THE FOURTH FESTIVAL

XXVII. (145) And after the feast of the new moon comes the fourth festival, that of the passover, which the Hebrews call pascha, on which the whole people offer sacrifice, beginning at noonday and continuing till evening. (146) And this festival is instituted in remembrance of, and as giving thanks for, their great migration which they made from Egypt, with many myriads of people, in accordance with the commands of God given to them; leaving then, as it seems, a country full of all inhumanity and practising every kind of inhospitality, and (what was worst of all) giving the honour due to God to brute beasts; and, therefore, they sacrificed at that time themselves out of their exceeding joy, without waiting for priests. And what was then done the law enjoined to be repeated once every year, as a memorial of the gratitude due for their deliverance. These things are thus related in accordance with the ancient historic accounts. (147) But those who are in the habit of turning plain stories into allegory, argue that the passover figuratively represents the purification of the soul; for they say that the lover of wisdom is never practising anything else except a passing over from the body and the passions. (148) And each house is at that time invested with the character and dignity of a temple, the victim being sacrificed so as to make a suitable feast for the man who has provided it and of those who are collected to share in the feast, being all duly purified with holy ablutions. And those who are to share in the feast come together not as they do to other entertainments, to gratify their bellies with wine and meat, but to fulfil their hereditary custom with prayer and songs of praise. (149) And this universal sacrifice of the whole people is celebrated on the fourteenth day of the month, which consists of two periods of seven, in order that nothing which is accounted worthy of honour may be separated from the number seven. But this number is the beginning of brilliancy and dignity to everything.

THE FIFTH FESTIVAL

XXVIII. (150) And there is another festival combined with the feast of the passover, having a use of food different from the usual one, and not customary; the use, namely, of unleavened bread, from which it derives its name. And there are two accounts given of this festival, the one peculiar to the nation, on account of the migration already described; the other a common one, in accordance with conformity to nature and with the harmony of the whole world. And we must consider how accurate the hypothesis is. This month, being the seventh both in number and order, according to the revolutions of the sun, is the first in power; (151) on which account it is also called the first in the sacred scriptures. And the reason, as I imagine, is as follows. The vernal equinox is an imitation and representation of that beginning in accordance with which this world was created. Accordingly, every year, God reminds men of the creation of the world, and with this view puts forward the spring, in which season all plants flourish and bloom; (152) for which reason this is very correctly set down in the law as the first month, since, in a manner, it may be said to be an impression of the first beginning of all, being stamped by it as by an archetypal Seal.{18}{sections 153û154 were omitted in Yonge’s translation because the edition on which Yonge based his translation, Mangey, lacked this material. These lines have been newly translated for this volume.} (153) Although the month in which the autumnal equinox occurs is first in sequence according to solar orbits, it is not considered first in the law. The reason is that at that time, after all the crops have been harvested, the trees lose their leaves and everything that springtime produced in the height of its glory is withering under dry winds after it has been made dry by the flaming heat of the sun. (154) Therefore he thought that to apply the name “first” to the month in which the hill country and the plain become barren and infertile, was incongruous and unfitting. For it is necessary that the most beautiful and desirable phenomena belong to those things which are first and have received the position of leadership, those phenomena through which the reproduction and growth of animals and fruit and crops take place, but not the ominous destructive forces. (155) And this feast is begun on the fifteenth day of the month, in the middle of the month, on the day on which the moon is full of light, in consequence of the providence of God taking care that there shall be no darkness on that day. (156) And, again, the feast is celebrated for seven days, on account of the honour due to that number, in order that nothing which tends to cheerfulness and to the giving of thanks to God may be separated from the holy number seven. (157) And of the seven days, Moses pronounces two, the first and the last, holy; giving, as is natural, a preeminence to the beginning and to the end; and wishing, as if in the case of a musical instrument, to unite the two extremities in harmony. (158) And the unleavened bread is ordained because their ancestors took unleavened bread with them when they went forth out of Egypt, under the guidance of the Deity; or else, because at that time (I mean at the spring season, during hich this festival is celebrated) the crop of wheat is not yet ripe, the plains being still loaded with the corn, and it not being as yet the harvest time, and therefore lawgiver has ordained the use of unleavened food with a view to assimilating it to the state of the crops. For unleavened food is also imperfect or unripe, as a memorial of the good hope which is entertained; since nature is by this time preparing her annual gifts for the race of mankind, with an abundance and plenteous pouring forth of necessaries. (159) The interpreters of the holy scriptures do also say that the unleavened food is a gift of nature, but that barmed bread is a work of art. (160) Since, therefore, the vernal festival is a commemoration of the creation of the world, and since that it was inevitable that the most ancient persons, those formed out of the earth, must have used the gifts of the world without alteration, pleasure not having as yet obtained the dominion, the lawgiver ordained that food which was the most suitable to the occasion, wishing to kindle every year a desire to walk in the paths of a holy and rigid way of Life.{19}{section 161 was omitted in Yonge’s translation because the edition on which Yonge based his translation, Mangey, lacked this material. These lines have been newly translated for this volume.} (161) The setting out of twelve loaves–the same number as the tribes–on the sacred table especially guarantees the things which have been said. For they are all unleavened, the clearest example of an unmixed food which has been prepared not by human skill for pleasure but by nature for the most essential use. These things are sufficient for this topic.