Notes on The Sabbath

by Steve Sawyer


Let us re-examine a critical verse: John 19:31

"Therefore, because it was the Preparation Day, that the bodies should not remain on the cross on the Sabbath (for that Sabbath was a high day), the Jews asked Pilate that their legs might be broken, and that they might be taken away." (NKJ)

The question before us is, was this Sabbath a "normal" Saturday Sabbath? Or, was this passage referencing the Sabbath which ALWAYS followed the Passover on the fifteenth of Nisan (Lev. 23: 1-11). This means that if the 15th of Nisan fell on a different day of the week each year (which it does), then there are years with more than one Sabbath in its week (which there are).


Was this year one of those special years when these two events (Saturday and the 15th of Nisan) coincide? What if it wasn't?

The Sabbath is usually first recognized as beginning with the seventh day of creation... the day that God rested from His work. It is a day of rest.

Gen 2:1-3:

1. Thus the heavens and the earth, and all the host of them, were finished. 2. And on the seventh day God ended His work which He had done, and He rested on the seventh day from all His work which He had done. 3. Then God blessed the seventh day and sanctified it, because in it He rested from all His work which God had created and made. (NKJ)

The verb which forms the root of the noun "sabbath" is translated "He rested". At the giving of the Law to Moses in Exodus 20:10,11, the fact that God rested on the 7th day is emphasized as a model for man. The noun "sabbath" (Strong's No. 7676 - shabbat) derives from the Hebrew word for "rest" or "to cease" (Strong's No. 7673 - Shabat). The actual English term "Sabbath" first appears in scripture in the 16th chapter of Exodus. And it is not until the giving of the Law to Moses that the 7th day is officially sanctified as "the" Sabbath in Exodus 20:10,11.

The term "sabbath" has more to do with rest than with worship. True, it is a special rest which should be used for worship. But, THE day of WORSHIP is NOT what the term means. It means the day or days specially set aside for rest.

Looking up "Sabbath" in Vine's expository dictionary leads to the word "cease":

A. Verbs.

Shabat (7673), "to rest, cease." This word occurs about 200 times throughout the Old Testament. The root also appears in Assyrian, Arabic, and Aramaic.

The verb first occurs in (Gen. 2:2-3): "And on the seventh day God ended his work which he had made; and he rested on the seventh day from all his work which he had made. And God blessed the seventh day, and sanctified it: because that in it he had rested from all his work which God created and made."

The basic and most frequent meaning of shabat is shown in (Gen. 8:22):


"While the earth remaineth, seedtime and harvest, and cold and heat, and summer and winter, and day and night shall not cease." This promise became a prophetic sign of God's faithfulness: "If those ordinances depart from before me, saith the Lord, then the seed of Israel also shall cease from being a nation before me for ever" (Jer. 31:36).

We find a variety of senses: "...even the first day ye shall put away leaven out of your houses..." (Exod. 12:15).

"Neither shalt thou suffer the salt of the covenant of thy God to be lacking from thy meat offering" (Lev. 2:13) NASB, KJV, NIV, "do not leave out". Josiah "put down the idolatrous priests..." (2 Kings 23:5). "I will also eliminate harmful beasts from the land" (Lev. 26:6) NASB, KJV, "rid";
RSV, NIV, "remove".

B. Noun.

shabbat (7676), "the sabbath." The verb sabat is the root of shabbat: "Six days you are to do your work, but on the seventh day you shall cease from labor..." (Exod. 23:12), NASB, KJV, "rest". In (Exod. 31:15), the seventh day is called the "sabbath rest" (NASB, "a sabbath of complete rest").

A man's "rest" was to include his animals and servants (Exod. 23:12): even "in earing time and in harvest thou shalt rest" (Exod. 34:21). "It is a sign between me and the children of Israel for ever: for in six days the Lord made heaven and earth, and on the seventh day he rested, and was refreshed" (Exod. 31:17).

"...Then shall the land keep a sabbath unto the Lord" (Lev. 25:2). Six years' crops will be sown and harvested, but the seventh year "shall be a sabbath of rest unto the land, a sabbath for the Lord..." (Lev. 25:4). The feast of trumpets, the Day of Atonement, and the first and eighth days of the Feast of Tabernacles are also called "a sabbath observance" or "a sabbath of complete rest" (Lev. 23:24,32,39).

The "sabbath" was a "day of worship" (Lev. 23:3) as well as a "day of rest and refreshment" for man (Exod. 23:12). God "rested and was refreshed" (Exod. 31:17). The "sabbath" was the covenant sign of God's lordship over the creation. By observing the "sabbath," Israel confessed that they were God's redeemed people, subject to His lordship to obey the whole of His law. They were His stewards to show mercy with kindness and liberality to all (Exod. 23:12; Lev. 25).

By "resting," man witnessed his trust in God to give fruit to his labor; he entered into God's "rest." Thus "rest" and the "sabbath" were eschatological in perspective, looking to the accomplishment of God's ultimate purpose through the redemption of His people, to whom the "sabbath" was a covenant sign.

The prophets rebuked Israel for their neglect of the sabbath (Isa. 1:13; Jer. 17:21-27; Ezek. 20:12-24; Amos 8:5). They also proclaimed "sabbath" observance as a blessing in the messianic age and a sign of its fullness (Isa. 56:2-4; 58:13; 66:23; Ezek. 44:24; 45:17; 46:1,3-4, 12). The length of the Babylonian Captivity was determined by the extent of Israel's abuse of the sabbatical year (2 Chr. 36:21); cf. (Lev. 26:34- 35). (from Vine's Expository Dictionary of Biblical Words, 1985, Thomas Nelson Publishers)

The actual noun translated as "Sabbath" is used for the first time after the first Passover in Egypt in Exod 16:23, 25, 26, & 29. The occasion is the instructions for gathering manna in the wilderness.

The "sabbath" is not mentioned again until Exodus 20. Listed below are all the verses in Exodus 20 that mentions the Sabbath:

Exod 20:8 -- Remember the Sabbath day, to keep it holy. (NKJ)

Exod 20:10 -- but the seventh day is the Sabbath of the LORD your God. In it you shall do no work: you, nor your son, nor your daughter, nor your male servant, nor your female servant, nor your cattle, nor your stranger who is within your gates. (NKJ)

Exod 20:11 -- For in six days the LORD made the heavens and the earth, the sea, and all that is in them, and rested the seventh day. Therefore the LORD blessed the Sabbath day and hallowed it. (NKJ)

Now, at this point in time, God has established and codified into Law at least one Sabbath. The Sabbath was an enforced day of rest. Of course, this day of rest is set aside by God for the purpose of worshiping God. The Sabbath in these passages occurs weekly on the 7th day, Saturday.

The Sabbath is a holy convocation. The feasts are holy convocations. Are the words different ways of communicating the same idea or are there differences which should be explored?

"Convocation" in Vine's Expository Dictionary yields:

B. Noun.

miqra' (4744), "public worship service; convocation." The word implies the product of an official summons to worship ("convocation"). In one of its 23 appearances, miqra' refers to Sabbaths as "convocation days" .

Strong's - "convocation" (No. 4744)... This lists all the places the word "convocation" is found (NKJ):

Exod 12:16 -- On the first day there shall be a holy convocation, and on the seventh day there shall be a holy convocation for you. No manner of work shall be done on them; but that which Everyone must eat-- that only may be prepared by you. (NKJ)

This verse is in the middle of the section where the instructions for the first Passover is being given. More on this later.

The question now arises, do the scriptures teach that there are other Sabbaths also? The answer is a definite YES.

There are 7 "high sabbaths" (i.e., "special" sabbaths) or "holy convocations" each year:

1. At Passover, there are 2: The 1st day of the Feast of Unleavened Bread on the 15th of Nisan (the Passover is the 14th of Nisan; therefore, THE DAY AFTER THE PASSOVER, the 15th, IS ALWAYS A SABBATH REGARDLESS OF WHAT DAY IT FALLS ON) and the 7th day of the Feast of Unleavened Bread. (Exod 12:14-20, Lev 23:5-8, Num 28:16-18)

2. 1 at Pentecost (or feast of Weeks, feast of Harvest, day of First Fruits) - (Exod. 23:16 & 34:22, Lev. 23:15-21, Deut. 16:9-12,16)

3. 1 at the feast of Trumpets.

4. 1 on the Day of Atonement.

5. 2 at the feast of Booths (or Tabernacles)

The Passover / The Feast of Unleavened Bread :

Lev 23:1-11:

1. And the Lord spoke to Moses, saying: 2. ,"Speak to the children of Israel, and say to them: 'The feasts of the LORD, which you shall proclaim to be holy convocations, these are My feasts. 3. 'Six days shall work be done, but the seventh day is a Sabbath of solemn rest, a holy convocation. You shall do no work on it; it is the Sabbath of the LORD in all your dwellings. 4. 'These are the feasts of the LORD, holy convocations which you shall proclaim at their appointed times. (NKJ) 5. .On the fourteenth day of the first month at twilight is the LORD'S Passover. 6. And on the fifteenth day of the same month is the Feast of Unleavened Bread to the LORD; seven days you must eat unleavened bread. 7. On the first day you shall have a holy convocation; you shall do no
customary work on it. 8. But you shall offer an offering made by fire to the LORD for seven days. The seventh day shall be a holy convocation; you shall do no customary work on it.'" 9. And the LORD spoke to Moses, saying, 10. "Speak to the children of Israel, and say to them: 'When you come into the land which I give to you, and reap its harvest, then you shall bring a sheaf of the firstfruits of your harvest to the priest. 11. 'He shall wave the sheaf before the LORD, to be accepted on your behalf; on the day after the Sabbath the priest shall wave it. (NKJ)

Here (vs.11), the priest shall wave the sheaf of the firstfruits which is part of the feast of Israel. This typifies the resurrection of our Lord, Jesus Christ. It was waved each year after the Israelites entered the land of Canaan on the first day after the first Sabbath (the Shabbat, not the holy convocation) after Passover. This ritual always took place on the first day of the week, our Sunday, regardless of which day of the week Passover fell on. It was not determined by a date in the month, like the 14th of Nisan, but by a peculiar order. First, the Passover. Then, on the first day after the first Saturday after the Passover, the sheaf offering was waved before the LORD.

Pentecost

Lev 23:15-16

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. (NKJ)

Here (vs.16), the feast of Pentecost is 50 days after the sheaf offering is waved before the LORD. It also always took place on the 1st day of the week, Sunday.

The Day of Atonement

Lev 16:29-34

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, to cleanse you, that you may be clean from all your sins before the LORD. 31 "It is a sabbath of solemn rest for you, and you shall afflict your souls. It is a statute forever. 32 "And the priest, who is anointed and consecrated to minister as priest in his father's place, shall make atonement, and put on the linen clothes, the holy garments; 33 "then he shall make atonement for the Holy Sanctuary, and he shall make atonement for the tabernacle of meeting and for the altar, and he shall make atonement for the priests and for all the people of the assembly. 34 "This shall be an everlasting statute for you, to make atonement for the children of Israel, for all their sins, once a year." And he did as the LORD commanded Moses. (NKJ)

The Feast of Trumpets:

The 9th and 10th day of the 7th month are Sabbath days (2 in a row) associated with the Feast of Atonement (as noted above). Also, the 15th day of the 7th month and 8 days later (the 23rd day) is a Sabbath. These days fall on certain dates within the month, not on multiples of 7 (for Saturday
Sabbaths). It is therefore not only possible but scripturally documented to have at least 2 or possibly 3 Sabbaths within a single week.

Lev 23:23-44

23 Then the LORD spoke to Moses, saying, 24 "Speak to the children of Israel, saying: 'In the seventh month, on the first day of the month, you shall have a sabbath rest, a memorial of blowing of trumpets, a holy convocation. 25 'You shall do no customary work on it; and you shall offer an offering made by fire to the LORD.'" 26 And the LORD spoke to Moses, saying: 27 "Also the tenth day of this seventh month shall be the Day of Atonement. It shall be a holy convocation for you; you shall afflict your souls, and offer an offering made by fire to the LORD. 28 "And you shall do no work on that same day, for it is the Day of Atonement, to make atonement for you before the LORD your God. 29 "For any person who is not afflicted in soul on that same day shall
be cut off from his people. 30 "And any person who does any work on that same day, that person I will destroy from among his people. 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." 33 Then the LORD spoke to Moses, saying, 34 "Speak to the children of Israel, saying: 'The fifteenth day of this seventh month shall be the Feast of Tabernacles for seven days to the LORD. 35 'On the first day there shall be a holy convocation. You shall do no customary work on it. 36 'For seven days you shall offer an offering made by fire to the LORD. On the eighth day you shall have a holy convocation, and you shall offer an offering made by fire to the LORD. It is a sacred assembly, and you shall do no customary work on it. 37 'These are the feasts of the LORD which you shall proclaim to be
holy convocations, to offer an offering made by fire to the LORD, a burnt offering and a grain offering, a sacrifice and drink offerings, everything on its day--38 'besides the Sabbaths of the LORD, besides your gifts, besides all your vows, and besides all your freewill offerings which you give to the LORD.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 sabbath rest, and on the eighth day a sabbath rest. 40 'And you shall take for yourselves on the first day the fruit of beautiful trees, branches of palm trees, the boughs of leafy trees, and willows of the brook; and you shall rejoice before the LORD your God for seven days. 41 'You shall keep it as a feast to the LORD for seven days in the year. It shall be a statute forever in your generations. You shall celebrate it in the seventh month. 42 'You shall dwell in booths for seven days. All who are native Israelites shall dwell in booths, 43 'that your generations may know that I made the children of Israel dwell in booths when I brought them out of the land of Egypt: I am the LORD your God.'" 44 So Moses declared to the children of Israel the feasts of the LORD. (NKJ)

Then, there is the year of Sabbath that the land was to lay fallow.

Lev 25:1-4

1 And the LORD spoke to Moses on Mount Sinai, saying, 2 "Speak to the children of Israel, and say to them: 'When you
come into the land which I give you, then the land shall keep a sabbath to the LORD. 3 'Six years you shall sow your field, and six years you shall prune your vineyard, and gather its fruit; 4 'but in the seventh year there shall be a sabbath of solemn rest
for the land, a sabbath to the LORD. You shall neither sow your field nor prune your vineyard. (NKJ)

SABBATH = REST

Holy Convocations = Special [High (?)] Sabbaths

Certain feast days are Sabbaths. The day after Passover is ALWAYS a Sabbath.


Additional Notes:

PASSOVER, THE SABBATH, AND GOOD FRIDAY

Introduction

 

Was Jesus Christ crucified on a Friday? What year was He crucified? Could Jesus have been crucified on a Thursday or even a Wednesday? How do you know?

Why these questions? Because they keep being asked. Brethren in the body of Christ are being treated like heretics if their answer is not the same as ours. Maybe some really are heretics, but this subject should not be the one which divides between orthodoxy and heresy.

Anyone looking into the dates proposed for the birth, ministry, and death of our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ, knows that this is an area froth with controversy and speculation. Usually much is made of a single verse. One verse may set a date relating back to the "known" date for the building of Herod's temple. Another verse is chosen because the sabbath of that year's Passover festival coincides with Saturday. But, up front, the answer of which day and what year is ultimately unknowable and anyone who says different is deceiving themselves. Before delving into this subject, it should be noted that while this matter of

debating what year and which day of the week His crucifixion was on can produce some interesting thoughts, it is a secondary issue. The important thing is that "Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, and that He was buried, and that He rose again the third day according to the Scriptures" 1 Cor 15:3b,4 (NKJ).

The crucifixion of Christ because of our sins and for our sins actually happened. Christ's body lay dead in the tomb - not swooned, but dead. Yet, He arose "the third day". It happened. That these were a real events in history fulfilling the Passover forever, that Christ is our Feast of Unleavened Bread and that He is the accepted grain offering waved before the Father the day after the Sabbath-- these are the important things.

Whether or not this happened in 30 A.D., 32 A.D., 33 A.D., or some other immediate year is not really important (at least as far as determining a person's salvation). Likewise, believing that the crucifixion was on a Thursday or even possibly Wednesday does not mean that one has denied scripture. On secondary issues, we should not let these things divide the brethren, the body of Christ. Augustine once said, "In essentials, unity. In non-essentials, liberty. But, in all things, charity ."

ALL scripture is important, but the interpretation of some areas is difficult. We, being still in the flesh, do not always completely or rightly understand verses. We must learn to separate what are the teachings and traditions of men from the truth of God's word. This does not mean that what is taught or derived by man is necessarily wrong. But, we should be able to discern, with the help of God's Holy Spirit, where the dividing line falls. We should be able to say, "this over hear is what scripture says and that over there is what the traditions of man says. That over there may be true, it may be derived from scripture, I may even believe it, but it is still tradition, not scripture."

After looking somewhat into this matter, and recognizing my own lack of training in this area, I myself feel very humbled by the amount of study that anyone well versed in these matters must undertake to feel comfortable with their conclusions. My own conclusions are uncertain. I have, however, gained more respect for other viewpoints than the one I was originally indoctrinated in.

The Conflict

Let us begin by examining the claim of one otherwise conservative individual. On the back cover of the book 900 Questions Answered by William L. Pettingill (copyright 1991 by Kregel Publications, Grand Rapids, MI) we read, "William L. Pettingill (1866-1950), the last member of the editorial staff of the Scofield Reference Bible, was for twenty-five years pastor in Wilmington, Delaware, and was associated with Dr. C.I. Scofield in educational work, being dean in the Philadelphia School of the Bible." In other words, Mr. Pettingill was a respected conservative Bible scholar. On pages 191 and 192 of that book under the subject THE CRUCIFIXION DAY , the question is asked " On what day of the week was our Lord crucified? " To which Mr. Pettingill immediately responds, "To us it is perfectly obvious that the crucifixion was on Wednesday. The general impression that the crucifixion took place on Friday is doubtless due to the fact that it occurred on the day before the sabbath, and it has been generally assumed that the Sabbath referred to was the weekly Sabbath, which, of course, came on Saturday." Is he right and so many other well-known and more prestigious Bible scholars wrong?

Young's Compact Bible Dictionary states under CALENDAR , " The Sabbath, or seventh day, "seems to have coincided with Passover on the fourteenth of Nissan (Jn. 19:31), which was indeed the case on April 7, A.D. 30. "

Young is not saying that the Sabbath was the day of Passover except in the sense that the Hebrews reckon their days from sundown. The Sabbath day would begin on our calendar as the day before. The Passover Day itself was not a Sabbath. However, the day after the Passover is always a Sabbath (Lev. 23: 1-11) and in A.D. 30 that Sabbath coincided with the seventh day of the week, Saturday.

Jesus was crucified on the Passover day. The reason that they had to bury Him quickly was because the evening of the Sabbath was approaching. John 19:31, " Therefore, because it was the Preparation Day, that the bodies should not remain on the cross on the Sabbath (for that Sabbath was a high day), the Jews asked Pilate that their legs might be broken, and that they might be taken away. "(NKJ) If, therefore, the crucifixion of our Lord took place in 30 A.D. then it took place on Friday.

Eerdmans Handbook to the Bible seems to agree with the A.D. 30 date in charts, but the text says " about A.D. 30 ".

However, Nelson's Bible Dictionary differs and states in its article CHRONOLOGY, NEW TESTAMENT :

"In conclusion, it seems that Jesus was born some time around 6 to 4 B. C., with the probability that it was the winter of 5/4 B. C. just before Herod's death."

"The beginning of His ministry-- (Luke 3:1-3) states that John the Baptist's ministry began in the 15th year of Tiberius Caesar. Tiberius began reigning in August in A. D. 14. So this would mean that John the Baptist's ministry began some time in A. D. 29. From the gospel narratives about Jesus, it seems that He was baptized and began His ministry shortly after John began preaching. (Luke 3:23) states that Jesus was "about" 30 years of age when He began His ministry. If Jesus was born in the winter of 5/4 B. C. and began His ministry in the summer or fall of A. D. 29, He would have been 32. '"

"The date of His death-- Since Jesus was tried by Pilate, His death occurred during Pilate's governorship, which lasted from A.D. 26 to A. D. 36. Astronomically, Jesus' death fits best with either A. D. 30 or 33. Because of the political situation and other facts surrounding Jesus' life, it seems that A. D. 33 is the best date for the crucifixion. The day of the week of His crucifixion has been debated. But it seems best to consider it as Friday, since His body was laid in the tomb on the evening of the "Day of Preparation" (technical term for Friday), the day before the Sabbath (**) (Matt. 27:62; 28:1; Mark 15:42; Luke 23:54,56; John 19:31,42). Thus Jesus was crucified on Friday, April 3, in A. D. 33."

(from Nelson's Illustrated Bible Dictionary, 1986, Thomas Nelson Publishers)

(**) my note: the Day of Preparation does not just refer to Friday, the day before the weekly Sabbath. It can refer to the day preceding any Sabbath day (more on this later). Even the evening before the Passover is a Day of Preparation: John 19: 14 "Now it was the Preparation Day of the Passover, and about the sixth hour. And he said to the Jews, "Behold your King!" (NKJ). The point is, the term "Day of Preparation" does not necessarily equate itself with Friday on all occasions.

Note also the reasoning in Nelson's article. " Astronomically, Jesus' death fits best with either A. D. 30 or 33 ". Now, what does that mean? It means that these are the only two years within an acceptable time frame where the Sabbath of the fifteenth of Nisan coincides with the weekly Saturday Sabbath. By using the expression "it seems" Nelson acknowledges that the evidence is not conclusive.

Nelson's dictionary scholars, while differing as to the year of Christ's crucifixion, also hold that His crucifixion was on a Friday. This seems to also agree with the work of H.W. Hoehner's work, Chronological Aspects of the Life of Christ . Hoehner argues in chapters 4 and 5 of his work that the only logical day for Christ's crucifixion is Nisan 14, A.D. 33, or according to our calendar, April 3, A.D. 33.

But, what if the year is wrong? The Passover was always on the fourteenth of Nisan, a lunar month. Passover day moves from one year to the next just the same as your birthday or any 'date" oriented event moves. What happened on a Friday this year will happen on another day next year. The Jewish calendar compounds this problem by having not only different months but even a different number of days in a year. This is why they have an extra "make up" month, Adar Sheni, every few years.

One hint that the Passover may not have been on Friday comes from scripture itself. John 12:1 states, "Then, six days before the Passover, Jesus came to Bethany, where Lazarus was who had been dead, whom He had raised from the dead ." (NKJ).

What's the problem? Well, if the Passover was on Friday and we count backwards six days we come to Saturday, the weekly Sabbath day. No Jewish person would ever make a trip from Ephraim (John 11:54) to Bethany on a Sabbath. This is about 14 miles over rough hilly country, much farther that what is reckoned as a "Sabbath's day journey."

Nelson's Bible Dictionary states in its article, SABBATH DAY'S JOURNEY :

"The distance a Jew could travel on the Sabbath without breaking the law. This phrase occurs in the Bible in (Acts 1:12), where Mount Olivet is described as being "near Jerusalem, a Sabbath day's journey." This distance is usually reckoned to be about a thousand yards (Josh. 3:4), (NIV, NEB; two thousand cubits, NKJV), because of the distance between the ARK OF THE COVENANT and the rest of the Israelite camp in the wilderness.

"The idea behind the Jewish law (see Ex. 16:29) was that every person within the camp or city would be close enough to the center of worship to take part in the services without having to travel such a great distance that the Sabbath became a harried and busy day. This law, although noble in intent, was soon abused by a strict legalism. In the New Testament, Jesus often clashed with the Pharisees because of their blind legalism over observance of the Sabbath (Matt. 12:1-9)."

Exod 16:29 states, "See! For the LORD has given you the Sabbath; therefore He gives you on the sixth day bread for two days. Let every man remain in his place; let no man go out of his place on the seventh day." (NKJ)

We know that Jesus was Lord of the Sabbath, but would He make such a trip on the Sabbath?

Sir Robert Anderson in the late 1800's wrote many remarkable books defending the scriptures and the faith against the attacks of the "higher critics". One of his books, called The Coming Prince deals with the 70 prophetic weeks in Daniel 9, particularly verses 24-27:

24. "Seventy weeks are determined for your people and for your holy city, to finish the transgression, to make an end of sins, to make reconciliation for iniquity, to bring in everlasting righteousness, to seal up vision and prophecy, and to anoint the Most Holy. 25. "Know therefore and understand, that from the going forth of the command to restore and build Jerusalem until Messiah the Prince, there shall be seven weeks and sixty-two weeks; the street shall be built again, and the wall, even in troublesome times. 26. "And after the sixty-two weeks Messiah shall be cut off, but not for Himself; and the people of the prince who is to come shall destroy the city and the sanctuary. The end of it shall be with a flood, and till the end of the war desolations are determined. 27. Then he shall confirm a covenant with many for one week; but in the middle of the week he shall bring an end to sacrifice and offering. And on the wing of abominations shall be one who makes desolate, even until the consummation, which is determined, is poured out on the desolate." (NKJ)

Without going into a lot of detail, part of that prophecy has to do with establishing the date that the faithful Jews should look for their Messiah, Jesus... "from the going forth of the command to restore and build Jerusalem until Messiah the Prince, there shall be seven weeks and sixty-two weeks" (vs.25). These "weeks," Anderson demonstrated were actually "weeks" of years instead of days. He also demonstrates that the Jewish prophetic year was 360 days. Therefore, from the edict to restore and build Jerusalem, the city (not the temple), until the Messiah was to be 7 weeks of years + 62 weeks of years = 69 weeks or 483 years. At 360 days per year = 173,880 days.

According to Anderson, the clock began on March 14, 445 B.C. when Artaxerxes issued the decree to rebuild Jerusalem (Neh. 2: 5-8, 17, 18). At the end of this time, Jesus, who had refused to be crowned on several occasions, suddenly openly rides into Jerusalem on a donkey fulfilling Zech. 9: 9 , "Rejoice greatly, O daughter of Zion! Shout, O daughter of Jerusalem! Behold, your King is coming to you; he is just and having salvation, lowly and riding on a donkey, a colt, the foal of a donkey." (NKJ). This day, sometimes called Palm Sunday, was the tenth of Nisan, the same day the priest were in the temple selecting the unblemished lambs for the Passover four days later. A prophecy written by Daniel while still in captivity and spanned 483 years was fulfilled to the very day. According to Anderson, this date on our calendar was the 6th of April, A.D. 32, it was a Sunday. The Passover of that year was April 10, A.D. 32, four days later. In other words, the Passover for that year was on Thursday, not Friday. That would mean that Friday and Saturday were both Sabbaths that year. Friday was a Sabbath because every 15th of Nisan was a Sabbath. Saturday was a Sabbath because it was the 7th day of the week, Saturday.

Of course, the established views will hear none of this, so H.W. Hoehner in his work, Chronological Aspects of the Life of Christ, argues that the only logical day for Christ's crucifixion is Friday, April 3, A.D. 33. In this work, he "corrects" the work of Sir Robert Anderson by essentially moving the date of Artaxerxes' decree from 445 B.C. to 444 B.C. and thus pushes the crucifixion and resurrection of Christ from 32 A.D. to 33 A.D. where the 15th of Nisan and the weekly Sabbath are again coincidental. If you look at Josh McDowell's books, A Ready Defense , or Evidence That Demands a Verdict , you will see

Hoehner's work referenced as it relates to Daniel's prophecy.

Chuck Missler, associated with Calvary Chapel, is becoming a popular but controversial speaker these days. He believes that the crucifixion was in 32 A.D. and seems to follow Sir Robert Anderson's chronology except Missler places the triumphal entry of Jesus into Jerusalem on the 10th of Nisan at Saturday instead of Sunday. This places the Passover, the 14th of Nisan, on Wednesday. He believes that the expression three days and three nights should be taken literally as alluded to by Christ speaking of the sign of Jonah. This makes the resurrection on the 17th of Nisan which actually begins Saturday just after sunset by Jewish tradition.

Missler believes that the 17th of Nisan is an important date:

Yet, another individual, Robert W. Faid, also believes that the resurrection took place on the 17th of Nisan (basically for the same reasons as Missler), and the crucifixion on Wednesday as indicated in his book, A Scientific Approach to Biblical Mysteries . Yet, he believes that these events occurred in 33 A.D. He appeals to an article " published in the prestigious British magazine Nature, written by mathematicians Colin J. Humphries and W.C. Waddington of Oxford University. Based on astronomical calculations and biblical and historical references, these men claim that the only year which fits the evidence with any degree of certainty is A.D. 33. " Faid makes this statement without any footnotes, notes, or bibliography to back it up. Yet, he claims that there is "astronomical" evidence that would place the Passover on Wednesday of that year when other respected sources have said, no, Passover was on Friday that year.

Who is right? I don't know.

The main contending date in study Bibles seems to be 30 A.D. The following is a list of study bibles I have found which state that Christ was crucified in 30 A.D.:

(Thompson's Bible does indicate an alternate date of 29 A.D. and places a (?) beside the dates)

(This bible agrees with the 30 A.D. date, yet places the Passover on Thursday)

The following is a list of study bibles I have found which state that Christ was crucified in 29 A.D.:

The following is a list of study bibles I have found which state that Christ was crucified in 33 A.D.:

(Scofield notes on Matthew 28:1 - the word for "sabbath" is literally plural, i.e. "sabbaths." More than one sabbath that week?)

It becomes obvious that no one alive today can say with absolute certainty which year Christ was crucified in.

The Sabbath

Let us re-examine a critical verse: John 19:31 "Therefore, because it was the Preparation Day, that the bodies should not remain on the cross on the Sabbath (for that Sabbath was a high day), the Jews asked Pilate that their legs might be broken, and that they might be taken away." (NKJ)

The question before us is, was this Sabbath a "normal" Saturday Sabbath? Or, was this passage referencing the Sabbath which ALWAYS followed the Passover on the fifteenth of Nisan (Lev. 23: 1-11). This means that if the 15th of Nisan fell on a different day of the week each year (which it does), then there are years with more than one Sabbath in its week (which there are). Was this year one of those special years when these two events (Saturday and the 15th of Nisan) coincide? What if it wasn't?

The Sabbath is usually first recognized as beginning with the seventh day of creation-- the day that God rested from His work. It is a day of rest.

Gen 2:1-3

1. Thus the heavens and the earth, and all the host of them, were finished. 2. And on the seventh day God ended His work which He had done, and He rested on the seventh day from all His work which He had done. 3. Then God blessed the seventh day and sanctified it, because in it He rested from all His work which God had created and made. (NKJ)

The verb which forms the root of the noun "sabbath" is translated "He rested". At the giving of the Law to Moses in Exodus 20:10,11, the fact that God rested on the 7th day is emphasized as a model for man. The noun "sabbath" (Strong's No. 7676 - shabbat) derives from the Hebrew word for "rest" or "to cease" (Strong's No. 7673 - Shabat). The actual English term "Sabbath" first appears in scripture in the 16th chapter of Exodus. And it is not until the giving of the Law to Moses that the 7th day is officially sanctified as "the" Sabbath in Exodus 20:10,11.

The term "sabbath" has more to do with rest than with worship. True, it is a special rest which should be used for worship.

But, THE day of WORSHIP is NOT what the term means. It means the day or days specially set aside for rest.

Looking up "Sabbath" in Vine's expository dictionary leads to the word "cease":

A. Verbs.

Shabat ^7673^, "to rest, cease." This word occurs about 200 times throughout the Old Testament. The root also appears in Assyrian, Arabic, and Aramaic.

The verb first occurs in (Gen. 2:2-3): "And on the seventh day God ended his work which he had made; and he rested on the seventh day from all his work which he had made. And God blessed the seventh day, and sanctified it: because that in it he had rested from all his work which God created and made."

The basic and most frequent meaning of shabat is shown in (Gen. 8:22): "While the earth remaineth, seedtime and harvest, and cold and heat, and summer and winter, and day and night shall not cease." This promise became a prophetic sign of God's faithfulness: "If those ordinances depart from before me, saith the Lord, then the seed of Israel also shall cease from being a nation before me for ever" (Jer. 31:36).

We find a variety of senses: "...even the first day ye shall put away leaven out of your houses..." (Exod. 12:15).

"Neither shalt thou suffer the salt of the covenant of thy God to be lacking from thy meat offering" (Lev. 2:13) NASB, KJV, NIV, "do not leave out". Josiah "put down the idolatrous priests..." (2 Kings 23:5). "I will also eliminate harmful beasts from the land" (Lev. 26:6) NASB, KJV, "rid"; RSV, NIV, "remove."

B. Noun.

shabbat ^7676^, "the sabbath." The verb sabat is the root of shabbat: "Six days you are to do your work, but on the seventh day you shall cease from labor..." (Exod. 23:12), NASB, KJV, "rest". In (Exod. 31:15), the seventh day is called the "sabbath rest" (NASB, "a sabbath of complete rest").

A man's "rest" was to include his animals and servants (Exod. 23:12): even "in earing time and in harvest thou shalt rest" (Exod. 34:21). "It is a sign between me and the children of Israel for ever: for in six days the Lord made heaven and earth, and on the seventh day he rested, and was refreshed" (Exod. 31:17).

"...Then shall the land keep a sabbath unto the Lord" (Lev. 25:2). Six years' crops will be sown and harvested, but the seventh year "shall be a sabbath of rest unto the land, a sabbath for the Lord..." (Lev. 25:4). The feast of trumpets, the Day of Atonement, and the first and eighth days of the Feast of Tabernacles are also called "a sabbath observance" or "a sabbath of complete rest" (Lev. 23:24,32,39).

The "sabbath" was a "day of worship" (Lev. 23:3) as well as a "day of rest and refreshment" for man (Exod. 23:12). God "rested and was refreshed" (Exod. 31:17). The "sabbath" was the covenant sign of God's lordship over the creation. By observing the "sabbath," Israel confessed that they were God's redeemed people, subject to His lordship to obey the whole of His law. They were His stewards to show mercy with kindness and liberality to all (Exod. 23:12; Lev. 25).

By "resting," man witnessed his trust in God to give fruit to his labor; he entered into God's "rest." Thus "rest" and the "sabbath" were eschatological in perspective, looking to the accomplishment of God's ultimate purpose through the redemption of His people, to whom the "sabbath" was a covenant sign.

The prophets rebuked Israel for their neglect of the sabbath (Isa. 1:13; Jer. 17:21-27; Ezek. 20:12-24; Amos 8:5). They also proclaimed "sabbath" observance as a blessing in the messianic age and a sign of its fullness (Isa. 56:2-4; 58:13; 66:23; Ezek. 44:24; 45:17; 46:1,3-4, 12). The length of the Babylonian Captivity was determined by the extent of Israel's abuse of the sabbatical year (2 Chr. 36:21); cf. (Lev. 26:34- 35). (from Vine's Expository Dictionary of Biblical Words , 1985, Thomas Nelson Publishers)

The actual noun translated as "Sabbath" is used for the first time after the first Passover in Egypt in Exod 16:23,25,26, & 29. The occasion is the instructions for gathering manna in the wilderness.

The "sabbath" is not mentioned again until Exodus 20. Listed below are all the verses in Exodus 20 that mentions the Sabbath:

Exod 20:8 -- Remember the Sabbath day, to keep it holy . (NKJ)

Exod 20:10 -- but the seventh day is the Sabbath of the LORD your God. In it you shall do no work: you, nor your son, nor your daughter, nor your male servant, nor your female servant, nor your cattle, nor your stranger who is within your gates. (NKJ)

Exod 20:11 -- For in six days the LORD made the heavens and the earth, the sea, and all that is in them, and rested the seventh day. Therefore the LORD blessed the Sabbath day and hallowed it. (NKJ)

Now, at this point in time, God has established and codified into Law at least one Sabbath. The Sabbath was an enforced day of rest. Of course, this day of rest is set aside by God for the purpose of worshiping God. The Sabbath in these passages occurs weekly on the 7th day, Saturday.

The Sabbath is a holy convocation. The feasts are holy convocations. Are the words different ways of communicating the same idea or are there differences which should be explored?

"Convocation" in Vine's Expository Dictionary yields:

B. Noun.

miqra' ^4744^, " public worship service; convocation." The word implies the product of an official summons to worship ("convocation"). In one of its 23 appearances, miqra' refers to Sabbaths as "convocation days " .

Strong's - "convocation" (No. 4744)... This lists all the places the word "convocation" is found (NKJ):

Exod 12:16 -- On the first day there shall be a holy convocation, and on the seventh day there shall be a holy convocation for you. No manner of work shall be done on them; but that which everyone must eat-- that only may be prepared by you. (NKJ)

This verse is in the middle of the section where the instructions for the 1st Passover is being given. More on this later.

The question now arises, do the scriptures teach that there are other Sabbaths also?

The answer is a definite YES.

There are 7 "high sabbaths" (i.e., "special" sabbaths) or "holy convocations" each year:

  1. At Passover, there are 2: The 1st day of the Feast of Unleavened Bread on the 15th of Nisan (the Passover is the 14th of Nisan; therefore, THE DAY AFTER THE PASSOVER, the 15th, IS ALWAYS A SABBATH REGARDLESS OF WHAT DAY IT FALLS ON) and the 7th day of the Feast of Unleavened Bread. (Exod 12:14-20, Lev 23:5-8, Num 28:16-18)
  2. 1 at Pentecost (or feast of Weeks, feast of Harvest, day of First Fruits) - (Exod. 23:16 & 34:22, Lev. 23:15-21, Deut. 16:9-12,16)
  3. 1 at the feast of Trumpets.
  4. 1 on the Day of Atonement.
  5. 2 at the feast of Booths (or Tabernacles)

The Passover / The Feast of Unleavened Bread :

Lev 23:1-11

And the Lord spoke to Moses, saying, "Speak to the children of Israel, and say to them: 'The feasts of the LORD, which you shall proclaim to be holy convocations, these are My feasts. 'Six days shall work be done, but the seventh day is a Sabbath of solemn rest, a holy convocation. You shall do no work on it; it is the Sabbath of the LORD in all your dwellings. 'These are the feasts of the LORD, holy convocations which you shall proclaim at their appointed times. (NKJ)

On the fourteenth day of the first month at twilight is the LORD'S Passover. And on the fifteenth day of the same month is the Feast of Unleavened Bread to the LORD; seven days you must eat unleavened bread. On the first day you shall have a holy convocation; you shall do no customary work on it. But you shall offer an offering made by fire to the LORD for seven days. The seventh day shall be a holy convocation; you shall do no customary work on it.'"

And the LORD spoke to Moses, saying, "Speak to the children of Israel, and say to them: 'When you come into the land which I give to you, and reap its harvest, then you shall bring a sheaf of the firstfruits of your harvest to the priest. 'He shall wave the sheaf before the LORD, to be accepted on your behalf; on the day after the Sabbath the priest shall wave it. (NKJ)

Here (vs.11), the priest shall wave the sheaf of the firstfruits which is part of the feast of Israel. This typifies the resurrection of our Lord, Jesus Christ. It was waved each year after the Israelites entered the land of Canaan on the first day after the first Sabbath (the Shabbat, not the holy convocation) after Passover. This ritual always took place on the first day of the week, our Sunday, regardless of which day of the week Passover fell on. It was not determined by a date in the month, like the 14th of Nisan, but by a peculiar order. First, the Passover. Then, on the first day after the first Saturday after the Passover, the sheaf offering was waved before the LORD.

Pentecost :

Lev 23:15-16

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. (NKJ)

Here (vs.16), the feast of Pentecost is 50 days after the sheaf offering is waved before the LORD. It also always took place on the 1st day of the week, Sunday.

The Day of Atonement :

Lev 16:29-34

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, to cleanse you, that you may be clean from all your sins before the LORD. 31 "It is a sabbath of solemn rest for you, and you shall afflict your souls. It is a statute forever. 32 "And the priest, who is anointed and consecrated to minister as priest in his father's place, shall make atonement, and put on the linen clothes, the holy garments; 33 "then he shall make atonement for the Holy Sanctuary, and he shall make atonement for the tabernacle of meeting and for the altar, and he shall make atonement for the priests and for all the people of the assembly. 34 "This shall be an everlasting statute for you, to make atonement for the children of Israel, for all their sins, once a year." And he did as the LORD commanded Moses. (NKJ)

The Feast of Trumpets:

The 9th and 10th day of the 7th month are Sabbath days (2 in a row) associated with the Feast of Atonement (as noted above). Also, the 15th day of the 7th month and 8 days later (the 23rd day) is a Sabbath. These days fall on certain dates within the month, not on multiples of 7 (for Saturday Sabbaths). It is therefore not only possible but scripturally documented to have at least 2 or possibly 3 Sabbaths within a single week.

Lev 23:23-44

23 Then the LORD spoke to Moses, saying, 24 "Speak to the children of Israel, saying: 'In the seventh month, on the first day of the month, you shall have a sabbath rest, a memorial of blowing of trumpets, a holy convocation. 25 'You shall do no customary work on it; and you shall offer an offering made by fire to the LORD.'" 26 And the LORD spoke to Moses, saying: 27 "Also the tenth day of this seventh month shall be the Day of Atonement. It shall be a holy convocation for you; you shall afflict your souls, and offer an offering made by fire to the LORD. 28 "And you shall do no work on that same day, for it is the Day of Atonement, to make atonement for you before the LORD your God. 29 "For any person who is not afflicted in soul on that same day shall be cut off from his people. 30 "And any person who does any work on that same day, that person I will destroy from among his people. 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." 33 Then the LORD spoke to Moses, saying, 34 "Speak to the children of Israel, saying: 'The fifteenth day of this seventh month shall be the Feast of Tabernacles for seven days to the LORD. 35 'On the first day there shall be a holy convocation. You shall do no customary work on it. 36 'For seven days you shall offer an offering made by fire to the LORD. On the eighth day you shall have a holy convocation, and you shall offer an offering made by fire to the LORD. It is a sacred assembly, and you shall do no customary work on it. 37 'These are the feasts of the LORD which you shall proclaim to be holy convocations, to offer an offering made by fire to the LORD, a burnt offering and a grain offering, a sacrifice and drink offerings, everything on its day--38 'besides the Sabbaths of the LORD, besides your gifts, besides all your vows, and besides all your freewill offerings which you give to the LORD. 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 sabbath rest, and on the eighth day a sabbath rest. 40 'And you shall take for yourselves on the first day the fruit of beautiful trees, branches of palm trees, the boughs of leafy trees, and willows of the brook; and you shall rejoice before the LORD your God for seven days. 41 'You shall keep it as a feast to the LORD for seven days in the year. It shall be a statute forever in your generations. You shall celebrate it in the seventh month. 42 'You shall dwell in booths for seven days. All who are native Israelites shall dwell in booths, 43 'that your generations may know that I made the children of Israel dwell in booths when I brought them out of the land of Egypt: I am the LORD your God.' " 44 So Moses declared to the children of Israel the feasts of the LORD. (NKJ)

Then, there is the year of Sabbath that the land was to lay fallow.

Lev 25:1-4

1 And the LORD spoke to Moses on Mount Sinai, saying, 2 "Speak to the children of Israel, and say to them: 'When you come into the land which I give you, then the land shall keep a sabbath to the LORD. 3 'Six years you shall sow your field, and six years you shall prune your vineyard, and gather its fruit; 4 'but in the seventh year there shall be a sabbath of solemn rest for the land, a sabbath to the LORD. You shall neither sow your field nor prune your vineyard. (NKJ)

SABBATH = REST

Holy Convocations = Special [High (?)] Sabbaths

Certain feast days are Sabbaths. The day after Passover is ALWAYS a Sabbath. Period. End of argument.

Conclusion

It becomes obvious that no one alive today can say with absolute certainty which day of the week Christ was crucified on. We can not even say with certainty which year this event happened.

We can definitely say that the crucifixion occurred on a day in history to fulfill the many prophecies and requirements of the Law in order to provide the only way of salvation to all those who accept it. We can definitely say that the crucifixion occurred on either a Wednesday, Thursday, or Friday. We know absolutely that Christ was crucified on the Jewish 14th of Nisan, fulfilling the Passover, and that He rose again on the 1st day of the week, Sunday. That Sunday may or may not have been the 17th of Nisan.

My own personal view is that I believe that the prophecy of Daniel 9:27 was indeed fulfilled to the day. This is completely in character with the sovereignty of God and appears to be precedented by other cases of prophecy. Whether or not we can accurately determine if that day, the 10th of Nisan, was in A.D. 32 or A.D. 33 or some other year is another matter. I personally do not have the high degree of confidence in our scholars to be able to correlate ancient dates with such precision, even with astronomical data. There are too many assumptions that have to be made to come up with these dates. They may be fairly accurate, but I still have my reservations.

I personally like Sir Robert Anderson's viewpoint... Thursday, A.D.32. But, I'm probably wrong. It's really not that important. If it had been important to know exactly which day and year, God would have certainly let us know in no uncertain terms.

Now that I have wasted so much of my time as well as your time, what should we make of all this? Just what I said at the introduction -- (and I repeat) this is a secondary issue. The important thing is that "Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, and that He was buried, and that He rose again the third day according to the Scriptures" 1 Cor 15:3b,4 (NKJ).

The crucifixion of Christ because of our sins and for our sins actually happened. Christ's body lay dead in the tomb -- not swooned, but dead. Yet, He arose "the third day". It happened. That these were a real events in history fulfilling the Passover forever, that Christ is our Feast of Unleavened Bread and that He is the accepted grain offering waved before the Father the day after the Sabbath-- these are the important things. Whether or not this happened in 30 A.D., 32 A.D., 33 A.D., or some other immediate year is not really important (at least as far as determining a person's salvation). Likewise, believing that the crucifixion was on a Thursday or even possibly Wednesday does not mean that one has denied scripture. On secondary issues, we should not let these things divide the brethren, the body of Christ.

Augustine once said, " In essentials, unity. In non-essentials, liberty. But, in all things, charity ."

Don't be dogmatic about things we can not be sure of. Stick to the essentials. Sure, investigate the side issues; mine for the deep nuggets. But don't forget to differentiate between that which is scripture and that which is conjecture.

Yours in Christ,

Steven Sawyer


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