Lewis' First Affirmative
Bacchiocchi's First Negative
Lewis' Second Affirmative
I am very happy to be a part of this written
discussion with Mr. Bacchiocchi on the seventh day/ first day of the week
question. I have agreed to have this written debate in order to prepare Mr. and
myself for our oral debate which will be conducted at some time in the future. I
will make two affirmative presentations in defense of the first day of the week.
Mr. Bacchiocchi will respond in the negative. Following this, Mr. Bacchiocchi
will make two affirmative presentations in defense of the seventh day of the
week. At that time I will respond twice in the negative.
The proposition I will affirm in this debate is as follows: "RESOLVED, the New
Testament teaches that the first day of the week (Sunday) as a day of worship is
enforced upon God's people in this age of the world." Allow me to briefly define
the terms of my proposition. By "the New Testament" I mean specifically the time
in which the New Testament era began. Jesus nailed the old law to the cross
(Col. 2:14) and the New Testament was ushered in upon the first Pentecost after
Christ’s resurrection. Mr. Bacchiocchi will be wasting his time if he attempts
to go outside the New Testament for proof of Sabbath day worship. He and I both
agreed in the signing of our names that we would debate what the "New Testament
teaches." By "teaches" I mean that the New Testament instructs us, whether by
example, implication or direct command. By "the first day of the week" I mean
the day which we commonly call "Sunday." By "as a day of worship" I mean that
this is the day sanctioned by God for the church to come together in worship.
This is not to say that the church cannot come together at other times. This
simply means that the church is commanded (either by direct command, example, or
implication) to come together upon the first day of the week for worship. I do
not believe Sunday was ever a "Christian Sabbath" as some denominational
preachers have taught. I do not contend that God "changed" the "Sabbath" from
the seventh day to the first day. The first day was not a Sabbath day to begin
with. It is simply the day of worship appointed by God. By "enforced" I mean
that it is a part of God’s will for us to do this. By "God's people" I mean
those who have been converted to Christ. By "in this age of the world" I mean
that the New Testament teaches that we today, and every follower of God since
the first Pentecost after Christ's resurrection, is obligated to observe the
first day of the week as a day of worship.
Allow me now to make very clear what the issue is NOT in this debate. 1. The
issue is not whether Jesus observed the Sabbath. I agree that He did. However,
He lived under the old law. 2. The issue is not whether Paul preached on the
Sabbath. Showing that someone preached on a particular day does not prove that
this is the day which God wants His people to assemble for worship. 3. The issue
is not whether the Jews of Old Testament times observed the Sabbath. I agree
that they did. The issue is whether the New Testament tells us that WE should
observe the Sabbath day in this era of Jesus Christ. 4. The issue is not whether
we are under "law" today. I agree that Christians are under God's law. But
which law are they under? I contend that Christians are under Christ's law,
not the law of Moses in ANY sense whatsoever.
My first argument in defense of the first day of the week is found in 1 Cor.
16:1-2. We note here that the Corinthians were commanded to give upon the "first
day of the week." (1 Cor. 16:1-2) The thrust of the Greek text indicates that
literally Paul is saying "upon the first day of every week...." What
reason could there be for giving such an instruction upon the first day of every
week unless the first day was a day to be devoted to God? He may labor to give
us another reason, but he won't find it in the Bible. Do you think if Mr.
Bacchiocchi could find a passage which says that Christians were told to take a
collection upon the Sabbath day that he would use it as an argument in proof of
Sabbath day worship? You know that he would. Sam, please tell us if you would do
this. The apostle Paul, however, tells Christians that they were to give upon
the "first day of the week."
We must ask Mr. Bacchiocchi a few questions at this point. First, is giving to
the church a religious service? Second, could giving be done on any day of the
week? If yes, then why did Paul specifically give orders for it to be done on
the "first day of the week"?
We should notice further that this command was an "order" of Paul. Paul had also
given this same command to the churches of Galatia (16:1). This was not an
isolated command only for the church at Corinth. Paul commanded "all that in
every place who call upon the name of Jesus Christ" (1:2) that they should give
upon the first day of the week. He further said that the things which he "wrote"
were the commandments of God (1 Cor. 14:37). Does Sam really believe
Once again, suppose Dr. Bacchiocchi could find a New Testament passage which
read like this: "Upon the seventh day of the week let every one of you lay by
him in store as God hath prospered him, that there be no collections when I
come." He would present this as abundant proof in favor of Sabbath worship. And
he would be right! But there is only one day in which the New Testament commands
Christians to give, and that day is the "first day of the week." Sam, we want to
ask you: Do you lay by in store upon the first day of every week? This is the
only example we have from an inspired pen (unless it be Ellen G. White!). Do
you follow these instructions?
Upon which day of the week do Sabbatarians give to their church? According to
the Seventh-Day Adventist "church manual" it is done on the seventh day of the
week (p. 108, 1951 edition). By what authority, Sam, does the Seventh Day church
do this? Is there some passage I have overlooked which commands offerings to be
made upon the seventh day? He knows that there is not. Yes, Mr. Bacchiocchi, we
are commanded to give; but your group has missed it by six days! Your group
gives upon the last day of the week; Paul said to give upon the "first day of
Your own church manual says this: "The offering is a vital part of the worship
hour." (p. 108). I agree. But get this good: If the offering is a part of the
worship and if the offering took place upon the first day of the week, then
worship also took place upon the first day of the week. That's very simple,
isn't it? Which will he deny? Will he deny that the offering was made on the
first day of the week, and thus deny the inspired pen of Paul? Or will he deny
his own church manual? We wait eagerly to see.
I don't know what Mr. Bacchiocchi may say about this since I have not had the
opportunity to examine his work on this subject. He may say that Paul is not
discussing a public offering which took place when the church assembled. Some
believe Paul is commanding a laying by in store which took place at home. I will
deal with this extensively when (or if) he makes this argument. I will only say
this at this time: Paul said he wanted them to give so that there would be no
collections when he came. But if this is talking about laying by in store "at
home” then there would be collections when Paul came because the
offerings would of necessity need to be collected from people's homes. Paul is
obviously talking about an offering which was collected in one central treasury.
In summary, Paul gave "orders" that a collection should be made upon the first
day of every week (1 Cor. 16:1-2). Offerings are a part of worship itself. Since
offerings are a part of worship and since offerings took place on the first day
of the week, worship also is to take place on the first day of the week.
My proposition has been established. I invite any private comments from any
readers. I also invite any and all Seventh-Day contenders to meet me in public
debate on this vital subject. Mr. Bacchiocchi has graciously agreed to do so in
the near future. I look forward to Sam's first negative reply.
Bacchiocchi’s First Negative
Thank you for inviting me to respond to your proposition that the New Testament
enjoins Christians to observe Sunday as the new day of rest and worship. You
wrote: "The New Testament teaches that we today, and every follower of God since
the first Pentecost after Christ's resurrection, is obligated to observe the
first day of the week as a day of worship."
Your proposition, John, has been debated throughout the Christian centuries.
Lately it has appeared again in various news organizations. I sincerely hope
that our dialogue will help many sincere Christians to know which is God's Holy
Day in the NT and how it should be observed by Christians today.
Some feel that debates of this nature are a waste of time. I do not share this
view. During the past 20 years I have discussed this vital subject with a
countless number of scholars, church leaders, and Christians of all
denominations. The results have been very gratifying. Thousands of people have
been convinced and convicted of the Biblical validity and value of the principle
and practice of seventh-day Sabbath keeping for our Christian life today. There
have been also hundreds of scholars who after reading my research have come to
accept intellectually the validity of the Sabbath, though they are not prepared
to adopt its observance existentially. I sent you an older edition of my book
FROM SABBATH TO SUNDAY because at the end of the book you will find 12 pages of
positive testimonials from scholars and church leaders who have favorably
reviewed the book. These testimonials represent only a fraction of the hundreds
of similar positive reviews received.
For our dialogue to be meaningful, John, we both must resolve in our hearts to
reexamine the Biblical and historical data with an open mind, willing to
reconsider our view, if that should prove to be necessary. On my part I promise
to do so and I hope you will do the same.
Recently I have been involved in a dialogue with thousands of former members and
ministers of the Worldwide Church of God who have challenged me to reconsider my
views on the ancient Feasts of Israel. I accepted their challenge and after a
year of diligent study, I changed my views. I have come to realize that though
the sacrificial aspects of the annual Holy Days terminated at the Cross, their
typological and eschatological function still remains and is relevant for us
today. I cite this example simply to show that I am willing to reconsider my
views, when I am convicted by the witness of the Scripture. I trust that you are
willing to do the same. You have impressed me as a sincere student of the Word
of God. This gives me reason to hope that you also, like many other clergymen,
after having examined all the relevant Biblical and historical data, will come
to accept the continuity, validity, and value of the Sabbath commandment for NT
After these introductory remarks, I will briefly respond to the two major
propositions of your essay. Your first proposition is that "Christians are under
Christ's law, not the law of Moses in ANY sense whatsoever." In your view the
Sabbath commandment is part of the old law which was nailed to the cross. You
wrote: " Jesus nailed the old law to the cross (Col. 2:14)." Your second
proposition is that 1 Cor 16:1-3 supports Sunday keeping in the New Testament,
because Paul instructed the Corinthian believers to give their offering weekly
on the first day of the week.
CHRIST NAILED TO THE CROSS THE OLD LAW
WHICH INCLUDED THE SABBATH
Your first proposition, John, is based on a faulty theological construct which
sees the Cross as the line of demarcation between Judaism and Christianity. Like
many others, you seem to believe that before the Cross there was Judaism, the
law, and the Sabbath. After the Cross there is Christianity, grace, and Sunday
keeping. This theological construct is based on fantasy rather than facts.
Recent research has shown that Christianity began as a continuation of Judaism
and not as a radical break away from Judaism. The thousands of Jews, who
accepted Jesus of Nazareth as their expected Messiah, did not abandon the law in
general and the Sabbath in particular. They simply became "BELIEVING JEWS" who
are described by James (almost 30 years after the death of Jesus) as "all
zealous for the law" (Acts 21:20). It is hard to believe that if they were
zealous in the observance of the law, they would have pioneered the abandonment
of the Sabbath commandment and the adoption of Sunday keeping.
I would urge you, John, to read chapter 2 of my book THE SABBATH IN THE NEW
TESTAMENT which is entitled "The Continuity between Judaism and Christianity."
There you will find a lengthy discussion of this question. This is one of the
three complimentary Sabbath books I mailed you last week. I would be glad to
e-mail this chapter to anyone interested.
To support your view that the old law, which included the Sabbath, was nailed to
the Cross, you refer to Col 2:14. What you are doing is nothing new. If you read
the 30 pages appendix of my dissertation FROM SABBATH TO SUNDAY, you will see
that throughout the centuries this text has been used even by men like Luther
and Calvin as a proof that Christ by His death abolished the law in general and
the Sabbath in particular. In spite of its popularity, this interpretation of
Col 2:14 has recently been rejected by practically all the scholars who have
closely examined the passage. This is why I was urging you to read some of the
scholarly literature produced even by Sunday keeping scholars, before beginning
this debate. It would have made unnecessary for me to discuss mistaken
interpretations which have been largely put to rest. For the sake of brevity, I
will share few paragraphs from pages 168-169 of my book THE SABBATH IN THE NEW
TESTAMENT which I hope will help you to see the real meaning of Col 2:14.
COLOSSIANS 2:14. In spite of its antiquity and popularity, the view that Paul
teaches in Col 2:14 that the law was nailed to the Cross, is totally unfounded
for at least two reasons. First, because as E. Lohse points out in the
THEOLOGICAL DICTIONARY OF THE NEW TESTAMENT, "in the whole of the epistle the
word law is not used at all. Not only that, but the whole significance of the
law, which appears unavoidable for Paul when he presents his gospel, is
completely absent."13 Second, this interpretation detracts from the immediate
argument (v. 13) designed to prove the fullness of God's forgiveness. The wiping
out of the moral and/or ceremonial law would hardly provide Christians with the
divine assurance of forgiveness. Guilt is not removed by destroying law codes.
The latter would only leave mankind without moral principles. What was nailed to
the Cross was not the "law-nomos" but the cheirographon, a term which occurs
only in Colossians 2:14. Its meaning has been clarified by its occurrence in
apocalyptic literature where cheirographon is used to designate the "record-book
of sin" or the certificate of sin-indebtedness but not the moral or ceremonial
By this daring metaphor Paul affirms that through Christ, God has "cancelled,"
"set aside," "nailed to the cross" "the written record of our sins which because
of the regulations was against us." The legal basis of the record of sins was
"the binding statutes, regulations" (tois dogmasin) but what God destroyed on
the Cross was not the legal ground (law) for our entanglement in sin, but the
written record of our sins.
By destroying the evidence of our sins, God has also "disarmed the
principalities and powers" (2:15) since it is no longer possible for them to
accuse those who have been forgiven. There is no reason therefore for Christians
to feel incomplete and to seek the help of inferior mediators, since Christ has
provided complete redemption and forgiveness.
We conclude then that the document nailed to the cross is not the law in general
or the Sabbath in particular, but rather the record of our sins. Any attempt to
read into it a reference to the Sabbath or to any other Old Testament ordinance
is an unwarranted and gratuitous fantasy.
The fundamental problem I see in your position, John, is that you create an
unwarranted dichotomy between the Moses' law and Christ's law. You wrote: "I
contend that Christians are under Christ's law, not the law of Moses in ANY
sense whatsoever." Such statement implies that Christ gave moral laws that are
radically different from the moral laws of Moses. If this were true, it would
imply first that Moses himself, and not God, was the originator of the moral and
ceremonial laws found in the Pentateuch. Second, that the laws of Moses were bad
and consequently Christ had to replace them with better laws.
This view is discredited by the witness of both the OT and of Christ Himself.
The OT consistently teaches us that it was God Himself who gave to Moses on Mt.
Sinai both the Ten Commandments and the various ceremonials and civil laws.
Similarly Christ taught that He had come not to abolish the law, but to fulfill
it (Matt 5:17), that is, to reveal its fuller meaning. This He did by clarifying
the divine intent of the Ten Commandments in general and of the Sabbath in
This clarification was especially needed for the Sabbath commandment whose
meaning and function has been obscured by over 1500 rabbinical regulations about
its observance. This is why the Gospels report no less than seven Sabbath
healing episodes, in addition to all the controversies generated by the
unconventional way Christ observed the Sabbath. Through His Sabbath teaching and
ministry Christ taught that the Sabbath is a day "to do good" (Matt 12:12), a
day "to save life" (Mark 3:4), a day "to liberate" men and women from physical
and spiritual bonds (Luke 13:12), a day to show mercy and not just religiosity
Many scholars recognize that the unusual coverage given in the Gospels to the
Sabbath teachings and ministry of Jesus is indicative of the importance of
Sabbath keeping in the apostolic church. The sayings of Jesus reflect the
on-going debate between the church and the synagogue. Christians appealed to
Christ's teachings to argue with the Jews that the Sabbath is not merely rules
to obey, but people to love. You will find a lengthy discussion of the manner of
Sabbath keeping in the apostolic church in Chapter V of THE SABBATH IN THE NEW
TESTAMENT which is entitled "Sabbath keeping in the New Testament." Please read
Let us now turn to a brief examination of your interpretation of 1 Cor 16:2
where Paul says: "On the first day of every week each of you is to put something
aside and store it up as he may prosper, so that contributions need not be made
when I come." You summarize your interpretation of this passage, saying: "Paul
gave 'orders' that a collection should be made upon the first day of every week
(1 Cor. 16:1-2). Offerings are a part of worship itself. Since offerings are a
part of worship and since offerings took place on the first day of the week,
worship also is to take place on the first day of the week."
I would urge you to read pages 90 to 101 of my dissertation FROM SABBATH TO
SUNDAY where I discuss your argument at considerable length. For the sake of
brevity I will simply point out the fallacies of your syllogism which runs like
Major premise: Offerings are a part of church worship
Minor premise: Paul ordered the Corinthians to take up their offering on the
first day of the week,
Conclusion: Thus, the first day of the week was the regular day of worship.
The fundamental problem with your syllogism, John, is that it is based on faulty
premises. In your major premise, you assume that offerings were a part of
Sabbath worship in the OT and of Sunday worship in the NT. But nowhere does the
Bible enjoins to take up collection during the Sabbath or Sunday religious
service. On the contrary, Jewish tradition clearly forbade taking up collection
on the Sabbath. No offerings were to handled during the Sabbath worship at the
synagogue. The offerings were brought to the Temple or collected from home to
home during the week, and not on the Sabbath. For references see footnote 7 on
page 91 of FROM SABBATH TO SUNDAY.
The problem with your minor premise is that you wrongly assume that Paul ordered
the Corinthians to take up their offerings on the first day of the week during
their church service. Please note that there is nothing in the text that
suggests that the Corinthians met for church worship on the first day of the
week. The laying aside of funds was to be done not publicly at church but
privately and individually at home: "each one of you by himself-ekastos umon
para eauto" (v.2). The money was to be "stored up-thesaurizon" in each
individual house until the Apostle came for it.
If the Christian community was worshipping together on Sunday, it appears
paradoxical that Paul should recommend laying aside at home one's gift. Why
should Christians deposit their offering at home on Sunday, if on such a day
they were gathering for worship at church? Should not the money have been
brought to church on Sunday and deposited, to use your words, "in one central
treasury"? The fact that Paul's fundraising plan calls to lay aside the money at
home, strongly suggests that no worship gatherings took place on Sunday.
Why then did Paul recommend a first-day deposit plan? The answer is given by the
Apostle himself: "so that contributions need not be made when I come" (v. 2).
The purpose of the plan then is not to enhance Sunday worship by the offering of
gifts, but to ensure a substantial and efficient collection upon Paul's arrival.
Four characteristics can be identified in the plan. The offering was to be laid
aside PERIODICALLY ("on the first day of every week"), PERSONALLY ("each of
you"), PRIVATELY ("by himself in store"), and PROPORTIONALLY ("as he may
Paul's mention of the first day of the week could be motivated by practical
reasons. To wait until the end of the week or of the month to set aside one's
contributions is contrary to sound budgetary practices, since by that time one
may find himself with nothing left to give. On the other hand, if on the first
day of the week, before planning any expenditure, one sets aside what he plans
to give, the remaining funds will be so distributed to meet all the basic
Since no money was handled on the Sabbath by the Jews, it is possible that out
of respect for the Sabbath Paul recommended to lay aside the offering privately
at home right after the Sabbath, that is, on the first day of the week.
Summing up, the text proposes a valuable weekly plan to ensure a substantial and
orderly contribution on behalf of the poor in Jerusalem, but to extract more
meaning from the text would distort it.
May I close, John, by inviting you to consider two important questions: 1). If
your proposition that Sunday keeping "is enforced upon God's people" in the NT
were true, why is it that we have no commandment of Christ or of the apostles
regarding a weekly Sunday or annual Easter Sunday celebration of the
resurrection? This is all the more surprising since we have specific commands
regarding baptism, the Lord's supper, and foot washing. If Jesus wanted the day
of His resurrection to be memorialized, would He not have taken the opportunity
when He rose to establish a memorial of His resurrection as He did at the Last
Supper? Please note, John, that Biblical institutions like the Sabbath, baptism,
the Lord's Supper, foot washing, all trace their origin to a divine act that
established them. The ideal time for Christ to establish a memorial of His
resurrection would have been the very Sunday of His resurrection. But all the
utterances of the risen Savior are an invitation to work and not to rest and
worship in honor of His resurrection. If you take time to study this question,
John, you will discover that the resurrection in NT times was celebrated
existentially and not liturgically.
2). If, as you seem to assume Paul was the pioneer and promoter of Sunday
keeping, why is it that there is no echo of any controversy between Paul and the
Jerusalem brethren over his abandonment of the Sabbath? As you know there was
plenty of controversy over circumcision but not over the Sabbath. Why? Are you
suggesting that Paul was in perfect agreement with the Jerusalem brethren over
the abandonment of the Sabbath and adoption of Sunday? If this is what you
think, please read chapter V of my dissertation FROM SABBATH TO SUNDAY entitled
"Jerusalem and the origin of Sunday," before you prepare your reply.
My final recommendation to you, John, is to read the three volumes on the
Sabbath before preparing your response. I signed off two weeks ago from the
Internet and CompuServe so that I can work without distraction on my new book on
the Fall Feasts of ancient Israel. I am willing to make an exception for you and
to take precious time out of my research, if I see that you are making an
earnest effort to study and understand the issues relating to the Sabbath/Sunday
question. On the other hand, if I see that your interest is not to study the
issues, but to recycled old arguments that have been largely discredited by
recent research, then I will follow Jesus' advice as found in Matthew 7:6.
Thank you again for the opportunity granted me to dialogue with you. It is my
fervent hope and prayer that as a result of our efforts some sincere souls will
come to understand and experience more fully the Savior's peace and rest in
their restless lives.
Samuele Bacchiocchi, Ph. D.,
A NOTE: Feel free to contact me for copies of my Sabbath books which I would be
glad to make available to you.
Lewis’ Second Affirmative
I appreciate this
second opportunity to affirm that the New Testament teaches that the first day
of the week as a day of worship is enforced upon God's people in this age of the
world. In the fifty to sixty debates I have read, attended or participated in, I
have never heard the type of statement I heard from Mr. Bacchiocchi in his first
reply. He said, "....if I see that your interest is not to study the issues, but
to recycled old arguments that have been largely discredited by recent research,
then I will follow Jesus' advice as found in Matthew 7:6." Correct me if I'm
wrong Sam, but this statement says to me that you will choose not to respond if
you consider my work as "recycled old arguments." In other words, Bacchiocchi
might not respond. If I don't present arguments just the way he desires, he will
consider me like as a "dog" (Mt. 7:6) and not give me what he says is holy. How
convenient. I am truly amazed that a man with the credentials of Dr. Bacchiocchi
would respond in such a fashion. Both Sam and I agreed by signing our names that
we would have a public debate. We agreed through E-mail correspondence that this
written debate would take place before our public debate. Now he says he might
not respond if my arguments aren't up to his standards. I also might add that
Sam's argument on 1 Corinthians 16:1-3 is nothing new to me. I have heard the
same argument many times. I even anticipated it in my first affirmative. I have
in my hand a written debate which was published in the year 1942. A.N. Dugger
made the exact same argument as you did on 1 Corinthians 16. Is your argument,
therefore, a recycled old argument since it has been made many times before? We
wait patiently to see.
THE FIRST DAY NOT A DAY OF "REST"
Sam said, "Thank you for inviting me to respond to your proposition that the New
Testament enjoins Christians to observe Sunday as the new day of rest and
worship." Mr. Bacchiocchi must not have read me first affirmative very closely.
He says my proposition includes the first day as a "day of rest...." I never
said the first day of the week was a day of rest. In fact, in my introductory
statements I specifically said: "I do not believe Sunday was ever a 'Christian
Sabbath' as some denominational preachers have taught. I do not contend that God
'changed' the 'Sabbath' from the seventh day to the first day. The first day was
not a Sabbath day to begin with." The first day of the week is not a "new day of
rest" or a "new Sabbath." It is simply a day given to us by God on which to
LET'S KEEP THE STORY STRAIGHT
Sam also talks about the time he must spend in preparation for his new book. He
says he has signed off the Internet. But "I am willing to make an exception for
you and to take precious time out of my research," says he. Bacchiocchi acts as
if he is doing me a favor. But who was it that decided we should have this
written debate before our public debate? It was Samuele Bacchiocchi. And now he
will have me to know that he is willing to make an exception for me! Let's be
sure to keep the story straight.
Mr. Bacchiocchi thinks I introduced Colossians 2:14 as an argument in defense of
the first day of the week. No I did not. I merely mentioned Colossians 2:14 in
defining the terms of my proposition. I thought Sam had debated enough to know
that it is customary and honorable to precisely define the terms of the
proposition in the first affirmative and that this section is not used as proof
of the proposition itself. I was not using Colossians 2:14 as an argument. This
is proven by the fact that when I came to 1 Corinthians 16:1-3, I said, "My
first argument..." Nevertheless, I will briefly respond to his analysis of
Dr. B believes Colossians 2:14 does not speak of the law being nailed to the
cross. Instead he says it refers to the "written record of our sins." He offers
two items of proof. First, he says the word "law" nor its concept is found in
Colossians. True, the word "law" is not mentioned specifically in Colossians;
but both the immediate and remote context indicate that Paul is discussing the
Mosaic law itself in Colossians 2:14. Even Sam admits that the "Colossian
heresy" was a mixture of both "Hellenistic and Jewish elements." (The Sabbath in
the New Testament, p. 109). You cannot have it both ways, Sam! Paul mentions
"circumcision" and "uncircumcision" (Col. 2:11-13). That sounds like law of
Moses language to me. He mentions "festivals," "new moons," and "Sabbaths."
(2:16) which are a "shadow of things to come." (2:17). "Shadow" is used two
other times in a figurative sense in the book of Hebrews. In both of these cases
it makes reference to the law of Moses (Heb. 8:5; 10:1). Therefore, the
immediate context of Colossians 2:14 indicates that Paul is discussing the law
of Moses being nailed to the cross.
The remote context also indicates that Colossians 2:14 speaks of the law of
Moses being nailed to the cross. Paul speaks of something being nailed to the
cross (Col. 2:14). In Ephesians 2:15 that which was "abolished in his flesh" was
the "law of commandments" which clearly refers to the law of Moses (cf. Rom.
7:8-13). Here in Ephesians 2:15 the law of Moses is referred to as "ordinances"
which is the same word used in Colossians 2:14. Context clearly indicates that
Paul is not discussing merely the penalty of the law, but the law itself being
nailed to the cross.
Bacchiocchi’s second argument that this does not speak of the law being nailed
to the cross is: "this interpretation detracts from the immediate argument (V13)
designed to prove the fullness of God's forgiveness." Actually, the theme of
this section is that Christians "are complete in him" (2:10). Jesus is all that
is needed. People need not go back to the law of Moses because Christ, the
fullness of the Godhead, has nailed it to the cross. Christ is everything!
Therefore, why do we allow people to tell us we should observe festivals, new
moons, or Sabbaths.
ARE CHRIST'S LAWS 'RADICALLY DIFFERENT'?
When I contend that we are under Christ's law and not the law of Moses in any
sense, Bacchiocchi says "such [a] statement implies that Christ gave moral laws
that are radically different from the moral laws of Moses." No, it does not. I
think you know better than this. The island of Jamaica at one time was under the
rule of Great Britain. Their laws forbid murder, theft, etc. Jamaica is no
longer under British Rule. Are we to assume, Sam, that because Jamaica is no
longer under British Rule that Jamaica's moral laws (murder, theft, etc.) are
"radically different" from those of Great Britain? Just because we are no longer
under the law of Moses does not mean Christ's moral laws are radically
Bacchiocchi mentions Matthew 5:17. Jesus said, "Think not that I am come to
destroy the law, or the prophets: I am not come to destroy, but to fulfill." The
key to understanding this is found in verse 18: The law would not pass "till all
be fulfilled." I'm sure you are familiar with the word "till." It means that the
law of Moses would last "up until" the time of its fulfillment. Bacchiocchi says
"fulfill" means "to reveal its fuller meaning." Let's assume that it does mean
that. Did Christ reveal (i.e. fulfill) the "fuller meaning" of the law when He
was on the earth, Sam? If so, then it has passed away because Jesus said the law
would last only "till all be fulfilled"!
CHRISTIANITY A "CONTINUATION" OF
Sam says, "Recent research has shown that Christianity began as a continuation
of Judaism and not as a radical break away from Judaism." I do understand that
Jews were still Jews by nationality even after the church was established.
However, the Record is very clear that Christianity was not a mere continuation
of Judaism. Jeremiah 31:31-32 says, "Behold, the days come, saith the Lord, that
I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel, and with the house of
Judah: Not according to the covenant that I made with their fathers in the day
that I took them by the hand to bring them out of the land of Egypt;...." God
said He would make a ?new? covenant that was "not according to" the one made
with their fathers when He brought them "out of the land of Egypt." Which
covenant was it that God made with Israel when He led them out of Egypt? I
invite you to read 1 Kings 8:9: "There was nothing in the ark save the two
tables of stone, which Moses put there at Horeb, when the Lord made a
covenant with the children of Israel, when they came out of the land of
Egypt." Sam agrees that the "two tables of stone" refers to the Ten
Commandments. But this was the covenant which was made when they came out of the
land of Egypt. And Jeremiah says that the new covenant would be "not according"
to this one! Hebrews 8:7-13 clearly shows that Jeremiah 31:31ff had been
fulfilled in the first century. Verse 13 says that the old covenant (which
refers to the Ten Commandments as we've seen) was made "obsolete." (NKJV).
UNUSUAL COVERAGE OF SABBATH IN GOSPEL
One more point Sam made before finally getting to my argument was that the
unusual coverage given to the Sabbath in the gospels "is indicative of the
importance of Sabbath keeping in the apostolic church." May I remind you that
you are in the negative and we are not at this time focusing on the Sabbath. You
will have ample opportunity to do that when you take the affirmative. Just
because something is mentioned many times throughout the gospel accounts does
not prove the apostolic church practiced such. This reasoning first came from
the liberals who reject even the inspiration of the Bible. These liberals
believe the writers of the gospel accounts were merely writers who were
"theologically motivated" to write the things they did. On several occasions
temple worship and sacrifice are mentioned. Do you contend that we must conduct
our worship in the temple according to temple regulations complete with
sacrifice of animals?
1 CORINTHIANS 16
If Dr. Bacchiocchi spent as much time dealing specifically with my arguments as
he did with promoting his books, we might have a good debate. Dr. B. mentioned
his books no less than eight times in his first reply. Yet he very rarely
specifically addressed my first affirmative paper. Let me urge you, Sam, to quit
the "cut and paste" method of debating where you have obviously just taken
portions of your books and copied them word for word in this debate. That's not
debating. In case you don't know, the job of the negative writer is to respond
directly to the arguments, questions, and points made by the affirmative
writer. This you have not done. Notice the specific questions and arguments I
made throughout my paper that you did not even attempt to answer:
1. What reason could there be for giving such an instruction upon the first day
of every week unless the first day was a day to be devoted to God?
2. Is giving to the church a religious service?
3. Could giving be done on any day of the week? If yes, then why did Paul
specifically give orders for it to be done on the "first day of the week"?
4. Suppose you could find a passage which read like this: "Upon the seventh day
of the week let every one of you lay by him in store as God hath prospered him,
that there be no collections when I come." Would you present this as abundant
proof in defense of seventh day worship?
5. Do you lay by in store upon the first day of every week?
6. Upon which day of the week do Sabbatarians give to their church?
7. By what authority does the Seventh Day church give upon the seventh day of
8. I pointed out that Paul had given "orders" not only to the church at Corinth
but also to the Galatian churches. Further, the book of 1 Corinthians was a book
to all Christians (1:2).
9. Your own church manual says that the collection is a vital part of "worship."
Yet you do not have one ounce of authority for this form of worship to be done
on the seventh day of the week.
10. I anticipated your response on 1 Corinthians 16:1-3 being simply a
collection which you say takes place at home. I specifically said, "Paul said he
wanted them to give so that there would be no collections when he came. But if
this is talking about laying by in store 'at home' then there would be
collections when Paul came because the offerings would of necessity need to be
collected from people’s homes." Yet you passed by this in silence. You need to
deal with this, Sam.
1 CORINTHIANS 16:
SILENT SAM, SILENT SAM
Let us now deal specifically with his response (his book in condensed form) on 1
Corinthians 16. I will not merely deal in generalities as Sam has done. I
promise to deal specifically with what he said. In 1 Corinthians 16:1-3 Paul
gave orders to the churches in Galatia and Corinth that upon the first day of
every week Christians were to lay by in store in order that there would be no
collections when Paul came to take this collection to Jerusalem. The point at
issue is whether Paul is describing a setting aside to be done at home or in a
corporate worship assembly. If Paul is discussing a worship assembly then my
proposition is established since this would prove that Christians came together
upon the first day of every week.
I asked Mr. Bacchiocchi a very simple question which he failed to notice.
Silence on your part, Sam, does not answer the argument. Please answer this: If
you were to find a passage which said "upon the seventh day of every week, let
every one of you lay by him in store" would you use this as proof for
seventh-day worship? Seventh Day Adventists would love it if such a passage
could be found. You know how I know this? Because they use several passages from
the book of Acts which only mention that Paul preached on the Sabbath. If these
Acts passages are offered as proof for Sabbath observance, then certainly one
which said, "Upon the seventh day of the week" would be used. Friends, this is
the only day on which the Bible mentions the setting aside of money. I
mentioned that the Seventh-Day Church manual says that offerings are to be made
on the Sabbath. By what authority, Sam, does your church take up collections
upon the seventh day? This is another question you passed over in utter silence.
Another point which Dr. B overlooked is my question regarding whether giving was
a religious service. Is giving (whether at home or in the worship of the church)
a religious service? If it is, then please show us where you get your authority
to do this on the seventh day. If giving is not a religious service then please
explain how your authoritative church manual says that giving is a "vital part
of the worship" (p. 108).
I point out again that Paul gave "orders" both to the churches of Galatia and
the church at Corinth (16:1). But note: Bacchiocchi said, "why then did Paul
recommend a first-day deposit plan"? (emphasis mine). Bacchiocchi says Paul
merely recommended a first day plan; Paul says he ordered them to do it. "Order"
is defined as an "order, direct, command." (Baur, Arndt, & Gingrich, 2nd
edition, 189). Do you follow this command, Sam? These were instructions given to
"all that in every place who call upon the name of the Lord Jesus Christ" (1:2).
The things which Paul wrote were the commandments of God (14:37). Yet Sam says
they were mere "recommendation."
1 CORINTHIANS 16:
SAM'S WORN OUT "RECYCLED" ARGUMENT
Sam spouts the old worn out recycled argument that Paul is merely describing
something which took place privately at home. He believes ekastos humon par
eauto means "privately and individually at home." We wonder where Sam got "at
home" out of this text since it literally reads "everyone of you all by
himself." To suggest anything more than this is to read into the text. I would
like to point out that ekastos humon is used in Acts 2:38. The text literally
reads, "Repent and be baptized each of you all...." Peter certainly is
describing something which is private and individual in nature. No one can be
baptized for me. But he certainly didn't mean I can only be baptized "privately
and individually at home." Further, just because giving was to be done "by
himself" does not imply that it of necessity must be at home. I partake of the
Lord's Supper "by myself" (ekastos, 1 Cor. 11:21). But this doesn't mean I do it
at home all alone. On the contrary, the Bible teaches that this should be done
when the church comes together (1 Cor. 11:17ff). In the same way, Paul is simply
pointing out that giving is a very personal matter. Giving is something I do for
myself. No one can do it for me.
Why did Paul give instructions for a first day deposit plan? Sam says, "To wait
until the end of the week or of the month to set aside one's contributions is
contrary to sound budgetary practices...." This is mere speculation. You admit
in your own book that there is no proof that people of ancient times were paid
on the first day of the week (From Sabbath To Sunday, p. 100). Even if some were
paid upon the first day of the week, certainly all of them were not. Paul's
instructions were something which applied to EVERY person in EVERY church. Since
everyone was not paid on the first day of the week, these instructions could not
apply to EVERY person in EVERY church. These would be "sound budgetary
practices" only if you were paid upon the first day of the week. But what if you
were paid on the fourth day of the week? In this case you couldn't plan your
budget on the first day since you wouldn't get paid till the fourth day. Do you
see all the speculation you get yourself into when you accept Dr. B's view?
Paul is describing "the first day of the week" as something which applies to
EVERY person in EVERY church. Bacchiocchi's view might apply to SOME people in
SOME churches, but it certainly couldn't apply to EVERY person in EVERY church.
The only way the first day of every week could apply to EVERY person in EVERY
church would be because Paul knew that this was the day when EVERY person in
EVERY church assembled together to worship God!
MY ANSWERS TO HIS QUESTIONS
Though Sam did not answer my questions, I will answer his. He asked, "If your
proposition that Sunday keeping "is enforced upon God's people" in the NT were
true, why is it that we have no commandment of Christ or of the apostles
regarding a weekly Sunday or annual Easter Sunday celebration of the
resurrection"? First, I do not contend an "Easter Sunday celebration" as many
denominations do. But I will answer your question first by asking you one: If
your proposition of Sabbath keeping by the church is enforced upon God's people
is true, why is it that we have no example where the church ever assembled on
the Sabbath for worship? If there is one, please bring it forth. You know as
well as I do that the Bible teaches by direct command, example, and implication.
You try to put God in a box when you demand a direct statement for first day
observance. You don't allow God to teach us by example.
Second Question to me: "If, as you seem to assume Paul was the pioneer and
promoter of Sunday keeping, why is it that there is no echo of any controversy
between Paul and the Jerusalem brethren over his abandonment of the Sabbath"? I
do contend that there was some controversy over the abandonment of the Sabbath
by Jews (Col. 2:14-16). But even if we don't read of any, your argument is based
1 CORINTHIANS 16
MORE PROOF OF MY PROPOSITION
I emphasized in my first affirmative that Paul desired that there "be no
collections" when he came (1 Cor. 16:2). Listen to what Dr. Bacchiocchi said:
"The purpose of the plan then is not to enhance Sunday worship ... but to ensure
a substantial and efficient collection UPON PAUL'S arrival." (emphasis
mine). Sam contends that Paul gave these instructions so that when he came an
efficient "collection" could be taken. Mr. Bacchiocchi, did you not read what
Paul said? He ordered them to lay by in store so that there would be NO
collections when he came; you say he ordered them to do this so there WOULD be a
collection when he came. Friends, read his quote above once again and let it
I emphasize again that if 1 Corinthians 16:1-3 is giving instructions to lay by
in store at home, then there would be collections when Paul came because
the offerings would need to be collected from the people's homes. Since Paul
wants there to be "no collections" he obviously is talking about an offering
collected into one central treasury. Silence on you part, Sam, does not answer
the argument. This is the point he cannot and will not overcome.
The very word "collection" is further proof that Paul is talking about money
collected in one central fund. First, we notice that logeia ("collection") is
used in reference to the collection of many individuals throughout ancient
writings. From the Qxyrhynchus Papyri we learn that logeia is used in the sense
of "an extraordinary tax." (II, 239, 8). Taxes, of course, are a "collection,"
into one central fund, not of each person privately at home. We also learn from
Ostraka that a collection was taken for the official services of the cult of
Isis (II, 413, 63 A.D.). The Sylloge Inscription (1st cent. A.D.) talks about a
"vessel which was gilded ..., for the collection and procession of the gods"
which has reference "to a procession at which the spectators were expected to
contribute money"? (Deissmann in TDNT, 4:282). So logeia was used in its
everyday sense in reference to a collection which each individual contributed.
Paul, therefore, is commanding the Corinthians to "collect" their money into one
central fund. This would necessitate that they come together. This proves that
first century Christians came together upon the first day of the week to make
offerings. The Seventh Day Church manual admits that the offering is "a vital
part of the worship" (p. 108).
On the word thesaurizon ("storing up") Sam says this refers to "each individual
house until the Apostle came for it." But here too we have abundant proof in
defense of a central treasury. First, we have the example from Malachi 3:10. The
text says, "Bring ye all the tithes into the storehouse, that there may be meat
in mine house." "Storehouse" is here defined as "to store, lay up" (verb form)
or "treasure, treasury, storehouse" (noun form) (Theological Wordbook of the Old
Testament, 1:68). This is an exact parallel to the meaning of Paul's usage in 1
Corinthians 16:1-3. The Jews of Malachi's time were to "store up" in a
"treasury." Yet this wasn't a storing up which occurred at home. Instead, it was
collected in one central location (i.e. God's house, the Temple). Our Greek
word, noun form, was also used quite frequently to refer to "temple treasury, a
temple storehouse for offerings ... Thasauros are temple offerings, sacrificial
and guilt offerings, or thank offerings..." Heron of Alexandria even mentions
"collection boxes with an automatic contrivance to pay the entrance of money" (TDNT,
3:136). It looks like there is abundant evidence in support of a central
collection under discussion. Paul said there should be no collections when he
came. This must have been money cast into a central treasury; otherwise there
would have been collections when he came. This proves that the church came
together on the first day of the every week to lay by in store into one central
Having done this, we have once again proven first day worship. The Seventh-Day
manual describes giving as a "vital part of the worship" (p. 108). But giving
took place upon the first day of every week (1 Cor. 16:1-3). If giving is
worship and giving took place on the first day of the week, then worship took
place on the first day of the week. My proposition has been established.
2 Corinthians 8-9 and 1 Corinthians 16 speak of the same collection. Bacchiocchi
even admits this in his books. However, the Adventist manual which lays out the
"policy and practice" (p. 19) of this denomination uses 2 Corinthians 8-9 in
proof of regular contributions to the church (p. 34, 181) which is considered to
be a "vital part of the worship" (p. 108). But if the offering of 2 Corinthians
8-9 and 1 Corinthians 16 are the same offering and if the offering of 2
Corinthians 8-9 refers to worship, then the offering of 1 Corinthians 16:1-3
also refers to worship! But this day of worship is said to take place on the
first day of EVERY week. "Your own mouth [the Seventh-Day Church Manual] has
testified against thee" (2 Sam. 1:16).
I invite you to read my friends last reply. He will respond in the negative to
this affirmative. After that he will begin his first affirmative in defense of
the seventh day of the week.
John T. Lewis
A PERSONAL NOTE:
About a month ago Evangelist John T. Lewis of the Church of Christ invited me to
discuss with him the Sabbath/Sunday question. We agree to dialogue first through
the Internet and eventually publicly. Lewis posted his first essay where he
argues that "the New Testament teaches that the first day of the week as a day
of worship is enforced upon God's people in this age of the world." I responded
to his essay by focusing on his interpretation of Colossians 2:14 and 1
Lewis has replied
with a lengthy 4 parts essay where he raises many questions that need to be
addressed. At this moment I do not have the time to respond to all his comments,
because I am working on several projects, including several lectures I will be
delivering in few days at an INTERNATIONAL SABBATH CONFERENCE that convenes in
Sydney, Australia from July 5 to 9. At this time I will limit my response to
some of Lewis's arguments about Col 2:14-17. After my return from overseas I
plan to respond to the rest of the questions.
Thank you for the
time you have taken to respond to my analysis of your first affirmation that the
New Testament enjoins Sunday keeping as the new day of worship. Before
addressing some of your arguments about Col 2:14-17, I would like to make a
general observation. First of all call me by my first name "Sam," so that you do
not have to misspell my last name so many times. Everybody calls me "Sam." that
is much easier. On my part I will continue to call you by your first name
In reading your
lengthy response, I get the impression that you are very concerned about the
technicalities of the debate. Let me state at the outset that I am not
interesting in debating with you for the sake of winning a debate. Such an
endeavor can only boost egos, while antagonizing participants and spectators.
are not defined by majority vote of who won or lost a public debate, but by a
painstaking study of the Word of God under the guidance of the Holy Spirit. My
concern, John, is to engage you in a responsible analysis of those Biblical
texts and historical documents that have been traditionally used to support the
apostolic origin of Sunday keeping. What this means is that if the discussion of
a particular text or document requires several exchanges, we must be prepared to
take the time needed to do justice to the discussion.
suggestion is that we open the discussion to all interested parties. Several
have complained that it is not fair for us to post our discussion on various
news organizations, without giving readers the opportunity to interact with us.
These organizations are interactive and we need to respect they way they
suggestion, John, is for you to send me any material that you or your Church of
Christ have produced on the Sabbath/Sunday question. On my part I have sent you
a complimentary set of my three books on the Sabbath. If both of us have on hand
the studies that we have produced on the relevant Biblical and/or historical
material related to the Sabbath/Sunday question, then we can save much time and
space by concentrating on the analysis of the methodology used to reach certain
conclusions. As you know, John, the credibility of any research, whether
scientific or Biblical, is largely determined by the validity of its
methodology. It is this kind of critical analysis of our respective
methodologies that can greatly benefit those who are reading our exchanges. I do
hope to receive soon from you some of your material so that I can submit my
analysis of the methods you have used to reach your conclusions.
In this initial
response I will examine your analysis of Colossians 2:14 consists of only three
paragraphs. I am sure that these few paragraphs do not reflect your best
scholarship. I wish I could have a longer study of yours. At this point I can
only respond to what you have posted.
LEWIS' ARGUMENTS ABOUT COLOSSIANS 2:14
I submitted two
reasons why the "handwritten document-cheirographon" that was nailed to the
Cross (Col 2:14), is not the law in general or the Sabbath in particular. First,
the word law-nomos, which is fundamental to Paul's discussion of salvation, does
not occur a single time in the whole epistle of Colossians. Second, this
interpretation detracts from the immediate context (v.13) which deals with God's
forgiveness and not with His law.
You responded to
my arguments saying: "True, the word "law" is not mentioned specifically in
Colossians; but both the immediate and remote context indicate that Paul is
discussing the Mosaic law itself in Colossians 2:14. Even Sam admits that the
"Colossian heresy" was a mixture of both "Hellenistic and Jewish elements." (The
Sabbath in the New Testament, p. 109). You cannot have it both ways, Sam! Paul
mentions "circumcision" and "uncircumcision" (Col. 2:11-13). That's sound like
law of Moses language to me. He mentions "festivals" "new moons" and "Sabbaths."
(2:16) which are a "shadow of things to come." (2:17). "Shadow" is used two
other times in a figurative sense in the book of Hebrews. In both of these cases
it makes reference to the law of Moses (Heb. 8:5; 10:1). Therefore, the
immediate context of Colossians 2:14 indicates that Paul is discussing the law
of Moses being nailed to the cross."
I will devote the
rest of my two parts response to an analysis of this paragraph. Let me briefly
point out four major fallacies in your argument.
(1) The Colossian
heresy is the overall context of the epistle and not the immediate context. By
immediate we mean what immediately precedes and follow the text and not the
overall discussion. The latter is the broader context. Your argument that the
handwritten document nailed to the cross is the Mosaic law, because the
immediate context is the Colossian heresy which contained Jewish elements, is
unwarranted. The immediate context, as we shall see, is God's forgiveness.
Whatever Jewish elements there were in the Colossian heresy, they are part of
the large context, and consequently they are not determinative for the meaning
of "cheirographon-handwritten document."
and uncircumcision are indeed mentioned in the immediate context (vv.11-13), but
metaphorically to illustrate the work of Christ in the life of the Colossians,
and not literally to negate the validity of the law. The discussion is not about
the law in general or the circumcision in particular, but about what Christ has
done for believers in forgiving and cleansing their sins. To illustrate the
extent of God's forgiveness, Paul uses two metaphors. First, the metaphor of the
circumcision and then that of the record book of sins. Through the metaphor of
the circumcision Paul illustrates the experience of "putting off of the body of
flesh" by being buried with Christ in baptism and risen with Him to a new life
(vv.11-12). He mentions also the "uncircumcision" as a metaphor of their
previous sinful condition, namely, "dead in trespasses and uncircumcision of the
flesh" (v. 13). This allegorical use of circumcision/uncircumcision sounds to
you John "like law of Moses language," but it does not sound to me like a
condemnation of the law of Moses. If anything what the metaphor condemns is not
circumcision but uncircumcision.
What you fail to
see, John, is the connection between verses 13 and 14. Note that verse 13 closes
with the affirmation "having forgiven us all our trespasses." Verse 14 builds
upon verse 13 by explaining and expanding the extent of God's forgiveness. The
verse opens with the aorist participle exaleithas "having cancelled," which is
intended to tell us by what means Christ forgave our sins. This Christ did by
nailing to the cross, not the ceremonial law as some Adventists still believe,
nor the whole law of Moses, as you John believe, but the cheirographon, a term
which occurs only in Colossians 2:14.
As I told you in
my previous response, the meaning of cheirographon has been clarified by its
occurrence in apocalyptic literature where it is used to designate the
"record-book of sin" or the certificate of sin-indebtedness but not the moral or
ceremonial law. By this daring metaphor Paul affirms that through Christ, God
has "cancelled," "set aside," "nailed to the cross," not the law of Moses as you
believe John, but "the written record of our sins which because of the
regulations was against us."
John, please note
what Prof. D. R. De Lacey has written on this text. He is one of the seven
contributors to the symposium FROM SABBATH TO THE LORD'S DAY, produced by seven
American and British scholars who worked together on a doctoral project at
Cambridge University, in England. The symposium, which is largely a response to
my research, is edited by D. A. Carson and was published by Zondervan in 1982.
This book is regarded by far the most scholarly defense of Sunday keeping in
recent times. If you take time to read this 440 pages research, you will be
surprised to find out among other things, that, contrary to what you think John,
these scholars conclude that first-day Sunday observance "cannot be easily
understood as a phenomenon of the apostolic age or of apostolic authority at
Regarding Col 2:
14 Prof. De Lacey wrote: "Bacchiocchi lays great stress on the fact that the
term nomos [law] is entirely absent from Colossians, and although his own
interpretation at times fails to convince, he is SURELY RIGHT IN HIS CONCLUSION
THAT THIS PASSAGE CANNOT BE INTERPRETED AS STATING THAT THE MOSAIC LAW ITSELF
WAS 'WIPE OUT' IN THE DEATH OF CHRIST" (p. 173, upper case supplied). John, I
like to dialogue with scholars like Prof. De Lacey because, though they do not
always agree with me, they tend to be open minded and are willing to accept what
makes sense to them.
(3) Your argument
that Paul's reference to "'festivals' 'new moons' and 'Sabbaths' (2:16) which
are a 'shadow of things to come.' (2:17) . . . indicates that Paul is discussing
the law of Moses being nailed to the cross," reflects a fundamental
misinterpretation of this text that has been perpetrated throughout Christian
history. The statement "Therefore, let no one pass judgment on you . . ." has
been traditionally interpreted as a Pauline condemnation of the five mentioned
practices: eating, drinking, feasts, new moons and Sabbaths. This popular
interpretation, which you accept, is totally wrong because in this passage Paul
is warning the Colossians not against the observances of these practices as
such, but against "anyone" (tis) who passes judgment on how to eat, to drink,
and to observe sacred times.
Note should be
taken of the fact that the judge who passes judgment is not Paul but Colossian
false teachers who impose "regulations" (2:20) on how to observe these practices
in order to achieve "rigor of devotion and self-abasement and severity to the
I would urge you
again John to read the symposium FROM SABBATH TO THE LORD'S DAY. Regarding Col
2:16, Prof. De Lacey rightly comments: "the judge is likely to be a man of
ascetic tendencies who objects to the Colossians' eating and drinking. The most
natural way of taking the rest of the passage is not that he also imposes a
ritual of feast days, but rather that he objects to certain elements of such
observation" (p. 182). Presumably the "judge" wanted the community to observe
these practices in a more ascetic way ("severity to the body"-2:23, 21), to put
it crudely, he wanted the Colossian believers to do less feasting and more
against the right of the false teachers to "pass judgment" on how to observe
festivals, Paul is challenging not the validity of the festivals as such but the
authority of the false teachers to "judge," that is, to legislate on the manner
of their observance. The obvious implication then is that Paul in this text is
expressing not a condemnation but an approbation of the mentioned practices,
which include Sabbath keeping. To put it differently, what Paul is condemning is
not the practices per se, but the perversion promoted by the false teachers.
It is noteworthy
that even Prof. De Lacey reaches a similar conclusion, in spite of his view that
Paul did not expect Gentile converts to observe the Sabbath. He writes: "Here
again (Col 2:16), then, it seems that PAUL COULD HAPPILY COUNTENANCE
SABBATHKEEPING . . . Here again we have an echo of Paul's attitude to the law in
his more positive moments. . . . However, we interpret the situation, Paul's
statement 'Let no one pass judgment on you,' indicates that no stringent
regulations are to be laid down over the use of festivals" (pp.182-183, upper
surprising, John, that this text which has been traditionally cited as the death
knell of Sabbath keeping in the NT, now is regarded by Sunday keeping scholars
as reflecting a Pauline approbation of Sabbath keeping. This is why I accepted
to dialogue with you, John, hoping that you also will show the same
open-mindedness. I have seen scholars abandoning traditional interpretations,
when confronted with facts that had been ignored or overlooked. I have reasons
to believe that the same will be true in your case, if you take time to read
with an open mind this research material.
In the light of
these observations, Paul's references to festivals, new moons and Sabbaths, can
hardly interpreted as the nailing of the law of Moses to the cross, because Paul
is not condemning these practices, but the regulations about their observance
imposed by the Colossians heretics. A PRECEPT IS NOT NULLIFIED BY THE
CONDEMNATION OF ITS PERVERSION.
(4) You interpret
Col 2:17 "these are the shadow of what is to come" in the light of Heb 8:5 and
10:1 and conclude that "In both of these cases it makes reference to the law of
Moses" which was nailed to the cross. Your interpretation ignores the two
different contexts. In Hebrews (8:5 and 10:1) the term "shadow-skia" is used to
establish a vertical correspondence between the earthly and the heavenly
sanctuary, the earthly serving being a "shadow" and "type" of the heavenly. In
Col 2:17, however, the antecedent of "shadow" is not altogether clear. The text
reads: "These are the shadow of what is to come; but the substance belongs to
Christ" (Col 2:17). To what does the relative pronoun "these" (ha in Greek)
refer? Does it refer to the five practices mentioned in the previous verse or to
the "regulations" (dogmata) regarding these practices promoted by the false
dissertation FROM SABBATH TO SUNDAY I argued for the former, suggesting that
Paul places dietary practices and the observance of days "in their proper
perspective with Christ by means of the contrast 'shadow-body.'" Additional
reflection has caused me to change my mind and to agree with Prof. E. Lohse that
the relative pronoun "these" refers not to the five mentioned-practices as such,
but rather to the "regulations" regarding such practices promoted by the false
teachers (A Commentary on the epistles to the Colossians and to Philemon,
Philadelphia, 1971, p. 116.)
is supported by two considerations. First, in verse 16, Paul is not warning
against the merits or demerits of the Mosaic law regarding food and festivals,
but against the "regulations" regarding these practices advocated by the false
teachers. Thus, it is more plausible to take "the regulations" rather than the
actual practices as the antecedent of "these."
Second, in the
verses that immediately follow, Paul continues his warning against the deceptive
teachings, saying, for example, "Let no one disqualify you, insisting on
self-abasement . . ." (2:18); "Why do you submit to regulations, 'Do not handle,
Do not taste, Do not touch'" (2:20-21)?
precedes and what follows that relative pronoun "these" deals with the
"regulations" of the Colossian "philosophy," we conclude that it is the latter
that Paul describes as "a shadow of what is to come" (2:17).
proponents of the Colossian "philosophy" maintained that their "regulations"
represented a copy which enabled the believer to have access to the reality
("fullness" 2:9). In such a case, Paul is turning their argument on its head by
saying that their regulations "are only a shadow of what is to come; but the
substance belongs to Christ" (2:17). By emphasizing that Christ is the "body"
and the "head" (2:17, 19), Paul indicates that any "shadow" cast by the
regulations has no significant value.
In the light of
the above indications, I conclude that what Paul calls a "shadow" is not the
Mosaic law or the Sabbath but the deceptive teachings of the Colossian
"philosophy" which promoted dietary practices and the observance of sacred times
as auxiliary aids to salvation.
John, you will
notice that this two segment reply deals with only one paragraph of your four
parts response. What this means is that it will take me several weeks, if not
months, to deal responsibly with all your arguments. At this point I am
wondering if it is worth my time and effort. Much depends on your response. If I
see that you appreciate my effort to help you see issues from a broader
scholarly perspective, I will be glad to take time to continue this dialogue
when I return from overseas. On the other hand, if I see that all my efforts are
in vain, then there is no point for me to continue the dialogue because it would
be a waste of time.
It is my fervent
hope and prayer that you will read this response and the three books I have sent
you, with an open and receptive mind. On my part I promise to do the same. If
you submit some compelling documents or arguments, I am prepared to reconsider
I shall be
waiting to hear from you. May the Lord continue to richly bless your life and
ministry with His wisdom and grace.
Bacchiocchi, Ph. D.,