Aspects of the Sabbath in the late second Temple period

Lizorkin, Ilya (2006-03)

Thesis (MPhil (Ancient Studies)--University of Stellenbosch, 2006.


This thesis is a study of five books (Jubilees, 1 and 2 Maccabees, the Damascus Document and Josephus Jewish Antiquities) that represent the literature dealing with the issue of the Sabbath in significant ways, written between 200 B.C.E. and 100 C.E. In this study the author is determined to find the most prominent ways in which various Jews of the period treated the Sabbath, considering both its theological significance and actual practical application. The author seeks to apply the literary-critical method to the study of these books by identifying how the Sabbath pericopes fit into the larger structure of each book and contribute to the overall argument of each work. After dealing with introductory issues, such as terms, methods, historical settings and methodology, the author then works through the major Sabbath-related pericopes in each book followed by a concluding summary for each book. Then author moves from detailed individual conclusions to general summaries, seeking to deduce the “big picture” of the Judaisms represented in the five works that he researched. Throughout the thesis the author is asking all of the texts the following questions: Was there a major Jewish view of the Sabbath or were the views varied within Judaisms? Was the Sabbath one of the most important issues facing the Jewish Community or was it rather a peripheral one? What was the place of Covenant with YHWH in the Sabbath thought of the day? What was the impact of the historical events of the period on the views of the Sabbath? Was the understanding(s) of the Sabbath legalistic or was there a depth of heartfelt spirituality accompanying Sabbath observance? Were the rules with regard to the Sabbath actually carried out or were they largely ignored? At the conclusion he attempts to answer these questions point by point based upon the data that he collected by studying the passages related to the Sabbath observance within the books mentioned above. This study is preliminary in nature, since it attempts to provide only some background information to the question: Did the Jewish Christians of the first century change the day of worship from Saturday to Sunday? If so, how did they do so while managing to avoid any kind of major debate over the change? This question the author plans to pursue in his forthcoming research.

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