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1911 Encyclopedia Britannica


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the day of cessation from work,' which among the Hebrews followed six days of labour and closed the week.

1. Observance. - The later Jewish Sabbath, observed in accordance with the rules of the Scribes, was a very peculiar institution, and formed one of the most marked distinctions between the Hebrews and other nations, as appears in a striking way from the fact that on this account alone the Romans found themselves compelled to exempt the Jews from all military service. The rules of the Scribes enumerated thirty-nine main kinds of work forbidden on the Sabbath, and each of these prohibitions gave rise to new subtilties. Jesus's disciples, for example, who plucked ears of corn in passing through a field on the holy day, had, according to Rabbinical views, violated the third of the thirty-nine rules, 2 which forbade harvesting; and in healing the sick Jesus Himself broke the rule that a sick man should not receive medical aid on the Sabbath unless his life was in danger. In fact, as our Lord puts it, the Rabbinical theory seemed to be that the Sabbath was not made for man but man for the Sabbath, the observance of which was so much an end in itself that the rules prescribed for it did not require to be justified by appeal to any larger principle of religion or humanity. The precepts of the law were valuable in the eyes of the Scribes because they were the seal of Jewish particularism, the barrier erected between the world at large and the exclusive community of Yahweh's grace. The ideal of the Sabbath which all these rules aimed at realizing was absolute rest from everything that could be called work; and even the exercise of those offices of humanity which the strictest Christian Sabbatarians regard as a service to God, and therefore as specially appropriate to His day, was looked on as work. To save life was allowed, but only because danger to life "superseded the Sabbath." In like manner the special ritual at the temple prescribed for the Sabbath by the Pentateuchal law was not regarded as any part of the hallowing of the sacred day; on the contrary, the rule was that, in this regard, "Sabbath was not kept in the sanctuary." Strictly speaking, therefore, the Sabbath was neither a day of relief to toiling humanity nor a day appointed for public worship; the positive duties of its observance were to wear one's best clothes, eat, drink and be glad (justified from Isa.'viii. 13). A more directly religious element, it is true, was introduced by the practice of attending the synagogue service; but it is to be The grammatical inflexions of the word "Sabbath" would show that it is a feminine form, properly shabbat-t for shabbat-t. The root has nothing to do with resting in the sense of enjoying repose; in transitive forms and applications it means to "sever," to "put an end to," and intransitively it means to "desist," to "come to an end." The grammatical form of shabbath suggests a transitive sense, "the divider," and apparently indicates the Sabbath as dividing the month. It may mean the day which puts a stop to the week's work, but this is less likely. It certainly cannot be translated "the day of rest." From the Thirty-ninth was deduced the familiar "Sabbath day's journey" (Acts i. 12), based primarily, it would seem, upon the command in Ex. xvi. 29. It was a distance of 2000 cubits.

remembered that this service was primarily regarded not as an act of worship but as a meeting for instruction in the law.

2. Attitude of Jesus.--So far, therefore, as the Sabbath existed for any end outside itself it was an institution to help every Jew to learn the law, and from this point of view it is. regarded by Philo and Josephus, who are accustomed to seek a philosophical justification for the peculiar institutions of their religion. But this certainly was not the leading point of view with the mass of the Rabbins; 1 and at any rate it is quite certain that the synagogue is a post-exilic institution, and therefore that the Sabbath in old Israel must have been entirely different from the Sabbath of the Scribes. But that it was destitute of any properly religious observance or meaning is inconceivable, for, though many of the religious ideas of the old Hebrews were crude, their institutions were never arbitrary and meaningless, and when they spoke of consecrating the Sabbath they must have had in view some religious exercise of an intelligible kind by which they paid worship to Yahweh. Indeed, that the old Hebrew Sabbath was quite different from the Rabbinical Sabbath is demonstrated in the trenchant criticism which Jesus directed against the latter (Matt. xii. 1-14; Mark ii. 27). The general position which He takes up, that "the Sabbath is made for man and not man for the Sabbath," 2 is only a special application of the wider principle that the law is not an end in itself but a help towards the realization in life of the great ideal of love to God and man, which is the sum of all true religion. But Jesus further maintains that this view of the law as a whole, and the interpretation of the Sabbath law which it involves, can be historically justified from the Old Testament. And in this connexion He introduces two of the main methods to which historical criticism of the Old Testament has recurred in modern times: He appeals to the oldest history rather than to the Pentateuchal code as proving that the later conception of the law was unknown in ancient times (Matt. xii.

3 seq.), and to the exceptions to the Sabbath law which the Scribes themselves allowed in the interests of worship (v. 5) or humanity (v. ii), as showing that the Sabbath must originally have been devoted to purposes of worship and humanity, and was not always the purposeless arbitrary thing which the schoolmen made it to be. Modern criticism of the history of Sabbath observance among the Hebrews has done nothing more than follow out these arguments in detail, and show that the result is in agreement with what is known as to the dates of the several component parts of the Pentateuch.

3. Old Usage

Of the legal passages that speak of the Sabbath all those which show affinity with the doctrine of the Scribes - regarding the Sabbath as an arbitrary sign between Yahweh and Israel, entering into details as to particular acts that are forbidden, and enforcing the observance by severe penalties, so that it no longer has any religious value, but appears as a mere legal constraint - are post-exilic (Exod. xvi. 23-30, xxxi. 12-17, xxxv. 1-3; Num. xv. 32-36); while the older laws only demand such cessation from daily toil, and especially from agricultural labour, as among all ancient peoples naturally accompanied a day set apart as a religious festival, and in particular lay weight on the fact that the Sabbath is a humane institution, a holiday for the labouring classes (Exod. XX111.12; Deut. v. 13-15). As it stands in these ancient laws, the Sabbath is not at all the unique thing which it was made to be by the Scribes. "The Greeks and. the barbarians," says Strabo (x. 3, 9), "have this in common, that they accompany their sacred rites by a festal remission of labour." So it was in old Israel: the Sabbath was one of the stated religious feasts, like the new moon and the three great .agricultural sacrificial celebrations (Hosea ii. 11); the new moons and the Sabbaths alike called men to the sanctuary to do sacrifice (Isa. i. 14); the remission of ordinary business belonged to both 1 See the Mishnah, tract. "Shabbath" and the alleviation permitted in the tract. "Erubin"; and compare Schiirer, Gesch. d. jud. Volkes o), pp. 393 seq., where the Rabbinical Sabbath is well explained and illustrated in detail.

Cp. the discussion in Talmud Yoma, fol. 85b: "The sabbath is delivered into your hands, not you into the hands of the Sabbath" (cited by S. R. Driver, Hastings' Diet. Bible, art. "Sabbath," iv. P. 322). See also art. Midrash, § 4, end. alike (Amos viii. 5), and for precisely the same reason. Hosea even takes it for granted that in captivity the Sabbath will be suspended, like all the other feasts, because in his day a feast implied a sanctuary. This conception of the Sabbath, however, necessarily underwent an important modification when the local sanctuaries were abolished under the "Deuteronomic" reform, and those sacrificial rites and feasts which in Hosea's time formed the essence of every act of religion were limited to the central altar, which most men could visit only at rare intervals. From this time forward the new moons, which till then had been at least as important as the Sabbath and were celebrated by sacrificial feasts as occasions of religious gladness, fall into insignificance, except in the conservative temple ritual. The Sabbath did not share the same fate, but with the abolition of local sacrifices it became for most Israelites an institution of humanity divorced from ritual. So it appears in the Deuteronomic decalogue, and presumably also in;Jer. xvii. 19 seq. In this form the seventh day's rest was one of the few outward ordinances by which the Israelite could still show his fidelity to Yahweh and mark his separation from the heathen. Hence we understand the importance attached to it in the exilic literature (Isa. lvi. 2 seq., lviii. 13), and the character of a sign between Yahweh and Israel ascribed to it in the post-exilic law. This attachment to the Sabbath, beautiful and touching so long as it was a spontaneous expression of continual devotion to Yahweh, acquired a less pleasing character when, after the exile, it came to be enforced by the civil arm (Neh. xiii.), and when the later law even declared Sabbathbreaking a capital offence. This increasing strictness is exemplified by the attitude of the Book of Jubilees (ii. 17-32, 1.6-13). But it is just to remember that without the stern discipline of the law the community of the second temple could hardly have escaped dissolution, and that Judaism alone preserved for Christianity the hard-won achievements of the prophets.3 4. Early Christian Church. - The Sabbath exercised a twofold influence on the early Christian church. On the one hand, the weekly celebration of the resurrection on the Lord's day could not have arisen except in a circle that already knew the week as a sacred division of time; and, moreover, the manner in which the Lord's day was observed was directly influenced by the synagogue service. On the other hand, the Jewish Christians continued to keep the Sabbath, like other points of the old law. Eusebius (H.E. iii. 27) remarks that the Ebionites observed both the Sabbath and the Lord's day; and this practice obtained to some extent in much wider circles, for the Apostolical Constitutions recommend that the Sabbath shall be kept as a memorial feast of the creation as well as the Lord's day as a memorial of the resurrection. The festal character of the Sabbath was long recognized in a modified form in the Eastern church by a prohibition of fasting on that day, which was also a point in the Jewish Sabbath law (comp. Judith viii. 6). On the other hand, Paul had quite distinctly laid down from the first days of Gentile Christianity that the Jewish Sabbath was not binding on Christians (Rom. xiv. 5 seq.; Gal. iv. to; Col. ii. 16), and controversy with Judaizers led in process of time to direct condemnation of those who still kept the Jewish day (e.g. Co. of Laodicea, A.D. 363). Nay, in the Roman church a practice of fasting on Saturday as well as on Friday was current before the time of Tertullian. The steps by which the practice of resting from labour on the Lord's day instead of on the Sabbath was established in Christendom and received civil as well as ecclesiastical sanction are dealt with under Sunday; it is enough to observe here that this practice is naturally and even necessarily connected with the religious observance of the Lord's day as a day of worship and religious gladness, and is in full accordance with the principles laid down by Jesus in His criticism of the Sabbath of the Scribes. But of course the 3 In actual life the Sabbath was often far from being the burden which the Rabbinical enactments would have led us to expect. It "is celebrated by the very people who did observe it, in hundreds of hymns, which would fill volumes, as a day of rest and joy, of presentiment of the pure bliss and happiness which are stored up for the righteous in the world to come" (S. Schechter, Jewish Quart. Review, iii. p. 763; cp. id., Studies in Judaism, pp. 296 sqq.).

complete observance of Sunday rest was not generally possible to the early Christians before Christendom obtained civil recognition.' 5. Origin. - As the Sabbath was originally a religious feast, the question of the origin of the Sabbath resolves itself into an inquiry why and in what circle a festal cycle of seven days was first established. In Gen. ii. 1-3 and in Exod. xx. 1 i the Sabbath is declared to be a memorial of the completion of the work of creation in six days. But it appears certain that the decalogue as it lay before the Deuteronomist did not contain any allusion to the creation (see Decalogue), and it is generally believed that this reference was added by the same post-exilic hand that wrote Gen. i. 1 - ii. 4a. The older account of the creation in Gen. ii. 4b seq. does not recognize the hexaemeron, and it is even doubtful whether the original sketch of Gen. i. distributed creation over six days. The connexion, therefore, between the seven days' week and the work of creation is now generally recognized as secondary. 2 But, if the week as a religious cycle is older than the idea of the week of creation, we cannot hope to find more than probable evidence of the origin of the Sabbath. Unless the Sabbath was already an institution peculiarly Jewish, it could not have served as a mark of distinction from heathenism. This, however, does not necessarily imply that in its origin it was specifically Hebrew, but only that it had acquired distinguishing features of a marked kind. What is certain is that the origin of the Sabbath must be sought within a circle that used the week as a division of time. Here again we must distinguish between the week as such and the astrological week, i.e. the week in which the seven days are named each after the planet which is held to preside over its first hour. 3 It is plain, however, that there is a long step between the astrological assignation of each hour of the week to a planet and the recognition of the week as an ordinary division of time by people at large. Astrology is in its nature an occult science, and there is no trace of a day of twenty-four hours among the ancient Hebrews. Moreover, it is doubtful from extant remains of Assyrian calendars whether the astrological week prevailed in civil life even among the Babylonians and Assyrians. They did not dedicate each day in turn to its astrological planet; and it is therefore precarious to assume that the Sabbath was in its origin what it is in the astrological week, the day sacred to Saturn, and that its observance is to be derived from an ancient Hebrew worship of that planet.4 The week, however, is found in various parts of the world in a form that has nothing to do with astrology or the seven planets, and with such a distribution as to make it pretty certain that it had no artificial origin, but suggested itself independently, and for natural reasons, to different races. In fact, the four quarters of the moon supply an obvious division of the month; and, wherever new moon and full moon are religious occasions, we get in the most natural way a sacred cycle of fourteen or 1 See, further, E. Scharer in Zeit. f. -Test. Wissens. (1905), pp. 3-66. For the theological discussions whether and in what sense type fourth commandment is binding on Christians, see Decalogue.

2 "The week, ended by the Sabbath, determined the ` days ' of creation, not the ` days ' of creation the week" (S. R. Driver, Genesis (1909), p. 35). At the same time, there was a peculiar appropriateness in associating the Sabbath with the doctrine that Yahweh is the Creator of all things; for we see from Isa. xl.-lxvi. that this doctrine was a mainstay of Jewish faith in those very days of exile which gave the Sabbath a new importance for the faithful.

3 If the day is divided into twenty-four hours and the planets preside in turn over each hour of the week in the order of their periodic times (Saturn, Jupiter, Mars, Sun, Venus, Mercury, Moon), we get the order of days of the week with which we are familiar. For, if the Sun presides over the first hour of Sunday, and therefore also over the eighth, the fifteenth and the twenty-second, Venus will have the twenty-third hour, Mercury the twenty-fourth, and the Moon, as the third in order from the Sun, will preside over the first hour of Monday. Mars, again, as third from the Moon, will preside over Tuesday (Dies Martis, Mardi), and so forth. This astrological week became very current in the Roman empire, but was still a novelty in the time of Dio Cassius (xxxvii. 18).

4 The evidence of the worship of Saturn among the oldest Hebrews is doubtful. Amos v. 26 (where Chiun is taken to represent KawanSaturn) is of uncertain interpretation, see W. R. Harper's discussion, Hosea, pp. 139-141 (International Crit. Comm., 1905).

fifteen days, of which the week of seven or eight days (determined by half moon) is the half. Thus the old Hindus chose the new and the full moon as days of sacrifice; the eve. of the sacrifice was called upavasatha, and in Buddhism the same word (uposatha) has come to denote a Sabbath observed on the full moon, on the day when there is no moon, and on the two days which are eighth from the full and the new moon respectively, with fasting and other religious exercises.' From this point of view it is most significant that in the older parts of the Hebrew Scriptures the new moon and the Sabbath are almost invariably mentioned together.6 Nor are other traces wanting of the connexion of sacrificial occasions - i.e. religious feasts - with the phases of the moon among the Semites. Thus the Harranians had four sacrificial days in every month, and of these two at least were determined by the conjunction and opposition of the moon. ? That full moon as well as new moon had a religious significance among the ancient Hebrews seems to follow from the fact that, when the great agricultural feasts were fixed to set days, the full moon was chosen. In older times these feast-days appear to have been Sabbaths (Lev. xxiii. I I; comp. the article Passover). A week determined by the phases of the moon has an average length of 291 4 = s days, i.e. three weeks out of eight would have eight days. But there seems to be in I Sam. xx. 27, compared with verses 18, 24, an indication that in old times the feast of the new moon lasted two days., In that case a week of seven working days would occur only once in two months. We cannot tell when the Sabbath became dissociated from the month; but the change seems to have been made before the Book of the Covenant, which already regards the Sabbath simply as an institution of humanity and ignores the new moon. In both points it is followed by Deuteronomy.' (W. R. S.; S. A. C.) [6. The Babylonian and Assyrian Sabbath. - The Babylonian calendars contain explicit directions for the observance of abstention from certain secular acts on certain days which forms a close parallel to the Jewish Sabbatical rules. Thus for the 7th, 14th, 21 st, 28th and also the 19th days of the intercalary Elul it is prescribed that "the shepherd of many nations is not to eat meat roast with fire nor any food cooked by fire, he is not to change the clothes on his body nor put on gala dress, he may not bring sacrifices nor may the king ride in his chariot, he is not to hold court nor may the priest seek an oracle for him in the sanctuary, no physician may attend the sick room, the day is not favourable for invoking curses, but at night the king may bring his gift into the presence of Marduk and Ishtar. Then he may offer sacrifice so that his prayers be accepted." Clearly, then, it was a day of suspended activity, but it will be noted that no religious observances are prescribed in place of the forbidden secular matters. So far no evidence is forthcoming that the same days of each month were observed as these of this special rarely occurring month. Calendars exist for other months which make no such regulations for any days. These abstentions are prescribed for the king and a few other persons; there is no evidence that they were observed by all the people. The 19th day is supposed to have had its sacred nature as the 49th day from the commencement of the preceding month, assuming that to have had 30 days. The months often had only 29 days, when the same character ought to have applied to the 20th day of the following month. There is no evidence that these days were called shabattu, a word which is rendered by umu nuh libbi, " day of rest of the heart," and has been thought to be the origin of Sabbath. This name shabattu was certainly applied to the 15th day of the month, and am nuh libbi could mean "day of rest in the middle," referring to the moon's pause at the full. The frequent Old Testament association of "new moons and Sabbaths" may point to an original observance of the 1st and 15th days of the month. Many days are indicated in the calendar as nubattu, a term which signifies rest, pause, and especially a god's connubial rest with his consort goddess. The observance of such days was a bar to attending even to important diplomatic business or setting out on a journey Such nubattu days fell on the 3rd, 7th and 16th of the intercalary month of Elul, and were noted as the nubattu of Marduk and his consort. It would be precarious to assume that the same days in each month were nubattu, for the nubattu fell on the 4th of Iyar on one occasion.

5 Childers, Pali Diet. p. 535; Kern, Manual of Buddhism, p. 99, Mahavagga, ii. 1, 1 (Eng. trans. i. 239, 291).

Both were days of cessation from business (Amos viii. 5), and were fitting occasions to visit a prophet (2 Kings iv. 23). They naturally take their rise among an agricultural folk. On abstinence from work on the New Moon by Jewish women of the present time, see M. Friedmann, Jew. Quart. Rev. iii. (1891), p. 712. See also I. Benzinger, Encyc. Biblica, cols. 3401 sqq.

The others - according to the Fihrist, 319, 14 - are the 17th and the 28th; see Chwolsohn, Ssabier, ii. 8, 94 seq.

It appears from Judith viii. 6 that even in later times there were two days at the new moon on which it was not proper to fast.

See further J. M. Meinhold, Sabbat and Woche im Alten Test. (Gottingen, 1905); Zeit. f. Alttest. Wissens. 1909, pp. 81-112.

X XIII. 31 Possibly the intercalary month was abnormal, the incidence of observances depending not on the day of the month in ordinary months but on the day of the week reckoned consecutively through the year. For it is obvious that if each 7th day during the year was observed as above, it would, like our Sunday or a Jewish Sabbath, fall on a different day of the month in different months. It is quite possible that shabattum and nubattum are from the same root and originally denoted much the same thing - a pause, abstention, from whatever cause or for ceremonial purposes. The intercalary month being purely arbitrary may exhibit a normal arrangement, supposing that the month and the week begin together.

There are traces of what may be called a "five-day week," but also some traces of a period of seven days. The former would be an exact submultiple of the 30-day month, but the exact relation of seven days to the month is not very clear. If the 15th always was full moon day, the 7th would coincide well with half moon, but the 21st and 28th would fall away considerably from the moon's phases. The significance of seven throughout Babylonian literature is very marked, and most of the material has been collected by J. Hehn, Siebenzahl and Sabbat (1907). It is quite consistent with the evidence to suppose that a seven-day week was in use in Babylonia, but each item may be explained differently, and a definite proof does not exist. The enormous number of dated documents has induced some scholars to attempt a statistical research into the observance of the 7th, 14th, 21st, 28th and 19th days of the months as Sabbaths. This has not been carried out with sufficient caution. If the Sabbath involved abstention from all such business as recorded in dated documents and always fell on these days, then the 7th, &c., should show a marked falling off in the number of dated documents. This appears actually to be the case in the period of the First Dynasty of Babylon and also in the 7th century in Assyria, where early Babylonian customs were kept up conservatively. In other cases the inclusion of documents relating to the temple business, payments of tithes and other dues, salaries to temple officials, and such ceremonies as marriages, &c., which may have demanded the presence of the congregation and were at least partly religious in nature, have been allowed to complicate the matter. Such business as did not profane the Sabbath according to Babylonian ideas cannot be quoted against their observance of their Sabbath. Further, if the Sabbaths fell on each 7th day through the year, any indication by dated documents of a falling off in the number of transactions on the 7th day of the month must obviously be completely disguised. As most of the records appealed to are from temple archives, it may be expected that the Sabbath days would show an increased number of records.

For reasons above indicated the whole subject is in its infancy. Even if it could be shown that the Pentateuchal regulations were universally observed in Israel from Mosaic times, it would not preclude a certain indebtedness to Babylonia for at least the germ of the institution. On the other hand, complete indentity of regulations and observance in Babylonia and Israel at one period need not show more than development on the same lines. The evidence of Babylonian observance has not yet been exhaustively considered. Its most suggestive likenesses are indicated above, but further evidence may render the similarity less striking when the meaning of it is more fully understood. (C. H. W. J.)] 7. Sabbatical Year. - The Jews under the second temple observed every seventh year as a Sabbath according to the (post-exilic) law of Lev. xxv. 1-7. It was a year in which all agriculture was remitted, in which the fields lay unsown and the vines grew unpruned, only the spontaneous yield of the land might be gathered. That this law was not observed before the captivity we learn from Lev. xxvi. 34 seq. (cp. 2 Chron. xxxvi. 21); indeed, so long as the Hebrews were an agricultural people, in a land often ravaged by severe famines, the law of the Sabbatical year could not have been observed. Even in later times it was occasionally productive of great distress (I Mac. vi. 49, 53; Jos. Ant. xiv. 16, 2). In the older legislation, however, we already meet with a seven years' period in more than one connexion. The release of a Hebrew servant after six years' labour (Exod. xxi. 2 seq.; Deut. xv. 12 seq.) has only a remote analogy to the Sabbatical year. But in Exod. xxiii. Io seq. it is prescribed that the crop of every seventh year shall be left for the poor, and after them for the beasts. The difference between this and the later law is that the seventh year is not called a Sabbath, and that there is no indication that all land was to lie fallow on the same year. In this form a law prescribing one year's fallow in seven may have been anciently observed, but it scarcely originated from the analogy of a seventh day of rest. It is extended in v II to the vineyard and the olive oil, but here the culture necessary to keep the vines and olive trees in order is not forbidden; the precept is only that the produce is to be left to the poor. In Deuteronomy this law is not repeated, but a fixed seven years' period is ordained for the benefit of poor debtors, apparently in the sense that in the seventh year no interest is to be exacted by the creditor from a Hebrew, or that no proceedings are to be taken against the debtor in that year (Deut. xv. 1 seq.). See the discussion by Driver, Internat. Grit. Comm., ad. loc., and the commentaries on Neh. v. ii.


In addition to the references already made, seethe articles in Ency. Bib. and Hastings' Dict. Bible (with references); Fr. Bohn, Sabbat im Alten Testament u. altjiidisch relig. A berglauben (Giitersloh, 1903: an interesting list of unlucky days from an old Egyptian calendar on p. 57 seq.); and for post-Biblical literature, F. Weber's Jiidische Theologie (Index), by Franz Delitzsch and Schnedermann (1897). (W. R. S.; S. A. C.)

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Bibliography Information
Chisholm, Hugh, General Editor. Entry for 'Sabbath'. 1911 Encyclopedia Britanica. 1910.