January 2013 - Vol. 65

Keeping The Lord's Day Holy: Part 1, by Nico Angleys


i Different Christian traditions use a variant approach to numbering the commandments. The Roman Catholic and Lutheran traditions, following Clement of Alexandria, Origen, and Augustine’s view, consider the commandment to "keep the Lord’s day holy" as the third. In the Eastern, Anglican, and Reformed traditions, following Philo and Josephus, consider the sabbath commandment to be the fourth. In this thesis I will refer to this particular commandment as the third. For more information, see The Numbering of the Ten Commandments by Neil MacQueen which includes some helpful lists and explanation for the various differences in the numbering schemes. 

1  All the biblical quotations are taken from the Revised Standard Version of the Bible.

2  “Sabbath,” in Allan C. Myers (ed.), The Eerdmans Bible Dictionary (Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans Publishing, 1987), 897. The consensus among scholars is this definition of the word. Minority views have proposed the Arabic thabat (referring to the stations of the moon) or the Accadian sabattu (the fifteenth day of the month: the full moon), or even that it is a derivation of the word seba (meaning seven) as other possible origins for the meaning of the word sabbath. Niels-Erik A. Andreasen, The Old Testament Sabbath – a Traditional-Historical Investigation (Society of Biblical Literature for the Form Criticism Seminar, 1972), 9.ph’s chastity 39:7–20 follows close on the story of Judah’s deficiencies in that respect in chapter 38.

3  Exodus 16, Exodus 20, Exodus 31, Leviticus 23, 24, Numbers 15, Numbers 28, Deuteronomy 5, Nehemiah 10, Nehemiah 13, Isaiah 56, Isaiah 58, Jeremiah 17.

4  The number seven is important in biblical numerology as it is “associated with completion, fulfillment, and perfection.” R.A. H. Gunner, “Numbers” in The New Bible Dictionary, ed. J. D. Douglas (Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans Publishing, 1962), 898.

5  As noted above (in footnote 2) by Niels-Erik A. Andreasen, The Old Testament Sabbath, 9; Joel F. Drinkard, “Number Systems and Number Symbols,” in The Holman Bible Dictionary, edited by Trent C. Butler (Nashville, TN: Holman Bible Publishers, 1991), 1029-1030; Scott Hahn, Swear to God (New York: Doubleday, 2004), 101-102.

6 Gordon J. Wenham, Genesis 1-15, Word Biblical Commentary (Waco, TX: Word Books, 1987), 35.

7  Wenham, Genesis 1-15, 35.

8 “The seventh day is the very first thing to be hallowed in Scripture, to acquire that special status that properly belongs to God alone. In this way Genesis emphasizes the sacredness of the Sabbath. Coupled with the threefold reference to God resting from all his work on that day, these verses give the clearest of hints of how man created in the divine image should conduct himself on the seventh day.” Wenham, Genesis 1-15, 36.

9 Bruce Vawter, On Genesis: A New Reading (Garden City, NY: Doubleday, 1977), 62.

10 Vawter, On Genesis, 62.

11 Brevard S. Childs, The Book of Exodus (Philadelphia: Westminster Press, 1974), 415.

12 “The fact that Sabbath observance is an emulation of God’s activity and an acknowledgement of His creation of the world explains why observing it honors Him. It explains, too, why the Sabbath command is the longest in the Decalogue and why it is sometimes paired with the prohibition of idolatry: like the latter commandment, observing the Sabbath is one of the quintessential expressions of loyalty to God.” Jeffrey H. Tigay, Deuteronomy, The JPS Torah Commentary (Philadelphia: The Jewish Publication Society, 1996), 68.

13Dies Domini, 9.

14 In Genesis 1, each day’s account is framed by the terms “God said” (1:3, 6, 9, 14, 20, 24) and “there was evening and there was morning” (1:5, 8, 13, 19, 23, 31) followed by the numbering of the day. The seventh day does not have this concluding term.

15 Göran Larsson, Bound for Freedom: The Book of Exodus in Jewish and Christian Traditions (Peabody, MA: Hendrickson Publishers, 1999), 148.

16 Benedict XVI, In the Beginning…: a Catholic Understanding of the Story of Creation and the Fall (Grand Rapids, Mich.: W.B. Eerdmans, 1995), 30.

17 Ibid., 32.

18 Scott Hahn, Swear to God (New York: Doubleday, 2004), 102.

19 Jeffrey H. Tigay, Deuteronomy, The JPS Torah Commentary (Philadelphia: The Jewish Publication Society, 1996), 69.

20Dies Domini, 16-17.

21 Walter Brueggemann, Genesis (Atlanta, GA: John Knox Press, 1982), 35.

22 Childs, The Book of Exodus, 290.

23Catechism of the Catholic Church (CCC) 2171.

24 “To this day, the Jewish people continue to build their tabernacle in time every seventh day to recall and confess their covenant with God and to demonstrate their firm hope of final freedom. In this sanctuary they have found rest and refreshment for body and soul, strength and security even in most turbulent times, solidarity and unity in times of discord. Here they have dwelt in the presence of the Lord, who put a sign upon them by entering into an eternal covenant with them. Hence, the Sabbath will forever stand as a sign of both God’s and Israel’s faithfulness.” Larsson, Bound for Freedom, 244.

25 “But the actual sign of the covenant is the sabbath. There the observance of the sabbath and the building of the tabernacle are two sides of the same reality. Just as the sabbath is a surety of Israel’s sanctity (31:13), so the meeting of God with his people in the tabernacle serve the selfsame end (29:43). There can be no genuine tension between these two signs. The witness of the tabernacle and that of the sabbath both testify to God’s rule over his creation (31:17).” Childs, The Book of Exodus, 541-42.
26 Larsson, Bound for Freedom, 242.

Return to > Keeping the Lord’s Day Holy - Part 1

Nico Angleys grew up in France, just outside Geneva, in the Alps. He is a member of The Servants of the Word, an ecumenical brotherhood of men living single for the Lord. Nico is the UCO director of University Christian Outreach in North America. He currently lives in Ann Arbor, Michigan, USA. In May 2012 he completed his Masters in Theology at Sacred Heart Seminary, writing his thesis on the Keeping the Lord's Day Holy, copyright © 2012. Used with permission.
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