Is the phrase “first day of the week” properly translated in the New Testament?
The entire doctrinal basis of Western Christianity’s observance of weekly Easter, i. e. Sunday, is built around eight places in the New Testament (NT) where the phrase “first day of the week” occurs. We are going to take a fresh look at the Greek words used by no less than five major writers of New Covenant scriptures, and question whether they have been translated properly.
The KJV translates Acts 20:7 as follows:
And upon the first day of the week, when the disciples gathered together to break bread, Paul preached to them, ready to depart on the morrow and continued his speech until midnight.
We are going to analyze the phrase mia ton sabbaton, translated “first day of the week”, and see why various authorities on the scripture prefer the literal
meaning of these words. An example of a literal translation of this verse may be found in the Concordant Literal New Testament (CLNT):
Now on one of the sabbaths (mia ton sabbaton) at our having gathered to break bread, Paul argued (dialegetai=had a dialogue, or discussed) with them, being about to be off on the morrow. Besides, he prolonged the word (ie. his teaching) unto midnight (Saturday night).
In Vol. 35 of Word Bible Commentary (p. 1188), admission is made that “the first day of the week” literally means “one of the Sabbaths” in the Greek. The truth of the matter is that there is no Greek-speaking linguistic scholar or professor who would deny this fact. I myself have consulted numerous professors of Greek at prestigious universities (such as Dickenson College in Carlisle, PA) who have confirmed the literal meaning of this phrase. We will prove in this chapter that “first day of the week” is a misrepresentation of the Greek.
Therefore, the mass hypnosis that intellectually transforms this phrase into something other than its literal meaning happens on the presumption that it is an idiomatic expression-- “mia/one” being used for “first,” and “sabbaton” being using for “week,” and “day” being thrown in just so they can make sense out of their non-literal invention. However, I have yet to find one commentary or lexicon citing an example of mia ton sabbaton
being used idiomatically outside the Bible in other Greek writings. Therefore, if it is a figure of speech, prove it. The burden of proof is on the translators. This they cannot do lexicologically. They must resort to arguments based on Church traditions that were not in place until Constantine.
By going with non-literal suppositional words “first” and “week,” they are left with the nonsensical “first week.” Since this makes no sense in the light of contexts that demand a particular day of the week, they throw in the word “day” as though they are sure it ought to be there, and hocus pocus, we now have an entirely different phrase referring to an entirely different day of the week. Had those translating out of the Greek not engaged in this imaginative word-play, the myth of a Sunday morning resurrection would never have gained a foothold. No less is at stake here than the basis in Western Christianity for replacing the seventh day Sabbath with Sunday as the day of worship, because, as scholars too numerous to mention have pointed out, Sunday is nothing other than the weekly celebration of the resurrection.
Mia Means One, Protos Means First
First we consider the Greek word mia. It means one, as any Greek person will tell you. I have received the same answer from Greek professors at prestigious universities. Protos is the Greek word for first.
It is confusion to suggest that the former is used for the latter. A study (using an Englishman’s Greek Concordance) of the many places where mia occurs, would show any diligent inquirer that mia always, in context, means one, a certain one, one singularity, the quantity one. It does not have the meaning first. In other words, if one were to substitute
“first” in every other place where the word occurs (some 72 times), you end up with nonsensical phrases. How is that mia is only trans-lated “first” where it occurs with sabbaton? How could they translate “mia” as “first” when they knew that “protos” was the Greek word for
Again the answer has to be that the translators brought their preconceived notions into the equation. But to come up with the plausible construction “first day of the week”, they had to make three other gratuitous assumptions.
“Day” Is NOT in the Phrase Mia Ton Sabbaton
The translators, bringing their a priori ideas about the phrase to the translating table, assume that the word “day” needs to be supplied in order to help the reader understand the expression. But this is true only if the three words in question actually refer to the first day of the week. If it means one of the Sabbaths, then the word day obviously is not there because it did not need to be there in the first place.
The word “day” is used hundreds of times in the N.T. to refer to various and sundry days, the Sabbath day(s), the third day, the seventh day, the eighth day, the day of Unleavened Bread (Luke 22:7), and even “first day of Unleavened Bread (Mk. 14:12).” In this latter verse, protee heemera is behind the English words “first day.”
So if we take the Holy Spirit to be the power that moved the writers, we see that there is precedent for including heemera (day) with “first” to indicate the first day of something. So the absence of heemera/day in the expression mia ton sabbaton is a strong indication that we are not dealing with a figure of speech, nor with a phrase that requires the word “day” at all in order to be understood. Instead, it is simply “one of the Sabbaths.” It makes little sense for the Greek word heemera to be left out of a reference to the first day of the week, but supplied in the expression “First Day of the Unleaveneds (Mk. 14:12).” This is especially true since none of the days of the week have names in the Bible, except the 7th day Sabbath.
There are at least two more presumptions that the lying majority of translators have made that we shall address to prove that the Concordant Literal rendering of this Greek expression is correct.
Sabbaton Is an Imported Word from Hebrew
All scholars, without exception, recognize that sabbaton is not native to the Greek language.
Because the Greek culture despised the Sabbath, and did not even have a seven day week prior to the Romans taking over, they had no word Sabbath, or sabbaton. In fact, I have yet to find the word used in the Septuagint (LXX) or writings of the ante-Nicene fathers to refer to first day of the week. Nor can it be found in any extra-Biblical literature, such as Plato, Socrates, or a plethora of other ancient Greek writings referring to Sunday. Hence, it was imported from Hebrew by Jewish writers of the New Testament.
Imported Words are Necessarily Transliterated Words
But imported words always retain the sound of that word in the original language. Proper names are an example of this. My name is recognizable phonetically no matter what country I travel to. And if I listen to the broadcast news in Moscow, I will recognize many names such as George Bush, Washington, D.C., dollar, America(n), etc. because of this principle of transliteration.
Now if a word is imported because it has no equivalent in that language, its meaning in the new language is invariably going to be consistent with the meaning in the original language. This linguistic truth is axiomatic. Therefore, it is incumbent upon the translator to ask what the meaning of the imported word was in the original language, and what the writer’s attitude toward that word was. To this end, we are going to launch an investigation into sabbaton.
Apparently, it has not occurred to the illustrious translators and erudite commentators to do this. Had they done so, they never would have imagined that it meant week.
What Was Sabbaton’s Meaning in Hebrew?
The Hebrew word sabbaton is used of weekly Sabbaths (Lev. 23:3), for annual Sabbaths--Feast of Trumpets, Day of Atonement, and first and last day of the Feast of Tabernacles (Lev. 23:24, 32, 39)—and of land Sabbaths
in Lev. 25:4-5). It has the same pronunciation in Hebrew as the 3rd declension of the word in Greek. In other words, its plural usage in Greek sounds the same as its original in the Hebrew. It essentially means to cease or pause in Hebrew. The idea of ceasing in order to rest and be refreshed spiritually, mentally and emotionally is the essential purpose of all Sabbaths. Hence it was this word,
sabbaton, used only 11 times in the O.T., that was brought over to refer to weekly and annual Sabbaths to mark the activities of our Savior, His apostles, and believers throughout the four gospels, the Acts of the Apostles, and in First Corinthians chap. 16.
What Was the Attitude of the New Testament WritersToward the Sabbaths and Holy Days?
There is no repudiation of the commands to keep the Sabbath or holy days anywhere in the N.T. Modern research into the historical Jesus admits that Christ Himself upheld every jot and tittle of the Law (Mt. 5:17-19), even claiming (somewhat erroneously) that Yeshua had few differences philosophically with the Pharisees. Paul said in Hebrews 4:9 that “there remains…the keeping of a Sabbath
(sabbatismos) to the people of God.” Paul told his Colossian converts:
“Let no one judge you in [your] eating and drinking, or in respect of a festival, or of a new moon, or Sabbaths, which are shadows of things to come (Co. 2:16).
If they had been done away, then he would have said they were shadows. Since they were Gentiles before Paul converted them to “Pauline theology,”
then we don’t need to speculate about them having been Sabbath, New Moon, and Holy Day keepers prior to his evangelizing them. Obviously they became that as a result of His converting them to Yeshua the Savior and His strict requirement of maintaining the paradosis/traditions which Paul delivered to them (I Cor. 11:2, II Thes. 2:15, et al.).
Besides, in I Corinthians chapters 5 and 11, we have explicit language indicating that the Corinthian Church was keeping Passover and the Days of Unleavened Bread. The Church itself was born on Pentecost in Acts 2, and the rest of the book is a chronology based on Sabbaths and various Jewish holy days throughout. IF THE HOLY SPIRIT WERE TRYING TO LEAD THE CHURCH AWAY FROM KEEPING THE SABBATHS AND HOLY DAYS, THEN WHY USE THEM AS THE CHRONOLOGICAL BACKBONE FOR THE MISSION WORK OF PAUL AND THE OTHER APOSTLES IN THE BOOK OF ACTS.
The same question might be asked of Yahweh’s delaying the birth of the Church and the pouring out of His Holy Spirit until Pentecost, a full fifty days after Christ’s Resurrection. This would be highly unusual, to say the least.
Rather, the attitude of the writers inspired by the Holy Spirit is that these special days are still in force, still being regarded highly by the apostles and the Church. And there are scholars of various persuasions who recognize this fact, i.e. that the Sabbaths and holy days represent the definitive time markers of Luke’s writings and Paul’s missionary endeavors throughout Asia Minor and the Mediterranean. Similar dissertations have been written about Matthew and the book John.
Where did they get this attitude? Obviously from Matt. 5:17-19 and Yeshua’s pro-Torah teaching. None of this was changed as a result of Paul’s three years in Arabia (Mt. Sinai) with Yeshua. Rom. 3:31:
“Do we nullify the law through faith? May it never be coming to that (God forbid)! Nay rather, we establish the Law [through faith, an ellipsis of syntax].”
“Yahweh sent Yeshua in the likeness of sinful flesh, so that He might condemn sin in the flesh, in order that the righteousness of the Law might be fulfilled in us, who do not live according to the sinful nature, but according to the Spirit.” (Rom. 8:4)
Considering that the Sabbath and Passover continued to be observed up until the 4th Century in the Western Roman Empire, throughout the British Isles until the 7th Century, and among various Churches in Asia Minor and the eastern Roman empire for centuries beyond that, and considering that this reality was based on people’s understanding (though in many places these people were in the minority) of the apostolic attitude toward the Fourth Commandment and the Law of Moses, it becomes rather impossible to suggest that the Jewish men who wrote the four gospels could take the strictest word for sabbatizing and use it to refer to Sunday, the worship day of most pagan religions. Sunday was nothing to them but a work day.
A Fourth Translational Assumption: Sabbaton -- Is It Plural or Singular?
The question we are trying to answer is whether the phrase mia ton sabbaton can possibly mean first day of the week. As we focus on the word “sabbaton”
and its meaning, we must also note that it is used in the plural in the passages under consideration. When referring only to singular Sabbath days, it never has the letter “n” on the end of it. As noted in The New Englishman’s Concordance and Lexicon, sabbaton is the plural form of a noun that is either in the singular (2nd declension) or plural (3rd declension). In all of the seven places where mia ton sabbaton occurs--Mt. 28:1 (mian sabbaton), Mk. 16:2 (mias sabbaton), Lk. 24:1, Jn. 20:1,19, Acts 20:7, I Cor. 16:2 (these five all have mia ton sabbaton)—the word sabbaton
is in the third declension of the noun, meaning it is plural. This means that if the word meant week at all, then it would have to be in the plural, weeks.
But since the translators are insistent on bringing their preconceived notions to the phrase, i.e. that the phrase must mean first day of the week, they know that first day of the weeks would not make any sense. So they simply ignore its proper declension, and pass over the fact that the word sabbaton is plural.
This makes for very nice historical fiction, but very poor scholarship. It would not be so bad if we were dealing with an event on par with whether or not George Washington crossed the Delaware on Christmas Day or some other day, but instead we are dealing with whether Christ arose on a Sunday or a Saturday, thus either establishing sol invictus venerable (the day held to honor various pagan Sun gods), or Saturday, the day hearkening back to Yahweh’s renewal of the face of the earth in Genesis chapter 1, and the creation of Mankind in His image and likeness. In short, we are dealing with a subject of the utmost magnitude, one that either legitimizes the decisions made by Constantine and His bishops in the 4th Century, or legitimizes Passover and the Sabbath of Yahweh God. The diligent student of Church history will know what is at stake here; the modern television Christian who comes once a week Saturday or Sunday morning to suck on his bottle will have no clue. That is why when this thesis finally makes the rounds of academia, and when this dissertation is circulated among the halls of theological seminaries far and wide, I predict there will be a hew and cry of disbelief and emotional objection. And the antagonism will be palpable.
The Greek Word for Week—Known in the 1st Century
How would the Jewish authors of the N.T. have gone about conveying the idea of a seven day week in Greek? If you were a Jewish religious writer composing one of the books of the N. T., what Greek word would first Century readers and writers have been familiar with that would have conveyed the idea of a week? The answer to that question is found in the Septuagint (circa 280 B.C.), a Greek translation of the Hebrew scriptures that was widely available in the time of Yeshua. The Septuagint uses the word hebdomadas
(os) to translate the Hebrew word for week, which is shavua.
Hepta hebdomadas is used in last part of Lev. 23: 15 for the seven weeks you are to number to get to the 50th day, called Pentecost. Until the morrow after the last week (eschatees hebdomados) shall you number 50 days.
Deut. 16:9--Hepta hebdomadas exarithmateis (seven weeks shall you number), and you shall keep the feast of weeks (heopteen hebdomadon).
The seventy weeks prophecy of Dan. 9 also uses this word hebdomadas a number of times.
There can be little doubt that this Greek word for week would have been chosen by John, Matthew, Mark, Paul and Luke had they sought to convey the idea of the first day of the week. How do we know this? Because the Septuagint (LXX) was used in all the synagogues of Asia Minor, Achaia, and Macedonia, and Greece. We are confident of this fact because of the large number of Hellenistic Jews, Greek proselytes, and God-fearers among the Gentiles who attended synagogue in these places, as is evident in the accounts throughout the book of Acts. We know that the word sabbaton was used in the LXX in the same way as in the N.T. to refer to weekly and annual Sabbaths. It is logical to assume that had they desired to mention “the first day of the week,” they would have used hebdomados.
The fact that these same N.T. writers do not use hebdomados anywhere in the New Testament, indicates they had no intention to convey the idea of “week.”
It was throughout these synagogues that Paul preached from Sabbath to Sabbath. The thousands of Greek-speaking believers that were converted to the Gospel would have been familiar with the language of the Septuagint. It must be argued that the motivation for putting the story of Yeshua’s life and ministry into Greek largely came from the needs of all these congregations. Not only did they need to be able to read Matthew, Mark, Luke and John in Greek, but there would have naturally been widespread interest in a chronicle of the early Church, the Acts of the Apostles, and particularly their “father”
in the faith, i.e. the Apostle Paul. And when Paul wrote the brethren in Corinthians, it needed to be in Greek. It would have been very confusing indeed to refer to Sunday by nomenclature foreign to the LXX, but which had hitherto only been used therein to refer to the Sabbath(s) of the Lord. Thus the six books that contain some variation of mia ton sabbaton --Matthew, Mark, Luke, John, Acts, and I Corinthians -- were intended for a Greek-speaking Church that had taken on Jewish customs and nomenclature, as we have seen. The use of sabbaton to refer to the first day of the week would have been without precedent.
The first day of the week is never called “Sabbath” in the N.T. On this point, there is no controversy among professors and students of the N.T.
Why, then, do they imagine that the writers of the N.T. used the imported word sabbaton and applied it to the first day of the week?? This is a non-sequitur whose damage has run its course, but whose heyday will be soon be over, if I have anything to say about it.
The Definitive Sunday thru Saturday WEEK of Luke 18:12
Does this mean that the writers of the N.T. never wished to convey the idea of a week? The one place where it is fairly certain that a Sunday through Saturday week was meant (Luke 18:12), the words “tou sabbatou”
are used. It is important to note they are singular (2nd declension). Notice the Pharisee prays with himself, saying, “I fast twice a week (tou sabbatou).” (Wm. Barclay’s N.T.)
The Concordant Literal is equally accurate: “I fast twice of a Sabbath.” In this instance, Sabbath is being used metonymously to represent the seven day period for which it is the culmination. There is a well-known precedent for this in the Old Testament--the unique method (as compared to the other holy days) given for counting to the Feast of Firstfruits (Pentecost) in Lev. 23. When one counts toward Pentecost Sunday in Lev. 23:15-16, seven Shabbats were counted.
“Seven Sabbaths shall be complete” is how it is phrased in Lev. 23:15. The Hebrew word here can only be construed as the weekly Sabbath. It was called the Feast of weeks (shavuot) in Exod. 34:22 and Deut. 16:10, but those weeks were perfect seven-day periods ending with Saturdays. The morrow after the 7th Sabbath was the 50th day, which constituted the total number of days to be counted (Lev. 23:16). Based on this, the Pharisee of Luke 18 is saying he fasts twice per weekly Sabbath period, Sabbatou being used by metonymy for the week it consummates.
But the fact that the Holy Spirit uses the singular words “tou sabbatou” in Luke 18 when intending to convey the concept of a week, leads us to question why Luke would not also use the singular in Luke 24:1 and Acts 20:7 [mia ton sabbaton (plural) occurring in both verses] to convey “the first day of the week,” if that is what he had meant. The contrast between singular and plural usages of tou(on)
sabbatou(on) by gospel writer Luke, proved that when the Holy Spirit wanted to convey a single week, as in Luke 18:12, the singular was used, but when he wanted to convey “one of the Sabbaths”, he used the plural (ton sabbaton). These facts may be confirmed by checking with the Englishman’s Greek Concordance. We will see further confirmation when it is shown that Yeshua rose from the dead at the beginning of a weekly Sabbath.
The Concordant Literal N.T. has translated the word sabbaton correctly as “sabbaths”
in the seven places where mia and sabbaton occur together. The Concordant Publishing Concern has absolutely no doctrinal axe to grind, since their other literature in no way promotes the Sabbath. They have stuck to their literal guns, as it were, and our investigation is going to show just how justified they were in translating these expressions literally.
The Inconsistency of the Translators Highlighted by Their Treatment of Sabbaton
In none of the other 60 places where sabbaton (pl.) occurs in the N.T. do the translators translate it week, but only where it is part of the phrase mia ton sabbaton. That in itself is quite telling on the translators. This inconsistency belies a remarkable willingness to buttress the Friday-Sunday mythology which undermines the sign of Christ’s Messiah-ship--that He would be three days and three nights in the heart of the earth (Matt. 12:40). The confusion comes from one blind scholar following the rest of the blind scholars unwilling to submit to the righteousness of the Sabbath command. Their lack of understanding stems from their rejection of the foundation of wisdom, which is Yahweh’s Law. Notice Hos. 4:6:
My people are destroyed for lack of knowledge. Because you rejected the knowledge, I also reject you as My priest; Because you have spurned and forgotten the teaching/Law [Heb. is torah here] of your God, I, in turn, will spurn and forget your children. (translated from JPS and Green’s Int.)
If the scholars and translators sincerely do not understand, then we cannot ignore the root cause. Ps. 111:10 tells us:
The fear of Yahweh is the beginning of wisdom: a good understanding have all they that do His commandments.
The Implications of the Correct Translation of Mia Ton Sabbaton
In this study, it will be demonstrated that in each of the eight places where “first day of the week”
occurs, it makes more sense that each of the passages is referring to a weekly Sabbath. Later we shall demonstrate a different way to configure the three days and three nights (from Tuesday through Friday) in the actual year of the crucifixion of Christ (31 A.D.). A new chronology will be proffered--one that accommodates our newfound understanding of mia ton sabbaton, but also jives with the facts of the Mosaic calendar in that year. In so doing, we will have finally harmonized the passion accounts of scripture with the demands of Yahweh’s calendar, in a way that the sabbatarian Church of God’s Wednesday-Saturday scenario failed to do.
Acts 20:7: Paul’s Meeting in Troas on Mia Ton Sabbaton
Now we are ready to go back to the start of this chapter, and Paul’s meeting with the brethren in Troas. It was here that Paul had a vision to go into Macedonia to preach the gospel (Acts 16:8). In 20:6 Paul arrived there early in the week (on Sunday, as we shall see), and abode there seven days. V. 7, quoted at the head of this paper, says:
Now on one of the sabbaths (mia ton sabbaton) at our having gathered to break bread, Paul argued (dialegetai=had a dialogue) with them, being about to be off on the morrow. Besides, he prolonged the word (ie. his teaching) unto midnight (Saturday night). (CLNT)
There is substantial lexicological and linguistic analysis up to this point to substantiate that this meeting was on a weekly Sabbath, and there is plenty of contextual evidence in the book of Acts to prove that these formal get-togethers throughout Paul’s missionary journeys were on Sabbaths.
The Preponderance of Sabbath Meetings in Paul’s Ministry in the Book of Acts
Acts 17:2 says:
Paul, according to his manner (etho = customary habit), went into them (in the synagogue), and reasoned three Sabbath days with them out of the scriptures.
Luke used the same identical words to describe Yeshua’s custom of entering into the synagogue on the Sabbaths in Luke 4:16. So Paul was no different. Many theologians and the more erudite radio preachers realize that Paul spent three years in Arabia with Christ, and got His teaching directly from Yeshua there. There is not a scintilla of evidence that meetings were switched from Saturday to Sunday in the book of Acts. On the contrary, Paul preached Christ in the synagogues immediately after his conversion (Acts 9:20)
At the conclusion of the first Apostolic Conference in Acts 15, James said that the new Gentile converts to the Way would be able to grow in righteousness by having Moses read to them in the synagogues every Sabbath day.
At the start of their commission from the Holy Spirit, Paul and Barnabas came to Salamis (Acts 13:5), the first port they reached on the east end of Cyprus. They preached the word of Yahweh in the synagogues of the Jews. In Acts 13:14 Paul and his company entered into a synagogue with a sizable Gentile constituent in Antioch of Pesidia. The Jews largely rejected the forgiveness of sin that was offered them through Paul’s powerful presentation of Yeshua, but the Gentiles received the Word gladly, and besought Paul that these words might be preached to them the next Sabbath (Acts 13:42). The following Sabbath, almost the whole [Greek] city came together, to the chagrin and envy of the Jews. In Acts 14:1 Paul and Barnabas went into the synagogue in Iconium and spoke so powerfully, that Yahweh made Believers out of a great multitude of both Jews and Greeks.
Acts 16:13-15 described Sabbath worship with Lydia and those accustomed to praying by the river side near Philippi in Macedonia. In Acts 17:10 Paul and Silas went into a synagogue in Berea, and many honorable Greek women and men believed. In Acts 18:4 Paul reasoned in the synagogue every Sabbath at Corinth, reasoning with the Jews and the Greeks. The same story was repeated in Ephesus (Acts 18:19 and 26; 19:8). According to Dr. John Lightfoot, in towns where there were many Jews and where they had a synagogue, the Jews established Divinity schools. Such a school, that of Tyrannus, is mentioned in Acts 19:9.
He may have been a Rabbi who converted. The teaching and miracles at the hands of Paul that occurred here during two years caused virtually everyone in Asia Minor to hear the word.
Virtually every significant evangelistic opportunity delineated by the Holy Spirit in these accounts took place either on a Sabbath, and/or in a synagogue, or at a rabbinic school.
Why then, in Acts 20:7, is it logical to conclude that all of a sudden there was a Sunday meeting? On the contrary, one would be completely justified in assuming the mia-ton-sabbaton meeting mentioned here was just another “one of the [many] Sabbaths” already described at every other city where he witnessed. Here, however, Timothy, Gaius, Tychicus, Trophimus, Aristarchus, Secundus and Sopater were all waiting at Troas for Paul to arrive. Paul was finished preaching in Greece and Macedonia, and it was time to celebrate the fruits of his labor via a fellowship meal with the disciples in Asia Minor who partly owed their eternal life to Paul’s efforts.
Luke’s Use of Mia Ton Sabbaton in Luke 24:1 Proves Sabbath Resurrection
We now commence our investigation into the resurrection narrative contained in the four gospels. We pick it up where we left off—with the writings of the same beloved physician who wrote the book of Acts—with Luke, who also wrote the Gospel account bearing his name. Having proven that the evangelistic activity in Acts centered around the synagogue and Sabbath meetings, and having proven that mia ton sabbaton
in Acts 20:7 was just one such mikra kodesh (holy convocation) on “one of the Sabbaths” after Unleavened Bread, we now turn our attention to Luke’s use of mia ton sabbaton in Luke 24:1. I quote from the CLNT:
1) Now in the early depths (wee hours of the morning) of one of the sabbaths (mia ton sabbaton), they, and certain others together with them, came to the tomb, bringing the spices which they made ready. 2)
And they found the stone rolled away from the tomb.
They could not have prepared these spices before having bought them. To discover when the women bought the spices, we must turn to the last chapter of Mark’s Gospel. But before we do so, it is important to note one other important detail in Luke’s narrative, in the verse right before Luke 24:1. He tells us the women “rested the Sabbath day according to the commandment” after preparing the spices and ointments. Thus, they finished the laborious work of preparing the herbs and oils prior to the start of the Sabbath, which began at Friday sundown.
The Gospel of Mark Gives Important Details on When Spices Were Purchased (Mark 16:1)
Since Matthew and Luke seem to use verbatim many of the same stories about Yeshua’s life that are found in Mark, most scholars consider Mark to be the earliest gospel. And so we will continue our investigation of the resurrection narrative in Mark 16:1:
At the elapsing of the Sabbath (we will demonstrate thoroughly that this Sabbath had to be the First Day of Unleavened Bread), Mary Magdalene and Mary the mother of James, and Salome, buy spices, that coming, they should be rubbing (anointing) His body. (CLNT)
“Buy” is the correct tense of the verb in verse 1. “Had bought” of the KJV is recognized by all commentators and Greek scholars to be incorrect. Even the New KJV corrects “had bought” to “bought.”
Flagrant Mistranslation of “Bought” by KJV Indicative of Pressure From Anglican Church Hierarchy and King James
We know from the forward to the 1611 King James Bible that its translation committee performed their work under a certain amount of duress, charged as they were from the outset by King James and the Anglican authorities WITH UPHOLDING THE OFFICES AND INSTITUTIONS OF THE CHURCH OF ENGLAND. Chief among those institutions was Easter Sunday (and its resultant switch from Saturday to Sunday as the day of worship), and “Good Friday”.
The fact that the King James translators deliberately put the action of buying the spices into the past perfect tense (as an action already completed prior to that Sabbath), shows blatant disregard for what they knew was the tense of the Greek word “bought.” They knew there was a problem for the institution of Good Friday and Easter Sunday if the text showed them purchasing spices AFTER THE SABBATH. They knew that if the Passover were on Friday, then there was virtually no time to have bought the spices, nor time to prepare them (Lk. 24:1)!
Matt. 27:57 shows that Joseph of Arimathea got permission to take Yeshua’s body off the cross and place Him in the tomb as evening was approaching (i.e. at the end of Passover Day). There would have been no shops open for purchasing anything in and around Jerusalem this late on the 14th, as Alfred Edersheim and Jewish writings show. Friday sundown to Saturday sundown is out of the question, as all the Jewish businesses would have been shut down for the Sabbath. Luke 23:54-56 proves that the spices were prepared by these women prior to resting on the weekly Sabbath. Thus when we combine Mark 16:1 with the account in Luke 23, we prove that the spices were bought on the work day following the annual Sabbath, but prepared prior to the weekly Sabbath. Hence, there had to be some work days in between the two Sabbaths mentioned. It was during these interim days of Unleavened Bread that the women prepared their sweet spices.
The same things could be said with their presumptuous translations of mias sabbaton (one Sabbath) in Mk. 16:2 and protee sabbatou (first Sabbath) in verse 9 into “first day of the week.” In this they sycophantically prostrated themselves before the erroneous translation work of everyone before them, especially Jerome and the Latin Vulgate. Even though they were not the first to engage in this lame linguistic carelessness, it nevertheless remains one of the most egregious cases of eisigesis in the history of translation.
To say that they were afraid for their lives is not an overstatement. Had the translation been allowed to cast doubt upon the switch from Saturday to Sunday as the day of worship), and upon the Easter tradition of “Good Friday,” there would have been serious repercussions from the educational/religious establishment, not to mention King James Himself.
It would be another couple of centuries before the hegemony of the Anglican Church waned, allowing for enough intellectual freedom to explore a better resolution of the insurmountable problems presented by the Friday-Sunday quandary of orthodoxy. Chief among these solutions was the work of E.W. Bullinger. In Appendices 144 and 156 of his Companion Bible, he lays out his explanation of the three days and three nights that Christ was in the tomb. He believed they stretched from Wednesday sundown to Saturday sundown. While this was a great improvement over the Good Friday/ Easter Sunday hypothesis of mainstream Christianity, there were other factors Bullinger did not consider when choosing Wednesday as the day of the crucifixion. Several factors that must be considered are:
1.Astronomy-Because of the nature of the Hebrew calendar, the science of astronomy limits the years in which you can have a Wednesday Passover.
2. The facts of the true, Biblical Hebrew calendar- The true Hebrew calendar, and consideration of the lunar cycles (upon which the holy days are based), make a Wednesday Passover in 31 A.D. fall on April 25, which is almost a week too late. We explore in a later chapter the various reasons why April 25 is wrong, and why a Wednesday Passover in 30 A.D. utterly fails to incorporate the facts of the Hebrew Calendar.
3.The truth about mia ton sabbaton (and protee sabbatou)-The resurrection was discovered on a Sabbath/Saturday morning. Since a Wednesday crucifixion forces the resurrection to be on late Saturday, we would be forced to ignore all the facts brought forward in this chapter, which require the women at the tomb no later than a Saturday morning.
Many of the Sabbatarian Church of God 7th Day, Armstrong, and Sacred Name groups relied heavily on Bullinger’s appendices when putting forward their explanation of the fulfillment of Matt. 12:40. And as Bullinger states, it was a lack of awareness of the High Day Sabbath at the beginning of the Feast of Unleavened Bread (and the fact that this High Day was a different day than the weekly Sabbath that year) that led to much of the confusion about the chronology of the Passion Week. Until the waning years of the 20th Century, it seems almost no one tried to reconcile Bullinger’s chronology for the Passion week with the realities of the Hebrew calendar. In other words, God’s calendar greatly restricts the years that will accommodate all the facts. These competing realities led to this present work.
What Was Involved in the Preparation of Spices and Ointments?
Many in America today use high quality essential oils for deodorizing their houses and for therapeutic rubbing onto the skin. These oils are very expensive, often running anywhere from $40.00 to $150.00 per ounce. The ointment that was poured on Yeshua at Simon the leper’s house, just days prior to His arrest, was very costly. It was worth more than one year’s wages. The extravagance lies not just in the cost of the spices and ground herbs, but in the time and process used in the preparation. Preparing essential oils involves extracting the essence of the bark, leaf, or root. This requires laborious grinding of the raw material, and then soaking same in strong alcohol solution. Alternatively, it requires boiling steam up through the spices to extract the oil, condensing the steam, and separating the water from the oil.
Since the quantity of spices necessary for anointing burial wrappings of a human body is considerable, it would have required a large amount of time to prepare them in this way. Had Luke told us that the women brought spices already prepared by someone else, we could possibly account for a Saturday night purchase (still quite unlikely). But when Mark 16:1 tells us that they bought them on the 16th of Aviv, and then Luke tells us they personally prepared the spices, we are looking at time parameters that probably required two work days in between the High Day 15th and Friday sundown, when the women ceased and rested according to the Commandment (Lk. 23:56). This is but one of several objections to the Wednesday sundown--Saturday sundown scenario, which allows only one work day (Friday) between the burial and resurrection [Thursday being the High Day].