Archive E.J. Hutchinson Natural Law Nota Bene Reformed Irenicism Sacred Doctrine

Zanchi on Festivals (2)

In today’s post, Zanchi continues his response to the objection that Christians should not have festivals through an analysis of the Fourth Commandment.

Zanchi here makes the important distinction between substance and accident in the commandment; notes an important parallel with gentile festivals that helps to demonstrate the naturalness of festivals or feast days; and engages in an interesting philological discussion about the etymologies of the Greek and Latin terms for “festival.”

In respect to this last, it is important to observe that the sabbath in its fullest sense, for Zanchi, is of significance not primarily because of what is not to be done (“don’t work”), but because of what is (“worship God”). The body’s good is ordered to the mind’s or soul’s good, which finds its fulfillment in contemplating and praising God.

On Festivals (continued)

Second: There are two things in this commandment, namely, the substance and the accident. As Colossians 2 puts it, “the shadow and the body.” The substance is a certain time in the week at which it was obligatory for the body to rest from its works in order for the mind to be free for things divine. The accident is that it was the seventh day in particular. The latter has been abrogated, the former has not been abrogated.

Third: All gentiles, ever since the creation of the world, consecrate a certain time for divine worship. Therefore it is natural to have feast days. 

Fourth: From the ends for which they were instituted. Surely these ends were the glory of God and the good of one’s neighbor. From these ends, the Greeks called them ἑορτάς [heortās, “festivals” or “feasts”], the Latins festos dies [“feast days”]. They are called festi [“festivals” or “feast days”] from the verb feriari [“to rest from work”], just as the word “sabbath” is taken from the verb “to rest,” namely, from tasks pertaining to the body, so that one is free for worshiping God. Nevertheless, the title dies festus [“feast day”] is more honorable than dies feriatus [“day off of work”]: the former is connected with the solemn worship of God, the latter is not. Ἑορτή [heortē] is from the verb ἑρῶ, “I love,” “I desire,” because such days as have been consecrated to God should be loved and longed for. 1

  1. The translation is my own.

By E.J. Hutchinson

E.J. Hutchinson is Assistant Professor of Classics at Hillsdale College.