The Lost Meaning of the Seventh Day

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In The Lost Meaning of the Seventh Day, Sigve K. Tonstad recovers the profound and foundational understanding of God that can be experienced in the seventh day. He shows that Scripture has consistently asserted that the Sabbath of Creation is the Sabbath of the whole story of how God makes right what has gone wrong in the world.


Tonstad argues that the seventh day is the symbol of God’s faithfulness precisely when God’s presence seems to be in doubt. He demonstrates how God, through the seventh day, seeks the benefit of all creation. Inevitably, this leads to an investigation of how this universal symbol became obscured.

This sweeping work of biblical theology and historical analysis traces the seventh day as it is woven throughout Scripture and the history of Christianity. Its twenty-seven chapters consider, among other things, the relationship of the seventh day to freedom, to social conscience, to the “greatest commandment,” and to the enigmatic “rest that remains.” Tonstad engages the move away from the seventh day in early Christian history, the mindset in medieval Christianity, and the sobering long-term implications leading all the way to the Holocaust and the ecological crises in our time.

The Lost Meaning of the Seventh Day will engage, illuminate, provoke, and ultimately inspire readers who enjoy a serious work presented in a style that is “luminous” and a “delight to read.”

 “This will be a classic! Truly a magnum opus on the Sabbath, it is this generation’s most complete and insightful work on the topic. Not only does it satisfy the academic theologian with its fresh perspectives, but it also creatively shares practical gems that will inspire a lay believer.”

Lawrence T. Geraty, President Emeritus, La Sierra University
Past President, American Schools of Oriental Research

“Usually I have trouble reading for a long period such massive tomes as this, but Tonstad’s writing is so stimulating that I couldn’t put the book down! Tonstad is a master of both biblical exegesis and historical scholarship. I heartily recommend this book to all who love God and the Sabbath Day and to all who yearn to grow in that love.”

Marva J. Dawn, author of Keeping the Sabbath Wholly and In the Beginning GOD
Teaching Fellow in Spiritual Theology, Regent College


“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


“Sigve Tonstad combines careful biblical theology with an insightful unfolding of history to reveal the story behind the story, well informed by a broad range of critical literature. All this is achieved with a literary finesse that makes it a delight to read despite the rigor of much of the theological discourse. Every pastor and theologian should read this book. It will transform the thinking on a matter of immense biblical significance.”

Edwin Reynolds, Professor of New Testament and Greek
Southern Adventist University


“This book is a broad and serious treatment of the Sabbath, a central biblical theme. Instead of dealing with criticisms often leveled against the Sabbath, Sigve K. Tonstad effectively develops biblical and theological teachings of the Sabbath. In addition to dealing with themes readers expect, the author also explores themes usually not addressed. This book deserves a careful reading.”

Nikolaus Satelmajer, Editor, Ministry
International Journal for Pastors


Sigve K. Tonstad (Ph.D., New Testament studies, University of St. Andrews; M.D. Loma Linda University), originally from Norway, is assistant professor of religion and associate professor of medicine at Loma Linda University in California. He is author of Saving God’s Reputation (T & T Clark, 2006) along with three other books as well as numerous articles which have appeared in both scholarly and non-scholarly journals.





Part One: Introducing the Seventh Day

1. Introducing the Seventh Day

Part Two: The Seventh Day in the Old Testament
2. The Meanings of the Beginning
3. Paradise Lost
4. Imitation of God
5. The Seventh Day and Freedom
6. A Reluctant Imperative
7. The Strength of Time
8. The Social Conscience of the Seventh Day
9. The Prophetic Stake in the Sabbath
10. Crossroad and Countdown

Part Three: The Seventh Day in the New Testament
11. The Sabbath and the Healing Ministry of Jesus
12. The Sabbath and the Greatest Commandment
13. Paul and the Crisis in Galatia
14. The Riddle of “Sabbaths” in Colossians
15. The Rest That Remains

Part Four: Loss and Retrieval: The Seventh Day in the Post-Biblical Era
16. From Sabbath to Sunday
17. Irreconcilable Differences
18. Creation Disaffirmed
19. Lord of Less
20. A Friendly Witness
21. From Creation Time to Clock Time
22. The Lost Voice of the Earth
23. Creation and the New Creation
24. The Lost Meaning of the Seventh Day
25. The Sabbath and the Imperial Ideal
26. Confrontation of Signs
27. The Spirit of the Seventh Day

Scripture Index
Subject Index


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