Craig Keener’s two volume commentary on John’s Gospel is a level-headed, well researched, and careful exposition of the Gospel. In other words, its well worth the cash. Here’s an example of Keener’s excellent discussion of background material from 10.22, where Jesus speaks to the Jews during the Feast of Dedication (a.k.a. Hanukkah).
“Most possible associations with Hanukkah are less clear than the clearest associations John provides with Sukkoth [see my earlier posts on the Feast of Tabernacles/Booths] and Passover elsewhere…. Nevertheless, John’s Jewish audience might well contemplate the narrative in the light of their own celebrations of Hanukkah. When Jesus’ interlocutors demand to know whether he is the Messiah (10.24), the calendrical context is political, a celebration of national deliverance; Jesus instead defines his messianic identity in terms of oneness with the Father (10.30).”
“The Hanukkah context also may highlight the hypocrisy of Jesus’ enemies. The feast honored the Maccabean heroes for their good works on behalf of Israel, whereas Jesus opponents seek to stonehim despite his good works (10.32). During this season those gathered in Jerusalem also would have recalled with disdain the Hellenist Jewish apostates who sided with Antiochus Ephiphanes’ claim to be deity; Jesus’ opponents might well have in mind this history when they charge Jesus with making himself God (10.33). Jesus argues the opposite; they reject him though he is God’s agent, ‘sent’ by God; he is ‘sanctified’ just as the new altar was (10.36). Because they reject him as God’s agent, he would imply that they are the true apostates, no more from his sheep (10.26) than the Hellenists who preferred Antiochus to the Maccabees. In such a context, it is not difficult to see that the charges and countercharges represent loaded language that invited an acceleration of conflict (10.39).”
Nice. Keener is careful not to overstate the connections between the extra-canonical origin of Hanukkah, as John only hints at it in passing. Yet Keener does take time to study the connection, because the text does clearly hint at it (10.22-3). Also, with care, Keener notes the original readers of this gospel, who would no doubt know what Hanukkah was. (Craig Keener, The Gospel of John: A Commentary vol. 1 [Peabody: Hendrickson, 2003], 822).