Friday, October 22, 2010

Did the church really try to change the Sabbath?

Over at Messianic Jewish Musings, Derek Leman writes in defense of Sunday worship and asks Christians with a consciousness of the Jewish roots of Christianity to eliminate "Sunday churches" as a derogatory term.  (He suggests "Supersessionist churches" or perhaps "shallow churches," depending on what your gripe is.)

His post got me thinking.  One comment I hear occasionally is that the Church changed the Sabbath from Saturday to Sunday.  Typically the person saying this means the Roman Catholic or Constantinian church.  Their intent is to criticize the church for departing from its Jewish roots in (supposed) Sabbath-keeping.  I think Derek presents a solid case for Sunday worship being an early tradition among the Yeshua-followers.

However, I wonder about the accuracy of that statement I hear: "the Catholic Church changed the Sabbath" or "the Constantinian Church tried to change the Sabbath."  I think these statements are inaccurate or misleading.  I'd like to know whether I'm right!

Consider the following:
  • As far as I know, "changing the date of the Sabbath" wasn't on the agenda at any of the historic church councils.  "We worship on Sunday, not on Saturday" might have been, but not "We are changing the Sabbath from Saturday to Sunday."
  • While in English we call the seventh day "Saturday," in Spanish it is called "Sabado"--suggesting that perhaps in Spanish-speaking cultures, the Sabbath was always understood to be on Saturday or "Sabado," even if the the primary Christian worship service was on Sunday.
  • I tried Googling for "When was Sunday first called the Sabbath?"  The following quote seemed to pop up in several places across the 'net:
When was Sunday first called the "Sabbath"?
For many centuries, Christians were clear to distinguish between the Sabbath and Sunday (the Lord's Day), then ...
[Heinrich] Bullinger had a high view of the law, and differed from Calvin regarding the Sabbath. For Bullinger, Sunday was to be observed the same way in principle that the Sabbath was, with Sunday actually becoming the Sabbath for the Christian. Calvin, on the other hand, held that Sunday is not the Sabbath. The Puritans would follow Bullinger on this point.
Leonard Pine for Web Site/Journals/3-2 20Aug-1996/Pine - Heinrich Bullinger.pdf  (broken link!)
This seems to have happened about 1540 A.D., and was the start of the widespread naming of Sunday as the "Sabbath" in Christianity.
Anyone have more facts?  When did Christians begin referring to Sunday as "the Sabbath"?

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Quote of the Day: One Amazing Woman

A prominent character in last week's parsha Lekh L'kha is Hagar.
(No, not that one.)

(Wrong again.)

Of course I'm referring to the Egyptian woman named Hagar, who was the slave-woman of Abram and Sarai.
(That's better.)

When we read this parsha, we naturally focus on Abraham, Sarah, and Isaac their son of promise.  But is it possible that we allow Hagar to get a bad rap?  Blogger Yael thinks so.  She highlights: 
Hagar is the only woman other than Eve who is spoken of as having seed, otherwise seed is a uniquely male thing.  I have also already mention about Hagar being the first woman in Torah to address God, but what I had not noticed is that she is the only person in Torah to name God!  Can you imagine?  A slave girl, not Noah, Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, nor Moses named God! 
 Read the whole article at Yael's Jewish World...then feel free to share your thoughts in the comments section!

Friday, October 15, 2010

Guest Post: How should we be observant?

Another guest post from Jonathan R.  At first I was thinking to call it "How observant should we be?" but I think the title above is perhaps more reflective of what J is saying.  Enjoy, and Shabbat shalom!

Recently, Yahnatan came across this blog post which talks about how observant this particular family is willing to become and the reasons why.

Per our usual online habit he sent it to me with one word: "Thoughts?"

My first thought was another blog post that I read recently: A La Carte Observance.
Towards the end of the post (which you should read in its entirety), Rabbi Schiffman touches on the issue of Kashrut (keeping kosher):
"When I am home, I maintain one level of Kashrut, and when I am outside the home, I maintain a different level. On the surface this looks like what so many people I knew growing up did; having a kosher home but going out for roast pork at Chinese restaurants, or for shellfish if you live in Maryland. That’s not really what I do. I will avoid forbidden animals when out in public, but maintain a higher standard in my home, since my home reflects my most deeply held values. It means I can eat beef or chicken in restaurants or in people’s homes even if the meat was not from a kosher butcher. It means I place table fellowship with people more important than food.* Some people will find fault with this approach, but I’m not doing it to please them, impress them, or antagonize them. " (* emphasis mine)
This, to me, is the heart of our observance. The love of people should guide us not to separate ourselves from other peoples' journeys. To put it differently, our love for God and His law should guide us to interact and interface with people. Ultimately, I believe this puts us in a position to converse with and (perhaps, G-d willing) to instruct those who we would otherwise have shut out due to our practice.
Could I make the arguement that our following G-d's instruction to the best of our ability IS a sign of love for mankind and that to "compromise" would be to show disregard for mankind? Probably. Historically, I just don't see it working though. Those who shut themselves off to the many will only ever find a few.
Lest you read me wrong, I am not advocating that we throw Torah practice out the window so that we can embrace "the people of the world" and therefore repeat the mistake of Esau (Genesis 25: 29-34). G-d forbid! What I AM advocating is a deliberate, pragmatic engagement of our practice and how it can further or limit the Light we are here to represent.

Are we looking to make people come after us? Or are we about going and seeking after them? The parable of the good shepherd comes to mind.

To sum it up: Yeshua said that the Sabbath was made for man (Mark 2:27). Not the other way around. Doesn't this apply to the whole of Torah as well?

Friday, October 8, 2010

Got mussar?

Several other bloggers have already mentioned Riverton Mussar (, but I'll add my name to the list of people who are excited about participating.

Shimon the Rock wrote this exhortation to 1st-century Yeshua-followers:
Be self-controlled and alert. Your enemy ha'satan prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour.
 In our walk with God today, we find our experience to be the same.  Many of our most common failures occur when we're caught unexpectedly by a temptation or a difficult situation, and we respond badly. 

Part of our problem is that we simply don't expect to be tempted.  Then when the trial comes, it catches us off guard, and we fall.
This is where mussar comes in. As a spiritual discipline, mussar helps believers cultivate both self-control and awareness--so when you find yourself facing one of the tests that will inevitably come each and every day, you're not caught off guard, but rather prepared.

What are you waiting for--check it out!