This section is about exploring theories regarding the weekly Sabbath and whether or not it applies to Gentiles.
As always, I want to reiterate that I am posting this because it is thought-provoking, not because I absolutely agree with every word and endorse the study in its entirety.
Today's installment picks up immediately after the point where the previous article left off, and will include material from pages 24-28.
Another Possible Theory About The Sabbath
Days Of Colossians 2:14-17
Even Seventh-day Adventist Sabbath scholar, the late Dr. Samuele Bacchiocchi, conceded that Colossians 2:14-17 targets the weekly Sabbath, and it was his absurdly Judaizing work-around of Colossians 2:14-17 that finally opened the eyes of the Evangelical world to the impossibilities of Sabbatarianism. A few thinking Seventh-day Adventist theologians also took note of the implications of Bacchiocchi’s theory’s and left Adventism, including the (then) controversial independent SDA theologian, Dr. Robert Brinsmead. Our research on the lunar Sabbath theory might possibly provide still another leg of support that Dr. Bacchiocchi's assessment that the sabbath in the third position represents the weekly Sabbath of the Decalogue. If the lunar Sabbath theory is correct, we would have another reason to see that the Jews viewed the sabbath system as an integrated whole, all synchronized to the new moons. However, there are other reasons for determining that the sabbath in the third position represents the weekly Sabbath. If the third sabbath is not a reference to the weekly Sabbath, his sentence structure would make no sense, as you would have “annual, monthly, annual,” or “annual, monthly, monthly.”
Note that the Greek word in the third position in Colossians 2:14-17 is “sabbaton.” Here is the Strong’s definition of the word:
Title: Strong’s Hebrew and Greek Dictionaries
Copyright: Electronic Edition STEP Files Copyright © 2003, QuickVerse, a division of Findex.com, Inc.
σάββατον sabbaton sab'-bat-on
Of Hebrew origin [H7676]; the Sabbath (that is, Shabbath), or day of weekly repose from secular avocations (also the observance or institution itself); by extension a se'nnight, that is, the interval between two Sabbaths; likewise the plural in all the above applications:— sabbath (day), week.
GALATIANS 4:8-11 (NIV) - Formerly, when you did not know God, you were slaves to those who by nature are not gods. But now that you know God-or rather are known by God-how is it that you are turning back to those weak and miserable principles? Do you wish to be enslaved by them all over again? 10 You are observing special days and months and seasons and years! I fear for you, that somehow I have wasted my efforts on you.Sabbatarian apologists claim that the special days Paul was referring to here were the sacred days of the pagan calendar. Unfortunately, the focus of the book of Galatians is on the baleful influence of the Judaizers—Christian Jews who wanted all Christians to keep the Law of Moses and the rabbinical traditions. Several verses later, Paul even names the Judaizers as the culprits he is referring to. Review the following principles and you will see that Paul’s three anti-Sabbatarian passages are consistent: (1) The Sabbath was not referenced to the 7 th day of Creation, but rather to the principle of work six days and rest the 7th. (2) All three sabbath types were an integrated and inseparable set of sacred days in Jewish thought. (3) Even Seventh-day Adventist Sabbatarians concede that the annual and monthly sabbaths were done away with by Christ’s death on the Cross. (4) One type of Sabbath cannot exist without the others, so St. Paul said in Colossians 2:14-17 that all three types of Sabbaths became obsolete shadows when the Reality that cast those shadows died on the Cross. (5) If, indeed, the lunar Sabbath concept is true, we would have an additional reason to see all sabbaths as an inseparable set.
Romans 14:5-6 (NIV) - One person considers one day more sacred than another; another considers every day alike. Each of them should be fully convinced in their own mind. 6Whoever regards one day as special does so to the Lord. Whoever eats meat does so to the Lord, for they give thanks to God; and whoever abstains does so to the Lord and gives thanks to God.Sabbatarian apologists claim that the days referred to in this passage are merely references to the ceremonial Jewish feast days. They use circular reasoning, assuming that since the Sabbath is an unquestionable truth, Paul could not possibly be referring to the weekly Sabbath days in this passage. Unfortunately, this statement is about as clear as it can be said. Only a Sabbatarian bias forces someone to try to explain it away in such a manner.
Once the sabbath set became obsolete shadows at the Cross, there was no principle or absolute reference point that could be used to make any day of the year intrinsically sacred. As you will discover as you look deeper into the Sabbath-Sunday Question, you will see that Christians came to observe Sunday out of arbitrary convenience— not because Sunday was sacred. As we have said before, informed Jews never based their weekly Sabbaths on an absolute reference point because they couldn’t.
Paul is correct. With no absolute reference point to use to calculate a sacred day, no day possesses any sacredness in and of itself. To the Christian, all days are equal. Any day is a good day to worship God. Observe Sunday if you wish as an arbitrary day that Christians have chosen or worship on Saturday, but understand that if you chose to worship on Saturday, you are doing so not because it falls on a new moon or because it is an exact seven-day interval of the 7th day of Creation Week. Christians, therefore, are obligated to respect Paul’s admonition not to impose their own idea about sacred days on other believers because there are no longer ANY sacred days. We cannot imagine St. Paul telling the new Gentile converts that they would receive the Mark of the Beast and go to Hell if they did not join the Jewish Christians in keeping the Jewish Sabbath. The Jews departed from the intent of the Law of Moses by capitulating to worship on the day that Babylonian rabbis had arbitrarily chosen to be labeled the 7th day. Christians violate God’s special revelation through St. Paul that Christians are not to impose the Jewish Sabbath on others. They can keep it themselves without sinning because any day is a good day to worship God, but they ignore God's specific instructions when they seek to impose it on others.
DO THEN JEWS BELIEVE GENTILES
SHOULD KEEP THE SABBATH?
Again, we turn to the Karaite Jews for light on this perspective. Keep in mind that this opinion is that of Jewish scholars and can be used only so far to throw light on how Christians should think about this subject. Note that the foundation of this opinion is the concept that there is only one chance in seven that the seventh-day is an exact seven-day multiple of the 7th day of Creation:
Do the Other Nations Have to Keep The Shabbath? First of all, it is clear from what I have written above, that even if the other nations do have to keep the Shabbath, it does not necessarily have to be on a Saturday. Each society may choose its own day, and as long as all the members of that society are allowed to rest on that day, then that society is, in effect, keeping the Shabbath. But now the question arises, "Do they have to?" The answer to this question actually raises a much more general question: "Do the nations other than Israel have to keep the Torah at all? If so, what parts of it must they keep?" To answer that the other nations do not have to keep the Torah at all is clearly flawed, since no thinking person can imagine that other nations should be permitted to commit murder, theft and adultery. On the other hand, to answer that the other nations must keep the entire Torah is equally flawed, since, for instance, what relevance would keeping the detailed laws of Passover have to another nation, inasmuch as Passover specifically celebrates the freeing of Israel from Egypt? The answer, in my opinion, lies somewhere in-between. The laws of the Torah are meant for Israel, but Israel, in keeping them, is in turn meant to set an example for the rest of the nations. In other words, that which is mentioned in Deuteronomy 4:6 is supposed to happen: "So keep them and do them because this is your wisdom and your understanding in the eyes of the nations, who will hear all these laws and say, 'This is certainly a wise and understanding nation, this great nation.' " 5 After coming to this conclusion, other nations will naturally want to emulate many of our laws. When they do, Israel's role in the world is actualized. (For a further explanation of this idea, I recommend reading my book, The Torah and the Marketplace of Ideas.) Therefore, to return to the specific question of the Shabbath, my answer is as follows: The other nations are not explicitly required to keep the Shabbath, but as Israel's influence in the world grows, other nations, seeing the beauty and wisdom of the Shabbath, will choose to integrate the idea into their own societies. Indeed, this is exactly what has happened, as both Christian and Muslim societies do keep a form of the Shabbath, and just about all societies around the modern world have the concept of a day off from work, whereas this was not the case 2,000 years ago.http://www.karaiteinsights.com/article/shabbat.html#sthash.TbCJFadJ.dpuf
Sabbatarians protest that some of the rabbis taught that the Sabbath was universal, and it is true that some have. Only a few select rabbis are chosen to have extensive training in the Ancient Hebrew version of the Hebrew language in which the Torah was “originally” written; so it is not surprising that a rabbi who did not receive this special training would write in ignorance. (We will have more to say about this fact later.) That this universal view is held by some rabbis has been substantiated by a paper sent to us by Brendan Knudson, “Patriarchs, Rabbis, and Sabbath,” by Robert M. Johnson, available from Andrews University Library. One example Johnson cites is found in the Book of Jubilees 2:30-33, which describes an angel telling Moses, “We kept Sabbath in the heavens before it was made known to any flesh to keep Sabbath thereon on the earth.” Note that the rabbinical author of the Book of Jubilees advocates for the universality of the Sabbath from a non-biblical perspective. As Robert K. Sanders observes, the angels had no part in Creation, so there would be no point in them keeping the Sabbath. When angels are assisting mankind through the week, they are doing “good” on the Sabbath, and thus they would not be resting. Furthermore, as Sanders observes, “The Father and Jesus work on the Sabbath. A non-biblical starting point seems to lead to a non-biblical conclusion.” (Similarly, Duane Johnson observes that Seventh-day Adventist scholars, while using questionable support for the Sabbath from other sources, demonstrate literary bias when they attempt to squeeze out a Sabbatarian-friendly reading of quotes from the early fathers of the church. Unfortunately, most of these passages, when taken in proper context, were strongly anti-Sabbatarian. Johnson cites such works as The Didache and The Epistle of St. Barnabas as examples of the writings of the early fathers who strongly opposed Sabbath-keeping. Now, reflect on Robert K. Sander's observation that a non-biblical starting point leads to non-biblical conclusions:
John 5:16 - 18 (NIV) 16So, because Jesus was doing these things on the Sabbath, the Jews persecuted him. 17Jesus said to them, “My Father is always at his work to this very day, and I, too, am working.”The rabbinical author of The Book of Jubilees, quoted by Robert M. Johnson, continues:
And the Creator of all things blessed it, but he did not sanctify all peoples and nations to keep Sabbath, but Israel alone.Notice the theological difficulties posed by a Sabbath that existed before the creation of Planet Earth. The Sabbath was given to Israel. The Sabbath was given to the Jews in part to help them remember that God created this world —not the Universe. It was also given to them to help them not forget that God had led them out of Egyptian slavery. Jewish scholars seem to vary in their methods of Bible study just the way Christians scholars do. We would ask the question, if any Jewish rabbi studied the Exodus story with a native understanding of Ancient Hebrew, how could he possibly arrive at the conclusion that the Sabbath had universal jurisdiction?
God never sent a messenger to a Heathen city or nation to condemn it for Sabbath-breaking, but He did for violating fundamental moral laws. On the other hand, God rebuked Israel when it broke the Sabbath after it was given to them as an ordinance– additional evidence that the Sabbath was for Israel alone. No other nations had any meaningful knowledge of the True God or of the Sabbath He provided for the Jews. Robert K. Sanders provides three texts to support this position:
Psalm 147:19 - 20 (NIV) 19 He has revealed his word to Jacob, his laws and decrees to Israel. 20He has done this for no other nation; they do not know his laws. Praise the LORD.The Sinaitic Sabbath covenant was not made with the Fathers such as Adam, Noah, Isaac, and Abraham.
Deut. 5:2 -3 (NIV) 2The LORD our God made a covenant with us at Horeb. 3It was not with our fathers that the LORD made this covenant, but with us, with all of us who are alive here today.If the Israelites did not know about the Sabbath then certainly the Gentile nations did not know about it:
Neh. 9:13, 14 (NIV) 13“You came down on Mount Sinai; you spoke to them from heaven. You gave them regulations and laws that are just and right, and decrees and commands that are good. 14You made known to them your holy Sabbath and gave them commands, decrees and laws through your servant Moses.Duane Johnson adds the following texts in support of the fact that the Law of Moses with its Sabbath commandment was unique to Israel:
Deut 4:5 - 7 (KJV) 5Behold, I have taught you statutes and judgments, even as the LORD my God commanded me, that ye should do so in the land whither ye go to possess it. 6Keep therefore and do them; for this is your wisdom and your understanding in the sight of the nations, which shall hear all these statutes, and say, Surely this great nation is a wise and understanding people. 7For what nation is there so great, who hath God so nigh unto them, as the LORD our God is in all things that we call upon him for?
Deuteronomy 4:5-7 - Behold, I have taught you statutes and judgments, even as the Lord my God commanded me, that ye should do so in the land whither ye go to possess it. Keep therefore and do them; for this is your wisdom and your understanding in the sight of the nations, which shall hear all these statutes, and say, Surely this great nation is a wise and understanding people. For what nation is there so great, who hath God so nigh unto them, as the Lord our God is in all things that we call upon him for?Sabbatarians claim that since the Sabbath is part of the 10 Commandments, doing away with it would be like doing away with all LAW. The reference to the Law in James 2:8-11 is to all 613 laws of Moses—not simply the 10 Commandments:
James 2:8 - 11 (NIV) 8If you really keep the royal law found in Scripture, “Love your neighbor as yourself,” you are doing right. 9But if you show favoritism, you sin and are convicted by the law as lawbreakers. 10For whoever keeps the whole law and yet stumbles at just one point is guilty of breaking all of it. 11For he who said, “Do not commit adultery,” also said, “Do not murder.” If you do not commit adultery but do commit murder, you have become a lawbreaker.Note contextually how James uses the “law” here, referring to the “whole” law, and how that covenant law worked when it came to breaking any one point of that whole law. One was guilty of the entirety should they break any one point of that law.
William Hohmann observes that James used the Old Covenant Law as an example to illustrate how the New Covenant “Royal Law of Liberty” works when it comes to our relationship with other people. If we show favoritism for one, and despise another, failing to show proper love even for one other human being, we are guilty of transgressing that Royal Christian law of Liberty, having shown partiality in our love and treatment of others.
BUT ISN’T THE SABBATH PART OF GOD’S LAW?
It is a cheap theological trick Sabbatarians use when they dismiss all available evidence to the contrary and say things like, “Well, the Sabbath is part of God’s law. If you take away God’s law, everyone would have license to kill, steal, and commit adultery.” The heresy of Sabbatarianism develops for at least two reasons. First, unfortunate last resort results from their failure to take into consideration to whom God was speaking and under what circumstances. Second, there is the failure to understand what Bible writers meant when they used the term, “Law.” The idea that the 10 Commandments represent “God’s Law” contains only a certain element of truth. Sometimes the greatest deceptions are those that have some truth mixed in with them. Just because part of a teaching is correct does not mean that all of it is.
God gave the Sabbath to Israel and to Israel alone. He gave it to them as a sign that would set them apart from all other nations of the world. Logic tells us that it is impossible to have a factor that distinguishes two different groups from each other to be a shared attribute:
Exodus 31:14-17 (NIV) - “‘Observe the Sabbath, because it is holy to you. Anyone who desecrates it is to be put to death; those who do any work on that day must be cut off from their people. 15For six days work is to be done, but the seventh day is a day of sabbath rest, holy to the Lord. Whoever does any work on the Sabbath day is to be put to death. 16The Israelites are to observe the Sabbath, celebrating it for the generations to come as a lasting covenant. 17It will be a sign between me and the Israelites forever, for in six days the Lord made the heavens and the earth, and on the seventh day he rested and was refreshed.’”Who is to observe the Sabbath? Israel. It is to be celebrated by Israel as a covenant. God did not make a covenant with any other nation but Israel. It is the sign that they are the covenant people.
In the next section, Robert K. Sanders will clarify the concept of the LAW.