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Part 2d: What are the Terms?

Part 2d: What are the Terms?

Glossary 4

Creation Sabbath. CS and SS camps: The institution of the Sabbath at creation, implied by God’s “rest” on the seventh day and His blessing of it. God’s “rest” then was not for Himself, but an example and illustration for the benefit of mankind, to be released from exertion for the purposes of worship. After all, God didn’t need rest and He doesn’t do self-worship. Interestingly, Campbell regards the seventh day as “God’s Sabbath-keeping,”[i] but of course, God did not resume creative works when “His Sabbath” was over. This Sabbath was instituted prior to the fall, therefore, it is an obligatory commandment for all mankind. The seventh day of creation was the beginning of a weekly Sabbath for Adam and all his posterity to rest from their labors as vice-regents of creation.[ii] JFB venture to claim that “the institution of the Sabbath is thus as old as creation; and the fact of its high antiquity, its being coeval with the existence of the human race, demonstrates the universality and permanence of its obligation.”[iii] JFB acknowledge that the word “Sabbath” is not to be found in the narrative, nor is the Sabbath actually commanded, but as the highest of the “primordial arrangements of the world, must be recognized as a law of nature no less than an ordinance of religion.”[iv] Given that the Sabbath is a law of nature, Sabbath keeping can be expected to promote the health and optimal constitution of body, mind, and spirit; whereas non-observance results in detriments to the mind and body, as well as punishments by God. This primeval Sabbath was observed by the patriarchs without the “peculiarities attached to it by the Jewish law.”[v] See Sabbath Principle and Creation Ordinance. LD: A “creation Sabbath” is fiction or a fable. From the standpoint of progressive revelation, Adam did not have the information to conceive God’s rest as a command, an example, or a suggestion for all mankind. The last he heard, he was banished from paradise and cursed to work by the sweat of his brow. No one had to tell him to get sleep at the end of the day or to take a break from a particularly arduous activity. From the standpoint of natural law, humans are not morally compelled to rest each evening or from their labors all day in a septimal pattern. “All defenders of the orthodox doctrine of the Church of England [in the 1630s] maintained that the Sabbath was not a creation ordinance, but an ordinance of Moses originating at Sinai. The Sabbath was unknown from Adam to Moses.”[vi] “God separated the seventh day; we interpret this in terms of an eschatological, proleptic sign indicating some future rest.”[vii] Of all the theological fancies which credulity has accepted as divine truths, not the least remarkable for the scantiness of evidence producible in support of it is the tenet, that a command was given to mankind at the creation to observe a seventh-day Sabbath.”[viii]

The argument that the Sabbath commandment was given to Adam before the fall is crucial to the doctrine that the Sabbath is a moral commandment applicable to all mankind. The corollary doctrine is that the presence of the Sabbath within the Decalogue implies universal morality. These two inferences are challenged by the absence of any historical Sabbatarian practice outside of Judaism or its influence. That is, if a recurring seven-day pattern of rest and worship of God was written on the heart of man and was a biological necessity, then the outworking of such a natural law would be evident through the annals of history and across most cultures. But this cannot be demonstrated. A creation Sabbath is also challenged by the theoretical reason for rest. God did not need to rest due to the demands of speaking things into existence, but we are expected to believe that the whole creation week was designed for the purpose of convincing mankind to rest on a weekly basis. Nor would sinless Adam require a weekly physical rest from perfect obedience in an un-cursed world. Yet Sabbatarians urge the necessity of weekly rest as a balm for the hardship of work. This is plausible only if the Sabbath was instituted after the fall of man. Lastly, if the Sabbath were given at creation, then the day itself is holy and cannot be changed, which is the logical conclusion of the SS advocates. If Sabbath observance was re-instituted for the Jews at Sinai, then it was the Lord who determined which day it was to begin, as it so happened with the miraculous provision of Manna. It would be preposterous to assume that the Lord lost track of the cycles of week from the beginning of creation when reestablishing such an important endowment for the human race. Nor can we assume that the Lord arbitrarily chose the day on which the Sabbath was to resume, as if He were more interested in getting that one-seventh of time regardless of the actual sanctity or holiness that imbued every seventh day since creation.

The mention of God’s rest on the seventh day within Genesis uses the literary technique of prolepsis, where the author is setting the stage for something yet to come (i.e., “foreshadowing”). When the Sabbath was ultimately given to Israel millennia later, they could look back to Genesis and see that God planned to give them the Sabbath from the beginning. That’s cool! However, to claim that the Sabbath was in existence before it was actually given is called prochronism, a literary error of placing something earlier in history than it could have been. In the movie “Gladiator,” the actor Russel Crowe is called the “Spaniard,” a term that didn’t come into existence until 1400 years later. In the movie “Braveheart,” actor Mel Gibson wears a kilt, a piece of clothing that didn’t come into existence until 400 years later. Prochronism is a laughable error, prolepsis is a brilliant technique. But the teaching that the Sabbath was given at creation is more than an anachronistic slip—whole bodies of doctrine are built upon it—so it is more than a little sad (1 Cor 15:12-19; 1 Tim 1:3-4; 2 Tim 4:3-4; Titus 1:14).

Eternal Sabbath. A metaphor used by all camps for the glorious experiences to be had in heaven when all is consummated (2 Ki 2:11; Dan 12:2-3; Jn 14:2-4; 2 Cor 5:1-2; Phil 3:20-21; Heb:13-15; Rev 11:12), such as the complete forgiveness of sin (2 Cor 5:3), resurrected bodies (1 Cor 11:39-44), freedom from pain and suffering (Rev 21:3-4), having the mind of Christ (1 Cor 13:12; 1 Jn 3:2), and enjoying unbroken holy fellowship with God (1 Thes 4:17; Rev 21:7). Heaven is the place in which God resides now, and He provided the analogs on earth by which to conceive of it as a Garden, a Household, a Kingdom, a City, even an unending Sabbath.  “The best description of [heaven] is to say it is an ‘eternal Sabbath’”[ix] “The Sabbath on earth is a shadow and type of the glorious rest and eternal Sabbath we hope for in heaven, when God shall be the temple, and the Lamb shall be the light of it.”[x] “All who have honoured the Sabbath on earth, shall enjoy a Sabbath without end in heaven.”[xi] “He has made this day the (Lord’s day) for His Church, to be observed by it till the Captain of its salvation shall return, and having finished the judgment upon all His foes to the very last shall lead it to the rest of that eternal Sabbath, which God prepared for the whole creation through His own resting after the completion of the heaven and the earth.”[xii] “Genesis 1 is not merely a record of creation; it is also a typology [sic] of history, and the final Sabbath will be endless.”[xiii] Thus, heaven may be conceptualized as a re-creation of an unspoiled garden of Eden—a paradise to share in an unbreakable rest of God (Rev 2:7; Lk 23:43; 2 Cor 12:4). “Heaven is finally seen in terms of a new garden of Eden, to which the righteous are gathered, apparently at death.”[xiv] The Westminster Confession of Faith, Question 103, entertains the idea of actually experiencing the eternal Sabbath on earth by ceasing from carnal works, yielding to the Lord, and allowing the Holy Spirit to work on the inner man. Hmm.

While the concept of a heavenly eternal Sabbath is one Sabbath followed immediately by another, the Jews painstakingly moderated their calendar to avoid the observance of two consecutive Sabbaths on earth. As blessed as the Sabbath was, consecutive Sabbaths were incompatible with normal living. I prefer the more common term “eternal rest” as it better summarizes the benefits of our redemption, which is an ongoing experience of having ceased, not only from cursed and sin-affected daily works, but also from the false works aimed at securing our own redemption. The concept of an ongoing rest comes from Genesis, not from Exodus. That being said, the author of Hebrews described the balm of salvation as a “sabbatismos” or Sabbath-keeping, in that redemption is entering into God’s rest through faith (rest) and not by works. As McGee delighted to say, “I have a Sabbath day everyday—I rest in Christ.”[xv] But we must not miss the point of McGee’s tongue in cheek response—his “rest” is from working for salvation, not resting from any manner of labor. That which the Sabbath signified is that which the believer realizes now, yet in full measure when the Lord returns. If God’s rest is not present now, then those who believe could not enter into it (Heb 4:3). Besides, this understanding also corresponds to our concept of heaven when we will be continually working in some capacity for the continued glory of God. We will be working, yet in God’s rest (Jn 5:16-19). There will be no need to strive for rest or to perform a ritual of rest, because redemptive rest will be our full and complete experience. The fact that the Sabbath was a type and shadow of a completed redemption demonstrates the temporality of that institution as promulgated in Mosaic law.

Since most, if not all, believers regard heaven as the “eternal rest” and that unbelievers are not beneficiaries of that rest, it is plain that the eternal rest is a benefit of redemption. To be redeemed is to be accepted and welcomed into God’s rest, now and forever. Christian authors recognize the analogy between Christ’s work of redemption and His entering into rest and God’s work of creation and entering into His seventh day rest. “Jesus entered into Sabbath rest, just as God entered into Sabbath rest. And that is the rest that awaits us.”[xvi] What is the basis for the comparison? If God’s seventh day rest is merely to provide a pattern for all mankind to rest one day in seven, then how does that correlate with Christ’s three-year (or even three and a half year) ministry and crucifixion which only benefits those who put their trust in Him? However, if God’s rest is a type in which the seven days symbolize the perfections of Christ’s work of redemption and that the rest symbolizes the holy blessedness of being found in Him, then the correlation is rational and of a redemptive character.

[i] Campbell, Ian D., On the First Day of the Week, p. 19.

[ii] Gaffin, Calvin and the Sabbath, p. 154.
[iii] Jamieson, Fausset, and Brown, A Commentary on the Old and New Testaments, Vol. 1, p. 9.
[iv] Jamieson, Fausset, and Brown, A Commentary on the Old and New Testaments, Vol. 1, p. 28.
[v] Jamieson, Fausset, and Brown, A Commentary on the Old and New Testaments, Vol. 1, p. 30.
[vi] Dennison, The Market Day of the Soul, p. 92.
[vii] Dressler, Harold H. P., “The Sabbath in the Old Testament” in From Sabbath to Lord’s Day, D. A. Carson, ed., p. 29.
[viii] Domville, William. The Sabbath, Chapman and Hall:London, 1855, reprint; p. 47.
[ix] Barnes, Notes on Hebrews 4:9
[x] Watson, Thomas. The Ten Commandments, Banner of Truth Trust, (1692) reprinted 1999. p. 97.
[xi] Adams, W. “The Benefits of the Sabbath” in The Christian Sabbath (1862), reprint Forgotton Books: London;  p. 230.
[xii] Keil and Delitzsch, Commentary on the Old Testament, Vol 1, p. 400. (Ex 20:8-11).
[xiii] Jordan, James B. Creation is Six Days, p. 102.
[xiv] Fretheim, Terence. “Heaven” in Westminster Theological Wordbook of the Bible, Donald E. Gowan, ed., Westminster John Knox:Louisville, KY, 2003; p. 202.
[xv] McGee, Thru the Bible, 5:532.
[xvi] Campbell, Ian D., On the First Day of the Week, p. 208.

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Why the Term “Christian Sabbath” is Absurd

To say that Sunday is the “Christian Sabbath” is to ignore and undermine the rationale for the early acceptance and use of the term “The Lord’s Day.”[i] The reason the term “Lord’s Day” arose within the Christian community was quite logically because the first day of the week became as significant as the seventh day of the week, if not more so. What were the first Christians to call the first day of the week since the last day of the week was already called the Sabbath (Matt 28:1)? At this time in history, the days of the week did not have distinct names, with two notable exceptions.[ii] The Graeco-Romans called the first day of the week Sunday or the Sun’s day. The Jews called the seventh day of the week Shabbos or Shabbat. Not until the third century is there any evidence of the naming of the days of the week that we are currently familiar with. In the Greek NT, the phrase “first day of the week” is translated from μια των σαββάτων, or “first of the Sabbath,” but it is properly understood as “first [day] of the week.”[iii] Not content to simply call the first day of the week by its Roman title “Day of the Sun”[iv] or by Jewish custom “first [day] of the week,” Christians came to ascribe their preferred day to assemble by the regal title: the Lord’s Day.[v] The name alone speaks of its superiority over the Sabbath. The Sabbath was about resting, but the Lord’s Day was, well, about the Lord! It was a day to render due praise to God and His Son whom the Father has made “both Lord and Christ” (Acts 2:32-36). Faithful Jewish Christians could not help but recall Psalm 118 as they gathered together on the first day of the week to remember the Lord’s sacrifice in their stead (Acts 4:11; Eph 2:19-22; 1 Pet 2:4-9). Entering through the “gates” of a home or gathering place they’d sing: “This is the day that the Lord has made.”

Open to me the gates of righteousness; I will go through them, And I will praise the Lord.
This is the gate of the Lord, Through which the righteous shall enter.
I will praise You, For You have answered me, And have become my salvation.
The stone which the builders rejected Has become the chief cornerstone.
This was the Lord’s doing; It is marvelous in our eyes.
This is the day the Lord has made; We will rejoice and be glad in it.
Save now, I pray, O Lord; O Lord, I pray, send now prosperity.
Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord! We have blessed you from the house of the Lord.
God is the Lord, And He has given us light; Bind the sacrifice with cords to the horns of the altar.
You are my God, and I will praise You; You are my God, I will exalt You.
Oh, give thanks to the Lord, for He is good! For His mercy endures forever.
(Ps 118:19-29, NKJV)

The only justification Jewish Christians had to forgo the Sabbath and go for the Lord’s Day, was the annulment of the Sabbath and the institution of the Lord’s Day by the authority and superiority of the risen and exalted Lord Jesus.

Imagine what it would be like if Christians started calling January 2 “New Year’s Day.” Not only would it be confusing, it would make Christians out to be fools! And what if they waited a thousand years before calling it “the Christian New Year’s Day” in order to distinguish it from the historical New Year’s Day? In the same way, it would have been utterly confusing to refer to both Saturday and Sunday as the “Sabbath,” if indeed the Sabbath was shifted to Sunday. Perhaps one could counter: It was because the Sabbath was shifted, that the confusion ensued and that the term “Lord’s Day” was derived. But this admits that the early Christians didn’t have the wherewithal to simply call it “the Christian Sabbath” until 1500 years later.[vi] After all, this is the preferred term among some church denominations. The early Christians did not call the first day of the week “the new Sabbath” or the “the Christian Sabbath.” This is because they understood that the symbolism of Sabbath-keeping looked toward the redemptive rest that Jesus Christ, the Lord of the Sabbath, provided by His life, and death, and resurrection.

The old covenant celebrated the Sabbath with regulations affecting work, animals, travel, fire, and temple worship. The Sabbath looked back to the divine rest that was lost due to sin (Ex 20:11).[vii] At the same time, the ritual enactment of the Sabbath symbolized a day when believing mankind could be restored to an abiding relationship with God; but the Sabbath itself could never be the means to realize this. The Sabbath was “a foretaste of the blessedness into which the people of God are at last to enter, the blessedness of the eternal κατεπαυσεν απο των εργων αυτον [rest from our own works].”[viii] The Sabbath—like Canaan, the priesthood, the Mosaic covenant, the temple, and its sacrifices—could not provide what it symbolized (Heb 4:8; 7:11; 8:7; 9:8, 9, 13-14 ). In time, the day that the Sabbath anticipated found its fulfillment in Jesus Christ who embodied and provided redemptive rest. “Come unto me…and I will give you rest” (Matt 11:28). “For we who have believed have entered into rest” (Heb 4:3). Paul asserted that the Mosaic laws regarding food and drink, festivals, New Moons, and Sabbaths were predictive shadows of Christ (Col 2:16). Christ is the living Head and we live in Him (Col 2:19). Jesus, our Lord, no longer observes dietary laws or keeps Sabbath, therefore we should no longer subject ourselves to regulations that no longer matter (Col 2:20; Heb 9:9-10). With the Sabbath fulfilled in Christ, the seven-day week took on new meaning. The Sabbath represented the terminus of the old creation, but the Lord’s Day represents the first day light of a new creation (Jn 1:4-5; Rom 6:3-5; 2 Cor 5:17; Eph 2:5-6; Col 2:9-13).

The earliest Christians, who were Jews by heritage, knew the Sabbath was on Saturday, the seventh day of the week. Yet they began to assemble together on Sunday, the first day of the week (Acts 20:7; 1 Cor 16:1-2). They already had a religious name for Saturday, and it became imperative to advance a new term for the favored gathering day of Christians. Colson stated the rationale so well.

I see no reason to go outside Christian thought to account for the name Lord’s-day. As we find the Eucharist called by St. Paul the Lord’s Supper (κυριακον δειπνον), and as one of the chief purposes, indeed the chief purpose of the Christian meeting was to celebrate this, nothing seems to me more natural than that the day should also be called κυριακον.[ix]

By the time of the writing of Revelation (90-100 CE), Christians already understood that the first day of the week, or Sunday, was the “Lord’s Day” (Rev 1:10). John did not invent the neologism; he was writing to those who were already acclimated to the term. The Revelation of the Lord Jesus Christ, that God gave to Him, was transmitted to John, the last living apostle (Rev 1:1) on the Lords’ Day (v. 1:10). The day chosen by the Lord for His final disclosure to John is consistent with His other post-resurrection appearances on the first day of the week (Matt 28:9; Lk 24:13-33; Jn 20:11-18; 19-23; 26-29) and the giving of the Holy Spirit on the first day of the week (Acts 2:1-4).[x] “Christians by apostolic tradition worship on Sunday in memory of the risen Lord, and are commanded never to forsake assembling together.”[xi]

An honest examination of Hebrews 10:24-25, taking into account the theme of the whole letter, will lead to the deduction that the faltering Hebrew-Christians were tempted to return to the “safety” of their traditional observation of the Sabbath and other familiar Jewish customs and laws. We cannot suppose that those absenting themselves from Christian assembly preferred nothing over the Lord’s Day or the Sabbath. That is, Jews were not forsaking both Christianity and Judaism—they were choosing either Christianity or Judaism. One could almost argue, from the perspective of a Christian Sabbatarian, that returning to the Sabbath on Saturday couldn’t be that bad. After all, those insecure Jews who professed Christ initially were still getting their 24-hour rest every seven days, not to mention avoiding commerce and recreation. But the apostle of Christ urges them to choose the higher and better road of gathering together instead on the Lord’s Day in respect for the blood of Christ, His bodily resurrection, and His ascension to the right hand of God (Heb 10:26-29). The abstention from work on the Sabbath (i.e., rest) is a shadow cast from the Lord Jesus Himself (Col 2:16; Heb 4:3), who proclaimed to be the true and abiding rest that mankind yearns for (Matt 11:28-10). Look to the substance of Christ who provides true rest—not to the mere shadow of rest.

“Christ is the Lord of the Sabbath (Matt 12:8), and after the completion of His work, He also rested on the Sabbath. But He rose again on the Sunday; and through His resurrection, which is the pledge to the world of the fruits of His redeeming work, He has made this day the κυριακὴ ἡμέρα (Lord’s Day) for His Church, to be observed by it till the Captain of its salvation shall return.”[xii]

Therefore, the Lord’s Day is not a replacement, repositioned, or remodeled Sabbath, but a new experience of a different order, which is all the more reason to continue steadfastly in the apostle’s doctrine, the fellowship of the saints, the breaking of bread, and prayer (Acts 2:42). Jesus accomplished much to bring Jews and Gentiles together as one body (Eph 2:11-18) on the first day of the week to remember Him. This could not have happened had He not abolished the law with its commandments and regulations (Eph 2:14-16; Col 2:20). He finished His great work of redemption on the cross and then rested in the grave over the Sabbath, thus fulfilling both the creation type and the Sabbath type. The Sabbath of His death is in the past; we now exult in the fact of His resurrected life on the Lord’s Day. This is why the first day of the week took on such a laudatory title. What name for our weekly day of worship could be better? The term “Christian Sabbath” boasts of the church’s ownership of the day and magnifies a shadow-command of the former covenant. Who in their right mind would prefer this instead of “the Lord’s Day?”[xiii]


[i] A search through the Ante-Nicene Church Fathers finds few references to meetings of the church. The earliest document reference is in the Didache (c. 100 CE) which urges the faithful to gather together on “the Lord’s own day.” The Epistle of Barnabas (c.100 CE) mentions “keeping the eighth day” in honor of the resurrection. Ignatius is more explicit, stating the non-observance of the Sabbath, but instead keeping the Lord’s Day “on which also our life has sprung up again.” Justin Martyr (c. 150 CE) describes the practice of Christians gathering weekly on Sunday to read Scriptures, for on the first day God created light and Jesus rose from the dead. Of course, there is no mention of a Christian Sabbath. The Post-Nicene Fathers mention the Lord’s Day about 480 times and Sunday about 150 times. Again, there is no mention of a Christian Sabbath.
[ii] Colson notes that Justin Martyr (c. 150 CE) mentions the “day of Saturn” and “day of the Sun.” As the pagan names for the days of the week became popularized from the third century on, the influence of Christianity made its impact on the calendar as well. In Southern and Eastern Europe Saturday is called Sabbata, and Sunday is called Domingo (or words to that effect) indicating the core belief that the Sunday was the Lord’s Day and Sabbath remained on Saturday.
[iii] Other possible translations are “at the dawning on the first (day) of the seven” or “day one of the Sabbaths.”
[iv] Christians were accused of Sun worship by their pagan peers, simply because they gathered together on Sunday.
[v] There were several Jewish calendar laws that referred to the day after the Sabbath (Lev 23:11, 15, 16, 36, 39; 25:22) or the day following a seven-period (Ex 22:30; Lev 12:3; 14:10, 23; 15:14, 29; 22:27; Num 6:10). So if the Sabbath was the seventh day of the week, then the first day of the new week could also be understood as the eighth day. In the Epistle of Barnabas (Ch 15) the day of Christian assembly is described as taking place on the “eighth day” because the Lord was weary of Israel’s Sabbaths (Isa 1:13).
[vi] We have our own modern day example with the holiday season Kwanza. The holiday was devised in 1966 for the African-American community as an “oppositional alternative” to Christmas, but nowadays it stands side-by-side with Christmas and Hanukkah. It has already been called, rather inappropriately, a “Black Christmas” or “Black Hanukkah.” Two points come from this: 1) a new holiday deserves its own name, and 2) if a novel cultural expression of a holiday arises, it is immediately distinguished from the former holiday with a preceding adjective (i.e., “Black”). Christians gathering together on Sunday in view of their belief that Jesus was the Messiah and that He rose from the dead on the first day of the week was a new thing and it deserved a new name. It was not based on the Sabbath, otherwise it would have been called the “Christian Sabbath” early in its development.
[vii] In the same way that God blessed the solitary seventh day of creation, God is now blessing the recurring seventh day of Jewish sabbatism. Their observance of the Sabbath does not make the day holy; God chooses to declare the day holy because of what it symbolizes. Even if the Jews observed it perfectly, it would not recapture what Adam and Eve lost. Sadly, the Jews believe that if they did observe it perfectly even once, then the Lord would return. Like the sacrificial system, this is a repetitive ceremony that cannot effect what it symbolizes. Furthermore, the Sabbath is ordained in remembrance of their physical deliverance from Egypt (Deut 5:15). Both their deliverance and the Sabbath are types. The reality is objectified in the Lord who gives both spiritual rest and spiritual redemption. In summary: 1) God declared every seventh day to be holy because He so blessed His seventh day of rest, and 2) God commanded the Israelites to keep the Sabbath according to His prescription because He rescued them from Egypt.
[viii] Keil and Delitzsch. Commentary on the Old Testament, Vol 1, p. 399.
[ix] Colson, F. H. The Week, p. 125. (Italics in the original)
[x] A variety of post-resurrection appearances appear in the gospel narratives and Paul provides a summary of such, including even himself while on the road to Damascus (1 Cor 15:3-8).
[xi] O’Hare, T. The Sabbath Complete, p. 243. Apostolic tradition is jure divino.
[xii] Keil and Delitzsch. Commentary on the Old Testament, Vol 1, p. 400.
[xiii] To the Christian Sabbatarian: The early Jewish Christians gave up their comfortable Sabbath observance and the acceptance of their Jewish community to assemble with Gentiles on the Lord’s Day in the belief that Jesus was the Messiah who was raised from the dead. That’s quite a paradigm shift! As Kaplan said, “Jewish law treats one who does not keep the Sabbath as one who abandons Judaism for another religion” (Sabbath Day of Eternity, p. 7). But you can’t stop calling the Lord’s Day by the misnomer “Christian Sabbath?”

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.