Law and Sabbath Continuity and Discontinuity in Hebrews

The book of Hebrews demonstrates both continuity and discontinuity between the Old Testament and the New. The fact that the writer of Hebrews wrote the book demonstrates the power that the Old Testament sacrificial system held over many of the believers in the Jesus movement.


There can be no doubt that the book of Hebrews pictures a break with parts of the Old Testament. Hebrews 7:11 states that there was a need to move away from the levitical priesthood if perfection is to happen in believers. In contrast, Christ had to come once and for all (Hebrews 9:26). In addition, Christ set aside the levitical sacrificial system. (Hebrews 7:18, Hebrews 8:13, Hebrews 10:9). Thus there is no question something was abolished by the death of Christ. However, was the law in general or the Sabbath specifically abolished? Hebrews answers this question with a strong no.


Bacchocchi notes that the book of Hebrews does not just talk about discontinuities, but also continuities. There is continuity in the prophet’s words (Hebrews 1:1-2). There is continuity in that the sanctuary system has just changed from the earthly one to a heavenly one. Nevertheless, there is still a sanctuary system working for humanity.

But most relevant to our discussion is that Bacchiocchi notes a continuity in the “Sabbatismos” which bacchioccchi states is:

A term used in a technical way by Plutarch, Justin, Epiphanius, Apostolic Constitutions to designate Sabbath observance—which “remains” (apoleipetia), literally “is left behind for the people of God” (Hebrews 4:9).


There was a break between the Old Testament and the New. Hebrews notes that this break was the sacrificial system. That sacrificial system was replaced by Christ’s death on earth and Priestly ministry in the heavenly sanctuary. While the earthly sanctuary system has been done away, the writer of Hebrews states that the Sabbath remains for the people of God. Praise God for God’s gift of the Sabbath. In the future we will discuss Hebrews 4 more deeply.