14 November 2010


Remember the sabbath day, to keep it holy. Six days shalt thou labour, and do all thy work: But the seventh day is the sabbath of the LORD thy God: in it thou shalt not do any work, thou, nor thy son, nor thy daughter, thy manservant, nor thy maidservant, nor thy cattle, nor thy stranger that is within thy gates: For in six days the LORD made heaven and earth, the sea, and all that in them is, and rested the seventh day: wherefore the LORD blessed the sabbath day, and hallowed it.

Exodus 20:8-11

And the Pharisees said unto him, Behold, why do they on the sabbath day that which is not lawful? And he said unto them, Have ye never read what David did, when he had need, and was an hungred, he, and they that were with him? How he went into the house of God in the days of Abiathar the high priest, and did eat the shewbread, which is not lawful to eat but for the priests, and gave also to them which were with him? And he said unto them, The sabbath was made for man, and not man for the sabbath: Therefore the Son of man is Lord also of the sabbath.

Mark 2:24-28
(I notice that in the Exodus Sabbath command, the command is addressed to "thou, nor thy son, nor thy daughter, thy manservant, nor thy maidservant, nor thy cattle, nor thy stranger that is within thy gates" - Susan wonders if that means wives don't get rest on the Sabbath :-)).

I confess I find the Mark 2:28 passage puzzling.

The Greek (for those of you who want to see it :-) - no accents or breathings and I'm too lazy to find a version with them) says:

"ωστε κυριος εστιν ο υιος του ανθρωπου και του σαββατου"

That first word - 'ωστε' - really means just something like 'therefore; so that; with the result that.'  So the King James quoted above is matched more or less by other translations in English and other languages I know.

It seems odd to me, and may be no more than a sort of textual puzzle.  Perhaps the underlying Aramaic doesn't mean that.  Doubtless there are Biblical textual scholars who could tell me.

As it stands, Jesus appears to be drawing a non sequitur.  What He says - the examples in which a technical Sabbath-breaking was justified by the ministering to human need - surely needs little explanation, is natural, is matched by many other Dominical sayings, and is a principle He says they themselves will do even for an ox;
The Lord then answered him, and said, Thou hypocrite, doth not each one of you on the sabbath loose his ox or his ass from the stall, and lead him away to watering?

Luke 13:15
None of this is the least puzzling.  We ourselves are inclined to be astonished at the rigid religiosity of the Pharisees, who want to upbraid Jesus for being kind to people.  It is surely true that the Sabbath was made for man, not man for the Sabbath.

But then Mark 2:28.

Why 'therefore?'  Why 'so that' (as some translations have it)?

I confess this is rather only more of a linguistic puzzle than a sort of spiritual lesson.  Nonetheless, there is something in it - at least something for me.

The key, I think, is in Our Lord's title for Himself: The Son of Man.

Perhaps I am quite wrong in this, and if there are any real Biblical scholars reading this, I would be grateful for their correction.

In its first usages in the Old Testament, "Son of Man" is just Hebrew parallelism - Numbers 23:19:
God is not a man, that he should lie; neither the son of man, that he should repent: hath he said, and shall he not do it? or hath he spoken, and shall he not make it good?
and passim.

Ezekiel begins to make it seem like a title (2:1):
And he said unto me, Son of man, stand upon thy feet, and I will speak unto thee
(sadly, some modern PC "non-sexist" translations destroy the connexion to Jesus's words by translating "Son of Man" in Ezekiel as 'mortal' - bad translation, bad theology, and bad English - but that is rather a different matter :-))

Throughout Ezekiel, God addresses Ezekiel by this inchoate title.

Jesus uses it almost universally for Himself.

The Sabbath was made for Man, not Man for the Sabbath - wherefore the Son of Man is the Lord even or also of the Sabbath.  The Son of Man - Hebrew 'בן אדם' - "Son of Man" - "Son of Adam" - is what Our Lord is.  What Adam lost has now been found.  The Lord of the Sabbath is the Sabbath - the eternal rest.

The wonderful Easter anthem cannot be improved on:

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