Correcting Acts 20:7 and 1 Corinthians 16:2
The Sabbath, called Shabbat in Hebrew, was universally given to all mankind as a day of rest for all time. Yahweh created the Sabbath as a gift to man, the animals, and the land.
We will continue this series on the Sabbath the way it was revealed to this author:
- a fresh understanding of the "first day of the week" as seen in Acts 20:6-7 and 1 Corinthians 16:2,
- the continuance of Yahweh's Sabbath from the beginning of time,
- a fresh understanding of the common arguments Colossians 2:14-17 and Galatians 4:10-11.
First day of the week -or- One of the Sabbaths?
The Greek phrase μία σαββατων is typically translated “first day of the week” and is the cause and excuse Christendom uses to nullify Yahweh’s holy, set-apart day. It is commonly taught that σαββατων should selectively be translated as “week” instead of “sabbaths”. But is this true?
The Greek word σαββατων is Sabbaton, which is generally plural for Sabbath (i.e. Sabbaths). The general word is translated as Sabbath(s) 59 times in the New Testament.1 The exact tense of the word is used twelve times in the New Testament. Half of these are connected to Yeshua's Resurrection which we will deal with in article 3 of this series (coming soon). Here are the other six times as it is translated in the NET and KJV:
|Luke 4:16||Now Jesus came to Nazareth, where he had been brought up, and went into the synagogue on the Sabbath day, as was his custom. He stood up to read,||And he came to Nazareth, where he had been brought up: and, as his custom was, he went into the synagogue on the sabbath day, and stood up for to read.|
|Acts 13:14||Moving on from Perga, they arrived at Pisidian Antioch, and on the Sabbath day they went into the synagogue and sat down.||But when they departed from Perga, they came to Antioch in Pisidia, and went into the synagogue on the sabbath day, and sat down.|
|Acts 16:13||On the Sabbath day we went outside the city gate to the side of the river, where we thought there would be a place of prayer, and we sat down and began to speak to the women who had assembled there.||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.|
|Acts 20:7||On the first day of the week, when we met to break bread, Paul began to speak to the people, and because he intended to leave the next day, he extended his message until midnight.||And upon the first day of the week, when the disciples came together to break bread, Paul preached unto them, ready to depart on the morrow; and continued his speech until midnight.|
|1 Corinthians 16:2||On the first day of the week, each of you should set aside some income and save it to the extent that God has blessed you, so that a collection will not have to be made when I come.||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.|
|Colossians 2:16||Therefore do not let anyone judge you with respect to food or drink, or in the matter of a feast, new moon, or Sabbath days —||Let no man therefore judge you in meat, or in drink, or in respect of an holyday, or of the new moon, or of the sabbath days:|
As is the case with almost all translations,2 Acts 20:7 and 1 Corinthians 16:2 go against the grain of the normal use of the word. Let us be clear that there are NO textual or contextual reasons to translate these two verses as 'first day of the week'. Sabbaton means Sabbath(s), not Sunday(s). The ONLY reason to ignore this simple fact is to disprove the continuance of the seventh-day Sabbath in favor of 'Sunday worship.' If we came to these two verses without our theological pre-conceptions (eisegesis), without mallice towards the continuance of Yahweh's seventh-day Sabbath, and read "Sabbaths" in these two verses just like the rest, we are left with NO verses to support our common 'Sunday worship'.
It is argued, and correctly so, that sometimes words carry secondary meanings. Because of this, it is argued that 'day of the week' is a secondary meaning of Sabbaton. However, there are three things to consider:
- There has to be a contextual reason to bypass a word's primary meaning and translate as a secondary meaning. There is NO such contextual reason in either of these two passages to translate Sabbaton as anything other than Sabbaths, just as it is in the other passages.
- 'Day of the week', 'week', 'weeks' - none of these are a secondary definition of Sabbaton. Yes, some of the Biblical dictionaries and tools say that it is, but such claims are unsunsubstantiated, without lexical evidence, and without historical evidence in the first two centuries. Hence, the authors are simply regurgitating theological dogma.
- Sabbaton is not a native Greek word, it is a borrowed Hebrew word, and as such, it must remain true to the language in which it is borrowed. Hebrew never hints of any alternate definition of Sabbath(s), and surely doesn't hint of it even remotely referring to Sunday.
One of the Sabbaths -or- First of the Sabbaths
The Greek word translated as 'first' in these two passages is mia, which means 'one'. Curiously, in the 79 times mia specifically appears, it is only translated as 'first' in these disputed Sabbath passages which aid in veiling what the text actually says. Mia is a cardinal number which is used to express size, quantity, and amount - not order. Therefore, mia should be translated as 'one,' 'one of,' or 'each' (quantity), and not 'first' (order). If Paul wanted to convey 'first' he would have used the Greek word protos or proton. Notice how mia is used:
Matthew 17:4, So Peter said to Yeshua, "Master, it is good for us to be here. If you want, I will make three shelters — one for you, one for Moses, and one for Elijah."
Luke 13:10, Now he was teaching in one of the synagogues on the Sabbath,
Acts 4:32, The group of those who believed were of one heart and mind, and no one said that any of his possessions was his own, but everything was held in common.
1 Corinthians 6:16, ...anyone who is united with a prostitute is one body with her? For it is said, "The two will become one flesh."
2 Corinthians 11:24, Five times I received from the Jews forty lashes less one.
Ephesians 4:4-6, There is one body and one Spirit, just as you too were called to the one hope of your calling, one Lord, one faith, one baptism, one God and Father of all, who is over all and through all and in all.
As can be seen in all of the above passages, as well as all of the 79 times,3 mia is always a reference to quantity, not order. The references are footnoted for anyone to check.3 Notice the difference in the verses protos/proton are used in:
Matthew 8:21, Another of the disciples said to him, "Lord, let me first go and bury my father."
Matthew 19:30, But many who are first will be last, and the last first.
Acts 7:12, So when Jacob heard that there was grain in Egypt, he sent our ancestors there the first time.
Acts 11:26, and when he found him, he brought him to Antioch. So for a whole year Barnabas and Saul met with the church and taught a significant number of people. Now it was in Antioch that the disciples were first called Chrestians.
The distinction between quantity (one) and order (first) should be apparent through the sampling of verses above. While it doesn't funamentally change our reading of Sabbaths here, the flavor of the passages most definitely shifts when reading the correct word in the passages. Reading 'first' in the passages as if the word was protos or proton only aids in the misunderstandings.
Sabbath, not Week
Lastly, if Paul wanted to say 'first day of the week' he would have said prote' hemera tis hebdomata, instead of mia ton sabbaton. The exact Greek word for week (εβδομαδων) is not used in the Greek NT, so there is not an original Strongs# to reference, but a modern # of G1439.1 has been applied, and is derived from the root επτα meaning “seven”. A derivative of the word meaning 'seven' (G1442) is found several places (John 4:52; Hebrew 4:4(2x); Revelation 8:1). It is also found in contemporary Greek literature by Josephus, Plutarch, etc., as well as earlier Greeks Plato and Most interestingly, it is used eighteen times in the LXX (a Greek translation of the Hebrew Scriptures):
- Weeks between Pesach and Shavuot: Deuteronomy 16:9(x2); Leviticus 23:15-16
- Feast of Weeks: Exodus 34:22; Numbers 28:26; Deuteronomy 16:10, 16; 2 Chronicles 8:13
- Weeks of years: Leviticus 25:8
- Daniel's 70 prophetic weeks: Daniel 9:24-27
- Daniel's 3 weeks of mourning: Daniel 10:2-3
The derivatives of the word are found an additional 13 times: .
1 The derivatives of Sabbaton are used a total of 68 times: Matt 12:1-2, 5, 8, 10-12; 24:20; 28:1; Mark 1:21; 2:23-24, 27-28; 3:2, 4; 6:2; 16:1; Luke 4:16, 31; 6:1-2, 6:5-7; 13:9-10; 13:14-16; 14:1, 3, 5; 23:54, 56; John 5:9-10, 16, 18; 7:22-23; 9:14, 9:16; 19:31; Act 1:12; 13:14, 27, 42, 44; 15:21; 16:13; 17:2; 18:4; Col 2:16
2 While the translating of mia (one) varies, here is a sampling of some translations that translate Sabbaton as Sabbath(s) instead of week in Acts 20:7:
- Bishops: And vpon one of the Sabboth dayes, when the disciples came together for to breake bread...
- Concordant (CLV): Now on one of the sabbaths, at our having gathered to break bread...
- Diaglott: In and the first of the sabbaths, having been assembled of us to break bread...
- Hebrew Roots Bible (HRB): And on one of the Sabbaths, the disciples having been assembled to have a fellowship meal together...
- Jonathon Mitchell: Now on that one particular sabbath (literally: in the one of the sabbaths), at our having been gathered together to break bread (= share a meal)...
- Literal Translation of the Holy Bible: And on the first of the sabbaths, the disciples having been assembled to break bread...
- Modern King James Version: And on the first of the sabbaths, the disciples having been assembled to break bread...
- Testimony of Yeshua: Then on the first of the Sabbaths, when we were gathered together...
3 Mia always refers to size, quantity, and amount: Matthew 5:18-19, 36; 19:5-6; 20:12; 21:19; 24:21; 26:40, 69; 28:1*; Mark 9:5; 10:8; 12:42; 14:37, 66; 16:2*; Luke 5:12, 17; 8:22; 9:33; 14:18; 15:8; 16:17; 17:22, 34-35; 20:1; 22:59; 24:1*; John 10:16; John 21:1*, 19*; Acts 12:10; 19:34; 21:7; 24:21; 28:13; 1 Corinthians 10:8; Galatians 4:24; Eph 5:31; Phill 1:27; 1 Tim 3:2, 12; Tit 1:6; 3:10; Heb 10:12, 14; 12:16; 2 Peter 3:8; Rev 6:1; 9:12-13, 13:3; 17:12-13, 17; 18:8, 10, 17, 19
* Marks the disputed passages.