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John 10:22–24 (NIV) says:

22 Then came the Festival of Dedication at Jerusalem. It was winter,
23 and Jesus was in the temple courts walking in Solomon’s Colonnade.
24 The Jews who were there gathered around him, saying, “How long will you keep us in suspense? If you are the Messiah, tell us plainly.”

Does the "Festival of Dedication" refer to Hanukkah? If so, does this mean that Jesus was present at the temple to celebrate Hanukkah?

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The "festival of dedication" (or "feast") in this verse was indeed the forerunner of what is today Hanukkah. It was established by Judas Maccabeus in the intertestamental period, as Jamieson, Fausset, and Brown write:

[This festival of the Dedication] was instituted by Jude Maccabeus, to commemorate the purification of the temple from the profanations to which it had been subjected by Antiochus Epiphanes 165 B.C., and kept for eight days, from the twenty-fifth Chisleu (December), the day on which Judas began the first joyous celebration of it (1 Maccabees 4:52,56,59; and Josephus, Antiquities, 7.7.7).

Now, the festival goes by the name Hanukkah, as Wikipedia indicates, but it is observed on the same day and celebrates the same event.

As to whether Jesus actually celebrated Hanukkah, that's a bit more controversial. John Wesley, following Grotius, thinks so:

So our Lord observed festivals even of human appointment. Is it not, at least, innocent for us to do the same? (source)

But Calvin suggests that his purpose was to further his ministry:

Christ appeared in the temple at that time, according to custom, that his preaching might yield more abundant fruit amidst a large assembly of men. (source)

So yes, this is a reference to Hanukkah, but it's harder to say if Jesus actually "celebrated" the holiday.

  • Calvin's suggestion is not in disagreement with Wesley, is it? – Sola Gratia Dec 2 '17 at 13:17
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    @SolaGratia The particular wording may not be in direct conflict, but their positions were – Calvin was opposed to the observation of man-made holidays, so it's natural that he wouldn't consider Jesus to be observing this holiday. – Nathaniel Dec 2 '17 at 17:04
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    @SolaGratia Good question. I would doubt that he would celebrate that either, but I can't quickly find a source confirming that. – Nathaniel Dec 4 '17 at 19:05
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    How so, when inspired Scripture says, "And these days shall be remembered and celebrated throughout every generation, in every family, every province, and every city, and these days of Purim shall not be revoked from amidst the Jews, and their memory shall not cease from their seed." – Sola Gratia Dec 4 '17 at 23:02
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    @SolaGratia Good point; now I'm curious. – Nathaniel Dec 5 '17 at 1:42
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Yes.

The feast of the dedication was a festival celebrating the re-dedication if the sacrificial altar. It was instituted by by Judas Maccabaees. This was later referred to as the festival of lights. It was/is Hanukkah.

On the lunar-solar calendar this celebration falls in December and sometimes in November.

While this is somewhat opinion, there is no reason to believe as a Jew that Christ wouldn't participate in this important festival.

  • I don't think it is merely opinion that Jesus would have celebrated it. Throughout Jesus's life we see him participate in the temple and follow Jewish law and custom; it is pretty much the main theme of Matthew's gospel. Also, the apostles seem to continue this participation as we have evidence in Acts of Paul participating in temple worship. – Ian Dec 2 '17 at 0:08

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