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“Without the long preparatory work of contemporaneous Jewish faith, the teaching of Jesus would be unthinkable.”[1] Many readers of the New Testament fail to capture the impact historical events had upon religious culture of Judaism, which, in turn, shaped the spiritual and cultural world of the New Testament in the centuries leading up to the birth of Jesus and his movement. The festival of Hanukkah provides such an example. Around Hanukkah, Christians often note that Jesus celebrated the festival (see John 10:22) and recount the legendary story of the oil burning for eight days (see below). Such elementary observations fail to grasp the impact the historical events which brought about the festival and the ripple effect of those events in the ensuing years had upon the religious culture of ancient Judaism, and how those ideological streams influenced the world of the New Testament, including the message of Jesus. The cultural and religious turmoil that Judaism experienced in the first part of the second century BCE and its aftermath profoundly shaped the religious culture of ancient Judaism. It even found its way into the Infancy stories of John the Baptist and Jesus recorded in the Gospels, especially Luke’s.

As we prepare to celebrate Hanukkah, the festival of Dedication (1 Macc. 4:48; John 10:22), as well as Advent and then Christmas, we are reminded that the spirit of the Infancy narratives in the Gospels, the hope and “proclamation of good news” (Luke 1:19; 2:14), emerged from the hopes ignited in the festival of Hanukkah, the yearning for Jewish national redemption. In this way, the hopes expressed Gospel stories of the birth of Jesus grew from the original spirit of Hanukkah, something often overlooked in Christian celebrations of his birth. So, we reflect on the message of Hanukkah as communicated by Judah the Maccabee (2 Macc. 1:10-2:18) and the impact the Hasmonean revolt had in shaping the spiritual culture of ancient Judaism, which in turn gave birth to Jesus and his movement.

The eight-day holiday of Hanukkah remembers the recapture, purification, and rededication of the Jerusalem Temple, its altar, and vessels, by Judah, the Maccabee, in 164 BCE, after it had been polluted and defiled by the Seleucid king, Antiochus IV, Epiphanes. The Seleucid Empire arose from the breakup of Alexander the Great’s Empire. One of his generals, a Macedonian nobleman, Seleucus I Nicator founded an empire based in Syria, Antioch specifically.

The strategic location of the land of Israel, on the eastern Mediterranean coast, on the land bridge connecting the continents of Asia and Africa, ensured that the land of the Jews functioned as a stage for regional struggles. In the closing years of the third and early second century BCE, the land of Israel found itself caught in the power struggles between the Seleucid Empire in Syria and the Ptolemaic Empire in Egypt, while the Roman Republic began to encroach on the eastern Mediterranean from the west. Turmoil from without and within caused the Seleucid Empire to decline in the second century BCE, and within those struggles, the Seleucid king Antiochus IV, Epiphanes, made certain decisions related to the Jewish temple in Jerusalem, its treasury,[2] and the priesthood within Jerusalem. These decisions ultimately led to the rise of a Jewish resistance, which in turn, led Antiochus to enact laws that forbade Jewish practices, like circumcision, reading the Torah, celebrating Sabbath and the other festivals commanded by God to the Jewish people, and desecrating the Jerusalem Temple, even offering a pig on the altar. Some of the Jews responded to these edicts and actions with a call to arms and began an armed resistance against the Seleucids. The leader of this movement was Judah of the priestly family of Hashmon, who was nicknamed “The Maccabee.” Judah and his forces recaptured the Temple in Jerusalem and rededicated it during the month of Kislev (164 BCE), which is the event remembered in the festival of Hanukkah.

The events surrounding the profanation of the temple in Jerusalem, its capture, purification, and rededication by Judah are described in the books of 1 and 2 Maccabees (1 Macc. 4:41-59 and 2 Macc. 1-2; and 10:1-8).[3] Rededicating the temple on the anniversary of its defilement (2 Macc. 10:5; 1 Macc. 4:54), the Jews celebrated the festival for eight days. Why eight days? 1 Maccabees states that the dedication of the altar lasted eight days (4:59). The book of 2 Maccabees begins with two letters sent from the Jews of Jerusalem to the Jews in Egypt. The first letter (2 Macc. 1:1-9) is usually dated to 124 BCE[4] refers to Hanukkah as “the days of tabernacles in the month of Kislev.” The second letter (1:10-2:18; which we will focus on below), while not dated, has been ascribed to Judah the Maccabee,[5] and likely preserves the earliest source on the festival dating to either 164/163 BCE. This letter also refers to the festival as the festival “of tabernacles and fire.” Both of these letters preserve our earliest sources on the festival and likely contain the views of the Maccabees themselves. A portion of 2 Maccabees written after the two letters sought to understand the reference to the festival as the “festival of booths” and drew the parallel between the eight-day Hanukkah celebration and the festival of Sukkot explaining that because the Jews were living as fugitives in mountains and caves due to the rebellion against the Seleucids, they could not celebrate Sukkot; therefore, when they could celebrate the rededication and purification of the temple, their celebration lasted eight days like Sukkot (2 Macc. 10:6). This likely developed as a later explanation for the eight-day festival referred to as “the festival of booths in the month of Kislev” (2 Macc. 1:9; see also 1:18). Eyal Regev has demonstrated that the origin of the eight-day celebration of Hanukkah came from the days of millu’im (see Exod. 29; and Lev. 8-9), which were necessary to consecrate the altar and priests.[6] The later rabbinic legend of the miracle of the oil that burned for eight nights so the Temple could be purified is completely legendary and was not part of any of the early sources on Hanukkah.

The revolt led by Judah and his family, the Hasmoneans, profoundly impacted Judaism in the subsequent centuries leading up to the first century CE, particularly the religious culture. The ideology that fueled Judah and his family blended Jewish hopes of national and religious liberty and gave way to the notion that political independence is necessary for Israel to truly worship God and practice fidelity to his laws. In other words, the idea of redemption that emerged from this period had dual aspects, both political and religious.

From the fall of the kingdom of Judah and Jerusalem (586 BCE) and in the return from Babylonian Exile, the Jews had not sought to reconquer the land or to revert to military force to lay claim upon the land and sovereign rule. They did not seek to reestablish a monarchy or their own autonomy. They submitted to foreign rule and authority, whether Persian or Greek, content as long they could worship their God and live according to his laws. The Hellenistic reforms that began to change Jerusalem and its elite around 175 BCE, and the subsequent religious persecutions of Antiochus IV (167 BCE) threatened the traditional political system, but more importantly the socio-religious worldview of the Jews in Judea. It threatened Jewish identity and what it meant to be Jewish. Judah, and his family, offered an alternative: military resistance, absolute commitment to the Torah, and Judah and his family’s leadership. The militarism of Judah’s revolt was revolutionary for the Jews, and its use in service of religion was exceptional.[7] The ideology of blending national liberty with religious devotion and freedom deeply impacted and shaped the Judaism of the first century, the world of Jesus and the Gospels. It is remembered in the festival of Hanukkah.[8]

The concept of Jewish national liberty goes back to story of the Exodus from Egypt: God, through Moses, delivered the children of Israel from Egyptian bondage, so that by their freedom, they might worship him. The Hebrew Bible also echoes these sentiments with the Babylonian Exile and the proclamations of future redemption. While the concept of liberty already appears within the Hebrew Bible, it evolved over time, and the success of the Hasmonean revolt against the Seleucids had a significant impact on the Jewish ideology of liberty, which crystalized during the first century CE. Part of the influence, however, upon Judah and his followers’ idea of liberty derived from Judaism’s interaction with the Greeks. During the Greek period, the Jewish idea of liberty came in contact with the Greek idea of national liberty. This gave rise within Judaism to the religious idea that Jews were born into liberty, which included political independence.[9] For this reason, Jewish ideas of liberty and redemption became bi-focal: political and spiritual.

The events surrounding the Hasmonean revolt and the festival of Hanukkah provide one of the seminal events that shaped ancient Judaism. Simon, the brother of Judah, realized Jewish independence (142 BCE), which lasted for about eighty years, until the arrival of the armies of the Roman Republic led by Pompey the Great (63 BCE). The arrival of Rome set the stage for the tensions, movements, ideologies, and events that marked the first century CE, including the varied religious/political responses that resulted from Roman occupation. But the religious/political responses of the Jews originated from views of redemption and liberty that emerged as a result of the actions and ideology of Judah, the Maccabee.

The first century Jewish historian Josephus Flavius began his history of the First Jewish Revolt against Rome—his Jewish War (published in 79 CE)—by recounting the Hasmonean revolt against the Seleucids and the autonomous Jewish rule that ensued. Josephus, who was a descendant of the Hasmoneans on his mother’s side, wrote the official, imperial account of the war that resulted in the destruction of Jerusalem and its temple (70 CE). He understood that the seeds of Jewish nationalism tied to a militarism in the service of religion that flowered into the First Revolt began in the second century BCE with Judah and his family. In his writings (both Jewish War and Antiquities of the Jews), he draws many similarities between the Hasmonean rebellion against the Seleucids and the Jewish revolt against Rome.

The second letter found in 2 Maccabees (1:10-2:18) contains a letter written by Judah to the Jewish community in Egypt encouraging Egyptian Jewry to celebrate the festival of Dedication, Hanukkah, together with the Jews in the land of Israel. This letter expresses Judah’s attitude regarding the purification of the temple and his hopes for the fulfillment of God’s promises to his people. In the letter, Judah quotes a prayer of Nehemiah following the dedication of the Second Temple:

"O, Lord, Lord God, Creator of all, fearful and mighty, righteous and merciful, the only King and good; the One who supplies, the only One who is just, almighty, and eternal. The One who saves Israel from every evil, who chose our fathers and consecrated them (see Exodus 19:5-6). Accept this sacrifice on behalf of all your people Israel and preserve your portion and make it holy. Gather together our scattered people, set free those who are slaves among the Gentiles, look on those who are rejected and despised, and let the Gentiles know that you are our God. Punish those who oppress and are insolent with pride. Plant your people in your holy place, as Moses promised" (1:24-29).

These words are attributed to a prayer of Nehemiah following the dedication of the Second Temple (1:23), yet they reflect the ideas and hopes of the Jewish people at the time of Judah: the gathering of those Jews scattered abroad to Jerusalem, God’s punishment of the Gentiles, and God’s establishment of his people and Jerusalem and his Temple (see Exod. 15:17-18). The earliest eschatological hopes that developed within Judaism were for the building of Jerusalem and the ingathering of the exiles.[10] They appear together in the book of Tobit, which most likely dates to the third or fourth century BCE:

"But God will again have mercy on them, and God will bring them back into the land of Israel; and they will rebuild the temple of God, but not like the first one until the period when the times of fulfillment shall come. After this they all will return from their exile and will rebuild Jerusalem in splendor; and in it the temple of God will be rebuilt, just as the prophets of Israel have said concerning it. Then the nations in the whole world will all be converted and worship God in truth. They will all abandon their idols, which deceitfully have led them into their error; and in righteousness they will praise the eternal God. All the Israelites who are saved in those days and are truly mindful of God will be gathered together; they will go to Jerusalem and live in safety forever in the land of Abraham, and it will be given over to them. Those who sincerely love God will rejoice, but those who commit sin and injustice will vanish from all the earth" (Tobit 14:5-6; see also Ben Sira 36:1-16).

The continuation of Judah’s letter to the Jews of Egypt echoes these same desires, returning to the themes expressed in the prayer attributed to Nehemiah:

"Since, therefore, we are about to celebrate the purification, we write to you. Will you therefore please keep the days? It is God who has saved all his people, and has returned the inheritance to all, and the kingship and the priesthood and the consecration, as he promised through the law. We have hope in God that he will soon have mercy on us and will gather us from everywhere under heaven into his holy place, for he has rescued us from great evils and has purified the place" (2 Macc. 2:16-18).

Judah viewed his actions, the purification and rededication of the Temple, as having national, political consequence. National redemption had not yet arrived, but the purification of the Temple opened the way for a new era in Jewish history. Judah equated his actions as God’s salvation of “all his people” (see Luke 2:10). His letter addressed the Jews of Egypt calling upon them to keep the celebration of Hanukkah; thus, his statement that the purification of the Temple signals God’s salvation of all his people indicates Judah’s views regarding who constitutes a “Jew” and the redemptive implications he attached to his success in reclaiming and dedicating the Temple back to God for all the Jews. Independence had not been obtained yet, so Judah’s mention that God, as part of his salvation, returned the inheritance to all refers to the Temple in Jerusalem (see Exodus 15:17). He also saw that God’s salvation has returned “the kingship, priesthood, and consecration” to his people. His statement refers to Exodus 19:5-6: “Now therefore, if you obey my voice and keep my covenant, you shall be my treasured possession out of all the peoples. Indeed, the whole earth is mine, but you shall be for me a kingdom, a priesthood, and a holy nation.”[11] This passage played an important role in the development of two Jewish concepts from the secondary century BC into the first century CE: 1) Israel as God’s chosen people (עם סגולה), and 2) the national-religious ideology of the kingdom (see Acts 1:6).[12] Judah’s actions created an intermediate period between the previous period in which the Temple had been profaned and the anticipated period to come in which God will have further mercy upon his people when he would gather the scattered exiles to Jerusalem, which portends the eschatological redemption. The purification of the Temple served as a harbinger of national redemption.

Judah’s letter serves as an important document in the history of the Jewish ideal of liberty, in part because it goes back to Judah. Our sources, however, prove too fragmentary to reconstruct the development at each stage of the Jewish idea of liberty from the Maccabean revolt to the Jewish rebels of the First Jewish Revolt, but as we noted previously, Josephus himself noted the origins for the Jewish revolt lay in the ideologies of the Maccabean revolt.

Three principal convictions emerged from this era held by the majority of Jews within the first century that proved foundational for Jewish history in the first century, including the development of Jesus’ movement: 1) there is only one God, Israel’s, he reigns as the supreme ruler of the universe, 2) Israel is his chosen people, and 3) only when Israel is free can they truly worship God in the manner that he intended. These three assumptions find expression in the original spirit of Hanukkah as expressed in the letter of Judah.

The entry of Rome into the land of Israel with Pompey the Great (63 BCE), which led to the annexation of the territory of Archelaus, the son of Herod the Great, in 6 CE and eventually to all the land of Israel in 44 CE, presented an existential threat to all three assumptions. The question arose: how, then, do we achieve redemption? Two streams of thought emerged within Judaism that sought to answer this question.

One said that submission to Roman hegemony was a sin since God alone should rule over his people. This ideology, building upon the successful militarization of Judah the Maccabee and his followers in service of religion, advocated armed resistance and violence as a means to rid the land of Israel of the pagan Romans. The more extreme manifestations of this ideology, like the Fourth Philosophy, came to embrace liberty as an ideological abstraction that became an ideal unto itself, which enabled the Jewish rebels of the First Revolt to divorce their pursuit of it from the rule of justice and law. A tragic reality remembered in a saying by Rabbi Hannah, prefect of the priests, “’Do not look at me because I am dark and the sun has tanned me [my mother’s sons were angry with me]’ (Song of Songs 1:6)—these are the assemblies of Judah who broke off the yoke of the Holy One…and cause a king of flesh and blood to reign over them” (Avot de Rabbi Nathan version A, 20). So too, Rabban Yohanan ben Zakkai, who lived during the Jewish revolt and the destruction of Jerusalem, remembered the violence of the Jewish rebels: “From the time murderers increased…When those who went about whispering in judgment multiplied, conduct deteriorated, the laws were perverted, and the Holy Spirit ceases in Israel. When those who displayed partiality in judgment multiplied, the commandment…was annulled and they cast off the yoke of Heaven and caused a yoke of flesh and blood to reign over them” (t. Sota 14:1-4).

The second stream of thought concluded that Rome’s rule over the land of Israel and God’s chosen people resulted from their sin. This ideology, in keeping with the prophetic and Deuteronomic streams of Israel’s history, identified repentance as the mechanism to bring about national redemption. “Repentance brings redemption near.” In response to the violence of the militant ideology, this stream of thought coined a phrase that became an anti-slogan against those who sought to bring redemption through violence, the “kingdom of Heaven.”[13] Israel’s repentance and obedience would act as a catalyst for God to bring about redemption for his people.

Both streams of thought identified Roman rule over Israel as illegitimate, even those who belonged to the peace party during the First Revolt, like Rabban Yohanan ben Zakkai, viewed Roman rule it as such. The question, however, centered on how redemption would be achieved, violence and taking up the sword, or repentance and obedience to God’s commands.

By the end of the first century BCE and the beginning of the first century CE, when John the Baptist and Jesus were born, the spirit of Hanukkah expressed in the letter of Judah the Maccabee had established itself within Jewish religious culture and formulating hopes of national redemption shared by the majority of Jews in this period.

The hymns preserved in Luke’s Infancy narrative (1:46-55; 68-79; 2:14; 29-32) reflect the hopes of Jewish national redemption. These hymns had a prehistory before Luke incorporated them into his stories of the births of John and Jesus. Paul Winter proposed that the Magnificat (Luke 1:46-55) and the Benedictus (1:68-79) derived from to Maccabean psalms that were adapted by the followers of John the Baptist.[14] While his thesis does not seem to accurately describe the prehistory of these hymns,[15] he has recognized the connection between these hymns and the spirit of national redemption the emerged from the early days of the Maccabees, going back to Judah himself.

Luke’s Infancy hymns contain vocabulary and ideas tied to Jewish redemptive hopes throughout. For our purpose, it will suffice to view one part of the Benedictus, the hymn attributed to Zechariah the father of John the Baptist, to see the parallels between Luke’s Infancy narrative and the spirit of Hanukkah expressed by Judah the Maccabee.

"As he spoke by the mouth of his holy prophets from of old, that we should be saved from our enemies and from the hands of all those who hate us; to perform mercy (see Luke 1:50, 54) with our fathers and remember his holy covenant, the oath that he swore to Abraham our father, to grant us that we, being delivered from our enemies, might serve him without fear, in holiness and righteousness before him all our days" (Luke 1:70-75).

The Benedictus expresses the hope that Israel’s salvation enables her people to serve God in holiness and righteousness. Israel’s freedom, salvation enables the proper worship of God. Josephus places such a sentiment on the lips of Judah the Maccabee:

"When he (Judah) had thus disposed his soldiers, he encouraged them to fight by the following speech, which he made to them: 'O my fellow-soldiers, no other time remains more opportune than the present for courage and contempt of dangers; for if you now fight manfully, you may recover your liberty, which, as it is a thing of itself agreeable to all men, so it proves to be to us much more desirable, by its affording us the liberty of worshipping God. Since, therefore, you are in such circumstances at present, you must either recover that liberty, and so regain a happy and blessed way of living, which is that according to our laws, and the customs of our country, or to submit to the most opprobrious sufferings; nor will any seed of your nation remain if you be beat in this battle. Fight therefore manfully; and suppose that you must die, though you do not fight; but believe that, besides such glorious rewards as those of the liberty of your country, of your laws, of your religion, you shall then obtain everlasting glory. Prepare yourselves, therefore, and put yourselves into such an agreeable posture, that you may be ready to fight with the enemy as soon as it is day tomorrow morning'" (Antiquities 12:302-304; emphasis added).

The Benedictus claims that the biblical prophets spoke about God’s redemption of his people. The view that the prophets spoke about God’s redemption and restoration of Israel already appears in the book of Tobit (see 11Q5 22:2-8; 1QM 11:5-13; 11Q13 2:14-20):

"But God will again have mercy on them, and God will bring them back into the land of Israel; and they will rebuild the temple of God, but not like the first one until the period when the times of fulfillment shall come. After this they all will return from their exile and will rebuild Jerusalem in splendor; and in it the temple of God will be rebuilt, just as the prophets of Israel have said concerning it. Then the nations in the whole world will all be converted and worship God in truth. They will all abandon their idols, which deceitfully have led them into their error; and in righteousness they will praise the eternal God. All the Israelites who are saved in those days and are truly mindful of God will be gathered together; they will go to Jerusalem and live in safety forever in the land of Abraham, and it will be given over to them. Those who sincerely love God will rejoice, but those who commit sin and injustice will vanish from all the earth" (Tobit 14:5-7; emphasis added).

This passage shares a number of themes and hopes that appear in the letter of Judah, including the gathering to Jerusalem of the scattered exiles, and the Benedictus. Israel’s salvation, meaning living safely without fear from its enemies, expresses God’s mercy upon his people (2 Macc. 2:18; Luke 1:71-73; see also Tobit 14:5; Ben Sira 36:1). God’s salvation of Israel was predicted by the prophets and it fulfills God’s covenant with the fathers (see 1QM 14:4-15; Luke 1:55). Judah identified the salvation brought through his purification of the Temple as a fulfillment of what God “promised through the law” (2 Macc. 2:18). Later rabbinic tradition remembered the prophetic proclamation of God’s redemptive era: “All the prophets prophesied only concerning the days of the Messiah” (b. Ber. 34b; b. Shabb. 63a; b. San. 99a; see also CD 2:12-13; Matt. 11:13; Acts 3:21; Rom. 1:2; Eph. 3:5; 2 Pet. 3:2).

By the first century, Jewish hopes of national redemption had developed and become more fixed than in the Hasmonean period. Yet, its origins lay with the Hasmoneans and most likely with Judah himself as expressed in the original spirit of Hanukkah. The mention of Hanukkah, the feast of Dedication, in John’s Gospel (10:22-24) still remembers the connection of the festival to Jewish redemptive hopes: “So the Jews gathered around him and said to him, ‘How long will you keep us in suspense? If you are the Messiah, tell us plainly.’”

The yearning for national redemption appears not only in the hymns of Luke’s Infancy narrative, but in the figures of Simeon and Anna, who looked for the consolation of Israel (see 11Q5 22:8; Matt. 5:4) and the redemption of Jerusalem (Luke 2:25, 38). Redemption (Luke 1:68) addresses Israel’s religious and national realities. It proves bifocal. Luke clearly sought to identify the births of John and Jesus as connected to these hopes.[16] Hopes which did not dissipate with the crucifixion of Jesus, as Luke evidences with his disciples’ question after the resurrection, “If at this time you (Jesus) will restore the kingdom (2 Macc. 2:17; Exod. 19:6) to Israel?” (Acts 1:6).

As Jesus’ movement grew beyond the boundaries of the land of Israel and Judaism, the connection with the national redemption of Israel expressed in the Infancy narratives of the Gospels weakened. These stories became a proclamation for all humanity and spiritualized into an other worldly future separated from their initial hopes of the fulfillment of God’s promises to Israel’s fathers and the bringing of redemption for his people. Yet, within ancient Judaism, the world of the New Testament, the hope of the world rested in God’s redemption of Israel. Luke’s Infancy stories captured the hopes expressed in the letter of Judah the Maccabee and shared by the Jewish people in the first century. Only by reading them within the context of ancient Judaism can we rescue their original intent realizing that the spirit of Hanukkah pervaded the hopes of the birth of Jesus in the Gospels. And as any parent who has ever held a child in their arms knows, the birth of a child brings forth the yearning for a safe world, a world of peace, a world that reflects God’s mercy and glory (Luke 2:14).

*לרות ומיכאל. חג אורים שמח.

[1] David Flusser, Jesus (3rd ed.; Jerusalem: Magnes Press, 2001), 13. [2] Banks did not exist within the ancient world; therefore, people stored their wealth in temples. Temples also received gifts and offerings from pilgrims. Because temples contained stores of valuables including precious metals, they were always sacked by raiding armies. [3] Although not without literary tendenz, the version of the events surrounding the Hasmonean revolt presented in 2 Maccabees offers a more reliable chronology and historical account than that of 1 Maccabees. [4] Daniel Schwartz dates it to 143/142 BCE; see 2 Maccabees (CEJL; Berlin: Walter de Gruyter, 2008), 11-15, 37, 139, 519-529. [5] The authenticity of this letter as coming from Judah has been questioned; however, more and more scholars have accepted that the letter originated with Judah and represents his attitude and hope regarding the purification and dedication of the temple. See Flusser, “’What is Hanukkah?’ The Historical Setting of the Hasmonean Temple Dedication,” in Judaism of the Second Temple Period. Volume 2. The Jewish Sages and Their Literature (Grand Rapids, Michigan: William B. Eerdmans Publishing, 2009), 113-134. [6] Eyal Regev, The Hasmoneans: Ideology, Archaeology, Identity (Göttingen: Vandenhoeck & Ruprecht, 2015), 36-57. [7] Eyal Regev, The Hasmoneans, 15. [8] Josephus refers to festival of Hanukkah as “Lights,” saying that the reason for the name derived “from the fact that the right to worship appeared to us at a time when we hardly dared hope for it” (Antiquities 12:325). He tied the name of the festival to the deliverance of the Jews (not the kindling of lights). The scholion of Megilat Ta’anit also connects the permanent establishment of the festival to Israel’s deliverance: “because they went out from oppression to deliverance.” [9] Flusser, “The Image of the Masada Martyrs in Their Own Eyes and in the Eyes of Their Contemporaries,” in Judaism of the Second Temple Period, 76-112. [10] Within the ‘Amidah prayer, the Eighteen Benedictions, the central prayer within Judaism, the only two benedictions dealing with the end of days pray for the building of Jerusalem and the ingathering of the exiles. Flusser, “The Jewish Religion in the Second Temple Period,” in The World History of the Jewish People. Society and Religion in the Second Temple Period (Jerusalem: Massada Publishing, 1977), 27-30. [11] This translation follows the Septuagint, which seeks, like Judah’s letter to make sense out of the Hebrew. [12] Exodus 15:17-18 and 19:5-6 played a seminal role in the development of Jewish ideas of the kingdom of Heaven, a fact I address in a forthcoming article, “Jesus, the Fourth Philosophy, and the Kingdom of Heaven: Locating Jesus within the Religious-Political Landscape of Ancient Judaism.” [13] See M. Turnage, Windows Into the Bible: Cultural and Historical Insights from the Bible for Modern Readers (Springfield, MO: Logion Press, 2016), 297-310. [14] P. Winter, “Magnificat and Benedictus—Maccabean Psalms,” Bulletin of John Rylands Library 37 (1954): 328-343. [15] See Flusser, “The Magnificat, the Benedictus and the War Scroll,” in Judaism and the Origins of Christianity (Jerusalem: Magness Press, 1988), 126-149. [16] Turnage, Windows Into the Bible, 157-165.


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