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Biblical Archaeology Review 47:2, Summer 2021

Epistles: Jesus and His Pilgrimage Practices

By Jeffrey P. García

Biblical Archaeology Review

Jesus’s pilgrimage routes in the Gospels are an important witness for ancient Jewish travel during the three pilgrimage festivals: the Feast of Unleavened Bread (Passover; Hebrew: המצות חג), the Feast of Weeks (Shavuot; Hebrew: השׁבעות חג), and the Feast of Booths/Tabernacles (Sukkot; Hebrew: הסכות חג; Exodus 23:14-17; Deuteronomy 16:16). During these feasts, journey to Jerusalem was expected, but not required.

Apart from the Jewish historian Josephus’s reports about pilgrims crossing the Jordan River, coming from Jericho, and traveling through Samaria (Antiquities 17.254; 20.118), information about particular routes in the Land of Israel is slim. Narratives about these travelers before the destruction of Jerusalem’s Temple are altogether missing. Still, there is little doubt that many practiced pilgrimage on the three holy days—even if, for some, it was a once-in-a-lifetime journey.

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