Saturday, 22 March 2008

Sunday Sabbath no work? – clues for a “cross word” puzzle

As someone brought up from earliest memory to regard Sunday as the Christian day of rest, but voluntarily and enthusiastically associated since the age of 8 with a church that (until 1995) taught that Christians should keep the Sabbath from Friday sunset until Saturday sunset each week, I have had more than passing occasion to engage with the “Sabbath vs. Sunday” controversy over the years. Sabbatarian Christians customarily cite the Ten Commandments, and specifically the [by both the Jewish reckoning and the Protestant reckoning] fourth commandment as their authority for observing the seventh day of the week. That is why there was a bit of a hoo-ha in 1975 in some Sabbath-keeping circles when DIN Standard 1355 Zeit: Kalender, Wochennummerierung, Tagesdatum, Uhrzeit, officially defining Monday as the first day of the week, was published in West Germany – because, of course, that made Sunday “the seventh day”. The parallel with the “little horn” of Daniel 7:25 who would “think to change times and laws” was too tempting for some students of Bible prophecy to resist pointing out. Meanwhile, for many years the UK-based Lord’s Day Observance Society has published material specifically arguing for the observance of Sunday as the Christian Sabbath, including the concept of the replacement of the “seventh day” by an “eighth day”. 

Anyone seriously interested in better understanding the circumstances in which early Christianity moved away from its Jewish heritage of Sabbath observance will want to find out more about some recent research conducted by Henry Sturcke at the University of Zurich. His dissertation was published in English by Theologischer Verlag Zurich and is entitled Encountering the Rest of God. Gavin Rumney, a theology student at the University of Otago in New Zealand, penned a very helpful review of the book when it first came out in 2005. I’m pleased to report that he has now republished his review, together with a 2005 interview with Henry Sturcke, on his new blog, Otagosh. Gavin often manages to find interesting material and unusual angles. He usually has something thought-provoking to say, and he’s certainly not afraid of some healthy controversy! In this case, I personally found his review, and Henry’s comments, particularly helpful in gaining a balanced perspective on some often emotive and potentially (if not inevitably) divisive subjects, and I believe many others who are wrestling with (or who perhaps have shelved) such issues will find both the content and also the approach edifying and instructive. Those whose minds are already made up, of course, will not wish to waste their time on such a futile exercise, and I can’t fault the logic of that position. But before moving back to less “weighty” matters, may I nevertheless throw out a challenge to all comers? In the words attributed to John Maynard Keynes: “When the facts change, I change my mind. What do you do, sir?”


D.M. Schofield said...

Thank you for the thoughtful comment. I will continue to read your blog. I know writing has always helped me heal, even when I was a small child.

Keep it up!


The Third Witness said...

Hello, Donna! Thanks for your visit. I appreciate your postitive approach, and I'll be continuing to read your blog with great interest. We've all got a lot to learn, and we can learn a lot from one another's experiences.

"See" you again soon!