Sabbath

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Watson's Biblical & Theological Dictionary [1]

The obligation of a sabbatical institution upon Christians, as well as the extent of it, have been the subjects of much controversy. Christian churches themselves have differed; and the theologians of the same church. Much has been written upon the subject on each side, and much research and learning employed, sometimes to darken a very plain subject. The question respects the will of God as to this particular point,— Whether one day in seven is to be wholly devoted to religion, exclusive of worldly business and worldly pleasures. Now, there are but two ways in which the will of God can be collected from his word; either by some explicit injunction upon all, or by incidental circumstances. Let us then allow, for a moment, that we have no such explicit injunction; yet we have certainly none to the contrary: let us allow that we have only for our guidance, in inferring the will of God in this particular, certain circumstances declarative of his will; yet this important conclusion is inevitable, that all such indicative circumstances are in favour of a sabbatical institution, and that there is not one which exhibits any thing contrary to it. The seventh day was hallowed at the close of the creation; its sanctity was afterward marked by the withholding of the manna on that day, and the provision of a double supply on the sixth, and that previous to the giving of the law from Sinai: it was then made a part of that great epitome of religious and moral duty, which God wrote with his own finger on tables of stone; it was a part of the public political law of the only people to whom almighty God ever made himself a political Head and Ruler; its observance is connected throughout the prophetic age with the highest promises, its violations with the severest maledictions; it was among the Jews in our Lord's time a day of solemn religious assembling, and was so observed by him; when changed to the first day of the week, it was the day on which the first Christians assembled; it was called, by way of eminence, "the Lord's day;" and we have inspired authority to say, that both under the Old and New Testament dispensations, it is used as an expressive type of the heavenly and eternal rest. Now, against all these circumstances so strongly declarative of the will of God, as to the observance of a sabbatical institution, what circumstance or passage of Scripture can be opposed, as bearing upon it a contrary indication? Certainly, not one; for those passages in St. Paul, in which he speaks of Jewish Sabbaths, with their Levitical rites, and of a distinction of days, the observance of which marked a weak or a criminal adherence to the abolished ceremonial dispensation; touch not the Sabbath as a branch of the moral law, or as it was changed, by the authority of the Apostles, to the first day of the week. If, then, we were left to determine the point by inference, the conclusion must be irresistibly in favour of the institution.

It may also be observed, that those who will so strenuously insist upon the absence of an express command as to the Sabbath in the writings of the Evangelists and Apostles, as explicit as that of the decalogue, assume, that the will of God is only obligatory when manifested in some one mode, which they judge to be most fit. But this is a dangerous hypothesis; for, however the will of God may be manifested, if it is with such clearness as to exclude all reasonable doubt, it is equally obligatory as when it assumes the formality of legal promulgation. Thus the Bible is not all in the form of express and authoritative command; it teaches by examples, by proverbs, by songs, by incidental allusions and occurrences; and yet is, throughout, a manifestation of the will of God as to morals and religion in their various branches, and, if disregarded, it will be so at every man's peril. But strong as this ground is, we quit it for a still stronger. It is wholly a mistake, that the Sabbath, because not reenacted with the formality of the decalogue, is not explicitly enjoined upon Christians, and that the testimony of Scripture to such an injunction is not unequivocal and irrefragable. The Sabbath was appointed at the creation of the world, and sanctified, or set apart for holy purposes, "for man," for all men, and therefore for Christians; since there was never any repeal of the original institution. To this we add, that if the moral law be the law of Christians, then is the Sabbath as explicitly enjoined upon them as upon the Jews. But that the moral law is our law, as well as the law of the Jews, all but Antinomians must acknowledge; and few, we suppose, will be inclined to run into the fearful mazes of that error, in order to support lax notions as to the obligation of the Sabbath; into which, however, they must be plunged, if they deny the law of the decalogue to be binding. That it is so bound upon us, a few passages of Scripture will prove as well as many. Our Lord declares, that he "came not to destroy the law and the prophets, but to fulfil." Take it, that by "the law," he meant both the moral and the ceremonial; ceremonial law could only be fulfilled in him, by realizing its types; and moral law, by upholding its authority. For "the prophets," they admit of a similar distinction; they either enjoin morality, or utter prophecies of Christ; the latter of which were fulfilled in the sense of accomplishment, the former by being sanctioned and enforced. That the observance of the Sabbath is a part of the moral law, is clear from its being found in the decalogue, the doctrine of which our Lord sums up in the moral duties of loving God and our neighbour; and for this reason the injunctions of the prophets, on the subject of the Sabbath, are to be regarded as a part of their moral teaching. Some divines have, it is true, called the observance of the Sabbath, a positive, and not a moral precept. If it were so, its obligation is precisely the same, in all cases where God himself has not relaxed it; and if a positive precept only, it has surely a special eminence given to it, by being placed in the list of the ten commandments, and being capable, with them, of an epitome which resolves them into the love of God and our neighbour. The truth seems to be, that it is a mixed precept, and not wholly positive, but intimately, perhaps essentially connected with several moral principles of homage to God, and mercy to men; with the obligation of religious worship, of public religious worship, and of undistracted public worship: and this will account for its collocation in the decalogue with the highest duties of religion, and the leading rules of personal and social morality. The passage from our Lord's sermon on the mount, with its context, is a sufficiently explicit enforcement of the moral law, generally, upon his followers; but when he says, "The Sabbath was made for man," he clearly refers to its original institution, as a universal law, and not to its obligation upon the Jews only, in consequence of the enactments of the law of Moses. It "was made for man," not as he may be a Jew, or a Christian; but as man, a creature bound to love, worship, and obey his God and Maker, and on his trial for eternity.

Another explicit proof that the law of the ten commandments, and, consequently, the law of the Sabbath, is obligatory upon Christians, is found in the answer of the Apostle to an objection to the doctrine of justification by faith: "Do we then make void the law through faith?"

 Romans 3:31; which is equivalent to asking, Does Christianity teach that the law is no longer obligatory on Christians, because it teaches that no man can be justified by it? To this he answers, in the most solemn form of expression, "God forbid; yea, we establish the law." Now, the sense in which the Apostle uses the term, "the law," in this argument, is indubitably marked in  Romans 7:7 : "I had not known sin but by the law; for I had not known lust, except the law had said, Thou shalt not covet:" which, being a plain reference to the tenth command of the decalogue, as plainly shows that the decalogue is "the law" of which he speaks. This, then, is the law which is established by the Gospel; and this can mean nothing else but the establishment and confirmation of its authority, as the rule of all inward and outward holiness. Whoever, therefore, denies the obligation of the Sabbath on Christians, denies the obligation of the whole decalogue; and there is no real medium between the acknowledgment of the divine authority of this sacred institution, as a universal law, and that gross corruption of Christianity, generally designated Antinomianism.

Nor is there any force in the dilemma into which the anti-sabbatarians would push us, when they argue, that, if the case be so, then are we bound to the same circumstantial exactitude of obedience with regard to this command, as to the other precepts of the decalogue; and, therefore, that we are bound to observe the seventh day, reckoning from Saturday, as the Sabbath day. But, as the command is partly positive, and partly moral, it may have circumstances which are capable of being altered in perfect accordance with the moral principles on which it rests, and the moral ends which it proposes. Such circumstances are not indeed to be judged of on our own authority. We must either have such general principles for our guidance as have been revealed by God, and cannot therefore be questioned, or some special authority from which there can be no just appeal. Now, though there is not on record any divine command issued to the Apostles, to change the Sabbath from the day on which it was held by the Jews, to the first day of the week; yet, when we see that this was done in the apostolic age, and that St. Paul speaks of the Jewish Sabbaths as not being obligatory upon Christians, while he yet contends that the whole moral law is obligatory upon them; the fair inference is, that this change of the day was made by divine direction. It is indeed more than inference that the change was made under the sanction of inspired men; and those men, the appointed rulers in the church of Christ; whose business it was to "set all things in order," which pertained to its worship and moral government.

We may therefore rest well enough satisfied with this,—that as a Sabbath is obligatory upon us, we act under apostolic authority for observing it on the first day of the week, and thus commemorate at once the creation and the redemption of the world.

Thus, even if it were conceded, that the change of the day was made by the agreement of the Apostles, without express directions from Christ, which is not probable, it is certain that it was not done without that general authority which was confided to them by Christ; but it would not follow even from this change, that they did in reality make any alteration in the law of the Sabbath, either as it stood at the time of its original institution at the close of the creation, or in the decalogue of Moses. The same portion of time which constituted the seventh day from the creation could not be observed in all parts of the earth; and it is not probable, therefore, that the original law expresses more, than that a seventh day, or one day in seven, the seventh day after six days of labour, should be thus appropriated, from whatever point the enumeration might set out, or the hebdomadal cycle begin. For if more had been intended, then it would have been necessary to establish a rule for the reckoning of days themselves, which has been different in different nations; some reckoning from evening to evening, as the Jews now do, others from midnight to midnight, &c. So that those persons in this country and in America, who hold their sabbath on Saturday, under the notion of exactly conforming to the Old Testament, and yet calculate the days from midnight to midnight, have no assurance at all that they do not desecrate a part of the original Sabbath, which might begin, as the Jewish Sabbath now, on Friday evening, and, on the contrary, hallow a portion of a common day, by extending the Sabbath beyond Saturday evening. Even if this were ascertained, the differences of latitude and longitude would throw the whole into disorder; and it is not probable that a universal law should have been fettered with that circumstantial exactness, which would have rendered difficult, and sometimes doubtful, astronomical calculations necessary in order to its being obeyed according to the intention of the lawgiver. Accordingly we find, says Mr. Holden, that in the original institution it is stated in general terms, that God blessed and sanctified the seventh day, which must undoubtedly imply the sanctity of every seventh day; but not that it is to be subsequently reckoned from the first demiurgic day. Had this been included in the command of the Almighty, something, it is probable, would have been added declaratory of the intention; whereas expressions the most undefined are employed; not a syllable is uttered concerning the order and number of the days; and it cannot reasonably be disputed that the command is truly obeyed by the separation of every seventh day, from common to sacred purposes, at whatever given time the cycle may commence. The difference in the mode of expression here, from that which the sacred historian has used in the first chapter, is very remarkable. At the conclusion of each division of the work of creation, he says, "The evening and the morning were the first day," and so on; but at the termination of the whole, he merely calls it the seventh day; a diversity of phrase, which, as it would be inconsistent with every idea of inspiration to suppose it undesigned, must have been intended to denote a day, leaving it to each people as to what manner it is to be reckoned. The term obviously imports the period of the earth's rotation round its axis, while it is left undetermined, whether it shall be counted from evening or morning, from noon or midnight. The terms of the law are, "Remember the Sabbath day, to keep it holy. Six days shalt thou labour, and do all thy work; but the seventh day is the Sabbath of the Lord thy God. For in six days the Lord made heaven and earth, the sea, and all that in them is, and rested the seventh day; wherefore the Lord blessed the Sabbath day, and hallowed it." With respect to time, it is here mentioned in the same indefinite manner as at its primeval institution, nothing more being expressly required than to observe a day of sacred rest after every six days of labour. The seventh day is to be kept holy; but not a word is said as to what epoch the commencement of the series is to be referred; nor could the Hebrews have determined from the decalogue, what day of the week was to be kept as their Sabbath. The precept is not, Remember the seventh day of the week, to keep it holy, but, "Remember the Sabbath day, to keep it holy;" and in the following explication of these expressions, it is not said that the seventh day of the week is the Sabbath, but without restriction, "The seventh day is the Sabbath of the Lord thy God;" not the seventh according to any particular method of computing the septenary cycle, but, in reference to the six before mentioned, every seventh day in rotation after six of labour.

Thus that part of the Jewish law, the decalogue, which, on the authority of the New Testament, we have shown to be obligatory upon Christians, leaves the computation of the hebdomadal cycle undetermined; and, after six days of labour, enjoins the seventh as the Sabbath, to which the Christian practice as exactly conforms as the Jewish. It is not, however, left to every individual to determine which day should be his Sabbath, though he should fulfil the law so far as to abstract the seventh part of his time from labour. It was ordained for worship, for public worship; and it is therefore necessary that the Sabbath should be uniformly observed by a whole community at the same time. The divine Legislator of the Jews interposed for this end, by special direction, as to his people. The first Sabbath kept in the wilderness was calculated from the first day in which the manna fell; and with no apparent reference to the creation of the world. By apostolic authority, it is now fixed to be held on the first day of the week; and thus one of the great ends for which it was established, that it should be a day of "holy convocation," is secured.

Traces of the original appointment of the Sabbath; and of its observance prior to the giving forth of the law of Moses, have been found by the learned in the tradition which universally prevailed of the sacredness of the number seven, and the fixing of the first period of time to the revolution of seven days. The measuring of time by a day and night is pointed out to the common sense of mankind by the diurnal course of the sun. Lunar months and solar years are equally obvious to all rational creatures; so that the reason why time has been computed by days, months, and years, is readily given; but how the division of time into weeks of seven days, and this from the beginning, came to obtain universally among mankind, no man can account for, without having respect to some impressions on the minds of men from the constitution and law of nature, with the tradition of a sabbatical rest from the foundation of the world. Yet plain intimations of this weekly revolution of time are to be found in the earliest Greek poets: Hesiod, Homer, Linus, as well as among the nations of the Chaldeans, Egyptians, Greeks, and Romans. It deserves consideration, too, on this subject, that Noah, in sending forth the dove out of the ark, observed the septenary revolution of days,  Genesis 8:10;  Genesis 8:12; and at a subsequent period, in the days of the Patriarch Jacob, a week is spoken of as a well known period of time,  Genesis 29:27;  Judges 14:12;  Judges 14:15;  Judges 14:17 . These considerations are surely sufficient to evince the futility of the arguments which are sometimes plausibly urged for the first institution of the Sabbath under the law; and the design of which, in most cases is, to set aside the moral obligation of appropriating one day in seven to the purposes of the public worship of God, and the observation of divine ordinances. But the truth is, that the seventh day was set apart from the beginning as a day of rest; and it was also strictly enjoined upon the Israelites in their law, both on the ground of its original institution,  Exodus 20:8-11 , and also to commemorate their deliverance from the bondage of Egypt,  Deuteronomy 5:15 .

"A Sabbath day's journey" was reckoned to be two thousand cubits, or one mile,  Acts 1:12 . The sabbatical year was celebrated among the Jews every seventh year when the land was left without culture,  Exodus 22:10 . God appointed the observation of the sabbatical year, to preserve the remembrance of the creation of the world, to enforce the acknowledgment of his sovereign authority over all things, and in particular over the land of Canaan, which he had given to the Israelites, by delivering up the fruits to the poor and the stranger. It was a sort of tribute, or small rent, by which they held the possession. Beside, he intended to inculcate humanity upon his people, by commanding that they should resign to the slaves, the poor, and the strangers, and to the brutes, the produce of their fields, of their vineyards, and of their gardens. In the sabbatical year all debts were remitted, and the slaves were liberated,  Exodus 21:2;  Deuteronomy 15:2 .

Hastings' Dictionary of the New Testament [2]

1. The Jewish Sabbath in apostolic days. -For the whole subject in its most general aspect readers are referred to the various Encyclopaedias and Dictionaries wherein the Sabbath is discussed. It is enough if here we briefly set forth what were its chief features as a Jewish festival in the days of the early Church.

In common with other ancient institutions of a similar kind, the Sabbath had undergone great modifications with the passing centuries, although preserving the essential character of one day in seven, observed mainly by a cessation of daily business and work. Shabbâth (whatever may be said of an Assyrian ðabbatum in support of a theory which gives a Babylonian origin to the institution) is undoubtedly connected with the verb shabhath, ‘to cease,’ ‘to desist from’; and cessation from labour was its most conspicuous and primitive characteristic ( Exodus 20:9 f. =  Deuteronomy 5:12 ff.,  Exodus 23:12;  Exodus 34:21).

The Sabbath with which the NT makes us familiar is specially the product of post-Exilic times. There is a paucity of reference to the Sabbath in pre-Exilic days which is most striking. Yet the two or three references that occur ( 2 Kings 4:23,  Amos 8:5) mention it as a well-established and familiar institution, and Amos in particular makes it clear that cessation from business was a special feature of the day. But after the Exile greater prominence is given to it ( Isaiah 56:2;  Isaiah 56:4;  Isaiah 56:6;  Isaiah 58:13 f.).  Nehemiah 13:15-22 gives us a picture of vigorous Sabbath-reform. Its observance is not by any means introduced as a new thing. Rather it is the reestablishment, with new rigour, of an institution which had been allowed to lapse into a variety of abuses or even actual neglect (see  Lamentations 2:6). We must also include in these post-Exilic references such passages as  Jeremiah 17:19-27 and Ezekiel 20, with their glowing promises attached to Sabbath observance and solemn warnings against its profanation. These utterances indicate that rehabilitation of the Sabbath which increasingly characterized Judaism as it emerged purified and refined from the fires of the Exile.

It is clear that in the time of our Lord the observance of the Sabbath was one direct occasion of an open breach between Him and the religious authorities of His day. The well-known and remarkable logion found in cod. D ( Luke 6:10), if it is to be relied upon, particularly illustrates the difference in standpoint so far as work was concerned. As for special religious services associated with the Sabbath, the synagogue was the particular scene of these devotions. The importance of the synagogue as a centre of Jewish life became greater and greater as the central sanctuary of the Temple declined and ultimately perished. In the Diaspora it was inevitable that this should be the course of development. So in the Acts of the Apostles the synagogue is the main scene of the first appeal of Christian preachers to the Jews, and the Sabbath was the special day on which they carried on their propaganda. How rich the day was, e.g., in opportunity for St. Paul from the first we see from  Acts 13:14;  Acts 13:44;  Acts 14:1;  Acts 16:13;  Acts 17:2;  Acts 18:4, etc.

Moreover, the observance of the Sabbath by cessation from labour was one outstanding peculiarity of the Jews which most forcibly struck the heathen observer. It is one special mark of the Jew as we meet him in the generally unfriendly pages of Roman authors. Seneca, e.g., is represented by St. Augustine as ignorantly condemning the Sabbath-keeping of the Jews: ‘quod per illos singulos septem interpositos dies septimam fere partem aetatis suae perdant vacando et multa in tempore urgentia non agendo laedantur’ (de Civ. Dei, vi. 11). For other references see Tac. Hist. v. 4; Hor. Sat. I. ix. 69; Juv. Sat. xiv. 96-106.

This shows indubitably how well Sabbath was kept by the Jews. Not only so; they suffered considerable hardship in adhering to a custom that was wholly disregarded by the world in general. At an earlier period, indeed, we read of certain Jews who perished rather than violate the Sabbath by fighting on that day ( 1 Maccabees 2:34-38). This led in those troublous times to a relaxation of the law, so that fighting on the defensive was permissible. Ultimately the Romans were obliged to release the Jews from military service, and that, among other things, on account of the great inconveniences attendant on Sabbath observance (Jos. Ant. xiv. 10).

Beside this we have the enormous importance attached to the Sabbath by tradition and instruction amongst the Jews themselves. The reference to the ‘Sabbath day’s journey’ (ὁδὸς σαββάτου,  Acts 1:12) reminds us of the glosses and refinements (and, we may also say, absurdities) to which, as time went on, the Sabbatic law was subjected at the hands of the Rabbis. Even this limit of lawful travel was open to various interpretations according as the 2000 ells (the distance allowed) were to be reckoned in a straight line in one direction or as the radius of a circle. In at least one tractate of the Talmud (Shabbath) minute directions were treasured up as to what might and what might not be done on the Sabbath day. It may seem as if the day were thus made burdensome to the community, but, if we are to believe the testimony of Jewish writers who are worthy of all esteem, it was not so in reality. The Sabbath was a joyous day of rest from toil and business, of happy social intercourse, of assembly in the synagogue for worship. Josephus clearly though indirectly makes reference to this in c. Apion. i. 22 (cf. also Ant. XVI. ii. 3). But we need not go beyond the very definite allusion to the synagogue observance as an established practice in  Acts 15:21. Abstention from the thirty-nine kinds of work specified by the Talmudists as forbidden (the number is evidently artificial, and probably not unconnected with ‘forty stripes save one,’  2 Corinthians 11:24) was by no means the whole of Sabbath observance.

A passing notice may be taken of the emphasis which Philo, in his characteristic way, puts upon the Sabbath as a positive season to be devoted to ‘philosophizing,’ to contemplation of the works of God, to moral and spiritual examination and renewal (de Decalogo, 20). It is also a day specially appropriate for instruction. Again, the author of the Epistle to the Hebrews, in a vein not unlike Philo’s, handles the Sabbath with an extension of the idea to the hereafter. How popular and deep-rooted this use has become the whole devotional language of the Church bears witness. ‘There remaineth therefore a Sabbath rest (a Sabbath-keeping, σαββατισμός) to the people of God’ ( Hebrews 4:9). But in the Talmud, too, Sabbath is a foretaste of the world to come. See also Ep. Barn. 15 for further mystical treatment.

2. The observance of Sabbath in the early Church. -As far as we can see, there was no thought on the part of the first ‘disciples’ of ever discontinuing an observance to which as Jews they had been accustomed all their lives. Whilst Jesus was in direct conflict with the religious authorities as regards their interpretation of the Sabbath and its laws, we hear no word of any complaint of His primitive followers on that score. What mainly marked them off from their fellow-Jews was their testimony and declaration that ‘Jesus was the Christ’ ( Acts 5:42;  Acts 17:3;  Acts 18:5). This was divisive and revolutionary enough, it is true; but they seem to have thought that the old faith could live with the new, or at least that old habits and customs which did not appear to clash with their loyalty to Jesus could still be maintained.

The inclusion of the Gentiles within the scope of the gospel brought with it inevitable complications-this among the rest: How far were the religious customs of the Jews to be considered as binding upon them? St. Paul, who was certainly revolutionary and advanced in his teaching in comparison with the Church at Jerusalem, was even openly taxed with advising Jews who lived amongst Gentiles to abandon Moses and ‘the customs’ (see  Acts 21:17 ff.). Was that of Sabbath observance one of them Probably such teaching as we find in Romans 14 might give rise to this charge, though there he does not prohibit or even dissuade, but simply pleads for liberty of judgment. At the same time he certainly disapproved of all attempts to make the observance of the Sabbath and other peculiarly Jewish customs binding on Gentile converts to the faith ( Colossians 2:16).

Where Jews continued to form the main personnel of Christian communities, Sabbath observance still lived on. Yet, just as surely the setting apart of ‘the first day of the week’ as the Lord’s Day grew up alongside as something distinctively Christian. Traces of this are clear even in apostolic times (see articleLord’s Day). The two existed side by side, alike yet different. In the Apostolic Constitutions, which reflect in this as in some other respects the usages of earlier times, we find more than one reference to the Sabbath and the Lord’s Day together as days equally to be observed (ii. 59, vii. 23, viii. 33). A stray papyrus-leaf discovered in middle Egypt in 1911, which appears to be a portion of a prayer-book that must have been familiar in Eastern Christian circles, probably in the 2nd cent., bears unexpected witness to this early custom. It contains what is called a σαββατικὴ εὐχή, whose liturgical phraseology is easily and closely paralleled in NT and early Christian literature, and follows immediately upon what appear to be the closing words of a prayer for Friday. (see Neutestamentliche Studien für G. Heinrici, Leipzig, 1914, no. 6: ‘Zwei altchristliche Gebete’).

As time went on, however, a considerable difference showed itself between the Eastern and Western Churches in their attitude towards the Sabbath. Both continued to keep it; but among the former it was accounted a festival, with the sole exception of the ‘great Sabbath,’ i.e. that which immediately preceded Easter Day (see Apost. Const. vii. 23), whilst among the latter it was very generally observed as a fast. This is unimportant; the main point is that the ancient Jewish institution was carried over into the Christian Church, and lived on in some form or other. Even to this day in the liturgical names for the days of the week, in both the Roman and the Greek Church, Saturday is known by its Jewish name, sabbatum, σάββατον. But it is now at most merely a prelude and preparation for the dies dominica; and a faint hint at such relation is found in the fact that, where liturgical uses are followed, the collect for the following day is said on Saturday evening.

How at length the Sabbath as an institution ceased to be maintained and gave place to the Lord’s Day as its Christian substitute may be briefly conjectured. As Christian became more and snore distinct from Jew, this and other things would naturally follow. The early propagation of the faith among Gentiles, as Christianity realized its world-wide mission, would necessarily tend in the same direction. In Ep. ad Magn., attributed to Ignatius, we meet with an early admonition, emphasizing the distinction: ‘Let us, therefore, no longer keep Sabbath after the Jewish manner (Ἰουδαϊκῶς) and rejoice in days of idleness.… But let every one of you keep Sabbath after a spiritual manner, rejoicing in meditation on the law’ (ch. 9). In the nature of things, the two days could not continue to be equally observed in the Christian Church. The Sabbath must needs give place to the Lord’s Day: the seventh day of the week to the first. The legislation of Constantine (a.d. 321), which recognized Sunday as a feast day, must have been no small factor in the case; though, again, that would not have been enacted if the custom of keeping the Lord’s Day had not already been predominant among Christians. As a concession to paganism, it may be noticed that the studied name given to the day (dies solis) ‘afforded the possibility of its universal encouragement, without thus appearing to enforce directly an ecclesiastical celebration’ (W. Mceller, History of the Christian Church, Eng. translation, i., London, 1892, p. 298).

Nevertheless, great confusion has continued to exist in the Christian Church as to the keeping of the weekly festival. This inevitably resulted from transferring the sanctions and some of the features of the Jewish Sabbath to the Lord’s Day, and from the incorporation of the unaltered Decalogue as a norm in Christian ethics. The Fourth Commandment was still held to be binding; only Sunday was tacitly substituted for ‘the seventh day.’ The confusion probably still exists, very much helped by the long-established custom of speaking of the Lord’s Day as ‘the Christian Sabbath’ or even simply ‘the Sabbath’ or ‘the Sabbath Day.’ But there is a clear distinction between the two; and for Christians the Lord’s Day is paramount. Great as the authority of the Sabbath is, the authority of the Lord’s Day for all who accept the resurrection of our Lord is equally great or even greater.

As a matter of fact, the practice of Sabbath-keeping among Christians has been made to rest on different grounds and has been differently interpreted, though the views may ultimately be classified as two, the Sabbatical and the Dominical. Some supporters of the former have argued even that the seventh day is the true Sabbath and ought still to be observed by Christians (see a curious work by Francis Bampfield written to show that the seventh-day Sabbath is the desirable day and according to ‘an unchangeable Law of well-establisht Order both in the Revealed Word and in Created Nature’ [Judgment for the Observation of the Jewish or Seventh-Day Sabbath, London, 1672]). And representatives of this view still exist: e.g. the Seventh Day Adventists, an American sect-not, be it noticed, with a desire to return to primitive practice and observe both Sabbath and Lord’s Day, but to observe the seventh day alone.

The Jews have long suffered special disabilities in Christian countries in this respect, but this has not availed to cause them to abandon Sabbath-keeping. And we have Sunday. We must discriminate between the day as a day of rest from labour (one day in seven) and as a day of joyful worship and of religious activities. The sanctions for the former are deep-seated in human nature itself. It is simple wisdom to guard such a space of liberty from the encroachments of labour, and to make it, in George Herbert’s words, ‘The couch of time, care’s balm and bay’ (Sunday, line 5). And all enlightened Christians will continue to make the worthiest use of the day so set apart.

Literature.-J. A. Hessey, Sunday: its Origin, History, and Present Obligation5, London, 1889; W. Lotz, Historia Sabbati: Quaestionum de historia sabbati libri duo, Leipzig, 1883; J. Meinhold, Sabbat und Woche im Alten Testament (= Forschungen zur Religion und Literatur des Alten und Neuen Testaments, v.), Göttingen, 1905; J. Bingham, Antiquities of the Christian Church, bk. xx. (= Works, Oxford, 1855, vol. vii.); R. Baxter, A Christian Directory, pt. ii. ch. xviii. (= Works, ed. W. Orme, 23 vols., London, 1830, vol. iv. p. 240), The Divine Appointment of the Lord’s Day (ib. vol. xiii.); E. Schürer, HJP[Note: JP History of the Jewish People (Eng. tr. of GJV).]II. ii. [Edinburgh, 1885]; L. Duchesne, Origines du culte chrétien, Paris, 1889; C. H. Toy, JBL[Note: BL Journal of Biblical Literature.], ‘The Earliest Form of the Sabbath,’ xviii. [1899] 190 ff.; Eight Studies on the Lord’s Day (anon.), Cambridge, 1884; also articles ‘Sabbath,’ in Hasting's Dictionary of the Bible (5 vols)(S. R. Driver), Encyclopaedia Biblica(Robertson Smith, K. Marti, T. K. Cheyne), Jewish Encyclopedia(J. H. Greenstone); articles ‘Festivals and Fasts (Hebrew)’ (F. H. Woods), and ‘Festivals and Fasts (Christian)’ (J. G. Carleton), in Encyclopaedia of Religion and Ethics.

J. S. Clemens.

Fausset's Bible Dictionary [3]

Hebrew "rest." Applied to the days of rest in the great feasts, but chiefly to the seventh day rest ( Exodus 31:15;  Exodus 16:23). Some argue from the silence concerning its observance by the patriarchs that no sabbatic ordinance was actually given before the Sinaitic law, and that  Genesis 2:3 is not historical but anticipatory. But this verse is part of the history of creation, the very groundwork of Moses' inspired narrative. The history of the patriarchs for 2,500 years, comprised in the small compass of Genesis, necessarily omits many details which it takes for granted, as the observance of the sabbath. Indications of seven-day weeks appear in Noah's twice waiting seven days when sending forth the dove ( Genesis 8:10;  Genesis 8:12); also in Jacob's history ( Genesis 29:27-28). G. Smith discovered an Assyrian calendar which divides every month into four weeks, and the seventh days are marked out as days in which no work should be done. Further, before the Sinaitic law was given the sabbath law is recognized in the double manna promised on the sixth day, that none might be gathered on the sabbath ( Exodus 16:5;  Exodus 16:23).

The meaning therefore of  Genesis 2:3 is, God having divided His creative work into six portions sanctified the seventh as that on which He rested from His creative work. The divine rest was not one of 24 hours; the divine sabbath still continues. There has been no creation since man's. After six periods of creative activity, answering to our literal days analogously, God entered on that sabbath in which His work is preservation and redemption, no longer creation. He ordained man for labour, yet graciously appointed one seventh of his time for bodily and mental rest, and for spiritual refreshment in his Maker's worship. This reason is repeated in the fourth commandment ( Exodus 20:10-11); another reason peculiar to the Jews (Their Deliverance From Egyptian Bondage) is stated  Deuteronomy 5:14-15; possibly the Jewish sabbath was the very day of their deliverance. All mankind are included in the privilege of the seventh day rest, though the Jews alone were commanded to keep it on Saturday.

Besides its religious obligation, its physical and moral benefit has been recognized by statesmen and physiologists. Its merciful character appears in its extension to the ox, ass, and cattle. Needless and avoidable work was forbidden ( Exodus 34:21;  Exodus 35:3). But like other feasts it was to be a day of enjoyment ( Isaiah 58:13;  Hosea 2:11). Only the covetous and carnal were impatient of its restraints ( Amos 8:5-6). In the sanctuary the morning and evening sacrifices were doubled, the shewbread was changed, and each of David's 24 courses of priests and Levites began duty on the Sabbath. The offerings symbolized the call to all Israel to give themselves to the Lord's service on the Sabbath more than on other days. The 12 loaves of shewbread representing the offerings of the 12 tribes symbolized the good works which they should render to Jehovah; diligence in His service receiving fresh quickening on the day of rest and holy convocation before Him. The Levites were dispersed throughout Israel to take advantage of these convocations, and in them "teach Israel God's law" ( Deuteronomy 33:10).

The "holy convocation" on it ( Leviticus 23:2-3) was probably a meeting for prayer, meditation, and hearing the law in the court of the tabernacle before the altar at the hour of morning and evening sacrifice ( Leviticus 19:30;  Ezekiel 23:38). In later times people resorted to prophets and teachers to hear the Old Testament read and expounded, and after the captivity to synagogues ( 2 Kings 4:23;  Luke 4:15-16;  Acts 13:14-15;  Acts 13:27;  Acts 15:21). Philo (De Orac. c. 20; Vit. Mos. 3:27) and Josephus (Ant. 16:2-3; Apion, 1:20, 2:18) declare the earliest Jewish traditions state the object of the sabbath to be to furnish means for spiritual edification ( Leviticus 10:11;  Deuteronomy 33:10). Isaiah ( Isaiah 1:13) condemns hypocritical keeping of sabbath. So Christ condemns the burdensome sabbath restraints multiplied by the Pharisees, violating the law of mercy and man's good for which the sabbath was instituted ( Matthew 12:2;  Matthew 12:10-11;  Luke 13:14;  Luke 14:1;  Luke 14:5;  John 7:22;  Mark 2:23-28); yet inviting guests to a social meal was lawful, even in their view ( Luke 14:5).

Not inaction, but rest from works of neither mercy nor necessity, is the rule of the sabbath. Man's rest is to be like God's rest. His work did not cease at the close of the six days, nor has it ceased ever since ( John 5:17;  Isaiah 40:28;  Psalms 95:4-5). God's rest was satisfaction in contemplating His work, so "very good," just completed in the creation of man its topstone ( Genesis 1:31). So man's rest is in the sabbath being the dose of week day labour done in faith toward God. God orders "six days shalt thou labour," as well as "remember the sabbath" ( Exodus 20:8-11). "Remember" marks that the sabbath was already long known to Israel, and that they only needed their "minds stirred up by way of remembrance." The fourth commandment alone of the ten begins so. The sabbath is thus a foretaste of the heavenly ( Sabbatism ) "keeping of sabbath" ( Hebrews 4:9-10 margin), when believers shall rest from fatiguing "labours" ( Revelation 14:13). The Sabbath reminds man he is made in the image of God.

Philo calls it "the imaging forth of the first beginning." It was to the Israelite the center of religious observances, and essentially connected with the warning against idolatry ( Leviticus 19:3-4;  Ezekiel 20:16;  Ezekiel 20:20). As the Old Testament Sabbath was the seal of the first creation in innocence, so the New Testament Lord's day is the seal of the new creation. The Father's rest after creation answers to Christ's after redemption's completion. The Sabbath was further a "sign" or sacramental pledge between Jehovah and His people, masters and servants alike resting, and thereby remembering the rest from Egyptian service vouchsafed by God. The weekly Sabbath, moreover, was the center of an organized system including the Sabbath year and the Jubilee year. The Sabbath ritual was not, like other feasts, distinguished by peculiar offerings, but by the doubling of the ordinary daily sacrifices. Thus it was not cut off from the week but marked as the day of days, implying the sanctification of the daily life of the Lord's people.

 Leviticus 23:38 expressly distinguishes "the Sabbaths of the Lord" from the other Sabbaths ( Colossians 2:16-17), namely, that of the day of atonement and feast of tabernacles, which ended with the cessation of the Jewish ritual ( Leviticus 23:32;  Leviticus 23:37-39). The Decalogue was proclaimed with peculiar solemnity from Mount Sinai ( Exodus 19:16-24); it was written on tables of stone, and deposited in the ark (representing Himself) covered by the mercy-seat on which rested the Shekinah cloud of His glory; Moses significantly states "these vows the Lord spoke, and He added no more." The Decalogue was "the covenant," and the ark containing it "the ark of the covenant;" and therefore the Decalogue sums up all moral duty. The Sabbath stands in the heart of it, surrounded by moral duties, and must therefore itself be moral. God, who knows us best. has fixed the mean between the too seldom and the too often, the exact proportion in which the day devoted to His service ought to recur, best suited to our bodily and spiritual wants.

The prophets foretell its continuance in the Messianic age ( Isaiah 56:6-7;  Isaiah 58:13-14;  Isaiah 66:23). Christ moreover says "the sabbath was made for man," i.e. not for Israel only, but for universal "man" ( Mark 2:27-28). The typical Sabbath ( Hebrews 4:9) must remain until the antitypical sabbatism appears. In  Romans 14:5 the oldest manuscripts omit "he that regardeth not the day to the Lord he doth not regard it." As the month of Israel's redemption from Egypt became the beginning of months, so the day of Christ's resurrection which seals our redemption is made the first day Sabbath. The Epistle of Barnabas, Dionysius of Corinth writing to Rome A.D. 170 ("We Spent The Lord'S Day As A Holy Day In Which We Read Your Letter") , and Clemens Alex., A.D. 194, mention the Lord's day Sabbath. The judgment on the Jews for violating the Sabbath was signally retributive ( 2 Chronicles 36:21). The Babylonians carried them captive "to fulfill the word of the Lord by Jeremiah, until the land had enjoyed her Sabbaths; for as long as she lay desolate she kept Sabbath to fulfill threescore and ten years" ( Leviticus 26:34-36).

There are exactly 70 years of Sabbaths in the 490 between Saul's accession, 1095 B.C., and Jehoiakim's deposition by Nebuchadnezzar 606 B.C. Even Adam in innocence needed the Sabbath amidst earthly works; much more we need it, who are fallen. The spirit of the command remains, though the letter is modified ( Romans 13:8-10); the consecration of one day in seven is the essential thing. The choice of the first day is due to Christ's appearing on that day and to apostolical usage.  Revelation 1:10 first mentions "the Lord's Day" . (See Lord 'S Day; Rest ) The early church met to break bread on the first day ( Acts 20:7); it was the day for laying by of alms for the poor ( 1 Corinthians 16:2). No formal decree changed the Sabbath from the seventh to the first day; this would only have offended the Jews and weak Christians.

At first both days were kept. But when Judaizing Christians wished to bring Christians under the bondage of the law, and the Jews became open antagonists of the church, the observance of the Jewish Sabbath was tacitly laid aside, and the Lord's day alone was kept; see  Colossians 2:16. Moses, the law's representative, could not lead Israel into Canaan. The law leads to Christ, there its office ceases: it is Jesus, the Antitype of Joshua, who leads us into the heavenly rest ( Hebrews 4:8-9). So legal sacrifices continued until the antitypical sacrifice superseded it. As the antitypical Sabbath rest will not be until Christ comes to usher us into it, the typical earthly Sabbath must continue until then. A lawful Sabbath day's journey ( Acts 1:12) was reckoned from the distance between the ark and the tents, judged by that between the ark and the people in  Joshua 3:4, to repair to the ark on the Sabbath being a duty; namely, 2,000 paces, or about six furlongs, reckoned not from each man's house but from the wall of the city.

The Levites' suburbs extended to the same distance from their walls ( Numbers 35:5). (See Gezer .) Ganneau thinks Bethphage marked on the E. the boundary of the sabbatic zone which on every side surrounded the city. The Mount of Olives was exactly, as the writer of Acts says, "a sabbath day's journey from Jerusalem." What point in the mountain could this be except the village of the mountain, which occupied its principal summit, and now bears its name ( Κefr Et Τur , I.E. "Village Of The Mount"; Bethphage) ? (Palestine Exploration Quarterly Statement, Apri1 1878, p. 60). Christ tells His disciples, as retaining Jewish feelings, in Jerusalem to pray that their flight might not be on the Sabbath, when they could only go 2,000 paces front the city walls ( Matthew 24:20).  Exodus 16:29 refers to not going from their place to gather manna on the Sabbath. (See MOUNT.)

Baker's Evangelical Dictionary of Biblical Theology [4]

The origin of the Hebrew sabbat [   Genesis 2:2-3 ). The Greek noun sabbat [   Leviticus 23:15-16 ) at the end of every seven Sabbaths or fifty days, or the Sabbath year ( Leviticus 25:1-7 ) in which the land was to be at complete rest.

The Old Testament . The observance of the Sabbath is central to Jewish life. Of the eight holy days (Shabbat, the first and seventh days of Pesach, Shavout, Rosh Hashanah, Yom Kippur, and the first and eighth days of Succot) proscribed in the Torah, only the Sabbath is included in the Decalogue. Though not holier than other holy days like Yom Kippur or Rosh Hashanah, the Sabbath is given special attention because of its frequency. Yet despite any significance that accrues on the basis of its frequency or inclusion in the Decalogue, its importance rests ultimately on its symbolic representation of the order of creation. For, according to the Genesis narrative, God himself rested on the seventh day, thus making it sacred ( Genesis 2:1-2 ). For the pious Jew, keeping the Sabbath holy is a mitzvah, or duty, before God. Indeed, The Old Testament takes Sabbath observance so seriously that profaning it results in the death penalty ( Exodus 31:14;  35:2;  Numbers 15:32 ).

The meaning of the Sabbath institution comes to light against the background of several key facts. First,  Exodus 20:8-11 makes a clear connection between the Sabbath day and the seventh day on which God the Creator rested. Sabbath observance therefore involves the affirmation that God is Creator and Sustainer of the world. To "remember the Sabbath" meant that the Jew identified the seven-day-a-week rhythm of life as belonging to the Creator. This connection is particularly important in light of the Jewish doctrine that human beings are co-partners with God. They receive the world in an unfinished state so that they may share with God the purposes he seeks by continuing to fashion and subdue the creation. If the Creator stopped his creative activity on the seventh day, then those who share in his creative work must do the same. Sabbath contravenes any pride that may accompany human mastery and manipulation of God's creation. In ceasing from labor one is reminded of one's true status as a dependent being, of the God who cares for and sustains all his creatures, and of the world as a reality belonging ultimately to God.

Second, the Sabbath is an affirmation of Israel's identity. The words of Moses to the people in  Deuteronomy 5:12-15 demonstrate that, however much its rhythm reflects the order of God-created life in general, the Sabbath functions also to remind Israel of her specific origins. "Remember that you were slaves in Egypt and that the Lord your God brought you out of there with a mighty hand and an outstretched arm. Therefore the Lord your God has commanded you to observe the Sabbath day." Here the acknowledgment that God is the Creator of life is intensified by the acknowledgment that he is also the saving presence in the history of the Jewish people, and by that means of the entire creation. Israel's keeping of the Sabbath was a reminder of her very identity as a people liberated from slavery to the Egyptians and for a special role in the cosmic drama of human salvation. As such it was a cherished gift of God, "a sign between me and you for generations to come" (  Exodus 31:12-17 ), testifying of God's faithfulness to his covenant throughout the generations. The covenant relationship demands Israel's sanctification, and by keeping the Sabbath holy Israel is reminded continually that the God who sanctified the seventh day also sanctifies her.

Third, the Sabbath is a day of rest and worship given as a gift from the restless condition of slavery. The prohibition of work extended to all those living within Israel, including slaves and animals ( Exodus 20:10 ), even during the plowing season ( Exodus 34:21 ). This necessitated additional work on the sixth day ( Exodus 16:5,23 ). What constitutes rest and work? In the Torah there are only two explicit prohibitions concerning work on the Sabbath. No fires were to be kindled in Jewish dwellings ( Exodus 35:3 ), and no one was to leave their place ( Exodus 16:29 ). However, more can be inferred from other texts. For example, Moses instructed the people to bake and boil the manna and put it aside until morning ( Exodus 16:23-24 ), hinting that cooking was not fitting for the Sabbath. A man found gathering sticks on the Sabbath was stoned to death ( Numbers 15:32-36 ). The carrying of a burden or bringing it by Jerusalem's gates was prohibited ( Jeremiah 17:22 ). Nehemiah closed the city gates to the merchants who were said to profane the Sabbath by carrying their goods and selling them ( Nehemiah 13:15-22 ). Most important is the Torah's placement of the laws concerning the Sabbath directly adjacent to the instructions for building the tabernacle ( Exodus 31 ), implying that each of the many varieties of work associated with tabernacle construction was prohibited on the Sabbath.

Just as joy is more than the absence of sorrow, the Sabbath is more than cessation of labor. Resting in bed all day does not amount to a keeping of the Sabbath. The Sabbath is to be a delight and joy ( Isaiah 58:13 ). Noteworthy is the fact that the fourth commandment ( Exodus 20:8 ) places the positive command to keep the Sabbath holy before the negative prohibition to cease working. As worship, additional sacrifices were offered ( Numbers 28:9-10 ) at the temple, and the special shewbread was to be set out "sabbath after sabbath" to signify Israel's commitment to the covenant ( Leviticus 24:8 ). During and after the Babylonian exile, worship became a more prominent part of Sabbath observance. In Jewish homes the benedictions of kiddush (Friday evening) and habdalaha (Saturday evening) were recited, and there were morning and afternoon services at the synagogue. The joyous character of the Sabbath is reflected in, among other things, the Jewish tradition of eating richly, which derives from its inclusion in the list of "festivals of the Lord" (  Leviticus 23 ) the prohibition of fasting, and the forbidding of outward expressions of grief and mourning.

In the prophets, observance of the Sabbath becomes the touchstone for Israel's obedience to its covenant with God. The future of Jerusalem depends on faithful Sabbath keeping ( Jeremiah 17:24-27 ). One's personal well-being is also at stake ( Isaiah 56:2-7 ). Those who honor the day will find joy, riding on the heights of the earth and being fed with the heritage of Jacob ( Isaiah 58:14 ). As God once desired to destroy his people in the desert because of their Sabbath desecration ( Ezekiel 20:12-14 ), so he now counts this among Israel's present moral failures ( Ezekiel 22:8 ) for which there will be purging and dispersion. Amos issues a stern warning to those merchants who endure the Sabbath, anxious only to get on with the selling of grain (8:5).

The consistency of the prophets' call to honor the Sabbath testifies in part to the growing need, especially during the exilic period, to preserve Jewish identity in a pagan environment. In this sense prophetic aims are continuous with those of the Mosaic period. But scholarly consensus finds in the prophetic writings a subtle transformation wherein the Sabbath, formerly a social institution of festivity, rest, and worship, became above all a religious mark of personal and national holiness vis-a-vis the Gentiles.

The New Testament . The Gospels record six cases in which Jesus' action resulted in controversy over the Sabbath, and two more that did not. Jesus faces the accusation that his disciples have broken the Sabbath by picking grain and eating ( Matthew 12:1-8 ). He is interrogated concerning his healing of a man with a withered hand ( Matthew 12:9-14 ), a crippled woman ( Luke 13:10-14 ), a man with dropsy ( Luke 14:1-6 ), a sick man by the pool of Beth-zatha ( John 5:1-18 ), and a blind man ( John 9 ). Neither the healing of Peter's mother-in-law ( Mark 1:29-31 ) nor Jesus' synagogue address in Nazareth seems to have occasioned any opposition. Just how Jesus regarded the Sabbath is a matter of discussion. Some argue that Jesus deliberately broke the Sabbath commandment in order to call attention to his messianic character. Others contend that Jesus violated not the Sabbath commandment but only the casuistry of the Pharisees as contained in the halachah . In the final analysis, a comprehensive statement about Jesus' attitude toward the Sabbath would require an investigation into his attitude toward the Law in general.

But even in the face of interpretive difficulties, the particular nature of Jesus' response to these controversies make two things quite clear. First, by his statement "the Son of Man is Lord of the Sabbath" ( Matthew 12:8 ) Jesus claims that the authority of the Sabbath does not exceed his own. Hence, the Son of Man as Lord decides the true meaning of the Sabbath. In two Johannine accounts in particular, the authority by which Jesus' Sabbath healings are performed is linked directly to God the Father, according both to the blind man's (9:33) and Jesus' own witness (5:17). Second, by stressing that the Sabbath was made for humankind and not humankind for the Sabbath ( Mark 2:27 ) Jesus gives an indication as to its true meaning. That is, he places it against the universal horizon of God's intent that it benefit all creation and not just Israel. Jesus' healings on the Sabbath underscore this beneficent character, for "it is lawful to do good on the Sabbath" ( Matthew 12:12 ). By his response to the religious leaders in two Lukan incidents, one gathers the impression that what is ultimately at stake is the health (physical and spiritual) of those healed. Just as naturally as one would lead an ox or donkey to water (13:15) or rescue a child who has fallen into a well on the Sabbath (14:5), Jesus Acts, with eschatological urgency, in the interest of life and salvation.

Among the several references to the Sabbath in Acts (1:12; 13:14-44; 15:21; 17:2; 18:4; 20:7) there is little evidence to suggest that the earliest Christian communities deviated from the traditional Sabbath observed on the seventh day. The lone reference to a gathering "On the first day of the week" (20:7) most likely reflects an emerging Christian consensus that the first day was an appropriate day on which to meet for worship and celebrating the Lord's Supper.

In his letters Paul shows concern for certain restrictions placed on his converts ( Romans 14:5;  Galatians 4:10;  Colossians 2:16 ), among them Sabbath keeping no doubt. In his characteristic refusal to allow such things to become a basis for judging fellow believers, Paul seems, especially if  Romans 14:5 refers to Sabbath keeping, a claim not unanimously accepted, to support one's freedom either to observe or not observe the Jewish sabbath, though he evidently continued to observe it for himself (  Acts 17:2 ).

Hebrews anticipates an eschatological "sabbath rest" ( sabbatismos [4:1-11). The term sabbatismos [Σαββατισμός] appears nowhere else in the New Testament, and may be the writer's own creation to indicate the superiority of the coming rest to that of the seventh day. Though a superior quality of rest, it is still marked chiefly by the cessation of labor patterned after God's rest on the seventh day.

Craig J. Slane

See also The Lord'S Day

Bibliography . N. A. Barack, A History of the Sabbath  ; S. Baron, The Jewish Community  ; D. A. Carson, From Sabbath to Lord's Day  ; S. Goldman, A Guide to the Sabbath  ; A. Heschel, The Sabbath  ; P. Jewett, The Lord's Day .

Hastings' Dictionary of the Bible [5]

SABBATH

1. Origin of the Sabbath . The name ‘Sabbath’ (Heb. shabbâth , from a verb shâbath , meaning ‘to desist’) might be applied to any sacred season as a time of cessation from labour, and is so used of the Day of Atonement, which was observed annually on the tenth day of the seventh month (  Leviticus 16:31;   Leviticus 23:32 ). But in usage it is almost confined to the day of rest which closed each week of seven days, the cycle running continuously through the calendar without regard to the month or the year. The origin of this institution, and its early history among the Israelites, are involved in much obscurity. That it has affinities with certain Babylonian observances is obvious; but the differences are very marked, and a direct dependence of the one on the other is difficult to understand. It is known that in two months (possibly in all) the 7th, 14th, 21st, and 28th days (those in which the moon enters a new phase), and also the 19th (the [7×7th =] 49th from the beginning of the previous month), were regarded in Babylonia as unlucky days, on which certain actions had to be avoided by important personages (king, priest, physician). The name shabattu has also been found in the inscriptions, where it is explained as ûm nûḥ libbi = ‘day of the appeasement of the heart’ (of the deity), in the first instance, therefore, a day of prayer or atonement. But that the five unlucky days mentioned above were called shabattu has not been proved, and is, indeed, rendered improbable by the more recent discovery that shabattu was a name for the day of the full moon (the 15th of the month). When we turn to the early references to the Sabbath in the OT, we find a state of things which seems at first sight to present a parallel to the Babylonian usage. It is a singular fact that except in the expansions of the Fourth Commandment in   Exodus 20:9-11 and   Deuteronomy 5:13-15 (which are evidently no part of the original Decalogue), there is nothing in the pre-exilic literature which explicitly indicates that the word ‘Sabbath’ denoted a weekly day of rest . In the kernel of the Decalogue (  Exodus 20:8 ,   Deuteronomy 5:12 ), the observance of the Sabbath is enjoined; but neither the manner of its observance nor the period of its recurrence is prescribed. Where, on the other hand, the weekly rest is inculcated (  Exodus 23:12;   Exodus 34:21 ), the name ‘Sabbath’ does not occur. In the prophetic and historical books ‘Sabbath’ and ‘ new moon ’ are associated in such a way as to suggest that both were lunar festivals (  Amos 8:5 ,   Hosea 2:11 ,   Isaiah 1:13 ,   2 Kings 4:23 ); and the attempt has been made to trace the transition from the Babylonian institution to the Hebrew Sabbath by the hypothesis that originally the Sabbath in Israel was the feast of the full moon, just as in Babylonia. This theory, however, is little but an ingenious paradox. It is arbitrary to deny the antiquity of   Exodus 23:12 or   Exodus 34:21; and if the word ‘Sabbath’ is not found in these passages, yet the related verb shâbath is used in both, as is rarely the case except in connexion with the Sabbath. Moreover, the way in which the Sabbath is isolated from all other sacred seasons (Decalogue,   2 Kings 11:5 ff;   2 Kings 16:18 ) goes far to show that even in the pre-exilic period it was a festival sui generis , and had already acquired something of the prominence which belonged to it in later times. How little force there is in the argument from the connexion of ‘new moon’ and ‘Sabbath’ may be seen from   Isaiah 66:23 ,   Colossians 2:18 f. The most reasonable conclusion is that the weekly Sabbath is everywhere presupposed in the OT, and that, if it be connected historically with Babylonian institutions, the development lies behind the range of Israelite tradition, and in all probability was a feature of Canaanitish civilization when the Hebrews settled in the country. It must be remembered, however, that the hypothesis of a Babylonian origin does not exhaust the possibilities of the case. Although a regularly recurring day of rest is neither necessary nor possible for pastoral nomads, it is quite conceivable that some form of Sabbath observance, depending on the phases of the moon, was practised by the Hebrews in the desert, and that the transformation of this primitive lunar festival into the Sabbath as we find it in the OT was due to the suppression of its superstitious associations under the influence of the national religion of Israel.

2. Religious significance of the Sabbath . The distinctive characteristics of the Hebrew Sabbath were mainly these two: it was, first, a day sacred to Jahweh, and second, a day of rest. In the earlier period cessation from labour may have been merely a consequence of the festal character of the day; although the reinforcement of the ceremonial sanction by humanitarian motives in the legislation (  Exodus 23:12 ,   Deuteronomy 5:14 ) shows that already the religious mind of the nation had grasped the final justification of the Sabbath as an institution made for man, and not one for which man was made. This conception of the Sabbath underwent a radical modification in the age of the Exile. It is hardly accurate to say that the change was entirely due to the fact that the Sabbath was one of the few religious ordinances by which the Israelite in a foreign land could mark his separation from heathenism. The idea of the Sabbath as a covenant between Jahweh and Israel, which is elaborated in Ezekiel and the code called the Law of Holiness, is foreshadowed in   Deuteronomy 5:15; and even the more imposing conception of it as a memorial of the Creation finds expression in   Exodus 20:11 , which is quite possibly of older date than the Priestly account of Creation in   Genesis 1:1-31 . The truth is that in this, as in many other cases, the real turning-point was not the deportation of the people but the suppression of the popular ritual by Josiah’s reformation. None the less it is important to observe that, for whatever reason, a profound transformation of the character of the Sabbath emerges in writings of the Exilic and post-exilic period. The obligation of rest, from being a necessary concomitant of acts of worship, or a means to a higher end, becomes an end in itself, a form of self-denial, pleasing to the Deity as an act of implicit obedience to His positive command. The whole of the subsequent legislation proceeds from this point of view. In Ezekiel and the Law of Holiness the Sabbath (as has just been observed) is conceived as an arbitrary sign of the covenant between Jahweh and Israel, and of the individual’s fidelity to that covenant. The Priestly Code not only exalts the Sabbath by basing its sanction on the example of the Creator (  Genesis 2:2-4 ,   Exodus 31:17 ), but seeks to enforce its observance by the imposition of the death penalty (  Exodus 31:14 ,   Numbers 15:32-36 ), and sets the example of guarding its sanctity by prohibitive regulations (  Exodus 35:3 ). The memoirs of Nehemiah reveal at once the importance attached to the Sabbath as a mark of the distinction between the faithful Jews and their heathen neighbours (  Nehemiah 10:31 ,   Nehemiah 13:15 ), and the stern determination which was necessary to compel obedience (  Nehemiah 13:17 ff.). In post-exilic prophecies there are several allusions to Sabbath observance as a supreme religious duty, and a condition of the fulfilment of the Messianic expectations (  Jeremiah 17:19 ff.,   Isaiah 56:2 ff;   Isaiah 58:13 f.,   Isaiah 66:23 ). At the commencement of the Maccabæan revolt, regard for the Sabbath was so ingrained in the mind of the people that strict Jews allowed themselves to be slaughtered by their enemies rather than use arms for their own defence ( 1Ma 2:31 ff.); though after one incident of this kind the maxim was laid down that defensive operations in war were legitimate on the Sabbath ( 1Ma 2:41 ).

3. The Sabbath in the NT . The Gospels show that by the time of Christ the casuistry of the scribes had hedged round the Sabbath with many of those petty and vexatious rules which are preserved in the Rabbinical literature, and which completely eviscerated the institution of any large principle of religion or humanity. Accordingly the Sabbath law was (next to His own Messianic claims) the chief subject of contention between our Lord and the Pharisees (see   Matthew 12:1 ff.,   Matthew 12:10 f.,   Luke 13:14 ff;   Luke 14:1 ff.,   John 5:5 ff;   John 7:23;   John 9:14 ff., etc.). As regards our Lord’s own attitude, it is enough to say that it combined reverence for the ordinance, in so far as it served religious ends (  Luke 4:16 etc.), with a resolute vindication of the principle that ‘the Sabbath was made for man and not man for the Sabbath’ (  Mark 2:27 ). Similarly, in the Pauline Epistles the Sabbath is relegated, either inferentially (  Romans 14:5 f.,   Galatians 4:9 ff.) or expressly (  Colossians 2:16 f.), to the category of things morally indifferent, with regard to which each man must follow the dictates of his conscience. It is significant also that the decree of the Council of Jerusalem does not impose the observance of the Sabbath on the Gentile Churches (  Acts 15:29 ). On the later Christian observance of the first day of the week, and its assimilation to the Jewish Sabbath, see Lord’s Day.

J. Skinner.

Smith's Bible Dictionary [6]

Sabbath. (Hebrew, shabbath ). "A Day Of Rest", from shabath , "To Cease To Do To," "To Rest" ). The name is applied to divers great festivals, but principally and usually to the seventh day of the week, the strict observance of which is enforced, not merely in the general Mosaic code, but in the Decalogue itself. The consecration of the Sabbath was coeval with the creation.

The first scriptural notice of it, though it is not mentioned by name, is to be found in  Genesis 2:3, at the close of the record of the six days creation. There are not wanting, indirect evidences of its observance, as the intervals between Noah's sending forth the birds out of the ark, an act naturally associated with the weekly service,  Genesis 8:7-12, and in the week of a wedding celebration,  Genesis 29:27-28, but when a special occasion arises, in connection with the prohibition against gathering manna on the Sabbath , the institution is mentioned as one already known.  Exodus 16:22-30.

And that this, all of which confirmed by the great antiquity of the division of time into weeks, and the naming the days after the sun, moon and planets, was especially one of the institutions adopted by Moses from the ancient patriarchal usage, is implied in the very words of the law, "Remember the Sabbath day, to keep it holy." But even if such evidence were wanting, the reason of the institution would be a sufficient proof. It was to be a joyful celebration of God's completion of his creation. It has indeed been said that Moses gives quite a different reason for the institution of the Sabbath , as a memorial of the deliverance from Egyptian bondage.  Deuteronomy 5:15. The words added in Deuteronomy are a special motive for the joy, with which the Sabbath should be celebrated, and for the kindness which extended its blessings to the slave and the beast of burden as well as to the master: "that thy man servant and thy maidservant may rest as well as thou."  Deuteronomy 5:14.

These attempts to limit the ordinance, proceed from an entire misconception of its spirit, as if it were a season of stern privation, rather than of special privilege. But in truth, the prohibition of work is only subsidiary to the positive idea of joyful rest and recreation, in communion with Jehovah , who himself "rested and was refreshed."  Exodus 31:17. Compare  Exodus 23:12. It is in  Exodus 16:23-29, that we find the first incontrovertible institution of the day, as one given to and to be kept, by the children of Israel. Shortly afterward, it was re-enacted in the Fourth Commandment. This beneficent character of the Fourth Commandment is very apparent in the version of it which we find in Deuteronomy.  Deuteronomy 5:12-15.

The law and the Sabbath are placed upon the same ground, and to give rights to classes that would otherwise have been without such - to the bondman and bondmaid may, to the beast of the field - is viewed here as their main end. "The stranger," too, is comprehended in the benefit. But the original proclamation of it in Exodus, places it on a ground which, closely connected, no doubt, with these others is yet higher and more comprehensive. The divine method of working and rest is there propose to work and to rest time, then to man as the model after which presented a perfect whole; it is most important to remember that the Fourth Commandment is not limited to a mere enactment respecting one day, but prescribes the due distribution of a week, and enforces the six days' work as much as the seventh day's rest.

This higher ground of observance was felt to invest the Sabbath with a theological character, and rendered it, the great witness for faith, in a personal and creating God. It was to be a sacred pause in the ordinary labo,r which man earns his bread; the curse, the fall was to be suspended for one and, having spent that day in joyful remembrance of God's mercies, man had a fresh start in his course of labor. A great snare, too, has always been hidden in the word 'work', as if the commandment forbade occupation and imposed idleness. The terms in the commandment show plainly enough, the sort of work which is contemplated - servile work and business. The Pentateuch presents us with, but three applications of the general principle -  Exodus 16:29;  Exodus 35:3;  Numbers 15:32-36.

The reference of Isaiah to the Sabbath gives us no details. The references in Jeremiah and Nehemiah show that carrying goods for sale, and buying such, were equally profanations of the day. A consideration of the spirit of the law, and of Christ's comments on it, will show that it is Work For Worldly Gain , that was to be suspended; and hence, the restrictive clause is prefaced with the restrictive command. "Six days shalt thou labor, and do all thy work;" for so only could the sabbatic rest be fairly earned. Hence, too, the stress constantly laid on permitting the servant and beast of burden to share the rest which selfishness would grudge to them.

Thus the Spirit of the Sabbath was joy, refreshment and mercy, arising from remembrance of God's goodness as Creator, and as the Deliverer from bondage. The Sabbath was a perpetual sign and covenant, and the holiness of the day is connected with the holiness of the people; "that ye may know that I am Jehovah that doth sanctify you."  Exodus 31:12-17;  Ezekiel 20:12. Joy was the key-note of their service. Nehemiah commanded the people, on a day holy to Jehovah "Mourn not, nor weep: eat the fat, and drink the sweet, and send portions to them for whom nothing is prepared."  Nehemiah 8:9-13.

The Sabbath is named as a day of special worship in the sanctuary.  Leviticus 19:30;  Leviticus 26:2. It was proclaimed as a holy convocation.  Leviticus 23:3. In later times, the worship of the sanctuary was enlivened by sacred music.  Psalms 68:25-27;  Psalms 150:1; etc. On this day, the people were accustomed to consult their prophets,  2 Kings 4:23, and to give to their children, that instruction in the truths recalled to memory by the day, which is so repeatedly enjoined as the duty of parents; it was "the Sabbath of Jehovah ," not only in the sanctuary, but "in all their dwellings."  Leviticus 23:3.

When we come to the New Testament, we find the most marked stress laid on the Sabbath . In whatever ways the Jew might err respecting it, he had altogether ceased to neglect it. On the contrary, wherever he went, its observance became the most visible badge of his nationality. Our Lord's mode of observing the Sabbath was one of the main features of his life, which his Pharisaic adversaries meet eagerly watched and criticized. They had invented many prohibitions respecting the Sabbath , of which we find nothing in the original institution. Some of these prohibitions were fantastic and arbitrary, in the number of those "heavy burdens and grievous to be borne," while the latter expounders of the law "laid on men's shoulders." Compare  Matthew 12:1-13;  John 5:10.

That this perversion of the Sabbath had become very general in our Saviour's time, is apparent both from the recorded objections to acts of his on that day, and from his marked conduct on occasions to which those objections were sure to be urged.  Matthew 12:1-16;  Mark 3:2;  Luke 6:1-5;  Luke 13:10-17;  John 6:2-18;  John 7:23;  John 9:1-34. Christ's words do not remit the duty of keeping the Sabbath , but only deliver it from the false methods of keeping, which prevented it from bestowing upon men, the spiritual blessings it was ordained to confer.

Bridgeway Bible Dictionary [7]

The word ‘sabbath’ comes from the Hebrew word meaning ‘to cease’. In the Genesis story of creation, God ceased from his work of creation after six days, then rested on the seventh ( Genesis 2:1-3). It seems that from early times people in general recognized a week of seven days ( Genesis 8:10;  Genesis 8:12;  Genesis 29:27), and God’s people in particular ceased their work one day in seven. This was for two purposes: firstly, to set the day apart for God instead of using it for themselves; secondly, to rest from their daily work and so gain refreshment ( Exodus 16:22-30).

God’s appointment for Israel

When God formally established Israel as his people and gave them his laws, one of the laws was that they had to rest from their work every seventh day. The day was set apart especially for God and was, in fact, a sign that the people were bound to God by covenant. Anyone who did his work on that day was to be put to death ( Exodus 20:8-11;  Exodus 31:13-17;  Numbers 15:32-36;  Deuteronomy 5:15). Among the religious exercises of the Sabbath were the offering of sacrifices and the renewing of the ‘presence bread’ in the tabernacle ( Leviticus 24:5-9;  Numbers 28:9-10).

Working animals, such as oxen and donkeys, also had rest one day in seven ( Deuteronomy 5:14; cf.  Nehemiah 13:15-21), and the land had rest one year in seven ( Leviticus 25:3-4; see Sabbatical Year ). A festival day on which people were to do no work was also called a Sabbath, though it may not have coincided with the usual weekly Sabbath ( Leviticus 16:29-31;  Leviticus 23:30-32;  John 19:31).

Much of the Jewish Sabbath-keeping was not pleasing to God, because of the wrong attitudes of many of the people. Some were annoyed because it interrupted their money-making activities ( Amos 8:5), and others used the day for their own pleasure, without concern for God ( Isaiah 58:13-14;  Jeremiah 17:21-23). Through despising God’s covenant requirements, the people in the end brought destruction upon the nation ( Ezekiel 20:23-24;  Ezekiel 23:38).

After the return from captivity in Babylon, Nehemiah introduced special laws to prevent people from working and trading on the Sabbath ( Nehemiah 13:15-22). Over the next few centuries the teachers of the law (the scribes) built up a system of countless Sabbath regulations to add to the simple requirements of the law of Moses (cf.  Mark 2:23-24;  Luke 14:3-4;  John 5:10;  Acts 1:12). Through schools and synagogues, the teachers of the law spread and enforced their regulations. In doing so they often disregarded the Word of God, and as a result came into conflict with Jesus ( Luke 13:10-17; see Scribes ; Synagogue ; Tradition ).

The new era

Jesus pointed out that although God gave rules to guide people concerning what they may or may not do on the Sabbath, to do good on the Sabbath was always right ( Matthew 12:9-13). Just as God’s daily work in caring for his creation does not break the Sabbath law, neither did Jesus’ work in healing the sick on the Sabbath ( John 5:16-18). Life is more important than ritual. God gave the Sabbath for people’s benefit, not their discomfort. The Sabbath was intended to ease their burden, not increase it ( Matthew 12:1-8;  Matthew 23:4).

As Lord of the Sabbath, Jesus knew best how to use it. While he kept the law of God ( Matthew 5:17;  Luke 4:16), he opposed the traditions of the scribes and Pharisees ( Mark 7:6-9). At the same time he knew that the law-code that Moses had given to Israel had fulfilled its purpose and was about to pass away. A new age was about to dawn ( Matthew 9:16-17). Jesus’ death and resurrection marked the end of the law as a binding force upon God’s people ( Romans 7:6;  Romans 8:1-3;  Romans 10:4;  Colossians 2:14).

Christians are free from the bondage of the Israelite law and must not become its slaves. This applies to all the requirements of the law, whether concerning the Sabbath or any other matter ( Galatians 4:8-11;  Colossians 2:16).

On the other hand Christians can learn from the law. Although that law was given to a particular people (Israel) for a particular period (from Moses to Christ), the idea of a weekly day of rest existed before the time of Moses and continued after the time of Christ. It was taken from the symbolic rest of God, which expressed his satisfaction in bringing his creative work to its goal with the creation of Adam and Eve ( Genesis 2:1-3;  Exodus 20:11).

From the beginning of human existence, God has wanted people to find true rest through coming into a living relationship with their Creator. God desires also that within that relationship, they enjoy the created world and all their activity in it ( Ecclesiastes 5:18-20;  Ecclesiastes 12:1;  Hebrews 4:1-4). The one-day-in-seven rest is a reminder to them that when work so dominates them that they have no time to cease from it, then it has become a god. Restful contemplation is as essential as energetic activity in the worship and service of God (cf.  Psalms 46:10).

Even when the early Christians no longer kept the Jewish Sabbath, they still set aside time each week for fellowship with God and with one another. This was usually the first day of the week, a day that they called the Lord’s Day, because it was the day of Jesus’ resurrection ( John 20:19;  Acts 20:7;  1 Corinthians 16:2;  Revelation 1:10).

Sunday did not replace Saturday, as if it were a Christian Sabbath to replace the Jewish Sabbath. Nevertheless, it provided the opportunity to give practical expression to those values of cessation from work and devotion to God that God desired for people from the beginning.

Some people in the early church wanted to recognize certain days as having a kind of legal sacredness; others refused such recognition, since the church was not regulated by law. Paul taught that each person be tolerant of the other’s view, and that Christians treat every day in a way that acknowledges and honours God ( Romans 14:5-6).

American Tract Society Bible Dictionary [8]

Rest. God having created the world in six days, "rested" on the seventh,  Genesis 2:2,3; that is, he ceased from producing new beings in this creation; and because he had rested on it, he "blessed" or sanctified it, and appointed it in a peculiar manner for his worship.

We here have an account of the Original Institution of the day of rest. Like the institution of marriage, it was given to man for the whole race. Those who worshipped God seem to have kept the Sabbath from the first, and there are tokens of this in the brief sketch the Bible contains of the ages before the giving of the law at Mount Sinai. Noah sent forth the raven from the ark, and the dove thrice, at intervals of seven days,  Genesis 8:1-22 . The account of the sending of manna in the desert proves that the Sabbath was already known and observed,  Exodus 16:22-30 . The week was an established division of time in Mesopotamia and Arabia,  Genesis 29:27; and traces of it have been found in many nations of antiquity, so remote from each other and of such diverse origin as to forbid the idea of their having received it from Sinai and the Hebrews.

The REENACTMENT of the Sabbath on Mount Sinai, among the Commandments of the Moral Law, was also designed not for the Jews alone, but for all whom should receive the word of God, and ultimately for all mankind. Christ and his apostles never speak of the decalogue but as of permanent and universal obligation. "The Sabbath was made for man." The fourth commandment is as binding as the third and the fifth. Certain additions to it, with specifications and penalties, were a part of the Mosaic civil law, and are not now in force,  Exodus 31:14   Numbers 15:32-36 . On the Sabbath-day, the priests and Levites, ministers of the temple, entered on their week; and those who had attended the foregoing week, went out. They placed on the golden table new loaves of showbread, and took away the old ones,  Leviticus 24:8 . Also on this day were offered particular sacrifices of two lambs for a burnt offering, with wine and meal. The Sabbath was celebrated like the other festivals, from evening,  Numbers 28:9,10 .

The chief obligation of the Sabbath expressed in the law is to sanctify it,  Exodus 20:8   Deuteronomy 5:12 : "Remember the Sabbath-day to sanctify it." It is sanctified by necessary works of charity, by prayers, praises, and thanksgiving, by the public and private worship of God, by the study of his word, by tranquility of mind, and by meditation on moral and religious truth in its bearing on the duties of life and the hope of immorality. The other requirement of the law is rest: "Thou shalt not do any work." The ordinary business of life is to be wholly laid aside, both for the sake of bodily and mental health, and chiefly to secure the quiet and uninterrupted employment of the sacred hours for religious purposes. The spirit of the law clearly forbids all uses of the day which are worldly, such as amusements, journeys, etc., whereby one fails to keep the day holy himself, or hinders others in doing so.

The Christian Sabbath is the original day of rest established in the Garden of the Eden and reenacted on Sinai, without those requirements, which were peculiar to Judaism, but with all its original moral force and with the new sanctions of Christianity. It commemorates not only the creation of the world, but a still greater event-the completion of the work of atonement by the resurrection of Christ; and as he rose from the dead on the day after the Jewish Sabbath, that day of his resurrection has been observed by Christians ever since. The change appears to have been made at once and as is generally believed under the direction of the "Lord of the Sabbath." On the same day, the first day of the week, he appeared among his assembled disciples; and on the next recurrence of the day he was again with them, and revealed himself to Thomas. From  1 Corinthians 11:20   14:23,40 , it appears that the disciples in all places were accustomed to meet statedly to worship and to celebrate the Lord's supper; and from  1 Corinthians 16:1,2 , we learn that these meetings were on the first day of the week. Thus in  Acts 20:6-11 , we find the Christians at Troas assembled on the first day, to partake of the supper and to receive religious instruction. John observed the day with peculiar solemnity,  Revelation 1:10; and it had then received the name of "The Lord's day," which it has ever since retained. For a time, such of the disciples as were Jews observed the Jewish Sabbath also; but they did not require this nor the observance of any festival of the Mosaic dispensation, of Gentile converts, nor even of Jews,  Colossians 2:16 . The early Christian fathers refer to the first day of the week as the time set apart for worship, and to the transfer of the day on account of the resurrection of the Savior. Pliny the younger, proconsul of Pontus near the close of the first century, in a letter to the emperor Trajan, remarks that the Christians were "accustomed on a stated day to meet together before daylight, and to repeat a hymn to Christ as God, and to bind themselves by a solemn bond not to commit any wickedness," etc. So well known was their custom, that the ordinary test question put by persecutors to those suspected of Christianity was "Hast thou kept the Lord's day?" to which the reply was, "I am a Christian; I cannot omit it." Justin Martyr observes that "on the Lord's day all Christians in the city or country meet together, because that is the day of our Lord's resurrection, and then we read the writings of the apostles and prophets; this being done, the person presiding makes an oration to the assembly, to exhort them to imitate and to practice the things they have heard; then we all join in prayer, and after that we celebrate the sacrament. Then they who are able and willing give what they think proper, and what is collected is laid up in the hands of the chief officer, who distributes it to orphans and widows, and other necessitous Christians, as their wants require." See  1 Corinthians 16:2 . A very honorable conduct and worship. Would that it were more prevalent among us, with the spirit and piety of primitive Christianity!

The commandment to observe the Sabbath is worthy of its place in the decalogue; and its observance is of fundamental importance to society, which without it would fast relapse into ignorance, vice, and ungodliness. Its very existence on earth, by the ordinance of God, proves that there remains an eternal Sabbath in heaven, of which the "blest repose" of the day of God is an earnest to those who rightly observe it,  Hebrews 4:9 .

"The second Sabbath after the first,"  Luke 6:1 , should rather read, "The first Sabbath after the second day of the pass-over." Of the seven days of the pass-over, the first was a Sabbath, and on the second was a festival in which the fruits of the harvest were offered to God,  Leviticus 23:5,9 , etc. From this second day the Jews reckoned seven weeks or the first Sabbath which occurred after this second day, was called the first week or Sabbath after the second day.

The "preparation of the Sabbath" was the Friday before; for as it was forbidden to make a fire, to bake bread, or to dress victuals, on the Sabbath-day, they provided on the Friday every thing needful for their sustenance on the Sabbath,  Mark 15:42   Matthew 27:62   John 19:14,31,42 .

For "a Sabbath-day's journey," see Journey .

Charles Buck Theological Dictionary [9]

In the Hebrew language, signifies rest, and is the seventh day of the week: a day appointed for religious duties, and a total cessation from work, in commemoration of God's resting on the seventh day; and likewise in memorial of the redemption of the Israelites from Egyptian bondage. Concerning the time whem the sabbath was first instituted there have been different opinions. Some have maintained that the sanctification of the seventh day mentioned in  Genesis 2:1-25 : is only there spoken by anticipation; and is to be understood of the sabbath afterwards enjoined in the wilderness; and that the historian, writing after it was instituted, there gives the reason of its institution; and this is supposed to be the case, as it is never mentioned during the patriarchal age. But against this sentiment it is urged,

1. That it cannot be easily supposed that the inspired penman would have mentioned the sanctification of the seventh day among the primaeval transactions, if such sanctification had not taken place until 2500 years afterwards.

2. That considering Adam was restored to favour through a Mediator, and a religious service instituted, which man was required to observe, in testimony not only of his dependence on the Creator, but also of his faith and hope in the promise, it seems reasonable that an institution so grand and solemn, and so necessary to the observance of this service, should be then existent.

3. That it is no proof against its existence because it is not mentioned in the partriarchical age, no more than it is against its existence from Moses to the end of David's reign, which was near 440 years.

4. That the Sabbath was mentioned as a well known solemnity before the promulation of the law,  Exodus 16:23 . For the manner in which the Jews kept it, and the awful consequences of neglecting it, we refer the reader to the Old Testament,  Leviticus 26:34-35 .  Nehemiah 13:16;  Nehemiah 13:18 .  Jeremiah 17:21 .  Ezekiel 20:16-17 . Numb. 15: 23-36. Under the Christian dispensation, the sabbath is altered from the seventh to the first day of the week. The arguments for the change are these:

1. As the seventh day was observed by the Jewish church in memory of the rest of God after the works of the creation, and their deliverance from Pharaoh's tyranny, so the first day of the week has always been observed by the Christian church in memory of Christ's resurrection.

2. Christ made repeated visits to his disciples on that day.

3. It is called the Lord's day,  Revelation 1:10 .

4. On this day the apostles were assembled, when the Holy Ghost came down so visibly upon them, to qualify them for the conversion of the world.

5. On this day we find St. Paul preaching at Troas, when the disciples came to break bread.

6. The directions the apostles give to the Christians plainly allude to their religious assemblies on the first day.

7. Pliny bears witness of the first day of the week being kept as a festival, in honour of the resurrection of Christ: and the primitive Christians kept it in the most solemn manner. These arguments, however, are not satisfactory to some, and it must be confessed that there is no law in the New Testament concerning the first day. However, it may be observed that it is not so much the precise time that is universally binding, as that one day out of seven is to be regarded. "

As it is impossible, " says Dr. Doddridge, "certainly to determine which is the seventh day from the creation; and as, in consequence of the spherical form of the earth, and the absurdity of the scheme which supposes it one great plain, the change of place will necessarily occasion some alteration in the time of the beginning and ending of any day in question, it being always at the same time, somewhere or other, sun- rising and sun-setting, noon and midnight, it seems very unreasonable to lay such a stress upon the particular day as some do. It seems abundantly sufficient that there be six days of labour and one of religious rest, which there will be upon the Christian and the Jewish scheme." As the sabbath is of divine institution, so it is to be kept holy unto the Lord. Numerous have been the days appointed by men for religious services; but these are not binding, because of human institution. Not so the sabbath. Hence the fourth commandment is ushered in with a peculiar emphasis

"Remember that thou keep holy the sabbath day." This institution is wise as to its ends: That God may be worshipped; man instructed; nations benefited; and families devoted to the service of God. It is lasting as to its duration. The abolition of it would be unreasonable; unscriptural,  Exodus 31:13; and every way disadvantageous to the body, to society, to the soul, and even to the brute creation. It is, however, awfully violated by visiting, feasting, indolence, buying and selling, working, woeldly amusements, and travelling. "Look into the streets, " says bishop Porteus, "on the Lord's day, and see whether they convey the idea of a day of rest. Do not our servants and our cattle seem to be almost as fully occupied on that day as on any other? And, as if this was not a sufficient infringement of their rights, we contrive by needless entertainments at home, and needless journeys abroad, which are often by choice and inclination reserved for this very day, to take up all the little remaining part of their leisure time.

A sabbath day's journey was among the Jews a proverbial expression for a very short one; among us it can have no such meaning affixed to it. That day seems to be considered by too many as set apart, by divine and human authority, for the purpose not for rest, but of its direct opposite, the labour of travelling, thus adding one day more of torment to those generous but wretched animals whose services they hire; and who, being generally strained beyond their strength the other six days of the week, have, of all creatures under heaven, the best and most equitable claim to suspension of labour on the seventh." These are evils greatly to be lamented; they are an insult to God, an injury to ourselves, and an awful example to our servants, our children, and our friends. To sanctify this day, we should consider it,

1. A day of rest; not indeed, to exclude works of mercy and charity, but a cessation from all labour and care.

2. As a day of remembrance; of creation, preservation, redemption.

3. As a day of meditation and prayer in which we should cultivate communion with God,  Revelation 1:10 .

4. As a day of public worship,  Acts 20:7 .  John 20:19 .

5. As a day of joy, Is. 56: 2.  Psalms 118:24 .

6. As a day of praise,  Psalms 116:12;  Psalms 116:14 .

7. As a day of anticipation; looking forward to that holy, happy, and eternal sabbath that remains for the people of God.

See Chandler's two Sermons on the Sabbath; Wright on the Sabbath; Watts's Hol. of Times and Places; Orton's Six Discourses on the Lord's Day; Kennicott's Ser. and Dial. on the Sabbath; Bp. Porteus's Sermons, ser. 9. vol. 1.; Watts's Sermons, ser. 57. vol. 1:; S. Palmer's Apology for the Christian Sabbath; Kennicott on the Oblations of Cain and Abel, p. 184, 185.

Hawker's Poor Man's Concordance And Dictionary [10]

This was the original name first used by the Hebrews for the Lord's day. It is indeed an Hebrew word, and signifies repose or rest; and hence Christ, "who is the rest wherewith JEHOVAH causeth the weary to rest, and who is their refreshing." ( Isaiah 28:12) is the very Sabbath of the soul. See Christ's invitation under this character. ( Matthew 11:28-30) It is worthy remark that Noah, a type of Christ in the ark, is so called, from Nuach, which signifies rest. Some indeed derive his name from Nacham, consolation. But in either sense, or in both, it is blessed to eye Christ in the type. Hence the psalmist saith, ( Psalms 116:7) "Return unto thy rest, O my soul, for the Lord hath dwelt bountifully with thee." In the original it is, return to thy Noah. And surely JEHOVAH hath dealt bountifully with the souls of all his. redeemed, when like the dove returning to the ark whom she found no rest out of the ark for the sole of her foot, we return to the Lord Jesus, the only rest for the soul, and our salvation for ever. ( Genesis 8:9)

The Sabbath was instituted, from the first dawn of the creation; for when JEHOVAH had called into existence the several works of his almighty hand, which his sovereign will and pleasure gave being to "he is said to have rested from his works which he had made;" and reviewing with complacency what his hands had wrought, beholding their number and order in the several ranks and disposals of his design, he sanctified the day of his rest, and commanded every seventh day to be hallowed for his more immediate worship, adoration love, and praise, by all his intelligent creatures. The Apostle to the Hebrews makes a short but beautiful observation on the spiritual tendency of the Sabbath when with an eye to Jesus he represents the believing soul resting in Christ as the rest for the people of God. "For he (saith the apostle) that is entered into his rest, he also hath ceased from his own works, as God did from his." ( Hebrews 4:10)

Since the resurrection of the Lord Jesus Christ from the dead, the name of Sabbath hath been less used, and that of the Lord's day substituted more generally in its place; and the authority for so doing is derived from the apostles. Thus John, when speaking of those revelations made to him by the Lord Jesus in the Isle of Patmos, saith that he was in the Spirit on the Lord's day. ( Revelation 1:10) And it is no small confirmation of the Lord's approval of the first day being appointed for the ordinance of the Sabbath, that not only the Lord Jesus arose on that day from the dead, but God the Holy Ghost made his first public descent, agreeably to Christ's promise, on that day. Hence divine honour is given in the observance of the Lord's day on the first day of the week to all the persons of the Godhead for creation, redemption, and sanctification. It hath been said that the Jews at the giving of the law lost the true reckoning of the seventh day. It were devoutly to be desired that believers in the Lord Jesus, in their ordinary conversation, would distinguish the Sabbath by its proper name, and call it what the apostle called it, the Lord's day. Sunday is a name without meaning, unless indeed it he connected with its derivation, and then it becomes still more improper! for if it be supposed, as some have said, that it took its rise during the time of the Saxon Heptarchy, and had reference to the sun, and therefore called Sun-day, it savours of idolatry. We know that the sun hath been in all ages the great idol of the eastern world. (See  Deuteronomy 4:19;  2 Kings 23:11;  Job 31:26-28;  Ezekiel 8:16) It is strange, therefore, that the name should be retained when the Holy Scriptures have never once mentioned such a name, and the apostle's example so sweetly recommends what ought to be so dear when we speak with reverence of the Sabbath, that we call it the Lord's day.

We meet with several expressions connected with the Lord's day in the New Testament, such as "a Sabbath day's journey, the second Sabbath after the first." These are not explained to us in Scripture, and therefore we are left to conjecture concerning their meaning. It is said that among the Jews there was a tradition not to walk more than six Stadia, or seven hundred and fifty paces, on the Sabbath day—that is, somewhat less than one of our miles. And perhaps in allusion to this it might be that our Lord, speaking of the destruction of Jerusalem, enjoined his disciples to pray that their flight might not be in the winter, neither on the Sabbath day. ( Matthew 24:20)

Concerning the second Sabbath after the first, which we read of  Luke 6:1; the meaning of it is not so clear as to determine exactly. But it hath been conjectured that the Jews particularly numbered their Sabbaths from the Passover, and that the second Sabbath was intended to mean from the Passover. But others have concluded that the second Sabbath meant the Pentecost, and the first the Passover.

It is astonishing to behold with what veneration the ancient Jews esteemed their Sabbaths. They considered the appointment of it by the Lord so peculiar a mercy, in that it distinguished them from all others nations, that they took the greatest delight in it, calling it their spouse. It is to be feared that in modern times their descendants have lost this reverence, as well as the true knowledge of their own Scriptures. Oh, that the Lord would hasten the time when "the Deliverer shall arise out of Zion, to turn away ungodliness from Jacob?" ( Romans 11:26;  Hosea 3:4-5)

Easton's Bible Dictionary [11]

 Genesis 2:2

It is next referred to in connection with the gift of manna to the children of Israel in the wilderness ( Exodus 16:23 ); and afterwards, when the law was given from Sinai (20:11), the people were solemnly charged to "remember the sabbath day, to keep it holy." Thus it is spoken of as an institution already existing.

In the Mosaic law strict regulations were laid down regarding its observance ( Exodus 35:2,3;  Leviticus 23:3;  26:34 ). These were peculiar to that dispensation.

In the subsequent history of the Jews frequent references are made to the sanctity of the Sabbath ( Isaiah 56:2,4,6,7;  58:13,14;  Jeremiah 17:20-22;  Nehemiah 13:19 ). In later times they perverted the Sabbath by their traditions. Our Lord rescued it from their perversions, and recalled to them its true nature and intent ( Matthew 12:10-13;  Mark 2:27;  Luke 13:10-17 ).

The Sabbath, originally instituted for man at his creation, is of permanent and universal obligation. The physical necessities of man require a Sabbath of rest. He is so constituted that his bodily welfare needs at least one day in seven for rest from ordinary labour. Experience also proves that the moral and spiritual necessities of men also demand a Sabbath of rest. "I am more and more sure by experience that the reason for the observance of the Sabbath lies deep in the everlasting necessities of human nature, and that as long as man is man the blessedness of keeping it, not as a day of rest only, but as a day of spiritual rest, will never be annulled. I certainly do feel by experience the eternal obligation, because of the eternal necessity, of the Sabbath. The soul withers without it. It thrives in proportion to its observance. The Sabbath was made for man. God made it for men in a certain spiritual state because they needed it. The need, therefore, is deeply hidden in human nature. He who can dispense with it must be holy and spiritual indeed. And he who, still unholy and unspiritual, would yet dispense with it is a man that would fain be wiser than his Maker" (F. W. Robertson).

The ancient Babylonian calendar, as seen from recently recovered inscriptions on the bricks among the ruins of the royal palace, was based on the division of time into weeks of seven days. The Sabbath is in these inscriptions designated Sabattu, and defined as "a day of rest for the heart" and "a day of completion of labour."

The change of the day. Originally at creation the seventh day of the week was set apart and consecrated as the Sabbath. The first day of the week is now observed as the Sabbath. Has God authorized this change? There is an obvious distinction between the Sabbath as an institution and the particular day set apart for its observance. The question, therefore, as to the change of the day in no way affects the perpetual obligation of the Sabbath as an institution. Change of the day or no change, the Sabbath remains as a sacred institution the same. It cannot be abrogated.

If any change of the day has been made, it must have been by Christ or by his authority. Christ has a right to make such a change ( Mark 2:23-28 ). As Creator, Christ was the original Lord of the Sabbath ( John 1:3;  Hebrews 1:10 ). It was originally a memorial of creation. A work vastly greater than that of creation has now been accomplished by him, the work of redemption. We would naturally expect just such a change as would make the Sabbath a memorial of that greater work.

True, we can give no text authorizing the change in so many words. We have no express law declaring the change. But there are evidences of another kind. We know for a fact that the first day of the week has been observed from apostolic times, and the necessary conclusion is, that it was observed by the apostles and their immediate disciples. This, we may be sure, they never would have done without the permission or the authority of their Lord.

After his resurrection, which took place on the first day of the week ( Matthew 28:1;  Mark 16:2;  Luke 24:1;  John 20:1 ), we never find Christ meeting with his disciples on the seventh day. But he specially honoured the first day by manifesting himself to them on four separate occasions ( Matthew 28:9;  Luke 24:34,18-33;  John 20:19-23 ). Again, on the next first day of the week, Jesus appeared to his disciples ( John 20:26 ).

Some have calculated that Christ's ascension took place on the first day of the week. And there can be no doubt that the descent of the Holy Ghost at Pentecost was on that day ( Acts 2:1 ). Thus Christ appears as instituting a new day to be observed by his people as the Sabbath, a day to be henceforth known amongst them as the "Lord's day." The observance of this "Lord's day" as the Sabbath was the general custom of the primitive churches, and must have had apostolic sanction (Compare  Acts 20:3-7;  1 Corinthians 16:1,2 ) and authority, and so the sanction and authority of Jesus Christ.

The words "at her sabbaths" ( Lamentations 1:7 , A.V.) ought probably to be, as in the Revised Version, "at her desolations."

Holman Bible Dictionary [12]

Old Testament The word sabbath comes from the Hebrew shabbat , meaning “to cease” or “desist.” The primary meaning is that of cessation from all work. Some persons have traced the origin of the concept to the Babylonian calendar which contained certain days, corresponding to phases of the moon, in which kings and priests could not perform their official functions. Such days bore an evil connotation, and work performed on them would have harmful effects. The fifteenth of the month, the time of the full moon in their lunar calendar, was shapattu , the “day of pacifying the heart” (of the god) by certain ceremonies.

Although one can show similarities to the Babylonian concept, the Hebrew Sabbath did not follow a lunar cycle. It was celebrated every seven days and became basic to the recognition and worship of the God of creation and redemption. Regulations concerning the Sabbath are a main feature of the Mosaic laws. Both reports of the Ten Commandments stated that the Sabbath belonged to the Lord. On six days the Israelites should work, but on the seventh, they as well as all slaves, foreigners, and beasts must rest. Two reasons are given. The first is that God rested on the seventh day after creation, thereby making the day holy ( Exodus 29:8-11 ). The second was a reminder of their redemption from slavery in Egypt ( Deuteronomy 5:12-15 ).

The day became a time for sacred assembly and worship ( Leviticus 23:1-3 ), a token of their covenant with God ( Exodus 31:12-17;  Ezekiel 20:12-20 ). Death was the penalty for desecration ( Exodus 35:1-3 ). The true observance of not following one's own pursuits on that day would lift a person to God's holy mountain and bring spiritual nourishment ( Isaiah 56:1-7;  Isaiah 58:13 ), but failure to keep the Sabbath would bring destruction to their earthly kingdom ( Nehemiah 13:15-22;  Jeremiah 17:21-27 ).

Interbiblical The Sabbath became the heart of the law, and the prohibitions were expanded. Thirty-nine tasks were banned, such as tying or untying a knot. These in turn were extended until ingenious evasions were devised that lost the spirit but satisfied the legal requirement.

New Testament The habit of Jesus was to observe the sabbath as a day of worship in the synagogues ( Luke 4:16 ), but His failure to comply with the minute restrictions brought conflict ( Mark 2:23-28;  Mark 3:1-6;  Luke 13:10-17;  John 5:1-18 ). At first, Christians also met on the Sabbath with the Jews in the synagogues to proclaim Christ ( Acts 13:14 ). Their holy day, the day that belonged especially to the Lord, was the first day of the week, the day of resurrection ( Matthew 28:1;  Acts 20:7;  Revelation 1:10 ). They viewed the Sabbath and other matters of the law as a shadow of the reality which had now been revealed ( Colossians 2:16-23 ), and the Sabbath became a symbol of the heavenly rest to come ( Hebrews 4:1-11 ).

Barbara J. Bruce

People's Dictionary of the Bible [13]

Sabbath (Rest ).  Exodus 16:23. The institution of a day of rest is founded in man's nature, and dates back to Paradise.  Genesis 2:2-3. The term is used of days or times, generally every seventh day, or a seventh portion of time, separated and sanctified for God's service,  Leviticus 19:3;  Leviticus 19:30;  Leviticus 25:4, and in the original text of the New Testament for a whole week.  Matthew 28:1;  Mark 16:2;  Luke 24:1;  John 20:1;  Acts 20:7;  1 Corinthians 16:2. In a spiritual sense it designates the eternal rest in heaven.  Hebrews 4:9 margin, and Greek. The fourth commandment,  Exodus 20:8-11;  Deuteronomy 5:12-15, enjoins no specific religious service, except in the general direction to keep it holy. Subsequent legislation made it a day of holy convocation. The sacrifices of the temple were doubled; the shew-bread was changed; the inner court of the temple was opened for solemn services: the prophets and the Levites took the occasion for imparting religious instruction to the people. It was a day of holy joy. Indeed, the fear was that the day would be "wasted by idleness and degraded by sensuality and drunkenness," because it was so joyous.  Nehemiah 8:9-12;  Hosea 2:11. Christ kept the Sabbath in the highest sense of the term. He observed every jot and tittle of the Mosaic Law in the freedom of the spirit. From him we learn that acts of necessity and mercy are to be performed on that day, but that worldly occupations are to be put as far as possible out of our thoughts. It is true we transfer the observance of the Sabbath to the first day of the week, but we do not thereby violate the spirit of the divine law; for what God asked for was the seventh of our entire time. We have a warrant for this change. Upon the first day of the week Christ arose from the dead. We find the disciples, before the Ascension, assembled on that day, and Jesus appeared to them.  John 20:26. According to tradition, which is confirmed by every probability, the outpouring of the Holy Ghost on the day of Pentecost was on Sunday. Paul preached at Troas on the first day of the week—evidently, among those Christians, the day of religious service.  Acts 20:7. Paul tells the Corinthians that every one is to lay by him in store upon the first day of the week as he is prospered.  1 Corinthians 16:2. It was upon the Lord's day—and by this name he calls it—that John on Patmos saw through the opened door into heaven.  Revelation 1:10. Around the Lord's day we do well to throw safeguards. It is, in a sense, the palladium of Christian liberty. The various states and cities have good laws for the protection of the Civil Sabbath and against its open desecration. The American churches are unanimously in favor of a quiet Sabbath, in opposition to the evils of the so-called "continental Sunday," and earnest efforts have been made to protect us against them. See Lord's Day.

Vine's Expository Dictionary of NT Words [14]

1: Σάββατον (Strong'S #4521 — Noun Neuter — sabbaton | sabbata — sab'-bat-on )

the latter, the plural form was transliterated from the Aramaic word, which was mistaken for a plural; hence the singular, sabbaton, was formed from it. The root means "to cease, desist" (Heb., shabath; cp. Arab., sabata, "to intercept, interrupt"); the doubled b has an intensive force, implying a complete cessation or a making to cease, probably the former. The idea is not that of relaxation or refreshment, but cessation from activity.

 Exodus 31:16,17 Exodus 20:8-11 Matthew 12:9-13 John 5:5-16 Mark 1:32 Matthew 12:1 Mark 2:23 Luke 6:1 Mark 2:27 Colossians 2:16 Hebrews 4:4-11 Romans 14:5 Galatians 4:9-11 Matthew 12:1,11 Matthew 12:5  Matthew 12:2 24:20 Mark 6:2 Luke 6:1  John 9:14  Matthew 12:2 Acts 16:13 Matthew 28:1Late.One

2: Προσάββατον (Strong'S #4315 — Noun Neuter — prosabbaton — pros-ab'-bat-on )

signifies "the day before the sabbath" (pro, "before," and No. 1),  Mark 15:42; some mss. have prin, "before," with sabbaton separately).

Morrish Bible Dictionary [15]

The first time the Sabbath is specifically mentioned in scripture is in  Exodus 16:23 , after the manna had been given from heaven; but the Sabbath clearly had its origin in the sanctification and blessing of the seventh day after the six days of creative work. And a hebdomadal division of days apparently existed up to the flood, since it is very distinctly mentioned in connection with Noah. We are also told in  Mark 2:27 that the Sabbath was made for man. It was an institution which expressed God's merciful consideration for man.

The words 'rest' and 'Sabbath' in the passage in Exodus have no article, so that the sentence may be translated "To-morrow is [a] rest, [a] holy Sabbath unto the Lord." So in  Exodus 16:25,26 there is no article: there is in   Exodus 16:29 . The Sabbath was soon after definitely enacted in the ten commandments,  Exodus 20:8-11 , and reference is there made to God having rested on the seventh day after the work of creation as the basis of the institution.

The Sabbath had a peculiar place in relation to Israel: thus in  Leviticus 23 , in the feasts of Jehovah, in the holy convocations, the Sabbath of Jehovah is first mentioned as showing the great intention of God. God had delivered Israel out of the slavery of Egypt, therefore God commanded them to keep the Sabbath.  Deuteronomy 5:15 . The Sabbath was the sign of God's covenant with them, and it may be that the Lord in repeatedly offending the Jews by (in their view) breaking the Sabbath by acts of mercy foreshadowed the approaching dissolution of the legal covenant.  Exodus 31:13,17;  Ezekiel 20:12,20 . The Sabbath foreshadowed their being brought into the rest of God; but, because of the sin of those who started to go thither (who despised the promised land), God sware in His wrath that they should not enter into His rest.   Psalm 95:11 . God has purposed to bring His people into His rest, for whom there remains therefore the keeping of a Sabbath.  Hebrews 4:9 .

The Sabbath was never given to the nations in the same way as to Israel, and amid all the sins enumerated against the Gentiles, we do not find Sabbath-breaking ever mentioned. Nevertheless, it appears to be a principle of God's government of the earth that man and beast should have one day in seven as a respite from labour, all needing it physically.

The Christian's Sabbath is designated the Lord'S Day — and is as distinct in principle from the Jewish legal Sabbath as the opening, or first day of a new week is from the close of a past one. The Lord lay in death on the Jewish Sabbath: the Christian keeps the first day of the week, the resurrection day. See Lord'S Day

King James Dictionary [16]

SABBATH, n.

1. The day which God appointed to be observed by the Jews as a day of rest from all secular labor or employments, and to be kept holy and consecrated to his service and worship. This was originally the seventh day of the week, the day on which God rested from the work of creation and this day is still observed by the Jews and some christians, as the sabbath. But the christian church very early begun and still continue to observe the first day of the week, in commemoration of the resurrection of Christ on that day, by which the work of redemption was completed. Hence it is often called the Lords day. The heathen nations in the north of Europe dedicated this day to the sun, and hence their christian descendants continue to call the day Sunday. But in the United States, christians have to a great extent discarded the heathen name, and adopted the Jewish name sabbath. 2. Intermission of pain or sorrow time of rest.

Peaceful sleep out the sabbath of the tomb.

3. The sabbatical year among the Israelites.  Leviticus 25 .

Wilson's Dictionary of Bible Types [17]

 Colossians 2:16 (a) The sabbath day is a shadow and a type of the perfect rest which every sinner finds in Christ Jesus when he ceases to work for his own salvation and trusts the Saviour to blot out all his sins, redeem his soul, bring forgiveness, give him eternal life, and make him a child of GOD. Immediately this friend rests in the Lord and begins to keep the true sabbath. This same thought is found also in  Hebrews 4:9 (margin). where the rest which the Lord gives to the trusting soul is compared to the sabbath of the Old Testament. In those days Israel came to the seventh day, and then rested. In our day the Lord Jesus says, "Come unto Me, and I will give you rest." He is the true sabbath, and He is our sabbath.

Webster's Dictionary [18]

(1): ( n.) A season or day of rest; one day in seven appointed for rest or worship, the observance of which was enjoined upon the Jews in the Decalogue, and has been continued by the Christian church with a transference of the day observed from the last to the first day of the week, which is called also Lord's Day.

(2): ( n.) The seventh year, observed among the Israelites as one of rest and festival.

(3): ( n.) Fig.: A time of rest or repose; intermission of pain, effort, sorrow, or the like.

International Standard Bible Encyclopedia [19]

sab´ath ( שׁבּת , shabbāth , שׁבּתון , shabbāthōn  ; σάββατον , sábbaton , τὰ σάββατα , sábbata  ; the root shābhath in Hebrew means "to desist," "cease," "rest"):

I. Origin Of The Sabbath

1. The Biblical Account

2. Critical Theories

II. History Of The Sabbath After Moses

1. In the Old Testament

2. In the Inter-Testamental Period

3. Jesus and the Sabbath

4. Paul and the Sabbath

Literature

The Sabbath was the day on which man was to leave off his secular labors and keep a day holy to Yahweh.

I. Origin of the Sabbath.

1. The Biblical Account:

The sketch of creation in  Genesis 1:1 through 2:3 closes with an impressive account of the hallowing of the 7th day, because on it God rested from all the work which He had made creatively. The word "Sabbath" does not occur in the story; but it is recognized by critics of every school that the author (P) means to describe the Sabbath as primeval. In   Exodus 20:8-11 (ascribed to JE) the reason assigned for keeping the 7th day as a holy Sabbath is the fact that Yahweh rested after the six days of creative activity.   Exodus 31:17 employs a bold figure, and describes Yahweh as refreshing Himself ("catching His breath") after six days of work. The statement that God set apart the 7th day for holy purposes in honor of His own rest after six days of creative activity is boldly challenged by many modern scholars as merely the pious figment of a priestly imagination of the exile. There are so few hints of a weekly Sabbath before Moses, who is comparatively a modern character, that argumentation is almost excluded, and each student will approach the question with the bias of his whole intellectual and spiritual history. There is no distinct mention of the Sabbath in Gen, though a 7-day period is referred to several times (  Genesis 7:4 ,  Genesis 7:10;  Genesis 8:10 ,  Genesis 8:12;  Genesis 29:27 f). The first express mention of the Sabbath is found in   Exodus 16:21-30 , in connection with the giving of the manna. Yahweh taught the people in the wilderness to observe the 7th day as a Sabbath of rest by sending no manna on that day, a double supply being given on the 6th day of the week. Here we have to do with a weekly Sabbath as a day of rest from ordinary secular labor. A little later the Ten Words (Commands) were spoken by Yahweh from Sinai in the hearing of all the people, and were afterward written on the two tables of stone (Ex 20:1-17;  Exodus 34:1-5 ,  Exodus 34:27 f). The Fourth Commandment enjoins upon Israel the observance of the 7th day of the week as a holy day on which no work shall be done by man or beast. Children and servants are to desist from all work, and even the stranger within the gates is required to keep the day holy. The reason assigned is that Yahweh rested on the 7th day and blessed it and hallowed it. There is no hint that the restrictions were meant to guard against the wrath of a jealous and angry deity. The Sabbath was meant to be a blessing to man and not a burden. After the sin in connection with the golden call Yahweh rehearses the chief duties required of Israel, and again announces the law of the Sabbath (  Exodus 34:21 , ascribed to J). In the Levitical legislation there is frequent mention of the Sabbath ( Exodus 31:13-16;  Exodus 35:2 f;   Leviticus 19:3 ,  Leviticus 19:10;  Leviticus 23:3 ,  Leviticus 23:18 ). A willful Sabbath-breaker was put to death ( Numbers 15:32-36 ). In the Deuteronomic legislation there is equal recognition of the importance and value of the Sabbath ( Deuteronomy 5:12-15 ). Here the reason assigned for the observance of the Sabbath philanthropic and humanitarian: "that thy man-servant and thy maid-servant may rest as well as thou." It is thus manifest that all the Pentateuchal codes, whether proceeding from Moses alone or from many hands in widely different centuries, equally recognize the Sabbath as one of the characteristic institutions of Israel's religious and social life. If we cannot point to any observance of the weekly Sabbath prior to Moses, we can at least be sure that this was one of the institutions which he gave to Israel. From the days of Moses until now the holy Sabbath has been kept by devout Israelites.

2. Critical Theories:

"The older theories of the origin of the Jewish Sabbath (connecting it with Egypt, with the day of Saturn, or in general with the seven planets) have now been almost entirely abandoned (see Astronomy , I, 5). The disposition at present is to regard the day as originally a lunar festival, similar to a Bablonian custom (Schrader, Stud. u. Krit ., 1874), the rather as the cuneiform documents appear to contain a term šabattu or šabattum , identical in form and meaning with the Hebrew word šabbāthōn ." Thus wrote Professor C. H. Toy in 1899 ( Jbl , Xviii , 190). In a syllabary (II R, 32,16a, b) šabattum is said to be equivalent to ǔm nǔh̬ libbi , the natural translation of which seemed to be "day of rest of the heart." Schrader, Sayce and others so understood the phrase, and naturally looked upon šabattum as equivalent to the Hebrew Sabbath. But Jensen and others have shown that the phrase should be rendered "day of the appeasement of the mind" (of an offended deity). The reference is to a day of atonement or pacification rather than a day of rest, a day in which one must be careful not to arouse the anger of the god who was supposed to preside over that particular day. Now the term šabattum has been found only 5 or 6 times in the Babylonian inscriptions and in none of them is it connected with the 7th day of a week. There was, however, a sort of institution among the superstitious Babylonians that has been compared with the Hebrew Sabbath. In certain months of the year (Elul, Marcheshvan) the 7th, 14th, 19th, 21st and 28th days were set down as favorable days, or unfavorable days, that is, as days in which the king, the priest and the physician must be careful not to stir up the anger of the deity. On these days the king was not to eat food prepared by fire, not to put on royal dress, not to ride in his chariot, etc. As to the 19th day, it is thought that it was included among the unlucky days because it was the 49th (7 times 7) from the 1st of the preceding month. As there were 30 days in the month, it is evident that we are not dealing with a recurring 7th day in the week, as is the case with the Hebrew Sabbath. Moreover, no proof has been adduced that the term šabattum was ever applied to these dies nefasti or unlucky days. Hence, the assertions of some Assyriologists with regard to the Babylonian origin of the Sabbath must be taken with several grams of salt. Notice must be taken of an ingenious and able paper by Professor M. Jastrow, which was read before the Eleventh International Congress of Orientalists in Paris in 1897, in which the learned author attempts to show that the Hebrew Sabbath was originally a day of propitiation like the Babylonian šabattum ( Ajt , II, 312-52). He argues that the restrictive measures in the Hebrew laws for the observance of the Sabbath arose from the original conception of the Sabbath as an unfavorable day, a day in which the anger of Yahweh might flash forth against men. Although Jastrow has supported his thesis with many arguments that are cogent, yet the reverent student of the Scriptures will find it difficult to resist the impression that the Old Testament writers without exception thought of the Sabbath not as an unfavorable or unlucky day but rather as a day set apart for the benefit of man. Whatever may have been the attitude of the early Hebrews toward the day which was to become a characteristic institution of Judaism in all ages and in all lands, the organs of revelation throughout the Old Testament enforce the observance of the Sabbath by arguments which lay emphasis upon its beneficent and humanitarian aspects.

We must call attention to Meinhold's ingenious hypothesis as to the origin of the Sabbath. In 1894 Theophilus G. Pinches discovered a tablet in which the term shapattu is applied to the 15th day of the month. Meinhold argues that shabattu in Babylonian denotes the day of the full moon. Dr. Skinner thus describes Meinhold's theory: "He points to the close association of new-moon and Sabbath in nearly all the pre-exilic references (  Amos 8:5;  Hosea 2:11;  Isaiah 1:13;  2 Kings 4:23 f); and concludes that in early Israel, as in Babylonia, the Sabbath was the full-moon festival and nothing else. The institution of the weekly Sabbath he traces to a desire to compensate for the loss of the old lunar festivals, when these were abrogated by the Deuteronomic reformation. This innovation he attributes to Ezekiel; but steps toward it are found in the introduction of a weekly day of rest during harvest only (on the ground of   Deuteronomy 16:8 f; compare   Exodus 34:21 ), and in the establishment of the sabbatical year (Lev 25), which he considers to be older than the weekly Sabbath" ( ICC on Gen, p. 39). Dr. Skinner well says that Meinhold's theory involves great improbabilities. It is not certain that the Babylonians applied the term sabattu to the 15th day of the month because it was the day of the full moon; and it is by no means certain that the early prophets in Israel identified Sabbath with the festival of the full moon.

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. History of the Sabbath After Moses.

1. In the Old Testament:

The early prophets and historians occasionally make mention of the Sabbath. It is sometimes named in connection with the festival of the new moon ( 2 Kings 4:23;  Amos 8:5;  Hosea 2:11;  Isaiah 1:13;  Ezekiel 46:3 ). The prophets found fault with the worship on the Sabbath, because it was not spiritual nor prompted by love and gratitude. The Sabbath is exalted by the great prophets who faced the crisis of the Babylonian exile as one of the most valuable institutions in Israel's life. Great promises are attached to faithful observance of the holy day, and confession is made of Israel's unfaithfulness in profaning the Sabbath ( Jeremiah 17:21-27;  Isaiah 56:2 ,  Isaiah 56:4;  Isaiah 58:13;  Ezekiel 20:12-24 ). In the Persian period Nehemiah struggled earnestly to make the people of Jerusalem observe the law of the Sabbath ( Nehemiah 10:31;  Nehemiah 13:15-22 ).

2. In the Inter-Testamental Period:

With the development of the synagogue the Sabbath became a day of worship and of study of the Law, as well as a day of cessation from all secular employment. That the pious in Israel carefully observed the Sabbath is clear from the conduct of the Maccabees and their followers, who at first declined to resist the onslaught made by their enemies on the Sabbath ( 1 Maccabees 2:29-38 ); but necessity drove the faithful to defend themselves against hostile attack on the Sabbath ( 1 Maccabees 2:39-41 ). It was during the period between Ezra and the Christian era that the spirit of Jewish legalism flourished. Innumerable restrictions and rules were formulated for the conduct of life under the Law. Great principles were lost to sight in the mass of petty details. Two entire treatises of the Mishna, Shabbāth and ‛Ērūbhı̄n , are devoted to the details of Sabbath observance. The subject is touched upon in other parts of the Mishna; and in the Gemara there are extended discussions, with citations of the often divergent opinions of the rabbis. In the Mishna ( Shahbāth , vii. 2) there are 39 classes of prohibited actions with regard to the Sabbath, and there is much hair-splitting in working out the details. The beginnings of this elaborate definition of actions permitted and actions forbidden are to be found in the centuries immediately preceding the Christian era. The movement was at flood tide during our Lord's earthly ministry and continued for centuries afterward, in spite of His frequent and vigorous protests.

3. Jesus and the Sabbath:

Apart from His claim to be the Messiah, there is no subject on which our Lord came into such sharp conflict with the religious leaders of the Jews as in the matter of Sabbath observance. He set Himself squarely against the current rabbinic restrictions as contrary to the spirit of the original law of the Sabbath. The rabbis seemed to think that the Sabbath was an end in itself, an institution to which the pious Israelite must subject all his personal interests; in other words, that man was made for the Sabbath: man might suffer hardship, but the institution must be preserved inviolate. Jesus, on the contrary, taught that the Sabbath was made for man's benefit. If there should arise a conflict between man's needs and the letter of the Law, man's higher interests and needs must take precedence over the law of the Sabbath ( Matthew 12:1-14; Mk 2:23 through 3:6;  Luke 6:1-11; also Jn 5:1-18;  Luke 13:10-17;  Luke 14:1-6 ). There is no reason to think that Jesus meant to discredit the Sabbath as an institution. It was His custom to attend worship in the synagogue on the Sabbath ( Luke 4:16 ). The humane element in the rest day at the end of every week must have appealed to His sympathetic nature. It was the one precept of the Decalogue that was predominantly ceremonial, though it had distinct sociological and moral value. As an institution for the benefit of toiling men and animals, Jesus held the Sabbath in high regard. As the Messiah, He was not subject to its restrictions; He could at any moment assert His lordship over the Sabbath ( Mark 2:28 ). The institution was not on a par with the great moral precepts, which are unchangeable. It is worthy of note that, while Jesus pushed the moral precepts of the Decalogue into the inner realm of thought and desire, thus making the requirement more difficult and the law more exacting, He fought for a more liberal and lenient interpretation of the law of the Sabbath. Rigorous sabbatarians must look elsewhere for a champion of their views.

4. Paul and the Sabbath:

The early Christians kept the 7th day as a Sabbath, much after the fashion of other Jews. Gradually the 1st day of the week came to be recognized as the day on which the followers of Jesus would meet for worship. The resurrection of our Lord on that day made it for Christians the most joyous day of all the week. When Gentiles were admitted into the church, the question at once arose whether they should be required to keep the Law of Moses. It is the glory of Paul that he fought for and won freedom for his Gentile fellow-Christians. It is significant of the attitude of the apostles that the decrees of the Council at Jerusalem made no mention of Sabbath observance in the requirements laid upon Gentile Christians ( Acts 15:28 f). Paul boldly contended that believers in Jesus, whether Jew or Gentile, were set free from the burdens of the Mosaic Law. Even circumcision counted for nothing, now that men were saved by believing in Jesus (  Galatians 5:6 ). Christian liberty as proclaimed by Paul included all days and seasons. A man could observe special days or not, just as his own judgment and conscience might dictate ( Romans 14:5 f); but in all such matters one ought to be careful not to put a stumblingblock in a brother's way (  Romans 14:13 ff). That Paul contended for personal freedom in respect of the Sabbath is made quite clear in   Colossians 2:16 f, where he groups together dietary laws, feast days, new moons and sabbaths. The early Christians brought over into their mode of observing the Lord's Day the best elements of the Jewish Sabbath, without its onerous restrictions.) See further Lord 'S Day; Ethics Of Jesus , I., 3., (1).

Literature.

J. A. Hessey, Sunday, Its Origin, History, and Present Obligation (Bampton Lectures for 1860); Zahn, Geschichte des Sonntags , 1878; Davis, Genesis and Semitic Tradition , 1894,23-35; Jastrow, "The Original Character of the Heb Sabbath," Ajt , II, 1898,312-52; Toy, "The Earliest Form of the Sabbath," Jbl , Xviii . 1899,190-94; W. Lotz, Questionum de historia Sabbati libri duo , 1883; Nowack, Hebr. Arch ., II, 1894,140 ff; Driver, Hdb , IV, 1902,317-23; Icc , on "Gen," 1911,35-39; Dillmann, Ex u. Lev3 , 1897,212-16; Edersheim, Life and Times of Jesus the Messiah , II, 1883,51-62,777-87; Broadus, Commentary on Mt , 256-61; Eb , IV, 1903,4173-80; Gunkel, Gen3 , 1910,114-16; Meinhold, Sabbat u. Woche im Altes Testament , 1905; Beer, Schabbath , 1908.

III. Seventh-Day Adventist Position

The views entertained by Seventh-Day Adventists concerning the nature and obligation of the Sabbath may conveniently be presented under three general divisions: (1) what the Bible says concerning the Sabbath; (2) what history says concerning the Sabbath; (3) the significance of the Sabbath.

1. What the Bible Says Concerning the Sabbath:

(1) Old Testament Teaching.

In their views concerning the institution and primal obligation of the Sabbath, Seventh-Day Adventists are in harmony with the views held by the early representatives of nearly all the evangelical denominations. The Sabbath is coeval with the finishing of creation, and the main facts connected with establishing it are recorded in  Genesis 2:2 ,  Genesis 2:3 . The blessing here placed upon the seventh day distinguishes it from the other days of the week, and the day thus blessed was "sanctified" (King James Version, Revised Version "hallowed") and set apart for man.

That the Sabbath thus instituted was well known throughout the Patriarchal age is clearly established both by direct evidence and by necessary inference.

"If we had no other passage than this of  Genesis 2:3 , there would be no difficulty in deducing from it a precept for the universal observance of a Sabbath, or seventh day, to be devoted to God as holy time by all of that race for whom the earth and all things therein were specially prepared. The first men must have known it. The words, 'He hallowed it,' can have no meaning otherwise. They would be a blank unless in reference to some who were required to keep it holy" (Lange's Commentary on   Genesis 2:3 , I, 197).

"And the day arrived when Moses went to Goshen to see his brethren, that he saw the children of Israel in their burdens and hard labor, and Moses was grieved on their account. And Moses returned to Egypt and came to the house of Pharaoh, and came before the king, and Moses bowed down before the king. And Moses said unto Pharaoh, I pray thee, my lord, I have come to seek a small request from thee, turn not away my face empty; and Pharaoh said unto him, Speak. And Moses said unto Pharaoh, Let there be given unto thy servants the children of Israel who are in Goshen, one day to rest therein from their labor. And the king answered Moses and said, Behold I have lifted up thy face in this thing to grant thy request. And Pharaoh ordered a proclamation to be issued throughout Egypt and Goshen, saying, To you, all the children of Israel, thus says the king, for six days you shall do your work and labor, but on the seventh day you shall rest, and shall not perform any work; thus shall you do in all the days, as the king and Moses the son of Bathia have commanded. And Moses rejoiced at this thing which the king had granted to him, and all the children of Israel did as Moses ordered them. For this thing was from the Lord to the children of Israel, for the Lord had begun to remember the children of Israel to save them for the sake of their fathers. And the Lord was with Moses, and his fame went throughout Egypt. And Moses became great in the eyes of all the Egyptians, and in the eyes of all the children of Israel, seeking good for his people Israel, and speaking words of peace regarding them to the king" ( Book of Jashar 70 41-51, published by Noah and Gould, New York, 1840).

"Hence, you can see that the Sabbath was before the Law of Moses came, and has existed from the beginning of the world. Especially have the devout, who have preserved the true faith, met together and called upon God on this day" (Luther's Works, Xxxv , p. 330).

"Why should God begin two thousand years after (the creation of the world) to give men a Sabbath upon the reason of His rest from the creation of it, if He had never called man to that commemoration before? And it is certain that the Sabbath was observed at the falling of the manna before the giving of the Law; and let any considering Christian judge...(1) whether the not falling of manna, or the rest of God after the creation, was like to be the original reason of the Sabbath; (2) and whether, if it had been the first, it would not have been said, Remember to keep holy the Sabbath day; for on six days the manna fell, and not on the seventh; rather than for in six days God created heaven and earth, etc., and rested the seventh day.' And it is casually added, 'Wherefore the Lord blessed the Sabbath day, and hallowed it.' Nay, consider whether this annexed reason intimates not that the day on this ground being hallowed before, therefore it was that God sent not down the manna on that day, and that He prhibited the people from seeking it" (Richard Baxter, Practical Works , III, 774, edition 1707).

That the Sabbath was known to those who came out of Egypt, even before the giving of the Law at Sinai, is shown from the experience with the manna, as recorded in  Exodus 16:22-30 . The double portion on the sixth day, and its preservation, was the constantly recurring miracle which reminded the people of their obligation to observe the Sabbath, and that the Sabbath was a definite day, the seventh day. To the people, first wondering at this remarkable occurrence, Moses said, "This is that which the Lord hath said, To morrow is the rest of the holy sabbath unto the Lord" ( Exodus 16:23 , King James Version). And to some who went out to gather manna on the seventh day, the Lord administered this rebuke: "How long refuse ye to keep my commandments and my laws?" ( Exodus 16:28 ). All this shows that the Sabbath law was well understood, and that the failure to observe it rendered the people justly subject to Divine reproof.

At Sinai, the Sabbath which was instituted at creation, and had been observed during the intervening centuries, was embodied in that formal statement of man's duties usually designated as the "Ten Commandments." It is treated as an institution already well known and the command is, "Remember the sabbath day, to keep it holy" ( Exodus 20:8 ). In the 4th commandment the basis of the Sabbath is revealed. It is a memorial of the Creator's rest at the close of those six days in which He made "heaven and earth, the sea, and all that in them is." For this reason "Yahweh blessed the sabbath day, and hallowed it." This blessing was not placed upon the day at Sinai, but in the beginning, when "God blessed the seventh day, and hallowed it" ( Genesis 2:3 ).

From the very nature of the basis of the Sabbath, as set forth in this commandment, both the institution itself and the definite day of the Sabbath are of a permanent nature. So long as it is true that God created heaven and earth, and all things therein, so long will the Sabbath remain as a memorial of that work; and so long as it is true that this creative work was completed in six days, and that God Himself rested on the seventh day, and was refreshed in the enjoyment of His completed work, so long will it be true that the memorial of that work can properly be celebrated only upon the seventh day of the week.

During all the period from the deliverance out of Egypt to the captivity in Babylon, the people of God were distinguished from the nations about them by the worship of the only true God, and the observance of His holy day. The proper observance of the true Sabbath would preserve them from idolatry, being a constant reminder of the one God, the Creator of all things. Even when Jerusalem was suffering from the attacks of the Babylonians, God assured His people, through the prophet Jeremiah, that if they would hallow the Sabbath day, great should be their prosperity, and the city should remain forever ( Jeremiah 17:18 ). This shows that the spiritual observance of the Sabbath was the supreme test of their right relation to God. In those prophecies of Isaiah, which deal primarily with the restoration from Babylon, remarkable promises were made to those who would observe the Sabbath, as recorded in  Isaiah 56:1-7 .

(2) New Testament Teaching.

From the record found in the four Gospels, it is plain that the Jews during all the previous centuries had preserved a knowledge both of the Sabbath institution and of the definite day. It is equally plain that they had made the Sabbath burdensome by their own rigorous exactions concerning it. And Christ, the Lord of the Sabbath, both by example and by precept, brushed aside these traditions of men that He might reveal the Sabbath of the commandment as God gave it - a blessing and not a burden. A careful reading of the testimony of the evangelists will show that Christ taught the observance of the commandments of God, rather than the traditions of men, and that the charge of Sabbath-breaking was brought against Him for no other reason than that He refused to allow the requirements of man to change the Sabbath, blessed of God, into a merely human institution, grievous in its nature, and enforced upon the people with many and troublesome restrictions.

All are agreed that Christ and His disciples observed the seventh-day Sabbath previous to the crucifixion. That His followers had received no intimation of any proposed change at His death, is evident from the recorded fact that on the day when He was in the tomb they rested, "on the sabbath ... according to the commandment" ( Luke 23:56 ); and that they treated the following day, the first day of the week, the same as of old, is further evident, as upon that day they came unto the sepulcher for the purpose of anointing the body of Jesus. In the Book of Acts, which gives a brief history of the work of the disciples in proclaiming the gospel of a risen Saviour, no other Sabbath is recognized than the seventh day, and this is mentioned in the most natural way as the proper designation of a well-known institution ( Acts 13:14 ,  Acts 13:27 ,  Acts 13:42;  Acts 16:13;  Acts 18:4 ).

In our Lord's great prophecy, in which He foretold the experience of the church between the first and the second advent, He recognized the seventh-day Sabbath as an existing institution at the time of the destruction of Jerusalem (70 AD), when He instructed His disciples, "Pray ye that your flight be not in the winter, neither on a sabbath" ( Matthew 24:20 ). Such instruction given in these words, and at that time, would have been confusing in the extreme, had there been any such thing contemplated as the overthrow of the Sabbath law at the crucifixion, and the substitution of another day upon an entirely different basis.

That the original Sabbath is to be observed, not only during the present order of things, but also after the restoration when, according to the vision of the revelator, a new heaven and a new earth will take the place of the heaven and the earth that now are, is clearly intimated in the words of the Lord through the prophet Isaiah: "For as the new heavens and the new earth, which I will make, shall remain before me, saith Yahweh, so shall your seed and your name remain. And it shall come to pass, that from one new moon to another, and from one sabbath to another, shall all flesh come to worship before me, saith Yahweh" ( Isaiah 66:22 ,  Isaiah 66:23 ).

Seventh-Day Adventists regard the effort to establish the observance of another day than the seventh by using such texts as  John 20:19 ,  John 20:26;  Acts 20:7;  1 Corinthians 16:1 ,  1 Corinthians 16:2;  Revelation 1:10 as being merely an afterthought, an effort to find warrant for an observance established upon other than Biblical authority. During the last two or three centuries there has been a movement for the restoration of the original seventh-day Sabbath, not as a Jewish, but as a Christian, institution. This work, commenced and carried forward by the Seventh-Day Baptists, has been taken up and pushed with renewed vigor by the Seventh-Day Adventists during the present generation, and the Bible teaching concerning the true Sabbath is now being presented in nearly every country, both civilized and uncivilized, on the face of the earth.

2. What History Says About the Sabbath:

(1) Josephus.

This summary of history must necessarily be brief, and it will be impossible, for lack of space, to quote authorities. From the testimony of Josephus it is clear that the Jews, as a nation, continued to observe the seventh-day Sabbath until their overthrow, when Jerusalem was captured by Titus, 70 AD. As colonies, and individuals, scattered over the face of the earth, the Jews have preserved a knowledge of the original Sabbath, and the definite day, until the present time. They constitute a living testimony for the benefit of all who desire to know the truth of this matter.

(2) Church History.

According to church history, the seventh-day Sabbath was observed by the early church, and no other day was observed as a Sabbath during the first two or three centuries (see Hdb , IV, 322 b).

In the oft-repeated letter of Pliny, the Roman governor of Bithynia, to the emperor Trajan, written about 112 AD, there occurs the expression, "a certain stated day," which is usually assumed to mean Sunday. With reference to this matter W.B. Taylor, in Historical Commentaries , chapter i, section 47, makes the following statement: "As the Sabbath day appears to have been quite as commonly observed at this date as the sun's day (if not even more so), it is just as probable that this 'stated day' referred to by Pliny was the 7th day as that it was the 1st day; though the latter is generally taken for granted." "Sunday was distinguished as a day of joy by the circumstances that men did not fast upon it, and that they prayed standing up and not kneeling, as Christ had now been raised from the dead. The festival of Sunday, like all other festivals, was always only a human ordinance, and it was far from the intentions of the apostles to establish a divine command in this respect, far from them, and from the early apostolic church, to transfer the laws of the Sabbath to Sunday. Perhaps at the end of the 2nd century, a false application of this kind had begun to take place; for men appear by that time to have considered laboring on Sunday as a sin" (Tertullian De Orat ., c. 23). This quotation is taken from Rose's Neander , London, 1831, I, 33 f, and is the correct translation from Neander's first German edition, Hamburg, 1826, I, pt. 2, p. 339. Neander has in his 2nd edition, 1842, omitted the second sentence, in which he expressly stated that Sunday was only a human ordinance, but he has added nothing to the contrary. "The Christians in the ancient church very soon distinguished the first day of the week, Sunday; however, not as a Sabbath, but as an assembly day of the church, to study the Word of God together and to celebrate the ordinances one with another: without a shadow of doubt this took place as early as the first part of the 2nd century" ( Geschichte des Sonntags , 60).

Gradually, however, the first day of the week came into prominence as an added day, but finally by civil and ecclesiastical authority as a required observance. The first legislation on this subject was the famous law of Constantine, enacted 321 AD. The acts of various councils during the 4th and 5th centuries established the observance of the first day of the week by ecclesiastical authority, and in the great apostasy which followed, the rival day obtained the ascendancy. During the centuries which followed, however, there were always witnesses for the true Sabbath, although under great persecution. And thus in various lands, the knowledge of the true Sabbath has been preserved.

3. The Significance of the Sabbath:

In the creation of the heavens and the earth the foundation of the gospel was laid. At the close of His created work, "God saw everything that he had made, and, behold, it was very good" ( Genesis 1:31 ). The Sabbath was both the sign and the memorial of that creative power which is able to make all things good. But man, made in the image of God, lost that image through sin. In the gospel, provision is made for the restoration of the image of God in the soul of man. The Creator is the Redeemer and redemption is the new creation. Since the Sabbath was the sign of that creative power which worked in Christ, the Word, in the making of the heaven and the earth and all things therein, so it is the sign of that same creative power working through the same eternal Word for the restoration of all things. "Wherefore if any man is in Christ, there is a new creation: the old things are passed away; behold, they are become new" ( 2 Corinthians 5:17 margin). "For neither is circumcision anything, nor uncircumcision, but a new creation" (  Galatians 6:15 margin). "For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God afore prepared that we should walk in them" (  Ephesians 2:10 ).

A concrete illustration of this gospel meaning of the Sabbath is found in the deliverance of Israel from Egypt. The same creative power which wrought in the beginning was exercised in the signs and miracles which preceded their deliverance, and in those miracles, such as the opening of the Red Sea, the giving of the manna, and the water from the rock, which attended the journeyings of the Israelites. In consequence of these manifestations of creative power in their behalf, the children of Israel were instructed to remember in their observance of the Sabbath that they were bondsmen in the land of Egypt. Israel's deliverance from Egypt is the type of every man's deliverance from sin; and the instruction to Israel concerning the Sabbath shows its true significance in the gospel of salvation from sin, and the new creation in the image of God.

Furthermore, the seventh-day Sabbath is the sign of both the divinity and the deity of Christ. God only can create. He through whom this work is wrought must be one with God. To this the Scriptures testify: "In the beginning was the Word,... and the Word was God.... All things were made through him; and without him was not anything made that hath been made." But this same Word which was with God, and was God, "became flesh, and dwelt among us" ( John 1:1 ,  John 1:3 ,  John 1:14 ). This is the eternal Son, "in whom we have our redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of our trespasses, according to the riches of his grace" ( Ephesians 1:7 ). To the Christian the Sabbath, which was the sign and memorial of that divine power which wrought through the eternal Word in the creation of the heaven and the earth, becomes the sign of the same power working through the same eternal Son to accomplish the new creation, and is thus the sign of both the divinity and the deity of Christ.

Inasmuch as the redemptive work finds its chiefest expression in the cross of Christ, the Sabbath, which is the sign of that redemptive work, becomes the sign of the cross.

Seventh-Day Adventists teach and practice the observance of the Sabbath, not because they believe in salvation through man's effort to keep the law of God, but because they believe in that salvation which alone can be accomplished by the creative power of God working through the eternal Son to create believers anew in Christ Jesus.

Seventh-Day Adventists believe, and teach, that the observance of any other day than the seventh as the Sabbath is the sign of that predicted apostasy in which the man of sin would be revealed who would exalt himself above all that is called God, or that is worshipped.

Seventh-Day Adventists believe, and teach, that the observance of the true Sabbath in this generation is a part of that gospel work which is to make ready a people prepared for the Lord.

Kitto's Popular Cyclopedia of Biblial Literature [20]

The original word signifies simply rest, cessation from labor or employment.

The term, however, became appropriated in a specific religious sense, to signify the dedication of a precise portion of time to cessation from worldly labor, and a peculiar consecration by virtue of which a sanctity was ascribed to the portion of time so set apart.

Was there any Sabbath before the Law? This is a question of great importance; for Paley distinctly admits that, 'if the divine command was actually delivered at the creation, it was addressed, no doubt, to the whole human species alike, and continues, unless repealed by some subsequent revelation, binding upon all who come to the knowledge of it.' The mention made of the Sabbath in , would seem to decide this question in the affirmative. The meaning of the passage admits of no dispute. To sanctify the seventh day clearly means, to set it apart for a sacred use. An attempt has been made to evade the force of this passage by assuming it to be an anticipation of an event which took place upwards of 2000 years afterwards. That God did not then bless and sanctify the Sabbath, but that when He did so, it was for the reason mentioned in the text. But this argument proceeds on the assumption that the book of Genesis was not written till after the giving of the law from Sinai. Of this there is not the slightest evidence, and it is in itself exceedingly improbable; besides this interpretation does evident violence to the context.

The division of time into periods of seven days of which mention is made in the account of the deluge, and which is found among all ancient nations, Egyptians, Arabians, Greeks, Romans, and even among the American Indians, furnishes a strong confirmation of the opinion that the Sabbath is coeval with the creation. Besides, there is evidence that the Sabbath was known and observed by the Israelites before the law was delivered on Mount Sinai. This did not occur until the third month after the departure out of Egypt, whereas we are informed that in the second month the people of their own accord gathered a double portion of manna on the sixth day, because the seventh day was the Sabbath . This is corroborated by the language of the fourth commandment, 'Remember the Sabbath day to keep it holy'—a mode of expression which is not used in reference to the Passover or any other festival which Moses had instituted. It is unnecessary to dwell on the fact that its position in the midst of the moral law distinctly points to its perpetual and universal obligation, while the circumstance that it had a peculiar relation to the Israelites did not alter its relation to other nations, or take it out of the class of laws to which it originally belonged.

That the Sabbath was binding under the Mosaic law, all are agreed, but some affirm that it is conclusively proved by that the obligation ceased when the Jewish economy was abolished. 'The truth, however,' saith Bishop Horsley, 'is, that in the apostolical age, the first day of the week, though it was observed with great reverence, was not called the Sabbath-day, but the Lord's day; that the separation of the Christian church from the Jewish communion might be marked by the name as well as by the day of their weekly festival; and the name of the sabbath-days was appropriated to the Saturdays and certain days in the Jewish church which were likewise called Sabbaths in the law, because they were observed with no less sanctity. The sabbath days, therefore, of which St. Paul in this passage speaks, were not the Sundays of the Christians, but the Saturday and other sabbaths of the Jewish calendar. The Judaizing heretics, with whom St. Paul was all his life engaged, were strenuous advocates for the observance of these Jewish festivals in the Christian church; and his (St. Paul's) admonition to the Colossians is, that they should not be disturbed by the censures of those who reproached them for neglecting to observe these sabbaths with Jewish ceremonies.'

The transfer of the day on which the Sabbath is observed from the seventh to the first day of the week, is justified on the ground that the change was made under the authority of the Apostles. Some divines of great authority are of opinion that the day itself was not an essential part of the original enactment, which ordains not necessarily every seventh day, but one day in seven, as holy time. In the primitive ages of man, the creation of the world was the benefaction by which God was principally known, and for which he was chiefly to be worshipped. The Jews, in their religious assemblies, had to commemorate other blessings—the political creation of their nation out of Abraham's family, and their deliverance from Egyptian bondage. Christians have to commemorate, besides the common benefit of the creation, the transcendent blessing of our redemption—our new creation to the hope of everlasting life, of which our Lord's resurrection on the first day of the week was a sure pledge and evidence. Thus in the progress of ages, the Sabbath acquired new ends, by new manifestations of the divine mercy; and these new ends justify corresponding alterations of the original institution. Horsley, and those who agree with him, allege that upon our Lord's resurrection, the Sabbath was transferred in memory of that event, the great foundation of the Christian's hope, from the last to the first, day of the week. 'The alteration seems to have been made by the authority of the Apostles, and to have taken place the very day in which our Lord arose; for on that day the Apostles were assembled; and on that day sevennight they were assembled again. The celebration of these two first Sundays was honored by our Lord's presence. It was, perhaps, to set a mark of distinction upon this day in particular, that the intervening week passed off as it would seem, without any repetition of his first visit to the eleven Apostles. From that time, the Sunday was the constant Sabbath of the primitive church. The Christian, therefore, who devoutly sanctifies one day in seven, although it be on the first day of the week, not the last, as was originally ordained, may rest assured, that he fully satisfies the spirit of the ordinance' (Horsley, i. 334, 335; compare Holden's Christian Sabbath, pp. 286, 287).

In justification of the change, it has also been well remarked, that the same portion of time which constituted the seventh day from the creation could not be simultaneously observed in all parts of the earth, and that it is not therefore probable that the original institution expressed more than one day in seven—a seventh day of rest after six days of toil, from whatever point the enumeration might set out or the weekly cycle begin. If more had been intended, it would have been necessary to establish a rule for the reckoning of days themselves, which has been different in different nations; some reckoning from evening to evening, as the Jews do now; others from midnight to midnight, etc. Even if this point were determined, the difference of time produced by difference of latitude and longitude would again throw the whole into disorder; and it is not probable that a law intended to be universal would be fettered with that circumstantial exactness which would render difficult and sometimes doubtful astronomical calculations necessary in order to its being obeyed according to the intentions of the lawgiver.

The Nuttall Encyclopedia [21]

The seventh day of the week, observed by the Jews as a day of "rest" from all work and "holy to the Lord," as His day, specially in commemoration of His rest from the work of creation, the observance of which by the Christian Church has been transferred to the first of the week in commemoration of Christ's resurrection.

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