tree decorating. Hanukkah, which also falls in late December carries many of the same traits and is also observed on the same numerical date, the 25th, only on different calendars (Hebrew 9th month called Chislev).
SIMILARITIES OF HANUKKAH &
CHRISTMAS (THE WINTER FESTIVAL)
The Jewish 8-day festival of Hanukkah (presently known as Festival of Lights, and Feast of Dedication), whose story was not even included in biblical cannon, was originally just a minor festival. It has grown in importance since the birth of Christianity and the present day migration of Christianity into the Messianic movement. This festival is documented in the Apocrypha and celebrated the retaking of the Temple at Jerusalem by the Maccabees from Antiochus. This Syrian king desecrated the Temple of God by dedicating it to a Pagan deity, you guessed it, on December 25th, during the time of the winter solstice (around 163 BCE). Judah, the leader of the Maccabees, recaptured control, restored the temple, and relit the menorah three years later on the same day.
The following are only a few of the obvious similarities between the festival of Hanukkah and Christmas that are way too similar to be just coincidence or to be ignored.
- Both occur during the same season of the year, the winter solstice.
- Both holiday seasons span eight days
- Both use "lights" as a major theme
- Both give gifts as part of the celebration
- Both have a their heroes: Judah of the Macabees and yes, Santa
- Both occur on the same numerical date, (25th) only in different calendars.
- Both symbolize birth or re-birth of the Son or the Sun
- Both occur at the time of the Winter Festival: The re-birth of the “sun god” giving light to the planets and the new solar year.
THE JUSTIFICATION OF THE LIGHTS
The historical record of the Temple desecration and recapture is precisely documented in the Apocrypha, but the legend of the miraculous flame that burned for eight days is NOT mentioned at all. According to Jewish legend, at the retaking of the Temple and the relighting of the Menorah, there was only enough consecrated oil to burn for one day. Miraculously the flames lasted for eight days and thus the celebrating of lights and candle lighting at Hanukkah. Is that what really happened?
It is not common knowledge, but the account of the miraculous flame that burned for eight days on oil sufficient for only 24 hours, is NOT mentioned in the Apocrypha. A major historian, Josephus (a Jewish general turned Roman historian), was the first to refer to Hanukkah as the "Feast of Lights." He also writes that Hanukkah assumed a completely different character during the first century after Messiah came. It was not until around 200AD, almost 400 years later, that an after the fact story was written in Jewish writings called the Gemara (*see note), trying to give some explanation to the origin of the lights and why Hanukkah had become transformed into a festival of lights. It was this story that suggested a small container of oil, enough for only one day, miraculously continued to supply sufficient oil for eight days, thereby bringing the prominence of "lights" to the feast. Yes, we all know that God can do it, but lets stick to the facts, that was not what happened.
Even the Jewish historian, Hayyim Schauss,
writes the following about the lights:
"The very fact that legends were created in an effort to connect the Festival of Hanukkah with the lights arouses suspicion. Had this connection existed from the beginning, from the time that Hanukkah became a festival, there would have been no need to invent tales about them."
"All these facts call for explanations, and in accordance with what we know of the customs, there can be but one explanation: that the Hanukkah lights, originally had nothing to do with Hanukkah".
"Why the Hanukkah lights began to play an important role in the generation before-the-destruction- of-the-second-Temple- we cannot be sure." End of quotes………….
Before the destruction of the second Temple is during the time of complete domination by the Roman Empire and their pagan influences! The historic records seem to validate at the very least, three undeniable facts, (1) the similarities are too numerous to overlook as coincidences, (2) all the lights came from some custom other than Hanukkah, and (3) a cover-up story was invented to validate the lights some 400 years after the fact… Schauss and Josephus do not call it cloaking but they dance all around it using words like, suspicious, tales, connecting legends, and assuming characters.
THE NUMBER JUSTIFICATION OF THE EIGHT CANDLES
Until the 1900’s there were only eight know planets that were illuminated by the sun (eight plus one). Due to the widespread sun and planet worship of the ancient time, that fact is very suspicious as the real reason relating to the number of candles used at Hanukkah. The following is “the attempt” to justify the “eight plus one” even though the lighting of candles came much later and, more importantly, the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob uses a seven candle Menorah.
The Hanukkah lamp stand has nine lights. The one in the center, called the "Shamash" or Servant candle, is higher than the rest. In the Hanukkah tradition, the Servant candle must be lighted first, and then used to provide light to the remaining eight candles, on each of the succeeding eight days of the Festival.
Yes, the numerical number eight does fit the symbolism for that which is new beginnings. But, lets be honest, there are really nine candles no matter what the tallest one is called. Probably the most accurate reason for eight days of Hanukkah was the dedication of Solomon’s Temple during the Feast of Tabernacles was eight days. Here are just a few other examples explaining the eight candles or eight days.
- Eight people were saved through the judgment of the flood to begin a new human race.
- The eighth day begins the new week.
- Leprosy was to be cleansed on the eighth day to begin a new life (Leviticus 14.10)
- David, who was to begin a kingdom under God, was the eighth son of Jesse (I Samuel 16.10).
Now, not forgetting that Israel was controlled by the Roman Empire, one of the actual sources of the “Festival of Lights” (candles) can be traced back to pagan Rome possibly before the event of Hanukkah ever occurred in the Apocrypha. In addition to the sun god lighting the eight planets, there was also another winter festival practice by the Roman followers of a goddess called Ceres, the mother of Proserpina. Her followers would carry torches and candles used to light up the underworld searching for Ceres. (Pagan rites paid to the dead - The Catholic Encyclopedia) Also, the Pope would distribute candles on what was called “Candlemass” and of course this fell in the winter season also.
WHAT CAN WE CONCLUDE?
Honoring the rededication of God’s Temple is a good thing, but it appears that Hanukkah has turned into something blended by another origin. Even Jewish historians indicate the true Hanukkah was a relative small feast until the birth of Christianity. While Hanukkah and Christmas (The Winter Festival) possess too many unusual similarities to overlook, it would be impossible on that basis alone to determine the Winter Festival has evolved disguised as Hanukkah. However, considering all the suspicious similarities, plus the cover-up oil legend 400 years after the fact, any reasonable man, wanting to know the truth, will acknowledge the probability that compromises were made over the years is far more than just coincidences.
These compromises were most likely the product of replacing the emotional loss of their favorite paganisms while converting to Christianity. Withdrawal pains would easily explain how any biblical theme could take on the characteristics of pagan holidays, especially if you’re getting a quick fix substitute. As mentioned before, Easter and Christmas are undeniable proof how this tragic but successful cloaking trend gets imbedded into our culture as the absolute truth. Just walk into any Church today during Easter Sunday or the Christmas play and blurt out, “you’re participating in pagan rituals of the devil disguised with biblical themes,” and see just how long it takes for you to be choked within an inch of you life and thrown out at the same time. Hanukkah seems no exception.
Yes He is, Yeshua (Jesus) is the "Light" of the world. Judaism, however, does not recognize Him as the Messiah and therefore, cannot exploit Him into their explanation of the Hanukkah lights. The wisdom of God far surpasses that of man; if they used Him as an excuse for the lights, ironically that could be considered as acknowledging Him as the Messiah, thus another reason for the oil story.
There is absolutely no positive proof that Yeshua ever celebrated Hanukkah, other than attempting to tie one scripture, not two or three as the scriptures demand, but only one at a particular time of year to His presence in Jerusalem. For crying out loud, this is the city of the Great King and the House of His Father. He was there many times teaching in the Temple, whether it was Sabbath or not, Feast or not, and cold or hot. What was Yeshua really thinking while He was walking around on Solomon’s porch? He had already made it clear what He thought about His Father’s House being made into a mockery and a den of thieves. If He really was there, not responding to Hanukkah, but rather reacting because of Hanukkah practices, maybe, just maybe, He was looking for another whip of cords….
- Gemara: Part of the Talmud, consisting primarily of commentary on the Mishnah.
- Mishnah: Collection of early oral interpretations of the scriptures compiled about A.D. 200
* How can the Gemara story about the miraculous oil be categorized in the Mishnah as commentary on the oral interpretations of the scriptures? (1) It wasn’t in the scriptures, (2) which means there wasn’t any scripture to interpret; therefore (3) with nothing to interpret, there couldn’t be any commentary on the interpretation especially since (4) it was only an invented story some 400 years after the fact, attempting to give some sort of explanation or hiding the real origin or the unknown origin of the lights.
Hosea 4:6 “My people are destroyed for lack of knowledge”…