Indeed, of all the references DovBear mentioned as being in the interim 600 years from the incident of Chanukka to the redaction of Talmud, none of them turn out to be in the interim, but rather post-Talmudic. So let us reanalyze the situation with this in mind. Borrowing liberally from my previous post:
The Shifting Miracle of Chanukka?
DovBear recently posted about the changing nature of the miracle of Chanukka, in which it started as military victory and eventually became only the miracle of the cruse of oil. Then he speculated on the reason this occurred.
This is not necessarily so.
Firstly, what does it mean to say that there is no attestation of the miracle of the cruse of oil? This means that in I Maccabees, there is no mention of this miracle. However, what DovBear neglects to mention, but which Rabbi Dr. David Berger does mention (see here) was that there is evidence that there were a number of miracle stories circulating then (found in II Maccabees), none of which are cited by the author of I Maccabees. This is a historiographical point - I Maccabees does not see fit to include miracles. Thus, this is an attempt to argue from absence of evidence, but absence of evidence is not evidence of absence, and in this case, it makes sense that there is an absence of evidence in this book.
Yet II Maccabees does not mention the miracle of the cruse of oil either. Again, this is arguing from absence of evidence, which is difficult given that II Maccabees is an abridgment of five books which we no longer have, and II Maccabees contains much more amazing miracles (e.g. appearance of angels).
Thus, the miracle of the cruse of oil might actually have been a fairly old one, dating even to the time of the Maccabees. Yet there is also the military victory aspect, as well as several other miracles. Saying there was one miracle does not contradict a claim that there was another miracle.
The first attestation we have for this miracle of the cruse of oil is indeed in the Talmud:
מאי חנוכה, דתנו רבנן, בכ"ה בכסליו יומי דחנוכה תמניא אינון, דלא למספד בהון ודלא להתענות בהון (מגילת תענית, משנה כ"ג). שנכנסו יוונים להיכל, טימאו כל השמנים שבהיכל וכשגברה מלכות בית חשמונאי ונצחום,בדקו ולא מצאו אלא פך אחד של שמן, שהיה מונח בחותמו של כהן גדול, ולא היה בו אלא להדליק יום אחד.נעשה בו נס, והדליקו ממנו שמונה ימים. לשנה אחרת קבעום ועשאום ימים טובים בהלל והודאה". (גמרא שבת כא
While we might parse it (and indeed, many appear to do so), "What is Chanukka? The Sages learnt...," as I discussed in the previous post, it may well be that Tno Rabbanan refers only to the Aramaic "Mishna" of Megillat Taanit, and the answer may well be non-Tannaitic.
Of course, that something is first recorded in the Talmud does not necessarily mean that the genesis of the story is just then. It could have been transmitted Orally, or this could be a citation from a no-longer extant source.
For what I think is a good symbolic explanation of the significance of the miracle, see my post on parshablog here.
The next source we consider is the early Geonic midrash from 8th century, Pesikta Rabbati. Citing again from DovBear's post:
"[At Hanukah] we commemorate the dedication of the Temple by the Hasmoneans who fought and defeated the Hellenists, and we kindle lights -- just as when [we] finished the Tabernacle in the Wilderness . . . ." (Pesikta Rabbati, ch. 6)Thus, we see that the military miracle, and the eight iron spears, and the Chanukkat haBayit. The Chanukkat haBayit reason is that given in both I Maccabees and II Maccabees. (The reason of Succot, found in II Maccabees, will be the subject of another post.)
"Why do we kindle lights on Hanukah? Because when the sons of the Hasmoneans, the High Priest, defeated the Hellenists, they entered the Temple and found there eight iron spears. They stuck candles on them and lit them." (Pesikta Rabbati ch. 2)
Thus, even with mention of a miracle in the gemara, the Geonim felt free to mention other reasons. Multiple reasons are not mutually exclusive.
Indeed, we then see Megillat Taanit. The Hebrew gloss is apparently post-Talmudic, though exactly when I am not sure. Let us say it is a bit later than Pesikta Rabbati. I don't have enough info at the moment, but it does not really seem to matter to the analysis. We find all three of these reasons side by side, covering different portions of Chanukka: