According to the Old Testament, God gave the Ten Commandments to Moses and, through him, to the Hebrews. God commanded the Hebrews to work six days and to rest from labor on the seventh day. The Hebrew word ‘sabbath’ is a noun that derives from the verb ‘sabath’ meaning ‘to rest from labor’. It is not known on what calendar day God gave the Hebrews His Commandments and what calendar day was the first working day for them. It was just a day, nothing more. We may as well call Sabbath day the seventh day or the day of rest. If we asked the question: ’What day is our Sabbath day?’, we could as well ask: ’What day is our day of rest?’. In both cases, we can answer: ’That is the seventh day.’
On this analogy, we can call any day our seventh day. The point is that the seventh day has to be preceded by six working days. If we give each day of the week a name and we call the seventh day Sunday, this may seem appropriate. God gave the Hebrews the Commandment of keeping the seventh day (day of rest) holy. The Hebrew word sabbath has an exact meaning: ‘day of rest’. Accordingly, we could as well call our Sunday ‘Restday’.
Bearing this in mind, any consideration about what day should be our Restday seems pointless, since we already have the answer: ‘Our Restday.’
In terms of meaning and origin, our Saturday and the Sabbath day have nothing in common. For both Hebrews and Christians, Saturday is the seventh day. For Hebrews, it is a holiday, for Christians, it is not. Most Christians hold that the resurrection of Jesus took place on the first day of the week; therefore they regard Sunday as the first day of the week. In Central and Eastern Europe, in the Slav countries, Monday is regarded as the first day of the week (ponyidielnyik). In Hungarian, Monday is also the first day of the week – hétfõ (meaning: the head /beginning/ of the week). Thus, celebrating Easter Monday in Slav countries and in Hungary is understandable. However, it cannot be clearly seen why do those Christian countries celebrate Easter Monday as the day of Jesus’s resurrection, which regard Sunday as being the first day of the week, while, according to their belief, Jesus’s resurrection took place on Sunday. This does not seem logical.
Considering that Jesus rose from the dead at about 6.00 pm on the Friday, as I expounded in my former essay entitled ‘How Could Jesus Have Spent Three Days and Three Nights in the Tomb?’, which is of course not an absolute yardstick, we can conclude that the day of Jesus’s resurrection has nothing to do with any known way of counting weekdays and holidays.
What God commanded for the Hebrews concerning keeping the Sabbath holy has been kept by them until now. Christians hold the view that in the New Testament Jesus abolished the Ten Commandments and replaced them with two main commandments (John 13:34). Some claim that Jesus, speaking of His being also the Lord of the Sabbath (Mark 2:28), meant that Christians had to continue to celebrate the Sabbath. It is rather difficult to share this view.
The two main commandments Jesus gave in John 13:34 seem to be complemented by Acts 15:20 (‘But that we write unto them, that they abstain from pollutions of idols, and from fornication, and from things strangled, and from blood.’). Hebrews 4:1-11 makes mention of the seventh day and God’s rest but this seems to be related to God’s six days of creative work and not to keeping the weekly holiday.
In light of the above and in particular of the fact that Jesus actually rose from the dead on the Friday (! – see my article entitled ‘How Could Jesus Have Spent Three Days and Three Nights in the Tomb?'), I might well conclude that Hebrews should keep their Sabbath and Christians should keep their Sunday holy. Of course, Christians being convinced that they should follow the Ten Commandments God gave, together with the Two Commandments Jesus gave, may keep the Sabbath on Saturday if they wish. They may try to persuade other Christians that their way of keeping the Sabbath should be followed. For my part, as a Christian, I do not think that I should follow such Commandments of the Old Testament that were abolished by the ransom sacrifice of Jesus Christ. From another point of view, Christians still keep the Commandment regarding the seventh day anyway – they just call that day Sunday instead of Sabbath or Saturday. However, I don’t think that Christians should keep any day of the week holy. They should keep their Lord holy who is also the Lord of the Sabbath or Restday.
Thus, in my view, instead of saying: ‘Sabbath OR Sunday’ we should rather say: ‘Sabbath AND Sunday’.
By Sandor Balog
Word Count: 816
Sandor Balog (pen name: Attila B. Magyar), author of Palm Wednesday. Seen several Bible-related sites. Asks and tries to answer unasked biblical questions, writes articles. A non-denominational follower and modern-day disciple of Jesus.
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