The Sabbath Under Crossfire:
A Biblical Analysis of Recent Sabbath/Sunday Developments

Part 1b: The Creation-Sabbath in Jewish and Christian History - Continued

Index | Chapter 1 | Chapter 3 | Chapter 4 | Chapter 5 | Chapter 6 | Chapter 7

Part 1a
The Creation-Sabbath in Jewish and Christian History
Part 1b
The Creation-Sabbath in Jewish and Christian History - Continued
Part 2
Objections to the Creation Sabbath
Part 3
The Creation Week is a Human Week

Distinction Between Moral and Ceremonial?
How can the Fourth Commandment be ceremonial for specifying the seventh day but moral for enjoining humans to set apart a day of rest for worship? Basically because for Aquinas the moral aspect of the Sabbath is grounded on Natural Law-that is to say, the principle of a regularly stated time for worship and rest is in accordance with natural reason.27 The ceremonial aspect of the Sabbath, on the other hand, is determined by the symbolism of the seventh-day commemoration of "Creation" and prefiguration of the "repose of the mind in God, either in the present life, by grace, or, in the future life, by glory."28

One may ask, How can the Sabbath be ceremonial (transitory) for symbolizing God's perfect creation and the rest to be found in Him both in the present and future life? Is it not this reassurance that provides the basis for setting aside any time to worship God? To reject as ceremonial the original message of the seventh-day Sabbath, namely that God is the perfect Creator who offers rest, peace, and fellowship to His creatures, means to destroy also the very moral basis for devoting any time to the worshipping of God.

Apparently Aquinas himself recognized the inadequacy of his reasoning since he makes a distinction between the Sabbath and other symbolic Old Testament festivals such as Passover, "a sign of the future Passion of Christ." The latter, Aquinas explains, were "temporal and transitory . . . consequently, the Sabbath alone, and none of the other solemnities and sacrifices, is mentioned in the precepts of the Decalogue."29

Aquinas' uncertainty as to the ceremonial aspect of the Sabbath is also reflected in his comment that Christ annulled not the precept of the Sabbath, but "the superstitious interpretation of the Pharisees, who thought that man ought to abstain from doing even works of kindness on the Sabbath; which was contrary to the intention of the Law."30 Aquinas' uncertainty, however, was largely forgotten and his moral/ceremonial distinction of the Sabbath became the standard rationale for defending the Church's right to introduce and regulate the observance of Sunday and holy days. This resulted in an elaborate legalistic system of Sunday keeping akin to that of the rabbinical Sabbath.31

The sixteenth-century reformers reproposed with new qualifications Aquinas' distinctions between the moral (creational) and ceremonial (Mosaic) aspects of the Sabbath. Their position was influenced by their understanding of the relationship between the Old and New Testaments as well as by their reaction against the legalistic and superstitious observance of Sunday and a host of holy days as well.

Luther and some radicals, in their concern to combat legalistic Sabbatarianism promoted not only by the Catholic Church but also by left-wing reformers such as Andreas Karlstadt,32 attacked the Sabbath as a Mosaic institution "specifically given to the Jewish people."33 Sunday was retained by Luther, not as the Christian Sabbath, but as a convenient day "ordained by the Church for the sake of the imperfect laity and the working class,"34 who need "at least one day in the week to rest . . . and attend divine service."35 This position was largely determined by a radical distinction between the Old and New Testaments.

In the Large Catechism (1529), Luther explains that the Sabbath "is altogether an external matter, like other ordinances of the Old Testament, which were attached to particular customs, persons, and places, and now have been made free through Christ."36 This view is stated even more emphatically in Article 28 of the Augsburg Confession (1530): "Scripture has abrogated the Sabbath-day; for it teaches that, since the Gospel has been revealed, all the ceremonies of Moses can be omitted."37

Luther's radical distinction between the Old and New Testaments and between Law and Gospel was adopted and developed to extremes by radicals such as Anabaptists, leftist Puritans, Quakers, Mennonites, Hutterites, and modern antinomian denominations.38 These have generally claimed that the Sabbath is not a creation ordinance but a Mosaic institution which Christ fulfilled and abolished. Consequently, "New Covenant" Christians are free from the observance of any special day.

Radical reformers promoted two opposing views regarding the Sabbath. One group, mentioned earlier, pressed to its logical conclusion the extreme Lutheran distinction between the Old and New Testaments, rejecting the observance of the Sabbath or of any day, as part of the Mosaic dispensation which Christ had fulfilled and replaced with the dispensation of grace. Another group, however, pursued the logical implications of the Calvinistic unity between the two Testaments, accepting and promoting the observance of the seventh-day Sabbath as a creation ordinance meant for all time and people. We shall call the latter "Sabbatarians," a name frequently given to them by their opponents.39

Recent studies have shown that Sabbatarians constituted a respectable group at the time of the Reformation, especially in such places as Moravia, Bohemia, Austria, and Silesia.40 In fact, in some Catholic catalogues of sects, they are listed immediately after the Lutherans and Calvinists.41 Erasmus (1466-1536) mentions the existence of Sabbatarians in Bohemia: "Now I hear that among the Bohemians a new kind of Jews are springing up, whom they call Sabbatarii, who serve the Sabbath with great superstition."42 Similarly, Luther reports on the existence of Sabbatarian groups in Moravia and Austria.43 In fact, in 1538 Luther wrote a Letter Against the Sabbatarians (Brief wider die Sabbathers), arguing from the Bible against their observance of the seventh-day Sabbath.44

Oswald Glait, a former Catholic priest who first became a Lutheran and then an Anabaptist minister, began in 1527 or 1528 successfully to propagate his Sabbatarian views among Anabaptists in Moravia, Silesia, and Bohemia.45 He was supported by the learned Andreas Fisher, also a former priest and Anabaptist.46 Glait wrote a Booklet on the Sabbath (Buchlenn vom Sabbath-about 1530) which is not extant. From a refutation of Glait's book by Caspar Schewenckfeld,47 we learn that Glait maintained the unity of the Old and New Testaments, accepting the validity and relevance of the Decalogue for the Christian dispensation.

Glait rejected the contention of his critics that the Sabbath commandment is a ceremonial law like circumcision. Instead, he held that the "Sabbath is commanded and kept from the beginning of creation."48 God enjoined "Adam in paradise to celebrate the Sabbath."49 Therefore "the Sabbath . . . is an eternal sign of hope and a memorial of creation, . . . an eternal covenant to be kept as long as the world stands."50 On account of this teaching, Glait faced expulsions, persecutions, and, finally, death by drowning in the Danube (1546).51

The death of Glait, perhaps the most prominent leader of Sabbatarian Anabaptists, did not stop the propagation of the Sabbath doctrine. This is indicated by the existence of seventh-day Sabbathkeepers at the time of the Reformation in several European countries such as Poland, Holland, Germany, France, Hungary, Russia, Turkey, Finland, and Sweden.52 In the seventeenth century, the presence of Sabbatarians became particularly felt in England. This is indicated by the fact that, as noted by R. J. Bauckham, "An impressive succession of Puritan and Anglican spokesmen addressed themselves to combating the seventh-day error: Lancelot Andrews, Bishop Francis White, Richard Baxter, John Bunyan, Edward Stillingfleet, John Owen, Nathanael Homes, John Wallis. Their efforts are a tacit admission of the attraction that the doctrine exercised in the seventeenth century, and seventh-day observers (who then usually also advocated Sunday work) were harshly treated by Puritan and Anglican authorities alike."53

The Seventh Day Baptists became the leading Sabbatarian church in England.54 Their first church in America was founded at Newport, Rhode Island, in December 1671.55 Seventh-day Adventists gratefully acknowledge their indebtedness to Seventh Day Baptists for bringing to them the knowledge of the Sabbath in 1845.56 Later on, the Sabbath was accepted as a creation ordinance by the Church of God Seventh Day, the Worldwide Church of God, and a score of smaller denominations,57 some of whom have recently rejected the Sabbath.

Reformed Tradition.
Churches in the Reformed tradition, such as English Puritans, Presbyterians, Congregationalists, Methodists, and Baptists, adopted what might be called a "compromise position," on one hand, acknowledging the Sabbath as a creation ordinance while, on the other hand, defending Sunday as a legitimate substitution of the Sabbath accomplished by the Church.

They generally distinguished between the temporal and the spiritual observance of Sunday. Calvin can rightly be regarded as the pioneer and promoter of this view which exerted far-reaching influence, especially in Anglo-American Puritan Sabbatarianism. The basis of Calvin's teaching regarding the Sabbath is to be found in his rejection of Luther's antithesis between Law and Gospel. In his effort to maintain the basic unity of the Old and New Testaments, Calvin christianized the Law, spiritualizing, at least in part, the Sabbath commandment.58

Calvin tried to reconcile his acceptance of the Sabbath as a creation ordinance for humanity with his view that "on the advent of our Lord Jesus Christ, the ceremonial part of the commandment was abolished" by reproposing a new version of Aquinas' distinction between the moral and ceremonial aspects of the Sabbath. He argues that at creation the Sabbath was given as a perpetual ordinance but "afterwards in the law a new precept concerning the Sabbath was given, which should be peculiar to the Jews, and but for a season."59

What is the difference between the "Jewish" (ceremonial) seventh-day Sabbath and the "Christian" (moral) first-day Sabbath? The difference is not easy to detect, especially for someone not trained to distinguish theological nuances. Calvin describes the Jewish Sabbath as being "typical" (symbolic), that is, "a legal ceremony shadowing forth a spiritual rest, the truth of which was manifested in Christ."60 The Christian Sabbath [Sunday], on the other hand, is "without figure."61 By this he apparently means that it is more a pragmatic institution designed to accomplish three basic objectives: first, to allow God to work in us; second, to provide time for meditation and church services; and third, to protect dependent workers.62

An Unresolved Contradiction.
Calvin's attempt to resolve the tension between the Sunday-Sabbath as a perpetual creation ordinance and the Saturday-Sabbath as a temporary ceremonial law, cannot be considered successful. Do not both fulfill the same pragmatic functions? Moreover, by teaching that for Christians the Sunday-Sabbath represents "self-renunciation" and the "true rest" of the Gospel,63 did not Calvin also attribute to the day a "typological-symbolic" significance, much like the type he assigned to the Jewish Saturday-Sabbath?

This unresolved tension can be followed in the teaching of Calvin's successors and has been the cause of endless controversies. For example, Zacharias Ursinus, compiler of that important Reformed confession known as Heidelberg Catechism (1563), teaches that "the Sabbath of the seventh day was appointed of God from the very beginning of the world, to declare that men, after His example, should rest from their labours," and "although the ceremonial Sabbath has been abolished in the New Testament, yet the moral still continues and pertains to us as well as to others."64 This position was later defended tenaciously in the monumental work, The Doctrine of the Sabbath, written in 1595 by the famous English Puritan Nicolas Bownde,65 as well as in other confessional documents such as the Synod of Dort of 1619 66 and the Westminster Confession of Faith of 1647.67

These and similar documents fail to offer a rational explanation for the artificial and arbitrary distinction between the so-called moral/creational (one-day-in-seven) aspect of the Sunday-Sabbath and the ceremonial/Mosaic (specification of the seventh day) aspect of the Saturday-Sabbath, supposedly annulled by Christ.

There is no trace of such an artificial distinction in Scripture. If such a distinction existed in the Old Testament, we would expect the alleged moral aspect of the Sabbath commandment-that is, the principle of one-day-in-seven-to be applied to such people as the priests (who had to work on the Sabbath) by granting them a day off at another time during the week. The absence of such a provision constitutes a most direct challenge to those who uphold the one-day-in-seven principle.

Donald Carson acknowledges: "If the Old Testament principle were really 'one-day-in-seven for worship and rest' instead of 'the seventh day for worship and rest,' we might have expected Old Testament legislation to prescribe some other day off for the priests. The lack of such confirms the importance in Old Testament thought of the seventh day, as opposed to the one-in-seven principle so greatly relied upon by those who wish to see in Sunday the precise New Testament equivalent of the Old Testament Sabbath."68

To contend that the specification of the seventh day is a Mosaic-ceremonial element of the Sabbath because it was designed to aid the Jews in commemorating creation and in experiencing spiritual rest is to be blind to the fact that Christians need such an aid just as much as the Jews. It also means leaving Christians confused as to the reasons for devoting one day to the worship of God. R. J. Bauckham acknowledges the existence of such a confusion when he notes that most "Protestants in the mid-sixteenth century had as imprecise ideas about the basis of Sunday observance as most Christians at most times have had."69

Two Conflicting Positions.
The unresolved contradiction between the creational/moral and Mosaic/ceremonial aspects of the Fourth Commandment has aroused recurrent controversies over the relationship between Sunday and the Sabbath commandment. Truly the Sabbath has had no rest. The creational/moral versus the Mosaic/ceremonial distinctions regarding the Sabbath have led to two main opposing views of Sunday. In the Netherlands, for example, the two views were hotly debated during more than a decade after the Synod of Dort (1619).

On one side, Dutch theologians such as Willem Teellinck, William Ames, and Antonius Walaeus wrote major treatises defending the creation origin of the Sabbath and thus the legitimate application of the Fourth Commandment to the observance of Sunday.70 On the other side, a leading professor, Franciscus Gomarus, produced a major response entitled Enquiry into the Meaning and Origin of the Sabbath and Consideration of the Institution of the Lord's Day (1628), in which he argues for a Mosaic origin of the Sabbath and, consequently, for an independent ecclesiastical origin of Sunday.71

The debate over these two conflicting positions has flared up time and again in different countries, and no reconciliation appears yet to be in sight.72 A fitting example is provided by some of the recent publications. On one side is the symposium edited by Donald Carson, From Sabbath to Lord's Day (1982) and by Willy Rordorf, Sunday: The History of the Day of Rest and Worship in the Earliest Centuries of the Christian Church (1968). Both studies espouse the thesis that seventh-day Sabbathkeeping is not a creation ordinance binding upon Christians but a Mosaic institution annulled by Christ.73 Consequently, Sunday is not the Christian Sabbath, but an exclusive Christian creation introduced to commemorate Christ's resurrection through the Lord's Supper celebration.74

By severing all ties with the Sabbath commandment, Rordorf follows the Lutheran tradition in reducing Sunday to an hour of worship which could be scheduled in accordance with the demand of modern life. The practical implications of this position are obvious. If fully carried out, it could prove to be "the death certificate of Sunday,"75 since in time, even the hour of worship could readily be squeezed out of the hectic schedule of modern life.

On the other side is the study of Roger T. Beckwith and William Stott, This Is the Day: The Biblical Doctrine of the Christian Sunday (1978), which follows the Reformed tradition by defending the Sabbath as a creation ordinance accepted and clarified by Christ. The Apostles allegedly used the Sabbath to frame Sunday as their new day of rest and worship.76 Consequently, they conclude that "in the light of the New Testament as a whole, the Lord's Day can be clearly seen to be a Christian Sabbath-a New Testament fulfillment to which the Old Testament Sabbath points forward."77 The practical implication of their conclusions is that Sunday should be observed, not merely as an hour of worship, but as "a whole day, set apart to be a holy festival . . . for worship, rest and works of mercy."78

Chapter 2, Part 1a
Chapter 2, Part 2


Notes to Chapter 2, Part 1b
Dies Domini: Pope John Paul II's Pastoral Letter regarding the Sabbath.

27. Aquinas subdivided the Mosaic law into moral, ceremonial, and judicial precepts. The moral precepts of the decalogue are viewed as precepts also of the Natural Law; that is to say, they are precepts binding upon all people because they are discoverable by all through human reason without the aid of special revelation. Cf. Aquinas (note 26), Part I-II, Q. 100, 1 and Q. 100, 3, pp. 1037, 1039.
28. Thomas Aquinas, Summa Theologica, Part I-II, Q. 100, 5, p. 1042.
29. See note 28. Note also that Aquinas attributes a similar symbolic function to Sunday: "As to the Sabbath, which was a sign recalling the first creation, its place is taken by the Lord's Day, which recalls the beginning of the new creature in the Resurrection of Christ" (note 26, Part I-II, Q. 103, 3, p. 1085).
30. Thomas Aquinas (note 26), Part I-II, Q. 107, 3, p. 1111.
31. See L. L. McReavy, "'Servile Work': The Evolution of the Present Sunday Law, Clergy Review 9 (1935), pp. 279f. A brief survey of the development of Sunday laws and casuistry is provided by Paul K. Jewett, The Lord's Day (Grand Rapids, MI, 1972), pp. 128-169. A good example of the adoption of Aquinas' moral-ceremonial distinction can be found in the Catechism of the Council of Trent.
32. Karlstadt's conception of the Sabbath rest contains a strange combination of mystical and legalistic elements. Basically he viewed the day as a time to abstain from work in order to be contrite over one's sins. For a clear analysis of his views, see Gordon Rupp, Patterns of Reformation, 1969, pp. 123-130; idem, "Andrew Karlstadt and Reformation Puritanism," Journal of Theological Studies 10 (1959), pp. 308-326; cf. Daniel Augsburger, "Calvin and the Mosaic Law," Doctoral dissertation, Strasbourg University (1976), pp. 248-249; J. N. Andrews and L. R. Conradi, History of the Sabbath and First Day of the Week (Washington, DC, 1912), pp. 652-655.
33. Luther, Against the Heavenly Prophets, Luther's Works (St. Louis,1958), vol. 40, p. 93. A valuable study of Luther's views regarding the Sabbath is to be found in Richard Muller, Adventisten-Sabbat-Reformation, Studia Theologica Lundensia (Lund, 1979), pp. 32-60.
34. Luther, Treatise on Good Works (1520), Selected Writings of Martin Luther (Philadelphia, 1957), p. 174.
35. Concordia or Book of Concord, The Symbols of the Evangelical Lutheran Church (St. Louis, 1957), p. 1974.
36. Ibid.
37. Augsburg Confession (note 35), p. 25; cf. Philip Schaff, The Creeds of Christendom (New York,1919), vol. 3, p. 69.
38. Winton V. Solberg, Redeem the Time (Cambridge, 1977), pp. 15-19; A. G. Dickens, The English Reformation (London, 1964), p. 34; George H. Williams, The Radical Reformation (Leiden, 1962), pp. 38-58, 81-84.
39. See below, note 41.
40. A valuable survey of the ideas and influences of these Sabbatarians is provided by G. F. Hasel, "Sabbatarian Anabaptists," Andrews University Seminary Studies 5 (1967), pp. 101-121; 6 (1968): 19-28. On the existence of Sabbathkeepers in various countries, see Andrews and Conradi (note 32), pp. 633-716. Cf. Richard Muller (note 33), pp. 110-129.
41. In a list of eleven sects by Stredovsky of Bohemia, "Sabbatarians" are listed in the third place after Lutherans and Calvinists. The list is reprinted by Josef Beck, ed., Die Geschichts-Bücher der Widertäufer in Österreich-Ungarn ("Fontes Rerum Austriacarum," Wien, 1883), 43:74. For an analysis of this and three other lists, see Hasel (note 40), pp. 101-106, who concludes: "These early enumerations seem to indicate that Sabbatarian Anabaptists were considered to be an important and strong group" (p. 106). Cf. Henry A. DeWind, "A Sixteenth Century Description of Religious Sects in Austerlitz, Moravia," Mennonite Quarterly Review (1955): 51; George H. Williams (note 38), p. 676, 726, 732, 848, 408-410, 229, 257, 512.
42. Desiderius Erasmus, "Amabili Ecclesiae Concordia," Opera Omnia V: 505-506; translation by Hasel (note 40), p. 107.
43. Luther reports: "In our time there is a foolish group of people who call themselves Sabbatarians [Sabbather] and say one should keep the Sabbath according to Jewish manner and custom" (D. Martin Luthers Werke, Weimer ed. 42:520). In his Lectures on Genesis (4:46), Luther furnishes similar information: "I hear that even now in Austria and Moravia certain Judaizers urge both the Sabbath and circumcision; if they should boldly go on, not being admonished by the work of God, they certainly might do much harm" (cited in Andrews and Conradi, History of the Sabbath and First Day of the Week [Washington, DC, 1912], p. 640).
44. J. G. Walch, ed., Dr. Martin Luther sämmtliche Schriften (Berlin, 1910), vol. 20, p.1828ff. Cf. D. Zscharnack, "Sabbatharier," Die Religion in Geschichte und Gegenwart (1931), vol. 5, p. 8.
45. On Oswald Glait, see the study of Richard Muller (note 33), pp. 117-125. Cf. Hasel (note 40), pp. 107-121.
46. On Andreas Fisher, see the treatment by Richard Muller (note 33), pp. 125-130; Petr Ratkos, "Die Anfänge des Wiedertäufertums in der Slowakei," Aus 500 Jahren deutsch-tschechoslowakischer Geschichte, Karl Obermann, ed. (1958), pp. 41-59. See also the recent study by Daniel Liechty, Andreas Fischer and the Sabbatarian Anabaptists (Herald Press, Scottdale, PA, 1988).
47. Caspar Schewenckfeld's refutation of Glait's book is found in S. D. Hartranft and E. E. Johnson, eds., Corpus Schwenckfeldianorum (1907), vol. 4, pp. 451ff.
48. Ibid., p. 458. The translation is by Hasel (note 40), p. 119.
49. Ibid., p. 491.
50. Ibid., p. 457-458.
51. An Anabaptist (Hutterian) Chronicle provides this moving account of Glait's final days: "In 1545 Brother Oswald Glait lay in prison in Vienna for the sake of his faith. . . . Two brethren also came to him, Antoni Keim and Hans Standach, who comforted him. To them he commended his wife and child in Jamnitz. After he had been in prison a year and six weeks, they took him out of the city at midnight, that the people might not see or hear him, and drowned him in the Danube" (A. J. F. Zieglschmid, ed., Die älteste Chronik der Hutterischen Brüder [1943], pp. 259, 260, 266, trans. by Hasel [note 40], pp. 114-115).
52. A brief historical survey of seventh-day Sabbathkeepers from the fifteenth to the seventeenth century is found in Andrews and Conradi (note 32), pp. 632-759. A more comprehensive and critical study of Sabbathkeeping through the ages is the symposium Kenneth A. Strand, ed., The Sabbath in Scriptures and History (Washington, DC, 1982). About 20 scholars have contributed chapters to this study.
53. R. J. Bauckham, "Sabbath and Sunday in the Protestant Tradition," From Sabbath to Lord's Day: A Biblical, Historical and Theological Investigation, ed. D. A. Carson (Grand Rapids, 1982), p. 333. In 1618, for example, John Traske began preaching that Christians are bound by the Fourth Commandment to keep Saturday scrupulously. Under pressure, however, he later recanted in A Treatise of Liberty from Judaism (1620). Theophilus Brabourne, also an Anglican minister, published in 1628 A Discourse upon the Sabbath Day where he defended the observance of Saturday instead of Sunday. The High Commission induced him to renounce his views and to conform to the established church. Cf. Robert Cox, The Literature of the Sabbath Question (London, 1865), vol. 1, pp. 157-158.
54. Cf. W. Y. Whitley, A History of British Baptists (London,1932), pp. 83-86; A. C. Underwood, A History of the English Baptists (London,1947), chaps. 2-5.
55. Seventh Day Baptist General Conference, Seventh Day Baptists in Europe and America (Plainfield, NJ,1910), vol. I, pp. 127, 133, 153. Cf. Winton U. Solberg (note 38), p. 278.
56. Raymond F. Cottrell notes: "The extent to which pioneer Seventh-day Adventists were indebted to Seventh Day Baptists for their understanding of the Sabbath is reflected in the fact that throughout the first volume [of Advent Review and Sabbath Herald] over half of the material was reprinted from Seventh Day Baptist publications" ("Seventh Day Baptists and Adventists: A Common Heritage, Spectrum 9 [1977], p. 4).
57. The Church of God Seventh Day traces their origin back to the Millerite movement. Mr. Gilbert Cranmer, a follower of Miller's views, who for a time associated himself with the Seventh-day Adventists, in 1860 was elected as the first president of a group known first as Church of Christ and later Church of God Seventh Day. Their 1977 report gives an estimated membership of 25,000 persons ("Synopsis of the History of the Church of God Seventh Day," compiled in manuscript form by their headquarters in Denver, Colorado). The 1996 Directory of Sabbath-Observing Groups, published by The Bible Sabbath Association, lists over 300 different denominations or independent groups observing the seventh-day Sabbath.
58. A comprehensive study of Calvin's understanding of the Fourth Commandment is provided by Daniel Augsburger (note 32), pp. 248, 284.
59. John Calvin, Commentaries on the First Book of Moses Called Genesis, trans. John King (Grand Rapids, 1948), p. 106.
60. Ibid.
61. John Calvin, Institutes of the Christian Religion, trans. Henry Beveridge (Grand Rapids, 1972), vol. 1, p. 343.
62. Ibid. Calvin summarizes the distinction between the ceremonial and moral aspects of the Sabbath, saying: "The whole may be thus summed up: As the truth was delivered typically to the Jews, so it is imparted to us without figure; first, that during our whole lives we may aim at a constant rest from our own works, in order that the Lord may work in us by his Spirit; secondly, that every individual, as he has opportunity, may diligently exercise himself in private, in pious meditation on the works of God, and at the same time, that all may observe the legitimate order appointed by the church, for the hearing of the word, the administration of the sacraments, and public prayer; and, thirdly, that we may avoid oppressing those who are subject to us" (ibid.).
63. John Calvin, Commentaries on the Four Last Books of Moses Arranged in the Form of a Harmony, trans. Charles William Bingham (Grand Rapids, 1950), pp. 435-436.
64. Zacharias Ursinus, The Summe of Christian Religion (Oxford, 1587), p. 955.
65. On the enormous influence of Nicolas Bownde's book, The Doctrine of the Sabbath, see Winton U. Solberg (note 38), pp. 55-58. The book was enlarged and revised in 1606. Bownde insists that the Sabbath originated in Eden and consequently the Fourth Commandment is a moral precept binding on both Jews and Christians. The latter are urged to observe Sunday as carefully as the Jews did their Sabbath.
66. In the 163rd session of the Synod of Dort (1619), a commission of Dutch theologians approved a six-point document where the traditional ceremonial/moral distinctions are made. The first four points read as follows: "1. In the Fourth Commandment of the Law of God, there is something ceremonial and something moral. 2. The resting upon the seventh day after the creation, and the strict observance of it, which was particularly imposed upon the Jewish people, was the ceremonial part of that law. 3. But the moral part is, that a certain day be fixed and appropriated to the service of God, and as much rest as is necessary to that service and the holy meditation upon Him. 4. The Jewish Sabbath being abolished, Christians are obliged solemnly to keep holy the Lord's Day" (Gerard Brandt, The History of the Reformation and Other Ecclesiastical Transactions in and about the Low Countries [London, 1722], vol. 3, 320; cf. pp. 28-29, 289-290).
67. The Westminster Confession, chapter 21, article 7, reads: "As it is of the law of nature, that in general, a due proportion of time be set apart for the worship of God; so, in His Word, by a positive, moral, and perpetual commandment, binding all men in all ages, he hath particularly appointed one day in seven for a Sabbath, to be kept holy unto him: which, from the beginning of the world to the resurrection of Christ, was the last day of the week; and, from the resurrection of Christ was changed into the first day of the week" (Philip Schaff, The Creeds of the Christendom [London,1919], vol. 3, 648-649).
68. Donald A. Carson, ed., From Sabbath to Lord's Day: A Biblical, Historical, and Theological Investigation (Grand Rapids, MI, 1982), pp. 66-67.
69. R. J. Bauckham, "Sabbath and Sunday in the Protestant Tradition," in From Sabbath to Lord's Day (note 53), p. 322.
70. Willem Teellinck, De Rusttijdt: Ofte Tractaet van d'onderhoudinge des Christenlijken Rust Dachs [The Rest Time: Or a Treatise on the Observance of the Christian Sabbath] (Rotterdam, 1622). William Ames, Medulla Theologica (Amsterdam, 1623), trans. John D. Eusden, The Marrow of Theology (Grand Rapids, 1968), pp. 287-300, provides a theoretical basis for Sunday observance.
71. An earlier treatise against Sabbatarianism was produced by Jacobus Burs, Threnos, or Lamentation Showing the Causes of the Pitiful Condition of the Country and the Desecration of the Sabbath (Tholen, 1627). Andreas Rivetus refuted Gomarus' contention that the Sabbath was a Mosaic ceremony abrogated by Christ in his Praelectiones [Lectures] (1632). Gomarus replies with a voluminous Defensio Investigationis Originis Sabbati [A Defense of the Investigation into the Origin of the Sabbath] (Gronigen, 1632). To this Rivetus countered with Dissertatio de Origine Sabbathi [Dissertation on the Origin of the Sabbath] (Leyden, 1633).
72. The controversy flared up again in Holland in the 1650s. Gisbertus Voetius and Johannes Cocceius were the two opposing leaders in the new round. For a brief account, see Winton U. Solberg (note 38), p. 200. Solberg provides an excellent survey of the controversy over the Sabbath in seventeenth-century England (pp. 27-85) and especially in the early American colonies (pp. 85-282).
73. Willy Rordorf's book (note 7) was first published in 1962 in German. Since then it has been translated into French, English and Spanish. Its influence is evidenced by the many and different responses it has generated.
74. Rordorf's denial of any connection between Sunday and the Fourth Commandment can be traced historically in the writings of numerous anti-Sabbatarian theologians, such as Luther (notes 34, 35); William Tyndale, An Answer to Sir Thomas More's Dialogue (1531), ed. Henry Walter (Cambridge, 1850), pp. 97-98; the formulary of faith of the Church of England known as The Institution of A Christian Man (1537); Francis White, A Treatise of the Sabbath-Day: Concerning a Defence of the Orthodox Doctrine of the Church of England against Sabbatarian Novelty (London, 1636); James A. Hessey, Sunday: Its Origin, History, and Present Obligation (London, 1866); Wilhelm Thomas, Der Sonntag im frühen Mittelalter (Göttingen, 1929); C. S. Mosna, Storia della Domenica dalle Origini fino agli Inizi del V. Secolo (Rome 1969); D. A. Carson, ed. (note 68).
75. This concern is expressed, for example, by P. Falsioni, in Rivista Pastorale Liturgica (1967): 311, 229, 97, 98; (1966): 549-551. Similarly, Roger T. Beckwith and William Stott point out: "Whether the Christian Sunday could have survived to the present day if this sort of attitude [Rordorf's view] had prevailed among Christians in the past is extremely doubtful, and whether it will survive for future generations if this sort of attitude now becomes prevalent is equally uncertain" (This is the Day: The Biblical Doctrine of the Christian Sunday [London, 1978], p. ix).
76. Beckwith points out, for example, that "if Jesus regarded the Sabbath as purely ceremonial and purely temporary, it is remarkable that he gives so much attention to it in his teaching, and also that in all he teaches about it he never mentions its temporary character. This is even more remarkable when one remembers that he emphasizes the temporary character of other parts of the Old Testament ceremonial-the laws of purity in Mark 7:14-23 and Luke 11:39-41, and the temple (with its sacrifices) in Mark 13:2 and John 4:21. By contrast, we have already seen, he seems in Mark 2:27 to speak of the Sabbath as one of the unchanging ordinances for all mankind" (note 75, p. 26; cf. pp. 2-12).
77. Beckwith (note 75), pp. 45-46. Beckwith and Stott's view of the Sabbath as an unchanging creation ordinance upon which the observance of Sunday rests can be traced historically in the writings of theologians such as Aquinas (partly-note 28); Calvin (partly-notes 59-62); Richard Hooker, Laws of Ecclesiastical Polity (Cambridge, MA, 1957), vol. 5, p. 70, 3; Nicholas Bownde (note 65); William Teellinck, William Ames and Antonius Walaeus (note 70); formularies of faith such as the Westminster Confession (note 67) and the Synod of Dort (note 66); E. W. Hengstenberg, Über den Tag des Herrn (1852); recently by J. Francke, Van Sabbat naar Zondag (Amsterdam, 1973); Karl Barth, Church Dogmatics (Edinburgh, 1956), vol. 3, pp. 47-72; Paul K. Jewett (partly), The Lord's Day: A Theological Guide to the Day of Worship (Grand Rapids, 1971); Francis Nigel Lee, The Covenantal Sabbath (London, 1966). Lee's study, though sponsored by the British Lord's Day Observance Society, can hardly be taken seriously on account of its eccentric nature. He speculates, for example, on "The Sabbath and the time of the Fall" (pp. 79-81).
78. Beckwith and Stott (note 75), pp. 141, 143.

Top of Page

Written by: Samuele Bacchiocchi, Ph. D., Andrews University