03/16/2012
WAS YESHUA A SABBATH BREAKER?

Sabbath Breaker ImageWas Yeshua a Sabbath breaker? This may seem like a rhetorical question but I assure you there are those that believe he was just that. This blog is basically a defense against the book, The Sabbath Breaker by D. Thomas Lancaster of First Fruits of Zion. In his book The Sabbath Breaker, (hereafter referred to as TSB) Mr. Lancaster conjectures that Yeshua was indeed a Sabbath breaker. His basic reasoning is this: Love, compassion and the alleviation of human suffering overrides the Sabbath.

I do not disagree with that overall premise. However, I completely disagree with how he applies it. Of course human needs and compassion should always take precedent over any commandment but not mere trivial needs should apply. Mr. Lancaster seems to conclude that Yeshua broke the Sabbath and condoned doing so for extremely trivial matters.

For instance, the incident in the grain field where Yeshua's disciples were accused of doing what was unlawful on the Sabbath by picking grain. Mr. Lancaster uses Shemot (Exodus) 34.21 as a proof text that picking grain is a violation of the Sabbath. He says: “In reality, the Torah does forbid harvesting on the Sabbath. Exodus 34.21 specifically prohibits harvesting. What is harvesting? Picking grain.”

Picking grain for personal consumption is not harvesting. What Mr. Lancaster is referring to are the thirty-nine prohibitions of the Shabbat called M'lachot. These prohibitions are Rabbinical in nature and are themselves only the types of prohibitions and each of the thirty-nine have further definitions. For instance, the Torah explicitly forbids the kindling of a fire on the Shabbat. However, the Rabbis have also added the prohibition of extinguishing a fire as well.

I have no problem with those that wish to adhere to the 39 m'lachot. I just have a concern when they are passed off as Torah and binding on all, except non-Jews of course. The topics covered by Lancaster in the book are: The Grain Field Incident, The Sabbath id made for Man, Master of the Sabbath, The Man with the Withered Hand, Loosing Bonds on the Sabbath, At Dinner with the Sages, The Healing at Bethesda, The Mystical Answer, The Halachic Answer, Healing the Blind Man, The Thirty-Nine Forms of Work and Judge with Right Judgment

A blog was started by FFOZ on the book TSB. Could not get Mr. Lancaster to respond to the many concerns I presented. Eventually the blog was removed. The blog was really simply a sales flyer and not a real blog in the true sense of the word. It would have been nice to get some sort of conversation going. Only Toby Janicki responded to any of the posts.

The basic argument I presented is that Yeshua was not breaking the Sabbath. He would not and could not do so for any reason other than the preservation of life. None of Mr. Lancaster's arguments make any real sense, other than his obvious adherence to the 39 m'lachot and his attempt to justify Yeshua's obvious disagreement with several of them. When one believes in something and then finds in the scriptures proof that what they thought was right is in fact wrong, they tend to start justifying it. I do not know Mr. Lancaster so I do not want to impugn his name by stating that this was his only reason for the book. However, the proof is abundant that Yeshua has problems with the Rabbis definition of work forbidden on the Sabbath.

If it is against the Torah to pluck grain on the Sabbath but it is alright to do it if one is simply hungry why have the law at all. It makes no common sense. The disciples were hungry, but not at the point of death. If the Pharisees were present then Yeshua and his disciples were within a Sabbath walk of food. Therefore food was close and available within hours. There was no need to profane the Sabbath. And what of Yom Kippur? It is forbidden to eat or drink on Yom Kippur unless one is ill. But what if one is simply hungry even really hungry, but wait, wouldn't that be pretty much everyone.

Another assumption that Mr. Lancaster seems to imply is fact is that Yeshua and his disciples arrived in the grain fields at the dawning of the Sabbath. “Jesus and his ever-growing entourage of disciples and followers arrived at their destination along with sunset and the onset of the Sabbath. On the outskirts of a village, the Master and his disciples passed between the wheat fields as the last glow of sunset faded over the Galilean hills. As the first stars appeared, Shabbat officially began, the second Shabbat during the season of the counting of the omer.”  Pharisee's would not have been in the fields at the dawn of the Sabbath, they would have been in their homes conducting the Sabbath Seder.

The main point I was attempting to make with the FFOZ blog that was deleted was that the most probable and likely scenario was that Yeshua was not breaking the Sabbath, but rather disagreeing with certain Pharisees of the School of Shammai. He was not condoning the breaking of the Sabbath as is purported by Mr. Lancaster but rather defining what is breaking the Sabbath according to G‑d and not according to the Rabbis.

There is surmountable proof that much of the Oral Law was not spoken to Moshe at Mt. Sinai but rather evolved over time by the Rabbis. I do believe that there had to be an Oral Law given to Moshe to define the written Torah. However, I do not believe the 39 m'lachot were part of that instruction. At the time of Yeshua's discourse with the Pharisees and scribes it is obvious that many of the 39 m'lachot were still being determined. Of course I can't prove that thesis any more than Mr. Lancaster or any Rabbi can prove their thesis about the Oral Law and the 39 m'lachot. There simply isn't enough evidence.

Here I have primarily discussed only one Sabbath breaking incident in Mr. Lancaster's book, The Sabbath Breaker. He covers several more healing incidents as well. In each case Yeshua is not actually breaking the Sabbath but rather defining which halakhah is correct. I agree that Yeshua broke the Rabbis definition of Sabbath observance but not that he broke the Sabbath itself. It is this point that Mr. Lancaster and myself part ways and it is this point that makes the Sabbath Breaker a very dangerous book. If Yeshua broke the Sabbath, he is not the Messiah. If there are provisions for special circumstances that allows otherwise forbidden acts on the Sabbath then one is not breaking the Sabbath if they are used. For example, it is not lawful to make a U-turn on city streets in most cities. However, there are some streets that you can make a U-turn if a sign is posted allowing such an action. At this time one is not breaking the law because provisions are made for this exception. Mr. Lancaster seems to miss this point. However, as I pointed out earlier, I do not believe Yeshua is breaking the Sabbath by healing, he is defining what is and is not allowed on the Sabbath.

Yeshua said:

 For assuredly, I say to you, till heaven and earth pass away, one jot or one tittle will by no means pass from the law till all is fulfilled. Whoever therefore breaks one of the least of these commandments, and teaches men so, shall be called least in the kingdom of heaven; but whoever does and teaches them, he shall be called great in the kingdom of heaven. (Matthew 5:18-19)

by: Steve Salter

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