The Hanukkah Miracle: Fact or Fiction?

The Hanukkah Miracle: Fact or Fiction?

By Kelly McDonald, Jr.

When we think about the Hanukah celebration, we tend to think about God’s miraculous work for the Jewish people. It is a historical account filled with amazing plot lines that we can learn many lessons from today. However, there is one event in the Hanukkah account that may or may not have happened. It involves the relighting of the menorah.

We will begin with a brief overview of the historical details leading up to the Hanukkah story. In 175 BC, there was a Greek king named Antiochus IV who ruled over the Seleucid Kingdom. This kingdom spanned from modern-day Syria to near India. It went as far south as the border of Egypt. Antiochus was not content with this massive territory; he sought to conquer Egypt as well.

He tried twice and failed both times. The second failure occurred in 168. On this expedition, the Romans decided to protect Egypt and opposed his expansion. Antiochus had made extensive preparations for this expedition and was determined to conquer something. Since he was deterred from Egypt, he turned his fury towards the Jewish people and especially the city of Jerusalem.

Initially, Antiochus and his forces approached Jerusalem under a banner of peace. When the army entered the city, they began to slaughter innocent people and even sold them into slavery. As part of his desecration, he invaded the Temple precincts. He erected a temple of Zeus and sacrificed a pig on God’s altar. The pig’s blood was spread inside the Temple. Whole sections of the city were desecrated.

The Jewish people did not remain silent. Antiochus sent his henchmen into the country side to compel Jewish people to sacrifice to the Greek gods and eat unclean animal meat. Among the first men to resist this apostasy was Judeas Maccabeus. He refused to compromise his beliefs and fought back. He led a group that would later become called the Maccabees.

The Jewish people fought valiantly despite being serious disadvantages. They were outnumbered, had inferior equipment and had a lack of military training compared to their Greek counterparts. Despite these apparent deficits, the Jewish people won victory after victory. It was truly miraculous how God came through for His people.

After three years of intense fighting, the Jewish people regained control of the Temple area. Once this happened, they immediately sought to purify it from Antiochus’ defilement. They cleansed it of impurities and prepared it to be used for God’s purposes once again.

As part of rededicating the Temple, they had to relight the menorah. According to Jewish legend, they only found one container of pure oil that had not been defiled. The account goes on to say that they lit the menorah on faith and this one container of oil lasted eight days (the entire time of the rededication). This event is called the Hanukkah miracle.

When we read about Hanukkah and the revolt against the Greeks, the legend of the menorah being rekindled is usually given a prominent place. Some say that the miracle of the oil did not happen.  For some reason, modern people do not place as much emphasis on the military victories – which were miracles in and of themselves. In this article, we will review the historicity of the Hanukkah miracle. The term historicity refers to the historical legitimacy of an event. In other words, did it really happen? Another question we hope to answer: why are the military victories not as emphasized by people today when we discuss Hanukkah?

Let’s start by examining the primary sources nearest these events. A primary source is a person, artifact, or some historical record that is contemporary to the time period being examined.

The first book of Maccabees was written about the time that the events surrounding the Hanukah story occurred. This book describes the invasion of the Greeks, the courageous resistance of the Jewish people, and their victory. In it, the re-lighting of the menorah is told.

“They burned incense on the altar and lighted lamps on the lampstand, and these gave light in the Temple” (1 Maccabees 4:50). The re-lighting of the Menorah is recounted as a significant event in the rededication of the Temple. This account also mentions how the menorah and altar of incense brought light to the Temple. Thus, the light emanating from the menorah (and the altar of incense) is a central theme of the rededication. However, there is no mention that there was a lack of oil for the menorah or that it burned eight days on a one-day supply.

Another historical work completed after the Hanukkah story is called the second book of Maccabees. The name for this work can be a little deceiving. It is commonly called the second book of Maccabees, but it was a summary of a five volume series written by Jason of Cyrene (2 Maccabees 2:19-25). The author of second Maccabees describes the “mass of material” available in Jason’s work. These volumes recounted the story of Judas Maccabeus and the rededication of the Temple. Second Maccabees mentions the relighting of the menorah (2 Macc. 10:3). It does not mention the Hanukkah miracle. The five volumes by Jason might have contained more details about the lightning of the menorah. Unfortunately, these volumes have been lost.

The next credible source describing these events comes from Josephus, a first century AD source. His account follows first Maccabees pretty closely. He mentions no miracles, but he does mention the menorah being rekindled. The other furniture pieces are also mentioned.

“…they lighted the lamps that were on the candlestick, and offered incense upon the altar of incense, and laid the loaves upon the table of showbread, and offered burnt offerings upon the new altar of burnt-offering…Nay, they were so very glad at the revival of their customs, when, after a long intermission, they unexpectedly had regained the freedom of their worship, that they made it a law for their posterity, that they should keep a festival on account of the restoration of their temple worship for eight days. And from that time to this we celebrate this festival and call it “Lights”. I suppose the reason was, because this liberty beyond all Hopes appeared to us; and that thence was the name given to that festival” (Antiquities, Book 12, Chapter 7).

This is a fascinating statement. Did Josephus know more than what he disclosed? He called this festival the festival of lights but gives no reason as to why it should be called that. The Greek word translated as lights in this passage literally means illumination – as emanating from a light source. His statement indicates he may not have been completely convinced how the name “Festival of Lights” was conceived.

Josephus, 1 Maccabees and 2 Maccabees are the primary sources closest to the Hanukkah story. The menorah being relit was obviously an important part of reclaiming the Temple. It is recalled by all of them. If some kind of miracle occurred regarding the menorah (or any other Temple furniture piece), maybe these authors did not know about it or chose to leave it out. The fact that they had freedom from the Greeks seems to be of the upmost importance. The Jewish people gained control of their own destiny and could worship God.

Another very important point to consider in this discussion is the following: how many people would have actually been around to view any miracle inside the temple? Only priests could enter the Temple and re-light the menorah. The writer of 1 Maccabees may not have had access to testimonies about those who witnessed it (if it actually happened). As aforementioned, we do not have the five volumes written by Jason.

The main sources that discuss any miracle of oil come later. The Babylonian Talmud was written between 200 and 500 AD. In it, we read about the miracle. This was hundreds of years after the event happened.

“…When the Greeks entered the sanctuary they defiled all the oils that were in the Sanctuary by touching them. And when the Hasmonean monarchy overcame them and emerged victorious over them, they searched and found only one cruse of oil that was placed with the seal of the High Priest, undisturbed by the Greeks. And there was sufficient oil there to light the candelabrum for only one day. A miracle occurred and they lit the candelabrum from it eight days. The next year the sages instituted those days and made them holidays with recitation of hallel and special thanksgiving in prayer and blessing” (Shabbat 21b).

How reliable is a document that recorded an event hundreds of years after it happened? First of all, we do not know all the documents that the writers of the Talmud used to compile their books. Wars, natural disasters, and time caused documents to be lost (such as Jason’s five volumes).

Secondly, consider another example. The Torah was given to Moses around 1500 BC, but the earliest manuscripts we have date to approximately 700 BC (800 years later). This does not diminish the content of the Torah. Third, there are other historical details in the Talmud that are accurate.

“…forty years prior to the destruction of the Second Temple, the lot for God did not arise in the high priest’s right hand at all. So too, the strip of crimson wool that was tied to the head of the goat that was sent to Azazel did not turn white, and the westernmost lamp of the candelabrum did not burn continually. And the doors of the Sanctuary opened by themselves as a sign that they would soon be opened by enemies…” (Talmud Bavli, Yoma 39b).

The Temple was destroyed in 70 AD. 40 years prior would have been 30 AD. This was approximately the same year Jesus (Yeshua) was on earth or about the year He died. It would make sense to have these disturbances around that time. When the crimson stripe turned white on Atonement, this was seen as a sign of God’s forgiveness. Jesus said all the blood of the righteous would fall on the generation that rejected Him (Matthew 23:35). They took that blood on themselves.

Fourth, by the time the Talmud was written, the practice of lighting a menorah to honor Hanukkah was deeply entrenched in its celebration. It was so widely practiced that it was recorded as a necessary tradition. For instance, if you only had enough money for Shabbat wine or oil during Hanukkah, you would buy the oil (Shabbat 23b, Raba). Having a Hanukkah lamp ignited was of utmost importance. It became a requirement among Jewish people. A practice of this nature does not develop overnight. It takes time for a custom to become so entrenched that it is viewed as a requirement.

The Talmud also contains a lot of commentary on the schools of Hillel and Shammai, which we know existed in the last century BC/first century AD. Between the two schools, there was a difference as it relates to Hanukkah. The school of Shammai lit eight candles on the first day of Hanukkah and then decreased the amount of candles by one each day. The school of Hillel started with one candle and increased the amount of candles each day by one (Shabbat, 21b).

In other words, there are details in the Talmud that give it a degree of historical accuracy.

One last source we will consider is a document called The Scroll of Antiochus. It is a possible primary source, but it has problems. It records military victory, but also the miracle of the oil. It has some historical inaccuracies, but other correct details.

The main problem with this scroll is that scholars debate the time period in which it was written. The dates range from the 1st century through the 11th century AD. This is a pretty large discrepancy. The majority of scholars settle for a 5th century to 7th century dating because it is mentioned in other writings (the Gedolos in 600 AD; Saadia Gaon in the 800s AD). Nissim b Jacob (around 1000 AD) attributed the scroll on the same level as Scriptural canon. We know that in the 1200s, the scroll was read every Hanukkah in Italy.

We have given a fair overview of sources that recount the Hanukkah story and the possibility of a menorah miracle or a lack thereof. Perhaps it is important to return to our original question: Why was the miracle of the oil found in the Talmud and emphasized by later writers?

The earliest sources mention the great military victories with a minor focus on the Temple furniture, Perhaps the long-term fruit of the Maccabee revolt will guide us towards resolving some of the issues between sources closer to the event and those that are farther away.

The Temple was rededicated around 165 BC. In 142 BC, Simon was proclaimed the leader and high priest of the Jewish people forever until a faithful prophet should arise. Just three years later, the Roman Senate recognized their dynasty. So many good things seemed to be happening. Regrettably, these good times did not last.

Simon was murdered in 135. John Hyrcanus then became the ruler until 104. He wanted to make his wife queen after his death and his oldest son, Aristobulus, the high priest. Aristobulus did not like this plan. Once his father died, he cast his mother and other brothers in prison. His mother starved to death; he later put one of his brothers, Antigonus, to death. He died about one year after becoming king.

From 103 to 76, Alexander Jannaeus, a different son of John Hyrcanus, ruled. After his death, his wife Alexandra became queen for a short time. Not long afterwards, a civil war raged across Judea. It was so bad that the Roman general Pompey eventually got involved in the conflict and put the country of Judea under Roman supervision. They lost some political freedoms and were forced to pay tribute.

From 63-40 BC, Hyrcanus II supervised the government on behalf of the Romans; he was the high priest. The Parthians briefly conquered the Promised Land around 40. They proclaimed Antigonus as king and high priest over Judea. For the next three years, there was contention as Herod, the pro-Roman antagonist, fought for control of the throne against Antigonus. Herod eventually gained control of the country in 37 BC. Herod (called the great) became the founder of the Herodian dynasty. The Romans allowed Antigonus to be put to death; he was the first king the Romans put to death. The Hasmonean dynasty ended.

In 66 AD, the Jewish people revolted against the Romans. Four years later, they were defeated. The city of Jerusalem and the Temple were destroyed. Over a million people either died or were sold as slaves. About 60 years later, the Bar Kokhba revolt began. Jerusalem was devastated again; the Jewish people were banned from the city and surrounding country side. Over 585,000 Jewish people died from fighting. They would not be allowed to return to the city for almost 300 years.

This is a brief overview of the events that occurred immediately after the Maccabean revolt. Thus, the initial revolt was successful and involved great military exploits. However, the long-term actions of the Hasmonean dynasty were marred with failure. There was betrayal, murder and civil war. The country lost its sovereignty and became subject to another empire – Rome. The city was destroyed twice and the Jewish people banned from even approaching it. These events sound like an account from the Biblical books of Judges with 1 and 2 Kings.

Now that we have reviewed quite a few facts and details, we can have a better perspective.

Here are some final things to remember when you consider the historicity of the Hanukkah miracle. The people who lived immediately after the Jewish victory focused on battles. Those who lived a few hundred years later saw the long-term fruit of that Maccabeean revolt, which was contrary to the very purpose of it (freedom to worship God). They did not value the military victories as much.

If you were writing, what events might you emphasize?

The fact that the menorah was relit (along with the altar of incense and the altar of sacrifice) is recounted by primary sources. It is a significant part of the Temple regaining its light. Josephus even calls it the Feast of Lights. The Bible calls it the Dedication in John 10:22 (literally, “in newness” or “in refreshing”). This is a reference to the rededication of the Temple.

A few hundred years after these events, the lighting of a menorah is the central focus of the Hanukkah celebration. Considering all the details gives the miracle story a little bit more merit.

Did it happen? Well, the menorah was relit. We know the Temple was defiled by uncleanness. Thus, the concept that there was an insufficient supply of Levitically clean oil is not absurd. If there was a shortage of oil, it would have taken a miracle to keep the menorah burning for the dedication process. The holy oil for the Temple required a special process and time to refine it.

There very well could have been a miracle involving the oil. We cannot negate it as a possibility; at the same time we cannot affirm it happened beyond the shadow of a doubt. It does leave our minds to wonder the specific details and conditions surrounding the menorah when it was rekindled.

At the very least, let us consider their struggle to rededicate the Temple as we rededicate our own. What miracles have happened in your life as you sought to dedicate yourself to God?

Sources

Babylonian Talmud. Accessed through https://www.sefaria.org.

Flavius Josephus. The Complete Works of Flavius Josephus. Translated by William Whiston. 1737. Antiquities of the Jews. Book 12, Chapter 7. p 302.

First and Second Book of Maccabees (Revised Standard Version). 1946, 1952, and 1971 the Division of Christian Education of the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America.

Jewish Encyclopedia 1905: Antigonus Mattathias, Aristobulus I, Aristobulus II, Scroll of Antiochus, Hasmoneans, Hyrcanus, John.

Moore, George Foot. Judaism in the First Centuries of the Chris-tian Era the Age of the Tannaim. Vol. 2 Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1932. pp 49-51.

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A Brief Exegesis of Hebrews 10:1-4

A Brief Exegesis of Hebrews 10:1-4

by Kelly McDonald, Jr.

“1 For the law having a shadow of good things to come, and not the very image of the things, can never with those sacrifices which they offered year by year continually make the comers thereunto perfect. 2 For then would they not have ceased to be offered? because that the worshippers once purged should have had no more conscience of sins. 3 But in those sacrifices there is a remembrance again made of sins every year. 4 For it is not possible that the blood of bulls and of goats should take away sins.” (KJV)

Among the more misunderstood passages in the Bible is Hebrews 10:1-4. Some say that these verses declare the entire law of God, including the Ten Commandments, to be a shadow that is no longer relevant. However, a deeper understanding of the Bible will give us a more accurate point of view.

First of all, it is important that we have the correct understanding of the word LAW. The Greek word translated as LAW is NOMOS. It is the Greek equivalent of the Hebrew word TORAH. The term LAW in the Bible can be specific OR generic; the context matters!

The term Law (as well as Nomos or Torah) is a generic word meaning teaching and instruction. Thus, it can refer to anything in the Bible that is instruction. Moreover, it can refer to specific sections of the Bible that contain teaching and instruction. I have some examples below.

Jesus quoted the Psalms in John 15:25 and called it LAW. “But this cometh to pass, that the word might be fulfilled that is written in their law [NOMOS], ‘They hated me without a cause’” (John 15:25). This quote is found in Psalms 35:19, 69:4. Paul used the term law when he quoted from the book of Isaiah. “In the law [NOMOS] it is written, With men of other tongues and other lips will I speak unto this people; and yet for all that will they not hear me, saith the Lord” (1 Corinthians 14:21). This is a quote from Isaiah 28:11, 33:19.

To review: The term LAW in the Bible can be generic referring to teaching and instruction. However, it can also be specific. In this usage, it refers to instructions given to specific people for a specific application. Many specific laws refer to the Aaronic priesthood and sacrifices. I have listed a few examples below:

Leviticus 6:9

“Command Aaron and his sons, saying, This is the law [TORAH] of the burnt offering: It is the burnt offering, because of the burning upon the altar all night unto the morning, and the fire of the altar shall be burning in it.”

Leviticus 6:14

“And this is the law [TORAH] of the meat offering: the sons of Aaron shall offer it before the LORD, before the altar.”

Leviticus 6:25 

“Speak unto Aaron and to his sons, saying, This is law [TORAH]of the sin offering: In the place where the burnt offering is killed shall the sin offering be killed before the LORD: it is most holy.”

Leviticus 7:37

This is the law [TORAH] of the burnt offering, of the meat offering, and of the sin offering, and of the trespass offering, and of the consecrations, and of the sacrifice of the peace offerings;

These are just a few of many examples we could use. At the end of Leviticus chapter 7, God closes out the preceding chapters by saying “THIS is the LAW of…”, which signifies specific laws for the priesthood applied to specific sacrifices. With this understanding, let us examine the verses in question a second time.

Hebrews 10:1-4

“1 For the law having a shadow of good things to come, and not the very image of the things, can never with those sacrifices which they offered year by year continually make the comers thereunto perfect. 2 For then would they not have ceased to be offered? because that the worshippers once purged should have had no more conscience of sins. 3 But in those sacrifices there is a remembrance again made of sins every year. 4 For it is not possible that the blood of bulls and of goats should take away sins.” (KJV)

These verses are referring to the specific laws relating to sacrifices. Bulls and goats are specifically mentioned. Notice that the author mentions “…the very image of the things”. The Greek word translated as image is eikon, and it is where we derive the English word icon. In other words, bulls and goats are not even in the image of the perfect sacrifice they represented; they are shadows. Just a few verses later, the writer states: “By the which will we are sanctified through the offering of the body of Jesus Christ once for all” (Hebrews 10:10). Christ is the image of God; He came bearing the likeness of mankind (Col. 1:15, Phil. 2:7). He is not a shadow – He is the real thing!

Thus, Hebrews 10:1-4 are plainly referring to the specific law of sacrifice. The Ten Commandments are not shadows; to say so is denying eternal truths. Those who say the Ten Commandments are shadows have not thought out the implications of their reasoning. For instance, consider the first commandment. Is worshipping only the True God a shadow? Absolutely NOT! God’s commandments are eternal truths that will never fade away.

As you read the New Testament, be aware that some references to LAW are generic and others are specific. It takes a careful study of the Word of God and discernment from God’s Spirit to know the difference. 2 Tim. 2:15

 

Your Evangelist,

Kelly McDonald, Jr.

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An Authentic Faith

Teshuvah

In the Bible and history, we find many heroes of faith. Hebrew chapter 11 has a list of them from the Old Testament, including Gideon and David. In the New Testament, Paul, Peter, and others inspire us to pursue God. When we study history, there are a number of men and women who have set a tremendous example of faith such as Polycarp and Wycliffe.

Over the years, I have heard people compare themselves to people from the Bible or history. David is a common comparison. He fought many battles for the Lord and displayed courageousness in the face of peril. He is even called a man after God’s own heart. Keep in mind David also made serious mistakes. One reason why we connect with heroes of the past is because they fell short as we do.

We can also not forget the heroes of today – people from our own lives that have made an impact on our walk with God. This can include, but are not limited to, a pastor, fellow church member, parent or grandparent, and even a sibling. These individuals are dear to our hearts because we knew them. They ministered to us, prayed for us, cried with us, and fought the battles of life with us. We look up to them.

While we have heroes of the faith – whether from the Bible, history, or the present – we also must have our own personal faith in God. This means that we spend time seeking God for His will in our own lives. When someone asks you a question about your faith or the Bible, does your answer sound like the following: “Because my brother says so”; “My mom or dad told me”; “Because my favorite preacher said it was true”; or “Because someone from history believed the same way”.

When we have answers like this, it makes us sound insincere. Jesus said that whatever comes out of our mouths reveals what is in our hearts (Matthew 10:34). Do you know why you believe a certain way? Are you just imitating someone else or following an organization’s command?

It is still important to honor and respect others who encourage you in the faith. At the same time, we want to have an authentic faith. Paul said, “…for I know whom I have believed and am persuaded that He is able to keep what I have committed to Him until that Day” (2 Tim. 1:12b, NKJV). Paul was persuaded because He knew God for himself.

When someone asks you why you believe a certain way – be sure to know where in the Bible you can defend that belief. Then you can say “Because God instructs me in the Bible to do such”, and you can demonstrate where that belief is found in the Bible. When you can defend your faith, you display authenticity.

Heroes of the present and past can certainly encourage, inspire, and teach us. But their example is to encourage us in our own genuine faith. Their faith cannot take the place of our own. Take the time to study the Bible and pray; be convinced and persuaded like Paul. Serve in your local church.

In the process of developing an authentic faith, let us remember that the end result is the example of Jesus Christ. No one else can exceed His perfect life.

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New Booklet: The Power of Forgiveness

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A Brief Exegesis of Romans 14:5-6

bible_book_christian

A Brief Exegesis of Romans 14:5-6

by Kelly McDonald, Jr.

Romans 14:5-6 is among the most misunderstood verses in the Bible. These verses have been misunderstood as negating the Sabbath and other commandments. We will examine the example of Paul, the verses themselves very carefully, and some history. This will make the passage clear.

One of the ways we interpret history is through what we call primary sources. These are people who were eye witnesses to events as well as archeological findings from the time period. The Apostle Peter was a contemporary of Paul. Here is what Peter said about Paul:

“15 And account that the longsuffering of our Lord is salvation; even as our beloved brother Paul also, according to the wisdom given to him, wrote unto you; 16 as also in all his epistles, speaking in them of these things; wherein are some things hard to be understood, which the ignorant and unstedfast wrest, as they do also the other scriptures, unto their own destruction. 17 Ye therefore, beloved, knowing these things beforehand, beware lest, being carried away with the error of the wicked, ye fall from your own stedfastness” (2 Peter 3:15-17, ASV).

We learn some important details from Peter’s words. Paul wrote some things that are hard to understand, but they do not negate the other Scriptures. The other Scriptures are a reference to the Old Testament. They did not have a New Testament in their day. He was a very educated man, which is why some people struggled with his words.

With this background understanding from Paul’s life, let’s look at the two verses in question: “5 One man esteems one day as more important. Another esteems every day alike. Let each man be fully assured in his own mind. 6 He who observes the day, observes it to the Lord; and he who does not observe the day, to the Lord he does not observe it. He who eats, eats to the Lord, for he gives God thanks. He who does not eat, to the Lord he does not eat, and gives God thanks” (Romans 14:5-6, KLV).

First of all, in Romans 14:1 Paul identified this issue that was considered disputable. This means it is not clearly defined by Scripture. “Now accept one who is weak in faith, but not for disputes over opinions.” Secondly, the Greek word Paul uses for day, hemera, refers to any common day. It refers to the other six days of the week.

Third, the Greek word for holy, hagios, is not even found in this chapter (Romans 14). Thus, he is addressing common days, not holy days like the Sabbath. If he were referring to the Sabbath, Paul would have used the specific Greek word for Sabbath, sabbaton. Fourth, Paul was not addressing which days God considers to be holy, but what days men esteem higher than others. God is the one who set aside the Sabbath, not man.

Lastly, one must also consider his audience. He wrote this to the Romans. He is applying these verses specifically to days that the Romans considered to be important. Let’s take a look at some primary sources from the time before, during, and after Paul that will illuminate these verses.

The Romans were very superstitious. They considered some days of the week to be unlucky, such as Saturday (Tibullus, 1:3,17-18; Propertius 4:1,81-86). They also considered certain days of the month bad for specific activities such as business or travel (Marcus Varro, On the Latin Language: VI:29-31; Plutarch, Roman Questions, 25). There were even days of certain months on which activities were discouraged, such as marriage (Ovid, Fasti, 5:470-492). Some days of certain months activities were encouraged, such as eating certain foods (Ovid, Fasti, 6:169 –beans and spelt were eaten on June 1st to honor Juno).

They formed their behavior this way for one or more reasons. Sometimes these prohibitions were to honor a specific god or goddess (such as June 1st). Sometimes a certain date coincided with a fortunate or bad event that happened in the past in Roman history (for instance, June 23rd was considered ‘lucky’ because a Carthaginian general, who was an enemy of Rome, killed himself on that day – Ovid, Fasti, 6:769).  At other times, the Romans were just superstitious (as another example, the Romans considered odd numbers as unlucky. Certain odd days of a month were considered bad for business – Plutarch, Roman Questions, 25).  For the superstitions of Augustus, who even thought his shoes were an omen, see Seutonius, Life of Augustus, XCII.

Another issue raised in the verses we are questioning is the issue of abstaining from meat. There was a strain of thought in the Roman world which believed very strongly in vegetarianism (Ovid, Metamorphosis,bk15:76-112, 140-142, 458-462; Seneca, Epistulae, 108:17-22; Plutarch: On the Eating of Flesh, 1:41 and On Isis and Osiris, sections 2,4,7; Lucius Apuleis, Metamorphosis, 11:26-29).  From these sources we can see that their vegetarian beliefs were rooted either in the worship of other gods (such as Isis and Osiris) or in a form of reincarnation which viewed the spirits of dead people as dwelling in animals.

With this historical understanding, we can better ascertain the meaning of these verses. Paul himself was an educated man and even a Roman citizen. While he grew up Jewish, he also grew up in a culture that practiced these Roman superstitions. He was well versed with them.

If we are going to consider a common day as important to perform a specific activity, then we should do so unto the Lord and not to a pagan deity, superstition or any other reason (especially not because of a past event in the Roman Empire, which is the anti-thesis of God’s Kingdom). He is addressing this specific Roman cultural activity for common days and activities, not the Sabbath or any day declared holy by God.

God is the one who declared the Sabbath Holy (Genesis 2:1-3, Exodus 31:12-18, and Leviticus 23:1-6 to name a few). Man did not declare the Sabbath holy. Paul would not condemn anyone for keeping the Sabbath as he obeyed it himself. The seventh-day Sabbath persists even into the New Heavens and the New Earth (Isaiah 66:22-24).

Paul’s example in the Bible shows us that he did not condemn any observance of the law, but that he continued to keep and reverence the Sabbath and Feast Days even after his conversion to Christianity (for a few examples: Acts 13, Acts 17, 18, Acts 20:16, Acts 27:9, and I Cor.16:8).

In his letter to the Colossians, Paul says to let no one judge them for keeping the Sabbath, Feast Days, and New Moon Celebrations (Col. 2:16). All of the early churches kept the Sabbath on the seventh day of the week.

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Why We Wash Feet at Passover

Foot Washing

Passover was the last meal Jesus shared with His disciples before His death. In fact, it is the only thing He said that He eagerly desired to do (Luke 22:15). When Christ was at the table with His disciples, he instituted a powerful act for us to imitate.

Jesus is the only perfect individual to ever walk this earth. He never sinned. Before he ate the meal with them, he washed the feet of His disciples. John 13:3-17 (ASV) records these events:

3 Jesus, knowing that the Father had given all things into his hands, and that he came forth from God, and goeth unto God, 4 riseth from supper, and layeth aside his garments; and he took a towel, and girded himself. 5 Then he poureth water into the basin, and began to wash the disciples’ feet, and to wipe them with the towel wherewith he was girded. 6 So he cometh to Simon Peter. He saith unto him, Lord, dost thou wash my feet? 7 Jesus answered and said unto him, What I do thou knowest not now; but thou shalt understand hereafter. 8 Peter saith unto him, Thou shalt never wash my feet. Jesus answered him, If I wash thee not, thou hast no part with me. 9 Simon Peter saith unto him, Lord, not my feet only, but also my hands and my head. 10 Jesus saith to him, He that is bathed needeth not save to wash his feet, but is clean every whit: and ye are clean, but not all. 11 For he knew him that should betray him; therefore said he, Ye are not all clean. 12 So when he had washed their feet, and taken his garments, and sat down again, he said unto them, Know ye what I have done to you? 13 Ye call me, Teacher, and, Lord: and ye say well; for so I am. 14 If I then, the Lord and the Teacher, have washed your feet, ye also ought to wash one another’s feet. 15 For I have given you an example, that ye also should do as I have done to you. 16 Verily, verily, I say unto you, A servant is not greater than his lord; neither one that is sent greater than he that sent him. 17 If ye know these things, blessed are ye if ye do them.

Consider the context of this passage a little more. At that time, most people wore sandals. Their feet were covered in dirt, mud, and even animal dung. Instead of exalting himself at the table, Christ humbled himself to the place of a servant. He washed their feet.

In the process of doing this, He instituted a statute for us: “If I then, your Lord and Master, have washed your feet; ye also ought to wash one another’s feet.” He even said that we would be blessed by doing this (John 13:17).

With this act, Jesus taught us that true leadership is humbling ourselves in service. Each of us must be willing to do this for each other. We must be willing to reach down to our brothers and sisters in Jesus Christ to help wash them off when they are dirty and in time of need. Jesus was willing to humble himself and clean us up, so we should be willing to do the same.

This Passover, as you wash another person’s feet, think about washing the feet of Jesus. As your feet are being washed, think about Jesus washing your feet.

Christ said that we would be blessed if we do this! Is there a blessing from God that you do not want? We should want everything that Christ has for us. He has a special revelation He desires to impart to you as you wash feet this Passover Season.

“1 Brethren, if a man be overtaken in a fault, ye which are spiritual, restore such an one in the spirit of meekness; considering thyself, lest thou also be tempted. 2 Bear ye one another’s burdens, and so fulfil the law of Christ” (Gal 6:1-2, KJV).

Let’s honor Passover this year with humility as we consider what Christ has done for us.

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Free Booklet: The Feasts of the Lord

Are you interested in learning about the Festivals of Leviticus 23?

Download this free booklet!

“The Lord’s Feasts”

feasts

 

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Can God use the Heavens to Speak to Us?

Eclipse

Credit: The Exploratorium

Downloaded from NASA: https://www.nasa.gov/topics/solarsystem/features/eclipse/eclipseimages.html

Can God use the Heavens to Speak to Us?

By: Kelly McDonald, Jr.

We do not think much about the heavenly bodies (the sun, moon, and stars) and their special place in God’s creation. I think we tend to overlook it for two main reasons. One, we are so far removed from the Heavenly realm, even though it affects us greatly. Two, there are people who have perverted God’s creation and worship these entities. Astrology is the religious perversion of the Heavenly Realm. This is where people worship the sun, moon, and stars. They have calendars called the zodiac, and people live by the zodiac predictions. People are trying to spiritually connect with a created thing instead of connecting to the Creator. Because these people have twisted God’s creation, many believers have run away from studying the creation at all. Astronomy is the scientific study of the heavens. Astronomy is Biblical.

The Magi knew that Jesus was born because of a star they saw in the east (Matthew 2:1-10). The Bible actually tells us that they knew the EXACT time the star appeared. This means that they could calculate when the star appeared and where the star was. The Messiah was found because the Magi knew astronomy.

Psalm 19:1-4

“The heavens declare the glory of God; the skies proclaim the work of his hands. 2 Day after day they pour forth speech; night after night they reveal knowledge. 3 They have no speech, they use no words; no sound is heard from them. 4 Yet their voice goes out into all the earth, their words to the ends of the world.” (emphasis mine throughout)

The Hebrew word translated as “pour forth” is naba, and it is the same Hebrew word used for prophesying! The Hebrew word for Speech can mean promise. To summarize these revelations, the Heavens inscribe the prophecies or promises of God! They can even reveal intimate knowledge to us. The Magi could have only known that a specific star was a sign of the Messiah unless that star was assigned to a specific promise from God!

The Hebrew word for “voice” in verse 4 is “measuring line”. It can mean a line stretched forth for measuring or a line stretched for judgment. It is a unit of measurement. For God, the Heavens are a form of measuring where things are versus where they should be. Sometimes, things measure up perfectly. Sometimes they do not. The Heavens are how God sends this message to humans.

Genesis 1:14-19 reads, “14 And God said, Let there be lights in the firmament of the heaven to divide the day from the night; and let them be for signs, and for seasons, and for days, and years: 15 And let them be for lights in the firmament of the heaven to give light upon the earth: and it was so. 16 And God made two great lights; the greater light to rule the day, and the lesser light to rule the night: he made the stars also. 17 And God set them in the firmament of the heaven to give light upon the earth, 18 And to rule over the day and over the night, and to divide the light from the darkness: and God saw that it was good. 19 And the evening and the morning were the fourth day.”

The sun, moon, and stars serve as signs for season, days, and years. The Hebrew word for signs is oth, and it means a banner or beacon. Have you ever seen a light house? It is a beacon of light on a tower to guide you. In other words, the behavior of these heavenly bodies was meant to get our attention. A banner is a rallying point or a flag of representation. A beacon is meant to guide us. How do these bodies do this?

The sun is how days begin and end in the Bible. At sunset, one day ends and another day begins. This is why the Bible tells us that “…And the evening and the morning (or day) was the fourth day” (Gen. 1:19). This is why the Bible tells us not to let the sun go down on your wrath or anger (Ephesians 4:26). The Hebrew word for seasons is moed, and it literally means a fixed appointment. Throughout the Bible, this word refers to the Lord’s Feasts in Leviticus 23. The moon is so important in the Bible because the Hebrew Calendar is based off of the moon. Because months are determined by the moon, it helps us determine the festivals.

As we see the solar eclipse occur across the United States, let us not forget that God DOES speak through the creation He made. Let’s have ears to hear what He is saying to us in this hour. As we see our nation being torn apart, let us humbly seek His face. Pray for God to use this sign in the Heavens to get the attention of our nation that we would turn back to Him.

“He who has ears to hear, let him hear!” (Matthew 13:9)

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Future Hope Conference 2017

Future Hope“Looking for that blessed hope, and the glorious appearing of the great God and our Savior Jesus Christ” (Titus 2:13).

When we look at the world today, there are many problems. There are wars, famine, and disease. The world seems unstable; human governments seem to be ineffective. Despite the seemingly hopeless situation, there is GOOD NEWS!

The Son of God, Jesus Christ, is coming back to establish a reign of peace and righteousness! There will be no more war, famine, or disease. The Government of God will operate with perfect efficiency.

While the world situation seems hopeless, but we can have hope through Jesus. Jesus came once to bear the sin of the world; he will come a second time to rule the earth. If the first coming of Jesus was the good news, then His second coming is the GREAT news!

To learn more about the return of Jesus and this Kingdom of Peace, come to the Future Hope Conference 2017!

Date: June 23 and 24

Location: Citipointe Pine Rivers – 138 Old Gympie Rd, Kallangur, Queensland, Australia 4503

Registration Required.

To register, click here: FUTURE HOPE CONFERENCE

 

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New Booklet Release: The Feast of Pentecost

New Booklet Release!

The Feast of Pentecost: Past – Present – Future

Pentecost Pic

The Day of Pentecost is mostly known for the outpouring of the Holy Spirit in Acts chapter 2. Due to this, many consider it a ‘fulfilled’ day.  Did you know that this day has a rich meaning in the past, present, AND future!

In this booklet, you will learn the basics and more in-depth items concerning Pentecost. It will give you a powerful understanding of this special day!

To read this booklet, click the picture above or CLICK HERE!

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