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Part 2d: What are the Terms?

Glossary of Terms. In order to communicate with one another, words and phrases must have consistent and comprehensible meaning, and theological terms must also be biblically derived and defensible. Quite simply, I would like to present some working definitions of key terms and phrases in this debate along with some comments how different camps understand the terms and what some of the potential issues are associated with these terms. This glossary is not meant to be exhaustive nor to replace your favorite theological dictionary; after all, whole books have been written on many of these topics.[i]

Glossary 3

Jewish Sabbath. The Sabbath as commanded for and practiced by the Jews under the Mosaic covenant with or without all their additional rules added to it. LD: A term focusing the commandment and practice of Sabbath-keeping to Israel alone, which coincided with the Mosaic covenant and the theocracy of Israel. What other Sabbath is there than a Jewish Sabbath? “We shall therefore begin our effort to frame a theology of the Christian day of worship with a discussion and analysis of the Jewish Sabbath.”[ii] “Celebration of the first day of the week was in conscious opposition to the Jewish Sabbath, which had now been completely abandoned.”[iii] CS and SS: A term of differentiation from other classes of Sabbaths, such as rest periods practiced by other cultures; i.e., Babylonian shappatu,[iv] the Christian Sabbath,[v] the creation Sabbath,[vi] and the eternal Sabbath.[vii] Sometimes used to describe what the Sabbath had become under Pharisaism—a “Pharisaic Sabbath”—as opposed to an unadulterated or authentic Sabbath. “If superstition is dreaded, there was more danger in keeping the Jewish Sabbath than the Lord’s Day as Christians do now.”[viii] MacCarty (SS) objects to the term.[ix]

There are two underlying presuppositions to the use of the term “Jewish Sabbath.” The CS position regards the Jewish Sabbath as one of several Sabbaths and the LD position regards the Sabbath as peculiar to the Jews. The term is perhaps redundant for the LD position, but becomes necessary when distinguishing the so-called Christian Sabbath from the historical Sabbath as practiced within Jewish communities. It becomes unclear in the CS camp whether the Jewish Sabbath is how the Jews were supposed to observe it or how they actually observed it with their “mountains of laws” appended to it. With this in mind, CS asserts that the focus of Jesus’ conflicts with the rulers of His day was simply to correct mistaken views about the Sabbath. But with so many “mountains of laws” to correct, why did Jesus pick the specific ones He did? On the other hand, the LD camp believes those conflicts are indicative of Jesus’ self-revelation as the Messiah. Therefore, the conflicts were chosen specifically to proclaim His messiahship. Also, it is unclear in the CS camp how the creation Sabbath differs from the Jewish Sabbath. If MacCarty represents the SS camp, the use of the term is superfluous since there is really only one Sabbath, the one set at creation and obligatory upon Jew and Gentile alike.

Christian Sabbath. CS camp: Sunday or the Lord’s Day, the day of Christian worship and the ethical behaviors expected of Christians based on Sabbath law, because Sunday is really a Sabbath. As Reformed theologians explored the relationship of Sabbath law to the Christian assembly, this term became popularized in the seventeenth century with the publication of the Westminster Confession of Faith (WCF) in 1646. The WCF states in Chapter 23, “As it is of the law of nature that, in general, a due proportion of time be set apart for the worship of God; so, in his Word, by a positive, moral, and perpetual commandment, binding all men in all ages, he hath particularly appointed one day in seven for a Sabbath, to be kept holy unto him: which, from the beginning of the world to the resurrection of Christ, was the last day of the week; and, from the resurrection of Christ, was changed into the first day of the week, which in Scripture is called the Lord’s Day, and is to be continued to the end of the world as the Christian Sabbath.” CS hold that the Christian Sabbath is the same as the Jewish Sabbath, but different. Instead of on Saturday, it is on Sunday. Instead of restricting it to the Jews, the law applies to all humanity. Instead of beginning the evening before the seventh day, it begins on the first day at midnight. Instead of burdening the day with midrashic legalisms, it is burdened with “Puritanical” legalisms. Instead of memorializing the Jew’s release from slavery, it now hails the resurrection of Jesus. Instead of a national, representative form of worship at the temple with sacrifices, it is now a local observation. Instead of a threatening death penalty for failing to observe it, it is now a topic for pastors to bluster about. Instead of restricting the use of fire and cooking the day before, Christians cook and prepare fellowship meals. SS avoids the term since they do not believe the Sabbath could be moved to another day.

Neologisms have one of two possible origins. They may identify ideas that have been around for centuries, thus it is a new term for an older, but commonly accepted, idea. Or they may arise concurrently with a novel concept. A new idea requires a new term. The term “Christian Sabbath” arose late in Christian history, during the early years of the Reformation, to describe the novel idea that the Sabbath was moved to Sunday. Of course, this novel idea took some time to develop. It came to fruition as a result of theological traditions from Roman Catholicism (Aquinian theology, church/state confluence; natural law) and theological conjectures on the part of Reformers (Ten Commandments epitomize moral law, applicability of OT law to the church, pietism). As Bauckham astutely observed, “Sabbatarian arguments have never succeeded in convincing all who sought to base their theology on the Protestant principle of sola Scriptura.”[x] That is, one cannot soundly demonstrate from Scripture alone that the Sabbath was moved to Sunday. The term “Christian Sabbath” has done nothing but promote confusion and biblical illiteracy. Despite this knowledge and understanding, Sabbatarians continue to promote the concept out of tradition, piety, and devotion to secondary standards.

[i] Resources consulted: The Theological Wordbook, Campbell, et.al.; Theological Wordbook of the Old Testament, Harris, et.al.; New Englishman’s Greek Concordance, Wigram; Vine’s Expository Dictionary of New Testament Words; The Westminster Theological Wordbook of the Bible, Gowan, ed.; Kittle’s Theological Dictionary of the New Testament; ISBE; and many others.
[ii] Jewett, Paul K. The Lord’s Day, p. 13.
[iii] Lohse, Eduard. “sabbaton” in Theological Dictionary of the New Testament, Vol. 4, p.31.
[iv] Ray, Celebrating the Sabbath, p. 64.
[v] Shepard, Theses Sabbaticae, p. 201.
[vi] Ray, Celebrating the Sabbath, p. 29.
[vii] Keil and Delitzsch, Commentary on the Old Testament, Vol 1, p. 400. (Ex 20:8-11).
[viii] Calvin, Inst. 2.8.33.
[ix] MacCarty, “Responses to Craig L. Blomberg” in Perspectives on the Sabbath, Donato, ed., p. 360.
[x] Bauckham, “Sabbath and Sunday in the Protestant Tradition,” in From Sabbath to Lord’s Day, Carson, ed., p. 312.

Part 2d: What are the Terms?

Glossary 2

Glossary of Terms. In order to communicate with one another, words and phrases must have consistent and comprehensible meaning, and theological terms must also be biblically derived and defensible. Quite simply, I would like to present some working definitions of key terms and phrases in this debate along with some comments how different camps understand the terms and what some of the potential issues are associated with these terms. This glossary is not meant to be exhaustive nor to replace your favorite theological dictionary; after all, whole books have been written on many of these topics.[i]

Sabbath. An external, ritualistic law given to Israel after their release from Egypt (Ex 16:25-26; Eze 20:10-12) that required a weekly abstention from work (Lev 23:3) from Friday evening until Saturday evening (Lev 23:32); that is, every seventh day from the time that it was commanded (Ex 16:23; 31:16), Saturday being the seventh day of the week. The Sabbath was given in connection with the manna, such that a double-portion of manna on the sixth day was miraculously preserved in order to prevent the Israelites from going out in search of it on the Sabbath (Ex 16:22-30). The Sabbath was the premier ritual for the Jews, being placed among the Ten Words of the covenant (Ex 20:8-11; Deut 5:12-15), and it was an important topic through the remainder of the OT (Neh 9:14; 13:15-22; Jer 17:21-23; Eze 20:12, 16, 19-21, 24; 44:24; 45:17; 46:1,3,12; Isa 56:2, 4, 6; Am 8:5). The term also applies to seven additional non-weekly “rest days” integral to Israel’s festival calendar (Lev 23:4-44) and even to the Sabbatic Year (Lev 25:2-7). Biblical critics have discovered little to cast doubt on the Mosaic origin of the Sabbath. As Sampey eloquently concluded, “The wealth of learning and ingenuity expended in the search for the origin of the Sabbath has up to the present yielded small returns.”[ii] Of course, the NT describes Sabbath-keeping by Jesus and the disciples, on which some conflicts occurred (Mk 2:23-28; Lk 4:16, 31; 13:10-17; 14:1-6). Following the resurrection, the disciples frequented synagogues on the Sabbath (Act 13:14, 42, 44; 17:2; 18:14), and Paul eventually described the Sabbath as a “shadow” of Christ (Col 2:16; cf. Gal 4:10) that heralded a perpetual experience of inner “rest” (i.e., redemption) through faith in Christ (Heb 4:9). The Sabbath (Acts 17:2) is to be distinguished (Matt 28:1) from the Lord’s Day that occurs on the first day of the week (Acts 20:17; Rev 1:10) as both the resurrection of Jesus and the giving of the Holy Spirit were predicted to happen on the “morrow after the Sabbath” (Lev 23:10-11, 15-17). CS: the Sabbath was transferred to Sunday and is called the “Christian Sabbath” or the Lord’s Day. SS: Saturday is the Sabbath and the Sabbath was called “the Lord’s Day” by John.[iii] CS and SS: the Sabbath was instituted at creation.

There are two questions regarding the Sabbath that are foundational for each interpretive camp: its origin and its permutability. First of all, anthropological and archaeological research has uncovered nothing that brings into question the biblical account of the origin of the Sabbath. This includes any hint of a sabbatic observation prior to the time of Moses. While the creation account gives a nod to the symbolism behind the Sabbath, Moses was careful not to use the word “Sabbath” throughout the whole book of Genesis. As such, there is no biblical evidence that the Sabbath was practiced by any patriarch prior to the wilderness experience. The concept of a “seven-period,” that is seven consecutive days, is demonstrable, but this is not a recurring week. The recurring Sabbath was given to the Jews by God after their release from Egypt. Secondly, given that Judaism has been keeping Sabbath for over four millennia, it is highly unlikely that the weekly cycle has been altered or disrupted, especially because it is independent of any host nation’s calendar. Therefore, the Sabbath is best identified with Saturday, our named seventh day of the week. Also unlikely is that early Christians would have confused matters by calling both Saturday and Sunday the Sabbath. “For the earliest Christians it [Sunday/Lord’s Day] was not a substitute for the Sabbath nor a day of rest nor related in any way to the fourth commandment.”[iv]The LD position is the simplest explanation and the least falsifiable—and it most closely mirrors Jewish beliefs about the Sabbath.

Term Position
LD CS SS
“Creation Sabbath” N/A Yes, but unknown day Yes, on Saturday
Sabbath Saturday Saturday for Jews

Sunday for Christians

Saturday
Lord’s Day Sunday Sunday Saturday
“Christian Sabbath” N/A Sunday N/A

 

Sabbatismos. Transliterated from sabbatismoς, a Sabbath-keeping or Sabbath-rest, and only in Hebrews 4:9. In the Septuagint, the Greek verb sabbatisen, is used in Ex 16:30 “So the people rested on the seventh day.” In this passage, the Greek unambiguously means the people observed the Sabbath, by resting (sābath) on the seventh (shebí) day. But in the epistle to the Hebrews, it is equally unmistakable that the term is used as a metaphor rather than the actual practice of keeping Sabbath. “Here the Sabbath-keeping is the perpetual Sabbath rest to be enjoyed uninterruptedly by believers in their fellowship with the Father and the Son, in contrast to the weekly Sabbath under the Law.”[v] “Here the concept of a sabbath observed by physical rest has been transformed into a perpetual rest that is entered by faith (4:2) and involves the believer’s cessation of his or her own works in obedience to God (4:6, 10).”[vi]

The phrase: “There remains a sabbatismos for the people of God” is rendered one of two ways. LD practitioners and many CS favor a metaphorical use of the term whereas some CS and SS favor a literal interpretation. As Klein stated, the authors of the Bible “intended their messages to have only one sense” and “they selected appropriate ways to convey their intended meaning.”[vii]Of course, the phrase fits into a context, and it is the context that determines the best interpretation. If the author meant that the people of God (assuming those now under the new covenant) are to continue keeping the Sabbath until the consummation, then Christians must keep the Sabbath on Saturday as practiced by the Jews. How else would a Jew writing to Jewish Christians in the first century convey the obligation to observe the Jewish Sabbath by a ritualistic rest? However, the moment one starts qualifying this obvious conclusion, then one must introduce a variety of considerations not immediately discernable from the text. Oh, not on Saturday but on Sunday? Oh, for the whole world and not just for believers? Oh, how do we keep Sabbath without a priesthood? Oh, the people of the OT never experienced rest with all their rituals, but we have to keep practicing this ritual? Oh, we only continue to practice Jewish rituals that still refer to the future? Then what about Feast of Booths and what about the land of Canaan? A literal approach is a misinterpretation of the author’s original intent. A metaphorical understanding is the most likely intent since the Canaan rest was presented in a metaphorical way. The “sabbatismos” that remains for the people of God is simply the redemptive rest that we enjoy in Jesus, now and forever. As difficult as it might be for some to understand, literal Sabbath-keeping is a work of the flesh, but it symbolizes that salvation cannot be achieved by works.

Sabbath law. A variety of proscriptive and prescriptive regulations that define proper observance of the Sabbath (Deut 5:12). These include: 1) on a weekly basis, within the timeframe of Friday evening to Saturday evening (Lev 23:32); 2) all family members, guests, slaves, and working animals must rest from all labor (Ex 20:10), avoid commerce, and remove temptations to engage in commerce (Neh 13:15-22). 3) Observers must remain near home and avoid travel (Lev 23:3), 4) avoid igniting a fire (Ex 35:3), since 5) Sabbath meals must be prepared the day prior (Ex 16:29). In addition, 6) the priesthood was required to sacrifice two additional lambs (Num 28:9-10), offer a meal and drink offering (Num 28:9), and bake twelves loaves to be placed within the sanctuary (Lev 24:1-8). Finally, 7) violators were to be excluded from fellowship or stoned to death (Ex 31:14). LD: Holds that all of these laws were fulfilled in Christ and no longer bind the conscience of Christians. CS: Tacitly agree that all laws are fulfilled with the exception of a 24-hour rest from labor and commerce, which now is moved to Sunday, defining rest as allowing acts of mercy and necessity, but divided on recreational activities, cooking, and travel. SS: Similar position to CS, but that the Sabbath was not and could not be moved, therefore, it remains on Saturday.

As stated in Part 2a, there are no Christians (LD, CS, or SS) who advocate complete obedience to the complete set of Sabbath laws. The importance of this fact is that even Sabbatarians treat the Sabbath more like a ceremonial law than a moral law—because they only enjoin a few regulations while the larger portion is ignored or counted as inconsequential. While they spend considerable energy asseverating that the Sabbath commandment is fully moral or still in force today, they routinely avoid any exegetical argument for the ceremoniality of those Sabbath regulations that they do not obey. The CS camp believes that rest may be “violated” by acts of necessity and mercy. But if God’s creation rest is the model for our rest, then that would mean that God’s rest was interrupted by some necessary mercy. The only way that could be true, is that Adam and Eve sinned during God’s seventh day rest, requiring God to act redemptively for the sake of Adam and Eve, who believed the promise and received their provisional atonement. The specific qualifications to absolute rest on the Sabbath that Jesus confronted the Pharisees about—doing good, healing, forgiving, and saving—were reenactments of God’s necessary mercy for Adam and Eve. This casts Jesus’ confrontations about Sabbath law as messianic fulfillments rather than behavior instructions or legal advisements.

[i] Resources consulted: The Theological Wordbook, Campbell, et.al.; Theological Wordbook of the Old Testament, Harris, et.al.; New Englishman’s Greek Concordance, Wigram; Vine’s Expository Dictionary of New Testament Words; The Westminster Theological Wordbook of the Bible, Gowan, ed.; Kittle’s Theological Dictionary of the New Testament; ISBE; and many others.

[ii] Sampey, John Richard. “Sabbath” from ISBE (1915).

[iii] https://m.egwwritings.org/en/book/96.716, accessed November 13, 2016. From Seventh-day Adventist Bible Commentary, Vol. 7, referenced as 7BC 955:8.

[iv] Bauckham, “The Lord’s Day,” in From Sabbath to Lord’s Day, Carson, ed., p. 240.

[v] Vines Expository Dictionary of New Testament Words, p. 970.

[vi] McCann Jr., J. C., “Sabbath” in ISBE (Revised, 1989).

[vii] Klein, Blomberg, and Hubbard. Introduction to Biblical Interpretation. p. 185.

Book Review of “The Battle Between the Moon and Sun” by Jenny Kien

Kien documents a millennial-old problem that affects women in society and suggests a solution. She proposes that women used to be in charge of calendars because any woman would feel like their own physiological changes had a connection with the known universe via the lunar cycles. This link between the human and the elements was mysterious, but it gave women a position of importance in society. Older societies, for lack of the scientific understanding of today, assigned femaleness to the world around them and viewed the universe as a life-giving womb with nurturing attributes. However, the rise of societies and kingdoms led to changing concepts of the universe and fluctuating symbolism to maintain connection with the cosmos. Gods and the planets were increasingly assigned maleness, and this led to marginalization of women.

I share some of Kien’s passions—symbolism, science, archaeology, calendars, and religion—which attracted me to purchase her book, but my presuppositions prevented me from relating to it or giving it much credence. The first half of the book seemed jumbled to me, but the second half more technical and understandable. I do not have the archaeological background that she has, so some of her conclusions may or may not find resounding support among experts. But the thesis that ancient or primitive cultures attributed maleness or femaleness to the sun and moon, and that this in turn is a controlling force over society, is plausible. It mirrors our contemporary question whether media and its worldview influences culture or merely reflects it. But it hardly seems that

cover_battle-between-sun-and-moon

The battle continues in the new millennium.

she’s uncovered an ancient plot to dissociate women from the spheres of leadership via the symbolism inherent in religions and calendar making. In Kien’s estimation, the moon (representing women) lost the battle with the Sun (representing men) and the present disrespect for, disfranchisement and marginalization of women is the result.

While I found the book interesting, I sensed that I would have enjoyed it more if it were organized along a historical timeline to demonstrate the fluctuating concepts, or to provide some timeline charts to organize the material. Also, I would like to have seen more evidence for some of the assertions she made. In the past, calendar systems ebbed and flowed, or flip-flopped, which demonstrates the practical difficulty in reconciling a lunar and solar calendar, but she didn’t link any of the calendar changes to actual historical evidence of changes in attitudes towards women.

As she reviewed the history of Judaism and Christianity with respect to the calendar, she made several statements that I think were erroneous. For example, she claims that the Jewish calendar evolved and that its lunar aspect is a vestige of previous æons when women priests were in control of the calendar. So she asserts that the twelve tribes of Israel are really thirteen tribes; and that changes in female-controlled calendars to male-controlled calendars are reflected as changes in the biblical story from thirteen to twelve tribes, which makes the Jewish luni-solar calendar male, because it has twelve months (or tribes). As evidence for this from biblical accounts, she cites that Moses counted thirteen tribes, but exempted Levi (which she labels “ephemeral”), and this narrative reflects an effort to remove the symbolism of femaleness in the number 13 to the symbolism of maleness in the number 12. The account is in Numbers 1. Moses is given the task of conducting a census of the tribes for the purposes of warfare. The tribe of Levi was to perform the sacerdotal services of the tabernacle, so they were exempt from warfare. There is an initial listing of twelve military “tribes” in Number 1:1-16—which I put in quotes because Levi is omitted and Joseph’s tribe is counted as two because he had two sons (Josh 14:4). The purpose for the census was to determine their military strength, and the division of Joseph’s tribe is to ensure that three “tribes” flank each face of the tabernacle. Moses then gives the results of the census in Numbers 1:17-46, and mentions in verse 47 that Levi was exempted from the census. The tribe of Levi is not “ephemeral,” but real, extant, and enduring. If one were to graphically represent the numbers of men counted in each tribe and station them by flanks around the tabernacle, then a bird’s eye view of the camp would show the figure of a cross (similar to the crucifixion cross). This is the intended symbolism, which is typological of Christ going to war to defeat His enemies and to give His people rest (Josh 21:44-45; Ps 98:1; Isa 25:11; Acts 2:23-24, 32-36; Col 2:15; Heb 2:14; 1Jn 3:8; Rev 12:9; 20:10).

israeliteencampment.indd Kien’s statement that 12 tribes is a “fiction” is nonsense. The twelve tribes are the twelve sons of Jacob, but in military terms, the twelve tribes are comprised differently. So when Moses sent the first spies into Canaan, he mentions Ephraim, and then “from the tribe of Joseph, that is Manasseh” (Num 13:11) so that each of the military tribes sent one man (Levi was exempt). Moses didn’t do this because of changing concepts in calendars, nor does this give evidence that the narrative was altered, and poorly though, as if it left clues of a previous matriarchal story of the events. Kien would have us believe that male priests re-wrote the stories but didn’t do the greatest job at removing all the evidence of a “moon womb 13 month calendar.”

Then Kien also wants to count Dinah as “a semi-matriarchal” tribe, that would bring the tribal count to thirteen. She seems to think that the historical accounts are biased in favor of the number twelve “at all costs” (I’m assuming she means at the cost of historical accuracy). After all, Dinah is mentioned regularly in lists of the twelve tribes (twelve sons) of Israel (Jacob). But Dinah is hardly the only daughter borne of Jacob. Her mention is to invoke the memory of Simeon’s and Levi’s sin of anger and Jacob’s curse upon their tribes to be divided and scattered among the other tribes (Gen 49:5-7). Kien notes that Simeon is not mentioned in Moses’ blessing and interprets this as another clue of the battle between the moon and the sun. But it is more reasonable to assume that Moses simply let Jacob’s curse stand (Josh 19:1); or even that Simeon’s name was inadvertently omitted.

Kien is not happy with Judaism or Christianity which propagate male centered symbolism, and seems more aligned with pagan religions of the past. The calendar by which most of the world orders itself today developed with the growth of civilization, influenced by politics and science, not because of misogyny. A solar calendar is as natural as a lunar calendar. She believes in nature, mystery, holiness, symbolism, and that in the beginning the world was female. She urges religions to adopt inclusive spiritual imagery and for cultures to embrace moon-related festivities as measures to restore value to women and menstruation. As I read the book, I wondered why Kien granted calendars the power to alienate women from nature, to marginalize women from positions of authority, to change men’s attitudes about menstruation, and estrange women from the “cosmic dance.” Why couldn’t women still garner that connection with the moon since it still appears every 29.5 days in the sky? Couldn’t women maintain their “cultic” calendar while the nation they live in uses a “male” solar calendar? She brought this up herself when she described the adoption of a lunar calendar by the Jews. “Using the Babylonian calendar for administrative purposes need not have affected the cultic calendar in any way.” The world still spins ‘round once every day, and that has not changed. But there is a reason why paganism has vanished and the God of Israel remains established: this is His world that He called into existence by the power of His word.

Part 2d: What are the Terms?

Glossary 1

Glossary of Terms. In order to communicate with one another, words and phrases must have consistent and comprehensible meaning, and theological terms must also be biblically derived and defensible. Quite simply, I would like to present some working definitions of key terms and phrases in this debate along with some comments how different camps understand the terms and what some of the potential issues are associated with these terms. This glossary is not meant to be exhaustive nor to replace your favorite theological dictionary; after all, whole books have been written on many of these topics.[i]

Creation in six days. Ex nihilo fabrication (Heb. bārā’) of matter, energy, and time from absolutely nothing in the space of six days by a Spirit being who is omniscient, omnipotent, and eternal. The Genesis narrative (Gen 1) describes the origin of the observable cosmos and the beginning of human history. Paul instructs the church that God’s Son was the active creator of all things in heaven and earth, whether visible or invisible, and that He actively holds in balance the elements of the universe as well as maintaining superintendence over all human societies (Col 1:16-17). A fourth element of this world—information—pre-existed creation, and conveys the personal and triune nature of God (Gen 1:27). Not only do things exist, but they exist in quantity, variation, time intervals, order, value, relationships, and levels of complexity by virtue of the encoded information in living things and the physical properties of matter. “There is nothing in the text itself to indicate that the days are not regular 24-hour days or that they are not real days.”[ii] “At no time does the Pentateuch even hint at anything other than creation in six 24-hour days.”[iii]

The six days must be six actual days in order 1) to provide a true paradigm for Sabbath-keeping (LD, CS, and SS positions) and 2) to form a basis for typological fulfillment which is rooted in real history (LD position). With the advent of evolutionary theory, some biblical scholars question the meaning of those six days. I would assume that those who hold to a non-literal interpretation of the days of creation would have difficulty attributing morality to the sequence of six days work and one day of rest. That is, if the “days” are not really days as we know them, then the moral imperative for Sabbath-keeping based on God’s creation week activities is weakened or not defensible at all. It would be as if God said, “I want you to live your life this way based on a story I made up.” As Duncan and Hall (CS) conclude, “If the cosmogony or aspects of it are merely a literary framework or a didactic tool, then the theology as a whole loses its force…”[iv] Yet, non-literalist Harris (CS) explains that the weekly pattern is merely symbolic of creation and rest, and since our one rest-day symbolizes God’s eternal rest, the remaining six days of our week are merely symbolic of God’s work, no matter how long that took.[v]Hmm.

God ‘rest’ on the seventh day. A predetermined state of having ceased (Heb. shābath) the intended plan of creation by an additional day of symbolic “rest” that He shares with sinless man and creation in perfect harmony. That is, the creation of the cosmos was completed in the duration of six days, and the next day, having finished, ceased, and completed His work, God set apart (i.e., sanctified) and blessed (Gen 2:1-3), thus intentionally and designedly giving significance to a seven-period. This solitary day of cessation implies 1) an attained state of beatitude for God, which is called “His rest” (Heb 4:3-4, 10), and 2) a heightened state of completion by inclusion of the seventh day. “The Hebrew there does not literally mean that God rested after creating the world and everything in it, but that God ‘ceased’ from the divine labors on the seventh day.”[vi] That is, the idea of finding relief following strenuous labor is not the point of the text; only that God finished His work and that His work was flawlessly beautiful to Him. Therefore, the reader of the text would yearn for the peace and holy fellowship characterized by the seventh day, not merely a weekly day off work.  “For the writer of Genesis 1-2, the significance of the Sabbath [later given to Israel] partakes of the significance that adheres to seven-day purification cycles in general.”[vii] Again, the reader of the text would comprehend that the number seven has significance to the God who created him. CS and SS: hold that the seventh day of the creation week marks the institution of the first of a recurring weekly sabbatic rest for mankind. LD denies.

While the omission of the phrase “the evening and the morning” on the seventh day may suggest an eternal “rest” or state of completion, the mundane reality is that it was still the seventh day of the first week of creation and it was the second day of Adam’s existence. God did not call the first day of the second week a day of rest, and so on; and yet God did not behave differently on the succeeding days (8, 9, 10, . . .) than He did on the seventh day. Furthermore, God did not need to rest in the same way that fallen mankind needs to rest from labor, therefore His “rest” is of a different order. Adam did not perform seven days of labor prior to God’s “rest”, so Adam had nothing to rest from and no cosmic rhythm that obliged his soul. The fact that Adam and Eve did not remain in that symbolic eternal “rest” further suggests the introduction of sin into the world soon after their creation, likely on the seventh day. So, Adam did not perform six days work prior to God’s rest, and Adam did not remain in God’s rest since he was banished to work outside the garden by the sweat of his brow. Just as clearly as the text disallows epochs of time, so it disallows a weekly Sabbath.

Rest. As a verb (Heb. sābath or menûha; Gk. anapauō or katapauō), to cease (Gen 2:2-3), often from labor (Ex 5:5), and thereby to enter a state of repose (Ex 34:21), refreshment (Deut 5:14; Isa 28:12; Mk 6:31), security (Ru 3:1), or peace (Josh 22:4; Lam 1:3); even the cessation of life’s labors (Dan 12:13; Rev 6:11). As a noun, it alludes to the seventh day of creation as God’s rest, a symbol of a right relationship with God (Heb 4:10); the Sabbath as a day of rest (Ex 31:15); the land of Canaan as a place of rest (Deut 3:20; Josh 1:13); the absence of military conflicts as a state of rest (Josh 23:1; Esth 9:22); and redemption in the person of Jesus Christ as true soulical rest (Ex 33:14; Deut 3:20; Matt 11:28; Heb 4:3, 9). “No human has ever created like God did, and, therefore, no human could rest like He did.”[viii] “Comprehensive reflection… leads to the conclusion… the OT points beyond itself, and that the rest is still in the sphere of promise.”[ix] See Part 2c What are the Texts?

The theme of rest is present throughout Scripture, from Genesis to Revelation (See previous outline of Scripture). God’s seventh day rest, a time of magnificent perfection and holiness, became a reality lost due to man’s sin and subsequent expulsion from the Garden, whereas redemption and the re-creation of a new heavens and earth restore fallen, yet forgiven, people to God’s eternal “rest.” The concept of spiritual rest is re-introduced to national Israel ritualistically by way of weekly and annual Sabbaths, the Sabbath of the Land, Jubilee, Canaan, the temple, seven-periods, and through the lives of various leaders. Yet, Israel never experienced true rest as symbolized by the seventh day when God “rested.” This fact underscores the symbolism of Israel’s various rests as shadows of the perfect provider of a perfect rest (Col 2:16). In Christ, believers receive the already/not yet fulfilment of that rest (Heb 4:3).

 

[i] Resources consulted: The Theological Wordbook, Campbell, et.al.; Theological Wordbook of the Old Testament, Harris, et.al.; New Englishman’s Greek Concordance, Wigram; Vine’s Expository Dictionary of New Testament Words; The Westminster Theological Wordbook of the Bible, Gowan, ed.; Kittle’s Theological Dictionary of the New Testament.

[ii] Shaw, Benjamin (CS), “The Literal-Day Interpretation” in Did God Create in Six Days?, Eds. Pipa and Hall; White Hall, WV: Tolle Lege Press, 2005; p.214.

[iii] Duncan, J. Ligon III and Hall, David W. “The 24-Hour View” in The Genesis Debate, ed. David G. Hagopian, Mission Viejo, CA:Crux Press, Inc., 2001; p. 36.

[iv] Duncan, J. Ligon III and Hall, David W. “The 24-Hour View” in The Genesis Debate, ed. David G. Hagopian, Mission Viejo, CA:Crux Press, Inc., 2001; p. 25.

[v] Harris, R. Laird, “The Length of the Creative Days in Genesis 1” in Did God Create in Six Days?, Eds. Pipa and Hall; White Hall, WV: Tolle Lege Press, 2005; p. 109-111. See also, Young, E. J. “Sabbath” in The New Bible Dictionary who says “Thus there appears the distinction between the six days of labour and the one of rest. This is true, even if the six days of labour be construed as periods of time longer than twenty-four hours. The language is anthropomorphic, for God is not a weary workman in need of rest. Nevertheless, the pattern is here set for man to follow.” In other words, even if these were not days as we understand them, God, having used anthropomorphic language to convey a pattern rather than a reality, implies an obligation to follow this pattern. This is true, even if it is false.

[vi] Klagsbrun, Francine. The Fourth Commandment, p. 26.

[vii] Meier, Samuel A. “The Sabbath and Purification Cycles” in The Sabbath in Jewish and Christian Traditions, ed. Eskanazi, et. al., Crossroad Publishing: New York, 1991, p. 9.

[viii] Jeanson, Nathaniel T. “The Lost Treasures of Genesis” ICR:Dallas, TX, 2013, p. 33. (Italics in the original)

[ix] “katapauo” TDNT, Vol. 3, p. 627.

Book Review of “The Week” by F. H. Colson

Published in 1926, this little volume purports to be among the first to study the origin of the week, preceded by only one book nearly a century before. Indeed, the topic is rarely presented because of the dearth of material, and what historical evidence exists, allows some conjecture. This is not to say that nothing conclusive can be stated, but there are questions that remain.

  • Why did the Roman Empire change from an eight-day week to a seven-day week?
  • What is the origin of the Planetary week? Did it arise independently of the Jewish week?
  • What was the thinking process or the decisive event that led to the naming of the days of the week?
  • Why does the number seven resonate with peoples of differing cultures?

My previous reading on this general topic includes Duncan’s Calendar, Webster’s Rest Days, Jordan’s Christianity and the Calendar, and Doig’s New Testament Chronology. Duncan does not give much attention to the week, however, he concurs with Colson that the “planetary” names for the days of the week are in the order that they are because of a technique that assigns a planet to each of the twenty-four hours of a day. The planet that begins the first hour of the day assumes the title of that day. Colson was familiar with Webster’s 1916 book, which assumes that all religious and civil observations have their origin in rudimentary beliefs and customs, and often in the superstitions of barbaric societies. Similarly, Colson does not give credence to the biblical account of the origin of the week or the Sabbath. But at the same time, none of the naturalistic theories seem to resonate with him, and he asserts instead that the origin of the Jewish week is lost to antiquity. But it is interesting that no archaeological and anthropological studies have uncovered any alternative theory than what is already presented in the biblical narratives.

What we do know is that Rome had an eight-day week. Egypt had a ten-day week and classical Greeks had none. Various other societies had “weeks” of 3, 4, 5, 6, 8, and 10 days, but not necessarily as cycles of weeks. The oldest evidence of a seven-day week is with Judaism, and it appears that Rome adopted its seven-day week in the first century AD. But Colson curiously thinks this originated independently of Jewish influence. Etymological studies demonstrate that host nations subject to Roman rule adopted the Roman nomenclature for the most part, since commerce, military operations, and political events required it. In a few instances, as a result of the spread of Christianity, Saturday and Sunday gave way to Sabbata and Domingo. But this still doesn’t explain why an unchanging seven-day cycle should become the status quo within a luni-solar calendar, and especially with peoples who are not necessarily accustomed to Judaism.

This book is interesting to read as the author considers and interprets his findings in Greek and Roman literature. He is familiar with Scripture, but is selective in what he considers as evidence. Does he make the same conclusions I would with the same evidence? Often yes, but not always. Regarding the naming of the Lord’s Day for Sunday, he favorably states, “I see no reason to go outside Christian thought to account for the name Lord’s-day.” He muses that a celebration of the resurrection would naturally be an annual event, but because Christianity was initially a Jewish movement that grew to encompass Gentiles, and that both cultures operated in seven-day cycles, it was natural that Christianity maintained the weekly cycle. However, he specifically discounts apostolic authority for its continuation. I agree with his assertion that when early Christians assembled on the 7th +1 day instead of on the 7th, it was not keeping the Sabbath. However, I disagree with his conclusion that the abrogation of the Sabbath destroyed the reason for the week. In my opinion, the week, or seven-period, is divine in origin. The weekly Sabbath unified Israel under the Mosaic covenant and the weekly Lord’s Day unifies the church under the New Covenant. Shifting the day of assembly maintained the weekly cycle and caused no calendar upset, yet conclusively broke the grip of the Sabbath on New Covenant believers.

Evaluating the Strength of Arguments in the Sabbath/Lord’s Day Controversy, Part 2d: What are the Terms?

Glossary: Introduction

Terms and Definitions. The entry from the Theological Wordbook of the Old Testament (TWOT) for “shabbāt” (i.e., Sabbath) says “Everything God made, as recorded in Genesis, he called good. Only the Sabbath, however, he sanctified, indicating perhaps that the climax of creation was not the creation of man, as is often stated, but the day of rest, the seventh day.”[1] Read this quote again for understanding. What is the author affirming, implying, or speculating? Really. Read it again and assess what the author is concluding from the text and the context. Give this some thought.

The author (contributor Victor P. Hamilton) apparently believes that the sanctification of a day—just that one day—overshadows God creating man and woman after His own image. Sure, he said “perhaps”, but this is supposed to be a scholarly reference work of the highest caliber. This is to be contrasted with Watts who asserts that “Gen. 1:27 accords the creation of humanity a special status (as indicated by being last in the ascending order, the exceptional divine jussive ’let us,’ and the threefold use of bārā’.)”[2] The questionable nature of the statement from the TWOT comes from the fact that the creation ended on the sixth day; therefore, the sanctification of the seventh day cannot be the climax of creation. The climax of creation would be the last thing that God created, that is, man and woman on the sixth day.[3] Lisle states the obvious, “[The seventh day] isn’t a ‘creation day’ as Ross falsely labels it.”[4]

“So God created (bārā’) man in his own image, in the image of God created (bārā’) he him; male and female, created (bārā’) he them” (Gen 1:27).

This is the last sentence in the creation narrative that thrice uses the word “bārā’” (i.e., create). God sanctified (not created) the seventh day because “in it he had rested (or ceased) from all his work which God created and made” (Gen 2:3). The day of ceasing cannot be a day of creating. Creation was complete before the seventh day. The seventh day was not “created” in the same sense as the things described on days one through six.

Furthermore, though Exodus later links the newly instituted Sabbath with the seventh day of creation, the word “shabbāt” is not used in Genesis. Hamilton’s assumption that God’s rest (shābath) on the seventh day is identical to the Sabbath (shabbāt) is not supported by the text. However, building upon this assumption, Hamilton further asserts that “The Sabbath is thus an invitation to rejoice in God’s creation, and recognize God’s sovereignty over our time.” Again, this conclusion is unsubstantiated. Nowhere in the Bible does Sabbath law mandate rejoicing in creation or recognizing God’s sovereignty over our time. Not that there’s anything wrong with these spiritual disciplines—you can do them any day of the week—but the Sabbath does not expressly and/or exclusively lead to that conclusion. If Paul can assert that “the invisible things of him from the creation of the world are clearly seen, being understood by the things that are made, even his eternal power and Godhead, so that they are without excuse” (Rom 1:20), then why would God limit the obvious to one day in a week? Psalm 92, designated for the Sabbath day, does not reflect on God’s creation or the value of time, rather it focuses on God’s favor toward the redeemed (hint, hint). That is, the impetus for Sabbath worship is redemption, not creation. Psalm 148, which specifically urges praise for God the creator, does not invoke the Sabbath for motivation. It is a song of awe and wonder for any day of the week, and finds its motivation through the simple act of observation and the a priori belief that God is the creator of the observable universe. Psalm 90, which considers the seventy year lifespan of man on earth and the eternality of God, gives no nod to the Sabbath.

While many theologians attempt to infuse the Sabbath with some sort of wonder for time and creation, this association is not directly demonstrable from Scripture. Modern Jewish writers also capitalize on these two aspects—the holiness of time and of space—to add value to the Sabbath command.

“Jewish ritual may be characterized as the art of significant forms in time, as architecture of time.”[5]

“Unlike the Day of Atonement, the Sabbath is not dedicated exclusively to spiritual goals. It is a day of the soul as well as of the body; comfort and pleasure an integral part of the Sabbath observance. Man in his entirety, all his faculties must share its blessing.”[6]

If this is what makes the Sabbath special, then Sabbath is a geocentric and anthropocentric ritual. Without Jesus, Jews practically deify the Sabbath. “For where can the likeness of God be found?” Heschel queries. He rejoins, “…the likeness of God can be found in time, which is eternity in disguise.”[7] Heschel continues, “The Sabbath preceded creation and the Sabbath completed creation; it is all of the spirit that the world can bear.” [8] But the New Covenant theology is clear: Jesus preceded creation and He completed creation. Jesus, the Messiah, is the true and complete image of God. The Lord’s Day, which celebrates the resurrection of Jesus, is quite different in essence than the Sabbath. It is Christocentric.

He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn over all creation. For by Him all things were created that are in heaven and that are on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or principalities or powers. All things were created through Him and for Him. And He is before all things, and in Him all things consist. (Col 1:15-17, NKJV)

Hamilton’s statements likely resonated with those of the CS and SS positions,[9] but they epitomize the kind of rhetoric that predominates the literature. And his comments are uncomfortably comparable to the Jewish infatuation for the Sabbath. He is a Bible scholar, who for the moment, let hermeneutics lapse while reciting a church catechism or something that just sounded good to him. Hamilton offered no conclusive argument that the seventh day when God rested was of the same species as the Sabbath when Israel was commanded to rest—he merely assumed identity based on the reference to the creation week in the fourth commandment (Ex 20:11). Christian theologians and pastors better serve the church by proclaiming the first-day light of Christ’s resurrection and His supremacy over the Sabbath.

Based on this reference to creation in Exodus, we may ask: What is the nature of the relationship between God’s rest and the Sabbath? Is there a plausible reason why the Lord associated the creation week with Israel’s weekly Sabbath? In what ways are the Lord’s rest and Israel’s rest similar? In what ways are they different? What do the specific Sabbath laws that Israel was enjoined to obey have to do with God’s rest? In the same way, we may ask, based on the reference to redemption in Deuteronomy 5:15: What is the nature of the relationship between Israel’s redemption and the Sabbath? Is there a plausible reason why the Lord associated Israel’s redemption from Egypt with Israel’s weekly Sabbath? In what ways are Israel’s redemption and Israel’s weekly rest similar? In what ways are they different? What do the specific Sabbath laws that Israel was enjoined to obey have to do with their redemption? Lastly, given the association of both the creation rest and Israel’s redemption with the Sabbath, how are these two events related? In what ways are the Lord’s solitary day of rest following creation similar to Israel’s (apparent) release from the grip of Egypt? Is one of these reasons for the Sabbath—creation or redemption—more important than the other? And if so, why? Does this mean that there is a “creation Sabbath” for a perfect humanity, but a “redemption Sabbath” for imperfect Israelites? How are these two types of Sabbath different and alike?

[1] TWOT, p. 903.

[2] Watts, Rick E. “Mark” in Commentary on the NT Use of the OT, Beale and Carson, eds., p. 197.

[3] Though the Creator likely made the Garden of Eden shortly following the creation of Adam and Eve. The Garden of Eden was made for man; “there he put the man whom he had formed” (Gen 2:8).

[4] Lisle, Jason. Understanding Genesis, Green Forest, AR: Master Books, 2015, p. 223.

[5] Heschel, The Sabbath, p. 8. (Italics in the original).

[6] Heschel, The Sabbath, p. 19.

[7] Heschel, The Sabbath, p. 16.

[8] Heschel, The Sabbath, p. 21. Heschel also likens the Sabbath to Adam. “It is not good that the spirit should be alone, so Israel was destined to be a helpmeet for the Sabbath.” p. 52.

[9] For sake of brevity, the following abbreviations stand for the three main views: Lord’s Day (LD), Christian Sabbath (CS), and Saturday Sabbath (SS).

Book Review of “The Christian Sabbath” by N. L. Rice

This is a collection of five discourses presented by the New York Sabbath Committee in 1862. It is a rather obscure book but contributes a sketch of American Sabbatarianism at the beginning of the Civil War. Mr. Robert Carter (1807-1889) provides the introduction, and he is both the publisher and a founding member of the Sabbath Committee. Carter explains that this anthology represents one aspect of the Committee’s efforts to inculcate a respect for the Christian Sabbath by providing theological literature for pastors and interested readers. At issue are businesses open on Sunday, the differing viewpoints and activities of European immigrants (specifically German Lutherans) with their Sunday Theater and Beer Gardens, the movement of troops in the current war, the hawking of newspapers on Sunday, and Christians who hold to the abrogation of the Sabbath—each of which contributes to a decrease in morality.

Five New York City pastors lend their expertise in laying down the history, authority, duties, and benefits of Sabbath observance, with a final discourse on the matter of applying these principles in a free society. The discourses are short on biblical exegesis, yet grandiose in style and reasoning. Rice promotes the idea of a Sabbath kept by Adam and the patriarchs, a theological idea he admits was not supported by Luther or Calvin. Hague simply states that God is the author of the Sabbath, but it is “susceptible of adjustment” from one era to another, coming to its final resting place on Sunday. Ganse lays out the paradigm for proper Sabbath conduct and spends a fair amount of time addressing how parents should teach their children to love the Sabbath. Adams discusses the physical, intellectual, social, and religious benefits of Sabbath-keeping, but has misgivings about “recreations” on the Sabbath, equating a walk in the park with dissipation. Finally, Vinton summarizes the rationale for establishing civil participation in this Sabbath concept since all law is an expression of some religion or another. My favorite chapters were Sabbath Duties by Ganse and the Civil Sabbath by Vinton.

The United States is nearly a hundred years old for these writers, so they are closer to the issues of church and state that plagued Europe since the Reformation. They uphold the American experiment and understand the necessity of a moral underpinning to promote a national welfare. These are passionate Christian men who love the Lord and are alarmed at the downturn in public values. Unfortunately, their premise of an archetypical and universal Sabbath that was later codified in the Ten Commandments and then moved to Sunday is not correct. And everything that flows from this premise is suspect. They uniformly and almost exclusively refer to the Lord’s Day (Sunday) as the Sabbath. But their love for the “Sabbath” is really an expression of their love for the Lord’s Day and would it be that more Christians thus regarded it for the spiritual benefits to be gained (absent Sabbatarianism). The book is available in print or in electronic format.