Friday, July 18, 2014

The Two Sabbaths

Sebinkarahisar, possible burial site of Ewastatewos [link]
The word "sabbath" has a long history. Our word is from the Old English form of the Latin sabbatum,  which came to Latin from Greek, which got it from the Hebrew šabbāṯ from the verb šāḇaṯ, "to rest." We can glean from the writings of the early Christian fathers that a regular day of rest was being observed on Sunday. Jews were celebrating Shabbat on their original day, Saturday.

There was one man who thought we should be observing both days.

Ewostatewos* [ኤዎስጣቴዎስ] was an important religious figure in Ethiopia. He was born in 1273 and called Ma`iqabe Igzi; at the age of seven he was sent to live in a monastery whose abbot was his uncle, Daniel. When he became a monk at 15, he took the name Ewostatewos. Eventually, he left the monastery to found his own, which became very popular, in what is now Eritrea. His views were attractive to his followers, but different from the mainstream, and when a Coptic bishop (Ethiopia was originally under the Coptic Church) visited his monastery about 1337, Ewostatewos left it with many of his followers, going to Cairo to meet with the head of the Coptic Orthodox Church, Patriarch Benjamin of Alexandria, and explained his views.

Among other ideas, Ewostatewos believed that the evidence of the Bible and early christian writings meant there were two sabbaths to be observed. Saturday was the Lesser Sabbath of the Old Testament, and Sunday (because Christ resurrected on a Sunday) was the Greater Sabbath of the New Testament.

His followers continued to expound his views after Ewostatewos died in 1352 in Armenia. His burial place is unknown, but suspected to be “next to the tomb of the holy marty Behman, in a church of Armenia (likely to be the so-called Bozuk Kilise, the “Ruined Church”, of Sebinkarahisar.” [link] He was considered a saint, and a finger bone of his was taken to Ethiopia.

*Sometimes Westernized to Eustathius.

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