Lots of Christians have noticed that the authors of the New Testament place great emphasis on the Jewish festivals and holidays and the fact that Jesus fulfilled many of the rituals and traditions of these holidays in His birth, life, death, and resurrection.
But what about Hanukkah? Did Jesus fulfill this holiday also?
Is Hanukkah Biblical?
The immediate objection to even asking the question, however, is that Hanukkah is not a “biblical” holiday. That is, it is not one of the seven feasts which Moses wrote about in the Torah, the first five books of the Hebrew Scriptures. So why, it might be asked, would Jesus fulfill it?
It is true.
Hanukkah is not mentioned in the Hebrew Scriptures. It did not begin to be celebrated until the mid second century BC when some Jewish rebels defeated their Roman captors and set out rededicate the temple to God. To do this, they needed to light the oil lamps in the temple, but most of the oil had been contaminated, and it would take eight days to make more.
However, they found one container of oil which was still sealed and uncontaminated, but it was only enough for one day. So they lit the lamps in the oil to begin the purification process in the temple, and miraculously, the lamp stayed burning for eight full days.
Hanukkah is Mentioned in the New Testament
But did you know that Hanukkah, while not mentioned in the Hebrew Scriptures, is mentioned in the New Testament?
In John 10:22, we read that Jesus went to Jerusalem for the Feast of Dedication, which is Hanukkah. And there are various indications in John 10, as well as in the surrounding context of John 8–11 that Jesus identified Himself with the lights of Hanukkah and especially the central light of the Hanukkah Menorah, the Shamash, or “Servant” light.
Jesus Fulfilled Hanukkah
It seems that though Hanukkah is not a biblical holiday, Jesus still fulfilled it, that He took the symbolism and significance of this holiday and pointed it to Himself.
Which raises the question, if Jesus could do this with a non-biblical Jewish holiday, can He also do this with non-biblical non-Jewish holidays? How about, for example, the ancient holiday to the fertility sex-goddess Ishtar? Or maybe some of the ancient celebrations about Mithras? Or maybe the ancient Roman holiday of Saturnalia which takes place at this time of year?
Yes, I believe Jesus can (and does) take these holidays and point them to Himself. It is called redemption. Just as He redeems humanity, Jesus also redeems the things that make us human. Along with redeeming humanity, Jesus redeems the things in our culture and calendars that make life meaningful and enjoyable.
Want to learn more about this? I write a lot more about it in my eBook, Christmas Redemption.