In Hebrews 4:9, what does the word "σαββατισμὸς, sabbatismos" mean, and what is the methodology to interpret / translate this word?
Hebrews 4:9, NASB- So there remains a "Sabbath rest, (σαββατισμὸς)" for the people of God.
- Sabbath, is not a Greek expression, but rather a Hebrew one.
- The word "rest" is not actually in the Greek.
- The word "Sabbatismos" is a transliteration, rather than a translation of the Hebrew word, (seventh).
- The transliterated Hebrew expression is then compounded with a Morphologically Greek suffix, (-ism).
- This morphological structure of Sabbath is unique.
In Hebrews 4:9, the writer explicitly redefines, and invents the term "Sabbatismos, σαββατισμὸς" by juxtaposing it with two other concepts: (A.) the casual Greek concept of "Rest"; (B.) AND the traditional Jewish concept of seventh day rest, the "Sabbath".
Step 1. Morphology
Arguably, this would not usually be the first step--except for the fact that this word would have been foreign to the Greeks.
Greeks would NOT have immediately recognize this word in, the context of Jewish doctrine, but they would have certainly recognized the suffix.
Given the suffix, the Greek's would have immediately understood that this expression meant to convey a foreign concept, precept, philosophy, or doctrine.
Ultimately from either Ancient Greek -ισμός (-ismós), a suffix that forms abstract nouns of action, state, condition, doctrine; from stem of verbs in -ίζειν (-ízein) (whence English -ize), or from the related suffix Ancient Greek -ισμα (-isma), which more specifically expressed a finished act or thing done, ("ism", Wikipedia Link).
Specifically, in this context, of or relating to the doctrine of "Sabbath Rest".
Step 2, Lexical Semantics: Transliteration, not a Translation
The word "Sabbatismos" is not a Greek word, but rather Semitic, specifically a Hebrew, concept.
Therefore, it must be translated from the Hebrew.
To emphasize the word's origin this, the writer transliterates the word from the Hebrew, rather than translates it. This is also done in English :
Exodus 16:26, NASB - Six days you shall gather it, but on the seventh day, the sabbath, [שַׁבָּ֖ת, Shabbat], there will be none.”
Utilizing Lexical Semantics, this word denotes: a "Seventh Day Rest", a period following six days of work".
Step 3. Pragmatics, Contextual Analysis
The writer is very explicit, and emphatic, regarding their intent: they are conveying a "higher concept", a "new doctrine", and that they are NOT referring to the traditional doctrine of "the Sixth Day rest".
Because the writer is essentially "inventing" their own term, they have two challenges:
- This foreign concept must be adequately expressed to Greek audiences.
- This concept, though similar to tradition, must be juxtaposed, emphatically, to ensure that the concept is NOT confused with the existing one.
Step 4. Syntax, Juxtaposition between "Traditional Sabbaths" and the Greek Word "Rest, κατάπαυσιν"
Hebrews 4:1, NASB - Therefore, let us fear if, while a promise remains of entering His rest, any one of you may seem to have come short of it.
- Apposite with the Greek concept of "Rest", but with significant concepts from Hebrew and Christian eschatology: a period of time, followed by a period of time, judgment followed by rest, the sense of "finality").
- Juxtaposition with the "Sabbath Rest" the people observed in the desert, with some "other rest".
- Incredible contrast with the Traditional Sabbath which does not, at all, incorporate a sense of "fear" of the "possibility of not being able to observe the Sabbath"--traditionally, this was a requirement, nor option--not something earned, but mandatory.
Hebrews 4:3, NASB- For we who have believed enter that rest, just as He has said, “As I swore in My wrath, They shall not enter My rest,” although His works were finished from the foundation of the world.
- "Enter that Rest", is "present tense", to imply an action in progress, juxtaposed with the single action on the "Sabbath day".
- Contrasts the "observance" of that rest, as one of faith and a gift, rather than a "Rest" which is commanded.
- Juxtaposition with the normal sense of "rest", which followed after God's completion of his works.
Hebrews 4:4, NASB - For He has said somewhere concerning the seventh day: “And God rested on the seventh day from all His works”;
- Juxtaposition with the "Rest of God" and "Rest of Man".
Hebrews 4:5, NASB - and again in this passage, “They shall not enter My rest.”
- Clarification that God at one point wanted Israel to rest, along with him, in his rest.
- Juxtaposition between the "Divine Rest" and the "Statutory Rest", (the 7th day commandment).
Hebrews 4:6-7- 6 Therefore, since it remains for some to enter it, and those who formerly had good news preached to them failed to enter because of disobedience, 7 He again fixes a certain day, “Today,” saying through David after so long a time just as has been said before, “Today if you hear His voice,
Do not harden your hearts, [from Psalms 95].”
Hebrews 4:8 For if Joshua had given them rest, He would not have spoken of another day after that.
- Clarification that entering into the "Promised Land", was not the rest that God had promised--because if it was, God wouldn't have continued to promise Israel a greater rest.
Hebrews 9:10-11, NASB - 9 So there remains a Sabbath rest for the people of God. 10 For the one who has entered His rest has himself also rested from his works, as God did from His. 11 Therefore let us be diligent to enter that rest, so that no one will fall, through following the same example of disobedience.
- Conclusion of the Greek Syllogism, (Logical Argument), "so then, [based on these evidences],".
- The writer concludes, feeling they have persuaded their audience that another, greater rest remains, a divine rest, following a period of earthly labor and final judgment.