Saturday, December 19, 2015

Transubstantiation and Sabbatarianism in "The Conflict of Adam and Eve with Satan"

I am still reading “The Conflict of Adam and Eve with Satan.”  This is a Christian work that dates anywhere from the fifth century C.E. to the ninth century C.E.  It was written originally in Arabic and was translated into Ethiopic.

In this post, I would like to highlight two issues: transubstantiation and the Sabbath.  I will be using the translation that is in The Lost Books of the Bible and the Forgotten Books of Eden.

A.  Transubstantiation states that the bread and the wine in the Eucharist literally become the body and blood of Christ.  This belief is arguably attested in Christianity as early as the second century.  See here for patristic references that appear to lean in that direction.  (Matthew E. Ferris in Evangelicals Adrift, however, argues that patristic sources manifest more of a symbolic approach to the bread and the wine.)

Transubstantiation appears in “The Conflict of Adam and Eve with Satan”, Book I, Chapter 69, verse 12.  In that chapter, Adam and Eve use corn to make an oblation to God.  God tells Adam and Eve:

“Since ye have made this oblation and have offered it to Me, I shall make it My flesh, when I come down upon earth to save you; and I shall cause it to be offered continually upon an altar, for forgiveness and for mercy, unto those who partake of it duly.”

This is saying that corn will be made into the flesh of Christ.  It also says that this corn will be offered continually on an altar and will bring forgiveness and mercy to partakers.  This sounds like transubstantiation occurring at the Eucharist, which is a sort of sacrifice.

B.  I grew up in and long associated with churches that observed the Sabbath on Saturday, the seventh day of the week.  Many Christians who go the church on Sunday and do not keep the seventh-day Sabbath argue that God only gave the Sabbath to the people of Israel, not to all human beings.  Christians who observe the seventh-day Sabbath, by contrast, tend to argue that the Sabbath is a creation ordinance for all human beings.  They say that the Sabbath originated when God rested on the seventh day after creation and blessed and hallowed the seventh day (Genesis 2).  According to this view, Adam and Eve kept the Sabbath.  Non-Sabbatarians have countered that God may have kept the Sabbath at creation, but that does not mean that human beings did so until God revealed the Sabbath to Israel.

Which view does “The Conflict of Adam and Eve with Satan” go with?  In Book I, Chapter 56, the Word of God (who would become Jesus Christ) is contrasting the good things that God has done for Adam with the bad things that Satan has done.  The goal is to encourage Adam to follow God, not Satan.  In v 6, the Word of God lists a day of rest among the good things that God has given to Adam.  The implication here is that Adam observed the Sabbath.

Yet, Chapter 68, verse 20 complicates things.  There, Adam and Eve resolve to give God an offering three times a week: on Wednesday, on Friday the preparation day, and on the Sabbath Sunday.  There, the Sabbath is not identified as Saturday, which is when Jews observe it, in accordance with their interpretation of the seventh day of the week.  Rather, it is identified as Sunday.

The passage is odd, for there still does seem to be an acknowledgement in the text that Saturday is the seventh day of the week.  Friday, after all, is called the preparation day.  Jews regarded Friday as the preparation day for the Sabbath, which was on Saturday, the following day.  Plus, the day of rest in Genesis 2 is on the seventh day of the week.  Certainly the author of “The Conflict of Adam and Eve with Satan” knew that!

Could some Christian have inserted “Sunday” into the text at a later point to make the text accord with Sunday being the Sabbath?  Could the text have originally been presenting Adam and Eve observing the Sabbath on Saturday?  I do not rule that out.  “The Conflict of Adam and Eve with Satan” does, on some level, depict Adam and Eve doing things that God would later command Israel to do under the Torah: offering sacrifices, for instance.  It is not inconceivable that the text could depict them as observing the seventh-day Sabbath, as well.

Consider also the statements by Athanasius (fourth century C.E.) and the Constitutions of the Holy Apostles (possibly fourth century C.E.) that the seventh-day Sabbath commemorates creation (Athanasius, Sabbath and Circumcision 3; Apostolic Constitutions 7.23; 8.33).  Maybe “The Conflict of Adam and Eve with Satan” believes that Adam and Eve observed the seventh-day Sabbath to honor God as creator, but that Christians do not have to observe the seventh-day Sabbath because they were part of the new creation, which began with Christ’s coming, and which Sunday supposedly commemorates.

On the other hand, maybe the text does hold that Adam and Eve observed the Sabbath on Sunday.  Justin Martyr, in chapter 67 of his First Apology, says that one reason that Christians honor Sunday is that God began the process of making the world on that day.  Could the author of “The Conflict of Adam and Eve with Satan” have believed that Adam and Eve observed Sunday as the Sabbath to honor the day that God began to create?

Also noteworthy is the Didache, which may date to the first century C.E.  Didache 8:1 says that its Christian audience fasts on the fourth day and on preparation day.  Didache 14:1 affirms that they gather, break bread, and offer thanksgiving after confessing their sins every Lord’s day, which is probably the first day of the week.  That sounds similar with what is in “The Conflict of Adam and Eve with Satan”: Adam and Eve honor the fourth day (Wednesday), preparation day (Friday), and Sunday.

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