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Published online by Cambridge University Press:  05 June 2012

Ian A. McFarland
Emory University's Candler School of Theology
David A. S. Fergusson
University of Edinburgh
Karen Kilby
University of Nottingham
Iain R. Torrance
University of Aberdeen
Ian A. McFarland
Emory University, Atlanta
David A. S. Fergusson
University of Edinburgh
Karen Kilby
University of Nottingham
Iain R. Torrance
Princeton Theological Seminary
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Sabbatarianism ‘Sabbatarianism’ is a term used to refer to any conflation of Christian and Jewish practice with respect to the observance of a weekly day of rest. Historically, this takes two main forms: first, the belief that Christians should honour the Jewish sabbath (viz., Saturday) rather than Sunday as their weekly day of rest; second, a scrupulous observance of Sunday as a day of rest and worship to the exclusion of all other activity.

The former type of sabbatarianism was defended by some Transylvanian Socinians in the sixteenth century (see Socinianism) and some English and American Baptists from the seventeenth century; it is today most widely practised by the Seventh-Day Adventist Church (see Adventism). Its proponents look both to the Ten Commandments, which explicitly name Saturday as the day of rest (Exod. 20:8–11; Deut. 5:12–15), and to Jesus' own practice of sabbath observance (e.g., Luke 4:16). Their opponents point out that Christian observance of Sunday, as the day of Jesus' resurrection, has been the normative practice of Christians from the earliest times, with clear roots in the NT (e.g., the reference to ‘the Lord's day’ in Rev. 1:10; Paul's designation of ‘the first day of the week’ for making offerings in 1 Cor. 16:2).

Scrupulous observance of the Sunday sabbath is historically associated with English-speaking Reformed Christianity, with its stress on the formal replacement of Saturday by Sunday as the divinely instituted sabbath – with all of its attendant obligations (see, e.g., WC 20.7).

Publisher: Cambridge University Press
Print publication year: 2011

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