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This article belongs to a series on the Old Covenant’s Sabbaths or holy days. The apostle Paul noted that those days were a “shadow of things to come”, Colossians 2:17 – that is, they were types and symbols of future things. It is true that literally, many of them pointed to things that happened to the ancient Israelites, but it is clear that they also pictured things and events that were to come. Because of that prophetic symbolism, those days and the rituals that were connected to them, are an interesting object of study.
This present part in the holy days series considers the question, should those Sabbaths, the annual ones and the weekly one, be kept today?
Some people might not know that the Old Covenant had even annual Sabbaths, and not only a weekly day of rest. The annual high days were the seven Days of Unleavened Bread which began with the Passover, and Pentecost, the Day of Trumpets, the Day of Atonement, the seven days of the Feast of Booths and the Assembly on the Eight Day.
There are many different views in regard to what days believers should observe, or whether they should keep any days at all. The most common view appears to be the Catholic one where people are told to keep Sunday (or “the Lord’s day” as some call it) and celebrate the popular “Christian” holidays such as Easter, Christmas and so on. Then there are those who observe a weekly (Saturday) Sabbath, but not the annual high days which are mentioned in Leviticus 23 in the Old Testament. There are even those who in one way or another keep all of the Old Covenant’s Sabbaths, both the annual ones as well as the weekly one. And, some do not keep any days at all.
Is any of those views correct? In other words, what does the Bible really say about these things? This article contains a study on that matter. Part 1 concentrates on the Old Covenant’s annual high days; part 2 takes considers its weekly day of rest.
Should the Old Covenant’s annual Sabbaths or high days, those of Leviticus 23, be kept today? This section considers some of the bible-passages which have been quoted in discussions concerning that question. Even other, related matters will be considered here.
A note regarding this article: It is presumed that the reader has some knowledge regarding the matter of the two covenants, old and new, including the difference between those covenants. For more on that matter, look under the heading “Covenant, covenants” on the page rkw131.htm.
Many bible-versions contain wordings which say that the Israelites were to do this or that, “for ever”. For instance in Exodus 12:17, some translations make it seem that the high-day period which was called the Days of Unleavened Bread, was to be “for ever” (or “everlasting”, “perpetual”, “permanent”, or similar).
Those translations are based on a misunderstanding regarding the old Hebrew word olam.
It can easily be demonstrated from the Hebrew text of the Old Testament that the word olam did not mean “for ever” but simply “a long time”. It is said that it was related to the verb alam which apparently meant something like “to hide from sight”. It might be that the idiomatic meaning of olam was “of long duration, so that the end of the matter cannot be seen” (on the relatively short human point of view). Olam could also refer to past time.
For instance the NAS Hebrew dictionary defines the meaning of olam simply as “long duration, antiquity, futurity”.
Please note that many or perhaps most of the things which are mentioned in Old Testament passages where the Hebrew text has the word olam, have come to their end, a long time ago.
The article rca131.htm has more on the old Hebrew word olam and its meaning and translation.
Exodus 12 records that the ancient Israelites were told to observe certain high days “throughout their generations”.
Were it so that the phrase “throughout their generations” applied even to our day and age, then those who are genetically Israelites would have to bring forth sacrificial animals and have Levite priest burn parts of them on an altar, and they would have to follow many kinds of other rules. For, several Old Testament passages say that the Israelites were to do those things “throughout their generations”.
Here, one must keep in mind that the Old Covenant is one thing, and that the New Covenant is something separate and different. The Old Covenant was “added because of transgressions”, Galatians 3:19, and it was to last “until the Offspring would come to whom the promise had been made”, same verse – that is, until Jesus came. When Jesus made his Sacrifice by giving his life in place of others, it became possible to launch the New Covenant. When that happened, the Old Covenant had served its purpose and was set aside. The article rca081.htm has more on this.
Again, regarding the matter of the two covenants, old and new, look under the heading “Covenant, covenants” on the page rkw131.htm.
Some have expressed the opinion that Acts 2:1 in the New Testament means that the Jewish saints continued to keep the Old Covenant’s high days. They have cited the words “and when the day of Pentecost was come, they were all together in one place”, and felt that to mean that the Old Covenant’s annual high days should be kept even today. In contrast to that, others might note that the event recorded in Acts 2, when the Holy Spirit was given, is connected to the New Covenant.
On the Pentecost-day which is mentioned in Acts 2, a number of disciples received the Holy Spirit. God gave his Spirit to them as a pledge, when he betrothed them to his son Jesus. And indeed, that was connected to the New Covenant, and not the old.
The New Testament does not say what the saints did, in regard to the keeping of the Old Covenant’s days. And so, there are different views in regard to that matter. Unfortunately, both those who are for the keeping of those days as well as those who are against it, tend to read things into the Bible, instead of trying to calmly study what facts one might find in the Scriptures. The following considers some of the New Testament passages that some have quoted in this context.
Some English bible-versions have in Acts 18:21 such wordings as “I must by all means keep this coming feast in Jerusalem”. However, many Greek NT manuscripts [a] do not give any support to that phrase. It appears to be a later, spurious addition. Consequently, numerous translations omit those words. An example:
Acts 18:20 And when they asked him to abide a longer time, he consented not; 21 but taking his leave of them, and saying, I will return again unto you if God will, he set sail from Ephesus. (ASV)
At least 30 other English bible-versions likewise omit the wording “I must by all means keep this coming feast in Jerusalem”. In addition to this, a number of translators have indicated by italics or in other ways, that there is a problem with that wording. Simply, it is considered spurious.
a Regarding manuscripts – there is a cult around the Greek part of the Latin-Greek New Testament which was produced by the Catholic priest Gerrit Gerritszoon (“Erasmus”), the text whose later versions some writers have misleadingly called “textus receptus” or “received text”. The facts are that Gerritszoon’s text had many errors. Apparently, he did not even have all of the NT in Greek but produced certain parts by translating the Catholic Vulgate version’s Latin text into Greek. The article rsa030.htm, which is about king James’ bible, has some notes on the so-called “textus receptus”.
Some have suggested that the phrase “the Fast” in Acts 27:9 might indicate that the saints kept the Old Covenant’s Day of Atonement (which was a day of fasting). How is it with that matter?
Acts 27:7 And sailing slowly during considerable days, and with difficulty having come along the Cnidus, the wind not allowing us further, we sailed under lee of Crete, along Salmone. 8 And sailing by it with difficulty, we came to a certain place called Fair Havens, near to which was Lasea City. 9 And considerable time having past, and the voyage now being dangerous, also because the Fast was now past, Paul urged, 10 saying to them, Men, I perceive that the voyage is going to be with injury and much damage, not only of the cargo and the ship, but also of our lives. (ACV)
As you can see, that passage is not a lesson regarding the keeping of days. It is obvious that the author of the book of Acts used the phrase “because the Fast was now past”, verse 9, merely as a time-reference, like saying “because it was already October”. The point was that sailing over the wider parts of the Mediterranean (with the small ships of those days), was dangerous during winter time.
In short: That passage does not offer any proof concerning what the saints did, or did not do, in regard to the Old Covenant’s annual high days.
A number of translators have put into 1 Corinthians 5:8 such wordings as “let us keep the feast”. Some writers have then quoted some such wording and said that it proves that believers should keep the Old Covenant’s Days of Unleavened Bread. But, that concept is based on misleading translations which in their turn are based on a misunderstanding. Read on:
A part of the background is that in the disciples’ fellowship in Corinth, there were certain offenders, immoral men. The apostle Paul wrote about that matter. Please read all of the scripture-quote below, slowly and with care. When you do that, you may notice that Paul wrote about Jesus as the saints’ “Passover”, and that he in that context through symbol-filled wordings made analogies, and allusions to the time of the first Passover in Egypt when the Lord freed the ancient Israelites from slavery.
It appears that the point Paul was making was that the saints had [because of their spiritual liberation through Jesus] a reason to be in feasting and celebrating mood [just as the ancient Israelites were when they jubilantly left Egypt “with a high hand”]. Also: He likened the offenders in Corinth to “sourdough” (leaven), and he told the saints not to fellowship with them (perhaps an allusion to how the Israelites, when they left Egypt, did not take with them sourdough). He used complicated language with symbols, analogies and allusions, but his point was simply that the saints were to throw offenders out from their fellowship. That was the subject.
1 Corinthians 4:18 But as of me not coming to you, some men are puffed up. 19 But I will come to you shortly, if the Lord should will, and I will know, not the word of those who are puffed up, but the power. 20 For the kingdom of God is not in word, but in power. 21 What do ye want? Should I come to you with a rod, or in love and a spirit of gentleness? 1 Corinthians 5:1 Fornication is actually heard among you, and such fornication that is not even named among the Gentiles, for some man to have his father’s wife. 2 And ye are puffed up and did not rather mourn, so that he who committed this deed might be taken away from the midst of you. 3 For I truly, as being absent in the body but present in the spirit, I have already, as though present, judged the man who committed this thing this way. 4 In the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, when ye are gathered together, and my spirit with the power of our Lord Jesus Christ, 5 to deliver such a man to Satan for destruction of the flesh, so that the spirit might be saved in the day of the Lord Jesus. 6 Your boasting is not good. Know ye not that a little leaven leavens the whole lump? 7 Purge out the old leaven, so that ye may be a new lump, since ye are unleavened. For also Christ our Passover was sacrificed for us. 8 Therefore we should feast, [b] not by old leaven, [c] nor by leaven of evil and wickedness, but by non-leaven of sincerity and truth. 9 I wrote to you in the letter not to associate with fornicators, 10 and not at all with the fornicators of this world, or with greedy men, or with predators, or with idolaters, since then ye would need to go out of the world. 11 But now I write to you not to associate if any man who is called a brother is a fornicator, or a greedy man, or an idolater, or a slanderer, or a drunkard, or a predator, not even to eat with such kind. 12 For what is in me to also judge those outside? Do ye not judge those inside? 13 But God judges those outside. And ye yourselves shall drive out the evil man from you. (ACV, note signs added)
As you can see, the apostle Paul was talking about casting out offenders. That was the subject. Regarding certain details in Paul’s complicated language with symbols, analogies and allusions, see the notes below.
b 1 Corinthians 5:8, “we should feast” = “we should celebrate”. Again, Paul used symbolic expressions which actually included an analogy between how the ancient Israelites had been freed from Egypt, and how the saints were spiritually freed by Jesus who was their “Passover” (1 Corinthians 5:7). The saints had been freed from a “spiritual Egypt” and from the power of a “spiritual Pharaoh” (Satan). (Cf. the middle part of Acts 26:18.) Their liberation had been made possible by Jesus the True Passover who gave his life in place of others. Because of their spiritual liberation, the saints had all reason to in feasting, celebrating mood [just as the ancient Israelites celebrated and rejoiced when they after the Passover jubilantly left Egypt “with a high hand”, Exodus 14:8 and Numbers 33:3]. – See also what is said below, including the notes regarding the relevant words in the Greek text of the above-quoted 1 Corinthians 5:8.
c 1 Corinthians 5:8, “leaven” – some translators have added to this verse the word “bread”, but the Greek text does not have any such word there. Paul was not talking about bread. He was telling the saints in Corinth to cast offenders out from their fellowship, and he likened those offenders to leaven, sourdough. (That might be an allusion to the event when the ancient Israelites left Egypt and did not take with them sourdough, see Exodus 12.)
Again – this is still regarding 1 Corinthians 5:8 – it appears that when Paul wrote to those saints, “let us then celebrate” (Greek hôste heortazômen [d]), he meant that they had a good reason to be joyous, because of their spiritual freedom, their liberation from the power of Satan. And, they were not to have fellowship with “old sourdough” (such as the offender whom Paul mentioned), but instead with [people of] sincerity and truth, same verse.
d In old Greek, the verb heortazô was used even in the meaning “to feast”, “to celebrate”, without any connection with a high day or so. A heortês was “a feast”, “celebration”. The related adjectives heortaios and heortôdês meant “festal”. A heortastês was a reveller who feasted a bit too much.
Some bible-translators have added to verse 8 the word “bread”, but again, the Greek text does not have any such word there. Paul used the Greek noun zumê (“sourdough”) as a reference to offenders whom the saints were to cast out from their fellowship.
The apostle Paul wrote to the saints in Corinth:
1 Corinthians 11:23 For I received of the Lord that which also I delivered unto you, that the Lord Jesus in the night in which he was betrayed took bread; 24 and when he had given thanks, he brake it, and said, This is my body, which is for you: this do in remembrance of me. 25 In like manner also the cup, after supper, saying, This cup is the new covenant in my blood: this do, as often as ye drink it, in remembrance of me. 26 For as often as ye eat this bread, and drink the cup, ye proclaim the Lord’s death till he come. (ASV)
Some writers have caused people to believe that that New Covenant related ceremony was a continuation of the Old Covenant’s annual Passover ritual, but “with new symbols”. Also, they have claimed or insinuated that the saints kept such a Passover ceremony annually, on the day when the Old Covenant’s Passover was kept.
Some of those writers have referred to certain Catholic stories, as “proof” for their claims. But, the stories in question have nothing to do with the saints. They talk about a disagreement within Catholicism, regarding their Easter celebration.
There is no mention or indication, biblical or historical, that the saints, after the New Covenant had been launched, would in some way or form have kept the Old Covenant’s Passover.
The article rca041.htm has more on the New Covenant’s bread and wine ceremony, versus the Old Covenant’s Passover, but here are some shorter notes on that matter.
The New Covenant related ceremony with bread and wine is not called “passover” in the Bible. Jesus is called “Passover”, but that ceremony is not.
The saints’ ceremony with wine and bread was not in remembrance of the Old Covenant with its lamb sacrifice. It was in remembrance of Jesus and his death (see Luke 22:19, 1 Corinthians 11:25 et cetera). Both the wine and the bread pointed to Jesus and his Sacrifice. In short: The ceremony with wine and bread was connected to the New Covenant, and not the old.
As we all know, the Old Covenant’s Passover with its slaughtered lambs was only a symbol and shadow which pointed to Jesus and the Sacrifice which he then made when he gave his life in place of others. The saints’ ceremony with wine and bread pointed to Jesus, and not to the symbol and shadow.
Regarding timings: The Scriptures do not tell us when or how often the saints had that remembrance ceremony with wine and bread. All we have in that regard is the above-quoted 1 Corinthians 11:26, the words “as often as”.
Here, one must keep in mind that the New Covenant does not have any “annual Passover day”. The New Covenant’s one and only Passover day was when Jesus gave his life as a “Lamb of God”. There is no adding to his Sacrifice, and there is no repeating of it, neither weekly nor annually. It was once and for all.
There are many kinds of interpretations of Colossians 2:16–17, in connection with the question regarding the keeping of days. Some have tried to use those verses for justifying the keeping of all kinds of days, even idol-related ones. Some others have tried to use that passage for proving that the saints kept the Old Covenant’s high days.
That passage will not be discussed here. The article roa071.htm considers those verses and their context.
Many churches have “replaced” old-covenantal high days such as Passover and Pentecost, with other days and observances such as Lent and Easter with its eggs and feathers and so on, and Valpurgis day and Whitsunday. But, believers must not be involved in idolatry. Anyone who wants to know the facts, can quite easily find out more about the idol-worship origins and the actual meaning and symbolism of the so-called “popular Christian holidays”.
In many churches, people are led to keep Sunday, as a “replacement” for the Old Covenant’s weekly day of rest (which was from sunset on Friday to sunset on Saturday, in our reckoning). This with Sunday is discussed later in this article.
One must keep in mind that the Old Covenant was an indivisible package. One could not choose which of its parts one wanted to keep, according to one’s own desires. Those who were under that covenant, had to keep all of its rules, in full.
In some churches, people keep the Old Covenant’s high days, or actually, some kind of modified copies of them. But, the way they keep them, would have been a serious offence against the rules of that covenant.
For the first, the instruction was that those days were to be observed “in the place where the Lord places his name”. This was always one single place – more exactly, the place where the sanctuary stood (first the portable sanctuary or “tabernacle”, and later the temple in Jerusalem). – In order to do away with this fact, some preachers have claimed that they “represent God” and can thus “decide where God places his name”. But, let us face the facts: God does not have any mortal “deputies” or “special representatives” here on Earth, today. (Regarding the matter of “spiritual authority” – the question, who can speak for God? – see the article rsa061.htm.)
Secondly, the Old Covenant stipulated that a number of burnt offerings and other rituals were to be performed on its high days. There was only one place to do that: The sanctuary – first the portable one, the “tabernacle”, and later the temple in Jerusalem. Anything else would have been a great offence. And, failing to perform those sacrifices and other rituals, would also have been a serious offence.
And no, the New Covenant did not “spiritualise” those burnt offerings and other rituals into “money given to the preacher”, as some have caused people to believe. The Old Covenant’s sacrifices were symbols. They did not point to money or churches or preachers. They pointed to Jesus and the Sacrifice which he then came to make.
And again, when Jesus made his Sacrifice by giving his life in place of others, that made it possible to launch the New Covenant. When that happened, the Old Covenant with its rituals had served its purpose and was set aside. For more on this, see the article rca081.htm.
Zechariah 14:16 talks about “all nations” going to Jerusalem, to keep the Feast of Booths. And, it appears to refer to some still future time.
Some commentators have tried to solve the obvious problem with that passage (in regard to the matter of the two covenants, old and new), by saying that the feast keeping which it mentions is “spiritual” and not literal. Some others have said such things as “the life of a good Christian is a constant feast of tabernacles” – whatever that could mean – and, there are even other “explanations”.
If we take it that Zechariah 14:16–19 is a genuine passage and not in any part a changed wording or a later addition, we must note that it is not clear what it means and refers to. But, let us keep in mind the clear things. The high days which are mentioned in Leviticus 23, belonged to the Old Covenant, a covenant which came to its end when Jesus the prophesied Offspring of Abraham came and then made his Sacrifice. (The article rca081.htm has more on this.) Also: Zechariah 14:16 mentions “all nations”. The Old Covenant with its rules was not for “all nations”; it was only between the Lord and the ancient Israelites. The other nations did not have any covenant with him. So, what does that passage in the book of Zechariah really mean and refer to?
It could eventually be that it refers to some literal festival in the future, one that will be similar to the Old Covenant’s Feast of Booths. But, as for the Old Covenant with its rules – it came to its end and is a thing of the past. For more on the matter of the two covenants, old and new, look under the heading “Covenant, covenants” on the page rkw131.htm.
The Old Covenant’s annual high days had a rich symbolic meaning and a deep prophetic message, a message which to a large part pointed to the future, to Jesus and his Sacrifice and the Holy Spirit and the New Covenant. Because of this, those days and the rituals that were connected to them, are an interesting object of study. (Regarding those days and their symbolism, look under the heading “High days” on the page rkw281.htm.)
Does the New Testament command the keeping of those days? Those who are able to study the NT with open eyes and without prejudice, will find that it does not speak for the keeping of the Old Covenant’s high days or its other rituals.
The first part of this article considered whether the Old Covenant’s annual high days should be kept today. This second part takes a closer look at the question, what about its weekly day of rest, the Sabbath?
A note: The old Hebrew noun shabbath meant “rest”. The related verb shabath meant “to rest”.
The book of Genesis records that the Lord rested on the seventh day. In that way, he “sanctified” that day – that is, he set it apart, made it special, different or separate. It is obvious that his act of resting must have symbolised something, perhaps some event or matter of the future. But, the Bible does not make it clear what the Lord’s act of resting symbolised. In contrast to that, the Scriptures do tell us what the symbolism of the Israelites’ weekly day of rest was. Read on.
In the Old Testament record, there is no mention of people being told to keep a day of rest, before the days of the Exodus when the Lord freed the Israelites from slavery in Egypt (and gave them “rest”, after their hard toil in Egypt). As a reminder of this, he told them to keep a weekly day of rest. We read:
Deuteronomy 5:15 ‘And you shall remember that you were a slave in the land of Egypt, and the Lord your God brought you out of there by a mighty hand and by an outstretched arm; therefore the Lord your God commanded you to observe the sabbath day. (NASB77, highlighting added)
As you can see, the reason why the Israelites were told to keep a weekly day of rest, was that it was to be for them a reminder of the fact that the Lord had in a miraculous way freed them from slavery in Egypt [and given them rest].
More: The Lord was taking them to the Promised Land. In several bible-passages, that land is called “rest”. (Example: See the use of that word in Deuteronomy 12:9, in some of the more literal translations, for instance the NKJV. The same applies also to Psalms 95:7–11 and a number of verses in Hebrews 3 and 4; those passages are considered later in this article.)
Some Sabbatarian writers have quoted Exodus 31:13 and claimed that the weekly day of rest which they keep, is a “sign” which shows who are God’s people, in our day. Is that correct? Let us consider this matter.
As we all know, the Old Covenant’s “sign” was the circumcision of males. In contrast to that, the weekly day of rest was something that reminded the ancient Israelites that the Lord had freed them from slavery in Egypt (and given them rest); see what was said concerning Deuteronomy 5:15, above.
Having noted this, let us then consider the meaning of Exodus 31:13.
Exodus 31:13 “Tell the Israelites: You must observe My Sabbaths, for it is a sign between Me and you throughout your generations, so that you will know that I am the Lord who sets you apart. (HCSB, highlighting added)
“So that you will know that I am the Lord who sets you apart” – many translations have the latinism “sanctifies”, copied from the Catholic Vulgate version, but the above-quoted HCSB makes the matter clearer by its wording “sets apart”. Clarification: When the Lord took the Israelites out from Egypt, he made them his own people and in that way set them apart, separated them from the other nations.
Please note that those people were not set apart (“sanctified”) by keeping a day. It was the Lord who set them apart. The day of rest was only a token which reminded the Israelites of what the Lord had done for them.
Again, the Old Covenant’s “sign” was the circumcision of males. Even the New Covenant has a “sign”, a sign which shows who are God’s people: The “circumcision of the heart”, that is, the receiving of the Holy Spirit. The article rca071.htm has some notes on this.
The article rxa101.htm has more on Hebrews 4:9 and its context and some related passages, but here are some notes on that matter.
Those who study Hebrews 3 and 4 more closely, in some of the more literal translations, can see that verses 15 and 18 in chapter 3 and verses 1, 3, 5, 8, 9 and 11 in chapter 4 refer to a place of rest – a Promised Land – and not a day of rest. The apostle Paul was warning the Jewish saints regarding a certain matter. For that purpose, he quoted parts of this passage in the book of Psalms:
Psalms 95:7 […] Today if you will hear His voice, 8 harden not your heart, as in the day of strife, as in the day of testing in the wilderness; 9 when your fathers tempted Me, tested Me, and saw My work. 10 For forty years I was grieved with this generation, and said, It is a people who go astray in their hearts, and they have not known My ways; 11 to whom I swore in My wrath that they should not enter into My rest. (MKJV, highlighting added)
The “rest” which Psalms 95:11 refers to, and which Paul mentioned, Hebrews 3 and 4, was a place – a promised land. – Those passages have a connection with an event in the days of Moses, recorded in Numbers 13–14. Here is a short summary of what happened back then:
After the Exodus, when the ancient Israelites were about to enter the Promised Land, Moses sent twelve men into that land as spies. When those men returned, ten of them gave a bad, discouraging report. This caused the Israelites to turn their backs on that land. They rejected the Promised Land, and they rejected even the Lord who was about to take them there. They said, “Let us select a leader and return to Egypt” (Numbers 14:4, NKJV). Through this, they broke the covenant which they had just made with the Lord. The Lord was greatly angered by this. The end result was that those Israelites who were of adult age at that time, were never allowed to enter the land of promise. That is what Psalms 95:11 and Hebrews 3:11 and 18 and 4:5 refer to.
Later, those people changed their mind, but then it was too late. The whole nation had to stay in the Arabian desert, until the provokers had died. See Psalms 95:11, “I swore in my wrath that they should not enter into my rest”, and Hebrews 3:17 which notes that their “bodies fell in the desert”. Only their children were taken to the Promised Land, forty years later.
The apostle Paul wrote that letter (“Hebrews”) to some Jewish saints. He cited parts of Psalms 95:7–11, and explained that that passage could be seen as a warning to those saints, concerning their own situation. He urged them to be wiser than their ancestors had been. In other words: Paul urged those saints not to turn their backs on their rest and inheritance – the heavenly Promised Land where the Lord Jesus was about to take them. The article rxa101.htm has more on this, including a thorough explanation of Hebrews 4:9 and its context.
Even that matter is discussed in the article rxa101.htm.
Here, it can be good to know that the word “decalogue” is derived from the old Greek phrase tous deka logous which means “the ten words”. The Greek text of the Septuagint version (LXX) has that phrase in Exodus 34:28.
The Hebrew text of that verse talks about “the words of the covenant, the ten words”. The actual “ten words” are recorded in Exodus 20, but it is in Exodus 34:28 and Deuteronomy 4:13 and 10:4 that they are given a “name”. Here is the first of those three passages, as the 1917 Jewish Publication Society translation has it:
Exodus 34:28 And he was there with the Lord forty days and forty nights; he did neither eat bread, nor drink water. And he wrote upon the tables the words of the covenant, the ten words. (JPS1917, highlighting added)
Deuteronomy 4:13 and 10:4 contain a shorter form, “the ten words” (JPS1917).
The highlighted phrases above are correct translations of the Hebrew text. (The English wording “the ten commandments” which came into use in Catholic times in the Middle Ages, is in fact a mistranslation.)
Here, one must keep in mind that those “words of the covenant, the ten words” were a part of and belonged to the covenant which was made by Mount Sinai. The article rca051.htm contains a more detailed study on the matter of the Decalogue.
Important: The fact that the Old Covenant came to its end, did not in any way mean that all moral principles would have become void. Those who have read all of the Bible with care, may have noticed that a much better manner of life was expected of the saints who were under the New Covenant, than was demanded of the Israelites when they were under the Old Covenant. Jesus and his apostles taught that the disciples were to live just, righteous lives. But, new-covenantal righteousness is not defined by the rules of the Old Covenant. The article rga082.htm has more on the matter of righteousness, including what new-covenantal righteousness is and consists of.
Some may have read the words “the Son of man is lord even of the Sabbath”. A number of bible-versions have that phrase in Matthew 12:8 and Luke 6:5 and in this passage:
Mark 2:23 And it came to pass, that he was passing through the grain fields on the Sabbath day, and his disciples began to make a path while plucking the ears. 24 And the Pharisees said to him, Look, why are they doing what is not permitted on the Sabbath day? […] 27 And he said to them, The Sabbath came into being for sake of man, and not man for sake of the Sabbath. 28 So then the Son of man is lord even of the Sabbath. (ACV)
Some might claim that Jesus by those words “did away” with the Old Covenant’s weekly day of rest. Some others might claim them to mean the very opposite. So, what did Jesus really mean?
Mark 2:27–28 does not state that Jesus “did away” with anything, at that time. But later, when Jesus made his Sacrifice by giving his life in place of others, it became possible to launch the New Covenant. When that happened, the Old Covenant had served its purpose and came to its end. For more on this, see for instance the article rca081.htm; look also under the heading “Covenant, covenants” on the page rkw131.htm.
Some might say, concerning Mark 2:28, “Well, Jesus is not a lord over a day that does not exist.” But, let us not forget that Jesus said those things at a time when the Old Covenant was still in effect. Some two years later, Jesus made his Sacrifice. That opened the way for the New Covenant, and the Old Covenant came to its end.
Summary of this point: If one considers Mark 2:28 and its context in more depth, one will realise that it does not say anything about the Old Covenant’s weekly day of rest, in connection with the New Covenant.
An example: Mark 1:21 records that Jesus taught on the Sabbath, in a synagogue. Does that “prove” something, in regard to the “Sabbath question?” No. For the first, at that time the Old Covenant was still in effect. Secondly, we know that for instance the apostle Paul taught on all days of the week and not only on the seventh one. Let us assume that it was the same with Jesus.
There is an [originally Catholic] claim that people should keep a “rest day” on Sunday, in place of the Old Covenant’s day of rest which was from sunset on Friday to sunset on Saturday. Is that claim correct?
The facts are simple: Those who keep Sunday as a “holy day”, are merely following the teachings and demands of the Catholic Church. Its de facto founder, the Roman emperor Constantine “the great”, remained to his death a servant of the sun-god Mithras. It was Constantine and his Mithras-worshipping religion that introduced Sunday into “Christianity”. Sun-day, Dies Solis, is the day of the lord Mithras the sun-god, ‘Sol Mithras Deus Invictus’.
In some churches, people keep a copy of the Old Covenant’s weekly day of rest, and observe the time from Friday evening to Saturday evening as “holy”.
Really how is it with that matter – is that something that is commanded, in connection with the New Covenant? Many Sabbath-keepers think that they know the answer to that question, but most of them have never checked things in more depth. They have been caused to read things into the Bible, instead of carefully studying what the Scriptures actually say.
Here, one must keep in mind that the Decalogue – “the words of the covenant, the ten words” – was a part of the Old Covenant. The article rca051.htm contains a study on the Decalogue. For more on the matter of the two covenants, old and new, look under the heading “Covenant, covenants” on the page rkw131.htm.
Some might feel that Isaiah 66:23, which appears to refer to a still future time, is “indicative of future Sabbath-keeping in connection with the New Covenant”. But, consider these translations:
Isaiah 66:23 “All humanity will come to worship me from week to week and from month to month. (NLT04)
Isaiah 66:23 From one month to the next and from one week to the next all people will come to worship me,” declares the Lord. (GWV)
“Week after week” and “month after month”. And, that is a matter of worshipping the Lord and not a day. (The article raa041.htm has some notes on the matter of “worship”, including the concept “going to church”.)
In short: Isaiah 66:23 does not “prove” anything in this connection, this way or that.
(Some might say, “What about Isaiah 58:13?” But, that passage, Isaiah 58:1–14, is not about the weekly day of rest. It refers to the Day of Atonement which was one of the Old Covenant’s annual high days.)
The New Covenant related instructions which are recorded in the New Testament, do not include any command to keep a day or days.
(Some might say, “What about Hebrews 10:25?” The article raa041.htm has some notes on that passage and its translation and meaning.)
Some have suggested that the New Covenant “presupposes” or “automatically includes” the rules of the Old Covenant, or some part of them. But, that concept is taken out of the thin air. It does not have any scriptural basis.
A note: Apparently, some people have wanted to have a “law text” for the New Covenant. And, when they have noticed that the New Testament does not contain such a thing, they have turned to the Old Testament which contains the rules of the Old Covenant. They have then taken some of those rules, and produced out of them a “law” for the New Covenant.
Now, the New Covenant does have a “writing” which in a way corresponds to the Old Covenant’s writing on the tablets of stone. But, there is a great difference between those things. The New Covenant is written,
“not with ink but with the Spirit of the living God, not on tablets of stone but on tablets of human hearts” (2 Corinthians 3:3, NRSV).
In other words: The Holy Spirit is the New Covenant’s “writing”. Through his Spirit, God himself took his dwelling in the saints, and guided them in the right ways.
The in the New Testament recorded instructions which are related to the New Covenant, do not include any command to keep a day or days. This means that those who keep religious high days of some kind, keep days which the Bible gives no instructions about, as far as the New Testament and the New Covenant are concerned.
Galatians 3 shows that the Old Covenant was a temporary arrangement which in due time came to its end. Its rules were not “moved over” to the New Covenant. The New Covenant is indeed something new, and not a “continuation” or “modification” of the Old Covenant. The articles rca081.htm respectively rca091.htm have more on that matter.
Here, it is good to keep in mind that the Old Covenant was only a shadow of better things that were to come. The New Covenant is not based on its shadow. It is based on Jesus and salvation through him and his sacrifice and resurrection.
See also the “recommended reading” section, below.
Please send or mention the address to this site to others. Please also link to this site. The address to the table of contents page is biblepages.net/contents.htm
An explanation of the short names for the bible-translations that are quoted or mentioned at this site. → rsa091.htm
Regarding the matter of the two covenants, old and new, look under the heading “Covenant, covenants” on the page rkw131.htm.
Regarding the Old Covenant’s high days and their symbolism, look under the heading “High days” on the page rkw281.htm.
On the word olam in the Hebrew text of the Old Testament. Some notes on bible-translations which make it seem that the Old Covenant was to be “everlasting”. → rca131.htm
The symbolism of the Old Covenant’s weekly day of rest, the Sabbath. → rxa112.htm
Hebrews 4:9, the sabbatismos or rest which the saints were to enter – a clarification of its actual nature. → rxa101.htm
On Galatians 3:17–19 and what the apostle Paul meant by “added law”. → rca081.htm
On the King James translation. The story behind king James’ bible, including the men who were involved in producing it. → rsa030.htm
The New Covenant’s bread and wine, versus the Old Covenant’s Passover. → rca041.htm
Colossians 2:16–17, “let no man therefore judge you”. What was the apostle Paul really talking about? → roa071.htm
What does the Bible say about authority? Who has biblical, spiritual or religious authority? Who can speak for God? → rsa061.htm
On the Decalogue, “the words of the covenant, the ten words”. → rca051.htm
What does the word “righteous” really mean? What does the Bible say about righteousness? → rga082.htm
Worshipping God. What does the Bible say about worship, in connection with the New Covenant? → raa041.htm
On biblical covenant signs, including the New Covenant related sign which shows who are God’s people. → rca071.htm
On the Day of Atonement and its symbolism. → rxa042.htm
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