The word, Sabbatismos occurs in the Greek NT only once.
Strongest Strong's defines it as Sabbath rest; Sabbath observance.
Thayer's/Strong's defines it as a Sabbath keeping. Various English translations render this a special rest, a day of rest, a Sabbath rest. Young's Literal Translation renders it a Sabbatic rest.

What basis do we have for defining this word, Sabbatismos in Hebrews 4:9?
Or, more accuratel,y what basis do we have for determining the meaning it was intended to convey. For example:

-Is there a way of tracing the scholars' steps in determining the meaning of this Greek word?
-Is this word used in the Septuagint?
-Do we have insight from other Greek writings that contribute to understanding its meaning?
-How do the grammatical elements of this particular form play into our understanding?
-Do any other traditions/languages play into how scholars understand this Greek word?
-What is the etymology of the Greek word?

  • 2
    Hey Dan, I want to know what defines this word since it is a word only occurring once in the Greek NT. I do not seek to justify any interpretation. I only want to gather facts about how to interpret the passage correctly. Like, what are the implications of the Greek ending -ismos? The root of this word is obviously Sabbath. I only included Lamasa's translation to show what work I had done in researching this myself. (I know the Aramaic sheds some light on the Greek, even though the way scholars apply the information may vary). If it confuses or diverts attention you can edit that out. – user2027 Jan 5 '14 at 13:53
  • 1
    @ Dan, I edited out the information about the Aramaic myself as it was obviously distracting. If there are other ways you see I can make it more clear let me know. – user2027 Jan 5 '14 at 17:13
  • 1
    Correct. I want to know what process the scholars use/used to ascribe meaning to or derive meaning from this word. – user2027 Jan 5 '14 at 21:23
  • 1
    OK, so you are not asking how to translate it into English, but rather how it came to be transliterated from a Semitic language into Greek and then used in a specific way in this context? – Dan Jan 5 '14 at 21:29
  • 1
    PS I'm not asking these questions to heckle you or to be annoying. I'm genuinely trying to figure out what you're looking for because I'm interested in giving an answer. – Dan Jan 5 '14 at 23:25

Good question! The Greek ending -σμος makes a noun out of a verb. The verb "σαββατιζω", as used by Plutarch and Justin Martyr about keeping the sabbath, therefore becomes "the result of keeping the sabbath". In a similar way, "inflate", the act of increasing the size of something, becomes "inflation", the result of increasing the size of something.

It seems that Heb 4:9 contains the only known use of "sabbatismos" in Greek literature from that era. Thus it must partially be defined by its context. In context,

Heb. 4:8 For if Joshua had given them rest, then He would not afterward have spoken of another day.
Heb. 4:9 There remains therefore a rest for the people of God.
Heb. 4:10 For he who has entered His rest has himself also ceased from his works as God did from His.

Thus "sabbatismos" is related to the other word for "rest" in this passage, "katapausis", and these words are in direct apposition to each other. Is is therefore safe to assume that "sabbatismos" means "sabbath rest" or "rest as during the sabbath". This makes sense in the context, as v4 indicates that the rest is at least related to resting on the sabbath.


Hermeneutics is not only about the deductive approach to interpreting Scripture (for example, grammar and syntax) but also the inductive approach, which is to infer the generalization from several pieces of information -- sort of connecting the dots. In other words, hermeneutics is both an art (subjective) and science (objective).

The concept of the Sabbath rest described in the Book of Hebrews is one such case where the answer is conceptual, not grammatical. Essentially, David wrote Psalm 95, which was then quoted in Hebrews 4:7. The idea is that David was already in the Promised Land when he had written Psalm 95, so when he admonishes his readers not to have hardened hearts so as to enter the Promised Land, he was not referring to the literal Promised Land (because his readers like him were already there). He was instead referring to the invisible Promised Land, which is the righteousness of the Lord that will result in life after death. David must have been referring to this invisible Promised Land because he was already in the visible Promised Land, which was the real estate conquered by Joshua centuries before David (which is the whole point of Heb 4:8).

So in the literal (visible) sense, observing the Sabbath in the Hebrew Bible was not so much an act of obedience (working!) so much as an act of receiving the rest (not working!), which is the salvation of the Lord. In other words, the geographical Promised Land was the visible salvation of the Lord, which was received by not working (God provided the power)... but in Psalm 95 King David now mentions an invisible Sabbath rest as well, which brings us to address the conceptual versus the grammatical.

For example, Jesus was accused of working on the Sabbath, yet he indicated the concept that he was in fact in the process of creating rest because the Father was "working" through him (Jn 5:16-18). That is, Jesus would provide the invisible eternal life, which would be the Sabbath "rest" of God.

Please note that there was scarce mention of the words "eternal life" in the Hebrew Bible (Dan 12:2 is one explicit exception), but New Testament writers indicate that the theme was evident and was understood in the Hebrew Bible (Tit 1:1-3). In other words, the "rest" of God (whether literal or otherwise) is something you receive by not working. In the Hebrew Bible, you received the "rest" of God (visible) by not working in the geographical Promised Land (place of rest) on specifically designated days; if you disobeyed, then you spurned both the visible rest and the invisible rest that King David mentions as also existing in the equation. This invisible rest was the righteousness of God (received by faith like the Abrahamic Covenant), which is also the basis of the New Covenant, where eternal life finally comes to bear through Jesus Christ -- that is, the "work" which his Father wrought through him. Therefore today you receive the "rest" of God (invisible) by not working -- thus the mention of "dead works" by those who insisted on working as the basis of their faith, which is contrary to this invisible Sabbath "rest" (Heb 6:1 and Heb 9:14).


God rested on the physical day and sanctified it, separating it for a special purpose is clear in the commandment.

Heb. 4:9 There remains therefore a rest for the people of God. Heb. 4:10 For he who has entered His rest has himself also ceased from his works as God did from His.

The expression "as God did from His" can only mean "in imitation of God" Who did not receive any promised land, neither will He receive the salvation by faith simply because He is God and not man. The text is then undoubtedly affirming the observance of the day as a Christian practice (Sabbatismos, σαββατισμὸς). This is so regardless of the author's parallelism with the more abstract rest (katapausis,κατάπαυσις) of salvation, faith or land spoken of in previous verses. Strong's Number G2663 matches the Greek κατάπαυσις (katapausis) Strong's Number G4520 matches the Greek σαββατισμός (sabbatismos),


The definition of Σαββατισμός (σαββατισμός) can be derived by analogy by analyzing other Greek nouns with the same ending, -σμος. First, Σαββατισμός is related to the verb Σαββατίζω, which means “to keep the Sabbath.”1 Therefore, we look for other Greek verbs ending in -ζω that are related to a noun ending in -σμος.

For example:

  • ἀποκεφαλίζω = to behead ► ἀποκεφαλισμός = beheading
  • ἀφανίζω = to destroy ► ἀφανισμός = destruction
  • βαλλίζω = to dance, jump about ► βαλλισμός = dancing, jumping about
  • βαπτίζω = to baptize, immerse ► βαπτισμός = baptism, immersion
  • γαργαλίζω = to tickle ► γαργαλισμός = tickling
  • γαργαρίζω = to gargle ► γαργαρισμός = gargling
  • δανείζω = to lend money ► δανεισμός = money-lending
  • διαμελίζω = to dismember ► διαμελισμός = dismemberment
  • ἐκτοπίζω = to migrate ► ἐκτοπισμός = migration
  • ἐναγίζω = to οffer (a sacrifice) to the dead ► ἐναγισμός = offering (a sacrifice) to the dead
  • θερίζω = to mow, reap ► θερισμός = mowing, reaping
  • καθαρίζω = to cleanse, purify ► καθαρισμός = cleansing, purifying
  • καταποντίζω = to drown ► καταποντισμός = drowning
  • λαχανίζω = to be at grass (a horse) ► λαχανισμός = being at grass (a horse)
  • λυγίζω = to bend, twist ► λυγισμός = bending, twisting
  • μακαρίζω = to bless, pronounce happy ► μακαρισμός = blessing, pronouncing happy
  • μυρίζω = to anoint ► μυρισμός = anointing
  • νοσφίζω = to rob, steal ► νοσφισμός = robbing, stealing
  • οἰκτίζω = to lament ► οἰκτισμός = lamentation
  • ὁρίζω = to mark out by boundaries ► ὁρισμός = marking out by boundaries
  • πανηγυρίζω = to celebrate a πανήγυρις ► πανηγυρισμός = celebration of a πανήγυρις
  • πορίζω = provide ► πορισμός = providing
  • ῥαβδίζω = to thresh ► ῥαβδισμός = threshing
  • ῥαντίζω = to sprinkle ► ῥαντισμός = sprinkling
  • σκοτίζω = to make dark, darken ► σκοτισμός = darkening
  • στολίζω = to equip ► στολισμός = equipping
  • τειχίζω = to build a wall ► τειχισμός = wall-building
  • τραχηλίζω = to seize by the neck, scrag ► τραχηλισμός = seizing by the neck, scragging
  • φενακίζω = to cheat ► φενακισμός = cheating
  • φωτίζω = to illuminate ► φωτισμός = illumination
  • χαιρετίζω = to greet, visit ► χαιρετισμός = greeting, visit
  • χρονίζω = to tarry ► χρονισμός = tarrying
  • ψελλίζω = to stammer ► ψελλισμός = stammering
  • ψιθυρίζω = to whisper ► ψιθυρισμός = whispering
  • ὠθίζω = to push, thrust ► ὠθισμός = pushing, thrusting

All words are searchable using the LSJ lexicon via the Perseus website.

It is evident that the verb ending in -ζω is converted into a noun by simply replacing the ending -ζω with -σμός. Hence, the verb βαπτίζω, meaning “to baptize, immerse,” becomes the noun βαπτισμός, meaning “baptism, immersion” (i.e., “baptizing, immersing”). Likewise, the verb Σαββατίζω, meaning “to keep the Sabbath,” becomes the noun Σαββατισμός, meaning “keeping the Sabbath.”

The same phenomenon also occurs with verbs ending in -άζω rather than -ίζω; rather than ending in -ισμός, the corresponding noun ends in -ασμός. One important verb is ἑορτάζω, meaning “to keep a feast, keep a festival.”2 The reason this is important is because the Jews considered the Sabbath a feast.3

In his commentary on Heb. 4:9, Franz Delitzsch wrote,4

enter image description here

in particular,

...a σαββατισμός (from σαββατίζειν, to keep a Sabbath, as ἑορτασμός is from ἑορτάζειν, [to keep a feast]), this is, a Sabbath-keeping...


Delitzsch, Franz. Commentar zum Briefe an die Hebräer. Leipzig: Dörffling, 1857.

Liddell, Henry George; Scott, Robert; et al. A Greek-English Lexicon. 9th ed. Oxford: Clarendon, 1940.


1 p. 1579
2 p. 601
3 Philo. The Special Laws, II. Ch. XV, §56: : «...ἄγεται δευτέρα ἡ διʼ ἓξ ἡμερῶν ἱερὰ ἑβδόμη»—“a second [feast] is observed after six days, the holy seventh day.”
4 p. 196


Disclaimer: Because the question asks about "academic methodology", I am simply writing how I went through and interpreted this passage, applying some of those exegetical standards. Obviously, people can use the same methods to come to different conclusions - but this shows how I came to my own.

1. Question Restatement

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.
Note: The quickest / most elegant answer to this, is to observe that "Sabbath [rest]" is singular, and NOT plural. It does not say, "there remains [multiple] Sabbath [rests]", but rather, "their remains [A] Sabbath [rest]."

It is often argued, (e.g, Sabbatismos: Does Hebrews 4:9 Teach Rest on the Sabbath?) that this passage serves as a "proof-text" that Christians must observe the Mosaic Commandment for a Sabbath Rest. Two main proofs are cited for this:

  1. Professor Andrew T. Lincoln states, “The use of sabbatismos elsewhere in extant Greek literature gives an indication of its more exact shade of meaning. It is used in Plutarch, De Superstitione 3 (Moralia 166A) of Sabbath observance. [... and other examples] ...
    Falsified: All of those were written well after the Book of Hebrews which was written while the temple was still standing. Even the quote from Plutarch seems erroneous, (See Greek Lexical Semantics, below).

  2. The truth is, the Sabbath is considered as a type. All types are of full force till the thing signified by them takes place. (ibid.)
    Falsified: Following James' judgment in Acts 15:13-31, Christians rejoiced BECAUSE they were freed from those requirements, (like circumcision, which is certainly a "type" of something to come).

2. Quick Answer - Defer to the Author's Own Explanation:

There is no need for theological or linguistic gymnastics when the writer explains themselves.

The only reasonable interpretation is to accept the writer's own explicit explanation that Israel, (even Moses), never actually observed the Sabbath rest as intended by God, (and even Christians still hadn't).

In addition to the academic observations, (see following sections), of language and syntax, the single most important standard is to always defer to a writer's own explanation. A writer's personal explanation supersedes any academic presumptions, in all cases.

Fortunately, the writer of the Book of Hebrews DOES provide their own explanation, explicitly - which also affirms standard linguistic observances.

3. The Context the Author Provided - Even Moses Never Observed the Sabbatismos:

English translations inject the word "rest" into the text of Hebrews 4:9, Interlinear, which is valid - given that the author uses "rest" 11 times within the immediate context alone, (See Hebrews 10-11, "Rest", Interlinear). Whatever Sabbatismos means, in this context, Sabbatismos must be understood in terms of "Rest", a greater "Rest" than even Moses observed.

If the writer was speaking of a "weekly Sabbath rest" as commanded by Moses - they could not - in the same breath - write it was never observed by Israel, let alone Joshua or Moses:

NASB, Hebrews 4:8 - For if Joshua had given them rest, He would not have spoken of another day after that. 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.

Therefore, the writer of the Book of Hebrews was clearly making a distinction between the "Weekly Sabbath" that Moses actually observed, and a "Sabbatismos" that neither Moses, Joshua, nor any in Israel ever entered into.

The immediate context and the entire book are about prophecy:

Readers cannot reasonably dismiss the immediate context, (and the intent of the book) which is plainly speaking in prophetic terms, and how Jesus fulfils messianic prophecy and the necessity to be Christian - in order to observe a Sabbath Rest that will come, for all.

4. Christianity as taught by Jesus and the Apostles:

This writer, Paul, and even Jesus, show that observance of the "Weekly Sabbath" (as required by the Pharisees), and "The Sabbatismos" require mutually exclusive standards. That is, it would be pointless to observe a weekly Sabbath, if the true Sabbath Rest, (The Sabbatismos), is forfeited.

Even in my own life, I have never witnessed, (anywhere I have been in the world), a Rabbinically observed Sabbath where people actually rested from labor. They merely exchange one form of labor for another. In fact, religious Jews usually appear far more excited when the Sabbath is over, (rushing for cigarettes, relieved of Sabbath obligations, exhausted from their preparations, etc.). The "mutually exclusive" part about all of this is the Rabbinic mandate to force all of their requirements as a burden upon others, (an oppression), although they wouldn't even do this to their own animals:

NASB, Luke 13:14-16 - ... “There are six days in which work should be done; so come during them and get healed, and not on the Sabbath day.” 15 But the Lord answered him and said, “You hypocrites, does not each of you on the Sabbath untie his ox or his donkey from the stall and lead him away to water him? 16 And this woman, a daughter of Abraham as she is, whom Satan has bound for eighteen long years, should she not have been released from this bond on the Sabbath day?”

Jesus' rationale makes sense: if people are more favoured than animals, by God, then their rest should be far more fulfilling. If peoples' rest is not more fulfilling than what animals receive, then it is obviously not the rest that God desires to bless people with.

A Christian writer would not, at all, presume to bind Christians under Pharisaic standards and law, (whom Jesus declared a "Synagogue of Satan"). If this writer had been saying "Christians are required to observe the weekly Sabbath", they would have said "how to", otherwise it could only be assumed the writer was advocating Pharisaic requirements (which Jesus condemned) - which creates a contradiction that invalidates the whole of Christian Scripture.

In fact, all judgments about weekly Sabbath and festival observances were expressly prohibited within Christianity. If the writer of the Book of Hebrews were contradicting this, it would have created a huge amount of confusion:

NASB, Colossians 2:16 - Therefore no one is to act as your judge in regard to food or drink or in respect to a festival or a new moon or a Sabbath day—

5. Author's Writing Style:

The writer of Hebrews is very philosophic, consistently writing about "abstractions" and "spiritual" ideas that are only vaguely represented in Human practice, "forms and shadows". If the writer had been affirming weekly Sabbath observance, they would have explained "how to", by writing more practically, and less philosophically:

NASB, Hebrews 8:5 - who serve a copy and shadow of the heavenly things, just as Moses was warned by God when he was about to erect the tabernacle; for, “See,” He says, “that you make all things according to the pattern which was shown you on the mountain.”

The writer of Hebrews never uses the word for "Sabbath", (see Concordance Entries), except for this one very unusual morphological instance. Although, Hebrews 4:4 speaks about God's rest, nowhere does the author write about any practices of observance, by people.

6. The audience of the Book of Hebrews:

The Book of Hebrews was certainly written to Christians, who were at least knowledgeable of Hebrew Scripture as presented by Jesus, John the Baptist, and the Apostles. This likely included Hebrews in the diaspora, Galilee, Samaria, and other communities that had rejected "institutional" forms of Judaism, (like Pharisaism and Sadducean Judaism). The only reasonable explanation that the improvisation of "sabbatismos" might even have been necessary, is if - and only if - injecting a sense of "abstractness" would help clarify what they were trying to say.

At that time, Sabbath observance requirements were not at all "uniform" - certainly not within the Galilee. Sabbath observance was a point of huge contention within Judaism (let alone Christianity), and the author would have certainly known this. If they were going as far to tell Christians that a weekly Sabbath must be observed, they would have certainly said "how to".

7. Etymology and Morphology:

Etymologically, "Sabbatismos" originates from the Hebrew word for "seven":

Exodus 16:26, NASB - Six days you shall gather it, but on the seventh day, the sabbath, [שַׁבָּ֖ת, Shabbat], there will be none.”

Morphologically, "-ισμὸς" implies an abstraction:

Because the writer appended "-ισμὸς" as the suffix, Greek readers, at the time the book of Hebrews was written, would have reasonably inferred that the author was speaking of the "sabbath" in an abstract, philosophical, or spiritual sense.

Wikipedia, "-ism" - 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.

The morphology of "σαββατισμὸς" indicates that "σάββατον" is not being conformed to fulfill a grammatical requirement, (plurality, part of speech, etc.), but rather the morphology indicates that the author is "extending" the base meaning of the word, by injecting another sense on top of it. Specifically, the morphology indicates that the author is indicating a more "abstract" sense of how the word is normally interpreted.

8. Hebrew Lexical Semantics:

The "Sabbath" originally referenced God's Rest on the seventh day of creation, (Exodus 20:11). Even Moses' commandment for people to rest, was to be a memorial for people to remember God's own rest:

NASB, Exodus 20:11 - For in six days the Lord made the heavens and the earth, the sea and all that is in them, and rested on the seventh day; therefore the Lord blessed the sabbath day and made it holy.

The "Sabbath", is a Hebrew figure of speech, not a Greek one, (see Σάββατον @ logeion.uchicabo.edu, and variants). As a figure of speech, it's actual meaning is distinct from its literal meaning ("seventh"), but it rather connotes "a period of rest", a reprieve from labor. Most specifically, it implies a release from a burden, (even for cattle; Exodus 20:10) - the burden that labors are subjected to judgment for good or ill, (even God's day of rest was not pronounced "Good").

NASB, Genesis 1:31 - God saw all that He had made, and behold, it was very good. And there was evening and there was morning, the sixth day.
Note: Although God's own work was subjected to judgment, no judgment, for good or ill, was pronounced for the 7th day.

However, throughout Scripture, it is clear that "Sabbath" is a figure of speech for "Rest from Labor". "Sabbath" was not intended to be limited to "seven day periods", evidently because several other days were considered Sabbaths, not just "Saturdays". (See Special Shabbat, Wikipedia.) That is, it isn't the superstition that the "number seven" makes a day holy, but it is God's declarations that determine what is to be holy, or not. It's not a function of math or superstition.

9. Greek Lexical Semantics:

Sabbath, is a Hebrew figure of speech, not a Greek one, (see Σάββατον @ logeion.uchicabo.edu, and variants).

Sabbatismos is not a word found in Greek texts until well after the Book of Hebrews was written substantiating this was a "new" and exclusively Christian idea, (apparently not even used by Josephus). The only exception to this appears to be a manuscript error in Plutarch, De Superstitione 3, in Moralia 2. 166a. Did Plutarch Use the Term Sabbatismos in Plutarch, De Superstitione 3, in Moralia 2. 166a

If any prior or current instance is found, then the validity of this answer is not "strong" and unsound, (Wikipedia, Logic: Soundness).
Note: In fact, I have had to update this because of a [probably] invalid claim that Plutarch used this term, (see the opposing answer).

  • Thanks for this elika. Is Step #1 even necessary, when we know that the target audience for the letter were all "Hebrews", rather than Greeks? Seems odd to devote a whole step to people the letter wasn't sent to. – Steve Taylor May 24 '18 at 7:17
  • @SteveTaylor - Thank you for the helpful comment, and I edited - a lot - but with the same conclusions. However, I disagree with you a little because I do not believe all "Hebrews" were actually religiously educated institutional "Jews" - but rather uneducated. Those "Hebrews" probably had rejected the Pharisaic requirements for the Sabbath long before, and would have certainly interpreted it in view of Christian eschatology rather than weekly Sabbath requirements, (which they likely didn't know about, let alone even agree on). – elika kohen May 24 '18 at 23:53

In Elika's Question Restatement above, he chooses to use the doctrine aspect of ismos. He may be choosing that because the result fits his worldview and thus feels right or because Sabbatismos appears only once and thus seems like a coined term thus doctrinal.

Sabbatismos, however appears in other writings, Christian and non-Christian.
- Plutarch, De Superstitione 3, in Moralia 2. 166a
- Justin (the Martyr), Dialog with Trypho 23.3
- Epiphanius, The Panarion of Epiphanius of Salamis 30.2.2
- Martyrium Petri et Pauli 1
- Apostolic Constitution 2.36.2
- Origen, Celsus 5.59
- Origen, Commentarii in Evangelium Joannis 2.33.198
- Origen, Prayer 27.16
- Origen, Selecta in Exodum 12.289.7
- Origen, Excerpta in Psalmos 17.144.31

One of the ways to establish the meaning of a word is to look at the context of other uses of it in writings from the period. All these other uses of the word have the meaning "a keeping of the Sabbath".

Another way to establish the meaning of a word is to look at its roots. Sabbatismos is a nouned verb. The nouned form never appears in the LXX; the verb never appears in the NT. But the verb appears many times in the LXX and in all cases its meaning is "to keep the Sabbath"

As few references to Sabbatismos as there are, it is difficult to determine when a word came in to usage and left. The Plutarch reference, though, is very early, possibly simultaneous with Hebrews, indicating that it may have been a wide spread word at the time. Therefore Hebrews may not be coining the word.

So all uses of Sabbatismos outside of Hebrews agree with the verb's use in LXX that it refers to a physical observance. The only place where Sabbatismos is "spiritualized" and interpreted as "a Sabbath rest" is in Hebrews. Sabbath has the meaning of rest, especially a rest from work (the work we must do to live). Therefore "a Sabbath rest" can be expanded to "a rest from work rest" or simplified to "a rest rest". Seems concocted.

  • That said, Welcome to Stack Exchange, we are glad you are here. Please consider registering an account to fully take advantage of what this site has to offer. Also, be sure to check out the site tour and read up on how this site is a little different than other sites around the web. – ThaddeusB Dec 7 '15 at 4:55
  • Thank you. I have registered now.Technically speaking a concordance isn't the same as a dictionary, but the difference is small and not important here. How are new words or new meanings for words added to a dictionary? People begin using them that way. How are words added to a concordance? People have used them that way. – Stan Dec 7 '15 at 13:31
  • Actually, the difference is substantial. A lexicon/dictionary seeks to define how a word is used in all contexts. A translator then chooses a word to translate a specific context. A concordance lists only how it was translated, and thus provides no independent information about meaning. Although you are correct, that people often confuse the two, you'll find that around here we are pretty insistent on not treating Strong's as providing independent evidence of word meaning. See this meta post for more information. – ThaddeusB Dec 7 '15 at 15:39
  • I removed the reference to Strong's – Stan Dec 7 '15 at 16:07
  • @stan -. Although I respect a constructive rebuttal, the personal attack is wrongful and unhelpful - as any ad-hominem errors of reasoning. Your argument seems to be that texts dated well after Hebrews somehow prove that sabbatismos was in usage at the time the book of Hebrews was written. This is obviously a plain error in reasoning. The exception is your reference to a manuscript discrepancy in Plutarch. I created another discussion for this: hermeneutics.stackexchange.com/questions/33191/… – elika kohen May 24 '18 at 18:53

Strong's Number G4520 matches the Greek σαββατισμός (sabbatismos), a Unique word not found in the Greek grammar, used nowhere else in the New Testament, it is a transliteration into Greek of the Hebrew sound Sabbath. To me this indicates an effort by the author to convey in the Greek, the Hebrew idea of the observance of the day by Christians as still remaining.

  • Welcome to Biblical Hermeneutics Stack Exchange Rafael, thanks for contributing! Be sure to take our site tour to learn more about us. We're a little different from other sites. – Steve Taylor Dec 8 '16 at 12:55
  • 2
    Consider expanding this answer to make a fuller response to the original question. As this is a hermeneutics site, I'd encourage you to interact somewhat with the source passage when answering. (Heb 4:9) – Steve Taylor Dec 8 '16 at 12:56

Based on the paucity of the information in the BDAG entry that I cite below, I don't think the word is well attested so there may not be much literature dedicated to it. Perhaps the credits in BDAG might help locate someone who can relate the decision process to you.

The word σαββατισμός is from the same root as σάββατον which refers to the "seventh". IE: we can be sure that it is not speaking of a "Sunday sabbath" because Sunday is the first day of the week. Some of the sabbaths of the Jews celebrate 7 years instead of days. So that's the general idea. But the structure of this word is different from σάββατον and seems to refer to "the observance of a period of rest based on the traditional sabbath observances":

σαββατισμός, οῦ, ὁ (σαββατίζω; Plut., Mor. 166a cj.; Just., D. 23, 3) sabbath rest, sabbath observance fig. Hb 4:9 a special period of rest for God’s people modeled after the traditional sabbath (CBarrett, CHDodd Festschr. ’56, 371f [eschat.]).—S. on κατάπαυσις HWeiss, CBQ 58, ’96, 674–89. M-M. TW.

Arndt, W., Danker, F. W., & Bauer, W. (2000). A Greek-English lexicon of the New Testament and other early Christian literature (3rd ed., p. 909). Chicago: University of Chicago Press.

In other words, he isn't referring to the seventh day but rather to something like that observance.

Some think that the earth is 6000 years old and it is now time for the 1000 year reign of Jesus when God rests from all his works while Jesus brings the nations into a demoralized state to submit to God.

What it doesn't suggest is that the Jewish seventh day observance was to be perpetuated in Christianity. His view is:

  • future
  • present, figuratively

We see both here:

KJV Heb 4:9 There remains, therefore, a Sabbath rest for the people of God, Heb 4:10 because the one who enters God's rest has himself rested from his own actions, just as God did from his. Heb 4:11 Let us, therefore, make every effort to enter that rest, so that no one may fail by following their example of disobedience.


I haven’t read all of the above discussion, so apologies if I repeat. There are good points here, but a whole lot of quite unnecessary confusion. So let me present the situation briefly as I’ve studied it closely for a long time now as a scholar, albeit with much still to learn.

The author of the Epistle to the Hebrews did not coin the Greek noun σαββατισμός. It was in common parlance in his day since it was also employed by Plutarch, his contemporary, prolific pagan author—who therefore could scarcely have read it—in his De Superstitione 2 (166), where his meaning is indisputably physical Sabbath rest. So this is its basic meaning in Heb. 4:9 too. To suggest let alone insist on a purely spiritual or eschatological meaning is to part company with our inspired author!

Likewise, centuries later the Christian writer Epiphanius of Salamis uses it no fewer than four times in his Panarion, not just the once, as repetitiously noted in the literaure: 29:8.5, 30:2.2, 30:32.1 and 46:85.9. And in all but the last, his meaning is also indisputably physical Sabbath rest. Epiphanius’ final usage has a more spiritual sense, which is certainly present as well in the NT book, echoing Jesus’ paramount, salvific promise in Matt. 11:28-30.

Reference to God’s weekly Sabbath is verified contextually in Heb. 4:3-4, which specifies the divine repose into which believers enter, v. 10. And that entrance is not delayed because we enter “today”, v. 3a! It is verified lexically in that the noun σαββατισμός definitely derives from its cognate verb σαββατίζειν, with the specific meaning observe the Sabbath, as in Exod. 16:30, LXX.

To sum up, with regrets that there’s no room here to analyse this lengthy pericope fully, it is utterly inconceivable that the initial recipients of the Epistle to the Hebrews would have understood its author as inviting the wavering among them to enter other than the spiritual rest promised by their Saviour Jesus Christ, then to memorialise it through observing his weekly Sabbath both physically and spiritually. In passing, note that this parallels his Supper, which equally commemorates his sacrifice. If the latter is never deemed legalistic, why should the former?