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Creation Apologetics: The Creation Ordinance Sabbath

In studying the idea of a creation ordinance sabbath – the significance of the seven day week and setting aside one of those seven days as different from the others – I recall the value of extra-biblical historical records, for apologetics related to other events of Genesis 1-11, in support of biblical “young earth” creation, the flood of Noah, dinosaurs (dragons) coexisting with humans, and the “Table of Nations” genealogies.  Reference this post (After the Fall), related to the study of the nations listed in Genesis 10.

It is not the purpose of this post to consider all the issues related to the Christian Sabbath. One very good resource is Robert L. Dabney’s “Systematic Theology,” of which nearly a full chapter (25 pages) is devoted to the issue of the 4th commandment, available online here, and includes the historical background of the two main views throughout Christian history as well as all the pertinent scripture passages.

The issue (for this post) is related to creation, and evidences available, including early historical records.  It is often asserted by non-sabbath believers, that the Pentateuch makes no mention of Sabbath observance after Genesis 2, until Exodus 16, and thus we have no evidence of any Sabbath observance before the law of Moses.  In response: first, the seven day week itself is an unusual phenomenon, as it does not fit with any calendar system of timekeeping — a strong evidence for the biblical record itself in contrast to evolutionary ideas; see this article from the Institute for Creation Research.  (As a side note: observance of a Christian Sabbath is not a “Covenant Theology vs. Dispensationalism” issue. As acknowledged in online discussions, even some dispensationalists believe and practice it; ICR is one such example, 4-point Calvinist-Dispensational with Christian Sabbath.)  Aside from the fact that the Sabbath is mentioned in the Exodus wilderness before the giving of the law on Sinai, it is true that the references in Genesis (after chapter 2) only mention the seven day week cycle and do not explicitly mention anything of people observing a rest for one day out of each seven.  Yet consider: if the seventh-day sabbath precept did originate at creation, we should expect to find some indication of it in early pagan civilization and their written records – similar to what is found regarding the flood of Noah, dragons, and the “Table of Nations” genealogies. Interestingly enough, we do find such evidence that the sabbath (a rest day for one out of seven days) goes back to creation itself.

Ancient Pagan Religious Practices

Secular sources note that the ancient Babylonians, like the Jews, also observed a seven day week (somewhat modified for their lunar monthly calendar), and their pagan observance included “holy days” every 7th day. Such evolutionary sources, such as Wikipedia, of course try to “find” another explanation for the 7 day calendar, apart from its origin in Genesis, yet still note the following about early Babylonian practice:

The origin of the seven-day week is the religious significance that was placed on the seventh day by ancient cultures. The earliest ancient sources record a seven-day week in ancient Babylon prior to 600 BCE.[1] Babylonians celebrated a holy day every seven days, starting from the new moon, then the first visible crescent of the Moon, but adjusted the number of days of the final “week” in each month so that months would continue to commence on the new moon … Counting from the new moon, the Babylonians celebrated the 7th, 14th, 21st, and 28th as “holy-days”, also called “evil days” (meaning “unsuitable” for prohibited activities). On these days officials were prohibited from various activities and common men were forbidden to “make a wish”, and at least the 28th was known as a “rest-day”.[4] On each of them, offerings were made to a different god and goddess.

And from this online article:

In their normal seven day week, the Babylonians held the seventh day of each week as holy, much like the Jews did and still do.  However, the Babylonians also held the day to be unlucky.  Thus, similar to the Jews (but for a different reason- the unluckiness of the day), the seventh day had restrictions on certain activities to avoid dire consequences from the inherit unluckiness of the day.

Early Pagan Literature

This idea can also be found in ancient extra-biblical literature. Cited in Dabney’s “Systematic Theology”, the following evidence from early pagan literature:

The assertion that the Sabbath was coexisting with the human race, and was intended for the observation of all, receives collateral confirmation also from the early traditions concerning it, which pervade the first Pagan literature. It can hardly be supposed that Homer and Hesiod borrowed from the books of Moses, sabbatical allusions which would have been to their hearers unintelligible. They must be the remnants of those primeval traditions of patriarchal religion, which had been transferred by the descendants of Japheth, to the isles of Chittim. The early allusions to a sacred seventh day may be sufficiently exhibited by citing a collection of them from Eusebius’ Preparation Evangelica(50. 13., Sect. 13), which he quotes from the Stromata of Clement of Alexandria. The latter father is represented as saying: “That the seventh day is sacred, not the Hebrews only, but the Gentiles also acknowledge, according to which the whole universe of animals and vegetables revolves.” Hesiod, for instance, thus says concerning it:

“The first, the fourth also, and the seventh is a sacred day.” (Ieron `Hmar .) Dierum, line 6.

And again: “The seventh day once more, the splendid dawn of the sun.”

And Homer: “The seventh day then arrived, the sacred day.”

Again: “The seventh was sacred.”

“The seventh dawn was at hand, and with this all the series is completed.”

And once more: “On the seventh day, we left the stream of Acheron.”

And thus also writes Callimachus the poet: “It was now the Sabbath day: and with this all was accomplished.”

Again: “The seventh day is among the fortunate; yea, the seventh is the parent day.”

Again: “The seventh day is first, and the seventh day is the complement.”

And: “All things in the starry sky are found in sevens; and shine in their ordained cycles.”

“And this day, the elegies of Solon also proclaim as more sacred, in a wonderful mode.” Thus far Clement and Eusebius. Josephus, in his last book against Apion, affirms that “there could be found no city, either of the Grecians or Barbarians, who owned not a seventh day’s rest from labor.” This of course is exaggerated. Philo, cotemporary with Josephus, calls the Sabbath eorth pandhmo”.

These references from ancient history clearly support the biblical data for a seven day week and its associated creation sabbath ordinance: a creation precept set in place in Genesis 2, an ordinance and precept unlike the later ceremonial Sabbath set forth in the law section of the Pentateuch (which was given AFTER the events of Exodus 16 and AFTER the giving of the Ten Commandments). Like other knowledge from the antediluvian era, this was passed down to the post-flood world by Noah and his sons.  As with other knowledge from that time, though, this original understanding of the true God was soon distorted among the Gentile peoples who spread out from Babel (Genesis 11), along with all other distortions of yet true accounts in their literature (i.e., the creation story and the flood), and finally forgotten by our world which looks to godless evolution and millions of years, suppressing the truth (Romans 1) that was known by our distant ancestors.

  1. September 3, 2014 at 10:39 pm

    Hm. Much food for thought. I always wondered about how Pagan Culture arrange their week and the number of days.

    • September 4, 2014 at 7:14 am

      Yes, an interesting topic along with its implications. At least the early pagan cultures, around the Mediterranean and Europe, retained the idea of the 7 day week with one day of seven being set apart as different.

    • September 5, 2014 at 1:26 pm

      Here is further reference material, adding here for future reference. From “The Covenantal Sabbath — Chapter 3, B. The Sabbath Outside the Covenant” http://www.dr-fnlee.org/docs3/covsab/Covsab_chap3.html#IIIB.
      Several pages of detail concerning early civilizations and their observance of the seven day week period and significance of a seventh day, including the following:

      The Egyptians apparently long knew of the seventh day, as also witnessed by their seven pyramids, seven castes, worship of seven planets, and their method of counting by sevens; but they ultimately lapsed into calculating time by ten-day periods. In Guinea the population rested from their occupations every seventh day throughout the year, the Fantees and the Wassows wore white garments on their weekly rest day and abstained from labour on pain of being punished by their devil-god Titish, the Ashanti observed every Tuesday, and the Ethiopians also knew of the seventh day.

      Elsewhere, the natives of Pegu assembled together for weekly devotions, and in Borneo work was forbidden on certain harvest days. In China the seventh day was originally known, as also evidenced by the Chinese belief in the seven material souls of man, and by the seven storey pagoda of Teen-fung-tah at Ningpo; and the women of the Lob’s in South-Western China refrained from washing and sewing every sixth day for religious reasons; whereas some scholars believe the Israclitic sabbath to have been borrowed from the Kenites.

      In ancient America, the seventh day was also known, particularly amongst the ancient Peruvians. And even in Hawaii, it was unlawful on certain days to light fires (cf. Ex. 35:3) or to bathe, at which times the king would withdraw into privacy and give up his ordinary pursuits.

      Amongst the JAPHETHITES the sabbath also degenerated, but perhaps not quite so badly, particularly to the extent to which they continued to “dwell in the tents of Shem” (Gen. 9:27). The ancient Aryans of India knew the seven-day week and are the source of the “lunar-weekly” rest day known as the “Uposatha” in Buddhist lands, for the Brahmins of ancient India, even in the region of the Ganges, knew the seventh day, and the figure seven was prominent in Indian mythology and architecture. Amongst the ancient Persians, the seventh day was also known.

      The ancient Greeks knew the seven-day week too. Almost a thousand years before Christ, Homer refers to “the seventh day, which is sacred or holy”; as did Hesiod, who also called it: “the illustrious light of the sun”; and later Plato wrote of travellers who remained in a meadow for seven days. This knowledge of the hebdomadal week no doubt also explains the use of the figure seven in Greek literature. However, in later times the seven-day week was replaced by the “ten-day week” and other festive periods such as the Thesmophoria, Scyrophoria, Panathenaca, Eleusian mysteries, Olympic games and other feasts.

      The seven-day week was also apparently originally known to the Romans, but was ultimately replaced by the “nundinae”, a period of nine days consisting of two market days with seven days intervening. However, the Roman year terminated with the seven days’ feast of “Saturnalia”.

      The Saxons named the seven days of the week, and the week was also known amongst other Germans, the Norsemen, the Gauls and the Britons.

      Of even more significance, however, was the discovery of a Mesopotamian calendar tablet proving the sacredness of the seventh, fourteenth, nineteenth, twenty-first and twenty-eighth days of the month, showing that the weekly sabbath was there held in esteem. The sanctification of the nineteenth day seems to destroy the harmony of the series at first glance, but it has been pointed out that this nineteenth day is in fact the forty-ninth (or seven times seventh day) from the first day of the preceding month.

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