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Reinterpreting a Jewish Holy Day


Sabbath School commentary for discussion on September 11, 2021

This week’s Adult Bible Study Guide lesson, Longing for More, focuses on the Jewish meanings behind the symbolic language in 1 Cor. 10. According to Carla Works, associate professor in New Testament at Wesley Theological Seminary, this passage is “a rather bizarre retelling of Israel’s exodus to illustrate for the Corinthians their own precarious position as a church living in a wilderness time—a limbo of sorts between their newfound freedom in Christ and the waited fruition of God’s kingdom.”

Works concludes:

At the end of this larger argument on whether or not it is acceptable to eat food that has been sacrificed to idols, Paul will give a guiding principle: “do all to the glory of God” (10:32). Like their ancestors in the faith, this predominantly Gentile Corinthian church is called to live in a manner that is faithful to the one who is the very source of their life and existence.

This concept of old Jewish types and updated Christian meanings has been familiar and fertile territory for Adventist interpreters. This problematic supersessionism, or replacement theology, creates troubling misinterpretations, erases spiritual history, and silences Jewish voices.

Since this week includes the holy day of Rosh Hashanah, the beginning of a new Jewish year 5782, perhaps it’s particularly appropriate to hear a Jewish leader define Sabbath while recontextualizing incredibly ancient spiritual values in new contexts.

From last Sabbath, here is a beautiful 16-minute sermon, "A Year of Release," by Rabbi Nicole Auerbach of Central Synagogue in New York City. For Rosh Hashanah, she provides a contemporary reading on the “shmita year,” or what she calls Sabbath “brought to scale," and notes that the sabbatical tradition calls us to contemplate and experience the earth and time in new ways. 

Watch below or on YouTube:


Alexander Carpenter is the executive editor elect of Spectrum

Image credit: Screenshot, Central Synagogue


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