Issues of the Holiday
1. Why aren't the Books of Maccabbees part of the Bible?
There are several problems concerning the Books of Maccabbees that preclude their incorporation in the Bible:
a. They were not originally written in Hebrew. Although some scholars may disagree, the prevailing opinion is that the books themselves were written for a Greek speaking Jewish audience. Imagine have a book of the Bible that was not written in Hebrew?
b. There are concepts referred to in the Books of Maccabbees that, although not foreign to Jewish tradition, occur nowhere else in the Bible: The afterlife, resurrection of the dead and martyrdom to mention a few.
c. When the Maccabbees liberated Jerusalem and cleansed the Temple, Judah decreed that although it was two months late, they would now celebrate the festival of Sukkot, which they had not been able to celebrate because they did not hold the Temple. According to the Books of Maccabbees, that is one of the reasons for celebrating Hanukkah for eight days. By doing this, Judah changed Torah law. Although his decree was short lived, it could have set a dangerous precedent for the tradition. How could a book be included into the canon which supported undermining the authority represented by the Torah?
2. What is the miracle of Hanukkah?
There have been many articles written on this topic. In brief, the Books of Maccabbees state that Judah cleansed the Temple in Jerusalem, set sacrifices and reestablished the independent state. There is no mention made of lighting the Menorah or of any problem with the existing oil. There certainly is no mention of having only one cruse of oil that lasted eight days.
Various reasons are given for the holiday lasting eight days: From the texts themselves we learn that it was modeled after the festival of Sukkot (see above), which is an eight day festival. We also read that when Judah cleansed the Temple they took eight spears, filled them with oil, and lit the "ad hoc" Menorah.
No miracle concerning oil is mentioned in our tradition until the story is recounted in the Talmud (600 CE). Yet the Talmud glosses over the Maccabbean battles, hardly mentioning them at all. How can the Talmud assert a miracle that has never been mentioned before?
3. Why is Hanukkah not mentioned in the MIshna?
The Mishna, a commentary on the legal portions of the Torah, was edited by Rabbi Yehuda Hanasi, leader of the Jewish community in Israel around 200 CE. He began to record the "Oral Law" in response to repressive Roman policies which caused the death of many Rabbis and teachers of law. Yet, Hanukkah is nowhere mentioned in the Mishna.
The title "nasi" was given to the leader of the Jewish community. This position was an inherited one, passed down from generation to generation. Each nasi was considered to be a direct descendant of King David, who was of the tribe of Judah. had Israel been an independent state, the "nasi" woudl have been king.
Mattethias and Judah, as "Kohanim" (priests), were from the tribe of Levi. When their rebellion against the Syrian Greeks succeeded, the the Maccabbees declared themselves to the "Priest Kings" of the now independent Jewish state. They began the Hasmonean dynasty, which lasted until Rome took control of the Middle East before the turn of the Milleneum.
As priests, the hasmoneans violated the tradition when they declared themselves kings. As a descendent of King David, Yehuda Hanasi would have been aware of this. It is believed that his decision to exclude Hanukkah from the MIshna was a statement against the legitimacy of the Hasmonean dynasty.