In modern Judaism, he two holiest days of the year of Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur, the New Year and the Day of Atonement. Yet neither holiday is mentioned by Josephus, except for paraphrases of Biblical passages. If Josephus were are only evidence, we might conclude the holidays were not even celebrated in his day. But we do have other evidence, such as the Mishnah, compiled a century after Josephus, which does describe the rituals performed in the Temple during these holy days.
What obscures these holidays is Sukkot, the Feast of Tabernacles, which falls a week after Yom Kippur.
For Josephus, there are three great holidays: the pilgrimage festivals of Passover, Shavuot, and Sukkot, when all Jews were enjoined to travel to Jerusalem to perform the necessary sacrifices and rites at the Temple. It is these that are mentioned in conjunction with momentous events, the battles and uprisings that punctuate Josephus' histories.
But on Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur there was no command to gather in the Temple, hence no opportunity for mass demonstrations or military recruitment. Moreover, to celebrate all three holidays in Jerusalem, a pilgrim would need to remain there almost the entire month of Tishri (September/October); more practical would be to celebrate the first two holy days (if at all) in one's own town, and afterwards to travel to Jerusalem for Sukkot. From the farthest points of northern Galilee, such a journey would take seven or eight days (E.P. Sanders, Judaism: Practice and Belief, p. 130).
With the destruction of the Temple,
the pilgrimage festivals could no longer be observed in their prescribed
forms. The shift in worship that the Rabbis would effect, which would increase
the importance of the holy days that weren't centered on the Temple, was
only beginning in Josephus' time. His comments on the necessity
of pilgrimages can be seen as a lament at the uncertainty he felt over
the future of the Jewish people. Without the Temple pilgrimages, he feared,
the people "will appear as mere strangers to one another."
"Since much time had been lost and sailing was now dangerous, because even the Fast had gone by, Paul advised them, saying, "Sirs, I can see that the voyage will be with danger and much heavy loss, not only of the cargo and the ship, but also of our lives.""The Fast" is the Day of Atonement, the only fast day prescribed by the Bible. It corresponds roughly to the time in September or October when sailing the eastern Mediterranean becomes dangerous due to the stormier weather.
In various letters, the concept that Jesus' death provides an atonement or reconciliation of humankind with heaven (e.g., Romans 5:10) may carry an echo of the scapegoat sacrifice. The Letter to the Hebrews 8-10, in particular, explicitly proposes that the blood of Jesus substitutes for the blood of future atonement sacrifices. It is possible this letter (which is not by Paul) was written after the war, in which case it would have been an attempt to persuade Jews who felt lost without the yearly atonement sacrifice that an alternative existed. The iconography isn't perfect, in that Jesus cannot both be the scapegoat and the sacrifice whose blood is sprinkled in the Temple, as these are two different, albeit paired, animals.
|Rosh Hashanah - The New Year
Antiquities 3.10.2 239
But on the seventh month, which the Macedonians call Hyperberetaeus, they make and addition to those already mentioned [on the first day of each month], and sacrifice a bull, a ram, and seven lambs, and a kid of the goats, for sins.
This passage is derived from Numbers 29:1. (The parallel in Leviticus 23:23 does not list the sacrifices.) The seventh month, Hyperberetaeus, corresponds to the Hebrew month of Tishri, which usually begins in September. Josephus does not identify this as the start of a new year, and says nothing special about it aside from the extra sacrifices.
|Yom Kippur - The Day of Atonement
Antiquities 3.10.3 240-243
On the tenth day of the same lunar month [Hyperberetaeus,
Tishri] they fast till the evening; and on this day they sacrifice
a bull, and two rams, and seven lambs, and a kid of the goats, for sins.
|The Necessity of Pilgrimages - The Three Great Festivals
Antiquities 4.8.7 203
Let those that live even as remote as the bounds of the land which the Hebrews shall possess come to that city where the Temple shall be, three times in the year, that they may give thanks to God for his benefits and may entreat him for what they shall want in the future; and let them, by these meetings and feastings together, maintain an affectionate connection with one another.
For it is a good thing for those that are of the same stock, and under the same institution of laws, not to be unacquainted with each other; which acquaintance will be maintained by thus conversing together, and by seeing and talking with one another, and so renewing the memories of this union; for if they do not thus converse together continually, they will appear like mere strangers ot one another.