Sabbath desecration

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The Sabbath Breakers by J.C. Dollman (1896)
The Ten Commandments on a monument on the grounds of the Texas State Capitol. The fourth commandment listed is "Remember the Sabbath day, to keep it holy", see also Biblical law in Christianity.

Sabbath desecration is the failure to observe the Biblical Sabbath and is usually considered a sin and a breach of a holy day in relation to either the Jewish Shabbat (Friday sunset to Saturday nightfall), the Sabbath in seventh-day churches, or to the Lord's Day (Sunday), which is recognized as the Christian Sabbath in first-day Sabbatarian denominations.


According to Mosaic Law, to desecrate shabbat intentionally, despite warning, is a capital offense (Exodus 31:14). All work was prohibited during shabbat, even minor tasks, such as "gathering wood" (Numbers 15:32-36). Since the decline of classical semicha (rabbinic ordination) in the 4th century C.E., the traditional Jewish view is that Jewish courts have lost the power to rule on criminal cases. As such, it would be practically impossible for Orthodox courts to enforce the death penalty in modern times, even if they had the political standing to do so. Talmudic protections for defendants make execution very difficult even by the Great Sanhedrin, e.g., requiring two competent witnesses to the shabbat violation and an official court warning prior to the violation. Some Reform and Conservative rabbis condemn capital punishment generally, partly based on this stringency.[citation needed]

There are 39 categories of activity prohibited on Shabbat, derived in the tractate Shabbat (Talmud) from the construction of the Biblical tabernacle. Halakha (Jewish law) derives many further forbidden acts from these categories (toledoth and shevuth), with varying severity, that may not be performed except for preventing severe illness or death. Unwarranted violation of any of these precepts is termed chillul shabbat ("profanation of shabbat"). People who consistently violate shabbat today are generally not considered reliable in certain matters of Jewish law.[citation needed]


Congregationalists, Presbyterians, Methodists, and Baptists, as well as many Episcopalians, have historically espoused the view of first-day Sabbatarianism, which teaches that the Lord's Day (Sunday) is the Christian Sabbath, in keeping with the understanding that the moral law contained in the Ten Commandments stands eternally.[1][2][3][4]

In contrast, Seventh-day Sabbatarians believe that the Sabbath should be observed on Saturday, holding that it was not transferred from Saturday to Sunday. Other Christians do not observe the Sabbath or apply it to a "day of rest", believing that it is a part of the Mosaic Law that has no application to Christians.

Traditional application to Sunday[edit]

The traditional application of the Christian Sabbath to Sunday is based on the claim that the Sabbath was moved to the Lord's Day, the day that Jesus rose from the dead. First-day Sabbatarian (Sunday Sabbatarian) practices include attending morning and evening church services on Sundays, receiving catechesis in Sunday School on the Lord's Day, taking the Lord's Day off from servile labour, not eating at restaurants on Sundays, not Sunday shopping, not using public transportation on the Lord's Day, not participating in sporting events that are held on Sundays, as well as not viewing television and the internet on Sundays; Christians who are Sunday Sabbatarians often engage in works of mercy on the Lord's Day, such as evangelism, as well as visiting prisoners at jails and the sick at hospitals and nursing homes.[5][6][7][8]

The Westminster Confession, held by Presbyterian Churches, teaches first-day Sabbatarianism:

As it is the law of nature, that, in general, a due proportion of time be set apart for the worship of God; so, in His Word, by a positive, moral, and perpetual commandment binding all men in all ages, He has particularly appointed one day in seven, for a Sabbath, to be kept holy unto him (Ex. 20:8, 20:10-11, Is. 56:2, 56:4, 56:6-7): which, from the beginning of the world to the resurrection of Christ, was the last day of the week: and, from the resurrection of Christ, was changed into the first day of the week (Ge. 2:2-3, 1 Cor. 16:1-2, Ac. 20:7), which, in Scripture, is called the Lord's Day (Rev. 1:10), and is to be continued to the end of the world, as the Christian Sabbath (Ex. 20:8, 20:10, Mt. 5:17). This Sabbath is to be kept holy unto the Lord when men, after a due preparing of their hearts, and ordering of their common affairs beforehand, do not only observe an holy rest all the day from their own works, words, and thoughts about their worldly employments and recreations (Ex. 20:8, 16:23, 16:25-26, 16:29-30, 31:15-17, Is. 58:13, Neh. 13:15-19, 13:21-22), but also are taken up the whole time in the public and private exercises of His worship, and in the duties of necessity and mercy (Is. 58:13).[9]

This statement was adopted by the Congregationalist Churches, which are descended from the Puritans, in their Savoy Declaration.[10] The 1689 Baptist Confession of Faith of the Reformed Baptists advances the same first-day Sabbatarian obligation of the Presbyterian's Westminster Confession and the Puritan Congregationalists' Savoy Declaration.[11][12]

The General Rules of the Methodist Church similarly require "attending upon all the ordinances of God" including "the public worship of God" and prohibit "profaning the day of the Lord, either by doing ordinary work therein or by buying or selling".[13][14]

Blue laws[edit]

The law in North Dakota at one time stated: "The fine for Sabbath-breaking is not less than one dollar or more than ten dollars for each offence." Other laws have been passed against Sabbath breaking, e.g., by the Puritans. First-day Sabbatarian organizations, such as the Lord's Day Alliance in North America, as well as the Lord's Day Observance Society in the British Isles, have mounted campaigns with support in both Canada and Britain from labour unions, with the goal of preventing secular and commercial interests from hampering freedom of worship and preventing them from exploiting workers.[15]

Seventh-day churches, application to Saturday[edit]

Fundamental Belief # 20 of the Seventh-day Adventist Church states...

The beneficent Creator, after the six days of Creation, rested on the seventh day and instituted the Sabbath for all people as a memorial of Creation. The fourth commandment of God's law requires the observance of this seventh-day Sabbath as the day of rest, worship, and ministry in harmony with the teaching and practice of Jesus, the Lord of the Sabbath. The Sabbath is a day of delightful communion with God and one another. It is a symbol of our redemption in Christ, a sign of our sanctification, a token of our allegiance, and a foretaste of our eternal future in God's kingdom. The Sabbath is God's perpetual sign of His eternal covenant between Him and His people. Joyful observance of this holy time from evening to evening, sunset to sunset, is a celebration of God's creative and redemptive acts. (Gen. 2:1-3; Ex. 20:8-11; Luke 4:16; Isa. 56:5, 6; 58:13, 14; Matt. 12:1-12; Ex. 31:13-17; Eze. 20:12, 20; Deut. 5:12-15; Heb. 4:1-11; Lev. 23:32; Mark 1:32.)

— Seventh-day Adventist Fundamental Beliefs[16]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Roth, Randolph A. (25 April 2002). The Democratic Dilemma: Religion, Reform, and the Social Order in the Connecticut River Valley of Vermont, 1791-1850. Cambridge University Press. p. 171. ISBN 9780521317733. Except for the strong support of Episcopalians in Windsor and Woodstock, the Sabbatarians found their appeal limited almost exclusively to Congregationalists and Presbyterians, some of whom did not fear state action on religious matters of interdenominational concern.
  2. ^ Heyck, Thomas (27 September 2013). A History of the Peoples of the British Isles: From 1688 to 1914. Taylor & Francis. p. 251. ISBN 9781134415205. Yet the degree of overlap between the middle class and nonconformity-Baptists, Congregregationalists, Wesleyan Methodists, Quakers, Presbyterians, and Unitarians-was substantial. ... Most nonconformist denominations ...frowned on drink, dancing, and the theater, and they promoted Sabbatarianism (the policy of prohibiting trade and public recreation on Sundays).
  3. ^ Vugt, William E. Van (2006). British Buckeyes: The English, Scots, and Welsh in Ohio, 1700-1900. Kent State University Press. p. 55. ISBN 9780873388436. As predominantly Methodists and other nonconformists, British immigrants were pietists, committed to conversion and the reform of society. They did not separate religion from civil government, bur rather integrated right belief with right behavior. Therefore they embraced reform movements, most notably temperance and abolitionism, as well as Sabbatarian laws.
  4. ^ O'Brien, Glen; Carey, Hilary M. (3 March 2016). Methodism in Australia: A History. Routledge. p. 83. ISBN 9781317097099. Sabbatarianism: For the non-Anglican Protestants of colonial Queensland (Methodists, Presbyterians, Congregationalists and Baptists), desecration of the Sabbath was one of the great sins of the late nineteenth century.
  5. ^ Hughes, James R. (2006). "The Sabbath: A Universal and Enduring Ordinance of God" (PDF). Evangelical Presbyterian Church. Retrieved 6 October 2020.
  6. ^ "Why an Evening Worship Service?". Christ United Reformed Church. 8 December 2010. Retrieved 6 October 2020.
  7. ^ Jones, M. (12 June 2015). "Organized Sports on Sundays?". Alliance of Confessing Evangelicals. Retrieved 6 October 2020.
  8. ^ Edwards, Jonathan. "The Perpetuity and Change of the Sabbath". Retrieved 24 June 2017.
  9. ^ "Westminster Confession of Faith". 21.7-8. {{cite journal}}: Cite journal requires |journal= (help)
  10. ^ McGraw, Ryan M. (18 June 2014). A Heavenly Directory: Trinitarian Piety, Public Worship and a Reassessment of John Owen's Theology. Vandenhoeck & Ruprecht. pp. 23–24. ISBN 9783525550755.
  11. ^ Haykin, Michael A. G.; Jones, Mark (2011). Drawn Into Controversie: Reformed Theological Diversity and Debates Within Seventeenth-century British Puritanism. Vandenhoeck & Ruprecht. p. 284. ISBN 9783525569450. The seventeenth-century Particular Baptists regarded themselves as being very much an integral part of the wider Reformed community in the British Isles and Ireland. Their substantial employment of the Presbyterian Westminster Confession (1646) and Congregationalist Savoy Declaration (1658) in the writing of their Second London Confession of Faith (1677/1688) is but one indication of the real sense of solidarity they had with other Reformed communities in the British archipelago.
  12. ^ Smither, Edward L. (25 September 2014). Rethinking Constantine: History, Theology and Legacy. James Clarke & Co. p. 121. ISBN 9780227902721. Many Baptists have insisted upon the observance of Sunday as the Christian Sabbath, as a day of rest from "secular" work. For example, the Lord's Day article from the Westminster Confession (and its insistence upon Sunday rest) was transferred almost word-for-word into the Second London Baptist Confession of 1689.
  13. ^ Tucker, Karen B. Westerfield (27 April 2011). American Methodist Worship. Oxford University Press. p. 46. ISBN 9780199774159.
  14. ^ Abraham, William J.; Kirby, James E. (24 September 2009). The Oxford Handbook of Methodist Studies. Oxford University Press. p. 253. ISBN 9780191607431.
  15. ^ Fahlbusch, Erwin; Bromiley, Geoffrey William (2005). The Encyclopedia of Christianity. Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing. p. 787. ISBN 9780802824165.
  16. ^ Seventh-day Adventist Fundamental Beliefs