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Anti-semitism  Calendars  Easter  Lord’s day  Passover  Sabbath  Sunday  change of the Sabbath  Follow Us DID HELLENIZED JEWS ABANDON THE SABBATH?

Anti-semitism Calendars Easter Lord’s day Passover Sabbath Sunday change of the Sabbath Follow Us DID HELLENIZED JEWS ABANDON THE SABBATH?

A thoughtful TimeTalk reader has made a welcome contribution to the discussion about Sabbath observance among the first-century Christians. He suggests that the vast majority of early converts were Hellenized Jews who had already “jettisoned” the Sabbath and other aspects of the Jewish lifestyle long before the birth of Christ.

Thus, he reasons, the Sabbath was never an issue for them. They would have no reason to resist the institution of a new day of worship – the first day of the week, our Sunday.

His conclusion seems to be this: With these Hellenized Jews outnumbering more traditional old-line Sabbath-keeping Jewish converts by a wide margin, the Sabbath-to-Sunday change could have happened very quickly and very early in the history of the church.

Let’s address this subject in small bites.

First, WHO WERE THE HELLENIZED JEWS? They were Jews of the Diaspora – Jews whose forefathers had not returned to Judea after the Babylonian Exile. There were communities and colonies of these “dispersed” Jews living throughout the Roman Empire and beyond.

Next, IS IT TRUE that the early Christian church was made up largely of converted Hellenized Jews? Well, that question is up for debate among scholars, and I’m eager to hear more from them. So, without yielding the point, let’s say, for the sake of discussion, that the answer is “yes” and move to our final question.

IS IT TRUE that the Hellenized Christians had abandoned the Jewish lifestyle, including Sabbath observance, before the birth of Christ?

The preponderance of evidence says “No.” It’s clear that many of these Jews felt culture-bound to Jerusalem and its Temple. Jewish men from far and near were “required” to go to Jerusalem every year for the three pilgrimage festivals: Passover, Shavuot [Pentecost], and Sukkot [Tabernacles]. They came to Jerusalem in large numbers. In fact, it was attendance at these festivals that first brought these Hellenized Jews into contact with Christianity.

Had these Hellenized Jews assimilated, blending into the societies and cultures where they had settled? Perhaps some had done so. But large numbers of them maintained their Jewish identity. This statement is supported by the literature of the age.

There were three particular markers of Jewishness: Sabbath, circumcision, and abstaining from pork.

Let’s hear from Juvenal, Roman satirist and contemporary of Emperor Hadrian. This is  from his Satire 14.

“Some who have had a father who reveres the SABBATH, worship nothing but the clouds, and the divinity of the heavens, and see no difference between eating SWINE’S FLESH, from which their father abstained, and that of man; and in time they take to CIRCUMCISION…. For all which the father was to blame, who GAVE UP EVERY SEVENTH DAY to idleness, keeping it apart from all the concerns of life.” [EMPHASIS MINE] *

Hadrian himself recognized the persistence of widespread Jewish Sabbathkeeping in his day. After putting down the Bar Kochba Revolt in 135 CE he issued a ban on Sabbath keeping. This would have been a non-issue had the Jews, at large, already ceased the observance.

Marcion, notorious second-century heretic, despised the Jews and their Old Testament God. He taught his followers to fast on the Sabbath to show their spite for the Jews who celebrated on that day.

Based on this and other evidence that could be adduced, I am convinced that Hellenic, or Diaspora, Jews did not, in general, abandon the Sabbath and other Jewish practices before – or after – the birth of Christ. I’m satisfied with the conclusion reached by historian John Barclay, who calls the Sabbath “an anchor-point for Diaspora Jewish identity.” **
**Barclay, John M. G. Jews in the Mediterranean Diaspora From Alexander to Trajan – 323 Bce to 117 Ce. Bloomsbury T & T Clark, 1996.

The Worst Arguments Against the Sabbath?

The Worst Arguments Against the Sabbath?

There are all kinds of ideas kicking around about why Christians don’t need to keep the Sabbath of the Fourth Commandment. Here’s one of the most popular: “We live under the New Covenant, are saved by grace, and therefore the Ten Commandments are irrelevant.”

Not only are they irrelevant, the argument goes, but the Ten Commandments have expired. They are no longer in force. To prove this point, Colossians 2:13, 14 has been offered into evidence. Here are the verses from the King James Version:

“And you, being dead in your sins and the uncircumcision of your flesh, hath he quickened together with him, having forgiven you all trespasses;

“Blotting out the handwriting of ordinances that was against us, which was contrary to us, and took it out of the way, nailing it to his cross.”

St. Paul, the writer here, is focusing on FORGIVENESS – and, more specifically, the FORGIVENESS event. Let’s take a closer look.

“Handwriting” refers literally to a written thing, such as a manuscript or document of some sort. Many scholars across denominational lines understand this “handwriting” as a statement of personal debt, like an IOU that you might sign if you borrowed money from me. We could also see it as a record of our sins, our signed confession of guilt.

Paul had good news for the members of the Colossian church: God has blotted out that “handwriting.” That’s good news for me, too. It echoes what God said through the pen of Isaiah in the Old Testament: “I, even I, am he that blotteth out thy transgressions for mine own sake, and will not remember thy sins” (Isaiah 43:25).

The “handwriting,” or written record of our sins, was based on “ordinances” – rules, decrees, laws – that testified to our guilt. Note that it was not the “ordinances” that were blotted out, but the “handwriting” – the IOU, the record of our sins, our signed confession. Paul described the “handwriting” as “contrary to us.”

Paul says that God “took it out of the way.” More literally, He “took it out of the middle.” Paul may have been picturing a trial where the accuser stood in the center of the court and testified. Think of the “handwriting” as that accuser, and you are on trial. God takes that accuser “out of the middle” and the charges against you are dropped.

There was one more point Paul wanted to make: The cross of Christ is at the heart of this FORGIVENESS event. The “handwriting” was nailed there. Jesus took our IOU, our guilt, our signed confession. He accepted our sins as His, and paid for them in full.

Using Colossians 2:13, 14 as an anti-Sabbath text is one of the worst arguments against Sabbath-keeping.

The Ten Commandments were not nailed to the cross. The New Covenant does not make them irrelevant. They have not passed their expiration date.

By the way, did you ever notice how this New Covenant anti-Sabbath argument somehow finds a way to resurrect nine of the Ten Commandments and make them relevant again? Why not the Fourth Commandment?

Let me ask you this: Do you know any sincere believer who really thinks that
serving a false god
or making an idol for worship
or taking the Lord’s name in vain
or dishonoring parents
or murder
or adultery
or stealing
or lying
or coveting
has a proper place in the life of a Christian? I doubt it.

Most conscientious Christians recognize that the Ten Commandments are still the ultimate standard for right living.

Except for the Sabbath Commandment? Really?

First Century Christians in Jewish Synagogues? Wake Up and Smell the History!

Is there historical evidence that either Jesus or His disciples established Sunday as the new Sabbath for Christians? No. In fact, history shows just the opposite. In the final years of the 1st century Christians were still worshipping with Jews. On the Sabbath. In the synagogues.

At that time, Christianity was not a legal religion within the Roman Empire. Judaism was. There were no Christian church buildings. It’s clear that Christians attended Sabbath services in the Jewish synagogues.

We know this because of Jewish reaction against the Christians who joined in the synagogue services. Near the end of the 1st century, Jewish rabbis added a “benediction” to prayers that were recited in the synagogues. It is called the “blessing on the heretics,” but it’s actually a curse directed at Christian converts. Watch the video.