Samuele Bacchiocchi, Ph. D., Andrews University


A PERSONAL NOTE: Several of our subscribers to the SABBATH UPDATES list have alerted me to the fact that in all the Sabbath Discussion of the past three months, very little has been said about the practical aspects of Sabbathkeeping. This is a legitimate concern that I would like to address in this installment.

For the sake of clarity and brevity, the discussion about Sabbathkeeping today is in the format of question and answer. Most of the material contained in this essay is taken from chapter 10 of my book THE SABBATH IN THE NEW TESTAMENT. Half of this book is devoted to answer the most frequently asked questions about the Sabbath. This feature has made this publication very popular because people can find answers to specific questions. At the height of the crisis in the Worldwide Church of God (WWCG), over 10,000 people requested copies of THE SABBATH IN THE NEW TESTAMENT, hoping to find answers to the attacks levelled against the Sabbath in the literature produced by the WWCG home office.

The questions about Sabbathkeeping that I am addressing are the ones I have often faced in my itenerant ministry around the world. Feel free to share with me your comments and perhaps alert me to other important questions that I should address.

In the last installment (Sabbath Discussion 18) I suggested the possibility of reviewing the newly released symposium WOMEN IN MINISTRY, written mostly by seminary professors who support the ordination of women to the headship role of pastors. It came as a surprise to me to receive over 200 messages, urging me to review the book. Many have told me that there is confusion in their church on this issue. Some claim that women ordination is a cultural issue, while other believe that there is a Biblical principle involved. After reading the many messages received, it has become clear that there is an urgent need to clarify what the Bible teaches regarding the important role that God has called women to perform, not only in the home, but also in the church.

For the next two months it will be impossible for me to take time to review WOMEN IN MINISTRY, since I am working 15 hours a day to finish my new book THE SABBATH UNDER CROSSFIRE: A BIBLICAL ANALYSIS OF RECENT SABBATH/SUNDAY DEVELOPMENTS. After the completion of this project, I plan to devote some time to an analysis of significant chapters of WOMEN IN MINISTRY. For the sake of fairness, we will provide an opportunity to respond to the author of each chapter reviewed. Some chapters, like those dealing with ordination in the writings of Ellen White and in the early history of the Adventists church, will be reviewed by experts in the field. This means that several other professors will be participating in the review of the book.

On my part I will ensure that the discussion is conducted in a respectful way, addressing the issues, examining the Biblical data, without defaming anyone who holds an opposing view. For me it is a sign of Christian maturity to be able to disagree without becoming disagreable. It is my hope that this service to you, subscribers of this END TIME ISSUES list, will contribute to enrich your understanding of what God has revealed on this fundamental aspect of human life, namely, the role of men and women in the home and in the church.

Four people have advised me to stay out of the women ordination controversy because in their view this would undermine the credibility of my Sabbath research. Frankly, I find the argument irrational to say the least, because my credibility as a scholar is determined, not by whether or not I review critically WOMEN IN MINISTRY, but by the soundness of my review. I would like to believe that most people on our list have enough common sense to evaluate the weaknesses or strengths of a review.

Thank you again for providing me this opportunity to share with you my Biblical research on END TIME ISSUES. If you find these essays helpful, let your friends know that they also can receive these Bible studies free of charge simply by asking to be added to our list which has grown to over 5000 names in few weeks. Please note my two new email addresses:, I have signed up with another internet provider because I was having problems sending essays with over 5000 email addresses attached.

Christian regards

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






Which activities are appropriate or inappropriate on the Sabbath? Should the Sabbath be viewed and observed primarily as a time of inactivity?
Some people believe that the best way to keep the Sabbath is to be a "mummy" for 24 hours. It is hard for me to believe that God is especially pleased when He sees His children on the Sabbath in a motionless position. What pleases God is not the action or inaction per se but the intention behind the action. The Savior spent the Sabbath not in restful relaxation but in active service. Thus the Sabbath should be viewed as the day of special activities rather than of inactivity.

No Standard Formula. No standard formula can be given to determine which activities are appropriate or inappropriate on the Sabbath. The reasons are at least two. First, the physical needs of people vary according to age and profession. A teenager bubbling over with energy has different Sabbath needs than a middle-aged bricklayer or a farmer who has spent much of his/her physical energy during the week.

Second, any attempt to classify or specify "legitimate" Sabbath activities engenders legalistic attitudes which stifle the spirit of freedom and creativity of the Sabbath. Thus, rather than prescribing a standard formula, I will submit three simple guidelines that can help in determining suitable Sabbath recreational activities.

God-Centered. Sabbath activities should be first of all God-centered rather than self-centered. They should be a means not of doing our own pleasure but of taking "delight in the Lord" (Is 58:13-14). This means that any recreational activity on the Sabbath should be viewed not as an end in itself, but as a means to express delight in the Lord.

It is possible to plan for a Sabbath afternoon hike to see who can endure the longest or to play a Bible game to see who can score the most points. When activities such as these are performed for the sake of competition rather than of communion, for the sake of scoring rather than of fellowshipping, then they do not fulfill the intent of the Sabbath which is to teach us how to honor God not by competing but by communing with one another. The challenge then is not only to choose appropriate Sabbath activities, but also to engage in them in a way that will contribute to honoring the Lord, to celebrate His creative and redemptive love.

Freedom and Joy. A second guideline is that Sabbath activities should ensure the freedom and joy of everybody. The Sabbath should be a time to celebrate the redemptive freedom offered by the Savior. Sometimes the same activity can be an experience of freedom and joy for some and of restraint and pressure for others.

A Sabbath afternoon picnic with friends, for example, can be a joyful and free celebration of the goodness of God's creation and recreation in Christ, if adequate preparations have been made before the beginning of the Sabbath. On the contrary, if some persons have to spend many hours during the Sabbath preparing the food for the friends who are to come, then that picnic becomes inappropriate for the Sabbath, since it deprives some persons of the freedom and joy of the Sabbath.

On the basis of this principle any activity which deprives a person of the freedom and joy of the Sabbath, is inappropriate because it militates against the intended function of the commandment, which is to ensure freedom and joy for all.

Recreative. A third guideline is that Sabbath activities should contribute to our mental, emotional, and physical renewal, restoration, and not exhaustion or dissipation. The renewal experienced on the Sabbath foreshadows in a sense the fuller restoration to be experienced at Christ's Second Coming.

It is important to remember that all our Sabbath recreational activities have a spiritual quality because they represent the restoration realized and yet to be realized by God in the life of His people. Thus any Sabbath activity which leaves a person exhausted and with a "hangover" on the following day fails to conform to God's intended use of the Sabbath, which is to renew us physically, mentally, and spiritually, in order to be better equipped to meet the demands of our week-days' work.

Sports which require intense physical exertion may be good at other times but they are out of harmony with the Sabbath celebration. First, because they destroy the spirit of worship and celebration which characterizes the Sabbath. It is impossible to cultivate the awareness of God's presence on the Sabbath while intent on scoring points and beating the other team. Second, because they exhaust rather than renew the person. Third, because the spirit of competition fostered by sports undermines the spirit of fellowship and communion of the Sabbath.

No single criterion is per se adequate for determining suitable Sabbath activities. The combination of the three guidelines suggested above, namely, God-centered activities, freedom and joy for all, and recreative nature, should offer a safe guidance in selecting and in engaging in appropriate Sabbath activities.

How can a pastor "rest unto the Lord" on the Sabbath when his workload is greater on the Sabbath than on weekdays?
There is no question that for the pastor who ministers to his congregation, the Sabbath may be the most exhausting day of the week. Thus in a sense pastors do not generally observe the "rest" aspect of the Sabbath commandment. Jesus recognized this fact when He said that "on the sabbath the priests in the temple profane the sabbath" (Matt 12:5).

On the Sabbath the workload of the priests was intensified, as additional sacrifices were prescribed for that day (Num 28:9-10; Lev 24:8-9) Yet, though the priests worked more on the Sabbath, Christ said that they were "guiltless" (Matt 12:5). The reason is not because they took a day off at another time during the week. No such provision is contemplated in the Old Testament. Rather, the reason is to be found in the special redemptive role and ministry performed by the priests on the Sabbath.

Redemptive Work. The intensification of the ministry of the priests at the temple on the Sabbath (four lambs were sacrificed instead of two-Num 28:8-9), pointed to the special provision of forgiveness and salvation which God offered through the priests to the people on that day. Thus, through the Sabbath ministry of the priests the people could experience the rest of God's forgiveness and salvation.

Like the priests of old, pastors today are called upon on the Sabbath to intensify their redemptive ministry on behalf of God's people. While this may deprive them of the physical relaxation provided by the Sabbath, it will refresh their souls with the restful satisfaction that comes from ministering to the spiritual and physical needs of others.

Rest of Service. It is important to remember that the Savior spent the Sabbath not relaxing in splendid isolation, but actively involved in offering a living, loving service to human needs. The teaching and the example of the Savior suggests that resting unto the Lord on the Sabbath is accomplished not only by resting physically but also by acting redemptively on behalf of others.

The Sabbath is linked both to creation (Ex 20:11) and redemption (Deut 5:15; Heb 4:9). By interrupting our secular activities we remember the Creator-God and by acting mercifully toward others we imitate the Redeemer-God who works redemptively on the Sabbath on behalf of His creatures (John 5:17). The pastor is in a special sense called to work redemptively on the Sabbath. This work may deprive him of physical rest (which he can have on other days), but will enrich and renew him with the restful satisfaction of having served God's people.

Is it proper to conduct church business activities on the Sabbath, such as church board meetings, community services meetings, Sabbath School workshops, church school committees, etc.?
All church activities that are of a business nature should be avoided on the Sabbath, because they detract from the spirit of worship and celebration of God's creative and redemptive love. Holding church business meetings on weekdays serves to remind us not only of the sacredness of the Sabbath, but also of the fact that we serve the church during all the seven days of the week.

Emergency Meetings. At times it may be necessary for the elders or church officers to meet on the Sabbath to deal with emergency problems arising from sickness or accidents. To postpone such meetings could mean to fail to provide urgent assistance. Christ condemned emphatically the neglect of human needs on the Sabbath (Matt 12:11-12; Luke 13:15-16).

Ordinary Meetings. Most church business meetings held on the Sabbath do not fall under the category of "emergency meetings." Meetings held on the Sabbath to discuss such matters as church finances, appointment of church officers, ingathering planning, fund raising for special projects, periodical campaigns, etc., detract from the spirit and ideals of the Sabbath and should be avoided during its sacred hours. Such meetings are part of the ordinary administration of the church and should be scheduled for other days.

There is a tendency to fill the Sabbath with too many meetings and activities so that little time is left for needed reflection and meditation. In planning for our Sabbath celebration, let us plan for a time of meditation which can restore the equilibrium between the physical and spiritual components of our being. Church meetings and activities can deprive us of the needed climate of freedom and tranquility to experience the Sabbath renewal.

Should weddings be celebrated on the Sabbath? Since marriage is a sacred institution, is it not appropriate to perform its ceremony on the Sabbath?
Both the Sabbath and marriage are sacred institutions which have come down to us from Eden. Thus in itself it would not be out of harmony with the spirit of Sabbathkeeping to celebrate a wedding on the Sabbath.

Wedding ceremonies, however, involve considerable work in preparing for the services and in holding the receptions. The ultimate result is that a secular atmosphere can easily develop which disrupts the spirit of the Sabbath celebration. Thus, to preserve the quiet worshipful spirit of the Sabbath, the holding of weddings on the Sabbath should be discouraged.

Should funeral services be conducted on the Sabbath?
In some countries climatic conditions and limited mortuary services may dictate the holding of funerals without delay on any day including the Sabbath. In these cases all the possible arrangements ought to be made in advance to reduce the labor and commotion on the Sabbath.

As a general rule, however, it is advisable to avoid conducting funerals on the Sabbath, since these disrupt the spirit of rest, joy, and celebration of the Sabbath. It is noteworthy that in Bible times, even mourning was interrupted on the Sabbath in order to experience the Sabbath joy and delight, which were seen as a foretaste of the blessedness of the world to come.

As Christians we are called upon to comfort the bereaved on the Sabbath by sharing with them the hope of the resurrection and of the new world, of which the Sabbath is a symbol. Funeral services, however, should be avoided on the Sabbath because they require considerable work in preparing both for the service and for the subsequent interment. In accordance with the example of the women who followed Jesus, it is well on the Sabbath to interrupt all funeral preparations and to rest according to the commandment (Luke 23:55-56).

Should ingathering be done on the Sabbath?
Although the solicitation of funds for humanitarian projects at home and abroad is a worthy endeavor which can bring many spiritual benefits both to the solicitor and to the donor, it is preferable for several reasons to engage in ingathering solicitation outside the Sabbath hours.

First, the solicitation of money from house to house, even though for a good cause, tends to generate a commercial atmosphere which is contrary to the spirit of the Sabbath.

Second, a person intent to reach the $25 or $50 ingathering goal on the Sabbath may lose sight of the goal of the Sabbath itself, which is to offer us the opportunity to reach not financial goals, but closer communion with God and fellow believers.

Third, it is difficult to keep one's mind on spiritual realities on the Sabbath, while involved in collecting and handling money. In our society money has become associated with business and purchasing power. Thus it is difficult for anyone soliciting funds on the Sabbath not to think of the business aspect of money.

Fourth, ingathering solicitation on the Sabbath may also give rise to misconceptions in the minds of donors who may learn about the Seventh-day Adventist Church for the first time through an ingathering contact. They may think that Adventists spend their Sabbath raising money for their church, when they should perceive our Sabbathkeeping as the time when we celebrate God's creative and redemptive love by seeking to give rather than to receive. These are some of the reasons why in my view it is preferable not to engage in ingathering solicitation on the Sabbath.

How should the Sabbath be observed in Seventh-day Adventist medical institutions?
Sickness and pain know no distinction between holy and secular days. Thus the needs of the sick and the suffering must be met without regard to days. The example of Christ is significant in this regard since He used the Sabbath to heal the sick, restoring them to physical and spiritual wholeness. Seventh-day Adventist medical institutions in their policies and practices ought to reflect Christ's example of Sabbathkeeping in providing a willing and compassionate medical service on the Sabbath.

It is the responsibility of each institution to develop and implement policies that reflect the principles of Sabbathkeeping found in the Scriptures and exemplified by Christ. The following suggestions represent in my view an application of the Biblical principles of Sabbathkeeping.

High Quality of Medical Care. Needed medical care should be given on the Sabbath willingly, cheerfully, and at the same high level of quality as on the week days. Patients should not feel neglected on the Sabbath because physicians or nurses are so busy observing their Sabbath that they can give only limited attention to their needs. On the contrary, the celebration of God's creative and redemptive love on the Sabbath ought to motivate medical personnel to show added personal interest and concern toward their patients.

Reduced Rates. In the light of the example of Christ who healed people on the Sabbath not for financial gain but out of love and in view of the fact that no personal gain or profit is to be sought for services rendered on the Sabbath, reduced rates could be charged on the Sabbath for medical services. Such rates should reflect the actual cost of rendering any needed medical service.

It is customary for non-SDA physicians and medical institutions to charge a higher weekend fee for services rendered on Saturday and Sunday. Such a practice ought not to be avoided by SDA medical personnel and administrators who believe that the Sabbath is a day not for greater gain, but for greater missionary service.

A reduced Sabbath rate which covers the basic operating costs would serve as a most powerful testimony to patients and to the community at large that Sabbathkeeping is truly an occasion for Adventists to follow the example of Christ in offering an unselfish, loving service to human needs. Whenever possible voluntary service on the Sabbath should be encouraged.

Essential Services. All the ordinary activities which are not immediately related to patient care should be discontinued on the Sabbath. Usually this means the closing down of certain facilities and departments and the postponement of elective diagnostic and therapeutic services. Emergency service should not be interrupted but rendered willingly and cheerfully.

Payment of Bills. The rendering and payment of bills should be avoided on the Sabbath. Administrative and business offices that do routine business should be closed on the Sabbath. If it is necessary to admit or discharge a patient on the Sabbath, it is advisable to make financial arrangements either before or after the Sabbath.

Relaxed Atmosphere. The suspension of all routine work on the Sabbath should provide a relaxed atmosphere where the medical staff can more freely and fully interact with the patients, counseling them and sharing with them their Christian love and concern. Patients in a Seventh-day Adventist hospital should perceive the Sabbath as the day when the environment, the personnel, and the services are more delightful. Such a positive perception can have a lasting impact upon the patients and eventually lead some to seek for a continued blessing of the Sabbath celebration in their personal lives.

Rotating Sabbath Work. Adventist medical institutions should exercise great care in scheduling all personnel so that the same workers will not have to be on duty every Sabbath. On the other hand no worker should expect to be always off duty on the Sabbath. Supervisors should be as fair as possible in preparing the work schedules so that Sabbath services can be rendered on a rotating basis by all. The keeping of the Sabbath should never be made a burden to a few workers but a privilege for all.

Should a Sabbathkeeper employed by a secular or religious organization which provides essential social services, agree to work routinely on the Sabbath?
Indispensable humanitarian services are not negated but contemplated by the Biblical view of the Sabbath. Christ stated unequivocally that "The sabbath was made for man" (Mark 2:27), that is, to ensure human wellbeing. The Sabbath encompasses not only the cessation from secular work to honor God more freely and fully (Ex 20:8-10; 31:15-16; Is 58:13-14), but also the rendering of needed services to show concern toward fellow beings (Deut 5:12-15; Matt 12:12; Luke 13:12).

A Distinction in Essential Services. A distinction must be made between essential services rendered on the Sabbath in a Seventh-day Adventist institution and those rendered in a non-SDA institution. In an Adventists fire station, for example, no routine maintenance work will be done on the Sabbath and the staff will be reduced to a minimum indispensable. This means that a person working in such a fire station, when called upon to work on the Sabbath, will be expected to perform only those services which are essential to guarantee readiness in case of emergency.

The situation is altogether different in a normal fire station where the firemen on duty are expected to perform routine maintenance of the fire trucks and of the station. This does not mean that a Sabbathkeeper should not accept employment in such organizations as police and fire stations, hospitals, schools, or social agencies which provide essential services. In seeking or holding employment in such organizations, however, a Sabbathkeeper should consider following guidelines such as these:

Request Sabbath Exemption. A Sabbathkeeper who accepts employment in institutions which provide essential social services should make known at the outset to the employers his or her Sabbathkeeping principles and courteously request exemption from Sabbath duties. In exchange for these Sabbath privileges, great willingness should be shown to work at any other time and to sacrifice, if necessary, even vacation time. In most cases exemption from Sabbath duties is granted without major difficulties, especially because there are other workers who desire to be free on Sunday.

Explain Type of Essential Work. When because of factors such as shortage of personnel, it becomes impossible to obtain regular exemption from work on the Sabbath, Sabbathkeepers should courteously explain to their supervisors the type of essential work they are willing to perform on the Sabbath, in harmony with their religious convictions.

Rotating Schedule. Sabbathkeepers who are frequently called upon to perform essential services on the Sabbath should courteously request their employers to be scheduled for work on a rotating basis in order to be allowed as often as possible to enter into a fuller celebration of the Sabbath.

True to Principle. Where the above conditions cannot be met, a Sabbathkeeper should be willing to remain true to principle, even if this involves suffering the loss of a job or of other benefits.

Emergency Situations. When emergency situations arise which threaten life or property, the principles taught by Christ dictate that one be willing to work on the Sabbath and do all in one's power to save life (Matt 12:11-12; Luke 13:15-16).

What should a Sabbathkeeper do when he or she is denied the privilege to observe the Sabbath by military, educational, political, industrial, or other institutions?
Stand for Principle. When in spite of the best efforts a Sabbathkeeper has put forth to clarify his or her religious convictions, the employing organization persists in denying Sabbath privileges, the believer should choose to stand by faith for the principle of Sabbathkeeping, even if such an action may result in the loss of the job.

Intervention by Church Official. A competent church official should be asked to contact the employing organization, to clarify to its management why their employee cannot work on the Sabbath. Great willingness should be shown, however, to work at any other time and to sacrifice, if necessary, even vacation time to compensate the company for any possible loss caused by exempting the worker from the Sabbath duties.

Church Support. The local church should offer spiritual, emotional, and, if needed, financial support to a member experiencing Sabbath problems. Such support will serve to strengthen the commitment to the Lord not only of the individual member facing Sabbath problems but of the church as a whole.

Should a Sabbathkeeper purchase goods or services on the Sabbath from persons or places which are doing business anyhow on the Sabbath?
The Fourth Commandment enjoins us to grant freedom to all on the Sabbath, including the stranger. Any attempt to enjoy the freedom and joy of the Sabbath at the expense of others represents a denial of the values of the Sabbath.

The fact that certain persons or businesses do not observe the Sabbath is not a valid justification for purchasing their goods or services on the Sabbath. By such an action a Sabbathkeeper would be sanctioning the business transacted by others on the Sabbath. Moreover he would himself be transgressing the Sabbath by purchasing goods or services-an activity which is clearly condemned by the Scriptures (Jer 17:21-23; Neh 13:19-22).

Promotes Secularism. Purchasing goods or services on the Sabbath, such as eating out in restaurants, will turn the mind of the believer away from the sacredness of the Sabbath to the secularism and materialism of the world. With proper planning, adequate provisions can be made in advance for foreseeable Sabbath needs.

Emergency Situations. In spite of one's best plans and intentions, a situation may arise when a person may need on the Sabbath, for example, to buy food or hire a taxi. In such emergency situations, God understands the intentions of the heart. Care should be taken to avoid the recurrence of such situations and to maintain at all times the awareness of the sacredness of the Sabbath.

Should a Sabbathkeeper attend professional meetings on the Sabbath, especially if they are in the field of Religion?
The attendance of professional meetings on the Sabbath, including those of theological societies, can hardly be seen as a legitimate substitute for joining church members in the regular church services. The very name "professional meetings" suggests that the aim of such gatherings is to develop professional skills and thus they must be seen as part of the work performed during the six days.

Attending meetings of theological societies on the Sabbath is no better than attending any other type of professional meeting. The technical issues which are generally addressed in such meetings are designed not to enhance the Sabbath worship experience but to sharpen one's knowledge and professional competency.

The principle of making the Sabbath experience distinct from the gainful occupation of the six days will lead Sabbathkeeping Religion teachers to join fellow believers at church rather than fellow professionals at "work."

What should be the time for beginning and ending the Sabbath in the Arctic regions where the sun sets very early, or very late, or not at all during part of the summer?
Historically, Seventh-day Adventists have endeavored to follow the principle of sunset reckoning even in the Arctic regions by broadening the meaning of "sunset" to include, for example, the end of twilight, the diminishing of light, the moment when the sun is closest to the horizon.

Sunset Reckoning not Dictated by Commandment. Personally I respect this conviction, but I have difficulty in accepting it as the only valid Biblical option, for at least three reasons.

In the first place, the sunset reckoning is not dictated by the Fourth Commandment, where no instruction is given regarding the time to begin and end the observance of the Sabbath. The absence of such an instruction may be indicative of divine wisdom in formulating a principle adaptable to different geographical locations.

Completion of Six Days of Work. Second, the application of the sunset reckoning in the Arctic regions when, for example, the sun sets by noon, makes it impossible to observe the first part of the Fourth Commandment which enjoins: "Six days you shall labor, and do all your work" (Ex 20:9).

To stop any gainful employment on Friday sometime before noon in order to be ready to begin the observance of the Sabbath at noon-sunset, means to reduce the working time of the sixth day, which in Biblical thought consists of approximately 12 hours from sunrise to sunset (John 11:9; Matt 20:1-8), to only the first two or three hours of the morning.

Moreover, to resume work on Saturday after the noon-sunset means to fulfill the working time of the sixth day, half during the "daytime" of the sixth day and half during the "daytime" of the seventh day. Such a practice can hardly reflect the intent of the Fourth Commandment, which explicitly enjoins completing one's work in six days and then resting unto the Lord on the seventh day.

Daytime Defined by the Clock. A third reason why the sunset reckoning is not suitable in or near the Arctic regions to determine the beginning and end of the Sabbath is simply because in these areas the daytime is defined by the clock and not by the sun.

While in Bible lands the time between sunrise and sunset ranges constantly between 12 and 14 hours during the course of the year, in the Arctic regions the range can be from less than 3 hours in December to more than 18 hours in July. What this means is that while in Bible lands sunrise and sunset provide a logical and balanced division between daytime and nighttime, or working time and resting time, in the Arctic regions this division must be defined, not by sunrise and sunset, but rather by the clock.

Equatorial Sunset Time. In light of the foregoing discussion, the most suitable method of Sabbath reckoning in the Arctic regions is, in my view, according to the equatorial sunset time, that is from 6 p.m. to 6 p.m.

Integrity of Sixth Day of Work. My reasons for favoring the equatorial sunset time for the Arctic regions are essentially three. First, the observance of the Sabbath in the Arctic regions from 6 p.m. to 6 p.m. would preserve the integrity of the working time of the sixth day which is presupposed in the first part of the Fourth Commandment: "Six days you shall labor, and do all your work" (Ex 20:9).

To respect the integrity of the working time of the sixth day, however, does not imply that one ought to be engaged in gainful employment until the very end of the day. On the contrary, Friday was rightly called "Day of Preparation" because part of the work done on that day was in preparation for the Sabbath.

Compatible with Palestinian Sunset Time. A second reason for favoring the equatorial sunset time for the Arctic regions is the fact that it is quite compatible with the sunset time of the Bible lands.

A comparison between the sunset tables at the latitude of Palestine with those at the equator reveals that on the average there is less than one hour of difference between the two during the course of the year. Thus the equatorial sunset time comes very close to that of Bible lands while providing at the same time a consistent method of day reckoning.

Compatible with Working Schedule. A third reason is suggested by the fact that equatorial sunset time is compatible with the working schedule of most people living in the Arctic regions.

Compatibility with the equatorial or Palestinian sunset time per se is not a determining factor because nowhere does the Bible or even common sense suggest that the sunset time of Palestine or of the equator must be the normative time for determining the end of the day and the beginning of a new day in all the regions of the earth. What makes this compatibility recommendable, however, is the fact that the sunset time of Palestine, like the one of the equator, does respect the working schedule of most people living in such northern countries as Alaska, Norway, Sweden, and Finland.

In these northern countries, as in most industrialized nations, the working day of most people terminates between 5 and 6 p.m. This hour of the day is rightly known as the "rush hour" because it is the hour when most people are rushing home at the end of their working day.

The equatorial sunset time, then, by being compatible with the termination of the working day of most people living in the Arctic regions, offers a rational method for observing the Sabbath from 6 p.m. to 6 p.m.

My intent in proposing the equatorial sunset time for the Arctic regions is not to make an already difficult situation worse, but rather to contribute to the resolution of the complex problem of Sabbath reckoning in these northern regions.

If differing views should persist on the time for beginning and ending the Sabbath in the Arctic regions, it is my hope that the spirit of mutual respect, compassion, and charity will prevail. May we never forget the Sabbathkeeping expresses obedience to God and, as Ellen White perceptively writes, "The Lord accepts all the obedience of every creature He has made, according to the circumstances of time in the sun-rising and sun-setting world" (Letter 167, March 23, 1900).

Does not the international date line create uncertainty about which day should be observed as the seventh day?
The international date line creates uncertainty primarily for travelers who have either to add or to drop a day from their calendar when crossing such a line in the Pacific Ocean.

It may be helpful to explain that the date line is a north-south line which runs through the Pacific Ocean, approximately along the 180th meridian. Meridians are lines which extend from the North to the South pole and which divide the globe into 360 equally spaced lines. At the line of the 180th meridian the date changes, so that east of it is one day earlier and west of it is one day later.

Need for Date Line. The date line is necessary because the earth is divided into 24 one-hour time zones (of 15 degrees longitude each) which make up a full day upon the earth. Since the earth rotates eastward, when people travel westward or eastward, they must of necessity either drop a day from or add a day to their reckoning of time.

In October 1884 the commercial nations of the world agreed to make the meridian going through the astronomical observatory at Greenwich, England, as the prime meridian from which all other meridians were to be numbered. As a result of this decision, the international date line, which is the 180th meridian, runs from north to south through the Pacific Ocean. In some places the date line bulges eastward and in other places westward to enable certain land areas and islands to have the same day.

Though the date line was established on the basis of geographical, political, economic, and social considerations, the decision must be accepted as appropriate, since it has produced order out of that which would otherwise have been confusion.

Date Line Israel. Some Sabbathkeepers argue that the international date line should be located at the eastern border of Israel where there is the time zone line. Their reasoning is that since the Sabbath was first given to the Jews, then Jerusalem must be the place where the seventh day must begin and end (Is 2:3; Mic 4:2).

This reasoning, in my view, is faulty. First, because the Sabbath was given by God not exclusively to the Jews but inclusively to mankind (Mark 2:27). Second, because nowhere does the Scripture suggests that the reckoning of the day should begin and end at Jerusalem. Third, because the Jews themselves never dropped or added a day when forced to emigrate east or west of Jerusalem.

Lastly, because if the date line had been set at the 35th meridian crossing Israel, utter confusion would have prevailed in all the northern and southern countries crossed by this line (Russia, Turkey, Lebanon, and all the eastern African countries). Millions of people would have had to constantly add or drop a day whenever crossing the date line. This problem is largely avoided by the present date line, which, because of its location mostly in the open waters of the Pacific Ocean, affects only very few inhabited areas.

Providential Decision. In the absence of any Biblical injunction, it is perfectly right for human judgment to determine the location of the date line. The fact that the decision to place the line at the 180th meridian in the Pacific Ocean has produced order and has met the satisfaction of all the world, must be seen as an indication of providential guidance on the matter.

The Scriptures teach that political powers are instituted by God (Rom 13:1) and when they exercise their powers legitimately to ensure law and social order, they are fulfilling a divine mandate. In the case of the date line, the decision of the international community must be accepted as divinely sanctioned, because it detracts no honor from God, it exalts no individual, political, or religious organization, and it benefits all people.

Adoption of Local Calendar. The travelers who reach the islands of the Pacific from the East or from the West, should adopt the day of the people who inhabit the islands, as it is customary to adopt the time of the day of any place one goes.

It is important to remember that in a round, rotating earth the seventh-day cannot possibly be observed at the same time everywhere. When the Sabbath is beginning in Los Angeles, California (Friday evening), it is already ending in Sydney, Australia (Saturday evening).

The principle of Sabbathkeeping consists not in observing the seventh day at the same time everywhere around the globe, but rather in observing the seventh day when it arrives in the part of the earth where one lives. This principle applies both to the hour for beginning the Sabbath and to the day for observing it. Obedience to the Fourth Commandment demands that we observe the seventh day as it comes to us in the place where we live.

Christian regards

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