The Apple Of God's Eye

September 29, 2009

Is "First Day Of The Week" The Same As Sunday?

There is a theory circulated among certain Sunday-keeping groups that Sunday became the Sabbath after the resurrection of Christ. As supposed proof, they mistranslate the original Greek phrase, usually rendered “first day of the week,” as “first of the sabbaths.” They claim that the first Sunday after the resurrection became the first “Christian Sabbath” — and that Saturday was the “Jewish Sabbath.” This idea is absolutely FALSE!

No competent Greek scholars accept such a translation. But let the Bible itself disprove this fable. If the Sunday after the resurrection were the first “Christian Sabbath” — which it never could be — then any Sunday thereafter could not be the “first of the sabbaths,” but would of necessity be either the “second or third … or hundredth of the sabbaths!”

Acts 20:7 recorded of  56 A.D. — 25 years after the resurrection! Yet the same original Greek phrase, translated “first day of the week” in Matthew, Mark, Luke and John, occurs here! This could not be the “first of the sabbaths” 25 years after the resurrection — since, by their theory, the first of the “Christian sabbaths” would have already occurred 25 years before the event recorded in Acts 20:7. Obviously the Greek cannot mean what they say it does!

Now turn to I Corinthians 16:2. This letter was written in the late winter of 55 A.D. — almost 24 years after the resurrection — and the same Greek expression occurs here. This certainly was not the “first of the Christian sabbaths!” It would be 24 years too late! The answer is that the only proper idiomatic rendering of the Greek phrase is “first day of the week,” not “first of the sabbaths.”

But, it may be objected, is not the Greek word sάbbaton, translated “week,” the same word often translated “sabbath”? Of course it is, but the inspired Greek word may also mean “week” — because the sabbath determines the length of the week. The Greeks had two words for “week”: hebdomad and sάbbaton. Only the word sάbbaton is used in the New Testament. It comes from the Hebrew word meaning “rest,” “sabbath,” “week,” “seven.”

In Luke 18:12 the Greek word sάbbaton is translated properly as “week,” not “sabbath.” The Jews fasted “twice in a week,” Monday and Thursday, not “twice on a sabbath.” That would be foolish! This verse alone proves that the Greek word sάbbaton may mean “week.”

But there is even more proof. The English expression “first day of the week” comes from two different Greek idioms. In Mark 16:9, the original Greek is prootee sabbάton. It has only one meaning: “first [day) of [the] week.” In this verse sabbάton is the Greek singular possessive form of sάbbaton — and means “of the week.” Prootee means “first.”

But in all other cases (Mat. 28:1; Mark 16:2; Luke 24:1; John 20:1, 19; Acts 20:7; I Cor. 16:2) the Greek word sάbbaton, which may mean either “sabbath” or “week,” is in the plural. The Greek expression translated “first day of the week” is, in these verses, mia toon sabbάtoon. It is an idiom and cannot be translated literally into English. It, too, means “the first day of the week,” but it refers to one particular “first day” — the Sunday upon which the wave sheaf was offered — the Sunday AFTER two sabbaths!

Since the Greek word sάbbaton in these verses is in the plural, it may mean either “weeks,” or “sabbaths.” Professor Sophocles, a Greek scholar, indicates in his Lexicon, p. 43, par. 6, that the expression means “[day number] one after the sabbaths.” Which sabbaths? The first high day or annual sabbath and the weekly sabbath falling within the Days of Unleavened Bread! Here is the proof!

The same plural form — sabbάtoon – is found in the Greek Septuagint translation of Leviticus 23:15. In this verse the Greek for “the morrow after the sabbath” is epaύrion toon sabbάtoon and means idiomatically “the day after the sabbaths.” The Greek translators understood that you begin counting Pentecost from the Sunday after the weekly sabbath during the Days of Unleavened Bread. They used the plural word sabbάtoon, meaning “sabbaths,” to make plain that the Sunday on which the wave sheaf was offered followed BOTH the first annual sabbath AND the weekly sabbath in the Days of Unleavened Bread.

In other words, every New Testament writer was making especially plain which particular Sunday followed the resurrection — the Sunday after the two sabbaths, which in that year fell on Thursday and, of course, Saturday. In all these verses the original Greek, loon sabbάtoon, means idiomatically “AFTER the sabbaths” — and cannot be taken literally to mean “of the sabbaths.” It is a Greek idiom which uses the possessive plural with the meaning of “after.” The Greek translation of Leviticus 23:15 proved it!

Even in Acts 20:7 and I Cor. 16:2, the day referred to was the day the wave sheaf was offered. In 56 A.D., when the events in Acts 20 occurred, the Passover occurred on a weekly Sabbath. The Days of Unleavened Bread extended from Sunday through the following Sabbath. The day of the wave-sheaf offering in that year immediately followed the Days of Unleavened Bread. That was the day Paul preached until midnight — beginning Saturday night immediately after the Festival was over (Acts 20:7).

Those with Luke kept the entire Feast in Phillipi. After the feast, Luke and those with him left Phillipi for Troas (Acts 20:6). Paul left Troas on the day the wave sheaf was offered — before Luke arrived at Troas. Luke does not say “when we came together, Paul preached unto us” — he clearly states “when the disciples come together, Paul preached unto them.” Whenever Luke includes himself he uses the “we” form (Acts 20:6, 13).

Some translations incorrectly insert in Acts 20:7 the pronoun “we.” The overwhelming majority of New Testament Greek manuscripts have “they,” not “we.” The original Greek of Acts 20:13 indicated that Paul “had left arrangements,” prior to Luke’s arrival at Troas, for Luke to proceed in ship to Assos in order to pick up Paul.

I Cor. 16:2 also refers to the day the wave sheaf was offered at Jerusalem — just another indication that what was laid in store was fruit of the field, not money in a church offering-plate! The time those Christians began to harvest was “upon the day after the sabbaths” — upon Sunday after the early-morning offering of the wave sheaf.

This precise history, not usually understood, clearly indicates that the New Testament Church continued to observe the sabbath and the annual festivals God gave, and that they always regarded Sunday as a work day.

Source: Good News, 1958

May 26, 2009

The Truth About Sunday Observance

Why do most observe Sunday as their day of rest? Not because they can prove that they should from the Bible!

“You may read the Bible from Genesis to Revelation, and you will not find a single line authorizing the sanctification of Sunday. The Scriptures enforce the religious observance of Saturday.”

That’s a quote which came from Catholic James Cardinal Gibbons in The Faith of Our Fathers (1917 ed.).

A Catholic study course states: “If we followed the Bible only, we would keep holy the Saturday … Well, did Christ change the day? … We have no record that He did … The Church … transferred the obligation from Saturday to Sunday” (Father Smith Instructs Jackson).

The Catholic church makes no secret that it is responsible for replacing Sabbath keeping with Sunday observance.

And the Protestants? At the time of the Reformation they protested against many teachings of the Catholic church. But few protested against Sunday observance. One of those who did was named Carlstadt. So striking were his writings on the subject that Martin Luther admitted in his book Against the Celestial Prophets: “Indeed, if Carlstadt were to write further about the Sabbath, Sunday would have to give way, and the Sabbath — that is to say, Saturday — must be kept holy.”

But Luther did not want to go to that extent in rocking the ecclesiastical boat of his time. His reasoning, as found in his Larger Catechism, was that “to avoid the unnecessary disturbance which an innovation would occasion, it [the day of worship] should continue to be Sunday” (Shaff-Herzog Encyclopedia of Religious Knowledge, article “Sunday”).

Martin Luther did not take issue with Sunday observance. The Protestant reformers as a whole accepted the Catholic position on Sunday. This is the real reason Protestants observe Sunday today!

When was Sunday substituted?

It didn’t happen all at once. It was gradual. “For some time it [Sunday] was observed conjointly with the Sabbath, verbal and ritual relics of such observance still remaining in our liturgical books and customs. But as Jewish habits [an admission that the early true Church kept some of the same customs as the Jews] became disused [On whose authority? God’s? No, man’s!] by the gentile [pagan-influenced] churches, this practice [Sabbath keeping] was generally, though slowly, discontinued” (Blunt’s Dictionary of Doctrinal and Historical Theology, article “Sunday”).

Even while the original apostles were alive it was necessary to warn of “certain men … crept in unnoticed” (Jude 4) who were trying to introduce pagan ideas into the Church. Worshiping on the day of the sun was but one of those ideas. Multitudes in the world were being deceived by an expanding counterfeit “Christianity” based on the ancient Babylonian mystery religion.

In the early years of the Church many fraudulent epistles were circulated, masquerading as apostolic letters. Notice how a letter written to gentiles shortly after the turn of the century and attributed to one Ignatius reveals that they, gentiles, were keeping the Sabbath:

“Let us therefore no longer keep the Sabbath after the Jewish manner … But let every one of you keep the Sabbath after a spiritual manner, rejoicing in meditation on the law, not in relaxation of the body [a deliberate attempt to water down God’s Sabbath law] … And after the observance of the Sabbath, let every friend of Christ keep the Lord’s Day [Sunday] as a festival … the queen and chief of all the days of the week.”

Both days were being kept, but observance of Sunday was being emphasized by Ignatius.

Not all early Catholics, however, favored Sunday observance. Around 230, Catholic Origen wrote to fellow Catholics of the gentile churches in Egypt:

“But what is the feast of the Sabbath except that of which the apostle speaks, ‘There remaineth therefore a Sabbatism’ [Hebrews 4:9], that is, the observance of the Sabbath by the people of God? [Notice how this man understood his native Greek tongue!] Leaving the Jewish observances of the Sabbath, let us see how the Sabbath ought to be observed by a Christian. On the Sabbath day all worldly labors ought to be abstained from. If, therefore, you cease from all secular works, and execute nothing worldly, but give yourselves up to spiritual exercises, repairing to church, attending to sacred reading and instruction … this is the observance of the Christian Sabbath” (Origen’s Opera, Book 2, p. 358).

Council of Laodicea prohibited Sabbath keeping

In 321 the Roman government issued an edict making Sunday a civil day of rest. The paganized, counterfeit “Christian” religion, which was becoming the empire’s dominant religion, supported the edict.

Sabbath keepers were forced to flee the confines of the western Roman Empire. Only in the east did Sabbath keepers remain. Eventually, however, Sabbath keeping was to be stamped out of the eastern Roman Empire as well.

About 365 the Council of Laodicea was called to settle, among other matters, the Sabbath question! One of its most famous canons was the 29th: “Christians must not Judaize by resting on the Sabbath, but must work on that day, rather honoring the Lord’s Day, resting then as Christians. But if any shall be found Judaizing, let them be anathema from Christ” (Nicene and Post-Nicene Fathers, vol. XIV, p. 148).

The force of the Roman state had already been utilized in 325, after the Council of Nicaea, to confiscate the property and to destroy the lives of any who obeyed God’s command to keep the Passover. So the heavy hand of the state fell upon any who would be faithful in resting on the Sabbath and worshiping God as commanded in the Bible.

Why give such a command if there were no true Christians observing the Sabbath at that time?

Although Sabbath keeping was absolutely prohibited by this council, yet the whole Greek world still continued to attend church services on the Sabbath and work the remainder of the day! Saturday then was observed much as Sunday is observed now!

Public worship on the Sabbath was far from expelled in the churches of the east even four centuries after Christ.

Gregory, Bishop of Nyassa, a representative of the eastern churches, about 10 years after the Council at Laodicea, dared to tell the world: “With what eyes can you behold the Lord’s day, when you despise the Sabbath? Do you not perceive that they are sisters, and that in slighting the one, you affront the other?”

Sunday finally made a rest day

Observance of Sunday as a day of total rest was not strictly enforced for almost two centuries more. We even find Jerome, the translator of the Latin Vulgate Bible, working after the Sunday services several years following the enactments at Laodicea.

But Augustine, around 400, declared: “The holy doctors of the church [not the Bible, but men] have decreed that all the glory of the Jewish Sabbath is transferred to it [Sunday]. Let us therefore keep the Lord’s day as the ancients were commanded to do the Sabbath” (Sabbath Laws, p. 284).

It was the Roman church that sanctioned the Roman Sunday as a rest day, and not merely a secular holiday. It was that church that transferred the law of the Sabbath to Sunday. Another 600 years passed before the last recorded semblance of public worship on the Sabbath was completely extirpated from the eastern churches.

Meanwhile Pope Gregory of Rome, who reigned from 590 to 604, anathematized “those who taught that it was not lawful to do work on the day of the Sabbath” (History of the Popes, vol. II, p. 378).

That stamped the Sabbath out of the churches of the British Isles and the Continent where, according to Webster’s Rest Days, “The Celts kept Saturday as a day of rest, with special religious services on Sunday” (A. Bellesheim, History of the Catholic Church in Scotland, Edinburgh, 1887-1890, i, 86).

That’s the record of history!

Source: The Good News, August 1983

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