certainly had been the pattern of his boyhood (Lk. 2:22, 41). It may be significant that, at his trial before the Sanhedrin (Matt. 26:57-68 par. Mk. 14:53-65; Lk. 22:54-71; Jn. 18:13-24), while the accusation of destroying the temple is included, there is no mention of an annulling of the sabbath law.
(h) In Matt. 24:20, Christ's followers are told to pray that in the coming destruction of Jerusalem their flight should not occur in the winter or on the sabbath day. This need not imply that Christ foresaw his followers continuing to observe the sabbath, but merely that it would be impossible to get help or buy what was needed in the emergency on a sabbath day in the vicinity of Jerusalem.
We may conclude then, that though Jesus broke through the rabbinic traditions about the sabbath, there was no annulling of the observance of the day.
(i) Turning now to Mk. 2:27, there is a positive statement of Christ's about the sabbath. Here its institution is stated to have been made for man's good and it would seem that there is at least an indirect reference to the account in Gen. 2:1, 2 (J. Jeremias, New Testament Theology, I, 1971, 208). It would then imply that the ordinance was not merely for Israel, but had a pre-Israelite, worldwide, humanitarian, implication. This is followed by the claim, mentioned in the other two Gospels, that Jesus was "Lord of the sabbath." In other words, he has the authority to decide about its observance. Far from suggesting that, though a benefit to man, it was to be annulled, it would suggest that the manner of its observance was under the control of Christ Himself.
2. The Acts of the Apostles. Turning to the Acts of the Apostles, we find that in the decrees of the Jerusalem Council in ch. 15 no mention is made of the sabbath. This would imply that it was not a point of disagreement between Jewish and Gentile Christians. Paul on his missionary journeys seized the opportunity to preach as occasion arose in the synagogues on the sabbath day and this was his custom (Acts 13:5, 14, 44; 14:1; 16:13; 17:2, 17; 18:4; 19:8).
In the NT. - A. Jesus in the Gospels. On the one hand, it appears that Jesus kept the sabbath faithfully by attending the synagogue and by teaching (Mk. 1:21; 6:2; Lk. 4:16, 31). On the other hand, Jesus was involved in sabbath conflicts with the Pharisees. Mark recounts two such incidents. In the first (Mk. 2:23-38) Jesus defends His disciples for plucking grain on the sabbath (cf. Mt. 12:1-8; Lk. 6:1-5). The Pharisees apparently interpreted this activity as reaping, which was one of the thirty-nine "main tasks" prohibited on the sabbath. In good pharisaic fashion, Jesus responds by citing Scripture. He recalls that David broke the law by eating the bread of the presence (1 Sam. 21:1-6), and He concludes that the "sabbath was made for man" (Mk. 2:27) and that the "Son of man is Lord even of the sabbath" (v. 28). The parallel in Matthew is an expanded version. Here Jesus reminds the Pharisees that the priests in the temple regularly work on the sabbath, and He tells them that "something greater than the temple is here" (Mt. 12:6). A further allusion to Hos. 6:6 suggests that mercy shown on the sabbath outweighs sacrifice (Mt. 12:7). In a second Markan episode Jesus heals a man with a withered hand on the sabbath (Mk. 3:1-6; cf. Mt. 12:9-14; Lk. 6:6-11). The pharisaic tradition generally permitted healing on the sabbath only in cases where life was in danger. The question that Jesus posed to the Pharisees effectively broadened this principle by permitting the doing of any good act on the sabbath (Mk. 3:4). Again, the parallel in Matthew is expanded by a typical rabbinic argument "from lesser to greater;" if a sheep can be rescued from a pit on the sabbath (an act permitted by at least some witnesses to the pharisaic tradition), then it should be lawful to do good to human beings (Mt. 12:11f.).
Luke includes two additional instances of Jesus healing on the sabbath (Lk. 13:10-17; 14:1-6). In both cases Jesus again argues "from lesser to greater?": if animals can be tended and rescued, then human beings can lawfully be healed (Lk. 13:5f.; 14:5). John also offers two additional sabbath healing episodes (Jn. 5:2-19; 9:1-41). The sabbath controversy is almost incidental in Jn. 9 (vv. 14, 16), but it is central in ch. 5. The attention of the Pharisees ("the Jews," vv. 10, 15, 18) is attracted by a man carrying a pallet, an act in violation of the prohibition of carrying objects. The healed man informs the Pharisees that Jesus had commanded him to carry his pallet and walk. This offended the Pharisees, as did the healing itself, since the man had been lame for thirty-eight years and no mortal danger was involved. Jesus' response touches upon an issue debated in the pharisaic tradition, the question of whether God observes the sabbath. Contrary to the book of Jubilees,
Jesus affirms the pharisaic view and then goes beyond it by saying, "My Father is working still, and I am working" Jn. 5:17). In short, Jesus claims the prerogative of working on the sabbath by claiming identity with God. In a continuation of the healing episode in ch. 5, Jesus reminds the Pharisees that they permit circumcision on the sabbath and then argues that He should thus lawfully be permitted to heal the whole body (7:22f.).
The sabbath conflicts are difficult to evaluate. Jesus observed the sabbath. He never broke any regulations found in the Torah. He used pharisaic methods of argument, and He agreed with the Pharisees on several points. Considering that the pharisaic tradition itself was diverse and was still developing in the early 1st cent A.D., it seems unlikely to some scholars that Jesus' view of the sabbath would have provoked from the Pharisees the vehement hostility described in the Gospels. Thus, some have suggested that the sabbath conflict accounts may reflect the growing rift between Church and synagogue that occurred after A.D. 70, during the time in which the Gospels were written. The final form of the conflict accounts thus presents Jesus as "Lord even of the sabbath" (Mk. 2:28). This view does not necessarily imply that the Church had stopped observing the seventh day by the end of the 1st cent. A.D., but it suggests that the Church had begun to view the sabbath
christologically and to observe it in ways that departed from the practice of emerging Rabbinic Judaism.