Christian Sabbath: New Testament evidence

In the Old Testament the Sabbath signified rest, liberation, and future Messianic redemption. The New Testament portrays Jesus' claim to bring to fruition these meanings. And it gives evidence of the importance of Sabbathkeeping in the early Christian churches.

Samuele Bacchiocchi, Ph.D., is an associate professor of religion at Andrews University, Berrien Springs, Michigan.

In the first article in this series, Dr. Bacchiocchi said people generally view the New Testament as either abrogating, transferring, or confirming the seventh-day Sabbath. He argued that the New Testament's portrayal of the basic continuity of Christianity with Judaism and its allusions to the Creation origin of the Sabbath argue for its permanence. Editors.

My third reason for believing in the permanence of Sabbathkeeping is the redemptive meaning Christ gave to the Sabbath in His teaching and ministry. The Jewish Sabbatical typologies of Messianic redemption help explain the implications of Christ's Sabbath ministry. I can make only a brief allusion to these in this study; please see my other studies for a more extensive analysis.1

Sabbatical typologies of Messianic redemption

In Old Testament times the Sabbath not only provided personal rest and liberation from the hardship of work and social injustices but also nourished the hope for a future Messianic peace, prosperity, and redemption. Three of the Sabbath themes that epitomized the Messianic Age are the Sabbath rest, the Sabbath liberation, and the Sabbatical structure of time.

The Sabbath rest. Jewish literature often presents the Sabbath rest as a prefiguration of the Messianic Age. The Mishnah, for example, comments on Psalm 92: "A Psalm: a Song for the Sabbath Day ... a song for the time that is to come [i.e., Messianic Age], for the day that shall be all Sabbath and rest in the life everlasting." 2 Similarly Pirke de Rabbi Eliezer speaks of the Messianic Age as being "the seventh aeon [which] is entirely Sabbath and rest in the life everlasting." 3

The Sabbath liberation. By providing release and liberation to every member of the Hebrew society, the weekly and the annual Sabbaths effectively symbolized Messianic redemption. Isaiah 61:1-3, for example, employs the imagery of the Sabbatical release to describe the mission of the Messiah, who would bring jubilary amnesty and release to the oppressed. To explain the purpose of His redemptive mission, Christ quotes this very passage in His inaugural speech (Luke 4:18, 19).

It is noteworthy that the New Testament term for forgiveness (aphesis) is the same term used in the Septuagint to designate the annual Sabbaths, technically referred to as "the release" or "the year of release" (Deut. 15:1, 2, 9; 31:10; Lev. 25:10).* Presumably the vision of the Sabbatical release from social injustices and financial indebtedness came to be viewed as the prefiguration of the future Messianic release from the bond age of sin. 4

The Sabbatical structure of time. The Messianic typology of the Sabbath years apparently inspired the use of the Sabbatical structure of time to measure the waiting time to the Messianic redemption. (Sabbatical structuring of time is called "Sabbatical Messianism" or "chronomessianism. ")5 Daniel 9, the classic example, gives two Sabbatical periods. The first is Jeremiah's prophecy regarding the time until the national restoration of the Jews (Dan. 9:3-19). It consists of seventy years made up of ten Sabbatical years (10 x 7). The second period is the "seventy weeks" (shabuim)technically "seventy Sabbatical cycles"which would lead to Messianic redemption (verses 24-27).

Later Jewish literature, such as the Book of Jubilees (chap. 1:29) and a fragmentary text discovered in 1956 in Qumran Cave 11 (known as 11Q Melchizedek) also contain Sabbatical Messianism. 6 Other examples are present in the rabbinic tradition. For example, the Talmud says: "Elijah said to Rab Judah . . . The world shall exist not less than eighty-five jubilees, and in the last jubilee the son of David will come.'" 7

This brief survey indicates that in Old Testament times the weekly and annual Sabbaths served not only to provide physical rest and social liberation but also to epitomize and nourish the hope of future Messianic redemption. The existence of a Messianic understanding of the Sabbath in the Old Testament helps us to appreciate the way Christ related His own redemptive ministry to the Sabbath. Examples from Luke, Matthew, and John will illustrate this point.

Redemptive meaning in Luke

Luke introduces Christ as a habitual Sabbathkeeper ("as his custom was"chap. 4:16) who delivered His inaugural address on a Sabbath day. He read and commented upon a passage drawn mostly from Isaiah 61:1-3 (also chap. 58:6), which says: " 'The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he has anointed me to preach good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim release to the captives and recovering of sight to the blind, to set at liberty those who are oppressed, to proclaim the acceptable year of the Lord' " (chap. 4:18).

In this passage Isaiah describes by means of the imagery of the Sabbath years the liberation the Messiah would bring to His people. Jewish Messianic expectations had been nourished by this vision of the Sabbath years. It is noteworthy that Christ used this passage to present Himself to the people as the very fulfillment of those expectations. Jesus clearly indicated the latter by His brief exposition of the Isaianic passage: "Today this scripture has been fulfilled in your hearing" (verse 21).

Later Sabbath healings exemplify how Christ's ministry fulfilled the Messianic liberation typified by the Sabbath. To describe the physical and spiritual liberation He brought to the crippled woman, Christ used three times the verb "to free" (lueinchap. 13:12, 15, 16). The reference to the freeing on the Sabbath of "a daughter of Abraham whom Satan bound for eighteen years" (verse 16) recalls Christ's mission "to proclaim release to the captives."

Acts of healing such as this are not merely acts of love and compassion. They are true "sabbatical acts" that reveal how the Messianic redemption typified by the Sabbath was being fulfilled through Christ's saving ministry. 8 For all the people blessed by Christ's 'Sabbath ministry, the day became the memorial of the healing of their bodies and souls, the celebration of the exodus from the bonds of Satan into the freedom of the Saviour.

Redemptive meaning in Matthew

Matthew alludes to the redemptive meaning of the Sabbath in two pericopes: one about the disciples plucking ears of corn on a Sabbath (chap. 12:1-8), and the other, the healing of the man with the withered hand (verses 9-14). Matthew relates both incidents directly to Jesus' offer of His rest (chap. 11:28- 30). To appreciate the connection between the Saviour's offer of His rest and the Sabbath, it is important to recall that in Old Testament times the Messianic age was expected to be "wholly Sabbath and rest in the life everlasting." 9 In Matthew's Gospel, Christ offers His rest immediately after disclosing His Messianic identity (He is the Son who knows and reveals the Fatherverse 27). By offering what the Messiah was expected to offer, namely, the peace and rest typified by the Sabbath, He substantiates His Messianic claim. 10

Matthew also indicates the connection between Jesus' rest and the Sabbath by placing the former (verses 28-30) in the immediate context of two Sabbath episodes (chap. 12:1-14). As noted by several scholars, 11 the two are connected not only structurally but also temporally (by the phrase "at that time"verse 1). The time referred to is the Sabbath day when Jesus and the disciples went through the field. The fact that, according to Matthew, Christ offered His rest on a Sabbath day suggests that the two are linked together not only temporally but also theologically. The two Sabbath episodes clarify the theological connection, providing what may be called a "halakic" interpretation of how the Messianic rest Jesus offered is related to the Sabbath.

The story about the disciples' plucking grain on the Sabbath (verses 1-8) interprets Jesus' rest as redemption-rest. Christ's appeal to the example of the priests who worked intensively on the Sabbath in the Temple and yet were "guiltless" (verse 5) emphasizes this. The priests were innocent because of the redemptive nature of their Sabbath services. They worked more intensively on the Sabbath (Num. 28:9, 10) in order to extend to the people the redemption offered them by God. Christ says His own Sabbath ministry is justified because it is "something greater than the temple" (Matt. 12:6). In other words, the redemption offered typologically through the priests' ministry in the Temple is now being provided in reality through the saving mission of the Son of man, the Messiah. Therefore, just as the priests were "guiltless" in performing their Sabbath services in the Temple, so were Jesus' disciples in serving the One who is greater than, the Temple.

The story about the healing of the man with the withered hand (verses 9-14) follows immediately. It interprets Christ's rest as Messianic restoration-rest, especially through the example of the Sabbath rescuing of a sheep and the restoring to health of a sick man. As Donald A. Carson rightly observes, the healing of the man with the withered hand "pictures Jesus performing a healing on that day. Is this not part and parcel of Matthew's fulfillment motifs? The rest to which the Sabbath had always pointed was now dawning." 12 A little later we shall consider how this redemptive/Messianic understanding of the Sabbath affected its observance in the apostolic community.

Redemptive meaning In John

John alludes to the relationship between the Sabbath and Christ's work of salvation in two Sabbath miracles: the healing of the paralytic (chap. 5:1-18) and of the blind man (chap. 9:1-41). Because He instructed the healed man to carry his bedding home, Christ was charged with Sabbathbreaking. In refuting this charge, He said, "My Father is working until now, and I myself am working" (chap. 5:17, N.A.S.B.). What is the nature of the Father's "working" to which Jesus appeals to justify His Sabbath ministry? In the Gospel of John, the "workings" and the "works" of God are repeatedly and explicitly identified, not with a continuous divine creation, but with the saving mission of Christ. For example, Jesus says, " 'This is the work of God, that you believe in him whom he has sent' " (chap. 6:29; cf. chaps. 10:37, 38; 4:34; 9:3; 14:11). 13

To appreciate the theological implications of Christ's defense, we need to remember that the Sabbath is linked both to Creation (Gen. 2:2, 3; Ex. 20:11) and to redemption (Deut. 5:15). By interrupting all secular activities the Israelite was remembering the Creator- God; by acting mercifully toward needy fellowbeings he was imitating the Redeemer-God. To defend the legality of the "working" that He and His Father perform on the Sabbath, Christ appeals to the Sabbath's redemptive implications.

Christ is using similar reasoning when He appeals to the example of circumcision to silence the controversy over the healing of the paralytic (John 7:22-24). The Lord argues that the priests legitimately care for one small part of man's body on the Sabbath in order to extend to the newborn child the salvation of the covenant. Therefore, there is no reason to be "angry" with Him for restoring on that day the "whole body" of a man (verse 23).

For Christ the Sabbath is the day to work for the redemption of the whole man. The fact that on the Sabbaths of both healings Christ looked for the healed men and ministered to their spiritual needs (chaps. 5:14; 9:35-38) bears this out. His opponents could not perceive the redemptive nature of Christ's Sabbath ministry because they "judge by appearances" (chap. 7:24). For them the pallet and the clay are more important than the social reunion (chap. 5:10) and the restoration of sight (chap. 9:14) that those objects symbolized. Therefore Christ found it necessary to act against prevailing misconceptions in order to restore the Sabbath to its positive function.

In the Sabbath healing of the blind man recorded in John 9, Christ extended to His followers the invitation to become links of the same redemptive chain. He said, "We must work the works of him who sent me, while it is day; night comes, when no man can work." The "night" apparently refers to the conclusion of the history of salvation, a conclusion that is implied in the adverbial phrase "until now" (chap. 5:17). Such a conclusion of divine and human redemptive activity will usher in the final Sabbath of which the Creation Sabbath was a prototype. To bring about that final Sabbath the Godhead "is working" for our salvation (verse 17), and "we must work" also to extend it to others (chap. 9:4). So in John's Gospel, as in Luke and Matthew, Jesus fulfilled the redemptive promises of the Sabbath by offering on that day physical and spiritual restoration to needy persons.

Redemptive meaning In Hebrews

By linking together two passages, Genesis 2:2 and Psalm 95:7, 11, the author of Hebrews reflects the same redemptive meaning of the Sabbath that we have found in the Gospels. He argues that the divine rest promised at Creation was not exhausted when the Israelites under Joshua found a resting place in Canaan. His evidence is that God again offered His rest "long afterward" through David (Heb. 4:7; cf. Ps. 95:7). The fuller realization of God's promised Sabbath rest has dawned with the coming of Christ (Heb. 4:9). It is by believing in Jesus Christ that God's people can at last experience ("enter"verses 3, 10, 11) the "good news" of God's rest promised on the "seventh day" of Creation (verse 4).

What is the nature of the "Sabbath rest" that is still awaiting God's people? Is the writer thinking of a literal or figurative type of Sabbathkeeping? Verse 10 describes the basic characteristic of Christian Sabbathkeeping, namely, cessation from work: "For whoever enters God's rest also ceases from his labors as God did from his." Historically, the majority of commentators have interpreted the cessation from work in a figurative sense, namely as "abstention from servile work," meaning sinful activities. To them, Christian Sabbathkeeping means not the interruption of the daily work on the seventh day, but the abstention from sinful acts at all times. 14 In supporting their view, they appeal to Hebrews' reference to "dead works" (chaps. 6:1; 9:14).

Such a concept, however, cannot be read back into Hebrews 4:10, where a comparison is made between the divine and the human cessation from "works." It would be absurd to think of God ceasing from "sinful deeds." The point of the analogy is simply that as God ceased on the seventh day from His creation work, so believers are to cease on the same day from their labors. This is a simple statement of the nature of Sabbathkeeping. The term sabbatismos (chap. 4:9) provides further support for this literal understanding of Sabbathkeeping. Extra-Biblical literature consistently uses sabbatismos to denote Sab bath observance. 15

The author's concern, however, could hardly have been to emphasize merely the physical "cessation" aspect of Sabbathkeeping. Such an emphasis would only yield a negative idea of rest and would encourage the very Judaizing tendencies that he endeavors to counter act. So, though the author speaks in verse 10 of the literal "cessation" aspect of Sabbathkeeping, he wants to show to his readers the deeper meaning of Sabbathkeeping. We can see this deeper meaning in the antithesis the author makes between those who failed to enter into the Sabbath rest because of unbelief and those who enter it by faith. ("Unbelief"apeitheas, verses 6, 11, K.J.V. is faithlessness that results in disobedience; "faith"pistei, verses 2, 3 is faithfulness that results in obedience. )

For the author of Hebrews, then, the act of resting on the Sabbath appears to be not merely a ritual (cf. "sacrifice" Matt. 12:7), but a faith response to God. Such a response entails making ourselves available to "hear his voice" rather than hardening our hearts (Heb. 4:7). It means experiencing God's salvation rest by faith, not by works; being saved through faith, not by doing (verses 2,3, 11). On the Sabbath, as John Calvin aptly expresses it, believers are "to cease from their work to allow God to work in them." 16 Presumably, this expanded interpretation was meant to help Christians understand its deeper meaning in the light of the Christ event.

This brief survey has shown that Luke, Matthew, John, and Hebrews agree that Christ's coming fulfilled the Messianic typology of the Sabbath. Through His redemptive mission Christ offers to believers the promised Sabbatical "release" (Luke 4:18) and "rest" (Matt. 11:28). In the light of the cross, then, Sabbathkeeping has two meanings. It provides not only a physical cessation from work but also an opportunity to experience God's creative and redemptive rest. This Sabbath rest also has an eschatological dimension, as indicated by the exhortation to "strive to enter that rest" (Heb. 4:11). Its fullest realization awaits that final Sabbath when, as eloquently expressed by Augustine, "we shall rest and see, see and love, love and praise." 17


My fourth reason for believing in the permanence of the Sabbath is that the New Testament records the fact and manner of its observance.

The fact of Sabbathkeeping

The New Testament provides both implicit and explicit indications of Sabbathkeeping in the Christian communities. Implicitly, it is suggested by the unusual coverage given by the evangelists to the Sabbath ministry of Jesus. It is generally recognized today that the Gospels were composed not as mere biographies of Christ's life but as theological handbooks to help promote the Christian faith. The prevailing concerns of their time determined which of Jesus' words and deeds the evangelists chose to write about.

The evangelists report no less than seven Sabbath healing episodes and ensuing controversies. This indicates the great importance attached to Sabbathkeeping in their respective communities at the time they wrote their Gospels. They gave ample coverage to Jesus' example and teaching regarding the Sabbath because those young Christian communities needed the norm He established for determining its new meaning and manner of observance.

We can find several explicit indications of Sabbathkeeping in the Gospels. Matthew, for example, explains that the "disciples were hungry" (chap 12:1) when they plucked ears of corn on the Sabbath. The evangelist was concerned to explain that the disciples did not carelessly break the Sabbath. This suggests that "in Matthew's congregation the Sabbath was still kept, but not in the same strict sense as in the Rabbinate." 18

Another indication of Sabbathkeeping found in Matthew is Christ's unique warning regarding the destruction of Jerusalem. He said, "Pray that your flight may not be in winter or on a sabbath" (chap. 24:20). Jesus mentions the Sabbath here not polemically but incidentally, as a factor unfavorable to a flight of Christians from Jerusalem. This implies that Christ did not foresee another day of worship replacing it. And it suggests, as stated by A.W. Argyle, that "the Sabbath was still observed by Jewish Christians when Matthew wrote." 19

Luke also provides explicit indications of Sabbathkeeping. He describes how the women, after seeing their Lord laid in the tomb, hastened home to prepare "spices and ointments" because "the sabbath was beginning" (chap. 23:54, 56). These women were devoted to their Master. In spite of their devotion they felt they could not embalm His body because this would have meant violating the Sabbath. So "on the Sabbath they rested according to the commandment" (verse 56), waiting for the dawn of the first day of the week to continue their work. Luke's report of the women's careful observance of the Sabbath indicates the high regard in which it was held at the time of his writing.

In the book of Acts, Luke refers repeatedly to Paul's custom of teaching in the synagogue on the Sabbath (chaps. 13:14; 16:13, 14; 17:2; 18:4). The fact that before his conversion Paul went searching for Christians at the synagogues of Damascus implies that at least some Christians were still attending Sabbath services at the synagogue. This practice apparently continued approximately to the end of the first century. At that time rabbinical authorities introduced in their daily prayers the so-called "curse of the Christians" to detect them and bar them from the synagogue. 20 Indications such as these make it abundantly clear that New Testament believers continued in the practice of Sabbathkeeping.

The manner of Sabbathkeeping

How did New Testament believers observe the Sabbath? As recorded in Acts, apparently at first most Christians attended Sabbath services at the Jewish synagogue (chaps. 13:14, 42-44; 17:2; 18:4). Gradually, however, Christians established their own places of worship. This process had probably already begun at the time of Matthew's writing, because he speaks of Christ entering "their synagogue" (chap. 12:9). The pronoun "their" suggests that by the time the Gospel was written the Matthean community no longer shared in the Sabbath services in the Jewish synagogue. Presumably by then they had developed their own places of worship.

The distinction in Sabbathkeeping between the Christian and the Jewish community soon became not only topological but also theological. The various Sabbath pericopes reported in the Gospels reflect an ongoing controversy between the Christian congregation and the Jewish synagogue. The controversy centered primarily on the manner of Sabbathkeeping. Was the day to be observed primarily as "sacrifice," that is, as an outward fulfillment of the Sabbath law? Or was the Sabbath to be observed as "mercy," that is, as an occasion to show compassion and do good to those in need (verse 7)?

Christians understood the Sabbath as a day to celebrate Messianic redemption by showing mercy and doing good to those in need. To defend this understanding, the evangelists appeal to the example and teaching of Jesus. For example, in the healing of the crippled woman, Luke contrasts two different concepts of Sabbathkeeping: that of the ruler of the synagogue versus that of Christ. For the ruler, the Sabbath was rules to obey rather than people to love (chap. 13:14). For Christ, the Sabbath was the day to bring physical and spiritual liberation to needy people (verses 12, 16).

The episode of the healing of the man with the withered hand also expresses this humanitarian understanding of the Sabbath (Mark 3:1-6; Matt. 12:9-14; Luke 6:6-11). A deputation of scribes and Pharisees pose the testing question regarding the legitimacy of healing on the Sabbath. Jesus responds by asking a question of principle: "Is it lawful on the sabbath to do good or to do harm, to save life or to kill?" (Mark 3:4; cf. Luke 6:9).

In Mark and Luke, Christ's answer substitutes the verbs "to do good" (agathopoien) and "to save" (sozdn) for the verb "to heal" (therapeuein) used in the question. Christ's concern to include not one but all kinds of benevolent activities within the intention of the Sabbath law lies behind this change. To illustrate this principle, according to Matthew, Christ added the concrete example of rescuing a sheep fallen into a pit on a Sabbath day (chap. 12:11, 12). This broad interpretation of the Sabbath as a day to do good and to save represents a radical departure from the contemporary Jewish practice of Sabbathkeeping.

Willy Rordorf views this new Christian view as "the beginning of the moralistic misunderstanding of Jesus' attitude towards the Sabbath." 21 Such a charge is unfair. Even if the evangelists' accounts could be discredited, their interpretation still represents the pre vailing understanding of the Sabbath at their time. Moreover, the early Epistle to Diognetus (dated A.D. 130-200) also attests this new humanitarian understanding of the Sabbath. It charges the Jews with speaking "falsely of God" because they claim that "He [God] forbade us to do what is good on the Sabbath dayshow is not this impious?" 22

As we have seen, the Gospels bring out Christ's fulfillment of the Sabbath's redemptive typology in several ways. This typology forms the foundation of the new humanitarian understanding of Sabbathkeeping. New Testament believers viewed Christ's redemptive mission as fulfilling the rest and redemption typified by the Old Testament Sabbath. They regarded the Sabbath, then, as a day to celebrate and experience the Messianic redemption-rest by showing mercy and doing good to those in need. What does this mean to Christians today? By means of the Sabbath, and on it, Christ invites us to celebrate His creative and redemptive accomplishments by acting redemptively toward others.

Our first two articles have presented four of the reasons I believe in the permanence of Sabbathkeeping in the New Testament. We have found that the ongoing relevance of the Sabbath is implied in the New Testament by its marked continuity with the Old Testament revelation, by specific allusions to the Creation origin of the Sabbath, by the redemptive meaning expressed through Christ's Sabbath ministry, and by implicit and explicit indications of the fact and the manner of its observance. We conclude then that in the New Testament the Sabbath is not nullified but clarified by Christ's teaching and saving ministry.

In the next two articles Dr. Bacchiocchi examines Paul's attitude toward the Sabbath. The next article looks specifically at Paul and the law.Editors.

1 S. Bacchiocchi, "Sabbatical Typologies of
Messianic Redemption," paper presented at the
annual meeting of the Society of Biblical Literature,
San Francisco, Dec. 20, 1981; Divine
Rest for Human Restlessness (1980), pp. 134, 145.

2 Mishnah, Tamid 7:4, quoted from Herbert
Danby, ed., The Mishnah (1933), p. 589. (Italics

3 Pirke de Rabbi Eliezer, trans. by Gerald
Friedlander(1971),p. 141.

4 For a most informative study on the connection
between the New Testament concept of
"forgiveness" and the Old Testament liberation of
the Sabbath years, see Robert B. Sloan, The
favorable Year of the Lord: A Study of Jubilary
Theology in the Gospel of Luke (1977).

5 The terms "Sabbatical Messianism" and
"chronomessianism" are used by Ben Zion
Wacholder in his informative article, "Chrono
messianism: The Timing of Messianic Movements
and the Calendar of Sabbatical Cycles," Hebrew
Union College Annual 46 (1975): 201ff.

6 For an edition and analysis of 11Q Mekhizedek,
see Joseph A. Fitzmyer, "Further Light on
Melchizedek From Qumran Cave 11," Journal of
Bibiicof Literature 86(1967):25-41;M. de jonge and
A.S. van der Woude, "11Q Melchizedek and the
New Testament," New Testament Studies 12

7 Sanhedrin 97b. For other examples see note

8 Paul K. Jewett perspicaciously remarks: "We
have, in Jesus' healings on the Sabbath, not only
acts of love, compassion and mercy, but true
'sabbatical acts,' acts which show that the Mes
sianic Sabbath, the fulfillment of the Sabbath rest
of the Old Testament, has broken into our world.
Therefore the Sabbath, of all days, is the most
appropriate for healing." The Lord's Day (1971),
P. 42.

9 Friedlander, ioc. cit.

10 For ray extensive analysis of the literary
context and of the Sabbatical nature of Christ's
rest, see "Matthew 11:28-30: Jesus' Rest and the
Sabbath," Andrews University Seminary Studies 22
(Autumn, 1984):289-316.

11 See, for example, J. Danielou, Bible and
Liturgy (1956), p. 226; David Hill, The Gospel of
Matthew (1972), pp. 209, 210; D.A. Carson,
"Jesus and the Sabbath in the Four Gospels," in
From Sabbath to the Lord's Day (1982), p. 66.

12 Carson, op. cit., p. 75.

13 For my treatment of this pericope, see From
Sabbath to Sunday (1977), pp. 38-48, also "John
5:17: Negation or Clarification of the Sabbath?"
Andrews University Seminary Studies 19 (Spring,

14 For a discussion and examples of the spiritual
interpretation of the cessation from work, see
Willy Rordorf, Sunday, the History of the Day of Rest
and Worship in the Earliest Centuries of the Christian
Church (1968), pp. 100-108; Franz X. Pettirsch,
"A Theology of Sunday Rest," Theology Digest 6

15 Plutarch, De Superstitione 3 (Moralia 166A);
Justin Martyr, Dialogue With Trypho 23. 3; Epiphanius,
Adversus Haereses 30. 2. 2; Apostolic
Constitutions 2. 36. 7. A.T. Lincoln admits that
"in each of these places the term denotes the
observance or celebration of the Sabbath. This
usage corresponds to the Septuagint usage of the
cognate verb sabbatizo (cf. Ex. 16:30; Lev. 23:32;
26:34ff.;2Chron. 36:21), which also has reference
to Sabbath observance. Thus the writer to the
Hebrews is saying that since the time of Joshua an
observance of Sabbath rest has been outstand
ing." "Sabbath Rest, and Eschatology in the
NewTestament," in From Sabbath to the Lord's Day
(1982), p. 213.

16 John Calvin, Institutes of the Christian Religion
(1972), Vol. II, p. 339. Karl Barth keenly observes
that by resting on the Sabbath after the similitude
of God (Heb. 4:10), the believer "participates
conciously in the salvation provided by him
[God]." Church Dogmatics (ET, 1958), Vol. Ill,
part 2, p. 50.

17 Augustine, City of God, Vol. XXII, p. 30.

18 Gerhard Barth, Tradition and Interpretation in
Matthew (1963), p. 81; cf. also pp. 79, 83, 163,

19 A.W. Argyle, The Gospel According to Matthew
(1963), p. 183. Similarly E. Lohse remarks,
"Matthew 24:20 offers an example of the keeping
of the Sabbath by Jewish Christians." G. Kittel,
ed., Theological Dictionary of the New Testament
(1968), Vol. VII, p. 29.

20 My discussion of the malediction of the
Christians is found in From Sabbath to Sunday, pp.

21 Willy Rordorf, op. cit., p. 68. My response to
Rordorf's arguments is found in From Sabbath to
Sunday, pp. 31-34.

22 Epistle to Diognetus 4. 3, The Ante-Nicene
Fathers (1973 reprint), Vol. I, p. 26.

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Samuele Bacchiocchi, Ph.D., is an associate professor of religion at Andrews University, Berrien Springs, Michigan.

July 1985

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