Dedicated to the writings of Saint Luke.

Sunday, February 17, 2008

Rewriting Passover

Colautti in Passover in the Works of Josephus reviewed all the passages in the writings of Josephus that mentioned Passover and concluded that in Josephus' estimate the Passover was the most important Jewish feast. This is confirmed near the end of Book IV, where Moses gives his last address to the people. His directives included, inter alia, the requirement that they shall recite the shema twice daily and remember with thanksgiving the deliverance from Egypt.

Exodus 12:43-49 states: “And the LORD said to Moses and Aaron, "This is the ordinance of the passover: no foreigner shall eat of it; but every slave that is bought for money may eat of it after you have circumcised him. No sojourner or hired servant may eat of it. In one house shall it be eaten; you shall not carry forth any of the flesh outside the house; and you shall not break a bone of it. All the congregation of Israel shall keep it. And when a stranger shall sojourn with you and would keep the passover to the LORD, let all his males be circumcised, then he may come near and keep it; he shall be as a native of the land. But no uncircumcised person shall eat of it. There shall be one law for the native and for the stranger who sojourns among you.”

Josephus acknowledges these prohibitions in his discussion and rewriting of Passover. Consequently, it is difficult to understand why Josephus “brings to light that at this feast, good Roman governors have been generously welcomed without any difficulty, ....” Colautti at 240. Josephus apparently did not understand the celebration of Passover as a boundary marker for Judaism.

If this is true, this ambivalence may be an indication that Josephus did not consider exclusivity and strict adherence to the boundary markers as necessary but this ambivalence did not make any him any less effective as an advocate for Judaism. It may be that Josephus has in his own way defined the people of God to include those who are possible converts to Judaism. Therefore, we can conclude that Josephus, who “speaks as a committed Jew,” rewrote sacred history in support of the cause of Jewish proselytism.

Copyrighted 2008


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