“Remember Yom Shabbat, to keep it holy. You are to work six days, and do all your work, but the seventh day is a Shabbat to Adonai your God. In it you shall not do any work—not you, nor your son, your daughter, your male servant, your female servant, your cattle, nor the outsider that is within your gates. For in six days Adonai made heaven and earth, the sea, and all that is in them, and rested on the seventh day. Thus Adonai blessed Yom Shabbat, and made it holy.” ~Exodus 20:8-11 (TLV)
I want to take some time to discuss what is, for some reason, a controversial topic in modern biblical faith: Should we be keeping the Sabbath today? Initially I set out to write a message with a focus on the Sabbath as a time to celebrate the totality of the Creation of our God. I will get to that, but as I was pondering on the concept of this message a former Seventh-Day Adventist and a man raised Jewish submitted a 45-page document to me that was written as a treatise against keeping the Sabbath on the basis of attempting to prove that there was no weekly Sabbath prior to the giving of the manna as recorded in Exodus 16, an event that took place five weeks after the exodus from Egyptian slavery.
So, while I will be presenting the Sabbath as a celebration of Creation, I will also be addressing the major arguments from this document, which is actually a draft for a chapter titled Is the Weekly Sabbath Established in the Genesis Creation Narrative? for a revised 12th edition of the book Lying For God by authors Kerry B. Wynne, William H. Hohman, Elce “Thunder” Lauriston, and Martin H. Klayman (hereafter referred to as ‘the authors’). The entire book, in previous editions I looked up, is over 500 pages and appears to primarily be written against the Seventh-Day Adventist view of keeping the Sabbath, but from reviewing this second chapter of the book it appears that the authors are more interested in trying to prove that they should not keep the Sabbath than in dealing with the errors of Seventh-Day Adventist teaching.
As a note, before I go on with this message, I saved a copy of the document provided to me unedited from how I received it in the event that this response causes the authors to make major changes to their claims or—I could only hope—that my response causes them to completely recant their position.
In reviewing other copies of Lying For God it appears that former members of the Seventh-Day Adventist Church, founded by Ellen G. White, or the Worldwide Church of God, founded by Herbert W. Armstrong, primarily wrote it. Both of these groups are sects with very questionable doctrines that I do not endorse. The overall tone is that the authors came to the realization that there were serious errors in the teachings of these sects from which they previously belonged and have chosen to go to an extreme opposite view and wage war with the Sabbath altogether. This is not unlike the early Protestant Reformers such as Luther and Calvin who identified errors in the Roman Catholic Church of their time and established a new religious system that developed such extreme and unbiblical doctrines of today such as grace without a demand for obedience, radical cessationism of spiritual gifts, eternal security doctrines, and predestination. Just because a religious sect has a wrong view of how the Sabbath is to be kept does not and should never be permitted to negate the actual commandment to “Remember the Sabbath Day, to keep it holy.” It appears that the authors have chosen, as the saying goes, to throw out the baby with the bathwater, the baby being the Sabbath Day and the bathwater being the overall wrong doctrines of groups like the Seventh-Day Adventist Church and the Worldwide Church of God. After sharing the chapter from Lying For God submitted to me with a friend who has an earned Ph.D. in theology, he said to me, “Wow, former SDA/WWCOG to this?!?! Talk about out of the frying pan and into the fire!”
Arguments are made to establish the theory that there is no Sabbath prior to Exodus 16, when God provided manna for His people in the wilderness. This is poor logic, as we will see that there are plenty of other things that are a part of the Torah, what many incorrectly refer to as the “Mosaic Law”, that are not mentioned in Scripture prior to Exodus or Leviticus and the documenting of God’s instructions (Torah) that very few if any professing Believers would make this type of argument against. As an example, another of the Ten Commandments says to honor your mother and father. Should we conclude that, since there is no mention of this prior to Exodus 20, that this was not done prior to the exodus and that Gentile Believers should not honor their parents?
What Sabbatarianism Is
The first thing I want to do in laying a foundation for this is to properly define what it means to be a “Sabbatarian”. This is a term that seems to come up anytime someone expresses keeping the Sabbath according to the fourth commandment, but as it turns out the actual definition of this term is quite far removed from a belief in simply resting or ceasing from doing one’s regular work—what they earn their living doing—on the seventh day as defined by the biblical Hebrew calendar where days change at sunset as opposed to midnight on other modern calendar systems, and celebrating the Creation of our God. I was asked not too long ago if I consider myself a Sabbatarian, to which I said that I don’t really consider myself as such. This may be confusing to some, as I do believe in keeping the Sabbath according to Scripture, so allow me to explain what a Sabbatarian is and why I would rather not identify as such.
The Encyclopædia Britannica website states the following:
Sabbatarianism, doctrine of those Christians who believe that the Sabbath (usually on Sundays) should be observed in accordance with the Fourth Commandment, which forbids work on the Sabbath because it is a holy day (see Ten Commandments). Some other Christians have contended that the Fourth (or Third in some systems) Commandment was a part of the Hebrew ceremonial, not moral, law. They believe that this law was entirely abolished by Jesus, whose Resurrection on the first day of the week established a new kind of day, characterized by worship rather than absence of work. In Christianity there are many shades of opinion between these two views.
Legislation concerning what may or may not be done on Sunday is as old as the time of the Roman emperor Constantine I, who decreed regulations against Sunday labour in 321. In its strictest form, however, Sabbatarianism was the creation of the Scottish and English Reformers, especially John Knox. The Scottish Presbyterians and the Puritans took their views to the American colonies, where rigorous “blue laws” were enacted. Although reduced in number and effect, Sunday observance laws are still promoted in various European countries and in the United States. State or local laws, primarily in the South, bar certain business activities and sporting events on Sunday—increasingly, however, only before noon.
Those Christians who believe that the weekly holy day should still be observed on the Hebrew Sabbath, or Saturday, rather than on Sunday, are also called Sabbatarians. There was a Sabbatarian movement in the 16th century, and the Seventh-day Adventist church upholds the continuing validity of the Saturday Sabbath for Christians.
As you can see here, the concept of Sabbatarianism primarily regards Christianity that considers Sunday to be their Sabbath, often called the “Christian Sabbath”. This, as I have pointed out in other studies, seems to come primarily from the influence of the Emperor Constantine and his establishment of the “New Roman Religion”, what would eventually become Roman Catholicism, where, among forcing Christian converts to renounce all things “Jewish”, he also redefined the Sabbath to be Sol Dei (Day of the Sun), an homage to Sol Invictus (The Unconquered Sun), the official sun deity of the late Roman Empire. If you want to know more about this, I cover a lot of the details in my article SUN GOD: Is Sunday Church Pagan?
A secondary definition does associate Sabbatarianism with certain groups that maintain a Sabbath observance on the seventh day, but these are typically groups that have extreme legalistic views of what it means to keep the Sabbath and generally demand worship services to be conducted on the seventh day as opposed to the traditional Christian worship day of Sunday. In fact, it appears that a major point of being classified as Sabbatarian rides on a demand that worship services be conducted on the day deemed to be the Sabbath, whether that be Sunday or the seventh day of the week. A proper understanding of the Sabbath reveals that corporate worship on the Sabbath, while never a bad idea, is not a requirement.
I should note, as I have in the past, that legalism is properly defined as either a set of man-made rules that are placed equal to or higher that the Torah of God in their authority or the act of trying to earn or maintain salvation through keeping God’s Torah and/or man-made religious rules. Legalism requires at least one of these two definitions in place, but it can include both of them as one could place man-made religious rules as equal to or greater than God’s Torah and try to earn or maintain their salvation by keeping those same man-made rules. The Sabbath presents a lot of opportunities to get caught up in man-made rules as many sects have created lists of dos-and-don’ts for their own brand of Sabbath-keeping. Not too long ago I saw a three volume set of books in a bookstore, each of them about two inches thick, on rules and regulations for “properly keeping the Sabbath” in Orthodox Judaism.
As such, it seems that the term Sabbatarian is primarily associated with people who have a completely wrong view of the Sabbath, but generally hold a doctrine that says the Sabbath is to be kept by Believers today. As I have pointed out in the past, there is no commandment to gather in corporate worship on the Sabbath and there certainly is not a long list of commandments of dos-and-don’ts required for keeping the Sabbath. There is but one commandment in the whole of Scripture defining what it means to keep the Sabbath, and that is to do no ordinary work on the Sabbath. Ordinary work properly defined is what you earn a living doing, but it can also include anything you consider to be work.
For example, most people consider it work to mow their lawn, so that is an activity best put off for any of the other six days of the week. However, I knew a man some time ago who expressed great pleasure in mowing his lawn. He has a big yard and a riding mower and it brings him pleasure, so perhaps for him it would be permissible to mow his lawn on the Sabbath should he be a Believer. Though, in all likelihood, even in that case a committed Believer would refrain from such an activity on the Sabbath.
Just as the terms Christian and Christianity have come to be associated with anything but actual biblical faith today, the terms Sabbatarian and Sabbatarianism have more to do with a wrong view of keeping the Sabbath than the literal biblical definition of it. Therefore I, being one who promotes remembering the Sabbath Day and keeping it holy in accordance with the fourth commandment, prefer not to identify as a Sabbatarian. Holy simply means set apart; it has nothing to do with mandated worship. Keeping the Sabbath holy, as we will see, simply means to set it apart as a day separated from work to celebrate Creation. Particularly since I do not support the idea that it is mandatory to gather in corporate worship on the Sabbath. So, much like I prefer to identify simply as a “Believer” as opposed to a “Christian”, I also prefer to identify as a Believer who keeps the Sabbath rather than a “Sabbatarian. For more on these points, you can read my article Taking Back Our Holy Days: Remember The Sabbath Day.
Christians Don’t Build Arks
One of the first points that the authors of Lying For God make in the revised draft of their chapter arguing against a Sabbath established at Creation in Genesis 2:1-3 is that Noah was commanded to build an ark, but we don’t see Christians today building arks. This is the statement from the authors:
God told Noah to build an Ark. Christians do not build arks because God told Noah to build one and not Christians. Neither should they observe the Sabbath just because God told the Nation of Israel to keep it. Jesus told Judas to go out and do what he was going to do (John 13:26-28). Judas went out, betrayed Jesus, and hanged himself (Matt. 27:3-5). Jesus gave these instructions to only one person in the world, and not to everyone.
This is what is called a straw man argument, which is when someone tries to put up a ridiculous argument that is more easily shut down in comparison to the primary argument. First of all, Yeshua was not commanding Judas to go hang himself, that is absurd to even imply that. He merely released Judas to do what he was going to do. So let’s just get that out of the way right now.
As far as Christians not building arks, sure, there is no need today to build an ark for the same purposes that Noah did. But, contrary to the argument here, Christians have built arks, and lots of them. One prime example is the Ark Encounter exhibit in Kentucky built by the Christian organization Answers in Genesis. That’s not just an ark either, but it’s actually built to the dimensions given in the Bible. And who is to argue whether or not God told Answers In Genesis founder Ken Ham to build it or if he just though it would be a good idea to teach people about the Bible. Regardless, that’s a Christian who built an ark.
In addition to that, you can go into nearly any toy store and find a Noah’s Ark toy to purchase for your children to start teaching them at a very early age about the principles in the Bible. If you can’t find a toy like this in a store, you can certainly find an online distributor for one. Chances are pretty good that the idea to produce such toys came from a Christian and, despite not being totally biblically accurate by providing only two of each animal, including the clean ones of which there should be seven, it is an “ark” that finds its way into the homes of many Christians.
OK, so maybe this does not exactly discredit the claim, but obviously the ark that Noah was commanded to build was a one-time event in history. Although, I imagine that if God were to decide to flood the whole world today He would tell a Christian or perhaps many Christians to build an ark or numerous arks. The Sabbath is a weekly event that has been held by the Hebrew people (not just Jews, as the Jews only represent one of the twelve tribes, the tribe of Judah) throughout history. Not to mention how the group that left Egypt was referred to as a mixed multitude that included “strangers and sojourners” of Gentile descent. According to the Apostle Paul, Gentile Believers are grafted into the cultivated olive tree of Israel, a topic I go into detail on in my article appropriately titled Grafted In. To make a claim that the Sabbath was only given to Israel and compare it to the one time commandment to Noah to build an ark or the absolutely ludicrous idea that Yeshua “commanded” Judas to hang himself simply does not hold up, and as we go through the rest of this study you will see that this is by far not the worst claim that the authors have made in their effort to try and lead people against doing what God instructed His people to do.
Who Wrote Genesis?
It is stated by the authors that a scholar named P.J. Wiseman did extensive research into the origins of Genesis and concludes that Moses compiled the work from a collection of ancient tablets by different authors from the Patriarchs that preceded him. Of this research, the authors conclude the following:
We must keep in mind that the story in Genesis 2 is about what God did—not what Adam and Eve were supposed to do. Since God led in every step of the process of inspiration, we can be certain of one thing, and that is if there were a Sabbath ordinance in Genesis 2, He would have made it to read that way so we would have no difficulty finding it.
In the paragraph preceding this conclusion the authors admit to speculating. So, let us speculate. There is no mention of the Sabbath in Genesis except for the use of the Hebrew word shabath (שָׁבַת). However, using this argument to claim that there was no Sabbath before Exodus 16 poses a couple of problems.
1. There are no commands not to rape women, sleep with animals, etc. before Exodus 16 either but that doesn’t mean we should allow such activities.
2. If it is concluded that Moses compiled the work of Genesis from tablets he had collected, we must assume at least the possibility that there were tablets he did not have. It is proposed that during the time period when these tablets were written people were writing on cuneiform tablets the way we write letters or e-mails today and even had a postal system in place. If that is the case, it means that there is a high probability that records of Sabbath keeping were lost before they got to Moses. Also, if Moses was preserving the original records, it would make sense that he did not “add in” records of Sabbath keeping that he did not actually have in his possession.
We do have it in the Genesis record that the laws of clean and unclean animal distinctions were known with Noah prior to the flood. This is clear as Noah was told to take unclean animals in single pairs but of clean animals he took by sevens. There is no reason to think this was a different list of clean and unclean animals than what is recorded in Leviticus 11 and Deuteronomy 14. Some might argue that Moses intentionally put that detail into the Genesis record to further support that part of the “Mosaic Law”. But if it is concluded that the Book of Genesis is actually a compilation of preexisting cuneiform tablets, and that they were recorded unaltered, then we must conclude that the laws of clean and unclean animals were absolutely in place long before the “Mosaic Law” was recorded.
Essentially, the questions about authorship do nothing to strengthen a case against the Sabbath. All it really does is show that Moses would have taken what existing texts he did have and put them together. This doesn’t really support either a position for or against the Sabbath prior to Exodus 16.
The Time Traveling Rabbinic Writings
It has been proposed by the authors that “Jesus” and at least some of the first-century Apostles taught from the Jewish Mishnah, a document containing the oral teachings of sages beginning roughly 40 or 50 years prior to the birth of Yeshua through about 200 B.C. when it was compiled and recorded. It is proposed that the Mishnah forbids Gentiles to keep the Sabbath or obey anything else in the Torah. Let’s take a look at some of what the authors say in this segment of Lying For God:
For clarification, the Pharisees, whose teachings Jesus commanded the people to obey, rejected all of the oral law with the exception of the Mishnah.
Furthermore, the attempt of Sabbatarians to minimize the authority of the Mishnah also ignores the overwhelming evidence that Old Testament writers taught from it, Jesus taught from it, and New Testament writers incorporated its teachings into their writings.
The Mishnah teaches that the Sabbath was not given to Israel until the time of the Exodus and that the Sabbath commandment is for Israel’s exclusive use. It teaches that the Written Law, or the Torah, was so clear about the Sabbath being for Hebrews only that Gentiles who dared to keep it were guilty of blasphemy. When the real history of the Mishnah is understood, it is clear that the Judges of Israel arrived at this conclusion by studying the Torah when the Torah was written in the same language that they spoke.
To support this idea that the Mishnah forbids non-Jews from keeping the Sabbath or following many other aspects of Torah they refer to two primary sources. The first of these is a statement made by Reuven Brauner, who states:
Regarding non-Jews observing the 613 Commandments, it is explicit in Jewish law that the Commandments were given specifically to the Jewish people. Non-Jews are not obligated to observe but seven key Commandments, and non-Jewish observance of any of the others is a serious violation. As strange as this may seem, the reason that the 613 Commandments were directed only to Jews is that they are not universal and they underscore the special bond God has with the Jewish people and the special responsibilities Jews have to God. This is not to say that non-Jews cannot become close to God, enjoy His blessings, etc., but merely it states the unique role the Jewish people have with God. It is not negative in any way. Judaism encourages non-Jews to do what THEY have to do, and what they are commanded, i.e. the Seven Commandments of Noah, and not usurp the Jewish role. For this reason, non-Jewish observance of uniquely Jewish Commandments is technically forbidden by Jewish Law, and this includes detailed observance of the Sabbath as would a Jew. If a non-Jew feels the need to observe the Sabbath “properly,” he has to convert to Judaism—something which he, ironically, is not encouraged to do, but may do so if he really feels compelled.
So, according to Brauner there are seven “laws” that Gentiles are obligated to. These are later stated in the citation as the Seven Laws of Noah. This is a popular Jewish teaching that has as many flaws, much like those Christians cling to in saying that they are only obligated to the four “laws” given in the Council at Jerusalem in Acts 15, or the two “laws of love”—love God and love people—listed as the “two greatest commandments” by Yeshua, or the Ten Commandment minus one (the Sabbath) because Yeshua quoted all but that one when telling the rich young ruler which commandments are to be kept. All of these claims are flawed because none includes commandments that are generally considered as morally binding on all people. But let’s look at Brauner’s claim that non-Jewish observance of any Torah commandment outside of the Seven Noachide Laws is a “serious violation”. These are the Seven Laws of Noah according to the Jewish teachings on them:
- Not to worship idols.
- Not to curse God.
- To establish courts of justice.
- Not to commit murder.
- Not to commit adultery or sexual immorality.
- Not to steal.
- Not to eat flesh torn from a living animal.
So, let’s take a look at a couple of things that are not on this list. We’ll start with the Ten Commandments. One of them, the fifth commandment, is to honor your mother and father. So, according to Brauner, it is a “serious violation” for a non-Jewish Believer to honor their father and mother. Another one, the ninth, is to not bear false witness. So, this means that it is a “serious violation” for a non-Jewish Believer to tell the truth.
Let’s turn our attention to the 613 mitzvot of the Torah, for which I reference the compilation of Maimonides whose listing is the most widely accepted. Leviticus 19:18 tells us to love our neighbor as ourselves. So, then, since it is not on the list of the “Noah Seven”, despite being one of the “love God, love people” commandments from Yeshua, it is then a “serious violation” for a non-Jewish Believer to love their neighbor. Exodus 22:21 says, “You must not mistreat any widow or orphan.” So, if you are not a Jew, I suppose you better start mistreating widows and orphans, lest you be in “serious violation”. Deuteronomy 22:5 says, “A man’s apparel is not to be on a woman, nor is a man to wear woman’s clothing.” So, if you are a non-Jew and you are not a cross-dresser, apparently your apparel places you in “serious violation”. Do I need to go on?
It is claimed by the authors of our source chapter from Lying For God that the Mishnah forbids non-Jews to keep the Sabbath and that “Jesus” and the first century Apostles taught from the it. To support this theory the authors reference a chapter in the Mishnah titled Kings and Wars, calling for their readers to search for this chapter on the Internet. I did.
As it turns out, this chapter titled Kings and Wars is NOT from the Mishnah that would have existed during the time of Yeshua or the first century. It is from a multi-volume work of Moses ben Maimon (aka Maimonides and Rambam), a 12th century Rabbi, titled Mishneh Torah (compiled between 1170 and 1180 A.D.), found in the fourteenth book in the set titled Sefer Shofetim. This is what Rambam says:
A non-Jew who busied himself with Torah is liable with his life. He must involve himself in their Seven Commandments only. Similarly, a non-Jew who “rested” as one would on Shabbos, even on a weekday, is liable with the death penalty. There is no reason to mention (that he is culpable) if he invented his own holiday. The principle here is that we do not permit them to make a new religion and create new commandments for themselves based on their own reasoning. They may only become Righteous Converts and accept upon themselves all the Commandments, or they must observe their own (Seven) Laws only, and not add or detract from them. If a non-Jew busied himself with Torah or made Shabbos or made up something new, we give him lashes and punish him and tell him that he is liable with the death penalty for doing this. But he is not executed.
A non-Jew who wishes to perform another Torah Commandment (merely) in order to receive a reward is not prevented from so doing in the Halochically correct way. Thus, if he brings the Olah (burnt) offering, we accept it from him. If he gives charity, we accept it from him. It appears to me, however, that we give these monies to the Jewish poor since he (the Resident Convert) is sustained by Israel, and they have a commandment to keep them (the Jews) alive. However, if a non-Jew gives charity, we take it and give it to the non-Jewish poor.
So, to summarize this, the authors of our subject chapter from Lying For God are claiming that Yeshua, the first century Apostles, the Pharisees, and even “Old Testament” writers all quoted from a set of books written by a 12th century Rabbi between the years 1170 and 1180 A.D. This, of course, is impossible, unless, however, someone were to invent a time machine and take Maimonides’ work into time periods more than a thousand years earlier and distribute it to those being said to quote from it. Perhaps we should see if Doc Brown and Marty McFly still have that DeLorean fully equipped with a flux capacitor.
On top of that, they use the testimony of a modern scholar, Reuven Brauner, who makes a vague statement about Jewish law forbidding non-Jews to follow Torah outside of the so-called Seven Noachide Laws. Incidentally, Brauner translated Maimonides chapter Kings and Wars in 2012, which is available online for review (though it is not the translation I chose to reference above for Maimonides work, it still reads much the same). Brauner may believe that it is a “serious violation” for non-Jews to obey the Torah, but he does not make the outlandish claim that “Jesus” and others in the first century quoted from Maimonides 12th century work. It kind of makes you wonder: Who exactly is it that is lying for God?
I should also mention that Maimonides lived and taught during a time that was well into the history of division between Jews and Catholics (modern Protestant Christianity didn’t even exist at that time in history), in the midst of the crusades, and so it would seem to fit that a prominent Rabbi would express such views against non-Jews following what he certainly would have considered sacred to Judaism. Maimonides is well respected and much of his work is worthy of consideration. This particular view, however, does not really hold a lot of weight in claiming that it is a “serious violation” for non-Jewish Believers to follow the Torah and his opinion well over a thousand years later most certainly does not support such views being held in the first century or at any given time in the biblical record.
I will acknowledge that there is a record in the Babylonian Talmud tractate Sanhedrin 58b, compiled between around 450 and 550 A.D., that records Shim‘on ben Lakish saying, “A gentile who observed Shabbat is liable to receive the death penalty, as it is stated: “And day and night shall not cease” (Genesis 8:23), which literally means: And day and night they shall not rest. This is interpreted homiletically to mean that the descendants of Noah may not take a day of rest,” and Ravina saying, “If a descendant of Noah observes a day of rest on any day of the week, even one not set aside for religious worship, e.g., on a Monday, he is liable.” While much earlier than Maimonides work, Lakish lived in the 3rd century and Ravina in the 5th century, the Talmud Sanhedrin record being compiled in the late 5th to early 6th centuries, all still well into the separation and violent division of Christians who were abandoning their Hebraic roots and Rabbinic Orthodox Jews who refused to accept Yeshua as Messiah. Since we already know that the Mishnah was not itself recorded until well after the life and ministry of Yeshua and the Apostles, the Talmud, being a commentary on the Mishnah, most certainly was not around during the life and ministry of Yeshua or the Apostles either. While parts of what became these documents seem to have existed, it is a stretch to say that anyone in the first century actually taught from these documents that didn’t fully exist yet at that time. That would be like saying Yeshua taught from the “New Testament” or the Gospels that record His teachings well after the completion of His life and ministry. It should also be noted that all people are descendants of Noah, including Jews, so these men are essentially condemning themselves to death for keeping the Sabbath too, as descendants of Noah. This does not help their credibility at all.
The 11h century Rabbi Shlomo Yitzchaki, better known as Rashi, is quoted as saying, “There are those who say that every Ger Toshav (a non-Jew living in Eretz Yisrael in the time of the Jewish Temple, who has formally accepted the obligation to observe the Noahide laws in front of a Jewish court) has to uphold and keep the Sabbath.” This is recorded in Kesher: A Journal of Messianic Judaism: Issue 23 / Fall 2009. Research into this view suggests that Orthodox Judaism maintains that a non-Jew may keep the Sabbath by not working, having a festive meal, reading Torah, and celebrating Creation. Rabbi Yoel Schwartz states: “On the eve of the Sabbath (Friday night), they might have a festive family dinner with special food and light candles after sundown in honor of the Seventh Day, which was given to Adam and Noah (and to make the Noachide celebration of the Shabbat distinct from the Jewish Shabbat observance). During the meal they may sing songs to strengthen their belief, including songs about creation. They may read from the Torah. They should not call this day the Sabbath, but the Seventh Day as it is written in Genesis.”
The non-Jew that keeps the Sabbath is “required” under this Orthodox Jewish view, according to some, to break at least one commandment that is to be kept by Jews on the Sabbath. As such, it clarifies the death penalty—imposed by Maimonides, Lakish, and others on non-Jews who keep the Sabbath—is toward one who keeps the Sabbath to the full extent of Talmudic Jewish Law, not to a non-Jew who keeps the Sabbath in accordance with the simple commandment of the Torah. Anyone who keeps the Sabbath based on the commandments of Torah alone are likely violating a bunch of Jewish Talmudic laws pertaining to the Sabbath, so they would not even have to worry about Jews wanting to execute them for being in “serious violation” anyway. While I do not agree in totality on the ways in which Rabbi Yitzchaki (Rashi) and Rabbi Schwartz suggest how a “Noachide” or non-Jew keeps the Sabbath, it is clear that these highly respected Rabbis endorse non-Jewish keeping of the Sabbath. I also do not find a good reason, apart from the opinion of these Rabbis, why such a non-Jewish celebration on the Seventh Day cannot be referred to as The Sabbath.
Essentially, by showing that the authors of Lying For God have mixed up the Mishnah with Maimonides’ Mishneh Torah, that the proposed death penalty was not toward all non-Jews who would keep the Sabbath, but only toward those who keep a Sabbath according to all of the man-made Jewish Talmudic laws (the very same kind of man-made laws and traditions that Yeshua spent His entire life and ministry opposing), and that non-Jews who chase after righteousness—according to Rashi—should keep the Sabbath in a way that aligns with the Torah alone, I have pretty much debunked the overwhelming majority of the argument against keeping the Sabbath in the subject chapter: Is the Weekly Sabbath Established in the Genesis Creation Narrative? But I will continue, because there is still plenty of material to cover.
Consider The High Sabbaths
In the consideration about whether or not Believers under the new covenant should be keeping the Sabbath it warrants a look at the Holy Mo’edim, which many know as the Spring and Fall Feasts. There are certain dates during these Feasts that are referred to as High Sabbaths because they are referred to as a Sabbath but don’t necessarily fall on the (weekly) Sabbath. We will look at two of these: Passover and Tabernacles.
The celebration of the Passover is an annual commemoration of the exodus from Egyptian bondage and, for new covenant Believers it is also a commemoration of the greater exodus of freedom from sin in Yeshua. Sadly, most Christians are totally oblivious to the Passover today as it has been replaced in most Christian sects by a pagan celebration called Easter Sunday, but that is a topic for another time. For now, let’s focus on the Passover celebration and it’s association as a High Sabbath.
Passover is part of a week-long celebration that also includes the Feast of Unleavened Bread where we are to remove all baked goods, such as breads and desserts, that have been leavened, or caused to rise in baking, from the home and eat only baked goods that have not been leavened, and the Feast of First Fruits that celebrates the first harvest of the spring growing season. The Passover itself is the beginning of this overall celebration of God’s provision and is referred to as a Sabbath. Because it doesn’t always fall on the weekly Sabbath it is called a High Sabbath. Let’s take a look at what the Apostle Paul instructs new covenant Believers about this:
Your boasting is no good. Don’t you know that a little hametz leavens the whole batch of dough? Get rid of the old hametz, so you may be a new batch, just as you are unleavened—for Messiah, our Passover Lamb, has been sacrificed. Therefore let us celebrate the feast not with old hametz, the hametz of malice and wickedness, but with unleavened bread—the matzah of sincerity and truth. ~1 Corinthians 5:6-8 (TLV)
It is very clear that Paul is talking about the celebration of Passover and he says, quite directly, “let us celebrate the feast”. This would include all aspects of the Feast, including the High Sabbath of the Passover itself, a celebration where we are commanded to eat a lamb with bitter herbs as a remembrance of the first Passover. According to Leviticus 23 the first day of the celebration is a High Sabbath, but it does seem that there is debate over whether this refers to the Passover itself on the fourteenth day of the Hebrew month of Nisan or the first day of Unleavened Bread on the fifteenth of Nisan. Either way, this would indicate at least one example of a Sabbath that is directly commanded to be kept under the new covenant.
The celebration known as the Feast of Tabernacles, also called Sukkot, is part of the Fall Feasts that also includes the Day of Trumpets, the Ten Days of Awe, and the Day of Atonement. Much like the Passover, the first day of the Feast of Tabernacles is also called a Sabbath where no work is to be done. For this, we will turn to a prophecy out of the Book of Zechariah that most scholars in the study of eschatology believe to refer to the Millennial Reign, which is itself a Sabbath lasting a thousand years.
Then all the survivors from all the nations that attacked Jerusalem will go up from year to year to worship the King, Adonai-Tzva’ot, and to celebrate Sukkot. Furthermore, if any of the nations on earth do not go up to Jerusalem to worship the King, Adonai-Tzva’ot, they will have no rain. If the Egyptians do not go up and celebrate, they will have no rain. Instead, there will be the plague that Adonai will inflict on the nations that do not go up to celebrate Sukkot. This will be the punishment of Egypt and the punishment of all the nations that do not go up to celebrate Sukkot. In that day “Holy to Adonai” will be inscribed on the bells of the horses and the pots in House of Adonai will be like the sacred bowls in front of the altar. In fact every pot in Jerusalem and in Judah will be Holy to Adonai-Tzva’ot, so that everyone who comes to sacrifice will take them, and cook in them. In that day there will no longer be a Canaanite in the House of Adonai-Tzva’ot. ~ Zechariah 14:16-21 (TLV)
According to this passage, and the conclusions of many scholars, the Feast of Tabernacles will be celebrated during the Millennial Reign. But not only that, it clearly indicates that all nations will celebrate this Feast. While this would be a future time period, it shows a clear indication of Gentiles celebrating the Feast, complete with its Sabbath, during a post-Resurrection time period. When we put this together with what we looked at regarding Passover, and using common sense, it would seem quite apparent that this too is a Feast that Believers should be celebrating today.
If these High Sabbaths are intended to be a part of the faith today, then we must at least consider that all Sabbaths are still in place today. This would include the weekly Sabbath.
There Remains A Sabbath
Another passage that seems to be of interest to a discussion regarding the Sabbath comes out of the Book of Hebrews. You see, it would be logical to conclude that if a Sabbath can be established under the new covenant for all Believers, who are grafted into the cultivated olive tree of Israel as Paul taught, then it wouldn’t even matter whether or not a Sabbath can be established at Creation in Genesis 2 or even if it can be established that the Sabbath concept didn’t begin until Exodus 16.
So there remains a Shabbat rest for the people of God. ~Hebrews 4:9 (TLV)
The common belief is that the Book of Hebrews was penned around 65 A.D. The author is anonymous. Many believe Paul wrote it, but other authors have been proposed including a woman: Priscilla. But there is not real proof that the letter was written at the proposed time. The only absolutes in dating the letter are that Clement referred to it in 95 A.D. and Timothy was alive when it was written, tradition holding that Timothy died in 97 A.D.
It has been suggested by some scholars that Hebrews was written after the destruction of the Temple in 70 A.D. as a means to console Believers after the loss of the central place of worship of Yahweh. This point is alluded to in Hebrews (Paideia: Commentaries on the New Testament) by James W. Thompson, who says:
Similarly, the author gives a few clues about the dating of this homily. Since the central argument focuses on the sacrificial system, many scholars have attempted to correlate the argument with the destruction of the temple in Jerusalem, maintaining that the use of the present tense for the activities of the tabernacle suggests a date before the destruction of the temple in AD 70. On the other hand, Marie Isaacs (1992, 67) has argued that Hebrews was written between 70 and 90 in order to reassure the community that atonement is possible without animal sacrifices. Inasmuch as Hebrews argues on the basis of the tabernacle rather than the temple, one cannot draw conclusions about the date of Hebrews by referring to the destruction of the temple in AD 70. The fact that writers spoke of the cultic activities in the present tense after the destruction of the temple (Josephus, Ant. 3.151-224) suggests that we can draw no conclusions based on the use of the present tense. The date remains unknown and of only marginal importance for understanding the book, for our interpretation requires that we know not the location or the date of the composition of this work but the issues that the author confronts.
In this statement, Thompson refers to the work of Marie Isaacs to propose the idea of the epistle being written after the destruction of Jerusalem and the sacred Temple. Isaacs makes this statement in her book Sacred Space: An Approach to the Theology of the Epistle to the Hebrews:
Christians of Jewish origin, whether in Judaea or the Diaspora, especially those with a priestly frame of mind, would have mourned the loss of Jerusalem. It is this which is the most likely scenario for the composition of our Epistle. Its author did not question Christology or soteriology in the abstract. These emerge out of his attempt to reinterpret the Scriptures to meet the needs of his audience. The interpretive traditions and methods which he brings to bear in this enterprise cannot neatly be categorized, but seem to have their closest affinities with Hellenistic Judaism, since he draws upon both Jewish and Greek traditions. From this interaction Hebrews has created a new and powerful theology of access.
In considering the notion that the Epistle of Hebrews was written as a consolation to first century Believers who were mourning the loss of Jerusalem and the Holy Temple of Yahweh, we must consider the application of this to the passage that states, “So there remains a Shabbat rest for the people of God.” In this scenario, it can be argued that the author was assuring the people that the Sabbath remains, with or without a Temple in Jerusalem. And even if not as a consolation to mourning Believers, it still says that the Sabbath remains for God’s people under the new covenant. Establishing even a halfway valid argument that Messianic Believers in the first century, including Gentile converts, continued keeping the Sabbath, especially with the potential of it being after the destruction of the Temple in 7o A.D., means that it is completely irrelevant whether or not there was a Sabbath being kept between Genesis 2 and Exodus 16.
Many argue that the destruction of the Temple is an indication that the ceremonial aspects of the Mosaic Law were fully abrogated. However, if we have a valid argument that the Sabbath remains after the destruction of the Temple, we must rethink this. If the possibility that the Sabbath remains after the destruction of the Temple, it becomes a very dangerous place in theology to argue against the keeping of a biblical Sabbath.
The Hebrew Linguistics Of Genesis 2
The claim is made that the word “Shabat” means to “cease or stop” with “rest” being a secondary definition. The New Strong’s Exhaustive Concordance of the Bible provides the following definition for “shabath” (Strong’s 7673), which is the word used in Genesis 2:2-3:
to repose, i.e. desist from exertion, used in many impl. relations (caus., fig. or spec.):— (cause to, let, make to) cease, celebrate, cause (make) to fail, keep (sabbath), suffer to be lacking, leave, put away (down), (make to) rest, rid, still, take away.
In short, this word means “cause to, let, make to cease, celebrate, cause make to fail.” Since the record of Genesis 2 is documenting something that God did, we must consider the character and nature of God The Bible says that God neither sleeps nor slumbers, so we should really rule out any definitions that deal with resting as the proper translation of “shabath” in Genesis 2:2-3. Likewise we can rule out definitions related to lack, because we know the earth is the Lord’s and the fullness thereof. He owns the cattle on a thousand hills. He is most certainly not lacking.
But one definition really jumps out: celebrate. When we consider that the Holy Feasts instituted by God are also referred to as “Sabbaths” we can see a positive relationship between the biblical principle of Sabbath and celebration. I would propose that the Sabbath, from the very beginning, was meant to be a celebration of God’s Creation.
It is argued by the authors of Lying For God that the Hebrew Interlinear Translation put out by a group called Scripture for All translates Genesis 2:1-3 this way:
And they are being finished the heavens and the earth and all of host of them and he is finishing Elohim in (the) day the seventh work of him which he did and he is ceasing in (the) day the seventh from all of work of him which he did and he is blessing Elohim day of the seventh and he is making holy him that in him he ceased from all of work of him which he created Elohim to do of.
This is an attempt at a literal translation of the text, and clearly it does not read very well in English. There are translations, such as the Tree of Life Version, that also use “ceased” in this passage. But let’s take a look at a more popular modern translation of the Bible in English: the New International Version.
By the seventh day God had finished the work he had been doing; so on the seventh day he rested from all his work. Then God blessed the seventh day and made it holy, because on it he rested from all the work of creating that he had done. ~Genesis 2:2-3 (NIV)
Now let’s take this popular translation and change the words “rested from” to the word “celebrated”. We can do this because we know that “celebrated” is an acceptable definition of “shabath”.
By the seventh day God had finished the work he had been doing; so on the seventh day he celebrated all his work. Then God blessed the seventh day and made it holy, because on it he celebrated all the work of creating that he had done.
Looking at the Genesis 2 Sabbath in terms of a celebration practically eliminates all concept of the Sabbath as something burdensome or mandated by Law. It becomes the weekly celebration of God’s Creation.
Looking at the pattern of Creation in simple terms further supports this. First, God created time. Then He created atmosphere and weather. After that He created vegetation for food. Then He created animal life and finally He created man. The very next act was: Rest? Lack? I will contend that the next act, what seems most in keeping with the character and nature of God throughout Scripture is that the next thing He did, on that first Sabbath Day, was to initiate a celebration feast.
Using “ceased,” “rested,” or “celebrated” would be the choice of the translator. Many who are trying to do a strict literal translation may choose to use “ceased” but does that necessarily make it correct? Should we not consider “celebrated” as a more appropriate translation for “shabath”, as used in Genesis 2:1-3, to be the most in harmony with the known character of God? Throughout Scripture it seems “celebration” is much more in harmony with the known character of God than “rest” or “ceased”, since God neither sleeps nor slumbers.
We must always remember that sometimes intellect can overlook common sense. I once heard a preacher tell a story about how a renowned theologian, a man who had given his whole life to study, was explaining how he had figured out that what most know as the Red Sea was actually called the Sea of Reeds and that the point where the Israelites crossed was actually only two feet deep. The theologian sounded quite intelligent as he had found a way to explain the Red Sea crossing that does not require such a sensational and hard to comprehend story as God splitting the waters and having His people cross with this massive wall of water on either side of them, as it so often depicted in movies and children’s books. The preacher looked back at the theologian and said, “WOW, that’s amazing! That makes the miracle even greater than I ever imagined. You just told me that God drowned the most powerful army in the world at that time in only two feet of water.”
In arguing that “ceased” cannot always mean “rested” a weak argument is presented by the authors of Lying For God. In their written work, they make the statement, “Sabbatarians have built an entire religion on the false idea that God took a siesta on the 7th day.” They are attempting to make a claim that God, instead of retiring to rest on the Sabbath of the Creation week or that He stepped away to celebrate His work in Creation, stopped doing the work of creating but began another type of work, something not actually mentioned in the Bible. Two examples are given:
- Let us say that a man is chopping wood. He finishes this task and goes over to the fireplace and starts cleaning the fireplace and chimney. In this case he CEASED one thing and began working on another thing. When he ceased, he didn’t rest.
- Let us say a man is sleeping. He wakes up. When he wakes up, he ceases to sleep, but he also ceases to rest! When most people wake up in the morning and cease sleeping, they begin working.
The Genesis 2 record cannot be talking about ceasing to do one work task in exchange for another because the Sabbath commandment in Exodus 20, which specifically links the weekly Sabbath documented in the “Ten Commandments” with the seventh day of the week of Creation, specifically says “you are to do no work”. Likewise, if we rule out “rested” because it is not in line with the character of God, who neither sleeps nor slumbers, then the Genesis 2 use of “shabath” cannot be referring to God taking a nap either. Once again, the most logical interpretation seems to be to say that God celebrated the work of His Creation on the seventh day. The notion of God celebrating His creation eliminates the flaws both with God retiring to go to sleep or that God was working on the Sabbath. In Exodus 20:11 (TLV) it says, “Thus Adonai blessed Yom Shabbat, and made it holy.” “Yom” means “day” and “Shabbat” comes from a more intense form of “shabath”. This means we could say: “Thus Adonai blessed The Day of Celebration, and made it holy.”
Jeff Benner And The Sabbath
In a segment of our source chapter from Lying For God subtitled The Concept Of “Shabat” Versus “Nuah” it is stated: “Some Adventist apologists claim that the word for SABBATH in Exodus 20, the noun SHABBAT, is essentially interchangeable with the verb, SHABAT, in Genesis 2, so that the presence of SHABBAT in Exodus effectively places a SHABBATH—the Sabbath Ordinance—back into Genesis 2.” In order to try and make a convincing argument, it seems that the authors need to completely ignore that Exodus 20:11 (TLV) literally says “For in six days Adonai made heaven and earth, the sea, and all that is in them, and rested on the seventh day. Thus Adonai blessed Yom Shabbat, and made it holy.”
At this point the authors begin to lean heavily on the work of a man by the name of Jeff Benner. It should be noted that, while Benner appears to have the endorsement of a number of legitimately credentialed scholars, he himself seems to have no actual formal accreditation. On his website, where much of his work is listed including his Mechanical Translation of the Torah, which we will be looking at, he openly states: “I am also frequently asked for my “credentials” to teach Hebrew. Well, I guess I don’t have any unless you count the thousands of hours I have spent in research and study. I have attempted to use as many resources as I could from the fields of history, linguistics, archeology, anthropology and theology in order to uncover the original Hebrew alphabet, language, thought and culture.” I do not personally believe this eliminates him as a reliable source, but it is worthy of mentioning before we refer to his work.
In looking at our passage from Exodus 20, Benner’s Mechanical Translation says it this way “Given that six days YHWH made the skies and the land, the sea and all which is in them, and he rested in the seventh day, therefore, YHWH exalted the day of the ceasing, and he set him apart.” Another source used in Lying For God, Scripture for All’s translation, puts it like this “that six of days he made Yahweh the heavens and the earth the sea and all of which in them and he is stopping in (the) day the seventh on so he blessed Yahweh day of the sabbath and he is hallowing him.” (NOTE: This passage is cited by the authors of Lying For God, but not in totality. They cut out the end of the verse that says “…day of the sabbath and he is hallowing him” and simply add a period after the second mention of the name “Yahweh.” This is very misleading to cut a verse in half and add a period in a place where it does not belong to further their agenda, particularly when they cut out the very word “sabbath” from their citation of the verse. The proper way to end a partial sentence in citation is with three dots “…” as opposed to a single period.)
So why is this even an argument? The text clearly refers the Sabbath commandment from Exodus 20 directly to the record of Genesis 2. It does not matter if there is the use of another word for “rested” (nuah) or how many “b’s” are used (shabath, shabbath). The fact that the passage plainly refers back to the record in Genesis 2 makes the connection. Trying to make these other arguments is quite a reach.
Another thing that the authors Lying For God are either ignorant of or intentionally ignore in the hopes that their readers remain ignorant of is that Jeff Benner also endorses keeping the Sabbath by all people in covenant with God as a celebration of Creation. These four points are from his book The Holy Assembly And The Everlasting Covenant, where he closes a chapter in full endorsement of Sabbath-keeping (the entire book is available for a free download in a PDF format, with a request for a small donation if one feels led):
• The Sabbath is a day of rest on the seventh day, to be kept holy by man and blessed by God.
• The Sabbath is a commemoration of creation.
• The first Sabbath-rest was God’s rest on the seventh day of creation.
• The Sabbath is also an everlasting covenant for his people.
I find it quite interesting that Benner, whose expertise on the Hebrew language is being used as a primary reference throughout this chapter in Lying For God, is himself in favor of keeping the Sabbath. After all, if he is such an expert on the language, how is it that he totally missed all of these alleged points that these authors with an obvious agenda against Seventh-Day Adventism and not really against the commanded Sabbath of Scripture were so clever to come up with?
I would argue that Benner’s work, regardless of whatever higher education credentials he may be lacking, speaks for itself. Anyone who has studied the depths of the Hebrew language to the point of being able to create a translation of the Torah Books like he did with his Mechanical Translation should certainly know the Hebrew language and culture well enough to know if there was a Sabbath initiated in Genesis 2 or if it was not instituted until Exodus 16. The mere fact that such a scholar endorses the keeping of the Sabbath and ties it to Creation completely invalidates the use (or, perhaps I should say misuse) of his work to say otherwise. I’m sure Mr. Benner would find it quite offensive that his research is being used to promote any kind of anti-Sabbath position.
Eve… God’s Masterpiece?
Within the text of our subject chapter from Lying For God, the notion of Eve as the “masterpiece” of God’s Creation is presented. The claim is made that her beauty transcends anything else ever created and left Adam awestruck. This is a highly opinionated assumption that leans toward a goddess heresy—within the Bible. This needs not be addressed in detail. This is what the authors have to say regarding this:The Creation account of the 6th day is so profound that the construction of the story of what happened on the sixth day is unique to all biblical literature. This form of expression is found nowhere else in the Hebrew Scriptures, and there is a good reason for it. Nothing in the Universe that God had created hitherto had come “within a million miles” of His masterpiece, Eve. Perhaps Adam fainted dead on the ground when God brought her to him, and God had to do quick CPR to get him breathing again. Perhaps all the angels wished that they could share a billionth of her beauty. In any case, the 6th day is all about God’s finishing up the creation of Planet Earth after bringing Eve into existence, and the 7th day is merely an occasion designated to celebrate the completion of Creation that took place by the end of the sixth day.
I find it interesting that they are attempting to make a point in opposition to the Sabbath and, seemingly without even realizing it, they actually state that the seventh day is a time to celebrate the Creation. They attempt to minimize this, but nevertheless they make the point that the seventh day is set apart for the purpose to which I have been saying it is for. This should not be minimized, the celebration of Creation on the weekly Sabbath should be the climax of our entire walk of faith.
I should also point out that their assumptions of Eve’s beauty is their opinion and that nothing indicates such a claim as her being so stunning that Adam fell down to the ground or passed out due to her appearance and God had to resuscitate him. This claim also seems like it could be considered a sexist result of cultural bias. After all, in America we have grown up with girls being trained from their childhood to aspire to look like a Barbie® doll and boys being trained to go after the “pretty girl”. We are flooded with Miss America pageants and Sport’s Illustrated Swimsuit Issues. While it is possible that Eve was the most beautiful woman to ever walk the face of the planet, it is just as likely that she was what many might consider “average” today, because it was certainly not about her but about the totality of God’s Creation.
A goddess is a female deity, found in many pagan religions, that is often depicted as having the capability to leave men mesmerized by her beauty. As such, it has also become a term used to describe beautiful women in modern times, and perhaps other times throughout history. I find it very concerning that the authors present Eve in such a way that is so close to the concept of a pagan goddess. Perhaps this was not their intention, but it does add to the growing list of questionable teaching within just this one chapter from their total argument against the Sabbath.
Did God Work On The Sabbath?
As I have noted already, the authors of Lying For God have indicated that God did not “take a siesta” on that first Sabbath Day at the conclusion of the Creation week, but rather that he stopped doing the work of Creation and began another form of work. Of course, they cannot say what this other work was because nothing in Scripture indicates such a thing, lending to how this theory is highly speculative. However, there is a hint to what the authors believe this work involved in this statement made in our subject chapter from their book:The thing of most interest to us, in our consideration of the word SHABAT in terms of whether the word might better be translated as “rest” is clearly indicated by the reason given for why God respected the 7th day. On the 7th day, God resumed His normal work patterns, doing things that only God could do. He does not sleep because His constant watchcare over His Creation is essential to the maintenance of everything that exists.
First, let me say that this theory has a major flaw that needs to be considered. If God was busy on the Sabbath Day watching over His Creation, as the authors claim, how is it that Eve was able to be deceived into eating the forbidden fruit of the Tree of Knowledge and then sharing with her husband Adam? After all, if God were present in the moment certainly He would have shouted out, “NO! DON’T DO IT!” This is also why I personally believe that the sin of eating what God said not to initially took place on a Sabbath Day, the only day of the week Scripture gives any indication that God retreats from His Creation, whether it be to rest in the way most understand rest or to engage in a weekly celebration of His Creation in the Kingdom of Heaven. Of course, this too is a theory that I cannot prove any more than the authors of Lying For God can prove that God was “working” on the Sabbath Day. But at least I will tell you when I am theorizing, as opposed to making stuff up and trying to pawn it off as fact.
This statement also diminishes Genesis 1:26-28 where God made man His image-bearer in the earth and charged man with the care of His Creation. God needed do no “further work” or begin “His normal work patterns” on the seventh day because He had created a fully functioning system of life where all living things supported all other living things in a great symbiosis of life. I talk about this in more detail in an article titled EARTH: A Living Creature. He then placed human beings as His own image-bearers in the midst of it. God did not need to watch constantly over His Creation to make sure everything was working properly. He didn’t need to micromanage the Earth. This would be like saying that a car manufacturer needs to provide one of their design engineers to every person who purchases one of their cars to make sure the car works properly for the owner 24/7.
Once God had completed His Creation, all of the pieces were in place for it to function without Him. This does not mean that He is not personally present in the world. I do not endorse the ideology of Deism where God exists apart from His Creation and merely watches from a distance, not interfering in this world. It does stand to reason, however, that God created a system that is capable of continuing on without Him, which would allow Him to retreat on His Sabbath without any problems developing. And no problems would have developed had Eve obeyed the commandment of God and not eaten something God said not to eat.
The next point that the authors attempt to make claims that had Adam and Eve followed the pattern of God, as it is proposed in Lying For God, then the garden they lived in would have become an unkempt jungle. This is what they say:Note that if Adam and Eve were to have followed God’s example, they would have ceased creating, because that is what God stopped doing. If God had rested, which He did not, Adam and Eve would have never worked again, and the Garden of Eden would have turned into an unkempt jungle.
There are beliefs that claim that there are four categories of “works of creation” in the hands of humanity, with a total of 39 prohibited actions called the 39 Melachot, that should not be done on the Sabbath. The four categories are:
1. The order of making bread
2. The order of making garments
3. The order of making hides
4. The order of construction
While I do not agree with this position, it is worth noting that the premise behind it is to cease from “works of creation” on the Sabbath under Orthodox Jewish Law.
It seems odd that the authors would claim that the Garden of Eden would have turned into an “unkempt jungle” because the assumed position is that the work is done during the six non-Sabbath days and no work is done on the Sabbath itself. How would this pattern turn the Garden into a jungle, and how are they concluding that Adam and Eve would never work again? This makes no sense as an argument against the weekly Sabbath, regardless of whether we view it as a day of resting from work or a day of celebrating Creation. Let’s take a look at another segment from Lying For God:
Think of what it would mean if God had to bless every seventh-day thereafter. He would have to fatten up and move the day out of its place with the previous six days, all to celebrate the fact that He transitioned from one kind of God work to another kind of God work way back at Creation. Logic is defied if we take God to mean that multiples of the seventh day of Creation were fattened up and moved out of place. We must limit our assessment to the meaning of what all of this blessing and setting aside meant for this ONE day in the history of Planet Earth.
The meaning that it is “set aside for a holy purpose” is permitted by this form of the word, QADASH. In Exodus 20:8 however, the form of this word used is different, and in late Hebrew it could have been used to mean something akin to being “set aside to be observed.” We maintain that the word, “qadash,” in Genesis 2:2-3 indicates that this one, single day in the history of Planet Earth was set aside for the holy use of “memorializing” God’s completion and cessation of creative activity. Please study the following Hebrew dictionary definitions from two authoritative sources:
The authors try to make a case to claim that God did God-work on the seventh day and that this work was something different than the work He did on the first six days: a work of “fattening up” the seventh day. In an earlier statement they say: “What routine work did God do on the 7th day of Creation? First, he FATTENED UP the 7th day like a farmer-rancher would fatten up a cow for market. This process would involve stuffing the animal with rich grains and grass.” What the authors are trying to convey here is that God fattened up or finished off the work of Creation on the seventh day to “send it off to the slaughter house”. The thing is, cattle ranchers don’t stop raising cattle after the first time they send a batch of cows to market. Likewise, it seems a poor comparison to say that God fattened up the seventh day and then there was never again a Sabbath Day until Exodus 16 when it was established as a “special sign with Israel alone”. Assuming the authors are onto something with this concept of fattening up the seventh day in the Creation week, it does not negate the idea that, when the sun went down on that first Sabbath, the first day of the second week began and when the seventh day of that second week came, “a new batch of cattle was ready for market,” or the Sabbath was once again celebrated.
They claim that the specific seventh day of the Creation week was unique to any other day in the history of the world and not the same thing as the Sabbath “given to Israel” in Exodus 16 and 20. This position seems contrary to every belief of the Sabbath Day in the history of the faith, regardless of whether one holds to a pro- or anti-Sabbath view today. It is also completely contrary to the actual Jewish view of the Sabbath, as we are about to see. When it comes to whether or not God was doing some special kind of “work” on the seventh day, as recorded in Genesis 2, does it make more sense to believe a group of former Seventh Day Adventists who are on a mission to war against Seventh Day Adventist views of the Sabbath, or to believe the historical Jewish view of the Sabbath from the very chosen people of God to whom the oracles of God were handed down and recorded in what we today refer to as the Bible?
The Celebration Of Creation In Jewish Thought
The authors of Lying For God would have us believe that there was no Sabbath prior to Exodus 16 in Jewish beliefs, that it was never considered to be initiated in Genesis 2, and most certainly that, according to the beliefs of the Jewish people, it is a “serious violation” for a non-Jew to keep the Sabbath. At one point they make the statement: “If you want to understand the perspective of Bible writers on the Sabbath, you must understand the perspective of the Jews on the Sabbath. Why? Because those who preserved the Bible were JEWS.” Let’s take a look at a few documented historical positions of the Sabbath in Jewish teaching.
“…the keeping of Sabbath is a confirmation of our belief in the Creation.”
~Maimonides, Guide For The Perplexed (1190 A.D.)
“God commanded cessation of work on Sabbath and holy days, as well as in the culture of the soil, all this ‘as a remembrance of the exodus from Egypt,’ and ‘remembrance of the work of creation.’ The observance of the Sabbath is itself an acknowledgment of His omnipotence, and at the same time an acknowledgment of the creation by the divine word. He who observes the Sabbath because the work of creation was finished on it acknowledges the creation itself. He who believes in the creation believes in the Creator. He, however, who does not believe in it falls a prey to doubts of God’s eternity and to doubts of the existence of the world’s Creator. The observance of the Sabbath is therefore nearer to God than monastic retirement and ascetism.”
~ Yehuda Halevi, Kitab al Khazari (11th or 12th Century A.D.)
Here the whole concept of the Sabbath is linked to the creation, as opposed to the version in Deuteronomy where it is linked to the Israelites’ Exodus from Egypt.
~ Jacob ben Asher, Tur HaAroch (13th or 14th Century A.D.) [Commentary on Exodus 20:11]
“The events leading to Passover demonstrated G’ds ability not only to create a universe, but to remain in complete control of it even after its completion. He was able to change the rules the universe operated by. The plagues demonstrated the ongoing power of G’d. In order to believe in this power of G’d, it is necessary to believe in the fact that G’d created the universe ex nihilo, and that it is this which is the source of His power over the universe. These two beliefs are so closely bound up with each other, that our sages tell us in Rosh Hashanah 25, that zachor ve-shamor bedibbur echad ne-emru, that the words “remember and observe” were said simultaneously. They refer to the dual significance of the Sabbath both as the Sabbath of creation and its other function, that of the Sabbath of the Exodus. This reminder is spelled out in the second set of tablets: “Remember that you were a slave in the land of Egypt, and the Lord your G’d took you out,.. therefore He commanded you to observe the Sabbath.” (Deut. 5,15) The Torah clearly emphasized the hashgachah peratit aspect of G’ds rule, whereas the “for in six days the Lord created the universe” in the first set of tablets, emphasized the rule of natural law that G’d had established at that time. By observing the Sabbath, we testify to our belief in both aspects of G’ds guidance, contradictory though they may appear.”
~ Isaac ben Moses Arama, Akeidat Yitzchak (15th Century A.D.)
“When all work is brought to a standstill, the candles are lit. Just as creation began with the word, “Let there be light!” so does the celebration of creation begin with the kindling of lights.”
~ Abraham Joshua Heschel, The Sabbath (1951 A.D.)
“Judaism has the most powerful ritual, the ritual of not-doing, the Sabbath which we will enter into later today as the sun sets on another seven days. On the mythical level, Judaism commands the celebration of creation, every single week. It is one of the few particularistic Jewish rituals which has been adopted by numerous Christian sects, the only ritual law to take place among the Ten Commandments, perhaps the only Jewish ritual that has universal significance.”
~ David Seidenberg, Recovering the Sensuous through Jewish Ecofeminist Practice (1998 A.D.), as published in Torah Of The Earth, Vol. 2 (2000 A.D.)
So, there you have it, from Maimonides in the 12th Century A.D., the same guy who is being used to claim that it is a “serious violation” for non-Jews to keep the Sabbath, all the way through the present day we see it in Jewish thought that the Sabbath is a celebration of the Creation of God, tying it directly back to Genesis 2. These are some of the most regarded thinkers in Judaism, particularly in the case of Maimonides and Heschel, and some of the top resources in Jewish teaching. In none of this do we find a claim that the Jewish people believe that there was no Sabbath until Exodus 16. And I would think that the Jewish Rabbis and scholars throughout the centuries know a whole lot more about this than a group of former Seventh-Day Adventists, Worldwide Church of God members, or anyone from any other cult-group that is bitter because they were mixed up in a religion of heresy. In the second part of this message I will continue to look at the claims of the authors of Lying For God and also consider in more depth the idea of the Sabbath as a celebration of the Creation of our God.
To be continued…
~Blessings and Shalom~
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