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

Hemmingsen on the Sabbath and Christian Festivals (7)

Today we get theses 16 and 17 as Hemmingsen continues to unpack the symbolic significance of the Sabbath according to “threefold time.” Thesis 16 refers to time past and, especially, time present, and consists mostly of a quotation of Augustine’s twentieth Tractate on the Gospel of John, where Augustine argues that Christians observe the Sabbath spiritualiter, “spiritually.” (Is this the Sabbath equivalent of “we kneel in our hearts”?) Augustine’s point supports the “continental” reading of the Sabbath noted yesterday.

In the second thesis, Hemmingsen turns his attention to future time, already hinted at in thesis 16. Here we get a taste of how interested the Reformers were in Rabbinic Judaism and Hebrew studies through Hemmingsen’s reference to a saying “of the house of Elijah.” I had no idea what this was, I confess, and had to do some digging around to find out. It turns out that the passage in question was also investigated by Philip Melanchthon (see note ad loc.). In this thesis, Hemmingsen states that the Old Testament Sabbath is a symbol of eschatological consummation and heavenly beatitude.

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

  1. A saying of Augustine is relevant to this point: “And to our ancient fathers this sacrament of the Sabbath was commanded, which we Christians observe spiritually, so that we may keep ourselves from every servile work and every sin (because the Lord says, “Everyone who commits sin is a slave of sin”) and have rest in our heart, that is, spiritual tranquility; and although we attempt this in this age, we nevertheless shall not arrive at this perfect rest unless we have departed from this life.”1

17. If we consider future time, the Sabbath was a type of the consummation of the cosmos. For just as the six days of the creation of the world foreshadowed the six thousand years according to the saying of the house of Elijah,2 so also the Sabbath signifies an eternity of rest in heaven, and that Sabbath-rest of the blessed that will last forever, which the saints await.3

  1. Augustine, Tractates on the Gospel of John 20.2; Latin text here.
  2. Hemmingsen is referring to a Rabbinic tradition that his teacher Philip Melanchthon also seems to have discussed.
  3. The translation is my own.

By E.J. Hutchinson

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