Jewish Christmas roots, jw response? 25th of Kislev

by carla 8 Replies latest watchtower beliefs

  • carla

    What would a jw think of the following? With all the threads on Christmas, I have not seen this mentioned. This is from one of Macgregor Ministries pamphlets-- (aside from jw's having a problem with 'deity' of Jesus, what would they say about choosing 25th of Dec in regards to cleansing of the Temple and that of Chanukkah?)

    In the 'Israel My Glory' magazine of Dec-Jan 1986-87, there apppeared an article, 'Why do We Celebrate Christmas on Dec 25'?

    Christianity has it's roots in Judaism, not in paganism.

    A full explanation of the Jewish observance of Chanukkah is given which is a major holiday for Jews to this day. Although it was not one of the seven biblical holidays, it nevertheless is of great significance. It is also called "The Festival of Dedication", or sometimes "The Festival of Lights'.

    John 10:22,23 records that Jesus was walking on the porch of the temple during this observance. He had nothing to say against it, and judging by His location, may have been participating, even though it was not commanded in the Bible.

    On pg 5 the article continues,

    "Dec 25 is almost certainly not the actual date for the incarnation. Sheperds in Israel would not have been out in the fields tending their flocks at night in Dec. Therefore, why choose this date.

    First, it was on 25th day of the Hebrew month Kislev (corresponding to our Dec) that Antiochus chose to desecrate the Temple and establish worship of his god because it was already an existing heathen holiday. Therefore, 1 & 2 Maccabees go out of their way to stress the fact that is was exactly three years later, to the day, that the Temple was cleansed and rededicated (25th of Kislev).

    Now when the Church, long after the actual date of the incarnation had been lost in antiquity, chose the date to commemorate the incomparible occasion when diety dwelt within a human body, what better association than the Temple, where deity had also dwelt, and the 25th of Kislev, which was an already established date commemorating the cleansing and rededication of the Temple as a dwelling place for God?

    The Church did not choose Dec 25 because it was an ancient heathen holiday, but because of the Jewish feast of Chanukkah that occured on that date, and the added significance that Jesus gave to it. This date eloquently testified to the fact that at birth of Jesus, deity was dwelling in a human body (Temple) and shining out to give light in the midst of darkness.

    The great Hebrew-Christian scholar, Alfred Edersheim, whose writings on this period of time are still classic, shared this thought, "The date of the feast of Dedication (Chanukkah)--25th of Kislev--seems to have been adopted by the ancient church as that of the birth of our blessed Lord--Christmas--the dedication of the true temple which was the body of Jesus.

  • carla


  • Narkissos

    I doubt Judaism had any significant influence on Christianity by the time Christmas was set up. I don't know of any explicit connection of Hanukkah and Nativity by the late Church Fathers.

    Otoh, I wonder whether the connection of Hanukkah with the Maccabean dedication of the temple rules out a "pagan" winter solstice connection. The so-called "historical" elements (exodus for the Passover, gift of the Law for Pentecost, wandering in the wilderness for the Booths) are clearly secondary to the primary seasonal, agricultural setting of all earlier festivals (spring, summer/harvest, ingathering). Could Hanukkah similarly cover, with obvious "anti-pagan" emphasis, a Graeco-Syrian festival of the winter solstice? Or, even if the Maccabean connection is "original," did not the traditions of Hanukkah (light, gifts, etc.) develop because of the coincidence with the winter solstice and similar "pagan" celebrations? Just questions, it would be an interesting subject to dig further.

    Edited to add that Hanukkah (which is rather "inauguration" than "dedication") is from the same Hebrew root as Enoch, whose character is linked to solar symbolism/calendar (even in Genesis he lives 365 years), and that the Greek name of the feast is egkainia which also means "renewal"...

  • Leolaia

    Narkissos...I know an article I have back home that indicates how the date of 25th Kislev according to the lunar (or, rather, lunasolar) calendar corresponds to a date on the solar calendar in which there was a solstice observation. I'm remembering things vaguely...I'll have to check when I get back. The object of the Festival of Lights certainly has a "solstice" air to it.

  • Narkissos

    Indeed there is a lunisolar connection, for 25 of Kislev is 3 days before the new moon which is closest to the winter solstice. (Similar to the connection of Nisan with the spring equinox).

    Also, the very fact that 1 Maccabees 4 insists that the temple dedication occurs "at the very season and on the very day that the Gentiles had profaned it" (v. 54, cf. 1:59) ironically points to a calendar correspondence with Graeco-Syrian liturgy...

  • Honesty

    I have tried to reason with JW's on the Fesival of Lights/Festival of Dedication and how it was celebrated in late December and that Jesus was even present during the celebration. The results can be helpful in assisting them to break free from the WT Lie if they are willing to reason on it.

  • Scully

    I have often wondered whether all these winter solstice festivals that are based on the return of longer days, lighting up the atmosphere and merry making are an ancient anthropological remedy for what we now know as Seasonal Affective Disorder. It would be very interesting to see if there are corresponding festivals in June in the Southern Hemisphere, when they have their "winter".

    I would love to take a sabbatical and do some research on that.

  • peacefulpete

    Yeah the whole festival is firmly rooted in some solstice rite. FWIW I found a site that briefly described solstice clebrations from antiquity that included Hanukkah used an unspecified midrash as evidence. Adam is speaking:

    "Woe is me," he said, "perhaps something I have done is causing the world around me to get darker and return to chaos and confusion."

    He fasted and prayed for eight days. But when the day of the winter solstice passed, and he saw the days gradually lengthening, he said, "this is the way of the world," and he began eight days of festivity.

    I'd love to know the source but can't locate anything.

  • peacefulpete

    Here's another reference to the solstice and Hanukkah:Aish HaTorah - Chanukah Site

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