Sabbath and Sunday

A refreshing post at BCC asked bloggers what they were going to do for New Year’s, given that New Year’s Eve falls on Sunday. (Refreshing because rather than debate the requirements of Sabbath observance they actually talked about what they were doing.) This got me thinking again about a question that came up in a class on Christian use of the Hebrew Bible.

The professor, who is a well-known expert in Judaism and early Christianity, said that Christian application of Sabbath regulations to Sunday didn’t occur until the Puritans in the 1600s. While obviously Sunday (the first day of the week) as a day of worship was an early idea, the transferrence of “Sabbath” to “Sunday” didn’t occur until this particular group of people started grounding their law and society in norms expressed in the Hebrew Bible.

We, of course, are heirs to this tradition, and our vocabulary shows it. It’s gone so far that it’s not uncommon to talk about the Jews having “their Sabbath” on Saturday. Although I’d like sometime to get into the larger question of our haphazard appropriation of laws of the Hebrew Bible (e.g. we use Leviticus to condemn homosexual acts but not the killing of those who engage therein), today I wonder about the implications of the transfer of Sabbath to Sunday. Is our interpretation and use of Sabbath law generally done by reference to the perceived “spirit” of OT Sabbath norms? My feeling is that we are somewhere between the severity of the Hebrew Bible and the recognition of our distance from this tradition. What say ye?

  • Davehttp://mormoninquiry.typepad.com

    Yes, a straightforward reading of the Bible makes it obvious the Jewish Sabbath and the Christian Day of the Lord were two different things. It’s too bad the Puritans managed to conflate them so successfully, and it’s too bad the early LDS Church adopted the Puritan sabbath lock, stock, and barrell.There’s no reason the present LDS Church couldn’t unconflate them … except for 176 years of practice and tradition.

  • diahman

    At times I wonder how tied we are to the notion of sabbath as sunday. I know people who have done the BYU study-abroad to Jerusalem where they use saturday as the sabbath and sunday is used for field trips or another day of school. If memory serves me right, when going into Egypt the group uses friday as the sabbath.

  • JupitersChild

    Dave,How do you evaluate the ultimate result of the coupling of Sabbath and Sunday? Do you think it should be decoupled? I’m wondering, in general, about the incomplete use of and adherence to Old Testament law.diahman,Good point. We’re able to move “Sabbath” around, but the coupling of OT Sabbath regulations (or at least the perceived spirit thereof) and Christian commemoration of Christ were joined at some point (I agree that, at least in its present carnation, it came about courtesy of the Puritans).So this leaves me with many questions as to what we understand the Sabbath to be, and why we think we need to observe it. In the OT there are at least two justifications given for Sabbath observance (1. Because God rested on the Seventh day of creation, and we are to do likewise -Exod 20:11; and 2. Because God brought the Israelites out of Egypt -Deut 5:15).I wonder whether our various interpretations of what can/should be done on the Sabbath isn’t due to a confusion as to why Sunday is the way it is. We commemorate Christ, but we also have all these other regulations that don’t have to do with the commemoration of the Atonement, or at least didn’t originally. In fact, the reason for the Sunday resurrection is precisely because the Sabbath intervened! Does this make them mutually exclusive, or does the Sabbath (= OT recognition of God’s power) and Sunday (= NT commemoration of Jesus’ resurrection/atonement) actually give us a day off, since the alternative would be to have two religious days per week?

  • Hoplitehttp://campus-martius.blogspot.com

    I think family entertainment on Sundays and travelling can be good just as it was alright for the Lord to heal the sick on the Sabbath. Breaking the monotony of the sabbath can be good for the home. As a Single, I’d say it all depends on what the occasion is.


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