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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 Jewish Shabbat (Friday sunset to Saturday nightfall), the Sabbath in seventh-day churches.
According to Mosaic Law, to desecrate shabbat intentionally, despite warning, is a capital offense (Exodus 31:15). 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.
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.
Many Christians do not observe the Sabbath or apply it to a "day of rest," considering it a part of the Mosaic Law with no application to Christians. Among those who do, the concept may be applied to Sunday or Saturday:
Traditional application to Sunday
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.
Seventh-day churches, application to Saturday
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 unchangeable 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
- Lord's Day Observance Society
- Sabbath in Christianity
- Sabbath in seventh-day churches
- Biblical law in Christianity
- Plucking grain on Sabbath
- Holy day of obligation