Christianity vs. The Sabbath – excerpt from Supplement

Throughout Brown’s attack on the Rabbinic understanding of the Sabbath the recurring refrain is: “is this what the Lord intended?” Brown expects his readers to come to the conclusion that the Rabbinic observance of the Sabbath is not the observance that God intended when He presented this commandment to His people.

If one’s understanding of spirituality in general and of the Sabbath in particular has been acquired from the literature and the general milieu of the modern Western world, then Brown’s argument will find a listening ear. But if one’s understanding of spirituality and of Sabbath is rooted in the Jewish Bible and in the environment of ancient Israel, then Brown’s argument is meaningless.

The Western world does not consider a procedure, in which people follow a detailed set of physical instructions, to be a rich spiritual experience. But the Jewish Scriptures teach us otherwise. Some of the pivotal narratives in Scripture teach us that man’s obedience to a series of detailed physical instructions bring man into a closer relationship with God. This is a feature in the episode of Noah’s ark. One of the central lessons integral to that account is the fact that God chose to renew life on this planet through Noah’s ark; an ark that was built according to a specific set of instructions. The entire Tabernacle narrative has the Jewish nation obediently following a detailed set of instructions and that this obedience was favored by God to the degree that He came to dwell amongst this nation. Scripture makes it clear that man’s obedience to intricate instructions is an important feature of the relationship between man and His Creator.

The historical record clearly indicates that every community of Jews in ancient Israel understood that the work that God prohibited on the Sabbath consists of a set of prohibitions that proscribe many minor physical activities. Some of these communities (such as the Qumran community represented in the Dead Sea Scroll literature) actually took a stricter view than Rabbinical Judaism in this area. The concept of Sabbath espoused by Protestant Christians, which is limited and confined to an indistinct “spiritual rest”, was unknown in ancient Israel. In ancient Israel the Sabbath was understood to be a spiritual rest that is amplified and supported by a defined set of rules prohibiting certain actions.

The Christian Scriptures themselves confirm the truth that the Biblical prohibition from work on the Sabbath applies to minor physical activities. Brown himself half-heartedly acknowledges this point when he tells us: “Now, it is more than likely, that Yeshua himself lived within the framework of SOME of these laws…” (page 226). In other words, Brown recognizes that Jesus himself observed the Sabbath according to the Rabbinic understanding of God’s holy day. Brown attempts to modify his admission with the argument that it was only “some” of the laws that Jesus observed, and with the myth the Rabbinic understanding of the Sabbath was not yet fully developed. But after everything is said and done, Brown is admitting that Jesus observed the Sabbath by refraining from minor physical activities.

The authors of the Christian Scripture clearly acknowledge this. In all of the Sabbath controversies that Jesus has with his opponents, not once does he disagree with the definition of “prohibited work” that his opponents espoused. His argument with them is that for the purpose of healing the Law of Sabbath is moved aside. But never does he argue that his opponent’s understanding of the Sabbath law is erroneous.

This means that mixing dirt and spittle is prohibited on the Sabbath (John 9:14), carrying a mat is prohibited in the Sabbath (John 5:10), and picking kernels of grain is prohibited on the Sabbath (Matthew 12:1). These minor physical activities would hardly constitute a violation of the Sabbath according to the philosophy espoused by Brown. Yet Jesus never denies that these activities ought to be prohibited on the Sabbath, barring extenuating circumstances.

The Christian Scriptures actually take this one step further. They have Jesus quoting a detail of Rabbinic Sabbath law to prove a point. In John 7:22 Jesus bases his argument on the Rabbinic law which would generally prohibit an incision to the flesh on the Sabbath, yet permits it in the situation of circumcision. According to Brown’s understanding, why should a cut to the flesh be prohibited to begin with? And once it is determined that it is indeed prohibited, how can we know that for the sake of circumcision it is permitted?

It is clear from the Christian Scriptures that the Rabbinic understanding of the Sabbath was common knowledge in Jesus’ days, and that Jesus never disputed this conception of the Sabbath. Brown’s attack on the Rabbinical Sabbath is but a poor attempt to rewrite history.

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Yisroel C. Blumenthal

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22 Responses to Christianity vs. The Sabbath – excerpt from Supplement

  1. CP says:

    This Blog references a couple of healings by Yeshua on the Sabbath; the healing of a blind man and the healing of a paralytic. Yeshua mixed dirt with spit putting it on the blind mans eyes. This is significant because Yeshua healed multiple times with just a word yet this healing involves ‘making mud’; an action prohibited on the Sabbath by tradition. As for the paralytic; why did Yeshua knowing it was prohibited by tradition, instruct the man to pick up his mat?

    Perhaps Yeshua was drawing attention to the religious leaders majoring on the minors and minoring on the majors. Here we have a blind man seeing and a paralytic walking and what do the religious leaders focus on? On mud making and mat carrying!

    Sure Yeshua kept some form of an Oral Torah, but he wasn’t shy when it came to pointing out people focusing on the wrong thing in the name of religion. The point is Not if Yeshua kept the traditions of the elders, the point is; what is most important; tradition or the Spirit of God working.

    God demands obedience to His commands, therefore is it proper to think we can demand the obedience of God to our traditions?

    • Dina says:

      Or perhaps he was thumbing his nose at Jewish tradition, just to gratuitously anger pious Jews.

      I do not believe this story ever happened, but if you believe it did, this is as plausible an explanation as any.

      • CP says:

        Assuming consistency whether or not one believes it really happened and staying in the larger context of Yeshua’s teachings, to “gratuitously anger” would be inconsistent. Yeshua used certain devices as referenced above to cut through religiosity exposing deeper intentions. Isn’t detailed instructions such as Oral Torah a double edged sword? Allowing one to express true devotion while also allowing hypocrites to stay hidden? These stories expose the hypocrisy of a few indivuals and the true devotion of others. Or are we to think these stories are absurd based on a presumption that every single Jewish leader was truely pious?

        • Dina says:

          CP, I think my explanation of Jesus’s motives fits perfectly with his contempt and hatred for the entire Jewish leadership (not a few lone individuals as you would have it).

      • Sister Dina. Do you really think that God was angry with Yeshua when he brought Shalom to the health of the people of God? i guess, after being healed, they must have started to light the candle, to enjoy meal and to read the Torah to keep the Sabbath. Yeshua made them keep the Sabbath in Shalom.

        This story has been recorded by the ancient Jews. i believe the ancient Jews recorded the history accurately and objectively, otherwise, i will not believe any other history accounts in any race and country.

        • Dina says:

          Gean, if indeed Jesus healed those people, that is not the problem. He did not need to violate the Sabbath to do so, according to the stories about him. He gratuitously violated the Sabbath. If the story is true (and that’s a big if), then yes, I do believe Hashem would be angry with him.

          You wrote: “This story has been recorded by the ancient Jews. i believe the ancient Jews recorded the history accurately and objectively, otherwise, i will not believe any other history accounts in any race and country.”

          Would you say the same about the writings of other ancient Jews, such as the Talmud? Why or why not?

          • Sister, can you explain what you meant “He did not need to violate the Sabbath to do so”? You mean “he could heal on another day except Sabbath?” or “He could heal by simply speaking words, not by laboring or working?”

          • Also sister…. in John 5:10 i think the Jews failed to see which was harder labor. walking lightly and pleasantly holding a little hip blanket vs. dragging whole body on the ground to reach the pond. i see pious Jews in Israel walk like that on Sabbath, which i really love to see! Why in John 9:6 Yeshua spit on the ground instead of carrying a water bucket and pouring out? We all need to read carefully both O.T. and N.T.

    • TRM says:

      I like your explanation CP. It brings some more questions thought… As Dina said, “did it really happened?” Also, if Yeshua kept some form of traditions, what is acceptable to keep and what is not? Where should we draw the line as well? Did He command to break the traditions just to anger the religious Jews? If he wanted to make a point, they did not get it and were quite offended with what he did. It confused a lot of people also throughout the ages!

      As an example, if I would go to a Catholic church and throw there statue of Mary, would they understand “though should not have any idol” or they would just get angry at the vandal who wanted to do like Gideon? Would that do anything good to do such a thing, and did Jesus do anything good for his cause to anger them without reasons?

  2. Dina says:

    Oops, I forgot to follow.

  3. Dina says:

    CP, you may have answered Rabbi B. and I missed it, so if you don’t mind my repeating it: do you experience the spirit of Sabbath? Do you know what my kids and I call “the Shabbos feeling”?

    • Eleazar says:

      Buttinsky here for a moment. The “Shabbos feeling” on Friday night is very real to me and is the center of my world. Never experienced this as a “Sabbath-keeping SDA Christian” , only when we began lighting candles and having kiddush. Peace that passes all understanding even on the worst days. Moved my work schedule to get off early on Fridays. Baruch Hashem.

      • CP says:

        For me, an unforeseen consequence of lighting candles was Sunday when I looked at them after they’d been extinguished; it made me ‘feel’ as if God wasn’t here anymore and wouldn’t return till next Shabbos. It was kinda sad, I thought to myself; “I didn’t see that one coming”.

        • Eleazar says:

          Wow, I am glad that never occurred to me . I don’t see the spirit of Shabbat as literally the presence of God himself as much as a gift of peace from God; a time when the burden of a stressful and busy week has been lifted. And I don’t extinguish the candles. I watch them slowly die out. I have a chandelier above the table that has a dimmer switch. Before Shabbos, I turn it down to an orange glow that stays on for all of Shabbos. “Shabbos glow” is a personal touch/tradition I put on the day in my own home. My daughter, because of Lazar Wulf’s wedding gift in Fiddler on the Roof, believes it is traditional to have Chicken on Shabbos, so we have a chicken dinner every week as part of our observance. Shabbos is like a holiday/holy day every week in my home. Very different from the SDA days.

          • CP says:

            Yeah, it’s probably a subconscious memory from my old catholic school altar boy days; next to the tabernacle was a candle burning to indicate the presence of God in the tabernacle. (Ya know; the whole transubstantiation thing)

  4. CP says:

    Since we are discussing Shabbat; I have a related question. Aside from what is considered work, I am in full agreement Shabbat should be kept by anyone claiming to follow God, through Moses and/or Yeshua. I am aware many commandments while still in force are not currently applicable. But what about the 7 year Shabbat and the 49/50 year Shabbat, why are not these actively pursued and kept? It seems there is nothing currently to render these commandments non-applicable.

    • CP Great news for you – CP – the seven year Sabbath is indeed being kept in the holy land

      1000 Verses – a project of Judaism Resources wrote: >

    • Dina says:

      CP, this question shows, as does you other questions about Orthodox Jews, that you have been attacking Orthodox Jewish practice as inferior to yours while completely ignorant of Orthodox Jewish practice–does this not trouble you?

      • CP says:

        “Attacking Orthodox Judaism”? LOL!
        I’m not or haven’t attacked Orthodox Judaism. I’ve challenged! Which is the proper thing to do in my position. My personality has never let me accept things merely on face value. This frustrates many around me, but I can see no other way.

        What you ought to realize about me is I challenge Christianity every bit as much as I do Judaism. What I’m finding is Jews and Christians both are partially in error and the truths they do hold they don’t share with each other. Together they would have the complete truth, apart they are both only half right.

        • Eliyah says:

          Interesting perspective CP!

          Orthodox Judaism will with Orthodox Christianity be one one day as the Prophets foretold when they say for example in Ezekiel 37:

          15 Again Debar-YHWH came to me, saying, 16 “As for you, son of man, take a stick for yourself and write on it: ‘For Judah and for the children of Israel, his companions.’ Then take another stick and write on it, ‘For Joseph, the stick of Ephraim, and for all the house of Israel, his companions.’ 17 Then join them one to another for yourself into one stick, and they will become one in your hand.

          This work of unity is already in work…


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