Epiphany

For me, as a student of the Greco-Roman era, the word Epiphany has certain connotations attached to it which are hard to shake and they all revolve around one man: Antiochus IV Epiphanes. As told in 1 Maccabees 1-2 and 2 Maccabees 5-7, Antiochus attempted to annihilate Judaism, which initially he presented as a desire that "his whole kingdom...should be one people, and that all should give up their particular customs" (1 Macc. 1:41-42). This desire devolved into a ferocious attempt to destroy Judaism and the Jewish people, which was ultimately repulsed by Mattathias and his sons, preeminent amongst them, Judas Maccabeus. Modern scholars are divided as to whether Antiochus Epiphanes actually wanted to create "one people" and "one religion," or whether he simply wanted to make manifest his power over others and satisfy a lust for wealth. What is not disputed, though, is that Antiochus saw himself as a manifestation of the divine Zeus, and his appellation Epiphanes refers to his understanding of himself as an incarnation of the god. How different the account of the true King made manifest in the flesh. He did not come to force people to become "one people" and "one religion." He did not exact tribute from his subject peoples. He did not destroy them with bloody might if they dared to oppose him. His Epiphany is truly seen in his incarnation, true God born as a vulnerable infant, but also in what he achieved for humankind. Many since Antiochus Epiphanes have tried to create by various forms of force a "one world order," but only through Christ is the goal possible. As Paul writes in Ephesians, the mystery, or secret, of the revelation of Christ at least in part contains the mystery that Gentiles, those who are not Jews, also "have become fellow heirs, members of the same body, and sharers in the promise in Christ Jesus through the gospel" (Eph. 3:6). For us, so long removed from the understanding that the Gentiles were beyond the covenant promises of God, it is difficult to (re)imagine the "mystery" of this revelation: Gentiles are invited through Christ to share in salvation, now offered to all people. This is a true joy, that all people are a part of the same household of God, "one new humanity, in place of the two, thus making peace" (Eph. 2:15). No violent force could create one world and one people, only the son of God made manifest in the flesh. John W. Martens
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