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The Sabbath under Crossfire

Notes for Chapter 4

                        THE SABBATH UNDER CROSSFIRE

                            NOTES FOR CHAPTER 4

1. Herbert W. Richardson, Toward an American Theology (New York,
1967), p. 139.
2. For my analysis of the Messianic typologies of the Sabbath in
the Old Testament, see Divine Rest for Human Restlessness (Rome,
1980), pp.134-145; also "Sabbatical Typologies of Messianic
Redemption," Journal for the Study of Judaism, vol. 17, no. 2
3. See also Is 11:7-9; 65:25; Hos 2:20.
4. The Babylonian Talmud, Shabbath 12a; cf. also 12b.
5. Mishnah, Shabbath 6:2. The quotations are taken from The
Mishnah, ed. Herbert Danby (London, 1933).
6. For a convenient collection of texts, see Joseph Klausmer, The
Messianic Idea in Israel (New York, 1955), pp.43-44, 62-63,
85-86, 99101, 158-160, 175-177, 283-284, 342-345, 377-378,
409-410, 505-512. The Book of the Secrets of Enoch, an apocryphon
of the Old Testament composed between A.D. 1-50, alludes to the
seven-day millennial scheme. It says: "And I blessed the seventh
day which is the Sabbath ... God shows Enoch the age of this
world, its existence of seven thousand years" (32:3). A similar
scheme was developed by the rabbis. Pirke de Rabbi Eliezer
asserts: "The Holy One, blessed be He, created seven aeons, and
of them all He chose the seventh aeon only; the six aeons are for
the going in and coming out .... The seventh aeon is entirely
Sabbath and rest in the life everlasting" (trans. Gerald
Friedlander [New York, 1971], p.141). See also Shabbath 30b;
Kethubboth l l lb.
7. For my analysis of Barnabas and of the patristic
interpretation of the cosmic Sabbath, see From Sabbath to Sunday
(Rome, 1977), pp. 218-223, 278-285.
8. Tosephta Shabbat 16:22 reads: "Beth Shammai says:
'Contributions for the poor are not allotted on the Sabbath in
the synagogue, even a dowry to marry an orphan young man to an
orphan young woman. Quarrels between husband and wife are not
adjudicated and one does not pray for the sick on the Sabbath.'
Beth Hillel permits these activities." 
9. Theodore Friedman, "The Sabbath: Anticipation of Redemption,"
Judaism 16 (1967): 445.
10. The Midrash on Psalms, trans. William G. Braude (New Haven,
1959), vol.2, p.112. In a similar vein, Pirke de Rabbi Eliezer
says: "He created the seventh day, (but) not for work, because it
is not said in connection therewith, `And it was evening and it
was morning.' Why? For it is reserved for the generations (to
come), as it is said, `And there shall be one day which is known
unto the Lord; not day and not night' (Zech 14:7)" (trans. Gerald
Friedlander [New York, 1971], p.137). Cf. also Shabbath 1 lb;
Berakhoth 58b; Rosh Hashanah 31a. Church Fathers also took notice
of the absence of any mention of "evening and morning" in
conjunction with the seventh day of creation and interpreted it
as representing the future eternal peace and rest of the saints.
For example, Augustine in his Confessions offers this sublime
prayer: "O Lord God, grant Thy peace unto us ... the peace of
rest, the peace of the Sabbath, which hath no evening. For all
this most beautiful order of things ... is to pass away, for in
them there was morning and evening. But the seventh day is
without any evening, nor hath any setting, because Thou hast
sanctified it to an everlasting continuance; that that which Thou
didst after Thy works, which were very good, resting on the
seventh day ... that we also after our works (therefore very
good, because Thou has given them unto us) may repose in Thee
also in the Sabbath of eternal life" (The Confessions of St.
Augustine 13, 50-51, Nicene and Post-Nicene Fathers, ed. Philip
Schaff [Grand Rapids, 1979], first series v.l , p.207). See also
Augustine's City of God, book 22, chapter 30.
11. Bereshith Rabbah 12:6.
12. According to the Midrash, the Sabbath acted as Adam's savior
when God was about to destroy him on Friday evening on account of
his sin: "At that moment the Sabbath arrived and became Adam's
advocate, saying to the Holy One, blessed be He: `During the six
days of Creation no one suffered punishment. And wilt Thou begin
it with me? Is this my holiness? Is this my rest?'And thus Adam
was saved by the Sabbath's plea from destruction in Gehenna. When
Adam saw the power of the Sabbath, he was about to sing a hymn in
her honor"( The Midrash on Psalms, trans. William G. Braude [New
Haven, 1959], vol, 2, p.112).
13. The redemptive role of the Sabbath is reflected especially in
the belief expressed by R. Eliezer of Modihim, that if Israel
kept the Sabbath, the Lord would give her the land of Israel, the
kingdom of the house of David, the future world, the new world
(Mekilta, Vayassah 5:6673). See also Shabbath 118b, 119b, 3a;
Mishnah Aboth 5:8; Jubilees 2:28. 14. See, for example, Bereshith
Rabbah 3:6; 11:2. For other sources, see Louis Ginzberg, Legends
of the Jews (Philadelphia, 1946), vol.5, p.8, n. 19.
15. Dale Ratzlaff, Sabbath in Crisis (Applegate, California,
1990), p.24.
16. See The Midrash on Psalms (n. 12), vol.2, p.112; Pirke de
Rabbi Eliezer (n. 10), p.144.
17. Abraham Joshua Heschel, The Sabbath: Its Meaning for Modern
Man (New York, 1951), p.23.
18. On the development of the rest-theme in the Old Testament,
see Gerhard von Rad, "There Remains Still a Rest for the People
of God," in The Problem of the Hexateuch and Other Essays (New
York, 1966), pp.94-102.
19. Ernst Jenni, Die Theologische Begrundung des Sabbatgebotes im
Alten Testament (Zurich, 1956), p.282.
20. The Midrash on Psalms (n. 12), vol.2, p.113.
21. The author of Hebrews presents what may be called three
different levels of meaning of the Sabbath rest: creation-rest
(4:3), national-rest (4:6, 8), redemption-rest (4:3,7,9,10). For
my analysis of the passage, see Samuele Bacchiocchi, Divine Rest
for Human Restlessness (Rome, 1980), pp.135-136, 164-170; idem,
From Sabbath to Sunday (Rome, 1977), pp.63-69.
22. Sanhedrin 97a.
23. Mishnah Tamid 7:4. 24. Ibid.
25. See Mishnah Pesahim 10:5. The underlying connection among the
Sabbath, Passover, and the Day of Atonement appears to be not
only theological (i.e., redemption motif) and terminological
(i.e., Shabbath designation) but presumably also numerical. Saul
J. Berman notes that "The fact that the Jewish calendar can be
begun with either the month of Tishrei or with the month of
Nissan will allow us to recognize a further relationship of the
term, 'Shabbat,' to the number seven. Counting from the month of
Tishrei, the seventh month, Nissan, contains a Shabbat, namely
Pesah. Counting the months of the year from Nissan yields Tishrei
as the seventh month, and that month too, contains a Shabbath,
Yom Kippur ... Pesah, in the seventh month from Tishrei, and Yom
Kippur, in the seventh month from Nissan, together constitute the
Sabbath of months" ("The Extended Notion of the Sabbath," Judaism
22 (1973): 343). The weekly Sabbath appears then to share in
common the theme of redemption with the Sabbath of months and the
Sabbath of years (sabbatical and jubilee years).
26. For a perceptive discussion of the redemptive features of the
Sabbath years, see George Wesley Buchanan, Revelation and
Redemption (Dillsboro, North Carolina, 1978), pp.9-10; idem, The
Consequences of the Covenant (Leiden, 1970), p.18.
27. Robert B. Sloan, The Favorable Year of the Lord: A Study of
Jubilary Theology in the Gospel of Luke (Austin, Texas, 1977).
28. Julian Morgenstern maintains that "in all likelihood the
'great trumpet' (Is 27:13), a blast from which would inaugurate a
new and happier era for conquered and dispersed Israel, was a
yobel. All this suggests cogently that the ram's-horn trumpet was
of unusual character, used only upon extraordinary occasions and
for some particular purpose (cf. Ex 19:13) ... This year acquired
its name just because this unique, fiftieth year was ushered in
by this blast upon the yobel, whereas the commencement of
ordinary years was signalized only by a blast upon a shophar (2
Sam 15:10; cf. Lev 23:24)" (The Interpreter's Dictionary of the
Bible [Nashville, 1962], s. v. "Jubilee, Year of," vol.2, p.
29. Behodesh Hashebihi 172a, cited in George W. Buchanan,
Revelation and Redemption (Dillsboro, North Carolina, 1978), p.
30. The term and concept of "sabbatical eschatology" is used and
explained by Buchanan, in Revelation and Redemption (note 26),
pp.3-6; also idem, The Consequences of the Covenant (note 30),
31. The terms "sabbatical messianism" and "chronomessianism" are
used by Ben Zion Wacholder in his article, "Chronomessianism. The
Timing of Messianic Movements and the Calendar of Sabbatical
Cycles," Hebrews Union College Annual 46 (1975), p.201.
32. For an edition and analysis of I IQ Melchizedek, see Joseph
A. Fitzmyer, "Further Light on Melchizedek from Qumran Cave II,"
Journal of Biblical Literature 86 (1967), p.25-41; M. de Jonge
and A. S. van der Woude, "11 Q Melchizedek and the New
Testament," New Testament Studies 12 (1865-1966), p.301-326.
33. Sanhedrin 97b.
34. Abraham Joshua Heschel, The Sabbath: Its Meaning for Modern
Man (New York, 1951), p.68.
35. John Calvin, Commentaries on the First Book of Moses Called
Genesis, trans. John King (Grand Rapids, 1948), p.106.
36. Paul K. Jewett, The Lord's Day: A Theological Guide to the
Christian Day of Worship (Grand Rapids, 1972), p.86.
37. M. Max B. Turner, "The Sabbath, Sunday, and the Law in
Luke/Acts," in the symposium From Sabbath to the Lord's Day
(Grand Rapids, 1982), p.102.
38. Ibid.
39. On the influence of the synagogue upon the Christian divine
service, see C. W. Dugmore, The Influence of the Synagogue upon
the Divine Office, 1964; A. Allan McArthur, The Evolution of the
Christian Year, 1953; Dom Benedict Steuart, The Development of
Christian Worship, 1953.
40. Luke 416,31; 6:1,2,5,6,7,9; 13:10,14,15,16; 14:1,3,5; 23:54,
56; Acts 1:12; 13:14,27,42,44; 15:21; 16:13; 17:2; 18:4.
41. See, for example, 1. Howard Marshall, The Gospel of Luke (New
York,1978), p.883; F. Godet, A Commentary on the Gospel of Saint
Luke, (London, 1870), 11, p. 343; A. R. Leaney, A Commentary on
the Gospel According to Saint Luke (Grand Rapids, 1966), p.288.
The same view is implied by the translators of the New
International Version: "Then they went home and prepared spices
and perfumes. But they rested on the Sabbath in obedience to the
commandment" (Luke 23:56).
42. M. Max B. Turner (note 37), p.102.
43. The two crucial terms of the passage are "to proclaim" and
"release." Both of these terms, which recur twice, are technical
terms for the Sabbath years. For an informative treatment of this
question, see Robert B. Sloan (note 27), pp.32-42. P. Miller
rightly notes: "The tie that binds Isaiah 61:1-2 and 58:6
together in Luke 4 is the small word aphesis, the word translated
'release' for the captives and `liberty' for the oppressed ....
it is the catchword binding the two quotations together. Out of
the four sentences in Isaiah 58:6 that all say essentially the
same thing, the one chosen here in the gospel quotation is the
one that in the Greek translation uses aphesis" ("Luke 4:16-21,"
Interpretation 29 [October, 1975], p.419).
44. H. Conzelmann, The Theology of St. Luke (New York, 1960), p.
180. Similarly, G. B. Caird points out that Luke "places the
incident at the beginning of his story of the Galilean ministry
because it announces the pattern which the ministry is to follow"
(Saint Luke [Grand Rapids, 1963], p. 86). Robert C. Tannehill
also writes: "These words and acts [Luke 4:1630] have typical
programmatic significance for the whole of Jesus' ministry as
Lukes understands it . . . Luke chose to make this quotation
[Luke 4:18-19] the title under which the whole ministry of Jesus
is placed. He did so because it expresses clearly certain
important aspects of his own understanding of Jesus and his
ministry" ("The Mission of Jesus according to Luke 4:16-30," in
Jesus in Nazareth [Grand Rapids, 1972], pp.51,72).
45. Paul K. Jewett (note 36), p. 27. A. Strobel argues that
behind Christ's quotation lay an actual historical jubilee year
which is dated in A.D. 26-27 (Kerygma und Apokalyptik, [1967], p.
105-111). If this were the case, then Christ's speech would have
added significance since it would have been delivered in the
context of an actual jubilee year.
46. Paul K. Jewett (note 36), p.42.
47. Ibid., p.82.
48. This view is expressed, for example, by M. M. B. Turner who
writes: "There is no question here of the Sabbath being
particularly appropriate for such healing; any more than it is
particularly appropriate on that day to loose oxen and donkey
from their crib and to water them. The argument, in other words,
is not that the Sabbath is a special day, in this respect, but
precisely that it is not. The inbreaking kingdom, the loosing of
Satan's captives, is no respecter of days" (note 37, p.107).
49. Nathan A. Barack correctly affirms: "The Sabbath inspires its
beneficiaries to feel that the universe is the work of a
purposeful Creator, that human life has meaning and sanctity,
that all life must be preserved, and that even animals must be
provided with their necessary rest" (A History of the Sabbath
[1965], p. xii).
50. Robert Banks comments in this regard: "Luke desires to
highlight those works of Jesus which bring salvation and healing
to men, which as v. 16 makes clear, especially occur on that day"
(Jesus and the Law in the Synoptic Tradition [1985], p.131).
Similarly, I. Howard Marshall writes: "Hence it was necessary for
her to be released immediately, even though it was Sabbath,
perhaps indeed all the more fitting on the Sabbath" (The Gospel
of Luke [1978], p.559).
51. Pirke de Rabbi Eliezer (note 10), p.141.
52. For my extensive analysis of the literary context and of the
sabbatical nature of Christ's rest, see "Matthew 11:28-30: Jesus'
Rest and the Sabbath," Andrews University Seminary Studies 24
(Summer 1984), p.1-23.
53. See, for example, J. Danielou, Bible and Liturgy (South Bend,
Indiana, 1956), p.226; David Hill, The Gospel of Matthew (London,
1972), pp.209-210; D. A. Carson, "Jesus and the Sabbath in the
Four Gospels," in From Sabbath to Lord's Day. A Biblical,
Historical, and Theological Investigation (Grand Rapids, 1982),
54. Donald A. Carson, "Jesus and the Sabbath in the four
Gospels," in the symposium From Sabbath to the Lord's Day (Grand
Rapids, 1982), p.102.
55. The book of Jubilees explains that "burning frankincense and
bringing oblation and sacrifices before the Lord ... shall be
done on Sabbath-days in the sanctuary of the Lord your God; that
they may atone for Israel with sacrifice" (50:10-11).
56. This view is held by various scholars. Gerhard Barth, for
example, comments that by the phrase "something greater than the
temple is here ... undoubtedly Jesus is meant, for in him the
Messianic fulfillment and consummation has come and he is
therefore more than the Temple" (Tradition and Interpretation in
Matthew [Philadelphia, 1963], p.82). 
57. Ellen G. White perceptively notes: "The priests were
performing those rites that pointed to the redeeming power of
Christ, and their labor was in harmony with the object of the
Sabbath. But now Christ Himself had come. The disciples, in doing
the work of Christ, were engaged in God's service, and that which
was necessary for the accomplishment of this work it was right to
do on the Sabbath" (The Desire of Ages [Mountain View,
California, 1940], p.285).
58. Robert Banks, Jesus and the Law in the Synoptic Tradition
(Grand Rapids, 1967), p.117. Cf. Morna D. Hooker, The Son of Man
in Mark (New York, 1967), p.98; P. K. Jewett (note 36), p.37.
59. D. A. Carson (note 54), p.67.
60. Ibid., p.79. Cf. W. Rordorf, Sunday: The History of the Day
of Rest and Worship in the Earliest Centuries of the Christian
Church (Philadelphia, 1968), pp.70, 296.
61. David Hill, The Gospel of Matthew (1972), p.211.
62. This view is emphatically stated by Etan Levine: "The
Pharisees are not being told that the Sabbath injunctions should
be abrogated; rather, within their own realm of discourse they
are being reminded that plucking grain on the Sabbath is
legitimate for sacred purposes. Thus, Jesus does not abrogate the
Torah, but exercises his prerogative to interpret it, in this
case defining the `sacred' in term other than the Temple ritual,
as the text explicitly states" ("The Sabbath Controversy
According to Matthew," New Testament Studies 22 [1976]: 482).
Similarly, William L. Lane writes: "The divine intention was in
no way infringed by the plucking of heads of grain on the part of
Jesus' disciples" (The Gospel According to Mark [New York, 1974],
63. L. Goppelt, Christentum and Judentum im ers ten and zweiten
Jahrhundert (Berlin, 1954), p.46, as cited in W. Rordorf (note
60), p. 71. Rordorf himself defends this view and goes so far as
to acuse Matthew of "beginning the moralistic misunderstanding of
Jesus' attitude toward the Sabbath" (note 60, p.68). This
misunderstanding allegedly consists in assuming "that the
obligation to love one's neighbour dispiaces in certain
circumstances the command to keep a day of rest" (ibid.).
One wonders whether Matthew really misunderstood or truly
understood Christ's meaning and message of the Sabbath, when he
wrote, "It is lawful to do good on the sabbath" (Matt 12:12). It
is true that in post exilic Judaism an elaborate fence had been
erected around the Sabbath to assure its faithful observance. The
multitude of meticulous and casuistic regulations, produced to
guard the Sabbath, turned the observance of the day into a
legalistic ritual rather than into a loving service. It was
Christ's intent to restore the Sabbath to the original divine
64. Niels-Erik Andreasen, "Festival and Freedom," Interpretation
28 (1974), p.289.
65. Hans Walter Wolff, "The Day of Rest in the Old Testament,"
Concordia Theological Monthly 43 (1972), p.504.
66. For my analysis of John 5:17, see my article "John 5:17:
Negation or Clarification of the Sabbath?" Andrews University
Seminary Studies 19 (Spring 1981), p.3-19.
67. See, for example, George Allen Turner, Julius R. Mantey, O.
Cullman, E. C. Hoskyns, F. Godet on John 5:17.
68. A. T. Lincoln, "Sabbath, Rest, and Eschatology in the New
Testament," in From Sabbath to Lord's Day, ed. Donald A. Carson
(Grand Rapids, 1982), p.204.
69. Yoma 85b.
70. On the redemptive meaning of circumcision, see Rudolf Meyer,
"peritemno," Theological Dictionary of the New Testament, ed. G.
Kittel (Grand Rapids, 1973), vol. 6, pp.75-76.
71. For a presentation of the three reasons, see A. T. Lincoln
(note 68), pp.212-214.
72. Among the commentators who view the fulfillment of the
Sabbath rest as an exclusive fut ure experience are E. Kasemann,
O. Michel, H. Windisch, W. Manson; F.F. Bruce; Delitzsch, and R.
C. H. Lenski.
73. Bruce Metzger rightly remarks: "Many of them felt themselves
drawn to Jewish liturgy and were on the point of renouncing
Christianity and returning to their ancestral Jewish faith" (The
New Testament: Its Background, Growth and Content [Nashville,
1965), p.249).
74. The term sabbatismos occurs in the following works: Plutarch,
De Superstitione 3 (Moralia 1660); Justin Martyr, Dialogue with
Trypho 23, 3; Epiphanius, Adversus Haereses 30, 2, 2; Apostolic
Constitutions 2,36.
75. Andrew T. Lincoln, a contributor to the scholarly symposium
From Sabbath to the Lord's Day acknowledges that in both secular
and Christian literature "the term [sabbatismos] denotes the
observance or celebration of the Sabbath. This usage corresponds
to the Septuagint usage of the cognate verb sabbatizo (cf. Ex
16:23; Lev 23:32; 26:34f; 2 Chron 36:21) which also has reference
to Sabbath observance. Thus, the writer to the Hebrews is saying
that since the time of Joshua an observance of Sabbath rest has
been outstanding" (note 68), p.213.
76. For examples and discussion of the spiritual interpretation
of the Sabbath commandment, see W. Rordorf (note 60), pp.
100-108. Franz X. Pettirsch also notes: "The early fathers of the
Church applied the law of Sabbath rest only allegorically to
absention from sin; a literal application to work was foreign to
their thinking" ("A Theology of Sunday Rest," Theology Digest 6
[1958], p.116). The author explains how during the Middle Ages
the formula "servile work" was interpreted in a literal sense as
meaning "field work, any heavy work" (p.117). The spiritual
interpretation of the Sabbath rest as "self-renenciation" is
advocated also by John Calvin, in Commentaries on the Four Last
Rooks of Moses, trans. C. W. Bingham (Grand Rapids, 1950), p.
77. John Calvin, Institutes of the Christian Religion (Grand
Rapids, 1972), vol.2, p.337. Karl Barth keenly observes that, by
resting on the Sabbath after the similitude of God (Heb 4:10),
the believer "participates consciously in the salvation provided
by him [God]" (Church Dogmatics [Edinburgh, 1961], vol.3, part 2,
78. Karl Barth (note 77), p.51.
79. Epistle to Diognetus 4, 3, The Ante-Nicene Fathers (Grand
Rapids, 1973 reprint), vol.l, p.26.
80. Augustine, City of God, XXII, 30, trans. Gerald Walsh,
Demetrius B. Zema, Grace Monahan (New York,1958), p.544.


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