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.)

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?

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    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.


SO many comments to comment on but will keep it simple. The passage in Nehemiah is about the weekly Sabbath. The poster's question is about Luke 23:54 "It was the preparation day, and the Sabbath was about to begin / dawn". This refers to the High Holy day of Passover rather Pesach which starts at dusk or evening. The weekly Sabbath DAY does not. Its a DAY. not Sabbath night and day. First, get the context right and then proceed.

Also mentioned is Lev. 23:32 which correctly mentions that is not a weekly Sabbath day but is regarding the specific feast of Yôm HaKippurim. People with a bias to prove will use this and Exodus 12:6 to say that every single day of the week starts in the evening or at dusk. Let's nip that in the bud right now.

Exodus 12:6: "between the evenings" as when the Sabbath is observed. "לחדשׁ הזה ושׁחטו אתו כל קהל עדת ישׂראל בין הערבים" (right to left) which is "ha’arbêyn Yiśrâ’êl ‛êdâh qâhâl kôl 'êth shâchaṭ haszeh laChôdesh" (right to left), each word translated:

laChôdesh = of the new moon haszeh = has the same vashâchatụ = shall kill 'êth = (sense of self) kôl = entire qâhâl = assembly ‛êdâh = of the congregation Yiśrâ’êl = Israel bêyn = in ha’ar = at eve

How does the Hebrew phrase end? at eve/at the evening/at dusk. There is zero 'between the evenings' which was put in by biased translator.

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    Kevin, do you have a reference for: "This refers to the High Holy day of Passover rather Pesach which starts at dusk or evening." I am not certain what argument you are supporting with Ex. 12:6. Are you saying that the sacrifice would be at evening? – elika kohen Mar 16 '20 at 7:02
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    Hi Kevin, welcome to BHSE - please take the Site Tour to learn more about how the StackExchange format works and the scope of this particular site. This is a great first answer - good job keeping the focus tight on the Question and not on other comments. The answer could be improved by adding some supporting evidence for your claims, to help users sort through your own sources and better understand their basis. Have a great day. – Steve Taylor Mar 17 '20 at 10:46

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.

  • 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
  • You are using the English "Sabbath rest" to conflate different rests in the original texts. The weekly Sabbath and Day of Atonement are described with different language from the rest on the other days. When you compare all of the different days you will see that the Day of Atonement and weekly Sabbaths are identical (to one another) and different from the other days. – Revelation Lad Mar 27 '17 at 5:54

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