What is the meaning of Sabbath?

I write a quarterly column for Preach magazine, in which I explore a significant word or phrase in the Bible, or a theme or section of Scripture, and the ideas that it expresses. I have written for them on:

Here I explore the notion of Sabbath—which we might feel we are familiar with, but which is in fact very surprising in many ways.

The idea of Sabbath rest is one that we are perhaps most familiar with, yet it is one of the most surprising—even shocking—ideas.

Sabbath in creation

We are introduced to the idea of Sabbath in the opening creation account in Genesis 1. After God has formed the world (days 1–3) and filled the world (days 4–6), and then, unexpectedly, God stops, and rests. It feels like a television competition: ‘Time is up! Stop your work, and stand away from your table!’

Despite division between chapters 1 and 2, the creation is not complete until God rests. And this is shocking, because God does not need to rest. Work does not exhaust God; God does not need to replenish himself as we do. Although there is a strong sense of ‘stopping’, the stronger sense is of enjoyment. God has seen all that he has created, and declared it not just good, but ‘very good’. He can now sit back and celebrate, and revel in its wonder.

We are invited into this rest of celebration and enjoyment—but in quite a different way. Humanity is created on the sixth day, and so the very first thing we do is to rest! Only God can rest from work; we need to work from rest. We do not have the capacity to join in God’s work in the world until we have first rested in God. Yes, we are created to live and work for God, to be in relationship with one another, and to care for the animals and the plants. But ultimately we are created to enjoy resting with God.

Sabbath in Israel 

Following its prominence in creation, Sabbath forms a key part of the life of Israel. The direction to ‘remember the Sabbath day and keep it holy’ comes fourth in the Ten Commandments (known in Judaism as ‘the ten words’)—but is the first command about community relations. It is the foundation of communal and relational life for the people.

And it offers both grace and demand. The explanation in Exodus 20.11 is a theological one—that this is way that God created the world, and we should imitate him. But the parallel in Deuteronomy 5.15 adds another dimension—‘remember that you were slaves in Egypt’, without any rest from labour, and that God delivered you. Exodus tells us why it is right, and Deuteronomy tells us what happens when it goes wrong.

And both accounts draw out the social impact in slightly different ways. Both include a list of seven groups who should enjoy Sabbath rest—both male and female, both master and servants, both human and animal, both citizen and ‘resident alien’. Rest should be accessible to all; Sabbath is a theological principle which has a radical social impact.

Whilst the grace is explicit, the demand is implicit. If you live in a subsistence agrarian economy, when you don’t work, you don’t eat. In ancient Israel the pressure to work all day, every day was much greater than it now is in leisurely modernity. The command to rest, and forfeit vital hours of work, demanded a robust sense of trust that God will supply all our needs. What God gives in six days of work will feed us for seven.

Sabbath in Jesus

Sabbath observance is a regular point of conflict between Jesus and his opponents in the gospels—but one which we regularly misinterpret, whether concerning plucking grain (Mark 2.23), bringing a man healing (Mark 3.4), or releasing a woman from Satan’s bonds (Luke 13.16). Jesus doesn’t disregard the law (Torah) in these examples; after all, he appeals to Torah in his counter arguments each time. Jesus was a Torah-observant Jew, but he observed Torah as it was intended to be, as a demanding path to life, not a burdensome, deadening regulation. Sabbath observance is to be a time of joy and rest for all.

This opens up new meaning for us. Sabbath is a sign of the rest in salvation that is only found in Jesus (Hebrews 4.1–11). This rest is not a mere marker in time; it signifies what God longs for us to have. We receive this rest as a gift, just as both the creation and the Exodus deliverance were a gift—it is not something we need to work for. It signifies the new creation we enter through Jesus (2 Cor 5.17) and so we no rest not on the last day of the first creation but on the first day of the new creation, the day of Jesus’ resurrection.

Thus every Sunday we celebrate God’s gift in creation, invite all to enjoy this rest, and together look forward to the final rest we will know in him in The End.

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70 thoughts on “What is the meaning of Sabbath?”

  1. I think the creation story was set up by God as a prophecy for the whole scope of salvation history. Jesus worked for 6 days, rested on the sabbath, rose again to start a new week.
    Six times it says “evening and there was morning” but not after the seventh day which concluded the work, signifying no more work to be done.
    We rest (7) in God by identifying with Christ in His death. We rest because He took our sins to the grave.
    …on another note:
    …………………..7………………… God Resting
    ………………6……..1……………. Animals, Mankind & under God’s Light hovering over
    ………….5………………2……….. Fish, Birds in the waters and sky
    ……..4………………………..3….. Great and Lesser light, Stars over the Land and Sea
    and again:
    …………………..7………………… Jesus Resting in the tomb
    ………………6……..1……………. Crucifixion….. Resurrection
    ………….5………………2……….. Trial, humiliation…………Ascension, glorification
    ……..4………………………..3….. Jesus arrest….. Pentecost, spread of the church

    • Where is there a connection between Pentecost and Jesus’ arrest in the biblical accounts?

      If there is not, then are these schemes not a creation of your mind, rather than anything actually in Scripture…?

      • Hi Ian,
        Er.. let’s say up to Jesus arrest he was a sign and a season of light , making disciples, etc which all closed down upon his arrest. Pentecost worked in the opposite direction; the dissipated believers came together and the Church rose like the land from the sea.

        Bit whimsical of me…again.

      • This theorising thing is a bit tricky, isn’t it? My daily narrative tells me that the earth does not move, and the sun rises, crosses the sky, and sets. It is only ‘theorising’ that has led to the belief that the earth in fact moves around the sun, not the other way around. But if theorising is merely a creation of the mind …

    • I don’t follow your set of links at all. There is no mention of stars for day 3, nor God’s light in day 6.

      A better patterning of the 6 days of creation is (see e.g. Henri Blocher):

      1 – separation of light and darkness, day and night;
      4 – creation of lights for the day and night

      2 – separation of the waters and creation of the heavens
      5 – population of the waters and the heavens by fish and birds

      3 – separation of the dry land from the waters
      6 – population of the dry land by both beast and humans

      • David, thanks for your thoughts on this; sorry, I was a bit vague.
        Day 4. Great and Lesser light (sun, moon and Stars), match up with…day 3. Land and Sea
        Also, each combination adds up to seven.
        I’m trying to show how Jesus is Lord of the sabbath, that the Sabbath is the centre piece.
        All sabbaths pointed to the day Jesus was in the tomb.
        It is the centre of history.

        Let’s remember Jesus, the One who rested from his work on earth.

    • I agree with you Steve. The rest is commanded by Adonai and He himself exercised it and gave it in the ten commandments.
      2 Corinthians 5:17 says when you are in Messiah, OLD habits have passed away, all things are new (your life is different from what you used to be without the Messiah in you). So Sunday is not a resting day, it is the first day of the week.

  2. “In ancient Israel the pressure to work all day, every day was much greater than it now is in leisurely modernity.”

    Maybe. Ancient Israel had holidays and festivities (e.g. Passover or celebrating weddings). Medieval Europe which was still a subsistence agrarian existence for most people was replete with holidays thanks to the Church. Whilst the modern world has profoundly changed what “leisure” means in terms of travel, hobbies, and accessible entertainment, whether there is more or less of it is disputable. In the West we went through a nadir of leisure in the 18th and 19th centuries but that doesn’t mean that was the pattern for the rest of history.

    The key verse I think is Mark 2:27 “The Sabbath was made for man, not man for the Sabbath.”

    It’s a reminder that this is practical, not an arbitrary rule or a test. It’s meant to have a practical benefit for us. There are different ways of thinking about what that might be. Some people might say it’s simply good for you to have rest. I wonder if the point is that a person is not simply the job they do. They have real value in themselves. God loves us as His creation in His image.

    • AJ.

      One rest day a week is good for everybody. My great grandfather was a farmer, but he never let any of his animals work on a Sunday, not even to take him miles to his Church in a horse-drawn buggy.

  3. >>Sabbath is a theological principle which has a radical social impact.<<

    The Sabbath is revolutionary social legislation, unparalleled in the ancient world. Joseph Ratzinger noted it is: “the heart of all social legislation,” as it anticipates a society free of domination where there are no masters or servants; only the freedom of all the children of God. The Sabbath doesn’t just require Israel to rest. It requires Israel to give rest. Sabbath erodes the distinction between the leisurely rich and the working poor. It treats slaves and animals as more than tools and the earth as more than something to be exploited. It prohibits Israel from organising its time for twenty four productivity. It is a day of joy that includes enjoyment of creation and the fruits of labour. It isn’t mere “time off” or leisure. It’s the Lord’s day, a holy day of prayer and worship that opens earthly time to heaven.

    The Sabbath [among other things] is the day of God’s freedom and the day of man’s participation in God’s freedom. Reflecting on Israel’s liberation from slavery is central to the Sabbath theme, which is, however, much more than a commemoration. The Sabbath is not simply remembrance of what has passed, but an active exercise of freedom. This fundamental content is the reason why the Sabbath should be a day of rest to an equal degree for men and animals, for masters and servants … all the forms of subjugation that have been built up … come to an end … It is an anticipation of the society free from domination, a foretaste of the city to come. On the Sabbath there are no masters and no servants; there is only the freedom of the children of God, and creation’s release from anxiety.</blockquote
    (Joseph Ratzinger Collected Works: Theology of the Liturgy, Ignatius Press, pp. 198)

    This has a temporal dimension. The Year of Jubilee, which came every 50th year, was a year full of releasing people from their debts, releasing all slaves, and returning property to who owned it. (Lev 25:1-13) During this year, the Israelites were not supposed to reap or harvest; it was a time for people to return to their families and loved ones.

    Spiritually, Jesus actualises the “rest” the Jewish Sabbath and Jubilee Year symbolised and foreshadowed. He declares Himself to be: “Lord even of the Sabbath.” (Mark 2:280 It is Jesus Christ who actualises the “rest” foreshadowed by the Sabbath and Jubilee: “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest.” (Matthew 11:280)

  4. Happy Jack :

    Mark 2:28 ;

    “so the Son of Man is master of the of the sabbath.’ (Phillips N.T.; plus Tom wright’s N.T.).

    ” lord (small ‘l’ on ‘lord’ = Hebrew ‘adoni’ = master) of the sabbath (cf. NET, NABRE,RSV, NRSV, ESV, WEB; REB; Darby; Mounce; et al).

    • @ Pellegrino

      Hmmm …

      Your Unitarian/High Christology is based on historical textural criticism and not on a Christian faith based reading of the New Testament or the developing clarity of beliefs or the liturgy of the early Church.

      Happy Jack is familiar with some of the writings of Larry Hurtado who you recommended on another thread.

      Take this quote from his blog:

      In my 2010 book, God in New Testament Theology, I’ve judged that Jesus is integral to NT discourse about God, and so integral to the worship of God in the NT as well. Indeed, he is so integral in NT texts that, for the early Christians whose faith and devotion are reflected in them, to put the matter negatively, to speak about God without reference to Jesus is inadequate discourse about God, and to worship without reference to Jesus is inadequate worship. Put positively, both in “God-discourse” and in worship, Jesus is integral, even constitutive of adequate talk about God and adequate worship of God.

      Now, granted, this doesn’t involve use of later categories of divine “being/essence/substance,” for example. The NT statements don’t seem to me (at least for the most part) to reflect use, or even awareness, of what are often now referred to as “ontological” concepts/categories. But, note carefully, the absence of them doesn’t comprise a rejection of them; they just don’t feature. So, it’s a bit meaningless, either to try to impute those later categories into NT statements, or to posit a conflict with them. To indulge in such moves isn’t history-of-religion work; it’s theologizing, and, in my view, it’s often rather clumsily done theology.

      One of the more sensitive explorations of the relationship between the earlier and somewhat later developments was by the theologian, A. W. Wainwright, The Trinity in the New Testament (SPCK, 1962). Although I have some disagreements with this work, he helpfully posited that in the NT we have “the problem” of the relationship of God and Jesus, and in the subsequent early centuries we have Christians developing a “doctrine” to solve that problem. Likely, his work can be improved upon, but it’s illustrative of one attempt (in addition to my own book mentioned earlier!) to respect the differences between NT statements about God and Jesus and the later developments that led to the doctrine of “the Trinity.” Again, “differences” is simply a historical observation, not a theological stance!


      Note the academic neutrality.

      History. helpful up to a point, certainly isn’t theology. Just as Jesus “unlocked” the Old Testament, the Christian Church took time to understand, or, more accurately, find the words and suitable concepts to express the mystery of the Trine God and Christ’s Divinity that is evident in the Gospel’s, the Epistles and Revelation. It’s not that they are not there, they just needed to be definitively stated in the face of confusions and heresies.

      Is this a surprise? Really?

      This may. or may not,pose an issue for “scripture alone” adherents, or for those holding to a belief in the “perspicacity of scripture”. But that’s a whole other discussion.

          • Happy Jack;

            I’ll respond to your comments today (Deo volente).

            In the meantime I enclose a link to a 53 second video clip, where Professor Emeritus, Dr. Larry Hurtado (in conversation with Emeritus Professor, Sir Anthony Buzzard) answered the question :

            “Did Jesus think He was God ?”,

            with, the reply :

            “Hell, no – of course not! ”


          • @ Pellegrino

            Jesus never claimed to be the monotheistic God the Father., this is true. Hurtado maintains that: “outside of the Gospel of John, it is difficult to find statements in which Jesus explicitly declares that he is a divine being and should be worshipped.”

            Jesus did, in fact, make Divine claims about Himself. It’s true that Jesus never says anything as explicit as “I am God!” Instead, in all four Gospels, he claims equality with God in subtle and indirect ways.

            First-century Jews would not have been able to fathom a multi-person God. In first-century Palestine. Jesus was aware of the Divine plan and knew the proper timing according to which important events in His life should occur – not the least His crucifixion. The Gospels (especially St. John’s) suggest that Jesus was keenly aware of the timing of His own death. Jesus is conscious of the fact that the timing of His death is crucial in the designs of Providence. Any explicit public claim of Divinity would cause a malicious uproar (John 8:58-59) and upset that timing.

            Jesus frequently leaves His disciples wondering in astonishment, “Who is this?” (Mark 4:41; Luke 8:25). Over time, His disciples gradually understand and, upon reflecting on everything Jesus did and say – and at the prompting of the Holy Spirit – they realise who Jesus truly is. (John 20:28; 2 Cor. 2:4-13)

            Anyways, HJ doesn’t agree with Larry Hurtado!

            At the end of Mark’s Gospel, hen Jesus is being tried by the Sanhedrin, He is asked, ,i>“Are you the Messiah, the son of the Blessed One?” (Mark 14:61), Jesus replies: “I am; and you will see the Son of man seated at the right hand of Power, and coming with the clouds of heaven. (Mark 14:62) Here in a clear but thoroughly Jewish way, Jesus claims equality with God both in name (the Divine name I AM) and in authority (see Ex. 3:14; Dan. 7:13-14). His self-affirmation is, in fact, so radical and direct that the high priest responds by tearing his own garments and making the charge of blasphemy upon Christ – a charge issued not for claiming to be the Messiah but for claiming to be something more.

            As Frank Sheed observes, “To bring their ideas of God to Christ would have got them nowhere. But [they needed] bit by bit to learn Christ, then bit by bit to have it forced on them [by the Holy Spirit] that this was God.”

          • Dear Happy Jack;

            Thank you for your comments, but they do contain some fundamental misconceptions. I will point some of them out :

            (1). You confuse Dan. 7:13-14, with Exodus 3:14-15, and thereby appear to claim some sort of ontological identification of Yahweh God (“the ancient of days” of Dan. 7:9) with “one like a son of man” / “one like a human being” – which is a reference to the glorified, human Messiah (cf. 1 Cor. 15:21; Acts 2:36). However, the Bible always carefully distinguishes Almighty God (‘El Shaddai’; “Kyrios ho Theos ho Pantokrator”), i.e. the Father/Yahweh, from His glorified human Messiah (cf. Psalm 110:1 MT. ; Luke 2:26; 1 Cor. 8:6; Rev. 11:15; Rev. 12:10). Jesus is never called “ho Panto-krator” (the Almighty”), and is never referred to by the title “Kyrios ho Theos”.

            (2). You seem confused by the words ‘ego eimi’ at Mark 14:62, which represent mere self-identification – not any allusion to ‘ego eimi ho on’ in Exodus 3:14-15 in the LXX.

            The high Priest in Mark 14:61, asks a simple question of Jesus :

            “Are you the Messiah, the Son of the Blessed One ? [the two terms being synonyms].

            Jesus replies : ” I am [i.e. I am the Messiah, the Son of the Blessed One].

            Jesus uses ‘ego eimi’ here, as a simple term of self identification, and thus means, “I am [indeed the Messiah]”. Jesus is not using ‘ego eimi’ to mean “I am Yahweh”, via Exodus 3:14-15 LXX.

            (3). You also seem confused by the action of the High Priest in tearing his robe. The tearing of one’s robe is merely an action signifying ‘grief’ (e.g. over a public calamity; cf. John 11:48 ), and/or, a demonstration of one’s ‘holy zeal’ for God. Jesus’ enemies, very early on, in his ministry, marked him down as a Torah-breaking, false teacher (cf. Mark 3:6), who was thereby(supposedly), insulting (i.e. “blaspheming”) God, and leading the people astray ( John 7:12; cf. Deut. 13:1-5). For Jesus to openly confess that He was the Messiah, would confirm fears within the Jewish, religious establishment that He about to lead a political revolution.

            (4). All of God’s “Shaliachs”, or “Agent Representatives”, have a temporary functional identification and functional equality, with God (e.g. the angels that gave the Law to Moses (Gal. 3:19); the angel mentioned in Exodus 23:20-23, who led the Israelites into Canaan; and the Angel of Yahweh, referred to by Stephen in Acts 7:30-35.) – but these Agents of God, who bear Yahweh’s Name – are not literally God (Yahweh), Himself. Similarly, as God’s Apostle (Heb. 3:1), and viceregent Messiah, Jesus has a functional equality with God, but he is not ‘God’, per se (God, being always the Father (John 17:1-3; 1 Cor. 8:6; John 20:17; et al).

            (5). Thomas’ words in John 20:28 have to be understood with the crucial context of John 14:5-11 – otherwise your interpretation, Happy Jack, – completely contradicts Jesus’ words in John 17:1-3, and 20:17; and also the author John’s words in John 20:31. It is because a post-New Testament, Gentile, Greek philosophically educated, intellectual Christian “elite” did not understand the Jewish ‘Agent-Representative’ conception of God’s (ie. the Father’s/Yahweh’s) operations, that unnecessary theological problems accrued in the following post-apostolic centuries.

            As the ‘Encyclopaedia Americana’ , Vol. xxvii, p. 2941, put it :

            ” Christianity derived from Judaism and Judaism was strictly Unitarian [i.e. God is just one Person – the Father/Yahweh]. The road that led from Jerusalem to Nicea was scarcely a straight one. Fourth century Trinitarianism did not reflect accurately early Christian teaching regarding the nature of God; it was on the contrary, a deviation from this teaching.”

            (6). The Spirit of God/Yahweh is never an independent hypostasis distinct from God – just as the spirit of Happy Jack is never an independent hypostasis separate from Happy Jack, Himself. Paul illustrates this general point in 1 Cor. 2:11-12. This is why the holy Spirit is never prayed to, never worshipped, never has a throne, never has a name, and never sends greetings in Paul’s Letters. Instead the holy Spirt is the power of God, and is thus the means for the operational personal presence of both God the Father, and the ascended lord Jesus Messiah (the ‘Paraclete’ discourses in John 14-16 being allegorical (cf. Gk. paroimiais, in John 16:25) reference to the ascended Jesus Himself, returning to his disciples, in spiritual form).

            God bless you, Happy Jack.

        • @ Pellegrino

          You say “It is because a post-New Testament, Gentile, Greek philosophically educated, intellectual Christian “elite” did not understand the Jewish ‘Agent-Representative’ conception of God’s (ie. the Father’s/Yahweh’s) operations, that unnecessary theological problems accrued in the following post-apostolic centuries.”

          Happy Jack says: “Jesus “unlocked” the Old Testament, the Christian Church took time to understand, or, more accurately, find the words and suitable concepts to express the mystery of the Trine God and Christ’s Divinity that is evident in the Gospel’s, the Epistles and Revelation. It’s not that they are not there, they just needed to be definitively stated in the face of confusions and heresies.”

          Btw, John records Jesus using the sacred Divine name (“I am”) more than once. For example, “Before Abraham was, I am,” (John 8:58) which confirming that Jesus is the eternal Word that has become man.

          You say, ” … the Bible always carefully distinguishes Almighty God (‘El Shaddai’; “Kyrios ho Theos ho Pantokrator”), i.e. the Father/Yahweh, from His glorified human Messiah …. Jesus is never called “ho Panto-krator” (the Almighty”), and is never referred to by the title “Kyrios ho Theos”.”

          Happy Jack says, indeed, because God is a Trinity! Christ is called ho theos (the God) in Scripture. For example: “But to the Son [the Father] saith, ‘Thy throne, O God (ho theos) is for ever and ever'” (Heb. 1:8; see also Titus 2:13, where the definite article tou [the genetive singular form of ho] precedes the phrase “Great God and Saviour”. So it’s not just Thomas’ words. “Thomas answered, and said to [Jesus]: ‘My Lord and My God'” (John 20:28). That’s clear to HJ! The Greek reads: ho kurios mou kai ho theos mou, (“the Lord of me and the God of me”). Thomas was directly addressing Jesus as God.

          Acts 20:28 – “Take heed to yourselves and to all the flock, in which the Holy Spirit has made you overseers, to care for the church of God which he obtained with His own Blood.” Did Christ shed His own Blood for the Church? The passage doesn’t read, read “by the Blood of His own Son.” The Greek word son (huios) does not appear. It reads: periepoiesato dia tou haimatos tou idiou.

          Books have been written on Exodus 3:2–4! The “angel of the Lord” appears to Moses in a flame in verse 2, and God speaks to Moses from the flame in verse 4.

          The Church Fathers believed that the Second Person of the Trinity appeared frequently in the Old Testament in a variety of forms: the Angel of the Lord, the Burning Bush, the Son of Man, and the one like a Son of God in Daniel.

          In Hebrew, the word for angel is “malak” and means is “messenger.” In Greek, the word “angelos” also means “messenger.” So the Angel of the Lord is the “Messenger of the Lord” and is God Himself. In Latin, the word is translated from Greek as “angelus” or angel or angelic being. In Greek, it’s not a problem. But in the Latin West there was a worry that identifying Christ as “the Angel of the Lord” would lead to Arianism since “angel” in Latin implies a lower created being. (the very mistake you’re making!)

          In the opening books of the Bible the “Angel/Messenger of the Lord” is Divine and speaks as God and is recognized as God:
          – In Genesis 16:7–14. The Angel/Messenger of the Lord speaks as God in the first person, and in verse 13 Hagar identifies “the LORD that spoke to her” as “Thou God sees me”.
          – In Genesis 22:11–15. The Angel/Messenger of the Lord appears to Abraham and refers to God in the first person.
          – In Genesis 31:11–13 the Angel/Messenger of God says, “I am the God of Bethel.”
          – In Exodus 3:2–4. The Angel/Messenger of the Lord appears to Moses in a flame in verse 2, and God speaks to Moses from the flame in verse 4.

          • Dear Happy Jack;

            Re: Titus 2:13

            (1). Your knowledge of Greek grammar, as regards Titus 2:13, appears to be out of date. You seem to be reliant on on the so called “Granville Sharp’s rule” to support the reading : “the great God and Saviour” – and not the reading “the great God and our Saviour Jesus Christ” (as is preferred in some Trinitarian Bibles). However, it has been demonstrated that, the so called, “Granville Sharpe’s rule” CANNOT BE RELIED UPON to settle the matter concerning the correct translation of Titus 2:13. The Greek scholar, Nigel Turner (as a Trinitarian) writes :

            “Unfortunately, at this [New Testament] period of Greek we cannot be sure that such a rule [i.e. Sharpe’s] is really decisive. Sometimes the definite article is not repeated even where there is CLEARLY A SEPARATION IN IDEA. The repetition of the article was NOT strictly necessary to ensure that the items be considered separately.”

            “Grammatical Insights into the New Testament.”

            (2). With respect to “The angel of Yahweh” in Gen. 17:7; et al.

            Stephen who was a man full of the holy Spirit and wisdom (cf. Acts 6:5; 6:3; 7:55), identified ‘the angel of Yahweh’ of Exodus 3:2ff, (cf. Acts 7:30-38) not as “God”, or, as “the Son”; or as “the Being that became Jesus”, or as “Jesus, in a pre-human form” – but as a mere supernatural “angel”. This is just one example of how the Bible employs the “shaliach” (agent-representative) concept as regards Yahweh God’s (i.e. the Father’s) dealings with mankind.

            Justin Martyr, as a Gentile Philosopher did not sufficiently understand Hebraic ways of thought, and consequently, he mis-identified and misconceived a mere supernatural “angel” as somehow (according to his Platonically trained mind) being ontologically one with “God”.

            In recognition of the Hebraic law of Divine Agency, both the NIV and ESV Study Bibles have now conceded that the ‘angel of Yahweh’ (in Gen. 16:7 ff; et al) may indeed be just a supernatural angel sent out as an agent-representative (or “shaliach”) of Yahweh God. Consequently, they admit that the traditional, post New Testament speculation that ‘the angel of Yahweh’ was the ‘second person of the Trinity’, is now uncertain.

            Your other “proof-texts” and comments will be addressed (Deo volente), later.

            Keep thinking biblical.

            God bless you, Happy Jack.

      • Dear Happy Jack;

        Contrary to your assertion, Pellegrino’s Faith is firmly based upon the New Testament evidence – unlike yours which is also (primarily?) based upon continuing Roman Catholic, human traditions. Hence your zealous, dogmatic beliefs in all sorts of extra-biblical speculations.

        Pellegrino does not believe everything that Professor Larry Hurtado espoused, but Pellegrino evaluates him upon his strengths – including Hurtado’s desire to see the post-New Testament creeds revised, and re-categorized, in modern, more appropriate forms of thought. Hurtado also had excellent views on how Christians of different theological persuasions should relate to each other. This latter topic occurs at the 29 minute mark, in the previously posted Hurtado Video discussion, entitled, “Was Jesus God?”

        God bless you, Happy Jack.

        • @ Pellegrino

          Are you a Jehovah Witness?

          Say what you will about the Catholic Church, it’s hardly a “zealous, dogmatic … extra-biblical speculation” to believe Scripture shows Jesus Christ to be the Second Person of the Holy Trinity. This belief is called “Christianity”!

          • Dear Happy Jack;

            (1). No, Happy Jack. I have never been a ‘Jehovah’s Witness’. Have you ?

            (2). According to the actual New Testament data, your definition of First century, Apostolic Christianity is actually an anachronistic, retrojection of certain post-New Testament ideas, back into the New Testament era. For example, the Greek words ‘ousia’ and ‘hypostasis’ are New Testament words, but no New Testament writer ever thought of utilizing them in order to create a new, revolutionary concept of God, as we see portrayed in the post-New Testament, Philosophical concept of the ‘Trinity’.

            Fortunately, there are some courageous, very knowledgeable and noble Roman Catholic scholars who have recognized profound errors in various Roman Catholic doctrines (including the traditional view of the ‘Trinity’) – and they have played their part in attempting to correct them.

            (3). Religious organisations like the Roman Catholic Church, and the Watchtower Society , generally do not look kindly upon independent, in depth, objective biblical research by any of their members. Woe, to those who go against the organizational mindset.

            (4). Every, so called, Trinitarian ‘proof-text’ is capable of Scriptural refutation. However, you don’t primarily go by Scripture, do you Happy Jack?

            God bless you, Happy Jack.

          • Pellegrino
            If not as a ‘Jehovah’s Witness’, do you see yourself as any kind of Arian — even a so-called semi Arian? If not, how do you actually avoid that?

          • To Bruce –

            I agree with the Anglican, world-leading Christologist James D.G. Dunn, and (so it seems) the leading Roman Catholic Pauline scholar, Jerome Murphy-O’Connor, in the view that the Apostle Paul’s soteriology is entirely dependent upon Jesus being a real man.

            Let’s look at the Greek New Testament biblical evidence, and compare it with some post-New Testament fourth and fifth century creeds :

            Peter calls Jesus “a man”. (Acts 2:22).

            Paul calls Jesus “a man” (Acts 17:31; 1 Cor. 15:21).

            The inspired, biblical Creed in 1 Timothy 2:5-, utilizing the Greek anarthrous “anthropos” – refers to Jesus as “a man” :

            ” For there is one God and one mediator between God and mankind – a man, Christ Jesus.”

            (cf. ‘The Emphasized Bible’) .

            Finally, Jesus Himself, calls Himself “a man” (John 8:40 : anarthrous “anthropon”).

            Where in any fourth and fifth century creeds is Jesus ever called “a man” ? Nowhere – because in the post-New Testament, fourth and fifth century creeds Jesus is not “a man”, but a literally pre-existent divine being who merely assumed impersonal human nature. Jesus thus becomes transformed from being “a man” to generic “Man”. This is just one example of how certain post-New Testament “theologians” tampered with the Scriptural evidence.

          • @ Pelligrino

            Jerome Murphy-O’Connor argues that the Gospels are “mythical embellishments”; that Jesus didn’t know He was God and didn’t know where His power came from; that Mary considered Him an embarrassment to the family; that she was not at the foot of the cross as the evangelists relate, and more …

            The Transfiguration and Resurrection narratives he speculated were post-Pentecost ‘experience’ of the early Church rather than accurate remembering of the disciples.

            At the root of this, his refused to believe that the Gospels were written by eyewitnesses of the events described and that they were not inspired writings.

            As one priest put it to HJ: JMO’C “addresses scripture as a phenomena to be studied, as one might study a virus whilst others see it as being the source of life.”

          • Dear IAN;

            A few words from the Anglican scholar, Professor Anthony Tyrrel Hanson (University of Hull), as he reflected upon his seminary training in the orthodox definition of Jesus:

            ” During my theological formation I was well instructed in in the traditional account of the Incarnation of God in Jesus. I distinctly remember being told that the Word of God, when he assumed human nature, assumed impersonal humanity; that Jesus Christ did not possess a human personality; that God became man in Christ Jesus, but that he did not become a man…Two considerations have persuaded me that this traditional Christology is incredible” (Grace and Truth : A Study in the Doctrine of the Incarnation”, SPCK, 1975, p. 1).

            If Jesus is a man (cf. 1 Tim. 2:5; ‘The Emphasized Bible’), then why is never mentioned in the fourth and fifth century creeds ?

        • @ Pellegrino

          >>Where in any fourth and fifth century creeds is Jesus ever called “a man”<<

          Well, that's patently untrue. Never read the Nicene Creed?

          For us men and for our salvation
          he came down from heaven,
          and by the Holy Spirit was incarnate of the Virgin Mary,
          and became man

          HJ’s suggestion: read the Athanasian Creed in full.

          “[W]e believe and confess, that our Lord Jesus Christ, the Son of God, is God and Man.

          • Dear Happy Jack;

            Thank you –

            but you’re missing the poin, sir.

            The Creeds in question, do NOT say that Jesus is “A man”.

            The single person of Jesus becomes visualized as a Divine being (the alleged second ‘person’ of the ‘Trinity’) who is supposed to have had a literal, pre-human existence, and came down from heaven to assume impersonal human nature. The person inside Jesus is not “A man”, but a Divine being Who is “pulling the operational strings” within impersonal, human nature.

            The person within Jesus becomes not “a man”, but “God” (the second ‘person’ of the Trinity), enveloped within impersonal human nature. This is why the human Creed makers could not call Jesus “a man” in their formularies.

            Your other multitudinous points (cf. “argumentum verbosium”, or, “proof by verbosity”) will be addressed, sir, one by one. So please maintain contact.

  5. The sabbath is a day when everyone rests, when no work is done. It is not having one day off in seven, but with different people having different days off. We have certainly lost that.

    Also, I would hope for some discussion of the shift in that day of rest from the last day of the week, which we call Saturday, to the first day of the week – the Lord’s day.

    • To David B,

      I think your question about the switch from the Jewish sabbath to a Sunday, Christian “sabbath” would would be covered by what Paul says in Romans 14:1-12.

    • The Third Commandment is fundamentally immutable because it’s one of the Ten Commandments. However, the Catholic Church teaches the particular day we celebrate in keeping the Third Commandment to be ceremonial of the law that is changeable.

      Here’s how the Catechism puts it:

      Sunday is expressly distinguished from the Sabbath which it follows chronologically every week; for Christians its ceremonial observance replaces that of the Sabbath. In Christ’s Passover, Sunday fulfils the spiritual truth of the Jewish Sabbath. . . .

      Those who lived according to the old order of things have come to a new hope, no longer keeping the Sabbath, but the Lord’s Day. . . . The celebration of Sunday observes the moral commandment inscribed by nature in the human heart to render to God an outward, visible, public, and regular worship. . . . Sunday worship fulfils the moral command of the Old Covenant, taking up its rhythm and spirit in the weekly celebration of the Creator and Redeemer of his people.

      (CCC #2175-76)

      St. Paul tells us that the ceremonial aspect of the old law—the Sabbath day itself—is no longer binding for the Christian faithful: Therefore let no one pass judgment on you in regard to food or drink or in respect to festival, or a new moon or a Sabbath day—things which are a mere shadow of what is to come, but the substance belongs to Christ. (Col. 2:16-17)

      • The Ten Commandments are simply part of the written laws of Moses, and have the same status. What that status might be for Christians is a more complex discussion (eg, we are still to keep the laws governing interpersonal relationship, so-called moral law, but need not bring animals to Jerusalem for sacrifice). But one should not hive off the Decalogue from the rest of the Pentateuch. Otherwise you end up with absurdities like demanding that Christians in North Korea go on strike for one day in every seven. The church there is under horrible pressure already and it would last precisely one week if that were the case.

          • Ian,

            Are you not confusing the complex question of what status the written laws of Moses have for Christians, and the simple question of whether the Ten Commandments are simply part of Mosaic Law, not more and not less? The answer to the latter question is surely Yes. Don’t, please, be confused by weight of church tradition. It is an irony that for centuries you could attend churches which had the Ten Commandments written on the wall while the minister ranted from the pulpit how “we are not under the law like those awful Jews”.

            I think there is merit in the view that the Ten Commandments are “chapter headings” in the written laws of Moses. Like most Christians, I go with the division of these laws into moral, ceremonial and civil/judicial categories:


            A fine book on Mosaic Law as useful precedent today is the law lecturer and Christian Jonathan Burnside’s book “God, Justice and Society”.

            But if you take a different view, may I press you to answer three questions: (1) Do you consider I am sinning before God if I am self-employed and I work for seven consecutive days? (2) If you insist on the Sabbath, do you also insist on not working for one year in every seven? (3) Do you believe that Christians in North Korea are sinning if they do not go on strike for one day in every seven?

        • @ Anton,

          We’ve held these discussions in “another place”.

          As his father used to say when Happy Jack asked such questions, Oy vey … Peter, Peter, Peter …. reads the words of the Saviour … read the words of the Sage Paul ….”

          Old Testament law, as such, is not binding on Christians. It never has been. It was only ever binding on those to whom it was delivered—the Jews (Israelites). That said, some of that law contains elements of a law that is binding on all people of every place and time, regardless of faith. Jesus and Paul provide evidence of this in the New Testament.

          To answer your question. Why such rigidity? If one is unable to offer worship publicly, not through choice but persecution, then there is no unconditional obligation to do so. If one is unable to “rest”, not through choice but the demands of one’s employers or one’s profession, there is no unconditional obligation to do so. This is not a wilful, deliberate disregard of the commandment. In such situations, we do well to mark the sacred character of the day – Sunday – in ways we are able to.

          • I would say that the Sabbath is wise precedent and blessed is the nation that enacts a weekly day of rest, but otherwise it is you who are being rigid, not me. I was actually replying to Ian and I’d be glad to see if he takes the discussion further.

          • @ Anton

            [HJ posted this above – wrong sub-thread! He’s still getting familia with this site’s format.]

            HJ was replying to your earlier comment – July 27, 2023 at 10:05 am.

    • I’m not sure we’ve ever embraced an idea that a Sabbath should mean a day where no work done by anyone. We don’t wish to shut down cancer wards or A&E in hospitals. We don’t have a problem with power stations operating, or tv stations broadcasting. Nor do we object to public houses opening. Etc. etc.

      • AJ Bell – you must be a young person. I remember that there was a lot of consternation in Christian circles in the 1980’s when government decided that Sunday drinking was OK and allowed public houses to open on Sunday.

        I suppose I don’t really object to public houses opening on a Sunday. After all, they’re for the riff-raff and not for people like us.

        • Jock I assume you have your tongue in your cheek when you talk of riff raff and people like us?
          Jesus’ favourite term for himself was son of man: loosely translated as ‘an ordinary punter’ or possible riff raff. I’m pretty sure Jesus would prefer to be with the riff raff rather than ‘people like us’.
          I played the drums in an 80s covers band for 15 years and spent many a Sunday afternoon in a pub or bar with the ordinary punters. They knew what I did on a Sunday morning and it made for lots of interesting conversations.

          • Andrew – good to hear from you again. Trust you’ve been keeping well this July.

            I see – so you were basically playing the respectable Charlie Watts while the others of the group were the head bangers (e.g. Mick Jaggers and Keith Richards) ….. This is the only way I can square this with other things you’ve told us about your musical tastes (e.g. recommending a radio programme where Richard Holloway selected some beautiful Gregorian chants).

            My understanding of the NT is that it’s quite all right to go to such places if you’re doing the Lord’s work – and proclaiming The Word (without succumbing to the temptations and falling into sin).

          • Ah I have very wide and catholic tastes Jock.
            Jazz is maybe the area I’m focussed on more at present.

        • Public houses in England have never had to be closed on a Sunday. Wales did close them on Sundays from the 1880s until the 1960s. English law enforced some odd hours – you could open for lunch, but had to close between 3 and 7, before opening again for the evening. That was set up in World War I and the reform in the 1980s was to allow the pubs to simply stay open all afternoon.

          But my point was and remains there’s never a particular push from the Church to prohibit pubs from operating on a Sunday, and today plenty of Churches and the congregations make use of them. Last time I worshipped at the impeccably conservative evangelical All Souls Langham Place they had a regular trip to the pub for members of the congregation after their Sunday evening service.

          • AJ Bell – then it was different in Scotland, where public houses were required by law to close on Sundays and there was a push from certain groups within the church to keep it that way. I was wrong when I mentioned the 1980’s; I think the change was with the licensing act (Scotland) 1976.

            I’m all in favour of people being allowed to choose for themselves what they do, but based on your information I’d never darken the doors of the All Souls Langham Place church. I can’t square drinking alcohol after a church service with the effect that a good church service is supposed to have on the mind – it seems contradictory and I prefer the traditional idea of repairing to the church hall for tea-and-scones.

            I’m basically from a Salvation Army background and I more-or-less agree with them about the very negative impact of alcoholic liquor.

          • When I was at university in Aberystwyth in the ’70s it was a dry county so pubs were closed on Sundays. However, private clubs were permitted to open, so locals and students could get a drink, Visitors couldn’t!

          • Jock,

            So you wouldn’t approve of churches who hold Eucharists or serve sherry or champagne after the morning service?

          • Penelope – approval or disapproval doesn’t have anything to do with it – but I’d avoid any church that served sherry (or champagne or anything else alcoholic) after morning service.

  6. Jurgen Moltmann (God in Creation) sees the Sabbath as a vital component of Christian doctrine and writes: The completion of creation through the peace of the sabbath distinguishes the view of world as creation from the view of world as nature; for nature is unremittingly fruitful and, though it has seasons and rhythms, knows no sabbath. It is the sabbath which blesses, sanctifies and reveals the world as God’s creation.

    Creation is often presented merely as ‘the six days’ work’. The seventh day, the sabbath, is often overlooked. Consequently, God is presented merely as the creative God. The resting God, the celebrating God, the God who rejoices over his creation, recedes into the background. And yet it is only the sabbath which completes and crowns creation. It is only in his sabbath rest that the creative God comes to his goal.

  7. I see a lesson to be learnt by all mankind. The six days of creation were for God to bring the earth, we live on, animals, creatures, and mankind into being. Having finished that in six days he rested, there was no more creating to do. Eden was provided as a place to live, to attend to and it had all man needed to survive. There was only one exception, the tree of good and evil, something neither Adam nor Eve, had experienced before. Satan was there to spoil the plan. He began his work of divide and rule, something that still goes on today. Eve and Adam gave into the temptation, deceitful words and sin entered the world. God had finished creating, but now, it was a mission of bringing us back into fellowship with himself. Jesus told us that there is no other way to be reconciled with His Father,God,than through Him, accepting what He did on the cross, paying the price for our sin. God not only set up the rescue plan, but He also promises to be with us as we seek to be reconciled through Jesus, the Christ. It may be His rest, but He is always there for us, strengthens us, leads us and guides us. We can only enter His rest if we are obedient to the call to renounce sin, believe that Jesus was sent as Saviour and is Lord of all. We must live this Christian Life, not in our own strength, but in the comfort, and strength, that we have through the Holy Spirit. There is nothing wrong with God’s plan and purpose for His creation, it is all ours to take hold of. We cannot earn it, only accept it, receive it, this wonderful Salvation that started with a glimpse of Eden and will end with a new heaven and a new earth. As individuals, we are born into this world. It is not without reason. Reach out and take hold. He is reaching out to us.

  8. The Exile was a sort of rest too. The land had its sabbaths restored.
    The Flood was a rest for Noah . Peter equated it with Jesus death .
    Psalm 23 has a chiastic structure with death in the middle, the rest point. Selah.
    Theology should find this symbolism interesting but discussions about sabbaths usually turns into a discussion about what not to eat, festivals to keep etc; Oh foolish Galatians.

  9. “Old Testament Law ,as such,is not binding on Christians. ”
    ” the ten Commandments are “chapter headings” in the written laws of Moses,”

    The first statement would make more sense if some definition of the meaning of OT Law had been provided! Law (torah) can be translated as “to guide” , “to show”, “to instruct”. It can therefore be described as “revelation” as its ultimatate source is God.
    In Hebraic understanding the first five books of the Tanach are Torah. As well as the concepts outlined above, they contain narrative; culminating in the great events of Passover and Exodus. The OT Law exudes much more therefore than instructions and prohibitions. It is “perfect reviving the soul” [Ps 19:7 ]; it gives”joy to the heart”; [19:8]; it is the word of God [Psalm 119: 17&18]. Moreover its nature and character are taken up by Paul – ” the law is holy and the commandment is holy , righteous and good. ” Moreover it is “spiritual” [Romans 7:12 – 14].
    Re the second citation: “the ten Commandments are ‘chapter headings’ for the law”?
    The “ten’words’ are in reality the cornerstone of the expansion and elaboration of the Law of Moses, revealed through the covenant created *by God* for Israel as His chosen people. What, sad to say in all of this, was the fact that much Reformation theology had a propensity for viewing Judaism as a “works- based” system of belief; thereby ignoring or playing down the covental nature of God’s dealing with Israel.
    The teaching of the Song of Moses with its powerful affirmation of the majestic holiness of the Lord God [Exodus 15: 11], leading to the first pronouncement of His Covenant (steadfast) love to Israel ; a love primarily revealed in Redemption, is a clear affirmation that law ( in whatever sense) does not have pride of place.
    And this propels us towards the Ten Commandments[ Exodus 20]. They begin (after the Shema) and continue with a declaration of divine action and intent: “I am the Lord your God [c.f. Exodus 15] ,who brought you out of Egypt, out of the land of slavery.” In this affirmation, we see (a) the glory of the nature and love of God. He is the Lord *your* God and (b) He has *redeemed you*. “Law” is therefore not the first prerequisite; rather it is comprehending and absorbing His grace! Law does not lead therefore to salvation. An imbibed Gospel (albeit a gospel to be understood here in an “embryonic” sense) brings about adherence to the law i.e, obedience to the will and word of God. (subsequent events in the case of Israel however proved otherwise).

    If I use the term “embryonic” in relation to the Mosaic covenant, then I must employ the term “bodily” (as well as “complete”) in relation to the redemption procured through our Lord Jesus Christ: ” For he (God) chose us in him (Jesus) before the foundation of the world to be holy and blameless in his sight. In love he predestined us to be adopted as his son — . “In him (Jesus) we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of sins.”[ Ephesians 1: 4,5 and 7].
    Gospel has priority, but law(contextually understood) is its concomitant. In this light, the Ten Commandments still speak!

    • Colin –

      (1). Where is there a commandment in the New Testament for Christians to keep a weekly sabbath ? (cf. Romans 14:1-12).

      (2). The Jewish Law, per se, cannot save us, because it affects a personal, experiential knowledge (Gk. epignosis) knowledge of sin, and our natural powerless in effectively countering the power of ‘Sin’ (cf. Romans 7:5 = Romans 7:14-23). Christ practically does what the Jewish Law could never do (cf. Romans 8:2-4) – because of the postlapsarian weakness of human nature .

      (3). The Father’s personal name is “Yahweh” (mentioned 6,823 times in the NJB) -according to near universal, scholastic opinion. Hence it is, “Yahweh, your God”, not merely, “the Lord your God”. The Jewish Shema (Deut. 6:4; Mark 12:28-34) is further reinforced by Christ’s words in John 17:3; 20:17; and Rev. 3:2, 12; cf. Rev. 1:6.

      (4). Christian faith intrinsically has an obedience element (cf. Romans 1:5 – ‘the obedience of faith’ ).

      • Dear P -Interesting, but exactly what has it got to do with what I wrote! The first two lines of this clearly indicate that this was a response to two other contributions to this post. By their lack of response, I must assume either a lack of interest or (possibly) agreement with what I said.

        • Post scriptum.

          Dear Colin –

          I’ve just realized – you forgot to comment on where in the New Testament Christians obligated to keep any ‘sabbath’ day rest ?

      • The LORD your God is the same as YHWH your God, since Jews and some Christians don’t ever pronounced the holy name. So we say Lord (Adonai) (which is in most English translations) or Hashem (the name).

        • Dear Lady Penelope ;

          Yes, indeed – many Jews use the title “Adonai” (LORD), as opposed to the non-Deity title “adoni” which is a title of the second ‘lord’, in Psalm 110:1 [Thus via the M.T. text : “YHWH said to my adoni”], and Psalm 110:1 is referred to in Acts 2:36, where Peter says, “God (our Father; YHWH) made him [Jesus] both lord (cf. ‘adoni’ of Psalm 110:1) and Messiah”.

          By near universal scholastic opinion the Tetragrammaton, YHWH (used some 6,823 times in the Old Testament) – and is thought to have been pronounced as “Yahweh”. The first syllable of our Father God’s name as “Yah”, occurs in the New Testament as :

          Hallelu-Yah! (Rev. 19:1, 3, 4. 6.)

          Praise Yah ! (Our Father God); and His Messiah.

    • The goal of creation (including it’s animal life) is to be liberated from its bondage to corruption,, via the revelation of the children of God (Romans 8:19-25; cf. Isa. 65:17-25).

      Praise God ! Halleluyah !

    • Amen, Geoff.

      That is very true true.

      I once contacted the biologist Dr. Rupert Alfred Sheldrake concerning his parapsychologically based, “Morphic resonance theory” – and whether it could possibly provide a mechanism for what some theologians call “Original Sin”, i.e. that Mankind, essentially, inherits an adverse, behaviour-influencing, species memory, derived ultimately from their Primordial ancestors. His bottom line conclusion to this question was, “Yes !”.

  10. John 4:50 the man took Jesus at his word
    By doing that the man exhibited faith, belief and rest. He rested himself in Jesus word.
    That is the sabbath rest we should enter.


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