), "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 this is 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 front Egyptian bondage. (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 thought. (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
) comp. (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. (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 if the great witness for faith in a personal and creating God. It was to be a sacred pause in the ordinary labor 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
; 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 collected 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
) 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
)... etc. On this day the people were accustomed to consult their prophets, (2Ã‚Â 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." Comp. (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
; John 6:2-18
) 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.
- sab'-ath (shabbath, shabbathon; sabbaton, ta sabbata; the root shabhath 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
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 Gen 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 Ex 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. Ex 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 (Gen 7:4,10; 8:10,12; 29:27 f). The first express mention of the Sabbath is found in Ex 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; 34:1-5,27 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 (Ex 34:21, ascribed to J). In the Levitical legislation there is frequent mention of the Sabbath (Ex 31:13-16; 35:2 f; Lev 19:3,10; 23:3,18). A willful Sabbath-breaker was put to death (Nu 15:32-36). In the Deuteronomic legislation there is equal recognition of the importance and value of the Sabbath (Dt 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, sec. 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 sabattu or sabattum, identical in form and meaning with the Hebrew word sabbathon." Thus wrote Professor C. H. Toy in 1899 (JBL, XVIII, 190). In a syllabary (II R, 32, 16a, b) sabattum is said to be equivalent to um nuh 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 sabattum 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 sabattum 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 sabattum 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 sabattum (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 (Am 8:5; Hos 2:11; Isa 1:13; 2 Ki 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 Dt 16:8 f; compare Ex 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 Ki 4:23; Am 8:5; Hos 2:11; Isa 1:13; Ezek 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 (Jer 17:21-27; Isa 56:2,4; 58:13; Ezek 20:12-24). In the Persian period Nehemiah struggled earnestly to make the people of Jerusalem observe the law of the Sabbath (Neh 10:31; 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 Macc 2:29-38); but necessity drove the faithful to defend themselves against hostile attack on the Sabbath (1 Macc 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, Shabbath and `Erubhin, 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 (Shahbath, 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 (Mt 12:1-14; Mk 2:23 through 3:6; Lk 6:1-11; also Jn 5:1-18; Lk 13:10-17; 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 (Lk 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 (Mk 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 (Gal 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 (Rom 14:5 f); but in all such matters one ought to be careful not to put a stumblingblock in a brother's way (Rom 14:13 ff). That Paul contended for personal freedom in respect of the Sabbath is made quite clear in Col 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).
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.
John Richard Samphey
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 Gen 2:2,3. 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 Gen 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 Gen 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 Ex 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" (Ex 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?" (Ex 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" (Ex 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" (Gen 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 (Jer 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 Isa 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" (Lk 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 13:14,27,42; 16:13; 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" (Mt 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" (Isa 66:22,23).
Seventh-Day Adventists regard the effort to establish the observance of another day than the seventh by using such texts as Jn 20:19,26; Acts 20:7; 1 Cor 16:1,2; Rev 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:
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" (Gen 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 Cor 5:17 margin). "For neither is circumcision anything, nor uncircumcision, but a new creation" (Gal 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" (Eph 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" (Jn 1:1,3,14). 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" (Eph 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.
W. W. Prescott