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ORIGIN OF PASSOVER Tamara Prosic, 3/38 Grandview Road, Preston 3072, Australia The problem of the origins of Passover has been a subject of considerable interest in variety of academic disciplines. Biblical scholars, historians of religion, anthropologists and archaeologists all gave their contribution to the discussion. Most studies on the origins of Passover, however, were done before the new trend in explaining the origins of the Israelites and thus respectively the origins of their religion became prevalent. Their conclusions were based on the traditional interpretation of the ethno-cul- tural origins of the early Israelites as nomads or semi-nomads before their settlement in Canaan and in line with this view, the Yahwistic Passover was seen as an amalgam made of two distinct festivals, one typical of the Israelites with nomadic-pastoral features and the other typical of the Canaanites and their sedentary way of life and agricultural customs. The period of using the unleavened bread was usually taken to represent the agricultural feast,’ while the ritual performed on its preliminary day with the characteristic animal sacrifice” was explained as a heritage from the nomadic-pastoral past of the Israelites. Certainly today with more and more scholars pertaining to the idea that the Israelites were not of a different ethnic and cultural background from the Canaanites, it seems that we may as well abandon attempts to identify peculiar Israelite features in the festival and claim that it originated from just one culture, that of the Canaanites. That, however, still does not pro- vide an answer whether it was a single festival from the beginning or 1 _ In further text Unleavened Bread. 2 In further text Passover Sacrifice. Scandinavian Journal of the Old Testament vol. 13 no. 1 (1999) © Scandinavian University Press Origin of Passover 79 whether it was an amalgam of two separate units. Even if we reject the ethnic and cultural difference as basis for double origin of Passover, we cannot rule out the possibility that originally there were two rituals which, although both of Canaanite origin, came from different Segments of the Canaanite society, from the pastoral and the agricultural,” and that at some stage they were merged in a single festival. There is also the pos- siblility that Passover Sacrifice was a family feast while Unleavened Bread was a temple festival and that the two were combined. This study attempis to provide an answer to this problem as well as to shed some light on the nature and purpose of pre-Yahwistic Passover. Was There an Amalgamation Between the Passover Sacrifice and the Feast of Unleavened Bread? The majority of scholars who advance the hypothesis that Passover was a combination of two originally independent festivals, assume that the fu- sion was possible and mainly due to the fact that the two coincided in time. While some of them believe that it is not possible to determine the exact period in the Israelite history when the fusion took place* others, nevertheless, find that the innovations of the Deuteronomic reform were crucial for the appearance of Passover as a single festival.” As a result of the centralisation of the cult, according to these scholars, the Passover Sacrifice—the family spring feast performed in the family homes—was transformed into a pilgrimage festival to the Jerusalem temple which, on the other hand, brought about its fusion with the feast of Unleavened Bread. De Vaux, one of the many that sees Passover as a combination of two originally independent feasts, believes that it is possible to trace this merging in the Deuteronomic legislation about Passover.° He finds that in the passage in Deut 16,1-8 there is a contradiction between the verses 16,7 and 16,8 that demonstrates the artificiality of the connection between Passover Sacrifice and Unleavened Bread. De Vaux argues that Lemche 1988:219. Ringgren 1966: 1868. 5 Wellhausen 1895:88. De Vaux 1965:485. Nicolsky 1927:171-241. Fohrer 1972:100-101. Kraus 1966:49-50. 6 De Vaux 1965:485-486. RY 80 Tamara Prosic if the people were to go home on the first morning after the sacrifice was offered in the Temple, as the verse 16,7 indicate, they could not stay to eat the unleavened bread in the Temple on the seventh day, a rule which is according to his interpretation postulated by the verse 16,8.’ However, a more attentive reader will discover that in that particular verse 16,8 it is not explicitly ordered that the meeting on the seventh day be held in the Jerusalem temple or, for that matter in any other particular temple. It is merely stated that on the seventh day there will be a holy assembly. Con- sidering the special place that the Jerusalem temple has in the eyes of the author of Deuteronomy, it is quite unlikely that he would miss another opportunity to accentuate it as the only possible place for the meeting, by using the usual phrase “the place which Lord chooses for his name to dwell in”. For example, in the legislation of Tabernacles, in contrast to Passover, it is explicitly stated that all the seven days of the feast will be kept in the Temple.* There is no contradiction in Deuteronomy which would confirm the artificiality of the connection between Passover Sacrifice and Unleavened Bread. Rather, it seems that only the first day of Passover was centralised to the Jerusalem temple. The other six festive days, for ordinary people marked primarily by the use of the unleavened bread as its ritual element, were observed on the way back home and in the fields. The assembly on the seventh day was probably held in smaller local sanctuaries and that is probably the reason why Deuteronomy is silent about the place of ‘its observance. Such particular structuring of the places where the first and the last day of Passover were to be held, was beyond any doubt due to very practical reasons, related to agriculture, the main occupation of the Israelites. Passover was opening the season of harvesting and to stay celebrating in Jerusalem while leaving the barley, the first ripé grain, unharvested even for a couple of days would have been quite unproductive. This practical aspect of the Deuteronomic legislation is also evident in the structure of 7 (7) And you shall boil it and eat it at the place which the Lord your god will choose; and in the morning you shall turn and go to your tents.(8) For six days you shall eat the unleavened bread; and on the seventh day there shall be a solemn assembly to the Lord Your God; you shall do no work on it. 8 Deut 16,15.