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Bible Dictionaries

Hastings' Dictionary of the New Testament

Dedication, Feast of

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DEDICATION, FEAST OF (τὰ ἐγκαίνια).—This Feast was kept by the Jews on 25 Chislev and throughout the week following. The dedication commemorated in it was the dedication of a new altar by Judas Maccabaens in b.c. 164 (1 Maccabees 4:36-59, 2 Maccabees 10:1-8, Josephus Ant. xii. vii. 6, 7). The old altar of Zerubbabel’s temple had been defiled in b.c. 167, when ‘an abomination of desolation’ was erected upon it (1 Maccabees 1:54), and the climax was reached on 25 Chislev, when sacrifices were offered upon this idol-altar standing on the altar of God (v. 59). For three years this state of profanation had continued, but when the third anniversary of the desecration came round, the heroic efforts of Judas Maccabaens and his companions had reached such success that they were able to cleanse the Holy Place and to set up a new altar in place of that which had been defiled, spending a week in special services for its dedication; and, in order to commemorate this, Judas Maccabaens ordained ‘that the days of the dedication of the altar should be kept in their seasons from year to year by the space of eight days, from the five and twentieth day of the month Chislev, with gladness and joy’ (1 Maccabees 4:59).

The Feast is mentioned once in the Gospels (John 10:22) as the occasion of a collision between our Lord and the Jews in the temple, when He made the claim, ‘I and the Father are one,’ and the Jews took up stones to stone Him. The occasion of the incident is full of significance. When the Holy Place was being cleansed in b.c. 164, the question had arisen as to how the old altar ought to be treated, seeing that it had suffered from heathen pollution, and the conclusion reached was that it should not be used any more, but a new one dedicated in its place, and that the old one should be pulled down and its stones stored in a convenient place ‘until there should come a prophet to give an answer concerning them’ (1 Maccabees 4:44-46). On the anniversary of this event, some two centuries later, there stood Christ in the temple courts, and in effect, though not in so many words, the question was actually put to Him whether He was the prophet foretold. ‘How long dost thou hold us in suspense?,’ they asked, ‘If thou art the Christ, tell us plainly’ (John 10:24). It was, indeed, a fitting occasion on which to raise the question, since the whole Festival breathed hopes connected with the national deliverance of Maccabaean times, looking forward to another deliverance in the future such as would come with the Messiah. Unhappily the questioners were not sincere, and would not receive the testimony of our Lord, not even when He referred them to His works as proving His claims; and so the matter ended where it began. Had they listened, they would have found the Deliverer whom they were expecting, and incidentally also they would have learned the solution of the old difficulty about the stones of the desecrated altar—that these might lie where they were, being needed no more, for there was being dedicated another Temple to supersede the old (cf. John 2:19).

It is not quite clear how much of St. John’s narrative belongs to Dedication, whether the incidents of John 9:1 to John 10:21 happened then, or whether they belong to the Feast of Tabernacles (John 7:2). These two Feasts had much in common; in fact, it appears that Dedication was to some extent modelled on Tabernacles (2 Maccabees 10:6; cf. 2 Maccabees 1:9). In particular, the ritual of both included a special illumination, which was so marked at Dedication that, according to Josephus (Ant. xii. vii. 7), the Festival was actually called ‘Lights.’ In either case, therefore, there is special point in our Lord’s announcement in John 9:5 ‘I am the light of the world,’ in which He pointed to the brilliant illuminations of the Temple and Jerusalem generally, whether at Tabernacles or Dedication, and claimed that, while these lamps and candles made the city full of light, He Himself was giving light to the whole world.

Literature.—Art. ‘Dedication’ in Hasting's Dictionary of the Bible and in Encyc. Bibl.; Schurer, HJP [Note: JP History of the Jewish People.] i. i. 217 f.; Edersheim, Life and Times of Jesus the Messiah, ii. 226, The Temple, 333 ff.

C. E. Garrad.

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Bibliography Information
Hastings, James. Entry for 'Dedication, Feast of'. Hastings' Dictionary of the New Testament. 1906-1918.

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