Category Archives: Holidays

Rosh Hashanah in the Bible

Shana tova! Not having been raised Jewish, but living in a Jewish household, some of the customs can be downright puzzling to me. Today is the first night of Rosh Hashanah, the Jewish New Year. (As with most holidays, Rosh Hashanah is one day long in Israel and two days long everywhere else. This has to do with the early Jews wanting to be VERY CERTAIN that they did the holiday on the right day, since communication to and from Jerusalem may have been spotty.) This holiday is marked by eating of apples and honey and the blowing of the shofar, the ram’s horn.

Today happens to also be the one year anniversary of my first real post to this blog. So, today marks a very real beginning of a “new year” for this site. As such, I’ve made a few light changes here and there: added an “about” box on the side, changed the tag to reflect the “religion geek” attitude the site has been adopting, and a few other things.

Enough bellybutton gazing! Let’s talk Rosh Hashanah!

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Christmas in the Bible

(This blog will be on hiatus for a few weeks as my wife and I enjoy our honeymoon and some well-needed rest. The blog will resume it’s regular irregular course in January.)

The holiday season is full of rush-rush-rush. Hanukkah is long gone and now it’s Christmas Day already! I hope that you have a great one!

For most people that grew up in Christian households like mine, Christmas is THE holiday of the New Testament. In the popular mind, Christmas has long since eclipsed Easter as the most celebrated holiday. Although some commentators claim that there is a “War on Christmas” today, it is nothing compared to the war on Christmas that many Christians waged in the past to keep Easter’s place secure. The Puritan founders of New England, my home, even tried to ban the celebration of Christmas!

How did Christmas become dominant? It could be that it replaced various Roman and pagan rituals as the holiday of the Winter Solstice. I dare say most of our Christmas traditions from mistletoe to Christmas trees are non-Christian, even though there’s a Christian gloss on them now. But more likely it’s because Christmas is simply a more uplifting holiday. As important as Easter is to Christians, the birth of a man is more celebratory than his death, even if he does manage to come back later.

In the Bible (and this is a bible blog, remember?), Christmas has the distinction of appearing first in the New Testament, starting shortly after the genealogies in Matthew 1:18. This may seem like a natural placement, but it’s not: most scholars now believe that Mark was the first gospel to be written and Mark begins at Jesus’ baptism. In fact, unlike Easter and the other “important” events in Jesus’ life that is recounted in all four gospels, Christmas is only discussed in two of them: Matthew and Luke. And, except for the fact that Jesus is born in both of them, they are very different stories.

Remember the wise men? The adoring shepherds? The manger? Our modern Christmas story is a mixture of the TWO Christmas stories of the bible, with no two details (except Jesus being born) repeating in both of them.

The TWO stories of Christmas? Read more after the break.

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Hanukkah in the Bible

Tonight is the 5th night of Hanukkah, the Jewish Festival of Lights. This is a holiday, as I’m sure most of my readers are aware, that celebrate a miracle at the time of the rededication of the Second Temple in Jerusalem, after its defilement by Greek forces. The holiday lasts eight days and each day of the holiday lasts from sundown to sundown. (Thus, Adam Sandler’s “Eight Crazy Nights”.) Modern Jewish observance generally includes the giving of gifts and the lighting of a menorah: one additional candle each night until all of the candles are lit on the eighth day.

The story of Hanukkah is one of a miraculous event: After the temple was re-dedicated, all of the holy oil had been defiled. This oil was used to keep an eternal flame lit at the altar, to comply with the commandment in Leviticus 6:6: “A perpetual file shall be kept burning on the altar, no to go out.” (Weirdly, my Christian bibles have this as 6:13.) Unfortunately, there was only enough oil to keep the fire burning for one day, but it would take eight days to make more. The miracle of Hanukkah is that the oil DID last for all eight days until it could be replenished.

Of course, this is a “Bible Blog”, but Hanukkah as a holiday was started in the post-Biblical period. The Hebrew Bible ends shortly after the construction of the Second Temple. So, to find the story of Hanukkah in the Bible, you need to turn to an unlikely source: The Roman Catholics.

More below the cut…

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