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The Sabbath Under Crossfire:

An Evaluation


by Dr.V.Streifling


When one seeks to clarify issues which he feels have been wrongly interpreted or defined, especially concerning a subject as important as the Sabbath, it would be expected that he should himself surely avoid using preconceived or assumed definitions of the key Biblical terms, but instead by using concordances, Bible dictionaries, lexicons, commentaries. etc., which are recognized scholarship, show what are the correct definitions of these key terms and proper interpretations of Scripture passages. As well one would expect to see valid hermeneutics used and proper procedures followed.

This reveals the fundamental weakness in the recent book Sabbath Under Crossfire by SDA's Dr. Samuele Bacchiocchi, whose main objective was to criticize the book Sabbath in Crisis by a former SDA Pastor, Rev. Dale Ratzlaff. Here, Dr. Bacchiocchi begins with and builds from numerous unproved presuppositions. which He simply affirms as 'facts', even 'unequivocal facts', even though having been previously disproved by Evangelical scholars. As well, he assumes his own definitions of key Greek & Hebrew words and expressions, frequently lifting them from their own contexts, or confounding them with other words or expressions in the Bible passages, to sustain his own views and premises, to thereby overturn both what the Scripture does teach, and what other Bible scholars have exegeted.

To make his views seem more believable, he repeatedly repeats his 'catch phrases' as "creation sabbath" (about 100 times) or "creation week" nearly as often, or "the Sabbath has been left behind for the people of God" (about 20 times). Through these he leads his readers into filtering out the plain Bible teachings and or redefining them into something very different. Thus he develops circular reasoning, though he surely fails to see it. We will list a number of his presuppositions below:

Assumption "A" :

The Creation Origin of the Sabbath".

On page 59 we are told "The creation origin of the Sabbath is repeated several times in the Pentateuch (Gen 2:1-2; Ex 20:11; Ex 31:17) and acknowledged in the New Testament (Mk 2:27; Heb 4:4)."

We should note here that none of his references mentions the Sabbath at Creation at at all!! Rather, it has been merely 'read-into' the text! In fact the scholarly work From Sabbath to Lord's Day, edited by D.A.Carson, 1982, clearly proved that the Sabbath was nor a creation ordinance, and especially exegeting Mark 2:27 showing it did not sustain a Creation Sabbath. Dr. Bacchiocchi refers to this work a number of times. showing he has read it and knows this, but he fails to acknowledge or disprove it. Yet from his erroneously assumed 'creation origin of the Sabbath', he repeatedly repeats his 'catch phrase' "creation Sabbath' or its equivalent, some 100 times, from pages 60 to 90 in efforts to 'brainwash' his reader.

Assumption "B":

God's Resting at Creation was a Sabbath Creating and Observance.

On page 62 he writes "The Biblical view of the origin of the Sabbath is unequivocal: The Sabbath as the seventh day originated at the completion of the creation week as a result of three divine acts: God 'rested' , 'blessed' and 'hallowed' the seventh day."

Here he uses the 'Obvious fallacy" by using the word 'unequivocal' instead of Bible proof; for the Bible refutes his assumption. First, 'God rested' is not 'sabbatized' but simply 'ceased' from creating. The Hebrew verb 'shabath' (or 'shavath'. in Englishman's Hebrew Concordance) means 'ceased', as the SDA Commentary points out explicitly. Comparison with Heb 4:4, where the Greek 'katapausis' (not 'sabbatized') is used confirms this, and the New Testament must define the Old. Moreover God's blessing and hallowing the day was after he had rested, as also shown by the Heb. 'waw consecutive'.

Assumption "C":

That Hebrews 3 & 4 Speak of the Sabbath at Creation

On p. 64 + 65 Dr. Bacchiocchi writes "Another explicit reference to the Creation Sabbath is found in the book of Hebrews ....through the former (Gen 2:2) he traces the origin of the Sabbath to creation (Heb 4:3 of Gen 2:2). By the latter (Ps 95:11) he explains...entering personally into God's rest (Heb 4:3, 5, 10).

But, as noted above. the subject of Hebrews 3:7 to 4:11 is entering God's Spiritual Rest (Gk katapausis), not the Sabbath! This word, or its cognate is used 10 times in this passage the only exception being 4:9 where 'sabbatismos' is used metaphorically as its equivalent. This reveals why Bacchiocchi says "Our immediate concern is not to understand the meaning of the rest mentioned in this passage. " for this totally refutes his presupposition!

Assuumption "D":

That 'possibilities' of what the Bible doesn't 'say overrule what it does say.

In his chapter 2, part 2. from p.75 and onward, he attempts to disprove the Biblical exegesis by Dale Ratzlaff & other evangelical works, by using 'maybe' or 'possibilities' etc. of what the Bible doesn't say. For example:

p.76 "there are several possible reasons" and "another possible reason"

p.78 "this apparent silence could mean.. "; p.79 "a more plausible explanation..."

p.80 "it is entirely possible that" and "may well reflect..."

p 82 "may be due to" "is the possibility that. " " have a probable allusion to..."

Over and again he uses such excuses to overturn what God really said. Paul says "Cast down vain reasoning that war against the truth". Possibility thinking can't rep]ace sound Biblical exegesis!

Assumption "E:"

That the "days " of Creation were 24-hr days.

While all of Dr. Bacchiocchi's previous assumptions require this one lo to be first proved, he has already built his case post hoc ergo propter hoc. Finally at p.82 he explains "Note that in the Bible, whenever "day-yom" is accompanied by a number, it always means a day of 24 hours ". And again "...the decalogue itself clearly stares that God, having worked six days, rested on the seventh day of creation week. "

Here his second statement is assuming what he is setting out to prove from it, thus 'lifting one's self by his bootstraps', for the pattern of 6 days work then resting the 7' is also why God chose the 7th year to be the Sabbath for the land. Thus it could equally prove each day was a whole year. Here as well. Bacchiocchi adds to the scripture, which the reader may not catch for he only says what it says, but he doesn't 'quote it, for the text does not say 'creation week'! Nowhere in the Bible do we find the words 'creation week' which he coins and repeatedly repeats with 'creation sabbath' to brainwash his reader.

More notably, his first statement shows lack of research, for 'yom' also takes the use 'year' when it is accompanied by a number Amos 4:4 reads "Bring your tithes every three years (yom)"; and Genesis 4:1 "at the end of two full years (yom) ": and 2 Chron 21:19+20 has 'two years' and 'thirty two years' (using yom). There are numerous citings where 'yom' is equated with years. when accompanied with a number. As well 'evening & morning' (Heb. ereb boqer) don't speak of a 24 hr. day as 'darkness and Iight' but of sunset and sunrise as ends of the period of Iight that God called 'day' (Gen 1;5, 14, 16, 18)

Assumption: "F"

"Genesis is not a book of commands, but of origins" (p. 76)

Again he says "Genesis does not contain laws like Exodus, but rather is a brief sketch of origins. Since no mention is made of any other commandment, silence re. the Sabbath is not exceptional." (p. 79)

Were he has made an Unwarranted Disjunction His words 'no mention of any other command' deny that there is even one other command in Genesis. But Gen 26:5 which he cites, shows there where!

Genesis is both a book u•of origins and original commands; The expression 'creation ordinance' means a command or precept enacted by divine authority at creation. Dr. Bacchiocchi has struggled to prove the Sabbath is a creation ordinance-yet with no command! But in Genesis 1 when we read "And God said..." it was a command (Ps 148:5). Also Gen 2:16- 3;11+17 6:22 7:5,9, 16 etc. are commands. In 2:17 "you shall not eat" is as much a command as "you shall not kill; and "neither shall you touch it" is as much a command as "you shall not steal" from Exodus. There are also other creation ordinances.

Assumption "C":

That there were two laws: a moral law and a ceremonial law.

At page 106 we are told "The New Testament distinguishes between the continuity of of the Sabbath moral law, and the discontinuity of the ceremonial law (l Cor 7:9).

It may be a shock to some trusting people to learn that the Bible nowhere speaks of two laws: a moral and a ceremonial law. Those terms are not to be found except where they've been added into the Clear Word Bible. But God never called it two laws, neither four, but consistently "One Law" And He never spoke of "Moral I,law" or "Ceremonial Law". Such 'catch phrases' or human designations' are Biblically indefensible! But here again he assumes his verse shows this, but he is reading his two laws into the verse Here the word circumcision speaks of the Abrahamic covenant of`'faith', not of a law which came 430 years later, and 'keeping God's commandments uses the Gk 'entole' not 'nomos' which is used to translate the Heb 'torah' for the Law which included the decalogue

Assumption "H":

Heb 4:9 states that Sabbath keeping "has been left behind for the people of God":

From p. I06 to 173, and elsewhere. Dr. Bacchiocchi repeats this some 20 times, or equivocates it with "Sabbath keeping remains", trying to make it seem more believable to the reader. He emphasizes it is "explicitly and emphatically" stated, adding "the verb ' remains'--apoleipetai ...literally translated means 'has been left behind' "

Here his teaching is contrary to the SDA Commentary, Vol 7, which at great length shows that this verse does nor teach that Sabbath keeping remains, irrespective that 'sabbatismos' is used Rather they show that since 'katapausis' (spiritual rest) is in the context 10 times. then 'sabbatismos speaking of the same thing from the contextual point of`view. But Dr. Bacchiocchi hopes you'll believe it since he says so. To change 'remains' for has been left behind' requires evidence, which he hasn't given It is also illegitimate to give literal translation to only one- word or part of the verse, instead of the whole. He needs to validate the switch he has made giving valid exegesis as to why the reading is correct. The change from 'remains' to 'has been left behind' is a change from an 'intransitive verb' to a 'transitive verb'. which significantly alters the grammatical structures of the sentence.

Assumption "I":

That 'katapausis' and 'sabbarismos' are synonyms, thus 'katapausis' is sabbatizing.

From Assumptions H and C, he presumes to redefine 'katapausis' in Hebrews 3 & 4 to be sabbatizing. Thus his 'Sabbath keeping' of Heb 4:9 is read into other verses where 'rest' appears, as p.167. "The exhortation given in verse 11.... provides an additional indication of the permanence of the Sabbath"; or, "By the latter...he explains.. entering personally into God's rest (Heb 4:3, 5, 10) (p.65) .

This is illegitimate exegesis and becomes circular reasoning, and may be why he didn't define God's rest in Heb 4:4 (as noted above). Here in Heb 3+4, Israel who had 'sabbatismos' for 1500 years, failed to enter into God's true rest 'katapausis', showing these are not the same at all! ' ln Luke 24:1 we read of the women who 'rested (gk 'hesuchazo') on the Sabbath'; the verb 'sabbata' speaks of keeping a Sabbath; but never is 'katapausis' so used which entirely exposes his error here.

Assumption "J":

Christ's coming only abolished at all the Levitical services re. the Old Covenant .

On p. 110 Dr. Bacchiocchi states "It is unfortunate that these statements (Heb 7:18; 8:13; 10:9) are interpreted as meaning that Christ by this coming abrogated the Mosaic Law in general, including the Sabbath... the termination statements in Hebrews refer to the Levitical Priesthood and services of the Old Covenant, not the principles of God's moral law, which includes of the Sabbath Sabbath commandment. "

Here his statement is loaded with fallacies and errors. First he assumes there were two laws, while the Bible states there was only one. Next, what he calls 'Mosaic--ceremonial'. he teaches was abrogated. Yet here he has it include the Sabbath, which he'd dispute at Acts I5, having it part of a 'moral law'.

Third, he tries to limit the 'termination statements' to the 3 above in Hebrews, while the New testament has many of these, and we are to use "All Scripture" (2 Tim 3:15+16), not just 3 texts! Fourth, he assumes these 3 passages show only the "priesthood services" while they all speak of the whole law covenant. Finally since the Sabbath is in the decalogue, he assumes it is a 'moral' command. But God calls it one of His feasts (Lev 23:1-4; Numb 28+29; Col 2:16), like the other feasts, being ceremonial.

Added to these unproved assumptions on which he hangs his thesis, Dr. Bacchiocchi also makes exegetical errors, some of which we list below.

1. Because the Sabbath is not mentioned in Genesis 2:2-3 he tries to eisegete it into the text with "an allusion to the Sabbath day" from "the cognate verbal form shabat" (p 80)


2. He fails to let the New Testament define the Old, by using 'katapausis' (Heb 4:4) as the Bible's definitions of 'shabat' in Gen 2: 2+3; as well as 'katapausis' in the LXX at Genesis.


3 He deliberately avoids giving definition of 'rested' (kurupausls) in Heb 4:4, since it's not sabbatize which he wants lo read into this verse.


4 He fuses 'sabbatismos' of Heb 4:9 to 'katapausis' of vs 11 to make us "strive to enter into the Sabbath rest that remains".


5. He uses logical 'possibilities' though un-Biblical, to overturn sound Bible statements and doctrine.


6. He frequently calls something a "fact" or "Unequivocal" or "Taken for Granted" etc.. when this is merely Question Begging, using the "Obvious" fallacy. Eg p. 59 ssq.


7. He not only puts verses out of context (as Rom 1:16+ 17 to the law cov't), but lifts words from their own verse to gain their redefinition. Eg. 'rested' , 'blessed' , 'hallowed' p. 62.

8. He alters the Bible to make it say what he wants, instead of what God has said. for example:


a. p 63, Ex 31:17 "it is a sign forever... THAT in six days. " changing for,' to 'that '.


b. p 110. Rom 1:17 'from faith to faith" is changed to "through, faith for faith".


c. p. 82, Ex 20:11 'changes times and laws, (Dan 7), adding creation week' to Sabbath command

9. He equivocates 'remember the Sabbath, ' for 'memorialize God as creator' (p.63).


10. He ignores the deponent verb "egeneto" Mark 2:27, which disallows creation Sabbath. (p.63).


11. Giving 'sabbatismos' as 'Sabbath keeping' and 'apoleipetai' as 'is left behind' (Heb 4:9), he fails to show the agent of the passive voice verb: "Tw law " should be "by the people" ' (instrumental case).


12. p.77 Affirms it a 'fact' that God established the Sabbath by example,-- an unbiblical non sequitir!

These unproved presuppositions and these exegetical fallacies are by no means the end of the problems in Dr. Bacchiocchi's thesis, but rather only pinpoint some of the sources of the problems which he himself creates. But to maintain each presupposition requires the support of all the others, which become a huge case of circular reasoning and redefining of the Word of God, using these presuppositions to filter out any Scriptures which disagree with the unproved theses which he has developed. Yet along the way he has left enough tracks behind him, to show that he recognizes his work is in serious trouble, though he may not wish to acknowledge this. Still, a warning for the unwary reader "Handle with prayer!!".!!

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