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Why Hanukkah? (part 4 of 4)

Post Title: Ours is a Resistance Movement

Here is a helpful clarification.

Hanukkah commemorates a historic event in the life of God's people that was subsequently established as a festival to remember the event. In the time of Jesus, the focus of Hanukkah was on the military victory of little Israel against the mighty army of the Syrians. However, the meaning of this festival shifted over time.

After the destruction of the Temple in AD 70—and following the Second Jewish revolt in AD 135—the Rabbis began downplaying the military aspects of the revolt. They emphasized instead the more spiritual aspects of Hanukkah—the rededication of the Temple and the supernatural light that God provided for the Menorah. These traditions and celebrations continue to this day in Jewish communities worldwide.

As I pointed out before, the meaning of Hanukkah for us is to be found in grasping the historical context. What seemed a clash of cultures was actually a battle for allegiance. Whom would they serve, the God of Israel or the gods of the nations?

Before I share some final thoughts, let's take a moment to draw several key contrasts between a Hellenistic and a Hebraic worldview.

It never occurs to many people that ours is different from the culture of Jesus. Even our way of thinking differs from the way Jesus or the writers of Scripture thought. Yet there are significant differences between a Hebrew orientation to life and a Greek orientation to life, between a biblical and a western worldview.

Consider these examples:

  • What is ultimately important to the Hebraic mind is reliance upon the Omnipotent God and conformity to his moral law. To the Hellenistic, no revelation is considered ultimate because reason takes precedence. This idea of reason or logic is then used to analyze everything else. It does not submit to divine revelation.

  • Ultimate wisdom, to the biblical mind, is to seek God and the ultimate virtue is to obey Him. To the western mind, there is no law to which one bows except self-expression.

  • Ironically, the ultimate freedom in a Hebraic worldview is the freedom of obedience. To the Hellenistic, it is the freedom of self.

  • The biblical mind typically asks, "What does the Lord require of me?" while the western mind asks, "Why are things the way they are?" One places supreme importance upon conduct and obedience, while the other places supreme importance upon truth and knowledge.

I am not suggesting these two ways are antithetical, as if one is all good and the other is all bad. Nor am I advocating ignorance or isolation as a means to being faithful. Our ability to reason is a gift from God meant to bow to and serve Him.

As I said before, educating to a more Hebraic—a more biblical worldview—is required. Then we will discern how the values and ideas of culture carry with them a worldview that, in many respects, diverges from a biblical one. If you are not sophisticated enough to know that, you will get sucked right into it without even knowing.

Here is a hard truth. Our world so conditions us that we are not too interested in giving sacrificial service or making our bodies temples of holiness.

We are much more impressed with comfort and convenience. Trust me; I am looking in the mirror as I say this. We are all guilty. How many hours a day do we spend watching TV as compared to studying the Word of God?

Do you realize that the whole advertising industry flaunts the Word of God? What does one of the Ten Commandments say? You shall not covet. Yet the entire basis of advertising is to make you want, to make you covet. What you have is not good enough. You need the latest fashions! The sages taught that a contented man is a wealthy man. Yet the fundamental principle of advertising is to make you discontented with what you have.

In our day, we face battles in many areas, including issues related to properly understanding God's Word.

During this period of Greek influence, a subversive and uniquely Jewish writing genre arose in Israel. We call it apocalyptic literature, which serves as an example of Jewish opposition to paganizing forces. Interestingly, another form of resistance developed over time, the parable. Parables are biblical truths captured and pictured in story form.

Here is one from the Talmud, a Jewish compilation of oral teaching, traditions, and dialogue.

A wicked government issued a decree forbidding Jews to study and practice the Torah. Papus Ben Judah found Rabbi Akiva publicly bringing gatherings together and occupying himself with the Torah. He said to him, "Akiva, are you not afraid of the government?" To which Akiva replied, "I will explain to you with a parable."

"Once there was a fox walking alongside a river, and he saw fishes going in swarms from one place to the other; and the fox said to the fishes, 'From what are you fleeing?' They replied, 'From the nets cast for us by men.' And the fox said to them, 'Why don't you come up on the dry land so that you and your friends and I can live together in a way that my ancestors lived with your ancestors?'"

"And the fish replied, 'Are you the one that they call the cleverest of animals? You are not clever but foolish. If we are afraid in the element in which we live, how much more shall we be afraid in the element in which we would die.'"

"So it is with us," said Akiva. "If such is our condition when we sit and study the Torah, of which it is written 'for that is your life and the length of your days' (Deut 20:30), if we go and neglect it, how much worse off shall we be." - Tractate Berachot 61b

Finally, brothers and sisters, be strong in the Lord and in the strength of his might. Put on the whole armor of God, that you may be able to stand against the schemes of the devil. For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers over this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places.

Therefore take up the whole armor of God, that you may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand firm.



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This study is from a professionally produced transcription of the audio recording. It was edited for readability by the team at JC Studies.

Dwight A. Pryor (1945-2011) was a gifted Bible teacher of exceptional clarity and depth who earned the friendship and admiration of both Christian and Jewish scholars—in the United States and Israel—as well as the respect and appreciation of followers of Jesus around the world. His expertise in the language, literature, and culture of Israel during the life and time of Jesus and the early church yield insights that nourish every area of faith and practice.

Dwight founded JC Studies in 1984 to edify the people of God. Click here to explore over fifty of his audio and video seminars.


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