Saturday, July 30, 2011

Why Sunday Was Never Originally Conceived as 'the Christian Sabbath'

A quick note. I remember growing up in Canada where quite literally the entire state would shut down on Sunday. No stores open, no liquor sales, no bars etc. Things have all changed in the last generation of course. Yet I was musing to myself that the justification for this practice had something to do with the eighth day being 'the Christian Sabbath.'

Nothing could be further from the original conception of Christianity.

The reason the new Law of Christianity is called 'the gospel' is because it develops from the messianic expectation traditionally associated with the Jubilee. The Jubilee is itself the year after seven Sabbatical years (so 7 x 7 + 1). The idea of course is that Jesus came after one year after a complete cycle of Sabbatical years and would usher in the fulfillment of the redemption foretold in Isaiah 61 and related scriptures.

At some point in the history of the religion, ignorant Europeans turned the eighth day into 'the Christian equivalent of the Jewish Sabbath.' The original idea was of course that the eighth day was 'one better' than the seventh - it was associated with freedom and freedom from the Law rather than traditional rules limiting movement, activity and work.

The reports about a 'libertine' doctrine associated with the Carpocratians is closer to the original understanding (albeit entirely exaggerated by the hostile Fathers) than European and North American ideas about 'the Christian Sabbath.'

When we hear about Marcionite 'antinomian' conceptions we are getting closer to the original truth. These too unfortunately come through a hostile Patristic lens. Nevertheless we are getting warmer ...

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