German Sabbath Keepers in Pennsylvania

German Sabbath Keepers in Pennsylvania

“Under the leadership of Conrad Beissel in 1728, a group of German Baptists (Dunkers) in Lancaster County, PA separated from their brethren over the issue of the Sabbath. They formed a self-sufficient, monastic community at a place now known as the Ephrata Cloister. German Seventh Day Baptists, as they called themselves, had one of the earliest printing presses in the colonies. They produced the Martyrs’ Mirror (a work similar to John Foxe’s The Book of Martyrs, originally in Dutch), Continental currency, and translations of the Declaration of Independence for distribution in other countries.

German Seventh Day Baptists had the first Sabbath School (several years before Robert Raikes started a similar movement in England) until 1777 when the Revolutionary War necessitated another use for the buildings. After the battle of Brandywine, on September 11 of that year, the Brothers and Sisters cared for five hundred sick and wounded soldiers at the Cloister. Although two hundred soldiers died (and were buried on the Cloister farm), the majority recovered sufficiently to return to their homes. The toll on the community, however, was considerable, in people and in property. Disease killed many of the residents, and those who remained had to burn some of the buildings to limit the contagion.

The members of the Ephrata community established branch societies elsewhere in southern PA, including one at Snowhill (Franklin County) in 1758 and another at Salemville (Bedford County) in 1763. The work at Snowhill originally had a monastic group of men and women as well as representatives from the surrounding area who attended the church there. The work at Salemville had no monastic element; the congregation consisting exclusively of members from the community.

The devastating affects of the Revolutionary War and the limited attraction of monastic living eventually led to the decline and demise of the work at Ephrata. The State Historical Society assumed responsibility for the property in 1939 and has restored many of the buildings. A similar trend away from monasticism affected Snow Hill. By 1900, the last member of the monastic society there had passed away, although the church continued until the early 2000s with a small group meeting each Sabbath. The Salemville church did not suffer the same fate. Although not a large congregation, it maintains an active ministry of worship, study, fellowship, and outreach.

German Seventh-Day Baptists have enjoyed good relations with their Seventh Day Baptist English brethren, going as far back as 1725 when Able Noble, an English SDB minister from Philadelphia, encouraged Beissel to take a stand on the Sabbath issue. Most differences that once separated the two groups (e.g., language) no longer exist. In 1968, the Salemville church, although not part of the English Conference, joined the regional body of that group (now called the Appalachian Association) to promote common interests in camping and youth ministries.”

Information taken from the German Seventh Day Baptist historical site: https://germanseventhdaybaptist.com/history/

A Brief History of the Seventh-day Adventist Church

A Brief History of the Seventh-day Adventist Church

“Organized in 1863, the Seventh-day Adventist Church has its doctrinal roots in the “Advent Awakening” movement of the 1840s. Hundreds of thousands of Christians became convinced from their study of Bible prophecy that Christ would soon return. This re-awakening of a neglected biblical belief occurred in many countries, with a major focus in North America.

After the “great disappointment” of their hopes in 1844, these “advent believers” broke up into a number of different groups. One group, studying their Bibles for increased understanding, recognized the seventh day Sabbath (Saturday) as the day of worship. This group, which included Ellen and James White and Joseph Bates, became the nucleus of the church congregations that chose the name “Seventh-day Adventist Church” and organized in Battle Creek, Michigan, with 125 churches and 3,500 members.

A small nucleus of “Adventists” began to grow ― mainly in the New England states of America, where William Miller’s Advent movement had begun. Ellen G. White, a mere teenager at the time of the “Great Disappointment,” of 1844 grew into a gifted author, speaker, and administrator, who would become and remain the trusted spiritual counselor of the Adventist family for more than seventy years until her death in 1915. Her counsels and messages to believers and church leaders shaped the form and progress of the church, while its beliefs have remained totally Bible-based.

In 1860 at Battle Creek Michigan, the loosely knit congregations of Adventists chose the name Seventhday Adventist and in 1863 formally organized a church body with a membership of 3,500. At first work was largely confined to North America until 1874 when the Church’s first missionary, J. N. Andrews, was sent to Switzerland. Africa was penetrated briefly in 1879 when Dr. H. P. Ribton, an early convert in Italy, moved to Egypt and opened a school, but the project ended when riots broke out in the vicinity.

The first non-Protestant Christian country entered was Russia, where an Adventist minister went in 1886. On October 20, 1890, the schooner Pitcairn was launched at San Francisco and was soon engaged in carrying missionaries to the Pacific Islands. Seventh-day Adventist workers first entered non-Christian countries in 1894 ― Gold Coast (Ghana), West Africa, and Matabeleland, South Africa. The same year saw missionaries entering South America, and in 1896 there were representatives in Japan.

The Health Reform Institute, later known as the Battle Creek Sanitarium, opened its doors in 1866, and missionary society work was organized on a statewide basis in 1870. The first of the Church’s worldwide network of schools was established in 1872, and 1877 saw the formation of statewide Sabbath school associations. In 1903, the denominational headquarters was moved from Battle Creek, Michigan, to Washington, D.C., and in 1989 to Silver Spring, Maryland, where it continues to form the nerve center of ever-expanding work.

Other early Adventists of note include John Harvey Kellogg, inventor of the “cornflake” developed by his brother Will and pioneer of the Battle Creek Sanitarium; Joseph Bates, retired sea captain and first leader of an Adventist administration; Uriah Smith, prolific author and inventor, and editor of the church’s paper for almost 50 years.

Adventist missionaries began work outside of North America in 1864, and ten years later J. N. Andrews was sent to Switzerland as the denomination’s first official missionary. In 1894 church operations commenced in Africa (Ghana and South Africa). Missionaries also arrived in South America in 1894, and in Japan in 1896. The church now operates in 205 countries worldwide.

The publication and distribution of literature were also major factors in the growth of the Advent movement. The Advent Review and Sabbath Herald (now the Adventist Review), general church paper, was launched in Paris, Maine, in 1850; the Youth’s Instructor in Rochester, New York, in 1852; and the Signs of the Times in Oakland, California, in 1874. The first denominational publishing house at Battle Creek, Michigan, began operating in 1855 and was duly incorporated in 1861 under the name of Seventh-day Adventist Publishing Association.

Adventists have a desire to reach people for Christ. One result of this desire to touch lives for God is that Adventists have built thousands of schools around the world. It also means that Seventh-day Adventist physicians and medical institutions serve individual needs in more than 98 countries, giving the highest possible quality of personal care whenever people hurt. These physicians, nurses, therapists, and other medical workers have dedicated their lives to providing physical healing so that each person can live the best possible life. Using modern medical knowledge and carefully developed skills, these workers touch thousands of lives each day, bringing healing and hope into families around the world.

Schools, hospitals, clinics, and health food factories are just one small corner of the Seventh-day Adventist commitment to improving lives. There is much more:

  1. Wherever disaster strikes, ADRA, the Adventist Development and Relief Agency, joins hands with other organizations to provide clean water, food, clothing, housing, and care.
  2. Adventist publishing houses produce inspirational books, textbooks, Bible commentaries, health books, and dozens of specialized magazines in scores of languages each month. These are then delivered to millions of homes around the world, providing quality reading and information that improves lives.

    3. Local Adventist churches serve their communities by providing recreational and social activities for children and teenagers, vocational and evening education programs for adults, and spiritual programming and health clinics for all.

    4. On a worldwide scale, the church’s mission activities are exemplified in the Global Mission Initiative―to reach the unreached peoples of the world for Christ.

    5. Summer camps offer all sorts of activities, from horseback riding and water skiing to crafts and dozens of other youth activities in country environments in which children feel safe and loved. These activities are combined with a witness for God’s message to make people whole―physically, mentally, socially, and spiritually.

    6. Use of modern technology also describes Adventist commitment to mission and presence in the society with messages of “Good News.” Numerous radio studios dot the Adventist broadcasting map around the globe. The same goes for production of television and other media programs. The church’s interest is best exemplified in a satellite broadcast system with more than 14,000 down-link sites, and the television 24/7 global broadcasting network for homes, the Hope Channel.

    Too often it’s easy to see all of this as just activities of the institutions and organizations of the church. But the Seventh-day Adventist Church is far more than its organizational structure and institutions. The Adventist Church is people, individual members who have caught a vision and who have chosen to live out that vision for Christ, as His hands of hope.

Growth from the early days has been dramatic. From the small group meeting in 1846 and the  organization of the church with 3,500 believers, Seventh-day Adventists now number approximately 17 million worldwide.

(this article is from the March–April 2013 edition of the Sabbath Sentinel, pages 19-20)

To read the rest of this magazine, click this link: https://biblesabbath.org/media/TSS_2013_Mar-Apr–560.pdf

New Booklet Available for Free Download!

Exciting News!

The BSA has a brand new booklet available for FREE download.

“How Did Sunday Become the First Day of the Week?”
by Kelly McDonald, Jr.
(BSA President)

How did a day, which was unnamed in the Bible, come to be called Sunday? In this work you will learn the four factors that contributed to this development, which impacted the seventh-day Sabbath.

To read this FREE book, just click on the picture below!

Sabbath Meditation #26 –Our Work Versus His Work

Sabbath Meditation #26 –Our Work Versus His Work

By Kelly McDonald, Jr.

“13 Six days you shall labor and do all your work, 14 but the seventh day is a sabbath to the Lord your God…” (Deut. 5:13-14)

“On the Sabbath day, make an offering of two lambs a year old without defect, together with its drink offering and a grain offering of two-tenths of an ephah of fine flour mixed with oil. This is in addition to the regular burnt offering and its drink offering.” (Numbers 28:9-10)

“This bread is to be set out before the Lord regularly, Sabbath after Sabbath, on behalf of the Israelites, as a lasting covenant” (Lev. 24:8).

“My Father is always at his work to this very day, and I, too, am working. For this reason the Jews tried all the harder to kill him; not only was he breaking the Sabbath, but he was even calling God his own Father, making himself equal with God.” (John 5:18).

God recognizes the work we must do to take care of our own lives. In the Ten Commandments, He calls it “Your Work.” We work to provide for ourselves and our families. There are various chores and errands to complete throughout the week. He also gives us six days to accomplish these tasks—which is 85.8% of our week. We serve a very reasonable God.

In the fourth commandment, the six days for our work is juxtaposed with the Sabbath rest. “…but the seventh day is a sabbath to the Lord your God…” (Deut. 5:14). If there is a time during the first six days of the week for “your work” then the seventh day must involve some sort of action for the Lord our God.

In the Old Covenant, God gave the priests of Aaron certain tasks to complete every day. In Numbers 28:1-8, we learn that the priests had to make two offerings every day (one in the evening and one in the morning). In verses 9 and 10, we learn that they had to make twice as many on the Sabbath. In Leviticus 24:5-9, we learn that the priests had to make twelve loaves of bread and set them out on the golden table of Shewbread every Sabbath. I have read estimates that each loaf probably weighed between 7 and 10 pounds. The priests had more work on the Sabbath than they did on common days!

How could this be? As always, the wonderful words of Jesus will help us understand more.

In John chapter 5, Jesus saw a man by the pool who had been an invalid for thirty-eight years. He told him, “Get up! Pick up your mat and walk” (John 5:8). The man was healed and began to walk immediately. The Pharisees became indignant. They accused Christ of breaking the Sabbath because He commanded this man to take His mat and walk. Jesus responded to their accusations by saying that He and the Father have always been at work (John 5:18, quoted above).

The first thing to understand about John chapter 5 is that Christ did not break the Sabbath. He simply told the man to walk with his mat as the evidence for his healing. There is not a single commandment against doing this in the whole Bible. Jesus transgressed the Pharisees’ man-made rule, not God’s law.

In the gospels, Jesus publicly read the Scriptures, taught and prayed for others on the Sabbath. He was active in doing His Father’s work. John chapter 5 is just one example. Christ and the Father engage in holy work on the Sabbath. This is a lesson for us. When the Sabbath begins, our common work ceases, but our holy work is just beginning.

The Sabbath is a call to rest, but it is also a call to action. Jesus set the example for us. Many Sabbath churches rent a facility. Someone must set up/operate speakers and sound systems to have service. Someone must lead the music service. Someone must lead prayer. Someone must preach/teach a message. Someone must teach the Sabbath school classes. Someone must help organize it all! Do not forget that we should continually encourage and admonish one another in love. The study of the Word of God should not be neglected. We can pray for others. These things facilitate the functioning of the Body; if everyone contributes a little bit then it builds up the whole that much better.

We are expected to act for the Lord on Sabbath. He died for us; we are priests for His Kingdom. “…to him who loves us and has freed us from our sins by his blood, and has made us to be a kingdom and priests to serve his God and Father…” (Rev. 1:5b-6a).

Jesus’ actions condemned the Pharisees, who taught against doing even holy work on the holiest day of the week. They restricted those things which God did not, such as prayer for the sick, yet they allowed things He did not approve of (such as putting burdens on people and plotting to harm Jesus).

Consider the holy work that you can do on the Sabbath as a priest in the Kingdom of God. It is only 14.2% of our week; we can definitely take the time to serve Him.

Selah.

Kelly McDonald, Jr.

BSA President www.biblesabbath.org

Music and Worship

Music and Worship

by Whaid Guscott Rose

“Worship isn’t music. That is to say, music is not a foundational element of worship; one can worship without it. But music plays an integral role in private and corporate worship; it can assist and enhance it. That may be the reason that a hymnbook is in the middle of the Bible, replete with invitations to sing and play instruments of praise, to make music to the Lord. The pages of Scripture, beyond the Psalms, testify to the importance and power of song.

Yet we must face the brutal facts about music in relation to worship.

Plainly said, music is one of the most divisive elements in the life of the church. Why? Because music is powerful; nothing stirs our emotions quite like it. Music reflects our worldview (the way we see God and the world around us) and the things most important to us. And music is largely influenced by the surrounding culture and its emerging art forms.

For these reasons, we are rightly concerned about the potential for manipulation, about undue cultural influences on our worship, and we bristle at musical styles and art forms that do not reflect our values…”

(this article is an excerpt from the May–June 2014 edition of the Sabbath Sentinel)

To read the rest of this article, which starts on page 10, click this link:

https://biblesabbath.org/media/TSS_lowres_3-4-14_No-567.pdf

Protestant Confessions About the Sabbath (Part 2 of 2)

Protestant Confessions About the Sabbath (Part 2 of 2)

Protestant theologians and preachers from a wide spectrum of denominations have been quite candid in admitting that there is no Biblical authority for observing Sunday as a sabbath.

If you didn’t get a chance to read part 1 of this series, CLICK HERE

Lutheran

Andreas Karlstadt, Regarding The Sabbath and other Statutory Holy Days, sec 10

“If servants have worked for six days, they are to have the seventh day off God says without distinction, ‘Remember to celebrate the seventh day.’ He does not say that we must keep Sunday or Saturday as the seventh day. It is no secret that human beings instituted Sunday. As for Saturday, the matter is still being debated.”

The Sunday Problem , a study book of the United Lutheran Church (1923), p. 36.

“We have seen how gradually the impression of the Jewish sabbath faded from the mind of the Christian Church, and how completely the newer thought underlying the observance of the first day took possession of the church. We have seen that the Christians of the first three centuries never confused one with the other, but for a time celebrated both.”

Augsburg Confession of Faith art. 28; written by Melanchthon, approved by Martin Luther, 1530; as published in The Book of Concord of the Evangelical Lutheran Church Henry Jacobs, ed. (1911), p. 63.

“They [Roman Catholics] refer to the Sabbath Day, a shaving been changed into the Lord’s Day, contrary to the Decalogue, as it seems. Neither is there any example whereof they make more than concerning the changing of the Sabbath Day. Great, say they, is the power of the Church, since it has dispensed with one of the Ten Commandments!”

Dr. Augustus Neander, The History of the Christian Religion and Church Henry John Rose, tr. (1843), p. 186.

“The festival of Sunday, like all other festivals, was always only a human ordinance, and it was far from the intentions of the apostles to establish a Divine command in this respect, far from them, and from the early apostolic Church, to transfer the laws of the Sabbath to Sunday.”

John Theodore Mueller, Sabbath or Sunday , pp. 15, 16.

“But they err in teaching that Sunday has taken the place of the Old Testament Sabbath and therefore must be kept as the seventh day had to be kept by the children of Israel …. These churches err in their teaching, for Scripture has in no way ordained the first day of the week in place of the Sabbath. There is simply no law in the New Testament to that effect.”

Methodist

Harris Franklin Rall, Christian Advocate, July 2, 1942, p.26.

“Take the matter of Sunday. There are indications in the New Testament as to how the church came to keep the first day of the week as its day of worship, but there is no passage telling Christians to keep that day, or to transfer the Jewish Sabbath to that day.”

John Wesley, The Works of the Rev. John Wesley, A.M., John Emory, ed. (New York: Eaton & Mains), Sermon 25,vol. 1, p. 221.

“But, the moral law contained in the ten commandments, and enforced by the prophets, he [Christ] did not take away. It was not the design of his coming to revoke any part of this. This is a law which never can be broken …. Every part of this law must remain in force upon all mankind, and in all ages; as not depending either on time or place, or any other circumstances liable to change, but on the nature of God and the nature of man, and their unchangeable relation to each other.”

Dwight L. Moody

  1. L. Moody, Weighed and Wanting (Fleming H. Revell Co.: New York), pp. 47, 48.

“The Sabbath was binding in Eden, and it has been in force ever since. This fourth commandment begins with the word ‘remember,’ showing that the Sabbath already existed when God wrote the law on the tables of stone at Sinai. How can men claim that this one commandment has been done away with when they will admit that the other nine are still binding?”

Presbyterian

  1. C. Blake, D.D., Theology Condensed, pp.474, 475.

“The Sabbath is a part of the decalogue – the Ten Commandments. This alone forever settles the question as to the perpetuity of the institution . . . . Until, therefore, it can be shown that the whole moral law has been repealed, the Sabbath will stand . . . . The teaching of Christ confirms the perpetuity of the Sabbath.”

Historicity of the Hanukkah Miracle


Historicity of the Hanukkah Miracle

By Kelly McDonald, Jr.

Many Sabbatarians either commemorate or at least recognize the importance Hanukkah. It is a historical account filled with amazing plot lines that we can learn many lessons from today. It is the culminating event of fulfillment for many prophecies from Daniel chapter 11. However, there is one event in the Hanukkah account that may or may not have happened. It involves the relighting of the menorah. In this article, we hope to shed light on this event.

We will begin with a brief overview of the historical details leading up to the Hanukkah story. In 175 BC, there was a Greek king named Antiochus IV who ruled over the Greek Seleucid Kingdom. This kingdom spanned from modern-day Syria to near India. It went as far south as the border of Egypt. Antiochus was not content with this massive territory; he sought to conquer Egypt as well.

He tried twice and failed both times. The second failure occurred in 168. On this expedition, the Romans opposed his expansion. Antiochus had made extensive preparations for this expedition and was determined to conquer something. Since he was deterred from Egypt, he turned his fury towards the Jewish people and especially the city of Jerusalem.

Initially, Antiochus and his forces approached Jerusalem under a banner of peace. When the army entered the city, they began to slaughter innocent people. As part of his desecration, he invaded the Temple precincts. He erected a pagan altar on top of God’s altar of sacrifice. They made sacrifices to these gods with unclean animals on the 25th day of every month. He declared himself to be god. 

The Jewish people did not remain silent. Antiochus sent his generals into the country side to compel Jewish people to sacrifice to the Greek gods and eat unclean animal meat. Among the first men to resist this apostasy was Mattathias. He refused to compromise his beliefs and fought back. He led a group that would later become called the Maccabees.

The Jewish people fought valiantly despite serious disadvantages. They were outnumbered, had inferior equipment and had a lack of military training compared to their Greek counterparts. Despite these apparent deficits, the Jewish people won victory after victory. It was truly miraculous how God came through for His people.

After three years of intense fighting, the Jewish people regained control of the Temple area. Once this happened, they immediately sought to purify it from Antiochus’ defilement. They cleansed it of impurities and prepared it to be used for God’s purposes once again. This included the destruction of the old altar of sacrifice; a new one was erected using stones (according to Ex. 20:24-25). They rededicated the Temple over eight days (according to the Biblical custom – 2 Chron. 29:17).

From that time to now, the Jewish people have celebrated Chanukkah (which is a Hebrew word meaning rededication) for eight days every year. 

As part of rededicating the Temple, they had to relight the menorah. According to Jewish legend (found in the Talmud), they only found one container of pure oil that had not been defiled. The account goes on to say that they lit the menorah on faith and this one container of oil lasted eight days (the entire time of the rededication). This event is called the Hanukkah miracle.

When we read about Hanukkah and the revolt against the Greeks, the legend of the menorah being rekindled is usually given a prominent place. Some say that the miracle of the oil did not happen.  Modern people do not place as much emphasis on the military victories – which were miracles in and of themselves. In this article, we will review the historicity of the Hanukkah miracle.

The term historicity refers to the historical legitimacy of an event. In other words, did it really happen? Another question we hope to answer: why are the military victories not as emphasized by people today when we discuss Hanukkah?

Let’s start by examining the primary sources nearest these events. A primary source is a person, artifact, or some historical record that is contemporary to the time period being examined.

The first book of Maccabees was written nearest the time of the Hanukah story. This book describes the invasion of the Greeks, the courageous resistance of the Jewish people, and their victory. In it, the re-lighting of the menorah is told.

“They burned incense on the altar and lighted lamps on the lampstand, and these gave light in the Temple” (1 Maccabees 4:50). The re-lighting of the Menorah is recounted as a significant event in the rededication of the Temple. This account also mentions how the menorah and altar of incense brought light to the Temple. Thus, the light emanating from the menorah (and the altar of incense) is a central theme of the rededication. However, there is no mention that there was a lack of oil for the menorah or that it burned eight days on a one-day supply.

Another historical work completed after the Hanukkah story is called the second book of Maccabees. The name for this work can be a little deceiving. It was a summary of a five volume series written by Jason of Cyrene (2 Maccabees 2:19-25). The author of second Maccabees describes the “mass of material” available in Jason’s work. These volumes recounted the story of Judas Maccabeus and the rededication of the Temple. Second Maccabees mentions the relighting of the menorah (2 Macc. 10:3). It does not mention a Hanukkah miracle. The five volumes by Jason might have contained more details about this event. Unfortunately, these volumes have been lost.

The next credible source describing these events comes from Josephus, a first century AD source. His account follows first Maccabees pretty closely. He mentions no miracles, but he does mention the menorah being rekindled. The other furniture pieces are also mentioned.

“…they lighted the lamps that were on the candlestick, and offered incense upon the altar of incense, and laid the loaves upon the table of showbread, and offered burnt offerings upon the new altar of burnt-offering…Nay, they were so very glad at the revival of their customs, when, after a long intermission, they unexpectedly had regained the freedom of their worship, that they made it a law for their posterity, that they should keep a festival on account of the restoration of their temple worship for eight days. And from that time to this we celebrate this festival and call it “Lights”. I suppose the reason was, because this liberty beyond all Hopes appeared to us; and that thence was the name given to that festival” (Antiquities, Book 12, Chapter 7).

This is a fascinating statement. Did Josephus know more than what he disclosed? He called Hanukkah ‘lights’ but gives no reason as to why it should be called that. The Greek word translated as lights in this passage literally means illumination – as emanating from a light source. His statement indicates that he may not have been completely convinced how the name “Festival of Lights” was conceived. Although, I Maccabees makes it clear the Temple was illuminated from the lights lit within. 

Josephus, 1 Maccabees and 2 Maccabees are the primary sources closest to the Hanukkah story. The menorah being relit was obviously an important part of reclaiming the Temple. It is recalled by all of them. If some kind of miracle occurred regarding the menorah (or any other Temple furniture piece), maybe these authors did not know about it or chose to leave it out. The fact that they had religious freedom from the Greeks seems to be of the upmost importance. The Jewish people gained control of the Temple and could worship God.

Another very important point to consider in this discussion is the following: how many people would have actually been around to view any such miracle inside the temple? (if it happened) Only priests could enter the Temple and re-light the menorah. The writer of 1 Maccabees may not have had access to testimonies about those who witnessed it (if it actually happened). As aforementioned, we do not have the five volumes written by Jason.

The main sources that discuss any miracle of oil come later. The Babylonian Talmud was written between 200 and 500 AD. In it, we read about the miracle. This was hundreds of years after the event happened.

“…When the Greeks entered the sanctuary they defiled all the oils that were in the Sanctuary by touching them. And when the Hasmonean monarchy overcame them and emerged victorious over them, they searched and found only one cruse of oil that was placed with the seal of the High Priest, undisturbed by the Greeks. And there was sufficient oil there to light the candelabrum for only one day. A miracle occurred and they lit the candelabrum from it eight days. The next year the sages instituted those days and made them holidays with recitation of hallel and special thanksgiving in prayer and blessing” (Shabbat 21b).

How reliable is a document that recorded an event hundreds of years after it happened? First of all, we do not know all the documents that the writers of the Talmud used to compile their books. Wars, natural disasters, and time caused documents to be lost (such as Jason’s five volumes).

Secondly, consider another example. The Torah was given to Moses around 1500 BC, but the earliest manuscripts we have date to hundreds of years later. This is true for other books of the Old Testament, such as Kings and Chronicles. Both of these books have historically accurate/reliable details in them. 

Third, by the time the Talmud was written, the practice of lighting a menorah to honor Hanukkah was deeply entrenched in its celebration. It was so widely practiced that it was recorded as a necessary tradition. For instance, if you only had enough money for Shabbat wine or oil during Hanukkah, you would buy the oil (Shabbat 23b, Raba). Having a Hanukkah lamp ignited was of utmost importance. It became a requirement among Jewish people. A practice of this nature does not develop overnight. It takes time for a custom to become so entrenched that it is viewed as a requirement.

The Talmud also contains a lot of commentary on the schools of Hillel and Shammai, which we know existed in the last century BC/first century AD. Between the two schools, there was a difference of practice as it relates to Hanukkah. The school of Shammai lit eight candles on the first day of Hanukkah and then decreased the amount of candles by one each day. The school of Hillel started with one candle and increased the amount of candles each day by one (Shabbat, 21b).

Archeology bears witness to these details. In 2019, The Times of Israel reported that the depiction of a nine-branch lampstand was found an ancient oil lamp in Israel. It dates to the first century AD, which is contemporary to the two schools discussed in the Talmud (to read the article about this finding, click HERE). 

In other words, there are details in the Talmud that give it a degree of historical accuracy.

One last source we will consider is a document called The Scroll of Antiochus. It is a possible primary source, but it has problems. It records military victory, but also the miracle of the oil. It has some historical inaccuracies, but other correct details.

The main problem with this scroll is that scholars debate the time period in which it was written. The dates range from the first century through the eleventh century AD. This is a pretty large discrepancy. The majority of scholars settle for a fifth century to seventh century dating because it is mentioned in other writings (the Gedolos in 600 AD; Saadia Gaon in the 800s AD). Nissim b Jacob (around 1000 AD) attributed the scroll on the same level as Scriptural canon. We know that in the 1200s, the scroll was read every Hanukkah in Italy.

We have given a fair overview of sources that recount the Hanukkah story and the possibility of a menorah miracle or a lack thereof. Perhaps it is important to return to our original question: Why was the miracle of the oil found in the Talmud and emphasized by later writers, but not by those nearest it?

The earliest sources mention the great military victories with a minor focus on the Temple furniture. Perhaps the long-term fruit of the Maccabee revolt will guide us towards resolving some of the issues between sources closer to the event and those that are farther away.

The Temple was rededicated around 165 BC. In 142 BC, the Jewish people finally won their political independence from the Greeks. Simon was proclaimed the leader and high priest of the Jewish people forever until a faithful prophet should arise. Just three years later, the Roman Senate recognized their dynasty. So many good things seemed to be happening.

Regrettably, these good times did not last.

Simon was murdered in 135. John Hyrcanus then became the ruler until 104. He wanted to make his wife queen after his death and his oldest son, Aristobulus, the high priest. Aristobulus did not like this plan. Once his father died, he cast his mother and other brothers in prison. His mother starved to death, and he put one of his brothers, Antigonus, to death. He died about one year after becoming king.

From 103 to 76, Alexander Jannaeus, a different son of John Hyrcanus, ruled. After his death, his wife Alexandra became queen for a short time. Not long afterwards, a civil war raged across Judea. The Roman general Pompey intervened in the conflict and put the country of Judea under Roman supervision. The Jewish lost some political freedoms and were forced to pay tribute.

From 63-40 BC, Hyrcanus II supervised the government on behalf of the Romans; he was the high priest. The Parthians briefly conquered Judea around 40. They proclaimed Antigonus as king and high priest over Judea. For the next three years, there was contention as Herod, the pro-Roman antagonist, fought for control of the throne against Antigonus. Herod eventually gained control of the country in 37 BC. He became the founder of the Herodian dynasty. The Romans allowed Antigonus to be put to death; he was the first king the Romans put to death (they usually kept kings captive). The Hasmonean dynasty ended.

In 66 AD, the Jewish people revolted against the Romans. About Four years later, they were defeated. The city of Jerusalem and the Temple were destroyed. Hundreds of thousands of people either died or were sold as slaves. About 60 years later, the Bar Kokhba revolt began. Jerusalem was devastated again; the Jewish people were banned from the city and surrounding country side. Over 585,000 Jewish people died from fighting. They would not be allowed to return to the city for almost 300 years.

This is a brief overview of the events that occurred immediately after the Maccabean revolt. Thus, the initial revolt was successful and involved great military exploits. However, the long-term actions of the Hasmonean dynasty were marred with failure. There was betrayal, murder and civil war. The country lost its sovereignty and became subject to another empire – Rome. The city was destroyed twice and the Jewish people banned from even approaching it. These events sound like a combination of accounts from the Biblical books of Judges with 1 and 2 Kings.

Now that we have reviewed these details, we can have a better perspective of Hanukkah.

Here are some final things to remember when you consider the historicity of the Hanukkah miracle. The people who lived immediately after the Jewish victory focused on battles. Those who lived a few hundred years later saw the long-term fruit of that Maccabeean revolt, which was contrary to the very purpose of it (freedom to worship God). They did not value the military victories as much.

If you were writing, what events might you emphasize?

The fact that the menorah was rekindled (along with the altar of incense and the altar of sacrifice) is recounted by primary sources. It is a significant part of the Temple regaining its light. Josephus even calls it the Feast of Lights. The Bible calls it the Dedication in John 10:22 (literally, “in newness” or “in refreshing”). This is a reference to the rededication of the Temple.

A few hundred years after these events, the lighting of a menorah is the central focus of the Hanukkah celebration. Considering all the details gives the miracle story a little bit more merit – but its still not clear what happened.

The concept that there was an insufficient supply of Levitically clean oil is not absurd. If there was a shortage of oil,then it would have taken a miracle to keep the menorah burning for the dedication process. The holy oil for the Temple required a special process and time to refine it.

We know the menorah was relit; we know the Temple was cleansed and rededicated. Our minds are still left to wonder the specific details and conditions surrounding the menorah when it was rekindled.

At the very least, let us consider their struggle to rededicate the Temple as we rededicate our own. What miracles have happened in your life as you sought to dedicate yourself to God?

Sources

Babylonian Talmud. Accessed through https://www.sefaria.org.

Flavius Josephus. The Complete Works of Flavius Josephus. Translated by William Whiston. 1737. Antiquities of the Jews. Book 12, Chapter 7. p 302.

First and Second Book of Maccabees (Revised Standard Version). 1946, 1952, and 1971 the Division of Christian Education of the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America.

Jewish Encyclopedia 1905: Antigonus Mattathias, Aristobulus I, Aristobulus II, Scroll of Antiochus, Hasmoneans, Hyrcanus, John.

Moore, George Foot. Judaism in the First Centuries of the Chris-tian Era the Age of the Tannaim. Vol. 2 Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1932. pp 49-51.

Times of Israel. “2,000-year-old image of 9-stem menorah found in rare Jewish site in Beersheba”. April 4, 2019. Accessed online: https://www.timesofisrael.com/2000-year-old-image-of-9-stem-menorah-found-in-rare-jewish-site-in-beersheba/

The “Lost” Parable

The “Lost” Parable

By K.W. Gardner

“‘Either what woman having ten pieces of silver, if she lose one, doth not light a candle and sweep the house, and seek diligently till she find it? And when she hath found it, she calleth her friends and her neighbours together saying, Rejoice with me; for I have found the piece which I had lost’ (Luke 15:8-9).

The text before us is the shortest parable in the Bible; two verses. We call it the “lost” parable because the full meaning seems to have been lost with the silver. It is fitting, in view of the lateness of the hour, that we should study it, with other scriptures, for meaning intended to be seen in the light of these last days.

The “Shepherd and Lost Sheep” parable is symbolic of the Savior and the ignorantly sinful. The sheep wandered away and got lost without giving the matter any thought. If the sheep thought at all, it thought it was doing right well, thank you, as it skipped and frolicked through the afternoon. The world is full of people like that…”

(this article is an excerpt from the October 1970 edition of the Sabbath Sentinel)

To read the rest of this article, which starts on page 3, click this link: https://biblesabbath.org/media/tss_166Oct1970.pdf

Protestant Confessions About the Sabbath (Part 1 of 2)

Protestant Confessions About the Sabbath (Part 1 of 2)

Protestant theologians and preachers from a wide spectrum of denominations have been quite candid in admitting that there is no Biblical authority for observing Sunday as a sabbath.

Anglican/Episcopal

Isaac Williams, Plain Sermons on the Catechism , vol. 1, pp.334, 336.

“And where are we told in the Scriptures that we are to keep the first day at all? We are commanded to keep the seventh; but we are nowhere commanded to keep the first day …. The reason why we keep the first day of the week holy instead of the seventh is for the same reason that we observe many other things, not because the Bible, but because the church has enjoined it.”

Canon Eyton, The Ten Commandments , pp. 52, 63, 65.

“There is no word, no hint, in the New Testament about abstaining from work on Sunday …. into the rest of Sunday no divine law enters…. The observance of Ash Wednesday or Lent stands exactly on the same footing as the observance of Sunday.”

Bishop Seymour, Why We Keep Sunday .

“We have made the change from the seventh day to the first day, from Saturday to Sunday, on the authority of the one holy Catholic Church.”

Baptist

Dr. Edward T. Hiscox, a paper read before a New York ministers’ conference, Nov. 13, 1893, reported in New York Examiner , Nov.16, 1893.

“There was and is a commandment to keep holy the Sabbath day, but that Sabbath day was not Sunday. It will be said, however, and with some show of triumph, that the Sabbath was transferred from the seventh to the first day of the week …. Where can the record of such a transaction be found? Not in the New Testament absolutely not.

“To me it seems unaccountable that Jesus, during three years’ intercourse with His disciples, often conversing with them upon the Sabbath question . . . never alluded to any transference of the day; also, that during forty days of His resurrection life, no such thing was intimated.

“Of course, I quite well know that Sunday did come into use in early Christian history . . . . But what a pity it comes branded with the mark of paganism, and christened with the name of the sun god, adopted and sanctioned by the papal apostasy, and bequeathed as a sacred legacy to Protestantism!”

William Owen Carver, The Lord’s Day in Our Day , p. 49.

“There was never any formal or authoritative change from the Jewish seventh-day Sabbath to the Christian first-day observance.”

Congregationalist

Dr. R. W. Dale, The Ten Commandments (New York: Eaton &Mains), p. 127-129.

“ . . . it is quite clear that however rigidly or devotedly we may spend Sunday, we are not keeping the Sabbath – . . ‘Me Sabbath was founded on a specific Divine command. We can plead no such command for the obligation to observe Sunday …. There is not a single sentence in the New Testament to suggest that we incur any penalty by violating the supposed sanctity of Sunday.”

Timothy Dwight, Theology: Explained and Defended (1823), Ser. 107, vol. 3, p. 258.

“ . . . the Christian Sabbath [Sunday] is not in the Scriptures, and was not by the primitive Church called the Sabbath.”

Disciples of Christ

Alexander Campbell, The Christian Baptist, Feb. 2, 1824,vol. 1. no. 7, p. 164.

“‘But,’ say some, ‘it was changed from the seventh to the first day.’ Where? when? and by whom? No man can tell. No; it never was changed, nor could it be, unless creation was to be gone through again: for the reason assigned must be changed before the observance, or respect to the reason, can be changed! It is all old wives’ fables to talk of the change of the Sabbath from the seventh to the first day. If it be changed, it was that august personage changed it who changes times and laws ex officio – I think his name is Doctor Antichrist.’

First Day Observance , pp. 17, 19.

“The first day of the week is commonly called the Sabbath. This is a mistake. The Sabbath of the Bible was the day just preceding the first day of the week. The first day of the week is never called the Sabbath anywhere in the entire Scriptures. It is also an error to talk about the change of the Sabbath from Saturday to Sunday. There is not in any place in the Bible any intimation of such a change.”

CLICK HERE to read part 2 of this series

A Call to Repentance and Turning toward God continued…

A Call to Repentance and Turning toward God continued…

By Scott Hoefker

Last Friday evening in my weekly Sabbath note, we concluded with the words that God had given to Jeremiah, (written down by Baruch and were being read by a man named Jehudi to King Jehoiakim).  “It may be that the house of Judah will hear all the adversities which I purpose to bring upon them, that everyone may turn from his evil way that I may forgive their iniquity and their sin.”

At this time of year, there is flurry of activity as our nation scurries around buying gifts and laying the ground work for a holiday that will be upon us in less than a month. These recorded words in God’s Word shed some important light for all to consider.

Let’s continue with the story, “Now the king was sitting in the winter house in the ninth month, with a fire burning on the hearth before him. And it happened, when Jehudi had read three or four columns, that the king cut it with the scribe’s knife and cast it into the fire that was on the hearth, until all the scroll was consumed in the fire that was on the hearth.” (Jeremiah 36:22-23)

This was an outright disrespectful, careless, and rebellious action! Instead of fearing the Lord and humbling himself, he and his closest servants disregarded the warning contained in the words of the scroll. “Yet they were not afraid, nor did they tear their garments, the king nor any of his servants who heard all these words.” (v.24) Interesting that three men implored the king to not burn the scroll (v.25). They are to be commended for their courage.

To add injury to insult (if we may reverse the often quoted saying) the king ordered some of his men “to seize Baruch the scribe and Jeremiah the prophet, but the Lord hid them.” (v.26)

There is very big lesson here. Men cannot destroy what God intends to preserve.

He told Jeremiah to write down on another scroll the words that were written on the scroll the king had burned (v.27-28) and He even added to them (v.32). God gave the inspiration to Jeremiah to remember those words.

Then the Lord told Jeremiah to bring the message to King Jehoiakim, that the king of Babylon would come and destroy the land and remove the people. The calamity described in detail in that scroll would come upon them. Jehoiakim would be singled out for an ignominious death and his family and servants would be punished severely for their failure to heed the words.

I have to wonder if we as a nation realize that thumbing our noses at God and not heeding His warning will bring similar consequences.

We then read in 2 Chronicles 36:6, “Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon came up against him and bound him in chains to carry him to Babylon.” “And the rest of the acts of Jehoiakim, and his abominations which he did, and that which was found in him, behold, they are written in the Book of the Kings of Israel and Judah.” (2 Chronicles 36:8)

Jeremiah had earlier recorded God’s judgment concerning Jehoiakim. “He shall be buried with the burial of a donkey, dragged and cast out beyond the gates of Jerusalem.” (Jeremiah 22:19) It appears that the account in Jeremiah 36 shows God offering Jehoiakim one more chance to repent and turn the nation around.

What’s encouraging is that our great God is a merciful and compassionate, willing to change His mind about punishments and calamities He has pronounced if those to be affected will humble themselves, hear, fear, and then turn from their iniquity and make the changes God has shown.

This is the message in the famous “Watchman Chapter.” “Say to them: ‘As I live,’ says the Lord GOD, ‘I have no pleasure in the death of the wicked, but that the wicked turn from his way and live. Turn, turn from your evil ways! For why should you die, O house of Israel?’” (Ezekiel 33:11)

The Lord goes on to speak through Ezekiel, “Again, when I say to the wicked, ‘You shall surely die,’ if he turns from his sin and does what is lawful and right . . . he shall surely live; he shall not die.” (Ezekiel 33:14-15)

God is giving that same message today to the leaders and people of modern day Israel? Will they heed?

John also in his gospel records some events that took place during the ninth month at the time of “the Feast of Dedication in Jerusalem, and it was winter.” (John 10:22) We’ll look at those more closely next Friday evening…and as I close this letter, as I do every Friday, as we enter His Sabbath…reflect on this evening’s letter with me, will you?

May God continue to richly bless you. Our prayers and thoughts are with you daily. Please do pray for us as well.

-Scott Hoefker (Pastor and wife (Gayle) The Living God Ministries Gulf Coast)

This post was originally published on Nov. 22, 2019 on their website.

We encourage you to follow this ministry at https://tlgministriesgc.org/