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Bill Jacobson

Two points...

A Biblical comment that Jesus was in the temple during the festival is somewhat short of a statement that he celebrated the festival.

Easter is sort of the anti-passover. Your question is better made with the example of passover, given the centrality of this particular celebration in several key gospel stories.

JohnFH

Bill,

I understand your first point, but why minimize the degree to which Jesus was an observant Jew? The gospels of Matthew and Luke in particular make it clear that Jesus was raised by an observant Jewish family, kept Torah, and expected his disciples to do likewise.

Here are some key passages in Matthew: 5:17-20; 13:52; 23:2-4. It's true that Jesus expected his disciples to be more than observant Jews. But not less. They were also to impoverish themselves and join him in his itinerant ministry (Matt 19:16-22).

It is true that in many times and places Christianity developed into a common life that was not characterized by all or even any of the three components lifted up as normative in the gospel of Matthew: Torah observance radicalized according to the Sermon on the Mount; material impoverishment; and itinerant ministry.

Nevertheless, in the book of Acts, the letters of Paul, and the Didache, it is clear that the specific characteristics of Jesus' life and teaching and that of his first disciples remained a powerful model, for those engaged in itinerant ministry first of all, and for others in a different way (e.g., Acts 2:42-47; 4:32-37).

Furthermore, it is undeniable that in some forms of early Christianity, in particular, that associated with Matthew and that associated with James, Jewish Christians remained observant Jews.

I don't think the last Supper is portrayed as an anti-Passover in Matthew 26:17-30 or elsewhere. It was a unique celebration which developed later into something which left its original matrix almost completely behind.

Meg

I would have thought that the festivals centering on the Temple would have been let go when the theology of Christ as Temple was developed. John's Gospel sees Jesus himself as the access point to God in this world - putting Jesus in direct conflict with the Jewish Temple, which was the meeting place of heaven and earth in Jesus' own time.

Much as I love Hannukah celebrations, as a Christian, I don't feel the need to do all that Jesus did as a human -- I worship him as God-made-human.

Merry Christmas, John!

JohnFH

Merry Christmas to you, Meg!

Based on Matthew and Luke-Acts, I would guess that, so long as the Temple was standing, many Jews who became followers of the Way continued to keep the traditional feasts as they had, or had not, before that.

I don't see any evidence in Matthew and Luke-Acts that they thought they had to choose between Jesus and the Temple.

It would appear from Paul's correspondence that there were Jewish and perhaps Gentile Christians who thought one could not choose, but had to keep the feasts, practice circumcision, etc., as well as believe in Jesus. Matthean Christianity does not seem far from the approach Paul fought against.

It is hard to imagine Johannine Christians keeping the Jewish feasts. From John 9:22, however, one senses deep regret for having been excluded from Jewish life the focus of which was, of course, the synagogue. My guess is that Johannine Christians kept the feasts in accordance with local synagogue practice until they were excluded from the synagogue.

I'm not sure about the Epistle to the Hebrews. It's also true that Judaism was very diverse in the first century and Christianity reflects all of that diversity. Did Philo of Alexandria and his cohorts keep the feasts? How many made a pilgrimage to Jerusalem and how often? In what ways did they keep the feasts at home and how did those ways differ from the ways they were kept, say, in Judea, Galilee, Syria, and Babylonia? There are lot of things we don't know, but one thing is certain: actual observance and non-observance was all over the map, precisely among self-identifying faithful Jews. I haven't even mentioned the Essenes/Qumran sectarians, for whom the Temple was, practically speaking, deconsecrated long before Jesus was born.

Should Christians keep the Jewish festivals if Jesus did? If his first disciples did?

No, it does not follow.

I think Christians would do well, however, to dedicate a Sunday homily every year or every three years to Hanukkah. It's easy to do if your Bible includes the Maccabean literature.

RCs and the Orthodox are fortunate to have that literature in their Bibles as a matter of course.

Bill Jacobson

I'm sorry. I apparently didn't make my point well. I agree with everything you said. When I referred to easter as the anti-passover I was not referring to the actual last supper or any apostolic era celebrations. Rather, I was referring to the christian development of easter. So it now becomes that the date of easter can never coincide with the date of passover lest we have something in common with those wascally jews.

So, to the original question, "why don't christians celebrate channukah?", I was trying to point out that a bigger, better question might be "why don't christians celebrate passover?", given all the passover references and applications made in the NT.

JohnFH

Bill,

Now I understand better.

We agree more than you think. I would expect that if the various branches of Christianity buried their pride and allowed the date of Easter, Pentecost, and so on to be settled by Jewish precedent, as would only be proper, the danger would be real that the Messiah would come (again).

Can't have that.

There is much we might learn from each other.

Karyn

We've celebrated Hanukkah with our kids (now grown up with kids of their own) for years. This year our grandson Ethan, who is six, jumped right in and knew the entire story and all the traditions (from his exposure to various traditions at his public school in NC). Why do we do it? We always talk about Hanukkah as another example of the faithfulness of God. This is a perfect opportunity to "connect the dots" of the various stories of God's care for his people. God is always faithful (even before Jesus was born). And celebrating the birth of Christ (and Hanukkah) is part of that story of God's faithfulness to his covenant and his people.

And on the lighter side: for those of you who are contemplating celebrating Passover, you should check out the "Ten plagues finger puppets" available at at Oy Toys!

JohnFH

Karyn,

Happy Hanukkah and Christmas to you!

You make my point far better than I did. One story-example is worth a thousand arguments.

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