Jewish assembly on sabbaths

Plural Sabbaths Explained

gathering on weekly sabbath





Both the Old and New Testaments utilise the plural form of the word
'sabbath' in various contexts. 

Unfortunately many translations have incorrectly rendered several
New Testament Greek references to 'sabbaths' as 'Sabbath'. It seems
this has largely been due to their lack of awareness of the Old
Covenant law. So, as a result, translators have simply thought many
plural sabbath verses were referring to the weekly Sabbath.

  

OLD TESTAMENT SABBATHS


The Old Testament utilizes the word 'sabbaths' in various situations.


1) To define a specific set of weekly sabbaths, those defining the
   period between the first and third month assemblies.

      Lev   23:15  And you shall count for yourselves from the day
                   after the Sabbath, from the day that you brought
                   the sheaf of the wave offering: seven Sabbaths
                   shall be completed.
              :16  Count fifty days to the day after the seventh
                   Sabbath; then you shall offer a new grain offering
                   to the LORD.

      Deut  16:9   You shall count seven weeks for yourself; begin
                   to count the seven weeks from the time you begin
                   to put the sickle to the grain.
              :10  Then you shall keep the Feast of Weeks to the
                   LORD your God ...


2) In reference to the multiple land sabbaths before the observance
   of the fiftieth year.

     Lev   25:8   And you shall count seven sabbaths of years for
                  yourself, seven times seven years; and the time
                  of the seven sabbaths of years shall be to you
                  forty-nine years.
             :10  And you shall consecrate the fiftieth year, ...


3) Scripture also uses the word 'sabbaths' in a general sense and in
   these cases there is some uncertainty as to exactly what is meant.

    Exod  31:13   Speak also to the children of Israel, saying:
                  'Surely My Sabbaths you shall keep, for they are a
                  sign between Me and you throughout your generations,
                  that you may know that I am the LORD who sanctifies
                  you'.

    Lev   19:3    Every one of you shall revere his mother and his
                  father, and keep My Sabbaths: I am the LORD your
                  God.

    Verses such as the above portray a link between the plural word
    'sabbaths' and the fourth commandment. (Note the text of Exodus
    31:14-17 goes on to talk about the seventh day Sabbath.)

    Many scholars have considered the plural form of sabbath may
    legitimately refer only to the weekly sabbath.

    However, verses which are undoubtably talking about the weekly
    sabbath (when used in a general sense, rather than to refer
    to particular weekly sabbaths) do not depict the plural form!
    For example the word sabbath is encountered 4 times in Exodus
    31:15-16 and is never in the plural form. 

    This has lead some to believe that the word 'sabbaths', when
    used in a general sense, refers to multiple types of sabbath. 
     
    Apart from the weekly sabbath and the land sabbath there are
    also other days represented as sabbaths!

     - The Day of Atonement

       Lev   23:27  Also the tenth day of this seventh month shall
                    be the Day of Atonement. It shall be a holy
                    convocation for you; ...
               :31  You shall do no manner of work; it shall be a
                    statute forever throughout your generations in
                    all your dwellings.
               :32  It shall be to you a sabbath of solemn rest,
                    and you shall afflict your souls; on the ninth
                    day of the month at evening, from evening to
                    evening, you shall celebrate your sabbath."

       Lev   16:29  This shall be a statute forever for you: In the
                    seventh month, on the tenth day of the month,
                    you shall afflict your souls, and do no work at
                    all, whether a native of your own country or a
                    stranger who dwells among you.
               :30  For on that day the priest shall make atonement
                    for you, ...
               :31  It is a sabbath of solemn rest for you, and you
                    shall afflict your souls. It is a statute forever.

                    ( NB: Like the weekly sabbath the Day of Atonement
                          was - a complete day of rest, Lev 23:31
                              - breach punishable by death, Lev 23:30
                              - statute forever, Lev 16:31, 23:31. ) 

     - Other Annual Assembly Days

       There were 6 other annual appointment days on which one could
       not do any customary(occupational) work. Refer chapter 23 of
       Leviticus.

       Three of these days are defined as days of 'sabbathism'. 

       Lev   23:24  Speak to the children of Israel, saying: 'In
                    the seventh month, on the first day of the month,
                    you shall have a rest (sabbathism), a memorial
                    of blowing of trumpets, a holy convocation.

               :39  Also on the fifteenth day of the seventh month,
                    when you have gathered in the fruit of the land,
                    you shall keep the feast of the LORD for seven
                    days; on the first day there shall be a rest
                    (sabbathism), ...

               :39  ... and on the eighth day a rest (sabbathism).

       While the word 'sabbath' (Strong's reference 7676) is not
       expressly used in these verses it is apparent these days
       were also a form of sabbath, ie break from normal work. 


4) The Old Testament frequently presents the word 'sabbaths' in the
   context, 'Sabbaths, New Moons and set feasts'.

   The meaning of sabbaths in this context has to be derived after
   consideration of the terms 'new moons' and 'set feasts'.

   However, in summary it appears in this context that 'sabbaths'
   is alluding to the weekly seventh day and the Day of Atonement. 

   For a fuller discussion refer to the page on 'New Moons'.


NEW TESTAMENT SABBATHS

'FIRST DAY OF THE WEEK'


This expression is commonly found in the New Testament referring to the
day Christ rose and is additionally mentioned in Acts 20:7 and 1Cor 16:2.

The Greek is commonly 'first of the sabbaths' and refers to the wave
sheaf day which began the counting toward Pentecost. In other words the
notion 'sabbaths' here connects back to the first form of 'sabbaths'
discussed under point one above, ie a specific set of weekly sabbaths
defining the period between the first and third month assemblies.

For a fuller discussion refer the page on this topic.


'DAY OF THE SABBATHS'


    Luke   4:16  So He came to Nazareth, where He had been
                 brought up. And as His custom was, He went
                 into the synagogue on the day of the Sabbaths
                 (not 'Sabbath day'), and stood up to read.

    Acts  13:14  But when they departed from Perga, they came
                 to Antioch in Pisidia, and went into the
                 synagogue on the day of the Sabbaths (not
                 'Sabbath day') and sat down.

    Acts  16:13  And on the day of the Sabbaths (not 'Sabbath
                 day') we went out of the city to the riverside,
                 where prayer was customarily made; ...


This term 'day of the sabbaths' could refer either to the wave sheaf
day (the first day of the sabbaths period) or Pentecost (the last day
of the sabbaths period).

[ NB: In Luke 4:16 the term is encountered prior to the period
      of the 'sabbaths' as mentioned in Luke 4:31. So it seems
      the term 'day of the sabbaths' is actually describing the
      wave sheaf day. ]


'IN/ON THE SABBATHS'


   Luke   4:31  Then He went down to Capernaum, a city of Galilee,
                and was teaching them in the Sabbaths.

   Mark   1:21  Then they went into Capernaum, and immediately on
                the Sabbaths He entered the synagogue and taught.

   Mark   2:23  Now it happened that He went through the grainfields
                on the Sabbaths; and as they went His disciples began
                to pluck the heads of grain.

   Matt  12:1   At that time Jesus went through the grainfields on
                the Sabbaths. And His disciples were hungry, and
                began to pluck heads of grain and to eat.

   Luke  13:10  Now He was teaching in one of the synagogues on the
                Sabbaths.


A reference to the period of the seven Sabbaths between the Feast of
Unleavened Bread and Pentecost.


LUKE 6:1


    Luke   6:1   Now it happened on the Sabbath second-foremost
                 that He went through the grainfields.


The purpose of the expression 'second-foremost' was to make it clear that
the disciples did not pluck the grain prior to the occurrence of the
wave sheaf ceremony (as such an act was expressly forbidden in the Law,
refer Lev 23:14).

In the context of the period of the seven weekly sabbaths there is a weekly
Sabbath which precedes the wave sheaf ceremony, it immediately precedes
the counting of the days toward the Feast of Weeks. Therefore it seems
logical that this weekly Sabbath be identified in this context as the
'Sabbath foremost'.
Hence the expression 'Sabbath second-foremost', apparently meaning 'Sabbath
second-to-the-foremost", would be identifying the next weekly Sabbath, that
is the first of the seven weekly sabbaths. On this day the restriction of
Lev 23:14 would not be applicable.


MATTHEW 28:1


This verse should read;


    Matt  28:1   At the end of the Sabbaths (not Sabbath),
                 ..., Mary Magdalene and the other Mary
                 came to see the tomb.


Advising that two sabbaths passed between Christ's death and rising,
the annual sabbath of the 15th and a weekly Sabbath.


OTHER 'SABBATHS'


There are many other New Testament verses which refer to multiple types
of sabbath.  

    Matt  12:5   Or have you not read in the law that on the Sabbaths
                 the priests in the temple profane the Sabbath, and
                 are blameless?

          12:10  And behold, there was a man who had a withered hand.
                 And they asked Him, saying, "Is it lawful to heal on
                 the Sabbaths?"; that they might accuse Him.
            :11  Then He said to them, "What man is there among you
                 who has one sheep, and if it falls into a pit on the
                 Sabbaths, will not lay hold of it and lift it out?
            :12  "Of how much more value then is a man than a sheep?
                 Therefore it is lawful to do good on the Sabbaths."

    Mark   2:24  And the Pharisees said to Him, "Look, why do they
                 do what is not lawful on the Sabbaths?"

           3:2   So they watched Him closely, whether He would heal
                 him on the Sabbaths, so that they might accuse Him.
            :3   And He said to the man who had the withered hand,
                 "Step forward."
            :4   Then He said to them, "Is it lawful on the Sabbaths
                 to do good or to do evil, to save life or to kill?"
                 But they kept silent.

    Luke   6:2   And some of the Pharisees said to them, "Why are
                 you doing what is not lawful to do on the Sabbaths?"

            :9   Then Jesus said to them, "I will ask you one thing:
                 Is it lawful on the Sabbaths to do good or to do evil,
                 to save life or to destroy?"





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