Hot off the press, Dr. Sigve Tonstad’s latest book, “The Lost Meaning of the Seventh Day” provides a refreshing look at the Sabbath. Some might be surprised at the title. Does the Sabbath have a meaning? Isn’t the Sabbath merely an arbitrary test of obedience to God’s command? Dr. Tonstad opens up the spectacular message of the seventh day and beautifully relates it to the character of God. Here is just a glimpse:
“On the cross, the script of the Gospel retraces the steps of the Creation account. As the Sabbath draws near, Jesus’s life is fast ebbing. At that point His voice rings out in a final announcement, ‘It is finished!’ (John 19:30). These words, a single word in Greek, signify completion, not the end in an absolute sense. It is significant to hear Jesus cry out, ‘it is finished’ at that specific point in time. The resurrection and Sunday morning will come, but Jesus will not wait to say ‘it is finished’ until then. He has reasons to say it at that point in time, on Friday night. The Sabbath that is about to begin is not a theological no-man’s land.
“The Greek expression in John 19:30 is the word tetelastai, a word that must not be orphaned from the Creation parentage. In the Genesis account, when ‘the heavens and the earth were finished,’ the Greek translation of the Old Testament chose the same term, sunetelesthesan (Gen 2:1, 2:2). If we keep the ear close to the ground, listening to the distant Old Testament echo, the connection cannot be missed. John is appropriating the language of the Creation account, specifically the language heralding the inauguration of the first Sabbath. As Creation culminates in the Sabbath rest, the work of making right what is wrong comes to completion (John 19:31-34). The relationship between the Revealer and the revelatory intent of the Sabbath is here at its zenith. In John’s story, where attention to detail is everything, the timing cannot be more precise, the scene more poignant, or the message more persuasive.
“‘Finished.’ This is the key word, deserving to stand alone because it is a word that brings together all the parts of the story. ‘What God had begun by the Word in the days of Creation, God finished by the Word in the days of Redemption,’ says Ethelbert Stauffer.
“God has kept the committment embodied in the seventh day. From henceforth the meaning of the Sabbath must be viewed through the lens provided by the life and death of Jesus the Revealer.”
This book received high praise from Richard B. Hays:
“Sigve Tonstad’s wide-ranging study of biblical teaching about the Sabbath offers fresh, provocative readings of texts from across the entirety of the canon, while constantly engaging the best recent scholarship. The result is a luminous, deeply encouraging book that beckons readers to understand the seventh day as a celebration of God’s gracious work of creation and God’s faithful intent to restore and heal all that is broken.” –Richard B. Hays, George Washington Ivey Professor of New Testament, The Divinity School, Duke University