Monday's Messianic Taste of Hidden Manna #55
Sheep, Shepherd, Hanukkah, and Trusting in Messiah Yeshua
Another Deep Dive into John 10
This is a slightly revised version of post #23 from last year. I am repeating it due to how little these details about John 10 are known and appreciated. This post is heavily indebted to the insights of James VanderKam and Aileen Guilding as found in James C. VanderKam, From Revelation to Canon: Studies in the Hebrew Bible and Second Temple Literature (Leiden: Brill, 2000).
A Deep Dive into the Jewish Foreground of the Context of John 10
Ever take a deep dive into the actual foreground of the context of John 10? Here's one that will likely take most followers of Yeshua Messiah by surprise. Before proceeding, it is necessary to read Yochanan (John) 10 in its entirety.
Yeshua at the Feast of Dedication (Hanukkah) in John 10:22
First, notice that almost smack dab in the middle of the chapter is verse 22 which states, "Then the Feast of Dedication took place in Jerusalem, and it was winter". This is the Feast of the Rededication of the Second Temple, or Hanukkah. It is now also called the Feast of Lights for obvious reasons. This holiday that Yeshua Messiah was celebrating commemorates the rededication of the Temple and altar by Judas Maccabeus in c. 165 BCE, after they had been profaned for some years by pagan worship and practices which Antiochus Theos Epiphanes IV had imposed upon his Jewish subjects. Thus, Hanukkah is no mere 'background' of John 10 as is oftentimes stated by contemporary writers and commentators who have lost sight of the Jewish heritage, essence, and actual 'foreground' of the context of the Scriptures.
Shepherd Imagery Preceding the Mention of Hanukkah
Second, notice that prior to the mention of the Holiday of Hanukkah in John 10:22, the preceding verses (10:1–21) feature Yeshua teaching about Himself as the 'Good Shepherd'. Aileen Guilding has shown that the Haphtarah passages used in different years on Hanukkah were Ezekiel 34 & 37, which both use shepherd imagery for God and the Davidic shepherd whom God would appoint! So Yeshua was using such imagery to illuminate His sheep about Himself as the Good Shepherd during this particular celebration of Hanukkah!
No Superficial Relationship between Hanukkah and John 10
In that the sheep of Israel wanted Yeshua to plainly tell them whether He was the Messiah (see John 10:24), the connections between shepherding and the Davidic Shepherd-King Messiah in the Haphtarah reading and His teaching show that there is no superficial relationship between Hanukkah & John 10. A careful reading of the Tanakh and the New Covenant Scriptures shows that Yeshua is the promised permanent Davidic Shepherd-King Messiah! He would first suffer on behalf of His brothers (and the world) and be martyred. He would then be resurrected and ascend into heaven to inaugurate the Kingdom of God in its largely invisible form. He will then reappear, as promised at the appointed time, as the Davidic Shepherd-King Messiah who is also called the Lion from the Tribe of Judah, the Root of David, in the Book of Revelation. I would urge you to read Ezekiel 34 & 37 now before you proceed with this post.
'Dedication' is Used in the Hanukkah Torah Portion & John 10:36
In John 10:36, Yeshua says: "Do you say, 'You are blaspheming' to the one the Father DEDICATED and sent into the world, because I said: 'I am the Son of God'"? The verb for 'dedicated' is the same as that in the Greek of Numbers (BaMidbar) 7:1, which is the first verse in the Torah passage for Hanukkah! Hence, there is a wondrous connection between the dedication of the temple and the dedication of Yeshua the Messiah as the One sent into the world! More fully, there is a wondrous connection between the Feast of Lights, the One who was Dedicated by God, and the Light of the World revealed at Sukkot in the earlier Jewish 'foreground' of the context of John 7!
The Difficulty of Embracing Yeshua Messiah as 'God Manifest'
Moreover, James VanderKam has seen yet another profound connection between Hanukkah & John 10. He rightly observes that Yeshua emphasized the fact that He and the Father are one (John 10:30), and that the sheep of Israel viewed this as blasphemy because it was a claim to be God (John 10:33). Perhaps at the rededication holiday, Antiochus Theos Epiphanes' blasphemous claim to be 'God manifest' was erroneously refreshed in the minds of the sheep of Israel (the Jewish people) by Yeshua's claim.
'He is Mad' is the Noun 'Madman' Used of Antiochus by Polybius
Interestingly, VanderKam also observes that the Greek historian Polybius once wrote the following about Antiochus: "In consequence all respectable people were entirely puzzled about him, some looking upon him as a plain simple man and others as a madman". Note well that the Greek verb "he is mad" which is used of Yeshua by the sheep of Israel in John 10:20 is the verbal form of the Greek word 'madman' used of Antiochus by Polybius. In fact, it was the very issue of Yeshua's statement about His martyrdom that divided the sheep of Israel in attempting to truly understand His identity in John 10. Some thought he was 'mad', but as 10:42 makes very clear at the end of this Hanukkah context: "many trusted in Him there". Also note well that Yochanan's account of the Good News is the only one to report Yeshua's martyrdom as follows: "This is why the Father loves me, because I lay down my life so that I may take it up again. No one takes it from me, but I lay it down on my own. I have the right to lay it down, and I have the right to take it up again. I have received this command from my Father". Astounding!
May You Know and Enjoy the 'Dedicated' One on this Feast of Dedication!
Both Jew and Gentile who have the wondrous privilege and pleasure of knowing Yeshua the Messiah, know Him first as the suffering and martyred One. We then know Him as the resurrected and ascended One who inaugurated the Kingdom of God and began His session (reign). We then look forward to His promised and guaranteed reappearing as the Lion from the Tribe of Judah, the Root of David who will indeed set all things right and reign forever and ever as the Dedicated Davidic Shepherd-King of Israel and the Nations! May you know and enjoy the 'Dedicated One' on this Feast of Dedication!
In your service always, Henri Louis Goulet