Academic journal article Shofar

Passover in the Works of Josephus by Federico M. Colautti

Academic journal article Shofar

Passover in the Works of Josephus by Federico M. Colautti

Article excerpt

This book presents the doctoral thesis of the author from the Pontifical Gregorian University in Rome, under the direction of Joseph Sievers and Charles Conroy. Written originally in Spanish, it was translated into English by Fr. Anthony Trafford.

Colautti's thesis is that in Josephus' estimate the Passover was the most important Jewish feast. The author defends this apparently innocuous conclusion by observing that Josephus refers to Passover when he need not have, though he also notes that he omits reference to Passover when he might have (see summary on p. 238).

One might wonder that there was not greater reference to Passover in Josephus' works. Indeed, as it may be noted in the "General Index" in the last volume of the Loeb edition of Josephus' works, this ancient author does not refer to Passover often, and not once in either his Vita or his principal apologetic work, Against Apion.

One of the key issues in the study of Josephus' rewritten biblical text is that he had a variety of forms of the text to choose from. Colautti argues that Josephus displays links to various textual traditions (p. 19), though in exploring this surmise he reveals the uncertainty of the task, as any of us have found who have attempted to nail down Josephus' biblical sources. Josephus avoided direct quotations and changed freely whatever was before him.

This book is divided into three sections. Part One investigates allusions to Passover in Scripture and Josephus' rewritten account of the biblical passages. These include stylized summaries of Exodus 11-13 in less than three pages of the small Loeb edition, the summary of laws on the Passover in Leviticus 23:5-14 and Numbers 28:16-25, and the sparse allusions to the Passover in Joshua, II Kings 22, and II Chronicles 29-30. The author also refers to other festivals involving purification rites in related passages of the historical books, with observations on Josephus' use of the apocryphal I Esdras. He observes the variation found in Josephus' description of the Feast of Unleavened Bread and Passover, sometimes linking them, and sometimes treating them as separate events.

Part Two looks at Josephus' account of Passover celebrations in the Second Temple period. He observes that the beginning and the end of the war with Rome took place around Passover. …

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