Book Review: The Sabbath by Arnold G. Fruchtenbaum
The Sabbath by Arnold Fruchtenbaum is a thorough study of the “Sabbath.” In true Fruchtenbaum style, he has carefully examined the Scriptures to look at both the meaning of Sabbath and to ensure he examines it in context. He does not insert presuppositions into the text in order to fit his theology. Sabbath is for a memorial of the Exodus, a sign of Israel’s sanctification as a nation and a sign of the Mosaic Covenant (p. 31)
Fruchtenbaum’s study of Sabbath is hermeneutically correct, consistently clear noting the contextual elements throughout Scripture and charitably fair in pointing out inconsistencies in other interpretations. First, he is clear on his hermeneutic (method of interpretation) of a Literal Historico-Grammatical method of interpretation to ensure his analysis and discussion harmonizes with all of Scripture. He doesn’t insert theology into the study, but extracts the meaning from each genre and dispensational section of the text. Because of inconsistent hermeneutics, many have distorted the meaning of “sabbath” to Christian living today.
I appreciate how well Fruchtenbaum isolates the meaning of “Sabbath” as beginning with the Mosaic Law. And with the passing of the authority of the Mosaic Law, with the beginning of the Church Age, he notes the passing of the necessity of the weekly Sabbath observance. Interestingly, he makes clear that the Sabbath was for rest and refreshment, not necessarily worship (p. 14). Israel gathers three times for annual festival worship, but the weekly Sabbath was to rest and enjoy God’s presence with family. Misunderstanding this has caused many Christians to mandate how and when worship should be defined today. For example, worship does not need to be on Sunday (pp. 87-89). Christians 1) need to decide to set aside some time for worship, 2) they must meet together and 3) the local congregation can decide when and where (p. 84). I used to understand three reasons for Sabbath, but Fruchtenbaum describes 19 reasons (pp. 31-33).
Secondly, Fruchtenbaum is consistently clear emphasizing context each time. When God speaks through Isaiah ordering a cessation of sacrifices for the Sabbath, God is not cancelling the Mosaic Law, but condemning their ritual without reality observance (p. 48). His consistency is also in noting when Sabbath is used typologically in the book of Hebrews rather than literally (p. 82). Ultimately, Fruchtenbaum is a master at comparing Scripture with Scripture to ensure consistency (p. 82)
Thirdly, he is charitable in pointing out inconsistencies of other Sabbath interpretations (p. 24). He even responds with his genuine sense of humor in addressing inconsistencies (pp. 22, 31, 85).
This is a fantastic study on Sabbath that is clear, consistent and fair in addressing the biblical view. You could secure a copy of this at ariel.org.