Most of us have been taught that the Sabbath Day has been changed/moved to Sunday or that it is impossible to know the correct day which was kept as the Sabbath, even in the time of Christ. Even though there is no Scriptural or Historical proof to backup the theory that the Sabbath was changed to Sunday, by Christ or any of the Disciples, this is not what we hope to examine in this study.
This post provides 3 clear witnesses, as evidence to prove that the “Sabbath” day in the New Testament is in fact the day which is presently known as “Saturday”. The facts will be laid out for every discerning student of the Scriptures, to examine for themselves. Can history prove that the day we now call “Saturday” is the same day which was observed by Christ and His Disciples as the “Sabbath”? Let us examine the evidence.
Paul, in his first letter to Timothy writes “Against an elder receive not an accusation, but before two or three witnesses”(1Ti 5:19) quoting a Law on judging people which was taken from the Old Testament(Deut 19:15). Similarly, we will also provide 3 witnesses to make the case that the word “Sabbath” was in fact the day which is known as “Saturday”. We sincerely hope that you will hear the facts from the 3 witnesses and decide for yourself, what verdict should be given.
Calling of Witnesses
A Roman historian named Cassius Dio who wrote about Roman History, gives an account of Wars waged between Rome & Judea. In it he explains the capture of Jerusalem in 63BC saying “As it was, they made an exception of what are called the days of Saturn, and by doing no work at all on those days afforded the Romans an opportunity in this interval to batter down the wall. The latter, on learning of this superstitious awe of theirs, made no serious attempts the rest of the time, but on those days, when they came round in succession, assaulted most vigorously. Thus the defenders were captured on the day of Saturn, without making any defense, and all the wealth was plundered”. Cassius wrote that the Romans who learned that the Jews rested on the Days of Saturn (Saturday which was known as Saturn’s Day in Rome), attacked the Jerusalem stronghold on those days. These words also tally with the writings of Josephus, showing us that Saturn’s Day in Rome coincided with the day kept as the Sabbath by the Jews, even in the 1st Century BC.
Reference – Cassius Dio – Roman History 37.16.1-4 [A]
A Roman Soldier named Frontinus in his book named Strategems writes the account of the destruction of the 2nd temple in Jerusalem in 70AD, saying “The divine Vespasian attacked the Jews on the days of Saturn, on which it is forbidden for them to do anything serious, and prevailed.” Similar to the words of the historian Cassius Dio, this Roman soldier equated the day of rest (Sabbath) of the Jews to the Day of Saturn (Saturday which was known as Saturn’s Day in Rome). This account of Vespasian (also known as Titus) attacking Jerusalem on Sabbath days, tallies with the account seen in the Historical works of Josephus as well.
Reference – Frontinus – The Stratagems 2.1.17. [B]
The meaning of the Greek word Sabbaton (G4521) alongside all the occurrences in the New Testament
The Greek Language and the ancient Manuscripts of the New Testament also give evidence of the connection between the word “Sabbath” and the day which has been named “Saturday”. The Greek word “Sabbaton”(Strong’s Greek Concordance – G4521 – σάββατον) used in the Original Greek Manuscripts of the New Testament which is translated as “Sabbath” in English, is the same word that is used for “Saturday” in the Greek language even today. In other words, the day which is known to us as “Saturday”, is called “Sabbato” (σάββατο) by the Greeks even today. This is a remarkable piece of evidence which has survived almost untouched to our very present age, making “Sabbath” and “Saturday” one in the same. A person who is unsure about this fact can look at any Greek-English Dictionary to seek further verification. The easiest tool to translate English into Greek that anyone could use would be Google Translate, as seen in the thumbnail to your right. This goes to prove that wherever we see the word “Sabbath” in our New Testament English translations, it originally meant a particular day (which is proven to be none other than what we know as “Saturday” today.
Reference – Strong’s Greek Concordance & Dictionary [C]
Some bring objections against the above witnesses by arguing that one of the major calendar changes in history would have also affected the “Saturday Sabbath”. We need to consider this valid objection and see whether it holds true. This piece of evidence that is brought against our 3 witnesses is the “Julian to Gregorian calendar change”.
The Julian calendar was instituted in 46BC by Julius Caesar and was the most widely used calendar in Rome, making this the calendar which the Romans would have used in the time of Christ and subsequently His disciples.
The Gregorian calendar which is the civil calendar used by the whole world today, was put into effect in 1582AD by Pope Gregory XIII. Pope Gregory’s Calendar effectively skipped a few days, when this change was made to the Julian calendar in 1582. This is what most who object bring as a witness to say that the “Saturday Sabbath” would have for sure changed with this change that was done to the calendar system.
What most people do not understand is that the amount of days dropped from the Julian Calendar, when it was changed to the Gregorian calendar, did not in anyway effect the 7 day week. In other words, even though 10 days were removed from the calendar, it did not effect the individual days (Sunday, Monday, Tuesday, etc.). An example is given in the above thumbnail which indicates this change of Calendars that was put into effect in 1752 in the UK. Note how the removal of days do not effect the 7 day week. (Please refer this link for more information on this subject)
The testimony of the 3 witnesses makes it very clear that the Day which is known today as “Saturday” is none other than the “Sabbath” mentioned in the New Testament. The “Day of Saturn” or “Satur-day” was the day known by the Romans to be the same day as what was observed by the Jews as the Sabbath. The Greek word “Sabbaton” is the unmistakable proof that the word “Sabbath” in the New Testament, is in fact “Saturday”.
Through reading the New Testament alone, we know that the Pharisees disagreed on how Yeshua observed the Sabbath, but there were no arguments made against the day that was observed by Christ. This makes it clear that the same day that Christ kept in accordance to God’s 4th commandment (Mark 1:21, 6:2, Luke 4:16, 13:10) was the day which was widely observed by the Jews as the “Sabbath”. This is also the same day that the disciples including Paul observed (Luke 23:56, Act 13:14, 15:21, 17:2, 18:4).
If Yeshua(Jesus’ true name) also kept God’s rest day on “Saturday”, it would be highly unlikely that the “Sabbath” instituted and instructed by God Almighty could be any other day. And because the 7 day week has not been effected in anyway for the past 2000 years, the “Saturday Sabbath” also has not been exposed to any change, making each “Saturday” the “Sabbath” day, instituted by our Heavenly Father and followed by Christ and His disciples. It is upto each of us to look at the provided evidence and make a judgement for ourselves. Whether we believe the Sabbath is “Saturday” as the witnesses suggest, or whether we refuse it, is completely in our own hands.
[A] Pg 75, Jesus in Context: Background Readings for Gospel Study – edited by Darrell L. Bock, Gregory J. Herrick
[B] Pg 97, Sunday in Roman Paganism – By Robert Leo Odom
[C] Pg 1154, Main Concordance & Pg 79, Greek Dictionary of the New Testament – The New Strong’s Exhaustive Concordance of the Bible (Nelson’s KJV) – James Strong