Archive Authors E.J. Hutchinson Nota Bene Reformed Irenicism Sacred Doctrine

Hemmingsen on the Sabbath and Christian Festivals (2)

In today’s post, which includes assertiones 4-6, Hemmingsen defines the proper meaning “Sabbath” and then shows how, from that primary meaning, it is transferred as a title to days, weeks, and years. 

Assertions concerning the Jewish Sabbath and the Festivals of Christians (Continued)

  1. “Sabbath” properly signifies rest or cessation. From this meaning, the term is transferred to the seventh day, on which the Lord ceased from the work of creation, which he completed in six days. Thus in Genesis 2 it is written: “And God blessed the seventh day and sanctified it, because on it he ceased from all his work which God created so that he was making it”;1 and this is called the Sabbath of days. And by synecdoche2 the entire week is called the Sabbath of days, as in the fast that was kept “twice in the Sabbath.”3
  2. In addition to this Sabbath of days among the Jews, there was a Sabbath of years, and a great Sabbath, and a first Sabbath, and a δευτερόπροτον [deuteroproton, “second-first”].4
  3. The Sabbath of years is every seventh year, according to Leviticus 25, which also says:5 “You shall count for yourself seven sabbaths of years, that is, seven years seven times; the days of the sabbaths of years will make forty-nine years.” As, moreover, the land rested every seventh year, so in the fiftieth year slavery rested6 and liberty, together with one’s possessions, was returned.7
  1. The somewhat awkward phrasing follows the text of the Vulgate.
  2. I.e. where the part is put for the whole, so that a week is named via one of its days.
  3. Hemmingsen is referring to the practice of the Pharisees of fasting twice a week, on Mondays and Thursdays (not enjoined in the Old Testament), as mentioned in Luke 18.12: “νηστεύω δὶς τοῦ σαββάτου,” usually translated as, “I fast twice a week” (ESV).
  4. See Luke 6.1.
  5. “Which also says” is my addition. Hemmingsen’s thesis is very elliptical here; he is using Leviticus 25 to talk about two different things, which he seems to combine into one: the Sabbath Year (every seventh year) and the Year of Jubilee (every fiftieth year).
  6. The phrasing is somewhat awkward: Hemmingsen presents the abstract concepts of “slavery” and “liberty” as agents.
  7. The translation is my own.

By E.J. Hutchinson

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