Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Unpacking Luther’s Baggage, chapter 3, page 4

I would like to look at a few Bible verses to show how understanding the context sheds light on the true meaning of the verse. The first verse I want to look at is Acts 20:7.

"Now on the first [day] of the week, when the disciples came together to
break bread, Paul, ready to depart the next day, spoke to them and
continued his message until midnight." (NKJ

This verse, as you might recall, sets the stage for the famous “downfall” of Eutychus!  But I want to look at the word in brackets.  The word “day” is in brackets, because it is not in the original Greek. Let’s check the verse out in the Greek using the Blue Letter Bible (

Notice the Greek word for “of the week” is sabbaton, which is plural for sabbaths. So “day” is not there and “week” is not right either. Let’s look at the context.  In the previous verse, Paul mentions that they... 
“sailed away from Philippi after the Days of Unleavened Bread, and
in five days joined them at Troas, where we stayed seven days. “

The Feast of Unleavened Bread occurs the day after Passover and lasts for a week. During this period of 7 days, the Feast of First Fruits occurs on the day after the Saturday Sabbath.  Acts 20:7 takes place after the Spring Festivals have passed (Passover, Unleavened Bread, First Fruits). The next event on the calendar is the Festival of Shavuot, or the Feast of Weeks, which occurs as a singular break in the long hot summer before the Fall Fasts and Festivals begin.  In Leviticus 23, God says to count off 50 days from First Fruits until the Feast of Weeks. This period of 50 days includes 7 Sabbaths. The counting of this time is known as the counting of the Omer, which is a reference to the measure of grain that is offered to the Lord at the festival. Each day provides an opportunity for reflection and mounting anticipation as the food crops ripen. Because counting 50 days can get rather tedious, the Jews counted the Sabbaths as an easier way to mark the time. The first Sabbath after First Fruits is therefore called the First of the Sabbaths. This is what Acts 20:7 is talking about. If Paul spoke into the night after the Sabbath day ended, then it was indeed Sunday, but the day was not observed as we think of it today. Paul maintained his observance of the Biblical calendar and it would be many years before the Gentile Church marginalized this system and created their own.

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