Sunday, February 25, 2007
And he said unto them, What man shall there be among you, that shall have one sheep, and if it fall into a pit on the sabbath day, will he not lay hold on it, and lift it out?Luke 13.15:
The Lord then answered him, and said, Thou hypocrite, doth not each one of you on the sabbath loose his ox or his ass from the stall, and lead him away to watering?Luke 14.5:
And answered them, saying, Which of you shall have an ass or an ox fallen into a pit, and will not straightway pull him out on the sabbath day?Jewish writings of course have much to say about what may or may not be done on the Sabbath. Pagans also had their regulations about activities permitted or forbidden on holy days.
Vergil, Georgics 1.268-272 (tr. H. Rushton Fairclough):
Nay, even on holy days, the laws of God and man permit you to do certain tasks. No scruples ever forbade us to guide down the water-rills, to defend a crop with a hedge, to set snares for birds, to fire brambles, or to plunge bleating flocks into the health-giving stream.Columella (2.21.1) quotes this passage from Vergil and goes on to say (2.21.2-5, tr. H.B. Ash):
 And yet the pontiffs assert that a grain-field should not be fenced on holidays; they also forbid the washing of sheep for the good of the fleece, except as a curative measure. Vergil is instructing us as to the lawfulness of washing the flock in a river on holidays, and for that reason he adds "to dip in wholesome stream" that is, in a healing stream; for there are ailments because of which it is expedient to bathe the cattle.  Furthermore, the religious observances of our forefathers permit these tasks also on holidays: the braying of spelt; the cutting of torches; the dipping of candles; the tilling of a leased vineyard; the clearing out and cleaning of fish-ponds, cisterns, and old ditches; the sickling of meadows; the spreading of manure; the storing of hay in the loft; the gathering of the fruits of a leased olive-grove; the spreading of apples, pears and figs to dry; the making of cheese; the carrying of trees for planting, either on our own shoulders or with a pack mule. But it is not permitted to haul them with a yoked animal, nor to plant them after they are transported, nor to open the ground, nor to thin a tree;  and not to assist in the sowing either unless you have first sacrificed a puppy, nor to cut hay or bind it or haul it; and it is not permissible either by the ordinances of the priests for the vintage to be gathered on feast days, nor to shear sheep, unless you have sacrificed a puppy. It is also lawful to make boiled must and to boil wine. To gather grapes and olives for preserving is likewise lawful. It is not lawful to clothe sheep with skins. Anything that you may do in your garden for the good of your vegetables is lawful. It is not lawful to bury a dead person on public feast days.  Marcus Porcius Cato says that there are no holidays for mules, horses, and asses; the same authority permits the yoking of oxen for the purpose of hauling wood and grain. We ourselves have read in the books of the pontiffs that only on the holidays called Denicale is it unlawful to have mules in harness, but on other holidays it is lawful.Columella refers to Cato, On Agriculture 1.138 (tr. W.D. Hooper and H.B. Ash):
Oxen may be yoked on feast days for these purposes: to haul firewood, bean stalks, and grain for storing. There is no holiday for mules, horses, or donkeys, except the family festivals.See also Cato, On Agriculture 2.4 (tr. Hooper and Ash):
Remind him, also, that on feast days old ditches might have been cleaned, road work done, brambles cut, the garden spaded, a meadow cleared, faggots bundled, thorns rooted out, spelt ground, and general cleaning done.