What is “Under the Law?”

What is “Under the Law?”

By Brad Scott

There is a universal battle cry for those who embrace Jesus Christ as Lord and yet at the same time deny His words. “We are no longer under the law, but under grace.” I meant what I just said. This has been the banner under which millions of Christians for hundreds of years have flown. Humankind, since the days of Adam, have turned away from the word of YHVH. It is a central part of our fallen nature. There are really three kinds of people in the world. Those who disobey the commands of YHVH because they do not acknowledge His existence, those who disobey Him and do it in His name, and those who claim His name and obey Him. Which one are you? When reading the Scriptures, it becomes quite evident that no matter what “dispensation” you are cruising through, disobedience is rampant, and so is chaos and moral decay. This is not only true today, but it seems to have reached it’s pinnacle. At least in the times of the Judges or the times of David, YHVH’s people realized that they had turned from His ways and repented now and then. Today, however, the modern church stills teaches that Yeshua’s death put an end to law. So we all stand by and watch as our society crumbles, having the peace of mind that it is not our fault. It is Satanism, the New World Order, the New Age Movement, the Catholics, the Democrats, liberalism, Bill and Hillary, Hollywood, Nintendo, Neo-Nazi’s, and Oprah Winfrey.

I hope and pray that this study will begin to open your eyes to the commonly accepted interpretation of being under the law. Like many of the Hebrew words we have defined, this phrase has a background and an Old Testament meaning that is imperative in understanding it’s New Testament use. This will take a few lessons to get through, but I believe it is very important. Yeshua’, Sha’ul, and all the writers of the New Testament would have used the concept of law in the framework of it’s previously established use. This word, or for that matter, the idea of being under the law, was not created in a vacuum. However, the use or misuse of this idea was so misunderstood by “Jew and Gentile” alike, that Sha’ul spends an incredible amount of time to make it clearly understood. Why so much attention to this word? Well, it is because one cannot draw the two usual conclusions to this matter. There seems to be a very fine line between obedience and what we call legalism. I hope to show that Sha’ul’s desire for “Jew and Gentile” was that they lived in YHVH’s glorious grace. He also stressed that YHVH’s people walked in obedience in their newly found life in Yeshua’, and that these two ideas were not in conflict. Considering the two opposing cultures, this was not an easy task. Drawing two such contrary views of life into one would take up a lot of writing space. I believe that the Messiah Yeshua‘ was the answer to that enmity created by the law between “Jew and Gentile”.

The phrase under the law is found ten times in the New Testament. If you are familiar with scriptural numerics, then you will quickly notice that the number ten usually speaks of law or judgement for disobeying (10 commandments, 10 plagues, the tithe, etc.). I intend to discuss these ten occurrences. First, however, we must take the time to define what we mean by the law. As I have said many times before, the New Testament writers would have used this word as it has always been understood and defined. Simply put, if law was evil or bad in the Tanakh then it would continue to be understood as evil or bad in the New Testament. If YHVH’s laws were understood as righteous and set apart (holy) in the Tanakh, then they would continue to be defined as righteous and set apart in the New Testament. I would pray that this would not only be in harmony with the very nature of YHVH, but is simple common sense. If YHVH is constantly changing the meaning of these words, then there is no solid rock on which we are to stand. Our God is the same yesterday, today, and forever (Ivrim (Hebrews) 13:8). Do you believe that only Yeshua‘ was the same? YHVH does not change (Male’akiy (Malachi) 3:6). There is no explanation of the phrase under the law because it was already understood!

Many times I find modern Christian teachers teaching backwards! The modern church approaches the Scriptures by beginning in the New Testament, forming an understanding of its teachings, and then going back to the Old Testament to understand it’s meaning. This denies the plain cultural meaning of the text and conforms the Scriptures to the ever changing ideology of the church rather than forming the church around the solid consistent rock of scripture. When you read the book of Acts, you see that, historically, the followers of Yeshua‘ did not simply accept whatever new teaching they heard. They could not have tested established revelation (Tanakh), which they knew to be true, by a new revelation which they did not know to be true. The three sections of the Tanakh were already accepted and established as YHVH’s set apart, everlasting word. YHVH had already commanded, and Yeshua‘ confirmed, that a new teaching or claim of Messiahship was to be tested against what YHVH had already revealed, not the other way around. Interpreting the Scriptures backwards produces a message that is backwards. They could not have justified New Testament teaching by quoting the New Testament!

The English word law is translated from the Greek word nomos. It is very important to see how this word evolved because the defining of words change our image and perception of the full meaning of a sentence when it is formed. The translation process from Greek to English has already changed the meaning of law. In Greek society, the concept of law still held a positive, honorable, and instructive substance. When we peruse the Tanakh, we see that the law was reverently esteemed, and was given many other titles to describe it’s place in the lives of YHVH’s people. We will discuss those titles later. As this word traveled the translation process, it took on a much heavier, negative connotation. As early as the 3rd century A.D. the so-called early church fathers had already begun to denigrate this word. Law was already being taught as a product of ‘the Jews’. An heretical character named Marcion taught that the entire Tanakh should be removed from the pulpits as well as many sections of the New Testament which put the law and ‘the Jews’ into a more positive light, such as the book of Luke and the book of Acts.

As the western culture progressed, the concept of law grew more and more negative. The whole scriptural concept of law and bondage was reversed. Law was taught as bondage, not sin. Certain cliches and phrases were adapted to express this bondage. What began in YHVH’s word as light, life, righteousness, the Way, the walk, truth, goodness, and holiness, soon became disdained, loathed, and despised. IT’S THE LAW! LAW AND ORDER! THAT’S AGAINST THE LAW! HE BROKE THE LAW! I FOUGHT THE LAW AND THE LAW WON! The law has become the enemy. Today, in many movies the handsome bank robber or jewel thief is actually applauded over the bumbling representatives of the law, the police. Iniquity is actually portrayed as good and the law as bad! Law is no longer seen as good and righteous but is seen as nothing but fear and punishment. This is because the scriptural concept of law has been so twisted and redefined that it is virtually unrecognizable. I have come to at least one undeniable conclusion for a long time now. A nation’s behavior is guided by it’s philosophy, and a nation’s philosophy is formed by it’s religious values. All cultures and peoples form their society, no matter how large or small, from their view of whatever they deem to be the ultimate Superior. In this great nation it is supposed to be the ‘God of the Bible’. But is it really? Next time we will begin with the creation of the very fabric of existence, Torah!

Shalom Alecheim!

This article was originally posted on Brad’s ministry page https://www.wildbranch.org/. It is an introduction to a four part series on the subject. We encourage you to go to His website and read more about this subject. His teaching archive is found here: https://www.wildbranch.org/teachings/lessons/

 

Why So Few Sabbatarians?

Why So Few Sabbatarians?

First edited edition by Kevin Butler

“Because we know God says: “The Seventh-day is the Sabbath of the Lord,” we keep it. However sabbath keeping is not the assurance of our success.

“Why so few Sabbatarians?” As a newcomer to Seventh Day Baptists, Rev. Madison Harry (see Pearls from the Past, page 12) asked this question in 1890. Harry went on to pose more questions and posit even more answers and theories. His article, “Why has not God blessed Sabbath-keeping Christians more?” appeared in The Sabbath Recorder on August 28, 1890. A revised version became a separate American Sabbath Tract Society booklet in 1894. The following is from his introduction: “Why has not God blessed Sabbath-keeping Christians more?”

This is both a perplexing and painful question to all who “delight in The law of God, after the inward man.” The meager success of Sabbatarians deters many from joining with us, though convinced of the scriptural foundation of our position, and not a few have abandoned our cause on that account. This is a sad and depressing fact. Why is it? Is it God’s will it should be so? How much of our little success is necessary or unavoidable, and how much is due to our inefficiency as an aggressive power and evangelizing agency? This is a practical question. If it is due to the first cause wholly, then we are blameless. If in any degree to the latter, then “sin lieth at the door.” We surely, if possible, should know how this matter stands. How much of our meager success is necessary and unavoidable?”

(this article is an excerpt from the August-September 1999 edition of the Sabbath Sentinel)

To read the rest of this article, which starts on page 13, click this link: https://biblesabbath.org/tss/478/tss_478.pdf

Sabbath Meditation #20 – The Day of Life and Wholeness

Sabbath Meditation #20 – The Day of Life and Wholeness

“Then he saith unto them, ‘Is it lawful to do good on the Sabbath days, or to do evil? To save life, or to kill?’ But they remained silent.” (Mark 3:4)

“Observe the Sabbath, because it is holy to you. Anyone who desecrates it is to be put to death; those who do any work on that day must be cut off from their people” (Ex. 31:14).

“But if you are careful to obey me, declares the Lord, and bring no load through the gates of this city on the Sabbath, but keep the Sabbath day holy by not doing any work on it, then kings who sit on David’s throne will come through the gates of this city with their officials. They and their officials will come riding in chariots and on horses, accompanied by the men of Judah and those living in Jerusalem, and this city will be inhabited forever” (Jer. 17:24-25).

An overview of the Sabbath in the Bible provides many fascinating revelations. One will also discover powerful themes, and among them is that the Sabbath is a God-given reminder of life.

In Exodus chapter 31, God said that those who broke the Sabbath (in the Old Covenant) were to be put to death. We do not stone people today, but the severity of this punishment shows us that He takes the subject very seriously.

Unfortunately, people tend to dwell on this punishment instead of the opportunity presented to us. If the severity for breaking this commandment was so strong then the obedience to it must have an opposite, positive affect on life. For an example of this, we will briefly review Jeremiah 17:19-27.

In this chapter, we learn that the house of Judah was openly breaking the Sabbath. God offered them two options. If they continued to transgress the Sabbath, then the city of Jerusalem would be destroyed. If they chose to obey Him, then the city would be spared and there would be prosperity many years into the future. This was an offer of life and blessing.

To put some context to this situation, one must understand that the nation of Judah was in outright rebellion to God. Earlier in the same book, we learn that they were worshiping other gods, bowing down to idols and committing other sins. Of all the commandments that they were transgressing, he chose the Sabbath as the gateway commandment to life.

One aspect of Christ’s first coming was to fulfill the law or show us its full intent (compare Isaiah 42:21 and Matthew 5:17-18). He described the Sabbath as a day of life and good works (Mark 3:4). In the same setting, the Pharisees plotted to kill Jesus (Mark 3:5-6). On the day of life, they wanted death. This shows that their minds were far removed from God’s mind. Despite this opposition, our Savior remained committed to life.

Jesus demonstrated this concept by purposefully praying for people to be healed on the Sabbath (in front of others). In Luke 6:10 Christ restored a man’s hand so that it was made whole. The Greek word translated as whole is hugies. It means soundness in body, restoration of health, or wholeness of health. If someone could be torn apart for breaking the Sabbath, then imagine the wholeness available to our bodies for its obedience.

As we meditate on these details, we can understand that our behavior, thoughts, and intentions on Sabbath reflect either life or death. The seventh day is an opportunity to seek life and to do good. Wholeness is available to us. It is not a day to destroy each other, tear each other down, or cause division. Our church gatherings should reflect life rather than the attitude of the Pharisees.

The Sabbath is set apart specifically and purposefully for life. It is also the day in which Christ rose from the dead into glorified life.

Selah.

Kelly McDonald, Jr.

BSA President www.biblesabbath.org

Why Don’t Christians Stone People Today?

Why Don’t Christians Stone People Today?

By Kelly McDonald, Jr.

A common question I receive is: Why don’t Christians stone people today?

This is a good question, especially as it relates to the Sabbath. In the Old Covenant, the penalty for breaking the Sabbath was death (Exodus 31:12-17). I have friends who told me that they couldn’t start keeping the Sabbath because they would have to be stoned anytime they broke it. This is poor logic for several reasons – one of which I will address.

Most Christians, regardless of their church background, will agree that adultery is still a sin and out of God’s will. The penalty for this transgression (as well as others like murder) was also death (Ex. 21, Num 35:6-34; Lev. chapters 18 and 20), yet the Old Covenant penalty has not prevented many Christians from avoiding these behaviors.

Now it looks like we have multiple reasons to resolve the issue of why Christians don’t stone people for Sabbath breaking, adultery, or anything else. The answer is as simple as understanding the difference between the Old Covenant and the New Covenant.

In the Old Covenant, the sacrifices of bulls and goats were made for the sins of the people. These sacrifices were insufficient to cleanse the conscience of the worshiper or to erase the memory of sin. These sacrifices were reminders that the cost of sin was death.

When Jesus died, He instituted the New Covenant with His blood (Matthew 26:26-28; Luke 22:20; Rom. 11:27; I Cor. 11:25; Hebrews 8:8-12, 10:15-17). Because He is the image of God, He died in our place. He took on our sins and suffered for us.  His sacrifice is greater than that of any animal (see Hebrews 10:1-25). Unlike the animals, He only had to be offered once. He died in our place (Romans 5:6-20; I Peter 2:21-24, 3:18).

So there are many reasons we personally do not stone people today, but I will cover three of them: (Author’s note: this article has nothing to do with civil laws and the penalties created by governments for their transgression. I am addressing why the Christian community does not take upon itself the action of stoning others for transgressions of God’s Law.)

1) Jesus already died in our place for our sins, so how could we put someone else to death?

2) When Jesus died and rose from the dead, He was given the keys of death and the grave. Only He and the Father can make such a decision about someone’s physical life. “I am the Living One; I was dead, and behold I am alive for ever and ever! And I hold the keys to death and the grave.”

3) When Christ died for us, He purchased all those who would accept Him. He owns us. This is expressed to us in I Corinthians 6:19b-20: “…You are not your own; you were bought at a price. Therefore honor God with your body.”

Because we were bought by Christ, we are His servants/slaves (Romans 6:18; I Peter 2:16). Since we all have the same Master, only He and the Father could the determination about where someone deserves to live or die based upon their life (see Acts 5:1-5). We will have to stand before Them and give account for the things done in the Body (see also Romans 14:9-12, I Peter 1:17). “For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, that each one may receive what is due him for the things done while in the body, whether good or bad.” (2 Corinthians 5:10). He will reward us according to what we have done (Rev. 22:12; Romans 2:6-11).

We have at least one example in the New Testament that shows us how issues like this should be handled.

In I Corinthians chapter 5, we learn about a man who slept with his father’s wife. “It is actually reported that there is sexual immorality among you, and of a kind that does not occur even among pagans: a man has his father’s wife…” (verse 1). According to Leviticus 20:11, the punishment should be death. How did Paul address the situation?

“4 When you are assembled in the name of our Lord Jesus and I am with you in spirit, and the power of our Lord Jesus is present, 5 hand this man over to Satan, so that the sinful nature may be destroyed and his spirit saved on the day of the Lord…11 But now I am writing you that you must not associate with anyone who calls himself a brother but is sexually immoral or greedy, an idolater or a slanderer, a drunkard or a swindler. With such a man do not even eat. 12 What business is it of mine to judge those outside the church? Are you not to judge those inside? 13 God will judge those outside. ‘Expel the wicked man from among you.’”

Paul addressed this situation by dis-fellowshiping the guilty individual for a space of time. He also listed several other sins that can result in the same discipline. At the end of the chapter Paul quoted the Old Testament to support this action: ‘Expel the wicked man from among you.’

This verse is found several times in the book of Deuteronomy (Deut. 17:7, 19:19, 21:21, 22:21, 24, 24:7). All these references have to do with someone who is either being stoned or put to death. The overall goal of the punishment was to remove the evil from among the camp.

Paul applied these verses not by putting someone to death, but simply removing the guilty party from fellowship from the congregation. He even expresses his hope that this discipline would still result in the man’s salvation on the Day of the Lord (remember, the Lord will make the final decision about life and death).

In 2 Corinthians 2:5-11, we learn that he was brought back into the church after he sincerely repented. There are other places in the New Testament where we are instructed to utilize this kind of discipline: (Titus 3:9, Romans 16, I Cor 5, 2 Thess. 3:14-15)

Why don’t we stone people? Jesus died in our place to purchase us; He also rose from the dead.  Because He is our Master and has the keys of life and the grave, only He could make such a determination about whether or not a person deserved to live.

While we do not stone people for breaking God’s commandments, we do administer discipline in the church for certain sins (examples given in the New Testament) because they can defile the entire congregation of believers. When a person has genuinely repented, then they can be brought back.

Kelly McDonald, Jr.

BSA President, www.biblesabbath.org

History The Seventh Day Baptists The oldest Sabbath-keeping Church in the US

History The Seventh Day Baptists The oldest Sabbath-keeping Church in the US

from the Seventh Day Baptist Historical Society

“A Thumbnail Sketch of Seventh Day Baptists from 1650 to the Present Seventh Day Baptists are a covenant people based on the concept of regenerate membership, believer’s baptism, congregational polity, and scriptural basis for belief and practice. Seventh Day Baptists have presented the Sabbath as a sign of obedience in a covenant relationship with God and not as a condition of salvation. They have not condemned those who do not accept the Sabbath but are curious at the apparent inconsistency of those who claim to accept the Bible as their source of faith and practice, yet have followed traditions of the church instead.

Seventh Day Baptists date their origin with the mid-17th century separatist movement in England. With the renewed emphasis on the Scriptures for Free Church doctrine and practice, men such as James Ockford, William Saller, Peter Chamberlain, Francis Bampfield, Edward and Joseph Stennett concluded that the keeping of the seventh-day Sabbath was an inescapable requirement of biblical Christianity. Some maintained membership within the Baptist fellowship and simply added the private Sabbath observance to their other shared convictions. As the power of the state was used to enforce conformity to a common day of worship, separation became necessary. The first separate church of record was the Mill Yard church founded about 1650 in London.

The study of the Scriptures in America brought Samuel and Tacy Hubbard to the Baptist principle of believer’s baptism in 1647, and membership in the First Baptist Church of Newport, Rhode Island. Beginning in 1665, their family and several others became convinced of the seventh-day Sabbath and joined in fellowship with Stephen Mumford and his wife who had held Sabbath convictions while members of a Baptist church in Tewksbury, England…”

(this article is an excerpt from the Sept-Oct 2013 edition of the Sabbath Sentinel)

To read the rest of this article, which starts on page 12, click this link: https://biblesabbath.org/media/TSS_2013_Sept-Oct-563.pdf

Polycarp’s Letter to the Philippians

Polycarp’s Letter to the Philippians

By Kelly McDonald, Jr.

In April 2020, we wrote a couple of articles testifying to the weighty witness of Polycarp. One of these proofs is his Letter to the Philippians. Between 110 and 140 AD, Polycarp, the Bishop of Smyrna wrote a letter to the Philippians. In it, he affirmed keeping the commandments of God.

Irenaus, a contemporary to Polycarp, said this about it: “There is also a very powerful Epistle of Polycarp written to the Philippians, from which those who choose to do so, and are anxious about their salvation, can learn the character of his faith, and the preaching of the truth” (Irenaeus, Adversus Haereses, 3.3.4).

This letter was considered so valuable to the early Church that even as late as 400 AD it was routinely read in churches throughout Asia. Jerome, writing about that time says this about Polycarp and the Letter to the Philippians:

“Polycarp – disciple of the apostle John and by him ordained bishop of Smyrna was chief of all Asia, where he saw and had as teachers some of the apostles and of those who had seen the Lord….He wrote a very valuable Epistle to the Philippians which is read to the present day in the meetings in Asia” (On Illustrious Men, 17).

In it, he mentioned the Apostle Paul by name four times and quoted his letters as many as 26 times. He also quoted the Apostle Peter nearly word for word at least 10 times. Altogether, it seems that Polycarp quoted from three gospels, Acts, ten of Paul’s Letters, I and II Peter, I John, and Jude. Some have said that he quoted every book in the present New Testament canon.

Here is an overview of the doctrines affirmed in the Letter to the Philippians:

– Introduction that is very similar to Paul

– Chapter 1 – An encouragement to produce fruit in Christ and salvation by grace.

– Chapter 2 – Affirmed keeping the commandments of God, the resurrection to come, and judgment.

– Chapter 3 – He credited Paul for founding the Church at Philippi and writing a letter to them.

– Chapter 4 – He gave very practical Christian instruction (very Pauline).

– Chapters 5 & 6 – He listed standards for ordained people, affirmed rulership in the Kingdom with Christ, and the judgment of Christians before Christ.

– Chapter 7 – He affirmed the Bodily manifestation of Christ, His death and His resurrection.

– Chapter 12 – He quoted the letter to the Ephesians and calls it the Scriptures and encourages them to know the Scriptures.

Here are some excerpts from this letter. In parenthesis are Bible verses he quoted either word for word or was referenced.

“But He who raised Him up from the dead will raise up us also, if we do His will, and walk in His commandments, and love what He loved, keeping ourselves from all unrighteousness, covetousness, love of money, evil speaking, false witness; not rendering evil for evil, or railing for railing, (1 Peter 3:9) or blow for blow, or cursing for cursing, but being mindful of what the Lord said in His teaching: Judge not, that you be not judged; (Matthew 7:1) forgive, and it shall be forgiven unto you; be merciful, that you may obtain mercy; (Luke 6:36) with what measure you measure, it shall be measured to you again; (Matthew 7:2; Luke 6:38)…” (Letter to the Philippians, Chapter 2).

“‘But the love of money is the root of all evils.’ Knowing, therefore, that ‘as we brought nothing into the world, so we can carry nothing out,’ let us arm ourselves with the armour of righteousness; and let us teach, first of all, ourselves to walk in the commandments of the Lord” (ibid, Chapter 4).

“Let us then continually persevere in our hope, and the earnest of our righteousness, which is Jesus Christ, who bore our sins in His own body on the tree, (1 Peter 2:24) who did no sin, neither was guile found in His mouth, (1 Peter 2:22) but endured all things for us, that we might live in Him. (1 John 4:9) Let us then be imitators of His patience; and if we suffer (Acts 5:41; 1 Peter 4:16) for His name’s sake, let us glorify Him. For He has set us this example (1 Peter 2:21) in Himself, and we have believed that such is the case. (ibid, Chapter 8)

Though Polycarp is attributed to be a disciple of the Apostle John, the Letter to the Philippians has a significant number of quotes from letters that we presently call the New Testament. He does give one direct quote from the Apostle John “For whosoever does not confess that Jesus Christ has come in the flesh, is antichrist” (I John 4:3; Letter to the Philippians, chapter 7).

Some scholars have said that this letter lacks compelling content because it is mostly quotes from what we call the New Testament. On the contrary, I believe this is the reason why the letter is so compelling. The Letter to the Philippians testifies to the veracity of the letters that compose the New Testament.

As we reviewed in our first article on Polycarp (CLICK HERE), he lived in a time period where the existing manuscripts of the New Testament were being edited or changed to fit heretical ideas.  His strict adherence to the writings of the first Apostles was desperately needed, and God used Him to protect those sacred writings from being defiled.

To read the entire letter to the Philippians, CLICK HERE.

Kelly McDonald, Jr.

BSA President – www.biblesabbath.org

Sabbath Meditation #19 – He Thought of You

Sabbath Meditation #19 – He Thought of You

“The Sabbath was made for mankind, not man for the Sabbath” (Mark 2:27-28).

When the Son of Man came to earth, He reminded us that the Sabbath was set apart for all mankind, not just any one group of people. Consider that the creation of mankind occurred on the sixth day. There was no distinction of nations when this happened. We are all descended from the first two humans Adam and Eve.

Meditate on the following scriptures:

“Before I formed you in the womb I knew you…” (Jeremiah 1:5a, NKJV)

“Your eyes saw my unformed body; all the days ordained for me were written in your book before one of them came to be” (Psalm 139:16).

What is one thing we can learn from these verses and Mark 2:27-28?

The Sabbath was made holy for every human that would ever be born through the first humans Adam and Eve. In other words, God thought of you and the specific needs of every human when the Sabbath was established.

He thought of every struggle that you would encounter. He thought of the toil you would have to endure during the other six working days. He thought about how you would struggle to understand the hard questions of life.

Before you were born,

Before your trial started,

Before you were hired for the job,

Nothing surprised Him,

He was ready and waiting for you at the Sabbath rest.

“My times are in your hands; deliver me from the hands of my enemies, from those who pursue me” (Psalm 31:15).

So remember – when He made the Sabbath, He thought of you. Treasure this precious time from Him as you receive comfort from the toil of the ground that we work during the first six days of the week.

Selah.

Kelly McDonald, Jr

BSA President – www.biblesabbath.org

Breakthrough Discovery on Constantine and the Sabbath

Breakthrough Discovery on Constantine and the Sabbath

By Kelly McDonald, Jr.

In the various articles and books written about Sabbath history, the Roman Emperor Constantine is among the most mentioned individuals. Some claim that he tried to change the Sabbath to Sunday or even persecute Sabbath keepers. As we have pointed out in other articles, neither claim is true. Not a single early Church writing or piece of legislation from his reign ever hints at a direct attack upon the Biblical Sabbath (Friday sunset to Saturday sunset).

More recent research into writings about Constantine’s life combined with a study of Roman law have produced a breakthrough discovery in understanding the relationship between his reign and the Biblical Sabbath. You will need to read this article in its entirety to understand this new finding.

A very important writing on this subject comes from Eusebius. He was a pro-Roman Church writer in the 300s AD. He wrote a work called The Life of Constantine. It is one of the primary sources about the ruler’s life.

The traditional translation of The Life of Constantine, book 4, chapter 18, section 2: “…his earnest desire being gradually to lead all mankind to the worship of God. Accordingly he enjoined on all the subjects of the Roman empire to observe the Lord’s day, as a day of rest, and also to honor the day which precedes the Sabbath; in memory, I suppose, of what the Saviour of mankind is recorded to have achieved on that day.”

Eusebius refers to the first day of the week as “The Lord’s Day” and notes that Constantine enjoined subjects of the Empire to rest on that day. In 321 AD, Constantine issued two Sunday rest laws. Both were civil and had no Christian meaning attached to them. Constantine never called them the Lord’s day, but instead used ‘dies solis’ (which makes more sense considering his sun-worshiping tendencies). Neither law impacted the true Sabbath, but they did introduce an imitation day of rest beside the one established by God.

Eusebius also mentions that Constantine caused people to rest on the day which proceeds the Sabbath, which is Friday. This statement is strange; not a single Roman law of any time period agrees with it.

One thing to keep in mind is that many English translations of early church works were written in the 1700s or 1800s. Most of them have NOT been critically reviewed to make sure the translation and original manuscripts are in agreement with each other.

In the late 1990s, the first and (to my knowledge) only critical edition of the Life of Constantine was translated by Averil Cameron and Stuart G. Hall (who were at King’s College in London). Several other Universities and scholars contributed to this monumental work.

Among their findings is that the first translations of The Life of Constantine bk 4, ch 18, sec 2 included an added word which changed the meaning of the sentence. I have researched their statements about this subject myself and found that the assertion is true! I will show you their translation and then I will show you the explanation from the original documents (which I looked up myself). I will also show you corroborating evidence from before and after Constantine’s time to reaffirm the correct manuscript translation.

Here is the translation provided by Stuart and Hall of The Life of Constantine, bk 4, ch 18, section 2. “The Blessed One urged all men also to do the same, as if by encouraging this he might gently bring all men to piety. He therefore decreed that all those under Roman government should rest on the days named after the Saviour, and similarly that they should honour the days of the Sabbath, in memory, I suppose, of the things recorded as done by the universal Saviour on those days.” (Stuart and Hall, p 159).

The accurate translation of this section conveys that Constantine provided protection for Sabbath observance. This refers to the seventh day of the week (Friday sunset to Saturday sunset).

As stated before, I have done my own independent research on this subject and agree with the translation. I will now provide for you the evidence from the original manuscripts to show you how this error occurred in the 1800s.

First, a little history: In the 1800s, J.P. Migne, a priest in the Catholic Church, made copies of existing manuscripts of the early Church writings. These early manuscripts were written in either Greek or Latin. The works composed in Greek had a Latin translation placed beside them on a page so that the Roman priests could read them in the language of the Roman Church (Latin).

The works of Eusebius were written in Greek. In the Patrologiae Cursus Completus. Series Graeca, Vol 20, published in 1857, we find Eusebius’ work Life of Constantine copied from the original manuscripts in Greek. We also find a Latin translation beside it.

On Page 1165, we find the copy of the original Greek for chapter 18 from this work.  Below is a picture from this page which has the sentence in question.

Picture 1: PICTURE 1

From the first comma, the Greek transliteration reads: ,OMOIOS DE KAI TAS TOU SABBATOU TIMAN (55).

A rough English translation would be: ,and similarly honor they the day of the Sabbath,

Notice in the picture I posted above that there is a (55) after this excerpt from the Greek text. This is a foot note made by the copyist. The footnote, which is on page 1166, is in the picture below:

Picture 2: Picture 2

The footnote starts out with the Greek phrase: “DE KAI TAS TOU SABBATOU TIMAN” which was apart of the original text. The copyist then adds a note in Latin which says: “Scribendum est procul dubio” which is roughly translated as “It would be far from doubtful to write” then he gives an edited version of the original Greek phrase. It now says, “TEN PRO TOU SABBATOU”

The scribe has confessed to adding in the Greek word PRO, which means before (in time, position, rank, etc). This one additional word would change the meaning of the sentence to say that Constantine enjoined Roman subjects to close on FRIDAY (before the Sabbath), which is NOT CORRECT!

The copy of the original Greek manuscript on Page 1165 (see Picture #1 above), does NOT have PRO! What’s also interesting is that the copyist added the word “pridie” in the Latin translation, which makes the Latin now say “est pridie sabbati…” or in English “the day before the Sabbath.”

Thus, the correct translation is that Constantine protected Sabbath observance in the Roman Empire. Does this corroborate with other primary sources? YES.

The first group of primary sources are eye-witness accounts that say two things about the 200s, 300s and 400s AD: 1) that the Sabbath was still observed and that 2) most Christians still honored it.

Primary sources which affirm this include Augustine, John Cassian, Epiphanius, Socrates, and Sozomen. You can read these quotes by clicking HERE.

The second group of sources which confirm this finding would be Roman Law. In the Codex Theodosianus, we find three laws which protect Sabbath observance for Jewish people (CT: 2.8.26, 8.8.8, and 16.8.20). The dates for these laws are 409 and 412 AD. They are repeated in the Codex Justinius (CJ: 1.9.13), which means Justinian extended the same protections.

Of these laws, CT: 16.8.20 referenced rulings of earlier Roman Emperors that protected Sabbath observance. The law, which was issued by Honorius and Theodosius, reads:

“1. Moreover, since indeed ancient custom and practice have preserved for the aforesaid Jewish people the consecrated day of the Sabbath, We also decree that it shall be forbidden that any man of the aforesaid faith should be constrained by any summons on that day, under the pre-text of public or private business, since all the remaining time appears sufficient to satisfy the public laws, and since it is most worthy of the moderation of Our time that the privileges granted should not be violated although sufficient provision appears to have been made with reference to the aforesaid matter by general constitutions of earlier Emperors” (Pharr’s translation, p 469).

Notice that the law mentioned the constitutions of earlier emperors (plural). The earliest mention of protections for Sabbath observance go back to the time of Julius Caesar and Octavian Augustus. Octavian gave the Jewish people freedom to keep the Sabbath from Friday at 3 pm until the Sabbath ended (Josephus, 16.6.2). Claudius apparently had the same ruling (ibid, 19.5.3).

The 409 and 412 laws do not mention that the Sabbath law was re-instituted, but simply a continuation of previous imperial policy. With the correct translation of The Life of Constantine, we can now add Constantine to the list of Emperors that protected Sabbath observance.

Eusebius’ adds an interesting statement to the end of 4.18.2: “…in memory, I suppose, of what the Saviour of mankind is recorded to have achieved on that day.” Eusebus added a Christian meaning to the protection granted for Sabbath rest. This is in agreement with other Christian writers of the time.

Conclusion: As we survey all the primary sources presented in this article, we can see that Constantine protected Sabbath observance. He continued the protections started by earlier rulers such as Augustus and those protections continued to be protected by later Emperors such as Theodosius II and Justinian. These protections had to be extended in some form or fashion to Christians who observed the Sabbath; as noted the majority of Christians at this time still observed it.

To read more about how Constantine did not ban Sabbath observance, click here.

Kelly McDonald, Jr. – BSA President www.biblesabbath.org

Keep following The Sabbath Sentinel blog to learn more about Sabbath history, Sabbath apologetics, and Christian living.

The Sabbath Rest

The Sabbath Rest

by John T. Klassek

“Scientists predict that in approximately four billion years’ time, the sun will run out of the hydrogen that fuels it. As a result of the enormous gravitational pull inward, it will begin to collapse in on itself. The sun will then reach a point of critical mass, whereupon it will expand to become a red giant, and in doing so destroy not only the earth but the entire solar system.

The Bible also predicts that one day the earth will be destroyed by fire. God says that beyond that there will be a new heaven and new earth.

What does this have to do with the Sabbath? It’s all about time.

The weekly Sabbath rest is more than just a reminder that as physical humans we’re bound by constraints of space and time. It’s about holiness, it’s about REST, and it’s about being at one with God.

When this earth, as we know it, no longer exists, neither will the current parameters of days and nights, weeks, months or the years that help govern our passage through time….”

(this article is an excerpt from the March–April 2012 edition of the Sabbath Sentinel)

To read the rest of this article, which starts on page 12, click this link: https://biblesabbath.org/media/TSSMarchApril2012.pdf

Good Can Shine During Hard Times

Good Can Shine During Hard Times

by Brandy Webb

Finally, brethren, whatever things are true, whatever things are noble, whatever things are just, whatever things are pure, whatever things are lovely, whatever things are of good report, if there is any virtue and if there is anything praiseworthy—meditate on these things (Philippians 4:8).

I know I have used the above scripture in a lot of my blogs, but it is just such a good reminder of what we need to be meditating on daily. Plus, I feel that it is especially fitting during this time. The times that we find ourselves in are not very enjoyable, and my heart goes out to the thousands of families that have lost a loved one during this virus. These times seem very dark and bleak, but there are lots of bright “lights” that are happening despite this virus. Thus, the reason for the scripture is to remind us to focus on the positives that are happening during this trial.

 

I wanted to share some that I have read and heard about. One that I found out about through Fox News was that the little free libraries are replacing books with supplies (Dean 2020). I also heard about how a young college student in, I think, Nevada started a non-profit organization that goes and picks up groceries for senior citizens so that they do not have to risk being exposed to the virus.

The BBC reported that people have started what is called “car mongering” groups on Facebook to support each other during this crisis (BBC 2020). They also reported that a fitness instructor from Spain led an exercise class from a rooftop so that residents in isolation could join from their balconies (BBC 2020). I am sure everyone has heard of the singing Italians from their balconies, but one I had not heard about until I started looking up positives during the Coronavirus was from the Insider. “People in Spain, Italy, and Israel held rounds of applause for healthcare workers from their balconies and rooftops (Lakritz 2020).”

These positives, or what I like to call them “lights,” during this time are just a few that I have heard or read about. There are many good things out there in the midst of this trying time. I know one major one for me is families spending more time together and less time being busy. I know that it can get a bit boring being stuck at home, but it can also be a time of creativity, a time of Bible studying, a time of getting to really know your family, and a time of prayer. It can be a time for parents to learn what their kids are learning in school. It can be a time where you are able to slow down and get projects done around the house. It is definitely a time to heed Paul’s advice and make sure that what you are meditating on actually edifies your day.

What this time is not is a time of fear, worry, and anxiety. We must hold fast to our Father and our Messiah. Give them your fears, and trust in them for your well-being. I end with another good reminder from David, Psalm 18:1-3:

1 I will love You, O Lord, my strength.
2 The Lord is my rock and my fortress and my deliverer;
My God, my strength, in whom I will trust;
My shield and the horn of my salvation, my stronghold.
3 I will call upon the Lord, who is worthy to be praised;
So shall I be saved from my enemies.

This article was originally published on March 31st 2020 on the CGI website. You can visit their website here: https://www.cgi.org/. We encourage you to support their work. 

Work Cited

“Coronavirus: Creativity, Kindness and Canals Offer Hope amid Outbreak.” BBC News, BBC, 21 Mar. 2020, http://www.bbc.com/news/world-51963446.

Dean, Janice. “Free Libraries Replace Books with Supplies; 96-Year-Old Man Gives     Exercise Advice.” Fox News, FOX News Network, 26 Mar. 2020, video.foxnews.com/v/6144790401001#sp=show-clips.

Lakritz, Talia. “16 Heartwarming Ways Everyday Heroes Are Helping People Affected by Coronavirus.” Insider, Insider, 27 Mar. 2020, http://www.insider.com/coronavirus-help-acts-of-kindness-good-deeds.