Maggid ben Yoseif / Jerusalem Torah Voice in Exile

October 24, 1998 /4 Cheshvan 5759


Shabbat:  How we deserted her


A rebuttal to the New Testament "proofs"

critical of Shabbat observance

An outline presentation


A.                Since Paul is the author of most of these “proofs,” we begin by understanding Paul’s personal observance of  Torah and specifically that it includes Shabbat and the feasts

1.                 A body of instruction “holy & just & good”

Romans 7:12; cf. 3:31; 7:14,22

2.                 Worship on Shabbat with “Jews & Greeks”

Acts 18:4,19; 17:1,10,17

3.                 Observance of feast of Unleavened Bread

Acts 20:16

4.                 Desired to be in Jerusalem for Shavuot

Acts 20:16

5.                 Assumed a Nazirite vow at Cenchreae

Acts 18:18

6.       Purified himself at the Temple to prove specifically

                                      that he lived “in observance of the Torah.”

                                      Acts 21:24

7.          Had Timothy circumcised

Acts 16:3


B.                Paul’s positive attitude toward the Torah overall.

Romans 2:12-26


C.               Leading “proofs” against Shabbat observance begin with Romans 14:5-8


One man esteemeth one day above another; another esteemeth every day.  Let every man be fully persuaded in his own mind.  He that regardeth the day, regardeth unto the Lord; and he that regardeth not the day, to the Lord he doth not regard.  He that eateth, eateth to the Lord, for he giveth God thanks; and he that eateth not, to the Lord he eateth not, and giveth God thanks.  For none of us lives to himself and no man dieth to himself.  For whether we live, we live unto the Lord; and whether we die, we die unto the Lord; whether we live therefore or die, we are the Lord’s.


1.                 Paul recommends tolerance and respect with regard to differences in diet and days.

2.                 Paul nowhere promotes the repudiation of the Shabbat commandment and adoption of Sunday worship in its place.






D.      Colossians 2:9-17


Having already shown Paul’s propensity toward the observance of both the Shabbat and festivals and the entirety of Torah through his personal example, we now must explain an apparent contradiction that occurs here in the book of Colossians in the renewed Testament:


After introducing the passage with the statement in verse 9:


“For in him (Messiah) dwelleth the fullness of the Godhead (uppercase from KJV) bodily,” the writer, assumed to be Paul, offers several “types” or “shadows” of the “body of Messiah,” a point to which we shall return.


The writer continues in verses 13-17: “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; having spoiled principalities and powers, he made a shew of them openly, triumphing  over them in it.  Let no man therefore judge you in meat, or in drink, or in respect to an holy day or of the new moon or of the Shabbats, which are a shadow of things to come; but the body (is) of Christ.” 


D.               The Colossian heresy


1.                 The Colossians practiced a form of gnosticism, a philosophy that subscribes the acquisition of knowledge to cosmic principalities and powers, THE STOICHEIA, from which the “stoic” or “esoteric” originate.


These powers were not unlike modern day natal chart astrologers (reading the position and “energies” or “vibrations” of the planets and stars and sun and moon relative to one’s birth spot at the moment of birth and ascribing powers to these “elemental energies”).  But also see:  “Astrological Secrets of the Hebrew Sages,” which documents the use of a more primitive but godly Zodiacal astrology in the Talmud and other Jewish writings and consider a spiritual parallel to the physical laws of gravitational attraction.


          Nevertheless, Paul condemns this stoic/esoteric philosophy as competing with Messiah for the Colossians allegiance (2:8)  He also states that the source of the heresy is man-made tradition (2:8); that the object of the gnosis was to impart wisdom (2:3,23), knowledge (2:2,3; and 3:10) and understanding (1:9 and 2:2)


Since the Tree of Life from which wisdom, knowledge and understanding (Heb. chochmah, da’at and binah) originate and are understood is hidden by God in the Torah book of Genesis,  it could be assumed that the Collosian means to now acquire these attributes was at cross-purposes with the God of Israel.


Yet there is a godly science handed down orally among the children of Israel associated with the mystical Tree of Life.  This tradition is said to have been handed down from the time of Abraham.  This “tree of life” is called the 10 Sefirot that comprise the Elchuta (godhead or three upper sefirot) and its bodily manifestation in the seven lower sefirot.  Since each of these sefirot reflect an attribute of the Creator, and the Creator created man in his own image, the 10 Sefirot are often called Adam Kadman or “Adam that comes after.”  This name reflects the belief that our purpose on earth is to first aspire to and then achieve these 10 godly traits or at least those that balance our existence.  These traits also define the “body of Messiah,” as Paul here refers to this “fullness of the Godhead bodily.”


          To obtain this knowledge, the Colossians paid homage to cosmic principalities (2:10,15) and to “the elements of the universe” (2:8,18,20)


The case against the command of the Shabbat assumes the popular doctrine of the church that it was the Torah that was nailed to the cross and done away with rather than the transgressions in the form of “handwritings of ordinances against us.”


What was nailed to the Cross? (Colossians 2:14)


Greek word:  CHEIROGRAPHON – Koine – “written agreement”  Classical “certificate of debt.”  Paul emphasizes Y’shua’s authority (Colossians 2:10) through “redemption” and “forgiveness of sins” (1:14, 2:10-15; 3:1-5)


Also define Cheirographon as a “written record of our sins.”  Word describing the written sentence of a person for a crime.





Here we submit that Paul is using a poetic device by stating that transgressions are defined by the “Torah’s own handwriting.”  Note carefully those handwritings defining or making note of our individual transgressions, are done away with when we confess, but the book from which the notes were jotted remains.  Effectively however, for whomever is “in Messiah”, the curse contained in the Torah -- not saying that the Torah is the curse or that the Torah is cursed -- is done away with.  This of course describes the punishments for Israel’s disobedience, ironically to the Torah.



THE STOICHEIA above mentioned are found in parallel passages in Galatians 4:3,9 which identifies them with “angelic mediators of the Law” (Acts 7:53, Gal. 3:19, Heb. 2:2) and with pagan astral gods who were credited with control of the destiny of mankind.


To be protected from these “cosmic powers” the Colossian philosphers urged cultic adoration of angelic powers (2:15,18,19,23) and to observe ritualistic and ascetic practices (2:11,14,16,17,21,22).  Thereby assured access to and participation in the divine “fullness”.


THEOLOGICAL ERROR – interposing inferior angelic mediators in the place of Hashem’s true mediator, Y’shua


The ascetic practices included “putting off the body of flesh” (2:11)  -- withdrawal from the world?

Rigorous chastisement of the body (2:23)

Prohibition to either taste or touch certain kinds of foods and beverages (2:16,21)

Careful observance of sacred days and seasons – festal, new moon, Shabbat (2:16)


ERROR IN PRACTICE:  Observing Shabbat to receive PROTECTION from elemental spirits


THEREFORE the Colossian heresy removes the debate over Shabbat observance from the context of the obligation of Torah to gnostic and ascetic beliefs and practices.  Consistent with his writings elsewhere, Paul is not condemning the observance of Shabbat but rather a perversion of it.


In Hippolytus, “The Refutation of all Heresies 9,11 ANF V, p. 133;


Writes of the Jewish-Christian sect of the Elchasaites (A.D. 100) who venerated astral powers affecting even their observance of the Shabbat.


          “Elchasai speaks thus: “There exist wicked stars of impiety … Beware of the power of the days, of the sovereignty of these stars and engage not in the commencement of any undertaking during the ruling days of these.  And baptise not man or woman during the days of the power of these stars, when the moon (emerging) from among them, courses the sky, and travels along with them … But, moveover, honour the day of the Shabbat, since that day is one of those during which prevails (the power) of these stars.”



2.       The Galatian heresy


          Slavery to the same elemental spirits – Galatians 4:8-9


Cosmic powers were credited with controlling the fate

of mankind –Astrology


Observed days of the week venerating the sun, moon & constellations…Sunday, Monday … Saturday


Superstitious misconception of the biblical precept to observe holy days and new moons and Shabbats


          Superstitious beliefs in “astral” influences


                   Attributed powers to elemental spirits & demons (Galatians 4:8-9) associated with days, months, times and years – SOOTHSAYING

(specific prohibition in Torah – Leviticus  19:26 … “and you shall not believe in lucky times.”

                   Rabbi Hirsch – “this is soothsaying, a form of divination related to the observation of days, times and seasons, associated with various demons and pagan gods, calling one lucky and another unlucky”


                   Planet Saturn – derive Saturn Day – Saturday


          1.       Paul is condemning the “superstition” of  “esteeming one day luckier than another.” NOT Shabbat-keeping

          2.       Paul again condemns the perversion not the precept of setting the Shabbat apart.

3.                 Denounces the “false teachers” who teach the observance of “days and seasons” was necessary to justification and salvation, which perverted the very heart of the Gospel  (Galatians 5:4)



I.                   The bigger picture:  What is motivating non-Jews to Shabbat observance?

1.                 Spiritual move evidenced by a stirring in the soul

2.                 Identity with Israel



III.     The Scriptural Shabbat

          12 times – command to observe the Shabbat is repeated in the Bible


Singled out as the most important of all holy days




Exodus from Egypt


Sign of the Covenant between God & Israel


Mystical truths (In the first word of the first verse of the first chapter of the first book of the Torah – BeReA’SHiY’T, is found this combination of ideas  Shabbat Y’ra (or fear of reverence of Shabbat), Brit Eysh (covenant of fire) and Bara Shyt (He created in six) and Rosh Bayit (Head of the house).


          Legislative – negative commands such as don’t kindle a fire

          Exhortative – Jeremiah’s pleas for Israel to observe Shabbat

          Historical – Nehemiah’s enforcement of the ordinance


          Most details of observance are post biblical but still fully rooted in Scripture


A.      Hashem's rest & sanctification  (Genesis 2:1-3)

B.      The 4th Commandment   (Exodus 20:8-11 & Deut. 5:12-15)

          C.      Preparation of food in advance  (Exodus 16:22-30)

          D.      A sign between God & Israel (Exodus 31:16-17)

          E.      Kindling of a fire (Exodus 35:1-3)

          F.      Day of Solemn Rest & Holy Convocation (Lev. 23:1-3)

          G.      Iniquity in the Solemn Assembly God Hates (Isaiah 1:12-13)

          H.      Reward of Honoring the Shabbat (Isaiah 58:13-14)

          I.       Universal Day of Worship (in the future) (Isaiah 66:23)

          J.       Observance & Fate of Jerusalem (Jeremiah 17:24-27)

          K.      Profaning the Shabbat (Ezekiel 20:10-13, 17-22)

          L.      Nehemiah's enforcement of observance (Nehemiah 13:15-22)


The desertion


I.                   Historical survey of  Shabbat to Sunday observance

A.               Y’shua’s proclamation recognizes the Sabbatical (Shmittah) year  (Luke 4:18-19)

1.                 Customarily attended shul on Shabbat (Luke 4:16)

B.                Acts 15:20-21  (early non-Jewish believers urged to continue in synagogue)

C.               1 Corinthians 16:1-3

1)                 Private fund-raising plan

2)                 Handling money on Shabbat forbidden

3)                 Therefore “on the first day” set aside funds for poor – Jewish custom today


D.               Acts 20:7-12

1)                 Paul about to leave

2)                 How does Luke reckon time? 

3)                 Travel forbidden on Shabbat

4)                 Therefore meeting before he leaves

E.                Revelation 1:10

1)                 The L-rd’s day used eschatologically

2)                 Day of Judgment

a)                 Trumpets  (1:10) associated with day of the eschatological Day of the L-rd (Joel 2:1,15; Zech 9:14, Zeph 1:14-16)

b)                Parallelism of 1:10 and 4:1

i)                   Both instances in the Spirit and heard a voice like a trumpet

ii)                 “On the L-rd’s day” is in parallel with “what must take place after this”

F.                Origin and Exodus of Jerusalem Church

1)       Writing about Ebionites,  Eusebius (260-340 C.E.) a Jewish-Christian sect of early Christianity:

“observed the Sabbath and the rest of the discipline of the Jews but at the same time, like us, they celebrate the Lord’s day as a memorial of the resurrection of  the Saviour.”

                             Eusebius HE 3,25,5,NPNF I, 159

3)                 Historical context:  POST HADRIAN

4)                 Eusebius and Epiphanius (315-403 C.E.) both write that up to the siege of Hadrian (135 C.E.) the Church of Jerusalem consisted of converted Hebrews and was administered by 15 bishops from the “circumcision.”, that is from Jewish extraction.  Deeply loyal to Jewish religious customs.  (Eusebius HE 4,5,2-11; Ephiphanius, Adversus haereses 70,10, PG 42, 355-356

5)                 Eusebius:  both the liberal and conservative among the Ebionites were “zealous to insist on the literal observance of the Law.” (Eusebius, HE 3,27,3).

6)                 Irenaeus, “Adversus haereses 7,26,2, ANF  I, p. 352:  “Those who are called Ebionites … practice circumcision and persevere in those customs according to the law and Jewish way of life and pray toward Jerusalem as if it were the house of G-d.”

7)                 Nazarenes:  Epiphanius reports they migrated from Jerusalem at Messiah’s warning and lived in the mountians near Pella and Perea.  Also mentioned by Jerome residing in Syria in the 4th Century.  Considered heretics for using the same OT books at the Jews.  Concludes:  Therefore they differ both from Jews and from the Christians; from the former, because they believe in Messiah; from the true Christians because they fulfill till now Jewish rites as the circumcision, the SHABBAT and others.  (Epiphanius, Adversus haereses 29,7, PG 41,402.

8)                 Tradition that Nazarenes continued to worship in synagogues  - p. 158

Institution of the shmoneh esrei addition against the Minim

Jerome wrote: “three times daily in all the synagogues under the name of the Nazarenes you curse the Christians.”   In Isaiam 5,18, PL 24,87 and 484


Purpose was not to curse but to identify.


Since all members of the community could be called upon in turn, in the absence of the official priests, to officiate in the public worship (CHAZZAN), the method was certain:  the participant contaminated with heresy had necessarily to hesitate to pronounce with this benediction, his own condemnation.  The Talmud stated very clearly, “Whenever someone made a mistake in any benediction of the Minim, he was to be called back to his place because supposedly he was a Min.”  (Marcel Simon (fn 73), p. 236.  This was instituted in 80 C.E. after destruction of the Temple, so it reveals Jewish-Christian believers as remaining part of synagogue.


G.               HADRIAN

1.                 Destroyed Jerusalem in 135 C.E.

2.                 Ruthlessly crushed Bar Kochva Revolt (132-135)

3.                 Built on ruins of Jerusalem a new Roman city, Aelia Capitolina, built a temple to Jupiter

4.                 Imposed harsh restrictions:

a)     Expelled Jews, forbidden to re-enter it or to practice their religion, particularly the Shabbat, festivals, study of Torah & circumcision.


Eusebius writes of this period:  “And thus, when the city had been emptied of the Jewish nation and had suffered the total destruction of its ancient inhabitants, it was colonized by a different race, and the Roman city which subsequently arose changed its name and was called Aelia, in honor of the emperor Aelius Adrian.  AND AS THE CHURCH THERE WAS NOW COMPOSED OF GENTILES, THE FIRST ONE TO ASSUME THE GOVERNMENT OF IT AFTER THE BISHOPS OF THE CIRCUMCISION WAS MARCUS.”

                                                              Eusebius, HE 4,6,4  NPNF  2nd,  I,  pp.  177-178


                                                b) Church then did away with the remnants of Jewish observance.    A controversy arose over the date of the celebration of Passover, which is recorded by Epiphanius:


                                                “The controversy was stirred up after the exodus of the bishops of the circumcision (135 C.E.), and it has continued until our time.”  Epiphanius, Adversus haereses 70,10  PG  42,  355-356


                                                Until this time, the 15 Jewish bishops who had administered the Church of Jerusalem practiced the Quartodeciman Passover based on the Apostolic Constitutions, where the following rule is given:


“You shall not change the calculation of time, but you shall celebrate it at the same time as your brethren who came out from the circumcision.  With them observe the Passover.  (PG 42, 357-358).


Rome and the origin of Sunday


Christian literature from the Second century indicates that by the time of Hadrian the Church at Rome assumed an attitude of reconciliation toward the empire and radical differentiation toward the Jews.

          Quadratus & Aristides – addressed treatises (apologies) to Hadrian to explain and defend the Christian faith

          Church historian Marcel Simon who has extensively researched this period, concludes, “Hadrian reserved his severity for the Jews but felt himself attracted with sympathy for Christianity.  (primary source is from Hadrian’s own Rescriptus to Minucius Fundanus in which he laid down restrictions in prosecuting Christians – appear before a tribunal and punishment of false accusers.  Wanted to offer Christ a place in the pantheon.

          2nd century anti-Semitic writings:  “The Preaching of Peter, The Epistle of Barnabas, Quadratus’ lost Apology, Aristides’ Apology, The Disputation between Jason and Papiscus concerning Christ, Justin’s Dialogue with Trypho, Miltiades’ Against the Jews (lost), Apollinarius’ Against the Jews (lost), Melito’s On the Passover, The Epistle to Diogentus, The Gospel of Peter, Tertullian’s Against the Jews, Origen’s Against Celsus.


Justin Martyr (100 – 165) most devastating and systematic condemnation of Shabbat and first explicit account of Sunday worship.


Sabbath – temporary ordinance, imposed on Jews as a “mark to single them out for punishment they so well deserved for their infidelities.”

Dialogue – 23,3: 29,3; 16:1; and 21,1


Similar views held by Marcion (144) anti-Judaic and anti-Shabbat teachings


Marcion’s followers ordered to fast on Saturday “because it is the rest of the God of the Jews….we fast in that day in order NOT to accomplish on that day what was ordained by the God of the Jews.  Proclamation by the Church at Rome to fast on Friday evening to Saturday evening was intended to change the celebration from one of joy and feasting to fasting and mourning in order to enhance Sunday worship.


Was one of the big divisions between the church of the East and West … kept Shabbat as a feast and day of joy.


Marcion was expelled from the Church of Rome because of his dualistic Gnostic views but the custom of fasting on Shabbat was retained.

Church records show it was championed by Pope Callistus (217-222), Hippolytus (170-236), Sylvester (402-417), Innocent (401-417), Augustine (354-430) and John Cassian (360-435)


Sun Worship

          Various sun cults were predominant in ancient Rome by the early part of the 2nd Century.  These attracted the imagination and interest of Christian converts from paganism,

1)     Theme of Christ the Sun – remonstrance

2)     Eastward orientation for prayer, Dec. 25th

3)     Symbology commemorates two important events of the history of salvation:

a)                 creation

b)                resurrection

4)     Symbology also fitting as a witness to pagans