The Scriptural Authority And Obligation Of The Sabbath Examined -- By: W. M. O’Hanlon

Journal: Bibliotheca Sacra
Volume: BSAC 013:52 (Oct 1856)
Article: The Scriptural Authority And Obligation Of The Sabbath Examined
Author: W. M. O’Hanlon


The Scriptural Authority And Obligation Of The Sabbath Examined

Rev. W. M. O’Hanlon

Our last paper was devoted to an examination of the views of Paley and Hengstenberg on the question of a Primeval Sabbath. This led to a consideration of the subject of septenary institutions, and of some of the modes in which writers have attempted to account for these institutions, while they have denied that original appointment of a periodic time (six days’ labor, followed by one day of rest), which seems to us the only satisfactory explanation of the prevalent, if not absolutely universal, extension and establishment of this hebdomadal arrangement.

The topic of the Primeval Sabbath, however, is by no means exhausted, as all must be aware who have made themselves at all acquainted with the literature of the question.

One method by which the force of any argument derived from the first pages of Genesis on behalf of a primitive Sabbath is sought to be weakened, if not annihilated, is, that the account given by the Writer is to be considered simply in the light of a poetical cosmogony, and not at all as a real and veritable history of the work and process of creation. This is the position maintained by Professor Powell of Oxford, as seen in his elaborate Article upon “Creation” in Kitto’s Cyc. of Biblical Literature. He alleges that the principle of accommodation or adaptation to the “apprehensions, the prejudices, and the previous belief of the Jewish people,” pervades the Scriptures of the Old Testament, and is to be found largely in this opening portion of the Bible. “In the present instance,” he observes, “the adaptation to the people of Israel was manifestly of the greatest importance, in order to secure their attention to points of vital moment in connection with the worship of the one true God, and their renunciation of idolatrous superstition. With this end, the first great truth with which they were to be impressed was the unity, omnipotence, and beneficence of the Creator.” And then he represents these doctrines as taught by means of “a narrative proceeding step by step, in a minute detail, to assert in each individual instance the power and goodness which they were thus led to recognize in every familiar detail of the natural world, and which could thus alone be effectually impressed upon their minds.” After stating what he conceived to have been a second great object of the author of the Book of Genesis (the subversion of the worship of animals) in this, as he deems it, poetic and popular style of narration, he proceeds thus: “These remarks refer yet more directly to what doubtless was the third and chief object in this representation of the creation,— the institution of the Sabbath. ...

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