1. Question - a Reference Request for Historical Evidence:

In view of this question : Luke 23:54 - How should "Sabbath Dawning" be Interpreted?

Is there any historical evidence showing Sabbath observance beginning the evening before? (Up to, and including, the Second Temple Period.)


  1. This is not about the regular week day, or the Day of Atonement - just the Weekly Sabbath.
  2. A Reference Request - Josephus, Philo, Plutarch, Polybius, etc. No Traditional or Doctrinal opinions please: Another related Question specifically asks to address this from a Jewish doctrinal point of view, https://judaism.stackexchange.com/questions/69630/how-to-reconcile-if-when-the-jewish-day-was-to-begin-at-sunset .

This question is intended to help inform, with evidence, the debate whether the prior evening was included in the Weekly Sabbath / Shabbat.

- https://judaism.stackexchange.com/questions/69630/how-to-reconcile-if-when-the-jewish-day-was-to-begin-at-sunset
- Luke 23:54 - Historical Evidence that the Jewish Calendar Day began at Sunrise?
- Historical Evidence that the Jewish Calendar Day Began at Sunset?
- Luke 23:54 - How should "Sabbath Dawning" be Interpreted?

  • 3
    Text styling is one of those things where less is more man. I'm all for formatting things for readability and to give content some semantic meaning, but this is so excessive it reduces the clarity. You have as much bold here as normal text, 3 sizes, italics for no apparent reason, and the whole thing is organized in a way that makes it hard to just read. One's eye can only skip around this; it can't be just read because there are so many visual diversions the main point is smothered. Please consider using less formatting and thinking about the overall flow in your posts. – Caleb Apr 26 '16 at 8:34
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    The historical evidence is the tradition of the Jewish people. For example, which day of the week is the seventh day? There is no way to use calendars or documents to establish the day of the week. The only way of knowing for certain would be by revelation from God, which He gave during the Exodus. The day of no manna was the Sabbath. We can only presume the tradition of the Jewish people preserved the day of the week which was the Sabbath. However, setting the beginning of a day at sunset is implied (clearly IMO) in the details of how the manna was to come and when it was to be gathered. – Revelation Lad Apr 26 '16 at 21:56

This question is driven by understanding ἐπέφωσκεν as “dawning".

Most translators see ἐπέφωσκεν as beginning or drawing near. For example:

And that day was the preparation, and the sabbath drew on. (KJV)
It was the preparation day, and the Sabbath was about to begin. (NASB)
It was the day of Preparation, and the sabbath was beginning. (NRSV)

Although the literal meaning is dawning [Thayer's - G2020]: Thayer's

And it was the day of Preparation, and the Sabbath was dawning. (DLNT)

The word is used just twice in the New Testament, here and Matthew 28:1 in a similar context:

Now after the Sabbath, toward the dawn of the first day of the week (σαββάτων τῇ ἐπιφωσκούσῃ εἰς μίαν σαββάτων), Mary Magdalene and the other Mary went to see the tomb. (ESV)
[literally: "Sabbaths it dawning toward the first Sabbaths"]

Dawn as the light at morning is described using ὄρθρος. [G3722 - orthos] This can be seen from the Septuagint:

On the seventh day they rose early, at the dawn of day (ὄρθρου), and marched around the city in the same manner seven times. It was only on that day that they marched around the city seven times. (Joshua 6:15 ESV)
And as morning appeared (ὄρθρον), the woman came and fell down at the door of the man's house where her master was, until it was light. (Judges 19:26 ESV)
I rise before dawn (ὄρθρον) and cry for help; I hope in your words. (Psalm 119:147[148] ESV)

In addition, there is not a single use of ἐπέφωσκεν in the LXX. Given the use in the LXX, there is no reason to understand either Luke of Matthew as describing the Sabbath as beginning at morning.

Since a day begins at sunset, there is a question as to what position of the sun constitutes "sunset." Clearly, unless the definition is total darkness, there will always be some visible light remaining when one day ends and the next begins.

Regardless of the exact moment, the next day will always begin in the evening light. Therefore it is proper to speak of the start of the Sabbath (and every day) as "beginning or dawning" as long as it is done without creating confusion with the morning dawn, the ὄρθρος of the day. Luke (and Matthew's) use of ἐπέφωσκεν describes the next day on the calendar dawning not the morning dawn ὄρθρος of the day.


1. Biblical Example - Nehemiah :

Nehemiah, (following the Babylonian Exile), explicitly instituted Sabbath reform, and personally issued commandments relating to the evening before.

NASB, Nehemiah 13:19, (Interlinear) - It came about that just as it grew dark, (צָֽלֲלוּ֩) at the gates of Jerusalem before the Sabbath, I commanded that the doors should be shut and that they should not open them until after the sabbath.

... The Septuagint seems to differ ... Perhaps another question.

I haven't been able to find any other Biblical examples.

2. Possible Answer - Yom Kippur / Day of Atonement :

In Lev. 23:32, the text explicitly states, "from evening until evening" - but it has nothing to do with Seventh Day Sabbaths.

3. Another Possible Answer - It Might not Matter:

Setting aside any Biblical interpretation - if Israeli law is amended, and if it is decreed that the the Sabbath rest would begin earlier, the evening prior, in order to "safeguard" the Sabbath - then the, the Halakhic Sabbath begins in the evening, regardless.

Regardless of how Hebrew Scripture should actually be interpreted - Scripture instructs Israeli's to submit to subsequent rulings / judgments of authorities in Israel:

NIV, Deuteronomy 1:15 - So I took the leading men of your tribes, wise and respected men, and appointed them to have authority over you — as commanders of thousands, of hundreds, of fifties and of tens and as tribal officials.

NIV, Matthew 22:2-3 - “The teachers of the law and the Pharisees sit in Moses’ seat. 3 So you must be careful to do everything they tell you. But do not do what they do, for they do not practice what they preach.

Today, all of the requirements are required to begin at night, (See Shabbat Halakha). Specifically, the precept : "take from the secular" and "add to the sacred".

Rashbam, Refuting the Plain Meaning Entails "A Night/Day" Understanding:

Rashbam Discussion Regarding Halakhic Ordinances Superseding Scripture: And it was evening and it was morning – It does not say “it was night and it was day”, but “it was evening”, the first day passed and the light set, “and it was morning”, the ending of the night ... The verse is not coming to tell us that evening and morning constitute one day ...

So - even if the Biblical Sabbath Rest had originally began at Sunrise - at some point, it was affirmed via Halakha / legal cases, that the Sabbath rest begins in the Evening, even if the Plain Meaning of Scripture says otherwise.

  • You are twisting Deut 1:15 and Matt 22:2-3 to your own purposes. Those verses are not saying the rulers or authorities in Israel have power to change the laws in the Torah. Moses specifically forbids this in Deut 12:32 where he says, "Whatever I command you, be careful to observe it; you shall not add to it nor take away from it." – Bʀɪᴀɴ Mar 24 '17 at 14:41
  • "So, the Halakhic day, and Sabbath, begin in the evening - because that was what was decreed, eventually, by the Sanhedrin." You have no proof of this. Also Lev 23:32 clearly says that the Day of Atonement was to be kept all day, from evening to evening: "It shall be to you a sabbath of solemn rest, and you shall afflict your souls; on the ninth day of the month at evening, from evening to evening, you shall celebrate your sabbath." All day was from one evening to the next evening. – Bʀɪᴀɴ Mar 24 '17 at 14:53
  • @BrianWeigand - A.) If you hadn't noticed, I did not accept this answer - and I feel it is not strong. B.) Moses' command to not "add or take away" may be a good point in one of your own answers; C.) Likewise, the "Day of Atonement" verse you mention might fit in too. Though - this has nothing to do with Weekly Sabbath laws. D.) As far as "No evidence that the Sanhedrin amended Biblical law" ,,, I will clarify the answer : I had already provided a link to that discussion - but did not point out its relevance, (In the Rashbam quote). – elika kohen Mar 24 '17 at 17:55
  • The weekly Sabbath is described as שַׁבַּת שַׁבָּתֹון (Leviticus 23:3). The exact description is used to describe the Day of Atonement שַׁבַּת שַׁבָּתֹון (Leviticus 23:32). So your statement that the rest of Day of Atonement has nothing to do with the weekly Sabbath is inaccurate. Based on the language, they are identical. – Revelation Lad Mar 27 '17 at 5:16
  • @RevelationLad - A.) That phrase "שַׁבַּת שַׁבָּתֹון" means "Sabbath Rest" - which is why my question is named the way it is. B.) The Weekly Sabbath, Passover, the Day of Atonement, etc - all have "Sabbath Rest" requirements. C.) The Day of Atonement's "Sabbath Rest" is explicitly from evening until evening. D.) However, this does not necessarily apply "across the board" - and would be considered a violation of Moses' command not to add to what God commanded - (apparently the Samaritans, the Qumran community, etc, thought this). – elika kohen Mar 27 '17 at 5:22

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