Keeping the Sabbath was of critical importance to first century Jewish practice. The day is set aside for rest and those that willfully broke the Sabbath were to be stoned to death. This Sabbath was considered by non-Jews to be a most peculiar practice and a practice which could be exploited. The Romans took advantage the practice by building earthworks near the walls of Jerusalem on the Sabbath because the Jews refused to shoot weapons at them (War 1.15-147). In the Diaspora it was common for a Jew to be taken to court on the Sabbath, hoping they would not appear to defend themselves (Antiq. 16.45-46). Greek and Roman writers regularly mocked the Jews for the practice of the Sabbath. The poet Rutilius Namatianus, for example, ridiculed the Jews for being lazy, wasting one day a week when they ought to be working.
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