Sabbath in New Testament

Discussion in 'Bible Versions/Translations' started by Dave, Oct 11, 2009.

  1. Dave

    Dave
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    All,

    I am looking into the statements in the scripture pertaining to the keeping of the sabbath as I have been discussing this with some SDA's I know. In so doing, I have come across an interesting thing in the new testament.

    Invariably when the term "the first day of the week" appears in the KJV, ASV and I am sure almost all other english bibles, the word in the greek for week is σαββάτων. The Logos morphology indicates the form as noun, genitive, plural, neuter. The entire phrasing seems to be translatable as "one of the sabbaths" as opposed to the chosen translation "first day of the week".

    Now, my question pertains to why is would be translated this way? I could see sabbath as being equated to a week in a book written to a Jewish audience (such as Mathew). However, does this make sense when the intended audience is Greek (Theophilus, the church at Corinth)?

    I am hoping some greek scholar on this board can give me some perspective on this. The reading of the phrase "one of the sabbaths" in place of "first day of the week" makes minor difference in some places, but may be major in the case of Matthew 28:1 and Luke 24:1.

    Thank you very much for any and all responses.
     
  2. franklinmonroe

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    Hi Dave. Upfront, I'm not a Greek scholar. But I think there are three fairly straightforward reasons why it should be translated "week". But be aware that there are very elaborate and convincing explanations out there for why the translation should be "Sabbath".

    First, koine Greek didn't have an established word that meant "week" nor one that represented a 'holy day' for the Jewish Sabbath; so the word sabbaton (Strong's #4521) then was essentially borrowed from Hebrew shabbath (Strong's #7676) and came to be used for both purposes.

    Second, the Jews didn't have individual names for each day of the week. They made reference to the days of the week by their numeric relationship within the seven-day period ending with the Sabbath. There are Greek examples outside of the Bible where this useage can also be found.

    Third, no word should be analyzed in complete isolation. The words around any word give it context and certain constructions can hold idiomatic or particular meaning.

    There are not that many NT ocurrences (8) of the phrase commonly rendered "first day of the week" (or equivalent in English). Generally, these verses display more-or-less the same constructions: a form of the Greek word mia (Strong's #3391) meaning "one" or "first" followed by sabbaton (with or without the definite article). As you stated this is literally 'one (of the) sabbath' but together the two words can consistantly indicate the 'first (day) of the week'. When some these ocurrences are seen in the local context (passage) it is particularly clear that a rendering as "Sabbath" would be confusing and awkward.

    I tried to keep this simple (by leaving out many details). I hope it helps.
     
    #2 franklinmonroe, Oct 11, 2009
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  3. HankD

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    Hi Dave,

    The issue IMO, is not the grammar but the true significance of the Sabbath.

    Read Hebrews Chapter 4.

    Look at Hebrews 4:9 in the Koine.

    Jesus Christ Himself IS the Sabbath rest and the only Sabbath which exists (remaineth) and must be entered into.

    Anyone not keeping this Sabbath has not ceased from his own works and has not entered into His rest.

    Ironic but true that some/many (certainly not all) "Christians" who keep the earthly sabbath are not keeping the heavenly Sabbath.

    HankD
     
  4. Dave

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    Singular or plural? To my way of thinking it is that the plural form of the word is used that calls it into question. At least in English, week is a singular form and weeks would be the plural.

    This is very interesting to me. How then did non-Jewish people identify weeks? With no specific word, was it just a numbering of the days?

    I agree completely. In fact it is the phrasing that intrigued me as much as the occurence of the plural form of sabbaton.


    Here is where I disagree somewhat. To my way of thinking, in Mathew 28:1 the greek reads Matthew 28:1 Matthew 28:1 (first clause)


    ὀψὲ δὲ σαββάτων τῇ ἐπιφωσκούσῃ εἰς μίαν σαββάτων

    Now the plural of Sabbaton is used in the 3rd and last words of the phrase. In English this is translated "At the end of the Sabbath as it began to dawn on the first day of the week". If the plural of Sabbaton is used, why is it translated as a singular Sabbath.

    A literal translation of this could be (direct translation as per Opentext.org NT) "Evening but of Sabbaths in the dawning in on one of the Sabbaths" This I believe is in context. In looking at the other occurrences in the New Testament, to replace the phrase "on the first day of the week" with "on one of the Sabbaths" doesn't break context as they both are indicative of a specific day.

    Admittedly this is only my own thinking on this and I am not knowledgeable about Koine Greek. Maybe the plural in the Greek isn't used the same way as in English, for all I know. This is the source of the question. In every instance in the New Testament where the phrase is translated first day of the week, the plural form of Sabbaton is used.

    It does. I greatly appreciate your trying to keep it simple as I admittedly do not have the requisite knowledge of Greek to go very deep. However, this still seems a strange thing to me.
     
  5. Dave

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    Wow! I have known this to be true for some time, but the clarity in the Greek as opposed to how it is translated in the KJV is startling. The problem comes that some don't acknowledge that the Sabbath requirements are lifted as they are completed in Christ. They think this a future or ultimate thing rather than a current recinsion of the earthly Sabbath. This led me to a word / phrase study to see if other scriptures would show a move to Sunday as the Christian "sabbath". Note that I put "sabbath" in quotes, as I believe the Sabbath requirements as detailed in the Pentateuch are a shadow that pointed to Christ and a picture of how we should rest in Him.
     
  6. HankD

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    Yes, Christ is our Sabbath rest from the burden of the Law...

    Matthew 11:28 Come unto me, all ye that labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.


    HankD​
     
  7. franklinmonroe

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    Like I said before: I'm not an expert. I know that singular or plural forms are not always translated into the English. For example, the singular word "heaven" from the phrase "kingdom of heaven" in Matthew (KJV 32 times) is actually plural in Greek. This may be a case of synecdoche (a figure of speech where an individual part or a small portion is used to represent the whole).
     
    #7 franklinmonroe, Oct 13, 2009
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  8. Dave

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    I understand. I am grateful for the knowledge you are sharing in any case.

    Interesting. I did not know this. I guess it is beyond the scope of discussion so far, but I would love to hear from someone who is knowledgeable of the reasoning behind this. It does seem that this is more than something with a single word, and lends itself to the probability of a valid reason.

    Thank you once more for sharing.

    Dave
     
  9. franklinmonroe

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    Remember that a word represents a concept; sometimes those concepts are tangible ("chair", "tree", etc.) and sometimes those concepts are intangible ("love", "zero", etc.).

    If a foreign word were translated into English as "chair" it would not confirm that the foreign word actually means "chair" but rather the representation of the concept of an item that is used as seating. It is the commonality of the attributes of the furniture to be sat upon that leads us to translate the word as "chair"; that is, the foreign tangible thing corresponds roughly to our tangible thing (perhaps by virtue of having 'legs', or a 'backrest', etc.). This is why other translators might select "seat" (less specific) or "throne" (more specific) instead of "chair".

    So also with the intangible concept of "week". While "week" is grammatically singular, a "week" (composed of days) is conceptually plural. I intentionally did not say that a week is always exactly seven days because the corresponding concept in some cultures has included various amounts of days; but the Jewish concept of a weekly period was seven days. Therefore, when/if 'sabbaths' represents this period of time, it actually stands in for 'seven days of which the seventh day is the Sabbath'. The Greek phrase could be translated as 'first of seven days' (which would agree in grammatical number) but has been further refined in English as a "week". One of the details I didn't bring out before was about the Genitive (which indicates 'possession' or 'belonging to'). Therefore, σαββάτων belongs to something; it belongs to a period of days. I think it makes more sense that the Genitive use of Sabbath is that it belongs to specific seven day period rather than belonging with an undefined set of other Sabbaths, but I'd have to search this out more.

    The weekly period of time seem to be of little import to the Jews. It is only in about 23 OT verses, about one-third of those in Daniel alone. The Hebrew word in Daniel is shabuwa (String's #7620) which is not even an actual "week" but a prophetic period based on seven (years).
     
    #9 franklinmonroe, Oct 14, 2009
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  10. Dave

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    Franklin,

    Thanks a lot! This makes a lot of sense and I am glad you have shared it. Now it fits with my original understanding of the Lord's Day as a day of worship, not a "Sabbath" with all of the rules that are specified in the OT passages, as Christ is our true Sabbath rest.

    I knew there had to be a reason, but it had eluded me. Thanks again.

    Dave
     
  11. franklinmonroe

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    Your welcome, Dave. BTW, here is how Young renders Matthew 28:1 --
    And on the eve of the sabbaths, at the dawn, toward the first of the sabbaths, came Mary the Magdalene, and the other Mary, to see the sepulchre,
    Notice that in this very literal version he correctly and consistantly translates both occurrences of σαββάτων as plural. Many versions (including the KJV, NIV, NASB, and ESV) at this verse translate the first occurrence as "Sabbath" and the second as "week". While it is true that another week will begin immediately after the end of the previous Sabbath day, I think what Matthew was literally saying is that the end of the Sabbath completes the entire previous week (seven day period).

    I think it is neither literal nor consistant to translate one σαββάτων as "Sabbath" and the other as "week". Indeed, that would be treating precisely the same word form once as singular and once as plural (conceptually) which may have contributed to your initial question. If we understand that the Genitive Plural indicates the 'period of seven days ending with a Sabbath' then this phrase is essentially stating the time reference as 'after that week was complete, it was now the beginning of the next week'. Yes, it was Sunday morning.

    Although, a benefit in using "Sabbath" in the first occurrence may assist the modern mind to remember that the calendar week still ends on Saturday (not Friday) and begins on Sunday (not Monday).
     
    #11 franklinmonroe, Oct 15, 2009
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  12. Carico

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    The Sabbath is not a day of the week, any more than the day of Atonement is. The old covenant is a shadow of the new covenant. The Sabbath is Jesus Christ our Lord as Hebrews 4:1-9 explains. Jesus fulfilled the whole law including the Sabbath law.

    The 7th day rest isn't simply a day to rest from godly or ungodly work during the week, or to engage in sloth. The OT is a shadow of the realities of Christ. The 7th day foreshadows that one can do no work to enter God's rest. That's called grace. God didn't rest only on the 7th day; he rested forever from his work just as Christians do when we come to Jesus for rest.

    Jesus is also resting forever now that he completed his work. So as Paul tells us in Colossians 2:16-17, "Do not let anyone judge you by what you eat or drink or with regard to a religious festival, a New Moon celebration or a Sabbath day. These are a shadow of the things that were to come; the reality, however, is found in Christ." :)
     
  13. Dave

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    This is how John Lange has it in his commentary. I think it somewhat consistent with Young's rendering.
    I knew about Young's rendering before I asked the question, and you do surmise correctly that it was one reason for it.

    I would agree that it is inconsistent to translate one occurrence as Sabbath (singular) and the other as week. This idea then supports either Young's translation or a translation that would say "After the end of the week as it began to dawn on the first day of the week".

    So what I think we are saying is that either way the bulk of the English translations have a lack of consistency issue with this text.

    I do think that understanding it as Young quite literally translated it would lead one to an understanding of Hebrews 4:9 as something to be in the future rather than present. If Sunday is a Sabbath day, then the idea of Christ as the fulfillment of the Sabbath rest would be inconsistent. This lends itself to the idea that the word used signifies the end of a week and the beginning of a week.
     
  14. Dave

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    Agreed. The scripture seems to be quite consistent on this point.

    Absolutely. Thank you reminding me of the Colossians verse, also. It is yet another passage that vindicates the view of the New Testament Sabbath to be found in our Lord Jesus Christ.

    It is a sad thing that these people are so determined to keep a shadow that should have passed away with all old things.

    I am attempting to write up a treatise on this issue that will make all these points and also relate the O.T. commands to the rest we have in Christ. All of you who responded in this thread have made excellent points that I plan on taking into account in this endeavor. I would be happy to share it and get feedback when I am done, if you are willing to review it. :smilewinkgrin:
     
  15. franklinmonroe

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    Yes, I would.
     

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