Samuele Bacchiocchi, Ph. D., Andrews University


A PERSONAL NOTE. This is the sixth segment of the ongoing Sabbath discussion between Dale Ratzlaff and myself which began on June 15 at the KJSL radio program in St. Louis, MO. So far we have addressed primarily the question of whether the Sabbath is a permanent creational institution for mankind or a temporary Mosaic ordinance for the Jews. If you did not receive the previous 5 segments, feel free to contact me at: and we will be glad to email them to you free of charge.

In this segment I respond briefly to Ratzlaff's comments about the influence of his book THE SABBATH IN CRISIS. The purpose of this installment is primarily to clarify some of the introductory comments I made on part 5 of the Sabbath discussion where I examined Ratzlaff's method of Biblical interpretation.


Ratzlaff wrote:

Dr. Bacchiocchi,

Your latest communication regarding the influence of Sabbath in Crisis is interesting, and somewhat misleading!

First, The truth should be made clear about why you were asked to be on KJLS radio. It was not exactly as you say. Here is how it really happened. Several SDAs were giving the talk show host, Tim Barrons, a bad time about SDA doctrine, including the Sabbath. Tim Barrons asked Watchman Fellowship for help in answering their questions. Watchman Fellowship, in turn, called me and asked if I would be willing to answer the questions of the SDAs who were calling in. I agreed, Watchman Fellowship contacted Tim Barrons and he called me. I was to discuss my book, The Cultic Doctrine of Seventh-day Adventists: An Evangelical Resource, An Appeal to SDA Leadership with a local SDA pastor.

I sent a copy of Cultic Doctrine to the SDA pastor, however, on the day of the radio debate, the SDA pastor, after reading Cultic Doctrine, declined to come on the air. Then, another date was set to discuss Sabbath in Crisis. Again, I was asked to send Sabbath in Crisis to the SDA pastor who was to be on with me. After he read Sabbath in Crisis, he called Tim Barrons and asked if you could be on in his place. It was at this point that you were contacted.


Bacchiocchi replies:

Thank you Dale for the clarification. I must admit that I was not informed about what transpired before being invited to dialogue with you. I was not aware that our St. Louis pastor or pastors had declined the invitation to dialogue with you on KJSL. However, your comment that it was an Adventist pastor that proposed my name, is not correct. The truth of the matter is that it was a former member of the Worldwide Church of God who at present does not belong to any church. He called me to inform me about what you said about the Sabbath in previous radio programs with tim Barrons, and he asked me if I would be willing to debate you. I reassured him that I would have no problems, because I have participated in Sabbath/Sunday discussion on radio and TV programs in many parts of the world.

This non-SDA gentleman contacted Tim Barrons who agreed to call me. Apparently Tim forgot about it because 10 days went by without receiving any call from him. The same person called Tim Barrons again, who graciously invited me. Since on Friday I usually travel to my weekend speaking engagement, we agreed on Monday, June 15, 1998.


Ratzlaff wrote:

Second, I doubt my book is having as big of an influence as you say. While it is true that many thousands of Worldwide Church of God people--administrators, pastors, and members--purchased Sabbath in Crisis, there were many other factors in the Worldwide Church of God reformation.


Bacchiocchi replies:

You are correct. There are many other factors that contributed to the drastic doctrinal changes implemented by the leadership of the Worldwide Church of God (WWCG). But the "many thousands" of copies of your book THE SABBATH IN CRISIS that you acknowledge to have sent to their ministers and members did exercise a significant influence.

You may have noticed that the first study paper on THE SABBATH (about 23 pages) produced in Pasadena, CA., early in 1995 by the home office of the Worldwide Church of God for their ministers, cites your book and Brinsmead SABBATARIANISM RECONSIDERED as the two major sources. Incidentally several current ministers of the WWCG who have reqeusted to be placed in the mailing list of this discussion, tell me that they are eager to see how I deal with your arguments, because your book has made a significant impact on their thinking.


Ratzlaff wrote:

Third, Most of the Adventist pastors leaving the SDA church are not doing so out of rebellion, but out of duty to following their conscience. I know, I have spoken with many of them. Could it be that they are finding the biblical truth about the Sabbath and the covenants different from what SDAs have taught?

It should also be known--even though I cannot give sources because of confidentiality--that many SDA pastors, and some Church of God Seventh-day pastors have privately told me that they are in agreement with the teaching of Sabbath in Crisis but are not in a position to immediately leave their ministry at this point. They choose to work within their organization for change.


Bacchiocchi replies:

I do not question the motives of the pastors and members who leave the Adventist Church. Let God be the judge. Reading the numerous messages I have received from Adventists who have joined newly formed independent churches, it is evident that there is confusion in their mind. Several of them told me that they are eagerly waiting for my analysis of your arguments because your book has raised many questions in their minds. I might say that these pleas for help are motivating me more than anything else to take time from my busy schedule to participate in this dialogue.

Regarding your allegation that "many SDA pastors" secretely support the abrogation view of the Sabbath advocated by your book THE SABBATH IN CRISIS, the future will tell if indeed these pastors will take a stand against the Sabbath. My experience has been that the problem some Adventists are having with the Sabbath in not theological but existential. In other words, they do not question the Biblical validity of the Sabbath, but prefer to spend the Sabbath seeking for pleasure or profit, rather than for the peace and presence of God in their lives.


Ratzlaff wrote:

Fourth, Sabbath in Crisis does not promote Sunday Keeping. Most SDAs are only aware of two possible interpretations of the Sabbath, most are unaware of the third position which I believe to be the true, biblical position.

Thanks for posting this were you sent your note.

It is my prayer that Christ and God's truth will be exalted, not books, not opinions, because when we know the truth, it will set us free! --free to follow God according to new covenant guidelines!

In His Joy,

Dale Ratzlaff


Bacchiocchi replies:

It is true that you that you promote the view that "the day in which it [Christian wordhip] takes place is unimportant" (p. 14). Your book does not promote Sundaykeeping directly, but indirectly it does support first day observance. Anyone who reads chapter 16 of your book THE SABBATH IN CRISIS entitled "The First Day of the Week," can hardly avoid reaching the conclusion that you attach special religious significant to the NT references to the first day of the week. For example, regarding 1 Corinthians 16:1-2 you wrote "Paul saw some significance to the first day of the week" (p. 259). You conclude your analysis of Acts 20:7 saying: "It is the earliest strong evidence of the Christians meeting on the first day of the week" (p. 258).

In a future post I will show that your conclusions regarding the first day references are totally unwarranted. The time and manner of the Troas meeting indicates a special gathering and not of a regular Sunday worship custom. The simplest way to explain the passage is that Luke mentions the day of the meeting not because it was Sunday (the fact is that meeting began on the evening of the first day, which according to Jewish reckoning it was our Saturday night, continued until early Sunday morning when Paul departed) but (1) because Paul was "ready to depart" (20 :7), (2) because of the extraordinary experience and miracle of Eutychus, and (3) because it provides an additional significant chonological reference to describe the unfolding of Paul's journey. We will come back to an analysis of the first day references in future post.

Thank you for taking time in your busy schedule to share your interpretation of the Biblical data regarding the Sabbath. It is my fervent hope and prayer that our common efforts will help many sincere people to understand more fully what God has revealed in His Word regarding His Holy Sabbath Day.

Christian regards

Samuele Bacchiocchi, Ph. D.,
Professor of Theology and Church History, Andrews University