The "High Day Sabbath" (Two Sabbaths during Crucifixion week)
Some people want to cling on to the Sunday resurrection argue that John's phrase “that Sabbath was a high day” could not possibly refer to the first day of unleavened bread. Therefore there was only one Sabbath that week, the weekly Sabbath, therefore the crucifixion was on Friday, and then Sunday was the resurrection. They argue:
Nowhere in the Bible is the annual Jewish feast days like Passover or the days of unleavened bread called “HIGH SABBATHS” or “high days”! So the Bible itself, by its silence, refutes this concept completely.
However, outside of the books of Moses, these feast days are never called “Sabbaths” instead there are referred to as “annual feasts, appointed feasts, appointed times, assemblies, solemn assembly, festal assemblies, Festival, fixed festivals, keeping years.” When the Jews used the word Sabbath, it always referred to the weekly Sabbath. (Bible.ca).
First there is a contradiction in this argument because number one this argument says these feasts are not in the bible called “Sabbaths.” Then they say outside the books of Moses the feasts are never called “Sabbaths.” So they are called Sabbaths in the Bible as by their own admission.
Now these Festivals are called Sabbaths, and the weekly Sabbath itself is called a “Feast.” “And the LORD spake unto Moses, saying,
“Speak unto the children of Israel, and say unto them, Concerning the feasts of the LORD, which ye shall proclaim to be holy convocations, even these are my feasts.
“Six days shall work be done: but the seventh day is the sabbath of rest, an holy convocation; ye shall do no work therein: it is the sabbath of the LORD in all your dwellings.” (Lev 23:1-3). The weekly Sabbath day is the weekly feast day of the Lord.
Then comes the annual Feasts in their seasons as God says, “These are the feasts of the LORD, even holy convocations, which ye shall proclaim in their seasons.” (v.4). Notice the weekly and annual Sabbaths are called “holy convocations.” They are both called a “Sabbath of Rest” as well.
The Feast of Trumpets is called a “Sabbath,” Speak unto the children of Israel, saying, In the seventh month, in the first day of the month, shall ye have a sabbath, a memorial of blowing of trumpets, an holy convocation.
“Ye shall do no servile work therein…” (vv.24-25). All three conditions are mentioned here a “holy convocation,” a “Sabbath” and no “work” to be done a rest from our labors.
The Day of Atonement called a “Sabbath of Rest” (v.32). A “holy convocation” (v.27).
First and last days of Unleavened bread are called “holy convocation” and no “work” was to be done (vv.7-8). These are Sabbaths to be kept. Although it is not said here it is clear that a Sabbath is meant, as we can see from the Feast of Tabernacles that the language is the same, and then it is called A Sabbath (see below).
The Feast of Tabernacles again, the first and the eigth day of the Feast, “On the first day shall be an holy convocation: ye shall do no servile work therein…on the eighth day shall be an holy convocation unto you…it is a solemn assembly; and ye shall do no servile work therein…Also in the fifteenth day of the seventh month, when ye have gathered in the fruit of the land, ye shall keep a feast unto the LORD seven days: on the first day shall be a sabbath, and on the eighth day shall be a sabbath.” (vv.35-36, 39).
Even with all the above
evidence and words of the Lord concerning His weekly and annual sabbaths, some
will still argue that somehow the annual sabbaths are not really holy sabbaths,
not holy as was and as is the weekly sabbath (if they still believe the weekly
7th day sabbath is still holy, which many that once did have now discarded).
They want to argue that the word "holy" is not used with the annual sabbaths in
the same direct way it is used with the weekly sabbath.The answer to this clever
but weak argument was anticipated by the Lord, hence He inspired the priest Ezra
to give the truth of the matter.
The book of Nehemiah, however for the first day of the seventh month, the day and feast of Trumpets, it is written: “......This day is HOLY unto the Lord your God......for this day is HOLY unto our God....” (Neh.8:9,10). This section of Scripture, together with the ones quoted above prove: 1) The annual sabbaths are Sabbaths. 2) The annual sabbaths are Holy to the Lord. 3) No regular or servile work is to be done on the annual sabbaths. 4) Like the weekly sabbath, the annual sabbaths are holy convocations.
Now in Verses 37 and 38 it says, “These are the feasts of the LORD, which ye shall proclaim to be holy convocations, to offer an offering made by fire unto the LORD, a burnt offering, and a meat offering, a sacrifice, and drink offerings, every thing upon his day:
“Beside the sabbaths of the LORD, and beside your gifts, and beside all your vows, and beside all your freewill offerings, which ye give unto the LORD.” Some try to claim that the weekly Sabbath and the annual Feasts are separate from this scripture. But first it should read “in addition to” the Sabbaths of the Lord (Moffatt).
Also the word here is “Sabbath” singular (Strong’s #7676). It could be used both ways as it is shown in the Bible according to the context. Now here as it says “Beside the sabbaths of the LORD” is, “By a figure of speech called metonymy, which is frequently used both in the Old and New Testaments, the expression sabbaths stands here for the sacrifices of the sabbaths, just as in Lev 25:6 ‘sabbath of the land’ denotes the produce of the sabbath of the land, or of the sabbatic year, and as the phrase ‘it is written in the prophets’ (Mar 1:2) is used for ‘it is written in the writings of the prophets.’ (Comp. also Matt 5:17; Matt 7:12; Matt 22:40, &c.) The meaning, therefore, of the passage before us is that the sacrifices ordered for each of these festivals are to be in addition to the sacrifices appointed to each weekly sabbath in the year; so that when one of these festivals falls on a sabbath, the sacrifices due to the latter are not set aside by the former. Both must be offered in their proper order.” (Ellicott’s Commentary for English Readers, emphasis his and mine). This is “Of the Adjunct. When something pertaining to the subject is put for the subject itself” (Bullinger’s Companion Bible, Append 6).
So the context here is the sacrifices on the annual feast days are to be performed in addition to the weekly Sacrifices each and every Sabbath if the annual and weekly Sabbath were to end up on the same day. There is nothing here indicating a difference between “Sabbaths” meaning the weekly Sabbath and “Feasts” but the order of sacrifices on those days that’s the subject, the sacrifices.
What about scriptures like:
1Chron23:31 “And to offer all burnt sacrifices unto the LORD in the sabbaths, in the new moons, and on the set feasts, by number, according to the order commanded unto them, continually before the LORD:”
2Chron 2:4 “Behold, I build an house to the name of the LORD my God, to dedicate it to him, and to burn before him sweet incense, and for the continual shewbread, and for the burnt offerings morning and evening, on the sabbaths, and on the new moons, and on the solemn feasts of the LORD our God. This is an ordinance for ever to Israel.”
2Chron 8:13 “Even after a certain rate every day, offering according to the commandment of Moses, on the sabbaths, and on the new moons, and on the solemn feasts, three times in the year, even in the feast of unleavened bread, and in the feast of weeks, and in the feast of tabernacles.”
2Chron 31:3 “He appointed also the king’s portion of his substance for the burnt offerings, to wit, for the morning and evening burnt offerings, and the burnt offerings for the sabbaths, and for the new moons, and for the set feasts, as it is written in the law of the LORD.”
Nehemiah 10:33 “For the shewbread, and for the continual meat offering, and for the continual burnt offering, of the sabbaths, of the new moons, for the set feasts, and for the holy things, and for the sin offerings to make an atonement for Israel, and for all the work of the house of our God.”
Does this mean that the “Sabbaths” are the weekly Sabbath and the Holy days are called “set feasts,” after the time of Moses, and that’s how they are known after wards? No! Look at the context. It’s all about the “offerings.” It’s about the sacrifices for these particular days! Why does the Bible separate the feasts and the Sabbath here? Numbers 28 and 29 show the different sacrifices for these days, and so this is why the distinction is made.
The Sabbath offerings, the monthly offerings, and the Festival offerings are all described here, and the language is the same as well. God says “These things ye shall do unto the LORD in your set feasts…” (Num 29:39). So this is why the distinction is made between the days because of the sacrifices not because the annual Festivals were not look on as “Sabbaths” any longer.
Now in Numbers 28, the weekly offering for the Sabbath is not called “Sabbaths” but “The Sabbath” (v.9) and “every Sabbath” (v.10). In the above scriptures they are called “Sabbaths” As noted above it could be singular or plural depending on the context. Since there is only one weekly Sabbath it could also be rendered Sabbath, or every Sabbath.
Now outside of the book of Moses were they called Sabbaths?
Lamentations 2:6 says, “And he hath violently taken away his tabernacle, as if it were of a garden: he hath destroyed his places of the assembly: the LORD hath caused the solemn feasts and sabbaths to be forgotten in Zion, and hath despised in the indignation of his anger the king and the priest.” One must understand that some of the festivals were seven days long, and not all seven days were Sabbaths! First day of unleavened bread was a Sabbath as well as the last. It was still a feast on the second, third, fourth, fifth, sixth days of the feast. People were still eating unleavened bread! Only certain days were Sabbaths! Barnes says, “Or, ‘His great festivals’ (Lam 1:15 note). It is the Word rendered ‘solemn feasts’ in the next clause, and rightly joined there with ‘sabbaths,’ the weekly, as the other were the annual festivals.” (emphasis added). There were certain days within the feasts were called Sabbaths, as well as the weekly Sabbath day was called a feast day (Lev 23:1-3). So they can be used interchangeably.
Notice in the Gospel of John, “Now the Jews’ feast of tabernacles was at hand.” (7:2). He told his brothers “Go ye up unto this feast: I go not up yet unto this feast; for my time is not yet full come.” (v.8). So Jesus went to the feast of Tabernacles and then, “Now about the midst of the feast Jesus went up into the temple, and taught” (v.14). This is either the third of the fourth day of the Festival-and these days are not Sabbaths! Then John says, “In the last day, that great day of the feast, Jesus stood and cried,” (v.37). Notice that the last day which is the eighth day and a Sabbath (Lev 23:36, 39), it is called a “great day.” It’s a Sabbath as well as a feast day. The weekly Sabbath is a Sabbath as well as a feast day.
Here another scripture uses Sabbaths and Festivals interchangeably, “Bring no more vain oblations; incense is an abomination unto me; the new moons and sabbaths, the calling of assemblies, I cannot away with; it is iniquity, even the solemn meeting.
“Your new moons and your appointed feasts my soul hateth: they are a trouble unto me; I am weary to bear them.” (Isaiah 1:13-14). Notice God links new moons with the Sabbaths in verse 13, then the new moons with the appointed feasts in verse 14. The Sabbath is an appointed feast day (Lev 23:1-3). And within the Feast days are Sabbaths like the first and last days of Unleavened bread and Tabernacles. These are used again interchangeably. Barnes notes, “The sabbaths here refer not only to the weekly sabbaths, but to all their days of rest. The word sabbath means properly a day of rest Gen 2:2-3; and it was applied not only to the seventh day, but particularly to the beginning and the close of their great festivals, which were days of unusual solemnity and sacredness, Lev 16:31; 23:24-39… Your appointed feasts - That is, your assemblies convened on regular set times - מועד moed, from יעד yaad, to fix, to appoint. Hengstenberg (Chris. iii. p. 87) has shown that this word (מועדים moedı̂ym) is applied in the Scriptures only to the sabbath, passover, pentecost, day of atonement, and feast of tabernacles. Prof. Alexander, in loc. It is applied to those festivals, because they were fixed by law to certain periods of the year. This verse is a very impressive repetition of the former, as if the soul was full of the subject, and disposed to dwell upon it.” (emphasis mine and theirs). The Jamieson Fausset and Brown commentary, and the Keil & Delitzsch Commentary all agree.
Ezekiel 20, 22, 23, 44, 45 speak of God’s “Sabbaths.” Since it speaks of God’s statues, judgments and commandments in the plural because of course there are more than one, then “Sabbaths” plural is the correct rendering in the context, in which there is more than one Sabbath, the weekly and the annual Sabbaths.
What of this scripture, “I will also cause all her mirth to cease, her feast days, her new moons, and her sabbaths, and all her solemn feasts.” (Hosea 2:11). Why the distinction here?
Theologian Ron du Preez points out that the linguistic evidence in Hosea 2:11 the Hebrew word for “feasts” has a relatively narrow meaning. It applies only to the three festivals that required a pilgrimage to Jerusalem: the Feast of Unleavened Bread (linked to Passover), the Feast of Harvest (Pentecost), and the Feast of Ingathering (Tabernacles). Based on both Hebrew and Greek usage, the “sabbaths” of Hosea 2:11 can be identified with the Day of Atonement and the Day of Trumpets. (“Adventism’s Achilles’s Heel? a scriptural study of the ‘Sabbath’ in Colossians 2:16.”).
K&D writes of this word “Feast” is, “Chag stands for the three principal festivals of the year, the Passover, Pentecost, and the feast of Tabernacles, which had the character of chag, i.e., of feasts of joy par excellence, as being days of commemoration of the great acts of mercy which the Lord performed on behalf of His people.” (Emphasis added). This did not include the other feast days.
Now with the end of this verse that says, “all her solemn feasts” K& D concludes, “Finally, these feasts are all summed up in כָּל־מוֹעֲדָהּ; for מוֹעֵד, מוֹעֲדִים is the general expression for all festive seasons and festive days (Lev 23:2, Lev 23:4).” God is just showing the difference between the pilgrimage feasts and the two other festivals and the weekly Sabbath that did not require a pilgrimage to the Tabernacle. Not that the festivals were not called Sabbaths any longer. All had Sabbaths within the festivals of God.
What of Colossians 2:16? Many scholars see the close connection between this verse and Hosea 2:11. That Paul was actually quoting from this passage, which he was. It says, “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:” (For a full study on this passage read our booklet “What Colossians 2:16 really says). Now was Paul here making a distinction between the Sabbath and the festivals as well? No! Like Hosea it showing the difference between the pilgrimage feasts and the two other festivals and the weekly Sabbath that did not require a pilgrimage to the Tabernacle.
Notice Paul’s description, “an holyday,” means, “or feast,[Gr. heorte see John 5:1] such as the feast of the passover, the feast of tabernacles, and the feast of Pentecost; which were three grand festivals, at which all the Jewish males were obliged to appear before the Lord;” (Gill’s Commentary). The Pilgrimage feasts as noted by Hosea.
“Meat" and "drink” is God’s law containing prohibitions of meats (Lev 11), but not general prohibitions of drinks, but only for those who took the Nazarite Vow (Numbers 6). The Church of God practiced this see Acts 21:23-26.
The “New Moon.” Now it does not say here in the Greek, “new moons,” as some inaccurately quote this passage, but “the new moon,” referring to the Feast of Trumpets—the only annual Holy Day to be celebrated on a new moon. Barnes says, “The new moon in the beginning of the month Tisri (October) was the beginning of their civil year, and was commanded to be observed as a festival; Lev 23:24, Lev 23:25.”
“or of the sabbath days” Here is where all the theological arguments come in about what Paul meant when he wrote of the “Sabbath days.”
First of all the word “days” is in italics it is, “supplied, but this is justified by the fact that the word ‘sabbath’ in the Greek is plural”, (The Law and the Sabbath, Walker, p.168).
The examination of the text, just taking it for what it is in the Greek reads, “ ‘of the Sabbaths.’ The word Sabbath in the Old Testament is applied not only to the seventh day, but to all the days of holy rest that were observed by the Hebrews, and particularly to the beginning and close of their great festivals. There is, doubtless, reference to those days in this place, since the word is used in the plural number…If he had used the word in the singular number - “the Sabbath,” it would then, of course, have been clear that he meant…But the use of the term in the plural number, and the connection, show that he had his eye on the great number of days which were observed by the Hebrews as festivals…” (Barnes Notes, emphasis added). Of course this source believes like other because of the misunderstanding of the text, of the “shadow” which many believe means the Holy days and the Sabbath which it does not.
Jameison Fausett and Brown commentary as well recognizes this word meaning, “SABBATHS” (not ‘the sabbaths’) of the Day of Atonement and feast of tabernacles”
Many translations like the Moffatt, the Ferrar Fenton, Young’s, Webster, Mudock, MKJV, LITV and others all have “Sabbaths.” Keeping with the context of Hosea, and the Greek word “Sabbaton.”
Now some argue like Harold W. Hoehner says, “The term Sabbath is frequently (one-third of all its NT occurrences) in the plural form in the NT when only one day is in view. For example, in MT. 12:1-12 both the singular and plural forms are used (C.F. ESP. V.5)” (Chronological Aspects of the Life of Christ pp. 69-70). But again the evidence tells a different story. It can mean both the weekly and the annual Sabbaths.
Concerning this Greek word “sabbaton” Vine’s Expository Dictionary of NT Words says this: “Sabbaton or Sabbata: the latter, the plural form, was transliterated from the Aramaic word, which was mistaken for a plural; hence the singular, Sabbaton, was formed from it. The root means to cease, desist (Heb., Shabath; cp. ARAB., Sabata, to intercept, interrupt); the double ‘b’ has an intensive force....” (p. 983).
Josephus (Ant. III. 10, 1) expressly explains the “seventh day” as called “sabbata” (plural form as here, an effort to transliterate the Aramaic sabbathah).
Due to this fact A.T. Robertson, the well-respected New Testament scholar, says that in any occurrence of sabbata (or its other case forms such as sabbaton) one must inquire if it represents the Aramaic shabbetha, in which case it is singular, or whether it is genuinely the plural of sabbaton, in which case it is a plural (see Grammar of the Greek New Testament in the Light of Historical research, pp.95, 105).
In Lev 23:3 this plural word Sabbata is used where the singular Sabbaton is meant, as the 7th day only is spoken about.
Lev. 23 verses 26-32 are talking about the annual Fast-Rest of the feast Day of Atonement, the last part of this verse is rendered into English as, “...from evening to evening ye shall keep your sabbaths.” (The Septuagint Version: Greek & English - Sir Lancelot Brenton - Zondervan publishing). The Greek for “Sabbaths” is Sabbata. If the plural form is here correct, then ALL the rest days upon which no servile work is to be done in this chapter are called by the one Greek word Sabbata. If it should be the singular Sabbaton then we see that the 10th day of the 7th month - the annual Sabbath of Atonement is called Sabbaton! Either way, it is quite correct to use the Greek word SABBATON for both the weekly Sabbath or the annual Sabbaths - they are all days of rest upon which no servile work is to be done - to cease or desist from such work, which is termed Sabbaton in NT Greek, and which word is not intrinsically connected with only the seventh day of the week.
Here in Colossians it is in the plural “Sabbaths” and according to the proofs above it can mean the weekly Sabbath, the annual Sabbaths or both. “Meaning must always be decided by context…Context is decisive” (The “Sabbath Days” of Colossians, Kenneth H. Wood, Append D.p.339). The context is the same as Hosea which we have concluded is the weekly and annual Sabbaths as proven above.
The whole reason why there are such arguments is because of the expression of the “shadow of things to come” (v.17). Many believe it means the Sabbath and Holydays-because of this belief many Sabbatarians who do not believe in the Holy Days try to prove that it does not means the weekly Sabbath. Sunday keepers say it means both and we do not have to keep the weekly and the annual Sabbaths etc… But prove in our booklet the Saving works of God that the “shadow” does not mean these days but the false teachers doctrines of the “commandments and doctrines of men” (Col 2:22). Read our booklet for full details.
Some may argue that why would Paul repeat himself of saying Festivals and Sabbaths if it meant the annual Sabbaths. But as we have shown above he is not. As in Hosea, “Paul was not repeating himself by speaking of both festivals and Sabbaths but was including all the Jewish…days…” (Feast Days, Herbert E. Douglas, p.23, emphasis added). All sacred days are included in Colossians-Three pilgrimage feasts, [Festivals] the New Moon [Feast of Trumpets], Sabbaths [weekly Sabbath & annual Sabbaths of the Day of Atonement; 1st and last of unleavened Bread; 1st & 8th day of Tabernacles]. Here is what the Theological Wordbook of the Old Testament says about the word Shabbaton: “In addition to designating the Sabbath (EX 16:23), this word may apply to the day of atonement (LEV. 16:31; 23:32); to the feast of trumpets (LEV. 23:24); and the first and eighth days of tabernacles (LEV. 23:39). The ending - ON is characteristic of abstract nouns in Hebrew....” (Vol.2, p.903).
So we can draw the conclusion that the festivals of God were called “Sabbaths” throughout the Bible and did not refer only to the weekly Sabbath. The Sabbath and festivals were used interchangeably in the Bible for the Sabbath was a festival as well. The only distinction made was due to the sacrifices or the pilgrimages that were made on certain festivals but all the festivals had Sabbath days within these festivals and were called “Sabbaths.”
High Day Sabbath
Did this mean the first day of unleavened bread? Sunday keepers claim that nowhere are these days called “High Days.” But why would John if it was just a regular weekly Sabbath take the time to tell his audience about a high day Sabbath?
Some scholars point out by referring to Israel Abrahams, a noted Jewish scholar that there is no instance before John 19:31 of the use of the term ‘high day’ or ‘Great Sabbath’ in Rabbinical literature. But because what can be shown by later rabbinic use and literature of the term “Great Sabbath” or “high day” can have no bearing on the way John used it. And further, terms such as “Good Friday” or “Holy Saturday” coined by the Roman Catholic church much later than John, can also bear no proof in supporting the belief that “an high day” in John 19:31 means special weekly Sabbath, special because the 15th of Nisan Sabbath is believed to have fallen upon the weekly Sabbath.
Now in John.19:31 The NIV renders the two Greek words ‘megale hemera’ as ‘special.’ The KJV and many other translations render ‘megale hemera’ as ‘high day.’ The Greek words ‘megale hemera’ literally means ‘great day.’ There is Biblical evidence to support the argument that the reference to this sabbath as a ‘great day’ (megale hemera) is a reference to a festival Sabbath.
In the Septuagint version of the Old Testament (Greek translation of the OT) Isaiah 1:13 uses the phrase ‘great day’ to refer to the festival Sabbaths. The latter part of verse 13 says, ‘....I cannot bear your evil assemblies.’ In the Hebrew text, the word from which ‘assemblies’ is translated is ‘atsarah’ which means ‘solemn assembly.’ In the Greek version of Isaiah 1:13, the word ‘atsarah’ is translated is translated as ‘hemeran megalen’ which means ‘great day.’ Thus the Greek text of Isaiah 1:13 uses the same reference for an annual Jewish festival Sabbath as does John in John 19:31. The meaning assigned to ‘assembly’ (‘solemn assembly’ in Isaiah 1:13) is recognized as a reference in general to the festival Sabbaths of Israel. Strong’s Exhaustive Concordance of the Bible indicates Isaiah’s reference to ‘atsarah’ is a reference to any festival or holiday, and not to the Passover Sabbath alone. “…especially on a festival or holiday: - (solemn) assembly (meeting).” (Strong’s #6116). Nowhere in the Scriptures or from the Jews Rabbinical writings at that time was the WEEKLY Sabbath is called a “high” day!!! John himself makes that clear distinction. If he did not there would be confusion.
In another place in his Gospel, again he shows the difference. The Greek word translated “high” or “great” is found also in John 7:37 as well as John 19:31 both of which refer to the more important days of the Hebrew feasts. For example the last day of a feast would be designated a “great day.”
John 7:37 “In the last day, that great day of the feast, Jesus stood and cried, saying, If any man thirst, let him come unto me, and drink. [The word in italics ["day"] is added by the translators to complete the sense in English].
The word “great” in the Greek text is megalh [megalay] which is from megaV [megas] which means “great” be it either in size or in importance. This last “great day” was the eighth and final day of the Feast and a Sabbath “Seven days ye shall offer an offering made by fire unto the LORD: on the eighth day shall be an holy convocation unto you; and ye shall offer an offering made by fire unto the LORD: it is a solemn assembly; and ye shall do no servile work therein…Also in the fifteenth day of the seventh month, when ye have gathered in the fruit of the land, ye shall keep a feast unto the LORD seven days: on the first day shall be a sabbath, and on the eighth day shall be a sabbath.” (Lev 23:36, 39).
John 19:31 “The Jews therefore, because it was the preparation, that the bodies should not remain upon the cross on the Sabbath day, (because that Sabbath day was a high day,) besought Pilate that their legs might be broken, and that they might be taken away.” The phrase “a high day” is megalh h hmera which is better translated “the great day” because h [hay] is the definite article – “the.” Putting the two scriptures together and Isaiah 1:13 this great day that was a Sabbath had to have been a great day of a feast! That was the first day of Unleavened Bread. It was a great day, God told Israel, “It is a night to be much observed unto the LORD for bringing them out from the land of Egypt: this is that night of the LORD to be observed of all the children of Israel in their generations.” (Ex 12:42). This first day of unleavened bread was also a Sabbath, “In the first day ye shall have an holy convocation: ye shall do no servile work therein.” (In the first day ye shall have an holy convocation: ye shall do no servile work therein.” (Lev 23:7).
Even the ancients knew that this high day Sabbath was the first day of Unleavened Bread. Claudius Apolinarius (Apollinaris), bishop of Hierapolis, in Phrygia, called it, "the great day of unleavened bread" (Scaff, History of the Christian Church vol.2, p.203).
Two Sabbaths that week
Some try to deny that there were two Sabbaths that week one annual the other weekly. Harold W. Hoehner says, “The term Sabbath is frequently (one-third of all its NT occurrences) in the plural form in the NT when only one day is in view. For example, in MT. 12:1-12 both the singular and plural forms are used (C.F. ESP. V.5)” (Chronological Aspects of the Life of Christ pp. 69-70). But again the evidence tells a different story.
The two sections of scripture that clearly and simply show there was indeed TWO Sabbaths during Passion week are Mark 16:1 and Luke 23:56. Mark recorded the women BUYING the spices AFTER the Sabbath, while Luke recorded them PREPARING the spices (must buy them first in order to prepare them) and then RESTING on the Sabbath.
With this light, Mat 28:1 and other verses do take on special significance that cannot or should not be swept to one side. Notice how FERRAR FENTON translates the following scriptures:
Let’s look at the literal translation of Matthew 28:1: “But LATE of the Sabbaths at the DRAWING TOWARDS [the close of] ONE of [the] SABBATHS” (NIV Interlinear Greek-English New Testament, Marshall, p.134, emphasis added)
Now, the word “first” here and in the other Gospels about the resurrection is “mia” (Strong’s 3391), and it means “Irregular feminine of G1520; one or first: - a (certain), + agree, first, one, X other.” (Strong’s). Marshalls as we have seen above shows the same in the literal translation as “one [of] the Sabbaths.” It occurs 67 times in the New Testament, and 58 times it is translated “one.” Only 8 times as “First,” and one time “agree.” As we look at the context, and also the biases of the translators, the correct rendering for Luke, Matthew, and John should read “one” and not “first” as the correct word to used especially when you look at the context of the verse. It is a cardinal number, used for counting. Since we know there were two Sabbaths that week, the word “one” should be used to distinguish between the two Sabbaths.
Marshall has already, “one [of] the sabbaths” (Matthew 28:1).
Luke again should read, “Now on one of the Sabbaths”
John’s Gospel, The Apostolic Bible Polyglot renders it, “But on [day] one of the Sabbaths.” “Day” is inserted, not in the original text. Leaving the bias out, it is “But on one of the Sabbaths.” One of the Sabbaths! This clearly shows there was more than one Sabbath that week.
Ferrar Fenton says: "This is literally according to the Greek Text: and its important to observe that at that particular period [there were] TWO SABBATHS, OR DAYS OF SACRED REST..." (Ferrar Fenton Bible, p.1042, emphasis added).
Some claim that the annual feast days are never designated simply as “sabbaton” as is used in the Passion narratives of the Gospels, so the Sabbaths of Passion week cannot be any annual Sabbaths. Concerning this Greek word “sabbaton” Vine’s Expository Dictionary of NT Words says this: “SABBATON or SABBATA: the latter, the plural form, was transliterated from the Aramaic word, which was mistaken for a plural; hence the singular, SABBATON, was formed from it. The root means to cease, desist (Heb., SHABATH; cp. ARAB., SABATA, to intercept, interrupt); the double ‘b’ has an intensive force....” (p. 983).
Josephus (Ant. III. 10, 1) expressly explains the “seventh day” as called “sabbata” (plural form as here, an effort to transliterate the Aramaic sabbathah).
In Lev 23:3 this plural word SABBATA is used where the singular SABBATON is meant, as the 7th day only is spoken about. Lev. 23 verses 26-32 are talking about the annual FAST-REST of the feast day of ATONEMENT, the last part of this verse is rendered into English as, “...from evening to evening ye shall keep your sabbaths.” (THE SEPTUAGINT VERSION: GREEK AND ENGLISH - Sir Lancelot Brenton - Zondervan publishing). The Greek for “Sabbaths” is SABBATA. If the plural form is here correct, then ALL the rest days upon which no servile work is to be done in this chapter are called by the one Greek word SABBATA. If it should be the singular SABBATON then we see that the 10th day of the 7th month - the annual Sabbath of Atonement is called SABBATON! Either way, it is quite correct to use the Greek word SABBATON for both the weekly Sabbath or the annual Sabbaths - they are all days of rest upon which no servile work is to be done - to cease or desist from such work, which is termed SABBATON in NT Greek, and which word is not intrinsically connected with only the seventh day of the week.
The word is translated “week” many times in the NT., i.e. MT 28:1; MRK 16:2,9; LK 18:12; 24:1; JN 20:1,19; ACTS 20:7; 1 COR. 16:2. The word SABBATON is the Greek equivalent of the Hebrew SHABBATH which is the intense form of SHABATH, which in turn is a root, meaning REPOSE, desist, cease.
The OT was written in Hebrew NOT Greek. Let’s take a look at the word SABBATH/S.
The most common one used is SHABBATH, number 7676 in STRONG’S CON. which is the intensive form of SHABATH (#7673 in STRONG’S) which as previously stated is a primary root, meaning CEASE, desist, rest. Also used a few times in the OT is SHABBATHON (#7677 in Strong’s) which is from #7676 - a Sabbatism. All three are basically the same when applied to a day on which no servile work is to be done.
The word SHABBATH is used in
EX. 20:10 with reference to the 7th day of the week. This same word is used in
LEV. 23:32 with reference to the annual day of ATONEMENT Sabbath, “from even,
unto even shall ye celebrate your SABBATH.” Here is what the THEOLOGICAL
WORDBOOK OF THE OT says about the word SHABBATON: “In addition to designating
the Sabbath (EX 16:23), this word may apply to the day of atonement (LEV.
16:31; 23:32); to the feast of trumpets (LEV. 23:24); and the first and eighth
days of tabernacles (LEV. 23:39). The ending - ON is characteristic of
abstract nouns in Hebrew....” (Vol.2, p.903).
The Hebrew for “the sabbath of rest” in EX 35:2 and EX 31:15 is SHABBATH SHABBATHON.
Here the weekly seventh day
is being mentioned. In Lev. 16:31 the annual feast day of ATONEMENT is called in
Hebrew SHABBATH SHABBATHON. Again in Lev. 23:3 the weekly Sabbath is called
SHABBATH SHABBATHON and so is the day of ATONEMENT (verse 32). The Hebrew in the
last part of verse 32 for “shall ye celebrate your Sabbath” is SHABATH SHABBATH.
We can see how the Hebrew is applied to BOTH the weekly Sabbath and the annual Sabbaths. I refer you to the ENGLISHMAN'S HEBREW AND CHALDEE CON. of the OT, pages 1234, 1235. All of God’s REST days (weekly or annually) are SHABBATH - SHABATH days. All of God’s days upon which no servile work is to be done are SHABBATHON (Sabbath observance) days. God’s weekly Sabbath and God’s seven annual Sabbaths are all SHABATA (Hebrew) Sabaton (Greek) days - days upon which we CEASE or REST from our regular secular work.
In Ezekiel 20, God is telling us how He chose Israel - brought them out of Egypt, and told them to cast away their abominations and keep His statutes. God tells us He gave them “my SABBATHS” (v. 12,13,16,20,21,24). The Hebrew is SHABBATH while the Greek is SABBATA (Sabbaton).
When God brought Israel out
of Egypt did He only give them the seventh day of the week Sabbath? Oh, NO! He
gave them His FESTIVALS with their seven annual REST - cease to work (SHABATH,
Hebrew - SABATON, Greek) days, see EX. 12:15-16; 23:14-17; 16:22-30; Deut.
16:16; LEV. 23.
When Israel rebelled in the wilderness against God's statutes and judgments - when they greatly polluted His Sabbaths (Greek - SABBATA), did they only pollute the seventh day weekly Sabbath while keeping the annual Sabbaths? I think NOT! They polluted all the rest days God gave them to cease servile work on. All the rest days God gave Israel in the wilderness are classified under “my SABBATHS” in Ezekiel 20. The one word SHABBATH (Hebrew) SABBATON or SABBATA (Greek) is used for both the weekly and annual Sabbaths.