07.02.01 Introduction

Bill Heinrich  -  Jan 08, 2016  -  Comments Off on 07.02.01 Introduction

07.02.01 Introduction

Prior to discussing this topic, a brief review of the first century Sabbath restrictions[1] is necessary along with a review of two influential schools of theology in Unit 02.[2] The School of Shammai held that it was unlawful to comfort the sick or visit the mourner on the Sabbath, but the School of Hillel permitted it. In the case of a violation, the school of Shammai demanded physical punishment whereas the Pharisees, as strict and legalistic as they were, offered a milder punishment that was often in the form of a monetary fine.[3] Those who confronted Jesus for healing on the Sabbath were most likely to be followers of Shammai, rather than Hillel. To add social conflict to the mix, other religious sects held other beliefs – and most of them were under the “Pharisee” umbrella.


Without question, the pious Jews of the Inter-Testamental Period and at the time of Jesus were concerned that they not offend God and again be evicted from their land.  They knew the reason their forefathers had been sent to Babylon for seventy years was because they failed to honor the Sabbath. Therefore, by the time Jesus came, observing the Sabbath had become a weekly ritual of unprecedented importance.  Unfortunately, in the process of doing so, the elite Pharisee leadership lost sight of their responsibility to care for the congregations.[4]

The leading Pharisees believed they had established a series of righteous acts that, when completed, would establish not only favor with God, but also essentially permit one to earn his salvation.  Below are samples of thirty-nine categories of activities from the Oral Law that limited activities for the Sabbath and for any Friday identified as a Preparation Day.[5] 


Flesh and onions and eggs may not be roasted unless there is time for them to be roasted the same day, nor can bread be put into the oven when darkness is falling, nor may cakes be put upon coals unless there is time for their top surface to form into crust.

Mishnah, Shabbath 1.10


If a double stove had been heated with stubble or straw, cooked food may be set on it (on the Sabbath); but if with peat or wood, cooked food may not be set on it until it has been swept out or covered with ashes.  The School of Shammai says: “Hot water but not cooked food may be set thereon.”   The School of Hillel says; “Both hot water and cooked food.”  The School of Shammai says, “They may be removed (on the Sabbath) but not put back.” And the school of Hillel says: “They may also be put back.”

Mishnah, Shabbath 3.1[6]


An egg may not be put inside a kettle (on the Sabbath) so it shall get cooked, nor may it be cracked within (hot) wrappings; but Rabbi Jose permits this.  Nor may it be buried in (hot) sand or in the dust of the road so that it shall get roasted.

Mishnah, Shabbath 3.3[7]


A vessel may not be put under the lamp (on the Sabbath) to collect the (dripping) oil; but if it was put there before nightfall it is permitted.

Mishnah, Shabbath 3.6[8]


Rabbi Aha in the name of Rabbi Tanhum ben Rabbi Hiaay said, “If Israel repents for one day, forthwith the son of David will come.”  Said Rabbi Levi, “If Israel would keep a single Sabbath in the proper way, forthwith the son of David will come.”

Jerusalem Talmud, Tannit 1.1


If a man removed his finger nails by means of his nails or teeth, and so, too, if [he pulled out] the hair on his head, or his mustache or his beard; and so, too, if a woman dressed her hair or painted her eyelids or reddened [her face], such a one Rabbi Eliezer declares liable to a sin offering.

Mishnah, Shabbath 10.6


According to some Pharisees, Sabbath regulations even prevented mourning the loss of a loved one, due to a legalistic regulation based on Proverbs 10:22 that read, “The blessing of the Lord brings wealth and he adds no trouble to it.” They distorted the proverbs of life in an attempt to be pure and holy before God.[9] Another rule forbade women to look in a mirror on the Sabbath.[10] Jesus was passionately upset over these restrictive bondages.


Video Insert    >

07.02.01.V Insights into the Sabbath Regulations. Dr. Malcolm Lowe discusses some unique insights that pertained to the Sabbath controveries.


Finally, it must be emphasized that not all Pharisaic rabbis held the same views concerning Sabbath regulations. There were those who said that a Sabbath rest was defined as ceasing from work activities so one could reconnect with God, family, and friends, and reflect upon the blessings of God in the past week.[11] This agreed with Jesus who clearly said that the Sabbath was made for man, not man for the Sabbath. But that statement tends to open more questions than it answers. Some Messianic believers say that for six days God performed His work in the creation, and the seventh day is set aside for His superior creation (mankind) to focus attention on Him.[12] When examining how the modern church honors the Sabbath, it clearly is in frequent violation in both practice and teaching. When one’s attention is totally focused on Christ Jesus, as it should be on that day, then the issue related to many potential activities becomes a moot point.


[1]. See 02.04.06 “Sabbath Day Observances.”

[2]. See 02.01.14 “Pharisees,” 02.01.18 “School of Hillel,” and  02.01.19 “School of Shammai.”

[3]. Geikie, The Life and Works of Christ. 2:106.

[4].  For more information, see “02.02.18 Oral Law,” “02.02.20 Oral Tradition,” and Sabbath regulations in Jubilees 50:6-13 at 02.04.06.  In fact, during the Maccabean Revolt, since the Jews refused to fight on the Sabbath, the Greeks slaughtered more than a thousand men, women, and children. Thereafter they decided to defend themselves so as not to be removed from the face of the earth (1 Macc. 2:31-38).

[5]. The Day of Preparation was the day prior to special holy days such as Passover; a day when work would end and the people prepared themselves for the special event or a special Sabbath (Mt. 27:62; Mk. 15:42; Lk. 23:54; Jn. 19:14, 31, 42). It was rooted in Lev. 23:5-7; Num. 11:18; Jos. 7:13.

[6]. Parenthesis by Danby, ed. Mishnah.

[7]. Parenthesis by Danby, ed. Mishnah.

[8]. Parenthesis by Danby, ed. Mishnah.

[9]. Edersheim, The Life and Times of Jesus the Messiah. 510, 1046.

[10]. Babylonian Talmud, Shabbath 149a; Edersheim, The Life and Times of Jesus the Messiah. 92.

[11]. Parry, The Complete Idiot’s Guide to the Talmud. 60.

[12]. Jeremias, Jerusalem in the Time of Jesus. 199-202.  


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