Hanukkah and the Book of Daniel

27 Nov

I wrote about when the book of Daniel was written in an earlier post, so I’ll just summarize it here.

Daniel was written during the earlier stages of the Maccabean revolt of 167 – 164 BCE, but the character(s) were placed in an earlier stage of history to make it seem as though the events of the Maccabean revolt were foretold during the exile. This is a classic literary trope; of commenting about contemporary events via a past scenario. The “abomination causing desolation” is the erection of an idol of Zeus in the temple (Dan 9:27, 11:31) that the Seleucid king Antiochus IV set up in 167 BCE. It should be noted that “abomination” in Hebrew can also mean “idol”.

Daniel’s predictions about how the rebellion would end failed, however. After Alexander the Great conquered a large portion of the “known world”, his empire was split after he died. The southern part of his empire was ruled by his general Ptolemy and his progeny, and the northern (but more accurately “eastern”, but for Daniel it’s north of Judaea) part was ruled by his general Seleucus and his progeny. This is ostensibly described well by Dan in chapter 11. Dan predicts that Antiochus (the “king of the north” i.e. a Seleucid) would be killed by a Ptolemaic king (the “king of the south”). Dan also predicts that after Antiochus sets up the statue of Zeus and stops the sacrificial system (Dan 12:11-12) — which Antiochus did in 167 BCE — that there will be 1,335 days until the world ends, which is approximately three years.

Antiochus actually died from illness, and the revolt lasted until 164 BCE when the Maccabees drove out the Greek forces/idols from Judea (as well as the Hellenized Jews who rejected circumcison) and rededicated (hanukkah in Hebrew) the temple.

54 According to the time, and according to the day wherein the heathens had defiled it, in the same was it dedicated anew with canticles, and harps, and lutes, and cymbals.

55 And all the people fell upon their faces, and adored, and blessed up to heaven, him that had prospered them.

56 And they kept the dedication of the altar eight days, and they offered holocausts with joy, and sacrifices of salvation, and of praise.

57 And they adorned the front of the temple with crowns of gold, and escutcheons, and they renewed the gates, and the chambers, and hanged doors upon them.

58 And there was exceeding great joy among the people, and the reproach of the Gentiles was turned away.

59 And Judas, and his brethren, and all the church of Israel decreed, that the day of the dedication of the altar should be kept in its season from year to year for eight days, from the five and twentieth day of the month of Casleu, with joy and gladness.

– 1 Maccabees 4:56–59

A similar event happens in 132 CE. The Roman emperor Hadrian erected a statue of Jupiter on the temple mount which incited the Bar-Kokhba revolt. The results of which eerily match Jesus’ prediction in Mark 13. Another “abomination causing desolation” standing where it doesn’t belong (statue of Jupiter, Mark 13:14), the complete destruction of the temple in 135 CE at the failure of the Bar-Kokhba revolt (Mark 13:1-2), Bar-Kokhba being called the messiah/christ for driving out the Romans but was ultimately a false christ/messiah (Mark 13:5-6), Christians being persecuted because of Bar-Kokhba’s messanic claims (Mark 13:9). And then, after the failure of the revolt, the Jews are evicted from Judaea (Mark 13:14 those who are in Judea flee to the mountains) and the area was renamed to “Palestine” by Hadrian.

Could the gospel narratives also be following the same theme of Daniel? As in, a contemporaneous account retrojected into the past?

Of course, the writer of Mark gives it away by having Jesus break the fourth wall. Why else would he say “let the reader understand” (Mark 13:14)? “Jesus” is not actually talking to Peter, et. al. in this pericope. The writer – talking through Jesus – is talking to the reader of this narrative, describing a situation that’s contemporary to the writer/reader (either 70 CE or 132 CE). “This generation” (Mark 13:30) is not Peter and company, but the reader.

What makes things more suspicious is that there’s no evidence of any Christians knowing any narrative gospels prior to the Bar-Kokhba revolt. Just like there’s no evidence of any Jews knowing of a “great prophet” named Daniel prior to the Maccabean rebellion. Jesus son of Sirach, writing c. 180 BCE lists a bunch of “great men” in his “Wisdom of ben Sirach” (chapters 44-50) but doesn’t include Daniel. 1 Maccabees, writing about 80 years later c. 100 BCE lists many of the same as Jesus b.Sirach, but includes Daniel as well (1 Macc 2:60). Which is why Daniel is ketuvim and not nevi’im.

The Tisha B’Av of Judaism in 135 CE might be the Hanukkah of Christianity, with Mark playing the role of Daniel.


3 responses to “Hanukkah and the Book of Daniel

  1. dave

    November 28, 2009 at 6:53 pm

    You wrote, “Daniel's predictions about how the rebellion would end failed.” How do you know that?

  2. J. Quinton

    November 30, 2009 at 6:34 pm

    Well the world didn't end 1,335 days after Antiochus banned the sacrificial system. I think that qualifies as a failed prediction.

    Also, Antiochus wasn't killed by the king of the south in battle, he died from illness.

  3. dave

    December 1, 2009 at 1:52 am

    You haven't provided any evidence for how you know; you've only assumed an Antiochus connection with the end of the world.

    I must now pose another question: How do you know that there's a connection to Antiochus?

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