If you see your neighbor working on a Sunday you should


I watched the video above (Bill Maher and Bill O’Reilly) and Maher alluded to a passage in Deuteronomy that states “if you see your neighbor working on a Sunday, you should kill him.” He stumped O’Reilly with it. I have never heard of that particular passage. Is it a real passage?

My son has been very upset with Bill Maher’s new movie “Religulous” and has asked me a few questions about how we should counter some of the objections he brings up. I went to Youtube to see if I could see some of it and found the clip mentioned above. Maher sounds rather ridiculous to me, but I agree it would be a good idea to be able to defend my faith against someone like him.



He may in fact be referring to Exodus 31:14.

Keep you my sabbath: for it is holy unto you: he that shall profane it, shall be put to death: he that shall do my work in it, his soul shall perish out of the midst of his people.

The best way to respond to people like Bill Maher is to lead life that sets a good Christian example of love and compassion. When someone strikes you on one cheek, don’t waste your breath with counter-arguments, just do as Christ instructed and turn the other cheek to them.

I think he is referring to Exodus 35:2

The whole matter of the Mosaic Law was put to bed by the Council of Jerusalem in Acts 15 which sought to settle the matter between the Gentile converts and the Jewish converts.

The issue originated over the matter of circumcision but did not remain there. In Acts 15:5 we read, “But some believers who belonged to the party of the Pharisees rose up, and said, 'It is necessary to circumcise them, and to charge them to keep the law of Moses.

So the entire matter of the keeping of Mosaic Law is what came before the council. It is then stated that after much debate, Peter rose and related how God had shown no partiality in the granting of the Holy Spirit between those who kept “The Law” and those who did not. He then pointed out that what the “judaizers” were trying to do was to, “make trial of God by putting a yoke upon the neck of the disciples which neither our fathers nor we have been able to bear?”(Acts 15:10)

This silenced the debate and James spoke up saying, “Therefore my judgment is that we should not trouble those of the Gentiles who turn to God…” (Acts 15:19). He then goes on to suggest certain basic things that should be observed…"* abstain from the pollutions of idols and from unchastity and from what is strangled and from blood*"…(Acts 15:20)

This was found to be agreeable to the assembly of Church leaders and it was codified in a letter - which was copied into Acts. The Letter includes this statement…"28 For it has seemed good to the Holy Spirit and to us to lay upon you no greater burden than these necessary things: 29 that you abstain from what has been sacrificed to idols and from blood and from what is strangled and from unchastity. If you keep yourselves from these, you will do well. "

So - in Acts we see the Church, acting in unison with the Holy Spirit to set aside the Mosaic Law as recorded in the OT. The church continued to act in this capacity, giving further instruction as to how to live and what “rules” to keep. For instance - the ten commandments have been kept but not restrictions on eating pork.

So - when people pull out these obscure OT “Laws” they are only showing their own ignorance of scripture, because if the knew the Bible, they would know that Christians are not bound by the “Law of Moses”.


That law was part of the old covenant which God made with Israel at Mt. Sinai. Christians are not bound by the rules of that covenant.

***For if that first covenant had been faultless, no place would have been sought for a second one. But he finds fault with them and says:

“Behold, the days are coming, says the Lord,
when I will conclude a new covenant **with the house of Israel and the house of Judah.
It will not be like the covenant I made with their fathersthe day I took them by the hand to lead them forth from the land of Egypt;
for they did not stand by my covenant
and I ignored them, says the Lord.
But this is the covenant I will establish with the house of Israel
after those days, says the Lord:
I will put my laws in their minds
and I will write them upon their hearts.
I will be their God,
and they shall be my people.h
And they shall not teach, each one his fellow citizen
and kinsman, saying, ‘Know the Lord,’
for all shall know me,
from least to greatest.
For I will forgive their evildoing
and remember their sins no more.”

When he speaks of a “new” covenant, he declares the first one obsolete. And what has become obsolete and has grown old is close to disappearing.
(Hebrews 8:7-13)*

Christians are bound by the laws of the new covenant sealed with the Blood of Christ, in which we are to love God with all our heart, mind and strength and love our neighbor as ourself.

Christians don’t kill their neighbor because he worked on Sunday under the rules of the new covenant. We love him instead. We understand that the sabbath was made for man and assume that our neighbor has a valid reason for working on Sunday before we jump to conclusions.


Thanks so much! Ironic that his “quote” was attributed to the wrong book of the Bible. Guess I have a new prayer goal!

Please note: The Sabbath is Saturday (Friday sunset to Saturday sunset). So it none of the books ever said Sunday!

No its not a real passage

So don’t defend your faith when asked a question about it? If asked if you believe in a talking snake in a garden (question from Maher’s movie) how would you respond?

Christ also told his disciples to go preach, and if they were not recieved, they were to shake the dust off their shoes.

If a person is not ready to recive the word of God, then there is little we can do except pray to the Mediartix of all Grace to thouch their heart. At a certain point we have to walk away and shake the dust off our shoes.

1 Timothy 3:16 says “Always be ready” to give a reason for the hope in you, but some understand “always be ready” to mean that they have a God given right to argue with obstinate people until both hate each other. Even the Jehovah’s Witnesses know when to stop knocking on someone’s door.

Some Christians apologists don’t know when to stop talking and start praying.


Exodus 31:14 from the usccb.org website is

Therefore, you must keep the sabbath for it is holiness for you. Whoever desecrates it shall be put to death. If anyone does work on that day, that person must be cut off from the people. (NABRE)

This is a verse that shows why a lot of observant Jews are very careful about their observance of the Sabbath.

What it is, like various other commandments, is to be the basis for preaching God’s laws, it shows how jealous God is of his people. You may not see it this way, but it actually shows how much God loves his people.

I don’t think the Bible records anybody dying under this statute. Certainly Jesus and his disciples were not put to death for picking grain on the sabbath, although they were questioned about it.

I have to thank somebody. I’ve been studying the OT and this verse was just invisible to me. I don’t recall ever reading it.

Some modern Jews are very scrupulous about this commandment. They have lights on timers and food cooked ahead etc. so that they don’t even exert themselves too much on the sabbath.

The third (or fourth) commandment (depending on which numbering you see) in the Ten commandments is actually the longest and most detailed of ALL the commandments.

Modern Jews (and going back I don’t know how far) view the Sinai covenant (and the Ten Commandments) as applying only to Jews committed to the observance of that covenant. So, from their point of view anyway, we Gentiles are not obligated to it. I don’t think the Church has addressed this verse officially – I don’t think they ever worried about it.

It’s a catch-22 problem too, isn’t it? Putting someone to death on the Sabbath would itself be work, wouldn’t it? So, we’d all have to kill each other and then maybe ourselves. The absurdity is self-evident.

I can’t get the the usccb.org website for some reason, so here is the relevant Bible verses for you from the

Psalm 1 >>
King James 2000 Bible

The Righteous and the Ungodly

1Blessed is the man that walks not in the counsel of the ungodly, nor stands in the way of sinners, nor sits in the seat of the scornful.

2But his delight is in the law of the LORD; and in his law does he meditate day and night.

Bill Maher was raised Catholic to some point then has apparently become an atheist.
So, he meets the criteria for “scornful” in verse 2 above.

So, blessed are you if you don’t sit in the seat of atheists and listen to / watch Bill Maher or his movies. So, with Catholic friendship, let me make that point perfectly clear!

On the more ordinary point of the understanding of Exodus 31:14 about putting someone to death who is profaning the Sabbath by working:

See? This is a personal preference, but I have a small collection of Jewish Bible commentaries and I consult what they have to say about it. I don’t know of a Catholic commentary, by reputation, that would discuss such a technical question as this one.

There are several levels of response to commenting on this verse. As you read Ex 31:14 it says that a person who is caught working on the Sabbath “shall be put to death.” Well, ,this problem came up in the book of Numbers 15:32-36. A man was collecting wood (some say twigs) on the Sabbath. He was taken to Moses and the situation discussed.

The issue was, 31:14 doesn’t say WHO should put the man to death. So, as you read there in Numbers, Moses took the matter to the LORD who instructed Moses to have the whole community take him outside the wilderness camp and stone him to death. Based on centuries of Jewish scripture study, the Jewish Study Bible says that this man’s sin was an affront to God and the entire Jewish community.

So, Ex 31:14 was a problem, even to Moses! not to mention Bill O’Reilly.

The JBS goes on in a note to mention (elsewhere) that Jewish rabbis eventually identified 39 categories of work that were explicitly prohibited elsewhere in the scriptures or that could be directly inferred from the scriptures.

to Judaism, further, there is no official interpretation of the Bible (OT). That is why there have been CENTURIES of intensive study of Biblical vocabulary and such by Jewish scholars. Every generation has to go back to the scripture and find the meaning for itself. (see? this is an instructive question you asked.)

So, a modern question might be, if Bill Maher earns his living by telling what he calls jokes and by ridiculing religion, if he does that on the Sabbath, should he be put to death? Hmmmm. What do you think?

see next post

Observance of the “law” (the Torah - God’s “teaching”) does not apply to Christians, in all of these technical ways.

The requirements of the law have been fulfilled in Jesus Christ, our Judge.

Cutting through a lot of preliminary explanation, every person will be judged for his/her works in life. This is Catholic (catechism) teaching. God shows no partiality.

so, the official answer to Bill Maher’s question is, if someone works on the sabbath, God will settle up scores on that in the final judgment. (early church fathers indicated that God delays punishment for sin, in order to give people the opportunity to repent, because of his infinite mercy and love, even for the sinner).

I spent last evening reading about this general subject (without having seen your Bill Maher question). I was skimming around in the Ignatius Study Bible in the notes for Romans 1 to 3, the Ancient Christian Commentary on Scripture on the book of Romans, and the Catechism of the Catholic Church.

(Yeah, Ex 31:14 was a problem for Moses, as I mentioned, and tradition – including Jesus – says that Moses wrote it! Well, maybe he did write. it may demonstrate a different point, that Moses maybe did not understand all the implications of what he wrote – obviously, from the develpment in Numbers).

Actually there is no “Catch-22” here. The command does not say that they person should be killed immediately. Most certainly such a person would need to be brought to trial - the assertion proved - and only then be put to death.

That said - there is, as you say, absurdity here. It rests in the thinking of those who accuse without understanding. Even that would not be so bad if they accused while seeking understanding. But they do not. The accuse in order to mock. Like the crowd at the crucifixion who called out, “See if God saves Him now…”, and other insults and taunts. Such things are “dust in the wind” and “nothing but vanity”.


Could they not sentence the person the following day?

Hi there,

Here’s a reaction to the ‘documentary’ Religulous criticized from different angles. Watch it here if you like:


Thanks for your time!

I say nothing to that person because I’ve been guilty of doing unnecessary work myself at times on Sundays. I’ve been doing better to not do unnecessary work on Sundays but it is hard as my job requires I work Sundays, and I go to Mass on Saturday evenings. If I want to go to a Sunday Mass, I have to request the day off ahead of time.

I remember going on a rare Sunday chance to go to an ExtraOrdinary Form parish, and it was a Sunday where the Gospel talked about Jesus and his issues with those who did not like He did certain things on the Sabbath. The priest let us know there are those who are in situations and jobs where Sunday work is a necessity, and no need to worry that we are breaking the rule because we are not doing it intentionally. He did mention there are certain things people must do regardless of the day of the week in the home that are not considered sinful. However, he did remind us that we should try our best on Sundays to do things like spending time with family or doing something like reading from Scripture.

I simply put the O.T. reference aside, because Jesus has given us an upgrade. He let His own people pick grain on Sabbath, and he healed Sabbath, etc. and when He was caught doing it, He made no effort to stop or to chastise His friends. Guess He didn’t read Exodus; this is just the kind of thing that makes me focus on the N.T. … unless this foreshadows Jesus becoming sin in the flesh.

Mark 2:27
Then he said to them, “The sabbath was made for man, not man for the sabbath.

So since the sabbath is for man and not man for the sabbath, the sabbath cannot charge man of breaking its rule. The man can go against the obvious design that man has time off for rest and contemplation, but may lose a blessing but won’t gain a sin. Unless the Church says so, that is, and to me that’s another matter.


I watched the Maher interview and the trailer to the movie.

One thing I noticed is that the guy, although we don’t agree with what he says, keeps a civil and even positive tone while disagreeing. This makes it easier to probe differences. I look at people who disagree with me as a mirror. I show one thing; they show the opposite; so once I make friends with them I decide which was right. Probably me, but not always. :stuck_out_tongue:

I like some of those around, just like the kings had court jesters. It was not just for entertainment. The jesters would sit in on high level meetings and make ridiculous, provocative statements that nobody else in the room could have made without losing their heads. Sometimes the jester would just say the opposite of what the king said. It kept the king real, and provided some form of feedback … if the king heard something interesting from the jester he could always ask his people there at the meeting. It was a win for all to have a fool in the house.

Anyway even O’Reilly was speaking civil in this discussion. To me, it was one of the closest I’ve seen O’Reilly come to being sincere. Most people he disagrees with, he shouts down. But he gave this atheist full respect.