Articles addressing Scriptural concepts that are misunderstood by many Believers today.
The Sabbath is one of those areas that seems to be a little bit grey in Christendom. Some denominations keep the 7th Day Sabbath, while others say it was transferred to the 1st Day (in the writings of the early “church fathers” it is usually called the 8th Day instead of the 1st). Another denomination will say that the Sabbath is no longer kept at all, but rather “The Lord’s Day” (1st Day, Sunday) is to be kept instead. I am sure there are other beliefs as well, but we’ll primarily focus on these since they are the most common ones.
To begin, let’s examine each of these positions, in no particular order. First let’s look at the position of the 1st Day, Sunday, being the new “Sabbath.” This position is primarily built on Roman Catholic doctrine that has permeated through the ages and seeped in Protestantism as well. Most commonly, this belief states that due to the Resurrection of Messiah having occurred on the 1st Day of the week (Sunday), the Sabbath was “transferred” to Sunday. The other “proofs” given for this can be seen in the some of the Apostolic Writings, or “New Testament.”
Acts 20:7, “ 7On the first day of the week, when we were gathered together to break bread, Paul began talking to them, intending to leave the next day, and he prolonged his message until midnight.”
1 Corinthians 16:2, “On the first day of every week each one of you is to put aside and save, as he may prosper, so that no collections be made when I come.”
Revelation 1:10, “10On the Lord’s Day I was in the Spirit, and I heard behind me a loud voice like a trumpet.”
First off we need to discuss Jewish culture a little bit. See, what is commonly missed in most churches is the fact that not only was Jesus (from here on out called “Yeshua,” His actual Hebrew/Aramaic Name) Jewish, but so were His disciples. Paul even goes so far as to call himself a Jew (technically of the tribe of Benjamin) and a Pharisee (Philippians 3:5, Romans 11:1). So we need to understand a few things about Jewish/Hebrew culture before trying to understand Hebrew Scripture. To begin, the issue mentioned in Acts 20 of “breaking bread.” Yeshua did this MANY times (see Mark 8, Mark 14, Matthew 26, Luke 22, Luke 24, and others) and the reason for this is because that was their culture. Every day, before the meal, they would have a small cup of wine and some bread. Even today you will find Jews and Messianics doing this on Friday nights and Sabbath afternoons, usually referred to as Kiddush (an Aramaic word meaning "sanctified"). It was not a “new” thing in the church called communion: it was a Jewish practice kept for hundreds of years. The Roman Catholics then stole this custom and turned it into some Neo-Christian rite, when really, it was practiced daily by Jews for hundreds of years before that.
The next thing to understand is that a “day” starts at sunset, not midnight. The example for this was set by The Father Himself in Genesis 1, when we read, “And there was evening, and there was morning, the [nth] day.” Evening (occurring right at sunset) and morning (daylight until the next sunset). So, for example, if sunset is 6PM on Monday evening, then Tuesday will begin at 6PM on Monday evening. Tuesday will end at sunset Tuesday evening. And so it goes for every day of the week. This is also evidenced in the Holy Days. Leviticus 23:27 states that the Day of Atonement (one of the Holy Feast Days that YHWH gave us) is to be the 10th day of the 7th month. Meanwhile, verse 32 tells us to keep the day on the 9th day of the month at evening until the next evening. This is because the 10th DAY begins at sunset on the 9th.
So when Acts 20:7 says they broke bread on the “first day of the week” it is nothing special, as they did this every day. When it says Paul talked until midnight, it would technically already be the 2nd day of the week, or Monday. Yet we don’t see anyone having church services on Monday, do we?
1 Corinthians 16:2 may seem like it is talking about putting in your offering on Sunday morning, or tithing to your church, but a careful examination of the context of the passage shows it is not.
Notice that in verse 3, Paul explains WHY they should set the money aside. Why the first day of the week? Because that was the beginning of the coming 6 days of work. Think of it in modern times, if you work Monday-Friday, 9-5 and get paid on Friday. If that were the case, you would put some money into your savings account every Friday. In the example of 1 Corinthians 16:2, Paul is having them do just that. He never mentions them having service or conducting worship on that day, just to be in the habit of setting the money aside every “first day.”
The last verse mentioned, Revelation 1:10, seems to say that John was “in the spirit” on the Lord’s Day, so that must be Sunday since “the Lord’s Day” is what most Christians call Sunday. Here there is not only a contextual problem, but also a translational one. Context gives no indication what day of the week this is. But the translation of the Greek phrase “egenomēn en Pneumati en te kyriakē hēmera” should not be rendered as it was. Indeed, the word en is correctly translated as “in” in the first part (I was IN the spirit) but was then changed to “on” in the second part (ON the Lord’s Day). It should read, “I was in the spirit in the Lord’s Day.” Bible scholar E.W. Bullinger, in his Commentary on Revelation, even remarked that this translation was faulty. Instead, Bullinger states that it should be rendered, “I was in the spirit in the Day of the Lord.” This makes a LOT more sense, as we will see.
We know John had visions of the End Times, and we know he saw the End. He also saw the Return of Messiah. Joel 2, Zech. 12, Zech. 14, Zeph. 1, Zeph. 2, Ezek. 30, Mal. 4 and MANY other prophets foretold of the Day when Yeshua would return. In most English Bibles this phrase is usually rendered, “The great and terrible Day of the Lord.” THAT is what John was talking about, because THAT is what he saw.
So, there seems to be no Scriptural support for saying the Sabbath was transferred to Sunday. That just leaves us with Resurrection Day. To begin, let’s read the account from the gospel of John. Though bear in mind, too, that even IF Yeshua was resurrected on Sunday it does not indicate a transfer of the Sabbath either.
John 19:31, “Then the Jews, because it was the day of preparation, so that the bodies would not remain on the cross on the Sabbath (for that Sabbath was a high day), asked Pilate that their legs might be broken, and that they might be taken away.”
Most people already understand that Friday is preparation day for the weekly Sabbath. They believe this shows that Yeshua was crucified on Friday. Then we have the verse about the resurrection.
John 20:1, “1Now on the first day of the week Mary Magdalene came early to the tomb, while it was still dark, and saw the stone already taken away from the tomb.”
Now, we know from Matthew 12 that Yeshua was to be in the tomb for three days and three nights.
Matthew 12:39-40, “39But He answered and said to them, “An evil and adulterous generation craves for a sign; and yet no sign will be given to it but the sign of Jonah the prophet; 40for just as JONAH WAS THREE DAYS AND THREE NIGHTS IN THE BELLY OF THE SEA MONSTER, so will the Son of Man be three days and three nights in the heart of the earth.”
So how, then, can we get three days AND three nights (a total of 72 hours) beginning at sunset Friday and ending at Sunrise on Sunday? Even using a basic 6AM-6PM rule, the most one can come up with is 36 hours from sunset on Friday to sunrise on Sunday. Now I know that many will say it wasn’t a LITERAL three days, that rather it was an idiom. They say that “one day and one night” was really a term used to indicate a 12-hour period, not a full 24-hour period. Logic alone would say that is incorrect, but let’s continue for a moment.
They also say that since the women got there while it was still dark on Sunday, then that must mean He rose on Sunday. The last piece of evidence they say they have is that Yeshua rose “on the third day” not “after three days” so it couldn’t be a full 72 hours because that means that He actually rose AFTER the 72nd hour, making it the 73rd hour, and therefore would mean He rose on the FOURTH day. Confused yet? We’ll clear it up. Basically, if you’re in the ground for three full days, then you can’t rise until after that, right? Then He must have risen on the fourth, they say. Which does not fit with John 2:19 when He says, “Destroy this Temple and I will raise it up in three days.”
The first flaw with this logic is, as I said, the fact that “one day and one night” is pretty much a universal term. Nowhere in all of Hebrew Scripture does the term “one day and one night” EVER refer to “a period of 12 hours” or just a time of daylight. That is simply absurd. Next, we have the fact that Scripture NEVER says He rose on the first day of the week, aside from Mark 16:9. We have it simply saying He was already risen and GONE from the tomb by the time the women got there. Mark 16:9 is a bit difficult as many scholars believe that section to be added later, AFTER Mark had written it. You can do a google search and discover that one on your own, but the Critical Texts (that is, the oldest surviving Greek Manuscripts) do not contain Mark 16:9-20. A lot of this information is readily available online.
Without getting too far off topic, I’ll briefly address this. Mark 16:9-20, John 5:4, 1 John 5:7 and a number of other verses are disputed between the various manuscripts. The oldest manuscripts contain NONE of these verses. If you want to see the example of what I’m talking about, read the above-listed verses in the KJV and then look for them in the NIV or ESV or NASB. They aren’t there. Simply put, there are a number of verses that do not appear in the oldest manuscripts. Now I believe 100% in the inerrancy of Scripture. I believe it is 100% correct and that it is all we need. However, mankind is NOT 100% inerrant, and as such can and will make mistakes. Scripture was inspired by YHWH, and was perfect and flawless when He inspired it. In the original copies, as they were written, they, too, were flawless. However, over the thousands of years that have followed, after being copied and copied and copied time and again, some have been corrupted. Many of them by accident. For instance, even a sincere and knowledgeable Scribe could mistake the Hebrew letter Dalet for the letter Resh. And switching the two, even accidentally, could forever alter the word.
Now, that having been said, we are now in a time where most of these things have been discovered and pointed out already. So, since we’ve spent enough time on that tangent already, let’s get back to the study.
So Scripture doesn’t say He rose on Sunday, just that Sunday rolled around and He was already gone. But the BIGGEST proof of all is that He told us that the “sign of Jonah” was given. Jonah was in the belly of the whale for…how long?
Jonah 1:17, “And YHWH prepared a great fish to swallow Jonah, and Jonah was in the stomach of the fish for three days and three nights.”
The Hebrew words here are, sheloshah yamim usheloshah layilowt, translated as “three days and three nights.” This verse LITERALLY says “three yom” and “three layil.” Yom is the Hebrew word for day, used ever since Genesis 1. “There was evening and morning, the first yom (day).”Layil is the word for night, such as is used in Genesis 1:5, “…and the darkness He called night…” So, we have three LITERAL days (yom) and three LITERAL nights (layil). That was how long Jonah was in the fish, and that is how long Yeshua was in the grave.
So the next problem, then, becomes, “Was Yeshua, then, raised on Monday evening or Tuesday?” Well, if He was buried on Friday, and was in the grave for three days and three nights, that would have to be true. So we can safely say, then, that He was not buried on Friday. But we already read that He was buried on Preparation Day, right? Yes, but not the Preparation Day for the weekly Sabbath, but rather for one of the annual Sabbaths. Remember, according to YHWH, the Feasts listed in Leviticus 23 and Deuteronomy 16 are to be kept as “holy convocations” meaning that they are treated like Sabbaths. Yeshua was crucified on Passover Day, the 14th day of the 1st Hebrew month, and the next day was going to be the First Day of Unleavened Bread, which is a High Holy Day (like a Sabbath).
Yeshua was crucified on Wednesday, right before sundown. He spent all Wednesday night in the tomb (12 hours) and all day Thursday (12 hours) and all night Thursday night (12 hours) and all day Friday (12 hours) and all night Friday night (12 hours) and all day Sabbath until just a few minutes before sunset (12 hours). That gives a three full days. What about times, though? The way time was reckoned by Judeans and Romans alike in Yeshua’s time was by hours in reference to 6AM. So if it was “the 3rd hour” that would be 9AM, because it is the 3rd hour after 6AM. The 9th hour, then, would be 3PM. Yeshua was killed at about the 9th hour.
Mark 15:33-37, “33When the sixth hour came, darkness fell over the whole land until the ninth hour. 34At the ninth hour Yeshua cried out with a loud voice, “ELOI, ELOI, LAMA SABACHTHANI?” which is translated, “MY EL, MY EL, WHY HAVE YOU FORSAKEN ME?” 35When some of the bystanders heard it, they began saying, “Behold, He is calling for Elijah.” 36Someone ran and filled a sponge with sour wine, put it on a reed, and gave Him a drink, saying, “Let us see whether Elijah will come to take Him down.” 37And Yeshua uttered a loud cry, and breathed His last.”
Matthew 27 and Luke 23 also tell this same story. At the “sixth hour” darkness fell over the land. The “sixth hour” was noon, and the “ninth hour” was 3PM. According to Roman/Jewish historian Flavius Josephus, who is considered a major authority on Jews and Rome during the first century CE, the Jews would slaughter the Passover lamb between 3PM and 5PM on Passover Day. So Yeshua was slain, as the Passover lamb, just after 3PM. We also can tell that sunset occurs about 6:30PM in Jerusalem at Passover season.
Now we know it took some time to get the bodies down and prepared for burial. Joseph of Arimathea came and collected Yeshua’s body and prepared it for the tomb and placed the body there. So sometime between 3PM and sunset Yeshua was buried. We know it was AFTER 3PM, because He was alive long enough to a) be given vinegar and b) to cry out. We know it was BEFORE sunset because, as John states in John 19, they had to be taken down and buried BEFORE the Sabbath (which began at sunset).
We can see now that Yeshua WAS in the tomb for three days, that He WAS placed in the tomb just prior to sunset on Wednesday, Passover Day. We know, then, that He rose “on the third day” which is 72 hours later, or Sabbath day, just before sunset. Then the women got there early Sunday morning, but He was ALREADY GONE!
I know this is a point of contention even among Messianics. Some believe He WAS resurrected on Sunday, but they’re okay with that because Sunday was the offering of the wavesheaf. What is the wavesheaf, you ask?
Leviticus 23:9-11, “9Then YHWH spoke to Moses, saying, 10″Speak to the children of Israel and say to them, ‘When you enter the land which I am going to give to you and reap its harvest, then you shall bring in the sheaf of the first fruits of your harvest to the priest. 11He shall wave the sheaf before YHWH for you to be accepted; on the day after the Sabbath the priest shall wave it.”
Here, again, is a point of disagreement for a lot of people. “Which Sabbath is the wave sheaf after? The weekly Sabbath or the annual (First Day of Unleavened Bread) Sabbath?” We’re going to go with the “Day after the [weekly] Sabbath.” I will address this further in a separate article.
So was Yeshua resurrected to be the wavesheaf offering, the firstfruits? Those who support this theory say that He WAS resurrected on Sunday because He was supposed to be the firstfruits offering of the dead.
1 Corinthians 15:20-24, “20But now Messiah has been raised from the dead, the firstfruits of those who are asleep. 21For since by a man came death, by a man also came the resurrection of the dead. 22For as in Adam all die, so also in Messiah all will be made alive. 23But each in his own order: Messiah the firstfruits, after that those who are Messiah’s at His coming, 24then comes the end, when He hands over the kingdom to the Elohim and Father, when He has abolished all rule and all authority and power.”
Paul says that Yeshua was the “firstfruits of those who are asleep.” Being “asleep” in Scriptural terminology means dead, at least in the fleshly sense. Yeshua is the only being to ever have been a human and then resurrected into the immortal, incorruptible form that we, too, hope to one day possess (See the rest of 1 Cor. 15 for more).
So Yeshua was raised as the firstfruits, so it makes sense that the firstfruits (that is, Yeshua) was waved (resurrected) on the “Day after the Sabbath” like He was, right? Not quite. He WAS the firstfruits offering, but the resurrection was not on Sunday. In all the times I have heard someone explain why they believe He was resurrected on Sunday (or even Sabbath after sunset, which is still Sunday), they have never been able to explain these verses.
John 20:11-18: “11But Mary was standing outside the tomb weeping; and so, as she wept, she stooped and looked into the tomb; 12and she saw two angels in white sitting, one at the head and one at the feet, where the body of Yeshua had been lying. 13And they said to her, “Woman, why are you weeping?” She said to them, “Because they have taken away my Master, and I do not know where they have laid Him.” 14When she had said this, she turned around and saw Yeshua standing there, and did not know that it was Yeshua. 15Yeshua said to her, “Woman, why are you weeping? Whom are you seeking?” Supposing Him to be the gardener, she said to Him, “Sir, if you have carried Him away, tell me where you have laid Him, and I will take Him away.” 16Yeshua said to her, “Mary!” She turned and said to Him in Hebrew, “Rabboni!” (Which means, Teacher). 17Yeshua said to her, “Do not touch Me, for I have not yet ascended to the Father; but go to My brethren and say to them, ‘I ascend to My Father and your Father, and My Elohim [God] and your Elohim [God].’” 18Mary from Magdala came, announcing to the disciples, “I have seen the Master,” and that He had said these things to her.”
I realize that’s a lot, but you need this entire section for context. Most of us know this story well, but verse 17 doesn’t seem to make a lot of sense, does it? Why would He say “Do not touch Me, for I have not yet ascended to the Father”?
(*NOTE: Most versions translate this phrase as “stop clinging to me” but an examination of the Greek text reveals that it says me mou haptou, literally meaning “not me touch.” In this instance, the King James Version actually translates it best as “Touch Me not.”*)
Above, when we read Leviticus 23:11, we saw the term “before YHWH.” The Hebrew word used for “before” is lipne, which is a form of panim. Lipne means “before,” though not in the sense of time. Rather, in the sense of position. That is, this word can also be translated as “in the sight of” or “right in front of.” So the priest would wave the sheaf “in the sight of” or “right in front of” YHWH. In the same way, Yeshua, as the firstfruits offering, had to be presented “before” or “right in front of” YHWH His Father. That is why He told Mary He had not yet ascended, so she couldn’t touch Him. Any offering had to be without blemish, so He couldn’t risk her being unclean and, in turn, touching Him, therefore making Him unclean as well. At least, not until AFTER He was already presented as the firstfruits offering.
After Mary left, Yeshua DID ascend to His Father, in that He offered Himself as the “firstfruits” or wave sheaf offering, before going to meet the disciples later that day (John 20:19). We know this because when He appears to them later, He allows Thomas to touch Him.
All that to simply prove that the Sabbath is STILL in effect? Yes, indeed. Consider this: if the Creator of the universe declared something to be good, and we know He never changes nor changes His mind (Malachi 3:6 & Numbers 23:19), then can that “good” thing ever be bad? Likewise, if YHWH has said something is WRONG, can that something ever be right? You see, YHWH declared and established the 7th day Sabbath from the beginning. He Himself rested on the seventh day, the same pattern He established with His people. More than just that, though, the Sabbath is His mark and sign with His people.
Exodus 31:12-14, “12YHWH spoke to Moses, saying, 13″But as for you, speak to the children of Israel, saying, ‘You shall surely observe My Sabbaths; for this is a sign between Me and you throughout your generations, that you may know that I am YHWH who sanctifies you. 14′Therefore you are to observe the Sabbath, for it is holy to you. Everyone who profanes it shall surely be put to death; for whoever does any work on it, that person shall be cut off from among his people.”
“For this [the Sabbath] is a sign between Me and you THROUGHOUT YOUR GENERATIONS.” Unending.
Exodus 31:16, “16So the children of Israel shall observe the Sabbath, to celebrate the Sabbath throughout their generations as an everlasting covenant.”
The Sabbath is His sign, just as much as the rainbow was the symbol of His promise with Noah. The Sabbath was never “changed” and the Sabbath never WILL be changed. In fact, of one reads through the book of Acts, one will discover that the disciples were in the synagogues teaching “every Sabbath” not every Sunday. In fact, adding up the number of times they were “in the synagogues on the Sabbath” you will get a sum of more than 80 times in the book of Acts alone! If the Sabbath was to be kept by Moses, Yeshua and Paul, then I’m pretty sure I should keep it as well.
As a final, parting thought, I find it perhaps necessary to address the 7th day of the week according to our Roman calendar. Yes, it is true, we all should be using the Hebrew calendar (whichever one). However, for pretty much all of us, our employers and doctors and family and whatnot don’t know about our Hebrew calendar. Because of this, we are forced to stick with the Gregorian Roman calendar. So then, how do we know that Saturday according to the Roman calendar is the seventh day (Shabbat) according to the Hebrew calendar? Well the short answer, is because it’s the same. That is, the seventh day of the week is the same on the Hebrew calendar as it is on the Babylonian, as it is on the Egyptian, as it is on the Greek, as it is on the Roman. Plus, consider the diaspora. The dispersion of all the Israelite tribes. They were dispersed, yet those that remained faithful to the keeping of the Torah NEVER had a problem knowing which day is the seventh. This is the day that corresponds to the Roman “Saturday.”
Note, also, that virtually every major culture in the world has given a name to the seventh day of the week something along the lines of Sabbath. Spanish: sabado. Greek: Sabbaton. German: samstag. French: semedi. Hebrew: Shabbat. Arabic: Sabt. Gaelic: di-Sathairne. Hindi: sanivara. Etc., etc. Notice that despite crossing MANY language barriers, the name of the seventh day is always similar. Regardless of what calendar we use, the last day of the week is the Sabbath of YHWH.
I hope and pray this study has blessed you, and hopefully shined a little light on the subject.
Be Berean. Shalom.