The Sabbath Day
Sooner or later the issue of the Sabbath comes along. I have addressed this subject in our audio series and in conferences and seminars as well. When I receive emails or letters concerning this subject, I usually respond with a typical western sound bite answer. I do not attempt to avoid the concern, it is just that most Christians have never really given the issue a second thought. After all, observing Sabbath is a Jewish thing, so why even study the issue?
Recently I received a more serious look at the issue from a group of people who have taken the time to actually consider whether this covenant between God and man is for them or not. I have been told and understand that this is a genuine search for the truth on their part, and so I have decided to talk about this issue on this forum for awhile. Historically, most followers of the dominant religion in America simply follow their denominations like an unending stream of lemmings. This is what we do, they assume, and so anything in scripture that resembles what we are doing today, must be what they were doing back then as well. This is precisely how most churches approach the communion issue. Today, most churches partake of communion every Sunday or once a month. There are some who observe it every time they meet. This is how we do it today. So when Rav Sha’ul tells us in his letter to the Corinthians that we are to remember the Lord's death as often as we eat this bread and drink this cup, well, that must mean we do it every time we meet. We meet every Sunday, so we must partake of communion every Sunday. Sounds logical does it not? These are hard presuppositions to overcome. To get the masses to think and behave like the Messiah is a difficult task. By the way, the context of 1 Corinthians 11 is the Passover meal, which is observed on the 14th of Aviv (Nisan).
There are a dozen ways to approach this subject and there are myriads of very good books that address this covenant from the scriptures and not from tradition. One of the best treatises on the Sabbath is by Samuele Bacchiocchi, and is called 'From Sabbath to Sunday'. There is nothing that I can add to what he has done. I, however, intend to respond to a series of 'proof texts' that I have been given concerning this issue. I would like to respond to them one at a time in just the order that I have received them. I respond to these 'proof texts' with the upmost concern and respect for those who are seeking the truth concerning the Sabbath. There are times when I may appear a bit sarcastic. Please do not be offended for I am always a bit sarcastic and I am fairly consistent about spreading it out to everyone. I will begin by posting the 'proof texts' I was given in bold print, followed by my response.
NOTES FROM DAKE'S ANNOTATED REFERENCE BIBLE
SUNDAY THE CHRISTIAN SABBATH - 1COR. 16:2
The disciples of Moses teach that the Sabbath was changed from Saturday to Sunday by Constantine, 321 A.D. and by the Catholic church, 364 A.D. The following facts from history prove that they are historically wrong.
1. The encyclopedia Britannica under Sabbath and Sunday says, In the early Christian church Jewish Christians continued to keep the Sabbath like other points of the law On the other hand, Paul from the first days of Gentile Christianity, laid it down definitely that the Jewish Sabbath was not binding on Christians, controversy with Judaizers led in process of time to direct condemnation of those who still kept the Jewish day 321 A.D. Constantine made the Christian Sabbath, Sunday, the rest day for the Roman Empire, but it was observed by Christians for nearly 300 years before it became a law by Constantine.
The very first 'proof text' has so many assumptions and presuppositions that I find it difficult to know where to begin. So I will begin with the opening remarks. I will begin by agreeing that Sunday is the Christian Sabbath. Sunday is not the biblical Sabbath, but it is indeed the Christian Sabbath. So we begin with presupposition number one, which is the assumption that Christian doctrine equals Biblical doctrine. I begin here because the first truth that we must deal with is the agreement, without exception, that the search here is Biblical truth and not Christian or Jewish "tradition" which they call doctrine. Quoting early Christian or Jewish sources only verifies the early doctrines and beliefs of Christians and Jews. Our search must be God's view of the Sabbath and not any religions view of the Sabbath. If the Christians wish to make, for whatever reason, the first day of the week the Sabbath, they certainly have that right.
I must assume that the first comments come from the Dake's Bible commentary on 1 Corinthians 16:2. This is where I find presupposition number two, the assumption that this verse shows that worship and offerings were taken on Sunday.
1 Corinthians 16:1-2
"Now concerning the collection for the saints, as I have given order to the churches of Galatia, even so do ye. Upon the first day of the week let every one of you lay by him in store, as God hath prospered him, that there be no gatherings when I come.
Now, setting aside the fact that a collection on Sunday for the saints does not constitute a proof text for 2000 years of gathering on Sunday for the Christian Sabbath, the phrase 'first day of the week' must be addressed first. In Hebrew, Greek, and English there are two different words that identify the subtle differences between a cardinal number and an ordinal number. A cardinal number identifies 'how many'. A cardinal number is one, two, three, four, or 1,2,3,4. An ordinal number identifies order, such as first, second, third, fourth or 1st, 2nd, 3rd, 4th. In Hebrew, the word 'echad identifies number and ri'shon identifies order. In Greek, the words eis, mias identify number and the word protos identifies order. The word protos should look familiar, for it is where we get the English term 'prototype' from. In other words, that which comes first. So let's see what the Greek text of 1 Corinthians 16:2 says about the English translation of 'first day of the week'.
kata mian sabbaton
In your English, this phrase is deliberately translated as 'every or upon the first day of the week'. Modern translations have chosen to translate this short phrase in the same way I discussed earlier with the communion issue. But is that what the Greek says? The first word is kata which in this context does mean every or upon. The second word is mian. Does that look familiar? It is our Greek word for number, not order. It is in the accusative singular and should be translated as 'one' and not 'first' This same eisegetical translation process was also applied to all the appearances of 'first day of the week', except for Mark 16:9, which we can address another time. The next thing you might notice is there is no Greek word for 'day' in this text. This word has been added by the translators. The Greek word for 'day' is hemeras, which is clearly present in other applications associated with the Greek word for 'first'.
"And when they were come to him, he said unto them, Ye know, from the first day that I came into Asia, after what manner I have been with you at all seasons,"
"And the first day of unleavened bread, when they killed the passover, his disciples said unto him, Where wilt thou that we go and prepare that thou mayest eat the passover?"
So far, we have two very glaring changes to the Greek text. The next word should look familiar. The word sabbaton, is not a Greek word. It is a transliteration of the Hebrew word shabbat. Greek and English have no equivilants to this Hebrew word, so both languages are forced to assign phonetic equivilants to each letter of this Hebrew (Biblical) word. This word is not only transliterated, but appears in the Greek in the plural and not the singular. The modern translations have 'assumed' that since the Hebrew word shabbat refers to the 7th day, that this word must be equivilant to a week. So this is why they have translated this Hebrew word as a 'week'. But the Hebrew word for week is shavua', as in the feast of 'weeks' or the 70 'weeks' of Daniel, for example. Both words share a common parent root of 'seven' but they are not interchangeable words. Shabbat always refers to the rest and cessation of work as it pertains to the 7th day of the week. Shavua' is the Hebrew word for 'week'. In the Septuagint or Greek translation of the Old Testament, the Greek word for week is ebdomas.
"And thou shalt observe the feast of weeks, of the firstfruits of wheat harvest, and the feast of ingathering at the year's end."
In other words, there is a perfectly good, well used word in Greek for a 'week'. The reason why the occurrences of 'first day of the week' in the Greek text have sabbaton rather than ebdomas is because the reference is to the Shabbat and not to Sunday. The proper translation of 1 Corinthians 16:2 should be to the Sabbaths and not Sunday. Now, why would the Greek text have the collection and gathering of the saints for worship and the hearing of God's word on the Biblical Sabbath? Because that has always been the time of gathering for family or like-minded followers of the God of Israel. The big clue could be in the numerous times that God has said that He has not changed and that we are not to profane HIS Sabbaths and feasts. I don't know, does that seem like a warning to you? (first definitive use of sarcasm.) Before proceeding, I would like to point out that the phrase 'one of the sabbaths' is a reference to the period of time between the waving of the sheaves and the festival of Shavu'ot, traditionally called the counting of the omer.
Now, lets address the sacred words of the Encyclopedia Britannica. "In the early Christian church Jewish Christians continued to keep the Sabbath like other points of the law..." First of all, the disciples of the house of Judah and the Jewish followers of Y'shua were not 'Jewish Christians'. The term 'Christian' was applied to gentile believers of a Jewish Messiah by mocking unbelievers in Antioch, a very gentile city. Neither Paul nor any of the writers of the New Testament refer to themselves as Christians. All right, picky, picky. I would agree with the gist of this statement. The record of Eusibius testifies clearly that at the time of the end of Yochanan's life and his faithful follower Polycarp, followers of Messiah were still following Messiah. All the things that Y'shua did and observed, they did as well. Where the break began to take place we will address later. I want to address the next presupposition, that comes without explanation, that 'Paul, from the first days of Gentile Christianity, laid it down definitely that the Jewish Sabbath was not binding on Christians'. Say what? Gentile Christianity? Here we see how easy it is to slip into nomenclature that finds no place in the scriptures, but yet becomes part of the 'church'. On the other hand, perhaps this is an appropriate term for those who are non-Jewish and follow a religion rather than the scriptures. So far, I have found that every other sentence is filled with non-biblical terminology that springs forth from the early church 'fathers' rather than scripture. Where in the scriptures do we find Gentile Christianity in contrast to a Jewish Sabbath?
I suppose at some point we must focus our attention on the big re-definitions rather than the small ones. In the book of Acts we find Paul in context with Shabbat seven times. (hmmmm seven times.) Four of those are in the 13th chapter where we find Paul teaching in the synagogue on this day (Acts 13:14,27,42,44). This section of scripture says nothing of Paul's attitude concerning this day other than he was ministering in the synagogue on this day. The other three times are as follows:
"And on the sabbath we went out of the city by a river side, where prayer was wont to be made; and we sat down, and spake unto the women which resorted thither."
So far I am hard pressed to find any condemnation for observing this day.
And Paul, as his manner was, went in unto them, and three sabbath days reasoned with them out of the scriptures."
"And he reasoned in the synagogue every sabbath, and persuaded the Jews and the Greeks."
What in the world were the Greeks doing in the synagogues? Don't they know that this Jewish day is not binding on them? Paul is doing a poor job of converting so far (-more sarcasm).
Now, I am fully aware that those who believe that Paul actually taught against observing Shabbat derive their proof texts from other places in Paul's writings. The four main sources of this belief come from Colossians 2:16, Galatians 4:10, Romans 14:6 and Romans 6:14. All four of these texts I have already fully covered in past teachings in the archive section on this web site. It only takes a little background from the Word of God that preceeded Paul's letters to see that changing the Sabbath is nowhere near the subject of Paul's teaching. The New Testament writers assume beliefs, they do not initiate them. Next time, we will continue this response to the very first proof text in the Dake's Bible concerning the Sabbath.