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6And on the fifteenth day of the same month is the Feast of Unleavened Bread to the LORD; for seven days you shall eat unleavened bread. 7On the first day you shall have a holy convocation; you shall not do any ordinary work.

Leviticus 23:6-7

31Since it was the day of Preparation, and so that the bodies would not remain on the cross on the Sabbath (for that Sabbath was a high day), the Jews asked Pilate that their legs might be broken and that they might be taken away.

John 19:31

Is he saying:
a) the upcoming day (which starts at sunset) is a Sabbath i.e. 7th day of week AND it falls on Nisan 15?

Or, if the upcoming day is Nisan 15 and NOT the 7th day of the week, is John saying:
b) Nisan 15 is a sabbath because Leviticus 23 says to rest

Based on reading a bunch of English translations, it seems (a) is correct.

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    Stop arguing in the comments please. If you have something to say, and that something answers the question, then write an answer. Otherwise maybe you can write your own question on some related topic?
    – curiousdannii
    Commented Jun 25, 2021 at 7:21
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    I think that Christian sources are often specious and unreliable regarding Jewish customs and practices and such. If you want to know about Jews and Judaism, your most authoritative source is certainly not this site. Please at least repost your question at judaism.stackexchange.com
    – Ruminator
    Commented Dec 15, 2023 at 3:14

9 Answers 9

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It is true that in the Hebrew, "Sabbath" almost always refers to the weekly Sabbath with only very few exceptions such as Lev 16:31, 32 where it refers to the Day of Atonement.

However, in NT Koine Greek, Sabbath only ever refers to the weekly Sabbath or a period of 1 week. See BDAG. This remains true in non-Biblical Koine Greek was well. Put another way, "Sabbath" never refers, in Koine Greek, to one of the Jewish annual "sabbaths" - it only refers to the weekly Sabbath or a period of one week.

The above is confirmed by another fact as well. The word παρασκευή always refers to the day of preparation = Friday in both NT Greek, and early Christian literature as per BDAG, again. The same word was transliterated into Latin and also designates Friday in Latin as well. Put another way, the word never designates the day before an annual Sabbath.

Therefore, Nissan 15, in the NT was never referred to as "Sabbath" unless it actually fell on a weekly Sabbath. Therefore, I agree that of the OP options, (a) is correct.

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    @RevelationLad - that is an interesting claim that is not supported by the evidence. I repeat my question above: "can you point to another instance in the NT or other 1st cent Koine literature where "Sabbath" refers to an annual festival? One cannot merely assert these things as true without evidence."
    – Dottard
    Commented Nov 1, 2021 at 20:32
  • If this is correct, why would the plural of Sabbath be needed during the period of Passover-Unleavened Bread? According to this answer the day before the Sabbath is just that (Friday in contemporary terminology). Likewise the day after. So why does a writer use the plural to describe what is clear if they had written the singular? Commented Dec 17, 2023 at 6:34
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    @RevelationLad Perhaps Mark 2:24 suggests a clue to the answer to your plurality question. That is to say that the term 'sabbaths' signaled the semantics of a set of protocols/rules that were to be followed on those legal days; Sabbath being one of them, even though it was only the weekly sabbath that was referred to as Sabbath. I don't know. I'm just pointing out that words not only bring a core meaning to the fore, but turn on associated meaning around the edges. The plural could be a subtle way of highlighting that associated meaning. Commented May 24 at 10:53
  • @RevelationLad - in the NT, as correctly pointed out by BDAG, "Sabbath" and "Sabbaths" are used almost interchangeably. I have personally read all 60 occurrences of this in the NT Greek and could find no pattern to the plural vs singular.
    – Dottard
    Commented May 24 at 20:40
  • Then how would a writer convey more than one Sabbath? Most think the public ministry of Jesus spanned 3+ years. Some think only 70 weeks. How does a writer convey Jesus doing things on the Sabbaths, if the singular and plural mean the same thing? Commented May 24 at 23:17
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Can Nisan 15 be referred to as "the sabbath"?

by Saber Truth Tiger

PART ONE

As "The" Sabbath, not likely. In the Hebrew Bible, the weekly Sabbath was always referred to as "the Sabbath" with the possible exception of the Land Sabbath. If your Old Testament is translated from the Masoretic Hebrew text then no, Nisan 15 is not a Sabbath.

According to the Hebrew Scriptures (Masoretic Text), Nisan 15 was never designated as a Sabbath. There were three types of Sabbaths: 1) the weekly Sabbath, 2) the land Sabbath where the land had to lay unused every seventh year 3) the Day of Atonement (Yom Kippur), an annual Sabbath that fell in the seventh month of the Jewish calendar. The weekly Sabbath and Yom Kippur not only had being called Sabbath in common, but both of them were the only holy convocations that prescribed the death penalty for breaking them. The rest did not demand the death penalty for breaking them. They are also the only two holy convocations that used the expression SHABBATH SHABBATHOWN.

There were seven annual holy convocations in the Jewish Year and six of them forbade only servile work and were never called Sabbaths. There is a reason why the Day of Atonement was called a Sabbath and the others weren't. It forbade ANY work, not just servile work, just like the weekly Sabbath. Leviticus 16:29, 23:28, 30, 31; Numbers 29:7.

For example, refer to Exodus 20:10, 31:14,15; Leviticus 23:3, Deuteronomy 5:14; Jeremiah 17:22 to see the weekly Sabbath forbade ANY work too.

Notice the Day of Atonement and the weekly Sabbath both prohibit ANY work. So the Day of Atonement has the same definition as the weekly Sabbath.

Furthermore, in every place in the Hebrew Scriptures where "the Sabbath" is found it refers to the weekly Sabbath. So too, apparently in the Greek Scriptures (New Testament).

There are, in Leviticus 23 of the KJV, four holy convocations in the sacred seventh month of the Jewish Year (Tishri) that are called Sabbaths in the KJV but three of them come from a different Hebrew word for Sabbath (SHABBATHOWN) than the weekly Sabbath (SHABBATH). The Day of Atonement uses the same word for Sabbath as the weekly Sabbath. The SHABBATHOWN is spelled similarly to the weekly Sabbath but it means "REST" and is never used for a holy convocation that forbids ANY work. It is even translated as REST elsewhere in the KJV and is used sometimes with the Hebrew word Sabbath as in "A Sabbath of REST (Exodus 16:23, 31:15, 35:2, Leviticus 16:31, 23:3, 32; 25:4,5. Only the weekly Sabbath and the Day of Atonement are paired in this manner, SHABBATH SHABBATHOWN and only those two Sabbaths are capital offenses when broken. The other six holy convocations do not prescribe the death penalty for failure to keep it properly.

Just keep in mind if a holy convocation forbids ANY work it is a Sabbath. If it forbids only servile work it is not a Sabbath, it is just a rest day. This is according to the Hebrew Scriptures. If used in conjunction with the weekly Sabbath it is a "Shabbath Shabbathown" (Sabbath of Rest).

Even in the Septuagint (LXX), in Leviticus 23 those three holy convocations in the seventh month that the KJV translates as Sabbaths are NOT called Sabbaths in the Hebrew. They are called ANAPAUSIS which in Greek means "REST". ANAPAUSIS is also used in the Christian Greek Scriptures (the New Testament) and it means REST there too (G372).

There are places in the KJV Bible where the new moons, sabbaths, set feasts, solemnities, solemn feasts, assemblies, and such are mentioned together. These can be found in I Chronicles 23:31; II Chronicles 2:4, 8:13, 31:3; Nehemiah 10:31,33; Hosea 2:11, Lamentations 2:6, Ezekiel 44:24, 45:17.

After these verses were written they remained the same until about the time of the Babylonian Captivity or later, perhaps the third century BC when the Jews in Alexandria, Egypt began translating the Hebrew into Greek. The translation of the Septuagint carried the new view of Nisan 15 being the sabbath. Check Leviticus 23:11, 15 for this. The Jewish translators of the Septuagint took the Hebrew words “on the morrow after the sabbath” in Leviticus 23:11 and changed them to “on the morrow of the first day" (of the Feast)”.This means the first Day of Unleavened Bread (Nisan 15) would hitherto be celebrated as a Sabbath by the Pharisees and rabbinical authorities, as well as their descendants. The morrow of the first day would be the morning of Nisan 16, the day the Omer would be waved in Judaism.

Hence the waving of the sheaf would always occur on Nisan 16 under the Pharisean and rabbinical reckoning. Since “on the morrow of the first day (of the Feast) is the referent for Sabbath in Leviticus 23:15 then it follows that Nisan 15 was called a Sabbath by the Pharisees and later the Rabbis.

The Sadducees in the first century AD disagreed with this view. They were known as the Torah literalists of their day, and they did not call the holy convocations "Sabbaths". The Sadducees did count the fifty-day countdown from the waving of the Omer to Shavuot (Pentecost) and they controlled temple worship when Jesus was alive. So, by the time Jesus was crucified early in the first century AD Sadducee Jews waved the Omer every year on the day after the weekly Sabbath that followed the Passover meal.

The Rabbinical authorities, led by the Pharisees insisted the correct day to wave the Omer was the day after the first day of Unleavened Bread and to start the countdown from that day. However, they did not regain control of the Temple until about 20 years after Jesus died. The Sadducees controlled the Temple worship when Jesus was alive and they observed the waving on the Omer the first Sunday after the Passover Seder. The Pharisaic Jews thus reverted to observing the waving of the Omer on Nisan 16.

Josephus relates this practice in Antiquities of the Jews in Book III, Chapter 10, verse 5. Read the following:

“But in the month of Xanthicus; which is by us called Nisan, and is the beginning of our year; on the fourteenth day of the Lunar month, when the sun is in Aries; for on this month it was that we were delivered from bondage under the Egyptians: the law ordained that we should every year slay that sacrifice which I before told you we slew when we came out of Egypt: and which was called the Passover. And so we do celebrate this Passover in companies, and leave nothing of what we sacrifice till the day following. The feast of unleavened bread succeeds that of the Passover, and falls on the fifteenth day of the month, and continues seven days: wherein they feed on unleavened bread. On every one of which days two bulls are killed, and one ram, and seven lambs. Now these lambs are entirely burnt, besides the kid of the goats, which is added to all the rest, for sins: for it is intended as a feast for the Priest on every one of those days. BUT ON THE SECOND DAY OF UNLEAVENED BREAD, WHICH IS THE SIXTEENTH DAY OF THE MONTH, THEY FIRST PARTAKE OF THE FRUITS OF THE EARTH: FOR BEFORE THAT DAY THEY DO NOT TOUCH THEM (Capitals mine).

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5

Nisan 15 can be a Sabbath. Specifically a High Sabbath. Leviticus 23 explains the rules for the weekly Sabbath and then goes through the other days throughout the year that required a “sabbath rest” in which no customary work could be done.

Days that not the seventh day, yet are required to be observed as a Sabbath are known as High Sabbaths. John 19:31 is referring to such a day.

So (example 32 AD) Nisan 15 was a Wednesday, and also a ‘High Sabbath’. That is, observed as if it were a Sabbath. This particular preparation day, although a Wednesday, was also the first day of Pesach therefore a Sabbath day (a High Day Sabbath) but it was not the seventh day Sabbath

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  • Nisan 15 can be a Sabbath as you state. But that is because the Pharisees followed their own tradition and reckoned Nisan 15 as a Sabbath in the days Jesus walked the earth. The Sadducees didn't buy the Pharisees claims and taught only the seventh day of the week could be properly called a sabbath and included Yom Kippur as a sabbath too. However, the Hebrew Scriptures never called Nisan 15 a sabbath. There were seven annual holy convocations besides the weekly sabbath and only one of them were called a sabbath. That changed when the LXX was translated in the second or third century B.C. Commented Dec 15, 2021 at 21:38
  • @SaberTruthTiger I’ve noted a couple of your comments to me regarding calendars- and have appreciated them. You are obviously well learned. I accept there are differing foundations resulting in variations. From my understanding, the Pharisees have corrupted the [traditional] calendar, and I am now leaning towards using the Essenes calendar (recent Dead Sea scroll findings). But they also consider ‘high sabbaths’.
    – Dave
    Commented Dec 16, 2021 at 3:33
  • Thank You for your nice comments. If perchance you find something interesting about the Essenes please share it with us. I do not know much about the Essenes but I heard also they believe the holy convocations are Sabbaths. It's easy to see how the holy convocations became Sabbaths. They were very much like Sabbaths, a day off work, and a calling together for worship. So, the Pharisees had their own tradition of calling the holy convocations Sabbaths even though the Hebrew Scriptures did not call them Sabbaths. The LXX implicitly refers to Nisan 15 as a Sabbath though in Levitucs 23:11 and 15. Commented Dec 16, 2021 at 3:57
  • Counting Nisan 21 as a Sabbath would throw off the counting of the 50 days to Pentecost. So, if Nisan 21 was not reckoned as a Sabbath in the Hebrew, so then would Nisan 15 not be reckoned as a Sabbath. Furthermore, Nisan 15 forbade only servile work and not ALL work. If Nisan 15 was the Sabbath spoken of during the day of Preparation then Joseph and Nicodemus would not have had to hurry to bury Jesus since Nisan 15 forbade only servile work. However, they had to rush things because it was the weekly sabbath that was drawing on. Commented Dec 19, 2021 at 17:45
  • A "high sabbath" was simply one which was doubly a sabbath, being a weekly Sabbath on which a ceremonial/annual sabbath also landed. As such, a "high sabbath" must always indicate the seventh day of the week.
    – Biblasia
    Commented Apr 28, 2023 at 4:35
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The Annual Feasts in Nisan
There are three annual Appointed Times, מוֹעֵד in the month of Nisan:

  • Passover: Nisan 14
  • Unleavened Bread - Nisan 15 to Nisan 21 [work is prohibited on the 15th and 21st]
  • Firstfruits - the day after the Sabbath which occurs during Unleavened Bread

4 “These are the appointed feasts of the LORD, the holy convocations, which you shall proclaim at the time appointed for them. 5 In the first month, on the fourteenth day of the month at twilight, is the LORD's Passover. 6 And on the fifteenth day of the same month is the Feast of Unleavened Bread to the LORD; for seven days you shall eat unleavened bread. 7 On the first day you shall have a holy convocation; you shall not do any ordinary work. 8 But you shall present a food offering to the LORD for seven days. On the seventh day is a holy convocation; you shall not do any ordinary work.” 9 And the LORD spoke to Moses, saying, 10 “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, 11 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. (Leviticus 23 ESV)

When these instructions are followed, the specific day on which Firstfruits would be observed is the day following the weekly Sabbath. Since the weekly Sabbath will vary from year-to-year, the specific day on which Firstfruits is to be observed, will also vary. The earliest day a weekly Sabbath could occur is Nissan 15 and Firstfruits would be observed on Nisan 16. The latest day is Nisan 20 and Firstfruits would be Nisan 21.

The Practice of Observing Firstfruits
Despite the wording in Leviticus, Firstfruits was observed on a set day, Nisan 16. Kevin Howard and Marvin Rosenthal explain (emphasis added):

Scripture did not specify the actual calendar date of Firstfruits, but merely prescribed its time of observance to be "on the day after the Sabbath" (Lev. 23:11). This led to various interpretations and considerable debate as to which sabbath was in view.

The Sadducees, and later the Karaite Jews, understood it to refer to the first weekly sabbath (Saturday) which occurred during the week of Passover season. However, the word sabbath also designated any holy day on which work was prohibited, no matter one which day of the week it occurred (Lev. 23:24, 32, 39). The majority opinion, held by the Pharisees, was that the sabbath in question was Nisan 15, the first day of the Feast of Unleavened Bread. That day was to be "a holy convocation" (Lev. 23:7) on which no work was performed. This same description was given to the weekly sabbath (Lev. 23:3) and to holy-day sabbaths held on other days of the week (Lev. 23:24-25, 28, 32, 36, 39).

Josephus affirms this understanding was present at the time of Christ:

Ancient Jewish observance agreed with this interpretation. Josephus, the first-century Jewish historian wrote: "But on the second day of unleavened bread, which is the sixteenth day of the month, they first partake of the fruits of the earth, for before that day they do not touch them, (Antiquities of the Jews 3.10.5).1

Additional affirmation is present in how the LXX translators described the day of Firstfruits:

And from the day after the Sabbaths, from the day on which you bring the sheaf of the addition, you shall count off seven whole weeks. (LXX-Leviticus 23:15)
καὶ ἀριθμήσετε ὑμεῗς ἀπὸ τῆς ἐπαύριον τῶν σαββάτων ἀπὸ τῆς ἡμέρας ἧς ἂν προσενέγκητε τὸ δράγμα τοῦ ἐπιθέματος ἑπτὰ ἑβδομάδας ὁλοκλήρους

The LXX has Sabbath in the plural and it includes the article: First Fruits was observed on the day after the Sabbaths.

Identifying the Sabbath
It is maintained by some (see comments to this answer) that no where in the New Testament does Sabbath refer to any day other than the weekly Sabbath. However, in the Gospels the "Sabbath" was almost always marked by a dispute over work. Typically, Jesus or His disciples did something which taken to be a violation of the prohibition on working.

This position maintains every dispute over working must have occurred on a weekly Sabbath. Why? Because the weekly Sabbath prohibits work. In addition to the circular logic, this means that in the three plus years of Jesus' ministry, marked by repeated confrontations with the Pharisees over the issue of violating the prohibition on work, not a single one happened on Nisan 15 or Nisan 21 or the Feast of Weeks, or the Feast of Trumpets, or the Day of Atonement, or the first day or eighth day of the Feast of Tabernacles. Why? Because each dispute took place on either the Sabbath or the Sabbaths.

On the other hand, if the occasional use of Sabbath in the plural is taken to describe days of no work other than the weekly Sabbath, we find events where Jesus challenged the Pharisees on their improper application on all days which the Law prohibited work.

Conclusion
The only justification for fixing the observation of Firstfruits to occur on Nisan 16 is that Nisan 15 is considered the Sabbath which is specified in Leviticus 23:10-11.

Addendum
In his paper, The Etymology of ‘Sabbath’, Francois de Blois, makes two points relative to this discussion. First, regarding the use in general:

The ancient Greeks did not have the concept of a week and thus there is no word for ‘week’ or for any of the days of the week in classical Greek. But in Greek writings by Jews and Christians we do have such terms. The seventh day is designated by the Hebrew or Aramaic loan word σάββατον (neuter singular) or σάββατα (neuter plural). Although there are a few passages where σάββατα does in fact mean ‘two or more Sabbaths’, in most cases both the singular and the plural forms are used to designate a single Sabbath.

Second, regarding the origination of the word, he notes the Babylonian practice of identifying the 1st, 7th, the 15th, and day of the month:

These three terms are mentioned together in at least two texts. They are not names of three random days, rather they belong together as designations for three important cultic events in any month. They also mark three of the cardinal points of the lunar month: the sighting of the new moon on the first day of the month, the first quarter on or about the seventh, and the full moon on or about the fifteenth. There is a longstanding discussion among both Assyriologists and Biblical scholars about a possible connection between the Hebrew šabbòṯ and the Babylonian šapattu. From the point of view of phonological correspondence the equation of the two words is not particularly problematic, especially if we take the Babylonian varriant šabattu (with voiced /b/) as our point of departure. šabbòṯ (older *šabbat) and šabattu have not only the same consonants, but even the same vowels; they differ really only in the distribution of the gemination. In late Babylonian the case endings were still written (often not correctly) but evidently no longer pronounced. Thus šabattu would have been pronounced as šabatt, but since Hebrew and Aramaic do not allow geminated consonants in final position the Hebrews would have reduced the final consonant to /-t/ and then perhaps compensated by geminating the labial in the preceeding syllable. The difficulty with this is the semantics. šabattu is the 15th day of the month, the time of the full moon, while šabbòṯ is the seventh day of a recurring cycle. Semantically it would seem actually more attractive to compare šabbòṯ with sebūtu, the seventh day of the month, but from a phonological point of view these two cannot very well be connected.2

de Blois is concerned with the general meaning of the term, but it is worth noting the 15th day of a month was called šabattu and would have been pronounced as šabatt.


1. Kevin Howard and Marvin Rosenthal, The Feasts of the LORD, Thomas Nelson Inc, 1977, p. 76
2. Francois de Blois, The Etymology of ‘Sabbath’

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    That is all very well and correct but the NT was not written in Hebrew. My question above still stands.
    – Dottard
    Commented Nov 2, 2021 at 22:07
  • @Dottard So in addition to turning a blind eye the practice of observing Firstfruits on Nisan 16, let's just throw the LXX and Josephus? Commented Nov 2, 2021 at 23:18
  • I repeat my question above - find some evidence for what you claim in Koine Greek and then we can have a discussion.
    – Dottard
    Commented Nov 2, 2021 at 23:38
  • Let us continue this discussion in chat. Commented Nov 3, 2021 at 6:59
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According to Exodus 12, the Feast of Unleavened Bread had two days wherein no work was to be done and only what one would eat. The first day (Nisan 15) and the final day (Nisan 21) - these are both treated like Sabbath days: no work.

"Seven days you shall eat unleavened bread. On the first day you shall remove leaven from your houses. For whoever eats leavened bread from the first day until the seventh day, that person shall be cut off from Israel. On the first day there shall be a holy convocation, and on the seventh day there shall be a holy convocation for you. No manner of work shall be done on them; but that which everyone must eat—that only may be prepared by you. So you shall observe the Feast of Unleavened Bread, for on this same day I will have brought your armies out of the land of Egypt. Therefore you shall observe this day throughout your generations as an everlasting ordinance." - Exodus 12:15-17

Interesting too is the severity of anyone eating leavened bread during this time, which is an exception to a Saturday Sabbath. That's a distinction. But, otherwise, the Feast of Unleavened bread was treated as a Sabbath and even called such in all four gospels, particularly illustrated more clearly in John 19. This can also be concluded by Jesus' death on Nisan 14, since Nisan 15 is the first day of the Feast of Unleavened Bread which we can already see in scripture was treated like a Sabbath day of rest.

More info: On Leviticus 23:24 on Biblehub Hebrew Interlinear -- actually, the word Sabbath is used in Leviticus 23:24 in which the context shows the word used in verses 4-8 interpreted as 'gathering' or 'convocation' in correlation with the idea of a sabbath rest. And Leviticus 23:4-8 clearly calls the convocation (or gathering) a time of doing no work. Rest. No work. By this, in context here and in Exodus 12, Nisan 15 is seen not only as a gathering of God's people but also a day of rest ("no work at all shall be done on them").

Context should be honored overall - God honored some holidays with a rest, not unlike the 7th day sabbath. As far as I can see in the context of the scriptures mentioned here and in Genesis 1 and 2, rest and no work meant a sabbath.

Understanding an ancient language is fine in context with the language of context taking precedence over finer intricacies that lead to arguments over words. It's like straining at a pilot fish and not seeing the whale.

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  • To make your case stronger amidst some other traditionally-biased answers would be to expand on your John 19 reference.
    – Steve
    Commented Nov 15, 2021 at 20:02
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‭‭Leviticus‬ ‭23‬:‭3‬ ‭NKJV‬‬

Six days shall work be done, but the seventh day is a Sabbath of solemn rest, a holy convocation. You shall do no work on it; it is the Sabbath of the Lord in all your dwellings.

The Sabbath day (Saturday) is a rest day & is not considered a week, it is written as a day of rest. I see where there is some confusion misinterpreting the text to be a week, it is a single day to enter into the lord’s rest.

‭‭Hebrews‬ ‭4‬:‭9‬-‭11‬ ‭KJV‬‬

There remaineth therefore a rest to the people of God. For he that is entered into his rest, he also hath ceased from his own works, as God did from his. Let us labour therefore to enter into that rest, lest any man fall after the same example of unbelief.

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    – agarza
    Commented Dec 16, 2023 at 4:36
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The Hebrew word שבת, typically transliterated Sabbath, refers to any day where "work" is prohibited. This is the meaning of Leviticus 23:3:

שֵׁ֣שֶׁת יָמִים֮ תֵּעָשֶׂ֣ה מְלָאכָה֒ וּבַיּ֣וֹם הַשְּׁבִיעִ֗י שַׁבַּ֤ת שַׁבָּתוֹן֙ מִקְרָא־קֹ֔דֶשׁ כָּל־מְלָאכָ֖ה לֹ֣א תַעֲשׂ֑וּ שַׁבָּ֥ת הִוא֙

Six days you shall work and on the seventh day, a Sabbath of Sabbaths, a holy occasion, all work you shall not do, it is Sabbath ...

Therefore, any day for which the Torah says "כָּל־מְלָאכָ֖ה לֹ֣א תַעֲשׂ֑וּ" ("all work you shall not do") can be called a Sabbath. (However, only the seventh day of the week and Yom Kippur are called Sabbath of Sabbaths.) This fact is demonstrated from Leviticus 23:39 which refers to the first and eighth days of the Sukkot holiday as שבתון ("Sabbaths") and Leviticus 23:24 which refers to Rosh Hashana as שבתון.

Thus, John 19:31 is vague. It could be referring to the 15th of Nisan, it could be referring to a regular Sabbath. It might also mean that that two days of work being prohibited were back-to-back (the "next day," as translated in the NIV, referring to the day after Passover). So the 16th of Nisan was a Sabbath. It was imperative that they get the bodies down before Passover began because otherwise they would have to wait a full extra 48 hours (until the 17th of Nisan) and the bodies would rot.

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It is good to refer to the experts in the field. But sometimes we get so carried away by the “erudition” of these experts that we do not see the clear truth mentioned in the Word of God.

For example, Dotttard says in his answer, “Put another way, the word [παρασκευή = the day of preparation] never designates the day before an annual Sabbath”.

Hold on!

Here it is, straight from the Bible:

“And it was the Preparation (παρασκευή) of the Passover” (John 19:14).

Is it Preparation of the Saturday Sabbath? No! It is the Preparation of the Passover, an annual Event!!!

Actually John is talking about the Preparation of Nissan 15th!!! It is the first day of the Unleavened Bread (UB), when no work is to be done; a Sabbath.

I will prove.

Passover and the Feast of UB Interchanged

The New Testament uses Passover and the UB interchangeably. Sometimes it calls the entire 8 days (1 day Passover + 7 days UB) as Passover and sometimes the Feast of UB and sometimes both, as in Mark 14:1.

“And on the first day of the Feast of Unleavened Bread, the disciples came to Jesus, saying to Him, Where do you desire we should prepare for You to eat the Passover?” (Matt 26:17). [See, the 1+7=8 days are called UB!]

“And on the first day of the Unleavened Bread, when they killed the Passover” (Mar 14:12). [See, the 1+7=8 days are called UB].

“And the Feast of Unleavened Bread, BEING CALLED Passover, drew near” (Luke 22:1). [See, the entire 8 days are also called Passover!!].

"And the day of the Unleavened Bread came, ON WHICH the Passover must be killed” (Luke 22:7).

Can the experts go against the above plain Biblical texts?!

The fact is Passover falls on Nissan 14th and the very next day, Nissan 15th, comes the first day of the UB. So the 1 day Passover + 7 days UB are considered to be, for practical purposes, ONE feast. Sometimes, they call it Passover, sometimes the UB and sometimes, both.

John 19:14 refers to the First Day of UB

If we are guided solely by the Word of God, we can see that Jesus, who never broke any of God’s commandments, celebrated the Passover exactly at the “twilight” (evening) at the beginning of Nissan 14th. (In our modern reckoning, Jesus ate Passover after the end part of 13th)

Jesus was arrested in the night part of Nissan 14th, after the Passover meal. The things in John chapter 19 happen during the daytime of Nissan 14. (Actually John 18:28 says “early in the morning”. So, whatever comes after it is during the daytime of Nissan 14).

So, understood in this way, it is clear beyond any doubt that John meant Nissan 15th as the Passover when he said, “Preparation of the Passover”!!! (As I said before, the actual Passover was over and what was approaching was the first day of the UB, that is, Nissan 15).

Conclusion

Jesus celebrated the Passover exactly at the beginning (the night part) of Nissan 14 and as “our Passover Lamb” (1 Cor 5:7) He was sacrificed during the daytime of the same Passover day.

So, clearly, John calls the Passover (Nissan 14) as the Preparation of the fast approaching first day of the UB (Nissan 15).

So, clearly, John calls Nissan 15, the first day of the UB, as “the Sabbath”, “the great Sabbath” (John 19:31). [In the NT Greek usage, it is the “high day’ or annual Sabbath).

Therefore, I state, with evidences, that of the OP options, (b) is correct.

Did it Fall on a Saturday Sabbath?

While any annual Sabbath can fall on a Saturday Sabbath, it didn’t, in the year Jesus was crucified!

Why?

Because, Mark says in 16:1 that the ladies “bought” spices after the Sabbath (here Sabbath is Nissan 15, the first day of the UB).

But Luke says in 23:56 that the ladies “prepared” spices and ointment and then “rested on the Sabbath, according to the commandment (here the Sabbath is the Saturday Sabbath – the 4th commandment - on Nissan 17).

The Right Sequence

When we collect all the evidences from the four gospel accounts and place them side by side, we get the following sequence in the right order:

(In the modern reckoning):

Tuesday evening – Jesus ate the Passover meals, went to Gethsemane and was arrested (Nissan 14 Passover night);

Wednesday daytime – Pilate’s judgment, Crucifixion and Burial (Nissan 14 Passover day as the "Preparation" of the fast approaching Nissan 15 UB night);

Thursday daytime – chief priests and Pharisees request Pilate to secure the sepulcher (Matt 27:62-66). (Nissan 15 UB day, an annual Rest/Sabbath, a great/high day);

Friday daytime – the ladies “bought” spices and prepared spices and ointment (Nissan 16 UB day, a working day);

Saturday – rested on Sabbath “according to the commandment” (Nissan 17 UB day, unless Saturday, is a working day);

Sunday early morning – the ladies see the risen Jesus (Nissan 18 UB day, a working day; Wave sheaf offering day).

Counting

Wednesday night, Thursday night and Friday night = 3 nights

Thursday day, Friday day and Saturday day = 3 days

Resurrection on Sunday?

The gospels actually don’t say that Jesus rose on Sunday or the first day. It simply says the ladies saw the risen Jesus on Sunday, the first day.

The only Scripture people use to support a Sunday resurrection is Mark 16:9: “And having risen early on the first of the sabbath, He first appeared to Mary Magdalene”.

But we know very well that there was no punctuation in the original Greek. So, we see, “And having risen, early on the first of the Sabbath He first appeared to Mary Magdalene”.

That is, ‘And having risen, He first appeared to Mary Magdalene early on the first of the Sabbath’.

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Can Nisan 15 be referred to as "the sabbath"?

by Saber Truth Tiger

PART TWO

Let’s read, in context, the difference between THE SABBATH and “the first day” of the feast of Unleavened Bread. First, let’s look at the King James Version, which was translated from Hebrew:

Leviticus 23 1 And the LORD spake unto Moses, saying, 2 Speak unto the children of Israel, and say unto them, Concerning the feasts of the LORD, which ye shall proclaim to be holy convocations, even these are my feasts. 3 Six days shall work be done: but the seventh day is THE SABBATH of rest, a holy convocation; ye shall do no work therein: it is THE SABBATH of the LORD in all your dwellings.

This clearly is speaking of the weekly Sabbath and not any co-called annual Sabbath. Leviticus 23 continues...

4 These are the feasts of the LORD, even holy convocations, which ye shall proclaim in their seasons. 5 In the fourteenth day of the first month at even is the LORD's Passover. 6 And on the fifteenth day of the same month is the feast of unleavened bread unto the LORD: seven days ye must eat unleavened bread. 7 In the first day ye shall have a holy convocation: ye shall do no servile work therein. 8 But ye shall offer an offering made by fire unto the LORD seven days: in the seventh day is a holy convocation: ye shall do no servile work therein.

9 And the LORD spake unto Moses, saying, 10 Speak unto the children of Israel, and say unto them, When ye be come into the land which I give unto you, and shall reap the harvest thereof, then ye shall bring a sheaf of the firstfruits of your harvest unto the priest: 11 And he shall wave the sheaf before the LORD, to be accepted for you: on the morrow after THE SABBATH the priest shall wave it.

The referent of this Sabbath is not the annual Sabbath Nisan 15 but the weekly Sabbath of verse three. There is no mention of an annual Sabbath here. The only Sabbath referred to prior to this verse is the weekly Sabbath in verse three.

Let's continue with Leviticus 23:15...

15 And ye shall count unto you from the morrow after THE SABBATH, (not the so-called annual Sabbath but the weekly Sabbath) from the day that ye brought the sheaf of the wave offering; SEVEN SABBATHS shall be complete:16 Even unto the MORROW OF THE SEVENTH SABBATH shall ye number fifty days...

See how that reads, in context? The Sabbath in verses 11 and 15 have as their referent THE SABBATH in verse three. That’s context. Not a word about an annual Sabbath. Now, let’s read verse 16 in the KJV.

16 Even unto the morrow after the SEVENTH SABBATH shall ye number fifty days; and ye shall offer a new meat offering unto the LORD. The morrow of the seventh day is fifty days.

Here are over 50 translations from the Bible Gateway website that translates this passage.

https://www.biblegateway.com/verse/en/Leviticus%2023:16

Let's now look at the Septuagint's rendering of these verses.

BRENTON'S SEPTUAGINT TRANSLATION

Leviticus 23:1 And the Lord spoke to Moses, saying, 2 Speak to the children of Israel, and thou shalt say unto them, The feasts of the Lord which ye shall call holy assemblies, these are my feasts.

3 Six days shalt thou do works, but on the seventh day is THE SABBATH; a rest, a holy convocation to the Lord: thou shalt not do any work, it is A SABBATH to the Lord in all your dwellings.

So far, so good. This clearly refers to the weekly Sabbath, not an annual Sabbath. Now let's continue reading.

4 These are the feasts to the Lord, holy convocations, which ye shall call in their seasons. 5 In the first month, on the fourteenth day of the month, between the evening times is the Lord's Passover. 6 And on the fifteenth day of this month is the feast of unleavened bread to the Lord; seven days shall ye eat unleavened bread. 7 And the first day shall be a holy convocation to you: ye shall do no servile work. 8 And ye shall offer whole-burnt offerings to the Lord seven days, and the seventh day shall be a holy convocation to you: ye shall do no servile work.

9 And the Lord spoke to Moses, saying, 10 Speak to the children of Israel, and thou shalt say to them, When ye shall enter into the land which I give you, and reap the harvest of it, then shall ye bring a sheaf, the first-fruits of your harvest, to the priest; 11 and he shall lift up the sheaf before the Lord, to be accepted for you. ON THE MORROW OF THE FIRST DAY the priest shall lift it up.

See the change? The translators changed "ON THE MORROW OF THE SABBATH" in Hebrew to "ON THE MORROW OF THE FIRST DAY". Now the first day of the feast of unleavened bread (Nisan 15) becomes the day preceding the wave sheaf, rather than the weekly Sabbath. That means under Rabbinical usage the wave sheaf would always end up on Nisan 16 instead of Sunday. Under the rules of the Hebrew Bible and the teaching of the Sadducees, the wave sheaf would always happen the day after the weekly Sabbath. Then one would count seven sabbaths (seven weeks) to the 49th day of the fifty-day count. The day that followed the seventh Sabbath would be another holy convocation that the Jews celebrated, Shavuot.

The Septuagint reads further:

12 And ye shall offer on the day on which ye bring the sheaf, a lamb without blemish of a year old for a whole-burnt-offering to the Lord. 13 And its meat-offering two tenth portions of fine flour mingled with oil: it is a sacrifice to the Lord, a smell of sweet savor to the Lord, and its drink-offering the fourth part of a hin of wine. 14 And ye shall not eat bread, or the new parched corn, until this same day, until ye offer the sacrifices to your God: it is a perpetual statute throughout your generations in all your dwellings.

15 And ye shall number to yourselves FROM THE DAY AFTER THE SABBATH, from the day on which ye shall offer the sheaf of the heave-offering, SEVEN FULL WEEKS: 16 until the morrow after the LAST WEEK ye shall number fifty days, and shall bring a new meat-offering to the Lord.

See how changing SEVEN SABBATHS in the Hebrew to SEVEN FULL WEEKS in the Septuagint removes the need to count seven full weekly Sabbaths and instead opens the door to count any day of the week seven times? The Jews who used rabbinical reckoning thus did not have to count seven weekly Sabbaths but seven Tuesdays, Wednesdays, or any other day of the week.

Now, for verse 16 in the Septuagint:

16 until the morrow after the last WEEK ye shall number fifty days, and shall bring a new meat-offering to the Lord.

In the KJV it says "Count fifty days to the day AFTER THE SEVENTH SABBATH" but the Septuagint changes SABBATH to WEEK. This way when the rabbis started the count from the day after Nisan 15 they didn't have to wait for the weekly Sabbath to begin the count to Shavuot, they could begin immediately. If Nisan 16 was a Wednesday then Shavuot would be a Wednesday. Does anyone see a pattern here?

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  • Comments have been moved to chat; please do not continue the discussion here. Before posting a comment below this one, please review the purposes of comments. Comments that do not request clarification or suggest improvements usually belong as an answer, on Biblical Hermeneutics Meta, or in Biblical Hermeneutics Chat. Comments continuing discussion may be removed.
    – curiousdannii
    Commented Dec 17, 2023 at 21:56
  • Saber Truth Tiger You also need to stop arguing in every other answer.
    – curiousdannii
    Commented Dec 17, 2023 at 22:01
  • @curiousdanni It takes two to argue. I am only responding to Revelation Lad's arguments to my answers. Commented Dec 17, 2023 at 22:19

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