When this post by Barry Strauss showed up in my feed reader, I wondered what in the world a classical historian who has written about the Trojan War, the Battle of Salamis, and Spartacus’s slave revolt might have to say about the Jewish Festival of Lights. He really hits the nail on the head:
Chanukah commemorates a miraculous victory in a war in 167 B.C. A Greco-Macedonian kingdom, centered in what is today Syria, had tried to outlaw the Jewish religion in its homeland in Judea and to replace it with Hellenic culture. Many Jews, in fact, supported that goal. But that is no surprise, because Hellenism had enormous appeal.
Hellenism seemed to have everything going for it. It was up-to-date, sophisticated, and intellectually satisfying. It offered wealth, health, art, and glamour. It represented the entrance ticket to an imperial civilization. Hellenism offered the opportunity to think big.
Judaism sat at the opposite end of the scale. It was old, small, and poor. It had no empire. It had nothing to offer except faith, trust, love, and strength. But those things, it turns out, are items that the human heart cannot do without.
So the miraculous happened. A small band, burning with faith, went on to defeat an empire.
Read it all.