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Sabbath – Saturday or Sunday?

Thanks to Pastor J. for the Church Photo - Check out his blog - Lillie-Put:

Today – a short discussion of why many, if not most, Christians celebrate a Sunday Sabbath, and what the Bible has to say about it. I hope you will allow me a bit of word study here.

I will preface this post as I often do, stating that I am not a scholar. My info comes from study of concordances and other reference works, and some teaching I have received along the way, but I am not a Greek expert – or even a Greek student. So please take this as offered – my slightly informed opinion.

For starters lets get the dogma out of the discussion. Paul clearly says it does not matter how you celebrate your Sabbath. I am convinced that there were Saturday Sabbatarians and Sunday Sabbatarians in the early church, and Paul addresses it this way:

Therefore no one is to act as your judge in regard to food or drink or in respect to a festival or a new moon or a Sabbath day-- things which are a mere shadow of what is to come; but the substance belongs to Christ. - Colossians 2:16-17

[We will have to come back and ponder the second half of this verse soon, since it hints at my question from last week – What was this Sabbath commissioned to do in the life of a Christian?]

Back to today’s question – Saturday or Sunday.

As I have been studying the Sabbath for the last couple weeks, I found that when I search the New Testament for the word Sabbath I get  61 matches in 56 verses. On the other hand, if I search the Greek word most often translated Sabbath, “σάββατον – Sabbaton” I get 68 results in 62 verses.

The funny thing is that the word is most often translated Sabbath or Sabbaths – like this:

And according to Paul's custom, he went to them, and for three Sabbaths reasoned with them from the Scriptures, - Acts 17:2

…but other times it is translated like this:

On 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. - Acts 20:7

The only real difference is this little Greek word “εἷς - heis” which is translated first or one. If you will remember from our discussion last week, the names of the days in Hebrew (again – I read this, I am not a scholar) are simply numbers – first day, second day… except the Sabbath – the only day with its own name.

If you look at the word Sabbath in the NT, it is most often speaking of Jesus, or Paul doing something involving the Jews, either in the synagogue or temple, or someplace they were gathering on their Sabbath day.

So how do we get a Sunday Sabbath?

Check out this verse where it is actually used both ways in the same verse.

Now after the Sabbath [Greek- Sabbaton], as it began to dawn toward the first day of the week [Greek – heis Sabbaton], Mary Magdalene and the other Mary came to look at the grave. - Matthew 28:1

You can probably guess what is happening in the context here, can’t you. This is the resurrection of Jesus Christ! This is the day of all days, when the Father, Son and Holy Spirit collaborated in the most important event since God started the clocks running in the beginning.

This day was so significant, that the Jews who followed their Messiah, Jesus of Nazareth, began to celebrate The First day of the week – Sunday to us – as their new Sabbath. You will notice every time the New Testament translates this phrase “heis sabbaton” it is either referring to the resurrection or the gather of the saints.

So then this verse at the beginning of Matthew 28 is somewhat of a transition from a Saturday Sabbath to a Sunday Sabbath.

In reality, in the life of a believer, everyday is set apart for God, right?

This is the day which the LORD has made; Let us rejoice and be glad in it. - Psalms 118:24

So in one sense there is no distinction. But I think we see in these couple of verses from early Church that Sunday was the day the Church gathered to celebrate the Lord’s Supper and share in community.

On 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. - Acts 20:7

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. - 1 Corinthians 16:2

As we are the body of Christ, it is important that we spend time in community, in fellowship with other parts of the body. The early church ate together, they prayed together, they learned and were taught together, they shared what they were hearing from the Lord together, and they gave into the needs of the body, and to the poor together.

I urge you not to forsake the gathering of the body. Everything Christ commanded us has to do with our relationships. Let’s foster community where we can. [Tweet This]

Sorry – got off topic there.

You can celebrate a Sabbath any day you want, but I am sticking with Sunday.

Ben NelsonThanks for coming by.

Shine where you’re screwed in today.


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11 thoughts on “Sabbath – Saturday or Sunday?

  1. Caddo

    Pretty much, the whole weekend is "Sabbath" for me--you know what a glutton I am; plus daily bits of "church"--so yes, I'm a "Jesus Everyday" kinda gal. God bless you and the growing family--BIG--love, sis Caddo

  2. Lisa

    growing up in the synagogue, as Jesus did...I celebrates the Saturday Sabbath..starting at sun down with the lighting of the candles...a sweet beautiful time God has given to us for rest. fast forward to my acceptance of Yeshua, Jesus....veil lifted from Messiah has come and washed me cleansed me..loves me..chose me..and has given me eternal life. He is alpha omega beginning end first and last..he is the lord of the sabbath..he is the sabbath in essence. Ben you can google this topic ...for days...I might post a link or two if that ok...but for now...I personally believe that the Constantine creed..denounced anything that had anything to do with the Jewish traditions, customs......some pagan stuff infiltrated the "church" ,,,read the history about us worship...hence Sunday.....regardless...deep in my I grew up observing Saturday..starting at sun down sitting in temple with my's ingrained in me...but I seldom talk about it...I believe Saturday is the day Jesus celebrated the sabbath, the disciples too...and this did not change for a few hundred years from my studies. I don't get hung up on the fact that when I go to church they got it asked my thoughts..and deep within, knowing he never changes...I do not see any where in the scriptures where we are told to change the day. but I do see in the constantine creed a denouncement of the Jewish sabbath, which I believe was Jesus's sabbath.

    1. Ben Nelson

      Lisa - this is awesome. I love what you have said here, and you are totally right about Jesus and the Sabbath. I think you will enjoy tomorrow's post to. Though I would never trade in my Christian upbringing by godly parents, sometimes i wish i could have a deeper ingrained understanding of Jewish culture. I know you can study it, but it comes best as you learned it.

      We have some orthodox friends with whom I have shared a couple of sabbath celebrations, and it was wonderful.

      Bless you bunches, and thanks for how much you have added here.

  3. Lisa

    And as the veil is being lifted from the eyes of the Jewish people to see we tell them they have the sabbth wrong? I think not. 🙂

    1. Ben Nelson

      No way - i am with you - but there might be a place for adding some Sunday celebration of the resurrection too, but after the Peter and Paul battle, i am not about to correct someone else's worship of Messiah, unless it is clearly drawing them away from Jesus.

  4. noordinaryjoy61

    I grew up in a church that didn't disguise their belief that only sinners went to church on Saturdays. I currently go to a church that has a Saturday night service and three services on Sunday (all the same service). I go on Saturday nights, no doubt fitting since my status as a sinner is not in question, but my view of this subject is that it's most important that you go, as opposed to the day you choose to go. Although, where you choose to go is most important because if Christ is not proclaimed in spirit and in truth, the exercise is in vain.

    1. Ben Nelson

      Joy, that is so true! great content, great community - i remember once when i was looking for a church someone who i met for the first time said something like - well I hope you feel welcome here, and i said something really rude like I'm looking for a place where the Holy Spirit feels really welcome (admittedly i regretted saying it because it came off as so "spiritual" but there is some truth in the statement) We need to ensure that our churches are not Holy Spirit proof.


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