Animate your understanding with the Sabbath reading

Jun 04 2020

Every week, week after week, month after month, year after year…

Jesus’ friends and neighbors gathered Sabbath day to Sabbath day to read the Law of Moses.

The founders of the early church verified and upheld the practice.

Paul referred to the practice in his missionary preaching:
“… the utterances of the prophets … are read every Sabbath” (Acts 13:27).

James also confirmed the habit as part of the ruling of the Jerusalem Council: “For the law of Moses has been preached in every city from the earliest times and is read in the synagogues on every Sabbath” (Acts 15:21).

Other first-century writers comment on the practice of gathering for Sabbath instruction. Philo was a Jewish philosopher from Alexandria, Egypt. Josephus was a historian of the Jewish War.

Philo explains, “…on the seventh day there are spread before the people in every city innumerable lessons of prudence…during the giving of which the common people sit down” (Special Laws 2.15 §62).

Josephus also explains for his readers, “And the seventh day we set apart from labor; it is dedicated to the learning of our customs and laws” (Antiquities of the Jews, 16.2.3 §43).

In another book, Against Apion, Josephus continues concerning the learning of the law, “…for he did not suffer the guilt of ignorance to go on without punishment, but demonstrated the law to be the best and the most necessary instruction of all others, permitting the people to leave off their other employments, and to assemble together for the hearing of the law, and learning it exactly, and this not once or twice, or oftener, but every week…” (2.17 §175).

The Law of Moses** animates Jesus’ experience. In particular, we understand the rhythm of Jesus’ story in the seven day increments marked by the Sabbath rest (Saturday). We also hear the Law informing the teachings, the challenges, and even the arguments in Jesus’ story.

Every Sabbath, Jesus’ devout friends and neighbors gathered to learn the Law.

** In English, Moses’ Law is called Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers, and Deuteronomy. Interestingly, in German, the books are titled Moses I-V.


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