Lord of the Sabbath

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Christ and his Apostles, Tiffany stained glass, 1890.

The Lord of the Sabbath is an expression describing Jesus which appears in all three Synoptic Gospels, Matthew 12:1-8, Mark 2:23-28 and Luke 6:1-5. These sections each relate an encounter between Jesus, his Apostles and the Pharisees, the first of the four "Sabbath controversies".[1]

According to the Gospel of Mark:

One Sabbath, Jesus was going through the grainfields, and as his disciples walked along, they began to pick some heads of grain. The Pharisees said to him, "Look, why are they doing what is unlawful on the Sabbath?" He answered, "Have you never read what David did when he and his companions were hungry and in need? In the days of Abiathar the high priest, he entered the house of God and ate the consecrated bread, which is lawful only for priests to eat. And he also gave some to his companions." Then he said to them, "The Sabbath was made for man, not man for the Sabbath. So the Son of Man is Lord even of the Sabbath."[2]

Some versions of Luke's Gospel provide a specific date for the incident - the second Sabbath after the first (likely to mean the Sabbaths counted from the Feast of First Fruits in accordance with Leviticus 23).[3]

Matthew's Gospel (only) provides an additional example to justify working on the Sabbath as "a second example, if the first does not convince you":[4]

[According] to the law, on the Sabbath the priests in the temple profane the Sabbath, and are blameless [5]

Lutheran theologian Johann Albrecht Bengel suggested that this dialogue could have taken place at the time of year when the regulations on temple sacrifices in the Book of Leviticus were being read during Sabbath services;[6] however, the Pulpit Commentary questions this by reference to a "double uncertainty: first, what time of year it really was; and secondly, what is the antiquity of the present custom of reading the whole Law every year?"[7]

Matthew makes two statements regarding Jesus' view of his role: he is Lord [even] of the Sabbath and also he is 'one greater than the Temple'.[8] There are different interpretations of the reference to the Son of man statement in Matthew 12:1-8 that "the Son of man is Lord of the Sabbath". It may mean that Jesus is claiming to be the Lord or that his Apostles are entitled to do as they wish on the Sabbath.[9]

Notes[edit]

  1. ^ Early narrative Christology by Christopher Kavin Rowe 1979 ISBN 0-8028-2249-5 page 105
  2. ^ Biblegateway
  3. ^ Luke 6:1
  4. ^ Pulpit Commentary on Matthew 12, accessed 8 January 2017
  5. ^ Matt 12:5
  6. ^ Bengel's Gnomon on the New Testament on Matthew 12, accessed 8 January 2017
  7. ^ Pulpit Commentary on Matthew 12, accessed 8 January 2017
  8. ^ Matthew 12:6
  9. ^ The Gospel of Matthew by William Barclay 2001 ISBN 0-664-22492-X page 30

See also[edit]