Reading in Matthew 28:1 (ESV):

Now after the Sabbath, toward the dawn of the first day of the week, Mary Magdalene and the other Mary went to see the tomb.

ὀψὲ δὲ σαββάτων τῇ ἐπιφωσκούσῃ εἰς μίαν σαββάτων ἦλθεν Μαριὰμ ἡ Μαγδαληνὴ καὶ ἡ ἄλλη Μαρία θεωρῆσαι τὸν τάφον

But the word here is σαββάτων (sabbaton plural), so one would think it would be Sabbaths? However all major translations have it just "Sabbath" (ESV, KJV, NKJV, NIV, NASB, NET, RSV, ASV, and DBY among them).

Looking closer, this exact form of the word is translated as Sabbath singular in English some places and elsewhere it is referring to the week as a whole. (Mt 28:1, Mk 16:2, Lk 4:16, Lk 24:1, Jn 20:1, Jn 20:19, Acts 13:14, Acts 16:13, Acts 20:7, 1Cor 16:2, Col 2:16)

Why is it being translated this way and how should Matthew 28:1 be translated in light of it?

I'm particularly interested in the parallel verses of Mark 16:2 and Luke 24:1. They describe it as the first day of the week, while Matthew says after the Sabbath. Is it simply a matter of sentence construction?

This question is possibly related in how it was translated, but it is obviously not about the Peshitta text:

In the Peshitta, what is the difference between the original word translated "Sabbath" and that translated "week?"

  • Why do you see a Greek construction as about the Peshitta text? Nearly all scholars agree Matthew was written in Greek. The Peshitta, at the earliest, represents fourth century Syriac ... – Dick Harfield Mar 26 '16 at 6:42
  • @DickHarfield This is not about the Peshittta... My mistake. I'm missing a not in that sentence. I'll edit. My meaning was how it was translated from the Greek. – Joshua Mar 26 '16 at 11:34
  • @Susan At first I thought yes, but though the question seems to be asking the same thing, the answers and comments are entirely unhelpful. And the verses I'm applying it to are the parallel passages that match with Matthew 28:1. If you think the other question fits but it just doesn't have satisfactory answers yet we could close this and I'll bump the other one. But this is a bit more specific in its application and is not about LXX specifically, though I would have and will welcome answers that include it. – Joshua Mar 26 '16 at 11:56
  • Also, "after the sabbath(s) toward the dawn of the first day of the week" is extremely confusing because "after the sabbath(s)" would suggest it just got dark in the evening and "toward the dawn of the first day of the week" suggests that it is still dark or just dawning so it would be morning. So either way, since Jesus died just as the sabbath was approaching, "toward the dawn of the first day of the week" means he was only dead either a few hours (sunset to sunrise) - hardly 3 days and nights. – user10231 Mar 26 '16 at 18:44

All four accounts use the same word when describing the day:

Now after the Sabbath (σαββάτων), toward the dawn of the first day of the week (σαββάτων)… (Matthew 28:1)

And very early on the first day of the week (σαββάτων)… (Mark 16:2)

But on the first day of the week (σαββάτων)... (Luke 24:1)

Now on the first day of the week (σαββάτων)… (John 20:1)

The meaning of the word σαββάτων is Sabbaths plural.

Rendering the word σαββάτων as “the first day of the week,” is one way of saying the day was Sunday on the weekly calendar. In Biblical terms the only day of the week which is named is the seventh day; it is called the Sabbath. The weekly Sabbath comes every Saturday on the modern calendar. All English translations choose “first day of the week” which is an interpretation of σαββάτων. A translation would be "Sabbaths."

It is possible for Sabbaths to refer to multiple weekly Sabbaths. Yet this meaning is impossible for an event which takes place after three days and three nights, which is the time Jesus spent in the tomb. Therefore the day He was resurrected (Sabbaths) cannot be referring to weekly Sabbaths.

The Feast of Unleavened Bread immediately follows the Passover and begins and ends with a day of no work:

On the first day you shall hold a holy assembly, and on the seventh day a holy assembly. No work shall be done on those days. But what everyone needs to eat, that alone may be prepared by you. (Exodus 12:16)

The “Passover” tradition became synonymous for Feast of Unleavened Bread and the “Sabbath” tradition became synonymous of a day of no work. So the Feast of Unleavened Bread also begins and ends with a "Sabbath" of rest and assembly.

The day of resurrection occurred after the Sabbath of the first day of the Feast of Unleavened Bread and after the weekly Sabbath, a point which can be found in Luke:

Then they returned and prepared spices and ointments. On the Sabbath (σάββατον - singluar) they rested according to the commandment. (Luke 23:56)

On a Sabbath (singular) “they rested according to the commandment.” The commandment is both to rest on the day after the Passover and the seventh day of week. After resting on a Sabbath the women went after the Sabbaths (plural) (Luke 24:1).

The English translations of the plural would better convey the specific date of the resurrection if it was rendered as it is written, "Sabbaths." In reality, the Day of the Resurrection was already on the annual calendar:

And the LORD spoke to Moses, saying, “Speak to the people of Israel and say to them, When you come into the land that I give you and reap its harvest, you shall bring the sheaf of the firstfruits of your harvest to the priest, and he shall wave the sheaf before the LORD, so that you may be accepted. On the day after the Sabbath the priest shall wave it. And on the day when you wave the sheaf, you shall offer a male lamb a year old without blemish as a burnt offering to the LORD. And the grain offering with it shall be two tenths of an ephah of fine flour mixed with oil, a food offering to the LORD with a pleasing aroma, and the drink offering with it shall be of wine, a fourth of a hin. And you shall eat neither bread nor grain parched or fresh until this same day, until you have brought the offering of your God: it is a statute forever throughout your generations in all your dwellings. (Leviticus 23:9-14)

Jesus died at the time of Passover and was resurrected on the day of the Feast of Fruits. These events are found on the annual calendar.

The annual calendar also has a day of rest immediately after the Passover to mark the first day of the Feast of Unleavened Bread. The weekly Sabbath will fall sometime during the seven days of Unleavened Bread. The day following this weekly Sabbath is supposed to be the Day of Firstfruits. It will come the day after the Sabbaths. Using the terminology of the annual calendar this day would be called the Day of Firsfruits; using the terminology of the weekly calendar it could be called the first day of the week.

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  • I appreciate your work and I'm not saying I disagree, but I'm asking for a solution to the translation part. It's like I'm asking for you to solve for A but you've skipped ahead to solve for B and C. – Joshua Mar 27 '16 at 22:31
  • My point is that the words are not being translated. A translation would be "Sabbaths." The "translation" is an interpretation of "Sabbaths." Sunday is the day after the Sabbath and also the first day of the week. So either interpretation points to the same day of the week on a translators calendar. The issue is the translators calendar was not the one Jesus used when He lived, was crucified and resurrected. – Revelation Lad Mar 27 '16 at 23:09
  • I'm not sure exactly what is new, I'll have to check later on the PC, but this seems like it answers my question much better than I remember it did before. +1 for now. You still have some extraneous material in there (would love to chat regarding the Christian Sunday "Sabbath" misunderstanding sometime). – Joshua Jun 26 '16 at 22:25

Matthew 28:1 is an obscure use of the preposition ὀψὲ, which means "after" when taking the genitive plural. This is explained in Blass et al., A Greek Grammar of the New Testament and Early Christian Literature (University of Chicago Press, 1961), pp.90-91. It is also discussed in Bauer's Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament and Other Early Christian Literature under the entry for ὀψὲ. ὀψὲ itself only appears 7 times in the entire Greek Bible (New Testament plus Septuagint).

So the answer to your key question, "How should Matthew 28:1 be translated?" is probably "after the Sabbath", as most versions have it, and not "after the Sabbaths", as it occasionally appears (e.g. ISV).

I don't think there is any inconsistency in the parallel passages of Mark 16:2-5, Luke 24:1-4 (and also John 20:1). The first day of the week according to Jewish reckoning, is the day following the Sabbath. All four accounts agree the event described took place on the first day of the week. Mark says it was very early in the morning. Matthew adds the additional detail - not really necessary perhaps - that the new day was beginning as the Sabbath was ending (after the Sabbath).

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Ferris Fenton translation has "After the Sabbaths,(1) towards the dawn of the day following the Sabbaths, Mary, the Magdalene, and the other Mary, came to examine the tomb." Note (1) The Greek original is in the plural, "Sabbaths," which is retained. Readers should remember that all the seven days of the Paschal week were "Sabbaths" in the old Hebrew Kalendar.--F. F. This fits in the Gospel of Peter verse 14 "Now it was the last day of the unleavened bread, and many were going for, returning to their homes, as the feast was ended. But we, the twelve disciples of the Lord, wept and were grieved . . . ." In other words Jesus was under arrest and in an underground prison dungeon for days and was now and then going from prison to trial to another one until the following Friday on the sixth day of unleavened bread when he was crucified then rested in the tomb on the last Sabbath of that week then went arose on the Sunday after having gone into Sheol during those days that his body was wrapped up in his tomb. The following versions also have "Sabbaths"

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    Here are those versions that also have the word "Sabbaths": LITV (Literal Translation of the Bible) CLNT (Concordant Literal NT), YLT (Young's Literal Translation). Then TS2009 translation has a footnote: aGk Sabbaths for the first time it is mentioned and bGk. One of the sabbaths.for the second one. The the TSK (ITreasury of Scriptural Knowledge note for this verse has the end: The Hebrew word Schabbath . . . Οψε [G3796], σαββατων [G4521], does not signify "in the evening of sabbath," but "sabbaths." Hence, the great feast having been concluded, . . . "end of the sabbaths" . . .. – Clifford B Aug 20 '18 at 0:53
  • Now note about the term "High day." According to John 7:37 it is the last day of the feast: "And on the high day, which is the last [day] of the feast, Jesus was standing . . . . (Janet M Magiera's Aramaic Peshitta New Testament Translation). – Clifford B Aug 20 '18 at 0:54
  • Her John 19:31 has "Now the Judeans, because it was the day of preparation, said, "These bodies should not remain on their crosses, because the SABBATH is dawning, for the day of that SABBATH was a high day. . . . Check the Greek for those words for High, and great and whatever words were used in these two places and they agree with the Aramaic rendering. In other words the crucifixion is near the end of the feast of unleavened bread and not at the beginning. This allows time for Jesus to be tried by the Sanhedrin, by Pilate, by Herod, and then back to Pilate all on separate days. – Clifford B Aug 20 '18 at 0:56
  • @ Clifford B, when John 7:37 says it is the last day of the feast, "the feast" means the Feast of Tabernacles (see John 7:2), not the Feast of Passover. – Ray Butterworth Jul 19 '19 at 13:27

Is it possible that Passover is called a Sabbath (see John 19:31) and was actually on Thursday? That would make the day of preparation and Jesus' death on Wed. The women had to wait until after the Passover "high day" to buy spices and after the Saturday Sabbath to anoint his body (See Luke 23:56). Thus, the "Sabbaths" of Matt. 28:1 are Passover and the Saturday Sabbath.

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    It's possible, there are reasonable theories for the Wednesday, Thursday and Friday crucifixion. To accomplish what you're saying I think it would need a Friday Passover Sabbath going back to back with Saturday Sabbath. However, that's not really the aim of this question, it was more about the language usage of Sabbatg(s). There are many questions here and in Christianity SE regarding the theories on Passion timeline. – Joshua Mar 29 '18 at 14:08

It is important to understand that the Greek document was written by a Greek speaking Jew. Therefore, the Greek word is a transliteration of the Hebrew Sabbaton (Strong's 7677) in reference to REST, not the seventh day. It is plural in Greek because there were two days of rest in that week (15 Nisan, the first Holy Day of Unleavened Bread and the weekly Sabbath). The gospel of Mark indicates the women purchased spices after a day of rest had past, while Luke states that they had already mixed the spices before resting the weekly Sabbath). This is fully explained at YEHOSHUASONOFGOD.BLOGSPOT.COM along with the complete dated calendar of events throughout Jesus' ministry.

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Mat 28:1 is clearly "But the latter of the Sabbaths"

"the late [one] of Sabbaths

This is the normal usual rendition of this combination of words.

And the following phrase is "the first [day] of the Sabbaths"

"Day of the Sabbaths" is the usual idiom for "the day for the Sabbaths" ημερα των σαββατων

The later sabbath was the weekly Sabbath after the Passover Sabbath in passion week.

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  • The first [day] of the Sabbaths according to Lev. 23:15 was the first of seven counted after Passover. This makes perfect sense in the Evangelists because it was on the first Sabbath after Passover --not Sunday. – Daniel Jul 19 '19 at 1:28
  • This theory is not necessarily consistent. For example, the parallel verses of Mark 3:2 and Luke 6:7 both reference the same day conceptually, and yet the former puts sabbath in the plural, and the latter in the singular. Many other instances of the plural form of 'sabbath' may be found in the NT that refer to the sabbath, and not a two-sabbath concept(e.g. Col 2:16). Also just because a word is grammatically plural does not mean it is strictly translated that way; a partitive genitive noun, or partitive substantive adjective, often have implied words(on one of all sabbaths - 'a' sabbath). – user21676 Jul 19 '19 at 7:46

How's about a translation that reads something like: "After the evening of (between) the Sabbaths (at the end of the High Sabbath and beginning of the Weekly Sabbath), at dawn on one of the (7 Omer) Sabbaths...

Point being there were several Sabbaths at play in this particular part of the year, and particularly if it was one of the occasions when the Sabbath of the first day of Pesach falls just before the weekly Sabbath. The above scenario would place Jesus in the Tomb Thursday evening just prior to sunset (Day #1), High Sabbath of Unleavened Bread in the Tomb on Friday (Day #2), Weekly Sabbath / Omer Sabbath #1 (Day #3), resurrected at some point between Saturday evening and Sunday before sunrise.

Let's also not overlook that it takes a very wide brush to fill in the missing words in the text to reach the standard "first day of the week" translation. The author obviously knows about the greek word protos for "first" (#G4413) which is used on earlier verses in Matt 22:38, 26:17 (in context of a day), 27:64. It should also seem odd that another term that is absent from the original text is imera "day" (#2250) which is included in several other verses such as 4:2; 12:40; 15:32; 16:21; 17:1,23; 20:19; 26:2,17,61; 27:62,64. Out of the seven occurrences included in other texts, photos is only found in Mark 16:9, which most agree is not original, and perhaps provides even better evidence for the attempts to force these verses to say something they are not with the goal of furthering the separation between the Sunday church and the Sabbath heritage.

Additionally when looking at the issue holistically it appears as though the typical biblical perspective is to state the particular day of importance in relation to the month (i.e. the 14th day of the month), and not in what we now consider the standard seven day week. For instance the counting of the omer (Lev 23:15-16) is based on 49 consecutive days which include seven Sabbaths. The important factor is based on the Sabbaths themselves, and not on the days between or after or it would read something more like "Now starting the day after the Sabbath, on the first day of the eighth Sabbath". It does not make that attempt, yet it still typically receives the "weeks" translation forced upon it. On the other hand the verse does adequately highlight another missing word from the Matthew text that would have been well suited and had been employed just prior (Matt 27:62) which is the word epaurion "the next day" (G1887). We must disregard the typical usage of several other words such as simeron "today" )G4594), auction 'tomorrow" (G2250), or oktaimeros "the eighth day" (G3637). Only in this portion of scripture dealing with the empty tomb do Matthew and all the other authors get so much leeway to disregard their normal terminology and just pick up a new "slang" which has appears to have no biblical or cultural basis.

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You provide the correct translation of Mathew 28:1, i.e., But "the latter of the Sabbaths" (also, "but [the] late of [the] Sabbaths."] It is permitted to supply the word "the" when English needs it. Which in English would also so mean "but the late one of the Sabbaths." The text is telling us that the later Sabbath in Passover week was the "resurrection day." After the Annual (High) Passover Sabbath the resurrection day just so happened to fall on Saturday the weekly Sabbath. The latter of the two. The reason for Sabbaths plural. It necessarily follows, why the translation on "first of the Sabbaths" is also correct. This is in keeping with Lev. 23:11-15 and in order to solve this one must understand two things, First, this amounts to a riddle in itself. Lev. tells us that seven Sabbaths were to be counted after the Passover Sabbath, which however has been mistaken or translated by many as meaning the weekly Saturday Sabbath. But in keeping EXACTLY with scripture, "the first of the Sabbaths" is the first of seven Sabbaths are counted each year after the Passover Sabbath. The translation does NOT mean "the first day of the "week" as main stream church conveniently asserts to support their claim of a Friday crucifixion and a Sunday Resurrection. The word translated week is indeed Sabbaths. The Friday to Sunday doctrine does not have three days and three nights nor does it satisfy "after three day" as stated in Mark 8:31. However, part two of my assertion is that a Wednesday crucifixion and a Saturday pre dawn Sabbath resurrection fulfills the three days and three night prophesy exactly. Furthermore, when Mary purchased the oils "after" the Sabbath this was on Friday. The day after the Annual High Sabbath or Feast of the Unleavened Bread (Wednesday sunset to Thursday sunset) and the day before the weekly Saturday Sabbath. Interestingly, the Pope's 2007 Holy Thursday Homily stated a Tuesday Last supper and a Wednesday arrest was possible based on new evidence found in the Dead Sea Scrolls and other means. However, in order to keep the Passion narrative the same it suggests Jesus would have remained in custody until Friday. I could go on but suffice to say I think I supported the true meaning of Mt. 28:1 to the satisfaction of the original Greek noted. Also, it is important to note I am a cradle Roman Catholic but extensive research and study has led me to these conclusions and felt compelled to share my views with others. God Bless All.

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The sabbaths (in plural, not singular) in Matthew 28:1 is the correct translation importantly hinting at a double sabbath. This matter is often overlooked in most translations. This is not merely a grammatical issue as you think but has huge implications for how we think about the three days, three nights of Jesus internment in the grave before He arose. This is further complicated by the fact that before we had clocks and designated out days by the hours on a dial, the Jews thought of a new day starting in the evening at sundown or twilight. This is how Genesis relates the beginning of the world in fact. The year AD30 had two Sabbaths back to back, one which was the Passover on Thursday Nisan 14 and Friday Nisan 15. The Jews identify the Passover as a kind of Sabbath, a rest day. So Jesus gathered with his disciples in the upper room on our Wednesday night but on the Jewish Thursday. He was betrayed and then on the morning of the Thursday, He was crucified at around 3pm. Thursday evening was the Jewish Friday or Nisan 15 which was their Passport, or "High Day." That is why the Priests wanted to hurry the prosecution of Jesus's trial so they could observe the Passover without becoming ceremonially unclean. This is also preparation day for the Jews for the Passover so you might also assume very few people who were not faithful followers of Jesus would have been at the cross on Golgatha. The Good Friday observation only came into place early on by a decree of the Roman Catholic Church. For a detailed examination of this, check out jamestabor.com/jesus-died-on-a-thursday-not-a-friday/ .

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