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Divine Sabbath Work

by Michael H Burer Eisenbrauns
Pub Date:
Hbk 176 pages
AU$59.99 NZ$61.73
Product Status: Available in Approx 14 days
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With eight cryptic words by Jesus in John 5:17, an enigma surfaces regarding God’s activity in his ministry that is not easy for us to solve. Jesus, in defending his actions in healing the lame man at the pool of Bethzatha (Bethesda), makes a comparison that is simple enough on the surface: Jesus’ activity finds its basis in the Father’s current activity; thus, Jesus is not legally or spiritually culpable for breaking the Sabbath. What creates the enigma is the assumption that lies beneath the argument: the Father is working, and even more importantly, he is working on the Sabbath. Investigation of this assumption is the purpose of this book.

Burer contributes to the discussion surrounding Jesus’ Sabbath activity by augmenting current research on Sabbath work, which focuses primarily on rabbinic rules and interpretation of Torah. Burer tests the hypothesis that Jesus’ actions on the Sabbath are best understood in light of the concept of divine Sabbath work and that in light of this concept Jesus’ actions imply a claim to deity or a close association with God’s divine plan and work. Burer does this by searching the Hebrew Scriptures, the Dead Sea Scrolls, the Septuagint, the Old Testament Pseudepigrapha, Josephus, Philo, the Mishnah and Tosefta, the targums, the midrashim, the Palestinian Talmud, and the Babylonian Talmud in order to unearth a conceptual and cultural framework for divine Sabbath work. The results are then used in analyzing two prominent stories of Jesus’ work of healing on the Sabbath in the New Testament to prove, disprove, or modify his working hypothesis.

New Testament students and scholars will find Divine Sabbath Work to be a thought-provoking, enticing, creative approach to old questions.



Chapter 1. Introduction

Scope of the Topic of Divine Sabbath Work

Method and Content of the Study

The Need for the Study

The Limitations of the Study

Chapter 2. Defense of Sabbath Controversy as Being Historically Plausible


Assessment and Critique of Meier’s Treatment of Miracles in General

Assessment of Meier’s Treatment of Sabbath Controversy in Miracle Stories

Chapter 3. Investigation of Relevant Background Material


The Hebrew Scriptures


The Septuagint

The Old Testament Pseudepigrapha



Mishnah and Tosefta

The Targums

The Midrashim

The Palestinian Talmud?

The Babylonian Talmud

Summary and Discussion

Chapter 4. Jesus, Sabbath Actions, and Divine Sabbath Work


The Global Question

Questions for the Global Picture

The Specific Passages


Chapter 5. Summary, Assessment, and Future Direction



Future Lines of Study


Primary Sources

Secondary Sources