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Archives / 2019 / June

 

Book review: The Sabbath and the Bible, Theological Symposium, vol. 1

Chigemezi Nnadozie Wogu

 

The Sabbath and the Bible is a collection of essays discussing biblical foundations of the Sabbath and its theological and missiological implications, as well as the continuing relevance of the Sabbath for today. This book can be called a biblical study of the Sabbath because many of the chapters are exegetical in nature.

Since the essays were written by Adventist scholars, it is not surprising to see chapters dealing with the significance of the biblical Sabbath in the works of Ellen G. White (Anna Galeniece, 102–113), the Sabbath commandment of Exodus 20:8–11 (Eriks Galenieks, 27–42), the Sabbath of Colossians 2:16 (Ron du Preez, 77–101), and eschatology (Victor Figueroa, 114–123). 

Although some of the essays presented seem well-worn, their relevance remains. For instance, Elias Brasil de Souza’s chapter (11–26) tackles the question of whether the Sabbath is a day of rest or a day of worship. He uses texts from the Old Testament to show that the Sabbath is a day both of rest and of/for worship. There is no dichotomy.

In connection to the question of rest or worship is David Razafiarivony’s essay dealing with physical intimacy within marriage on Sabbath (124–141). In this chapter, Razafiarivony digs into extra-biblical literature, such as the Dead Sea scrolls and rabbinic writings as additional evidence to show that the Bible demonstrates a positive attitude toward physical intimacy on Sabbath.

A thought-provoking view on the Sabbath and social justice is demonstrated in the conclusion of Sampson Nwamoah’s essay, “The Sabbath in Luke 13:10–17.” According to Nwaomah, the church today is still deciphering what Sabbath observance should look like. The authors think that the story of the healing of the “bent over” woman and its accompanying Sabbath “controversy” can help the church to gear its responsibility toward advocating acts of compassion and liberation while shunning the legalism that has consumed many (74). This kind of conclusion portrays a forgotten meaning of the Sabbath. Because God created the world and rested on the Sabbath, God’s covenant community ought to remember the creative and restorative acts of God on the Sabbath. By so doing, they are able to reach and extend hope to those who are hurting as well as to mend broken relationships.

Aside from the few insights above, there are other salient points about The Sabbath and the Bible. One surprising detail is that there is no treatment of the relevance of Sabbath for young people. Secondly, since this comes from the African continent, it would have been helpful to see how some other religious bodies who keep the Sabbath in Africa engage with the topic. In addition, there is no empirical engagement of the topic. It would have been helpful to see what lay Adventists think of the Sabbath in the Bible through surveys or interviews. Moreover, besides a number of typographical errors (I stopped counting at 10), the book does not really have a clear structure.

Nevertheless, the publishing of this book by an Adventist University in Africa is commendable. By so doing, introductory materials are made available for theology students in those regions. I, therefore, recommend this book for theology students and pastors as an introduction to the topic of the Sabbath and the Bible.

—Reviewed by Chigemezi-Nnadozie Wogu, a research associate at the Institute of Adventist Studies, Friedensau Adventist University, Möckern, Germany.

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