'Sabbath Days" in Colossians 2:16
By: EARLE HILGERT.
"Let no man therefore judge you in meat, or in drink, or in respect of an holyday, or of the new moon, or of the Sabbath days: which are a shadow of things to come; but the body is of Christ." Col. 2:16, 17.
Seventh-day Adventist ministers are frequently confronted with this text in support of the contention that the obligation of Sabbathkeeping ended at the cross. In reply the argument is sometimes presented that since the expression is in the plural "Sabbath days" the reference is evidently to the ceremonial Sabbaths rather than to the weekly Sab bath. Such an argument, if valid, must of course be based upon the reading of the Greek original of this text. The word "days," which is printed in italics in the Authorized Version, has been supplied by the translators; the reading of the Greek is sabbaton, which is in the form of the genitive plural, "of the Sabbaths." Thus the translators understood this word, and they translated "of the Sabbath days."
But the word "Sabbath" in Greek is a curious word. In most passages where it is used with a singular meaning, the form is sabbaton, a neuter noun in the singular. Instances are not rare, however, where a singular meaning is expressed by sabbata, which is commonly the neuter nominative in the plural. It is the genitive of this form that is used in our text here. Examples of such a plural form with a singular meaning are the following from the Septuagint:
Exodus 16:23---- sabbala anaponsis hagai to kurid Sabbath a rest holy to the Lord aurion. [is] tomorrow.
Exodus 16:25---- esti gar sabbala sermeron to kurid.it is a Sabbath today to the Lord.
Exodus 20:8---- mnestheti ten hemeran ton sabbaton.remember the day of the Sabbath.
Dcut. 5:12---- phulaxai ten hermeran ton sabbaton.keep the day of the Sabbath.
Jer. 17:21. 22 and Eze. 46:1---- en te hemera tonon the day of thesabbaton.Sabbath.
Similar instances are found in the New Testament:
Matt. 12:1---- eporeuthe ho lesous tois sabbasin went Jesus on the sabbatli dia ton sporimon. through the corn fields.
Matt. 28:1---- opse de sabbaton, te epiphoskouse eis late on Sabbath, at the dawning into mian sabbaton. . . . first of Sabbath [i.e., of the week].
Luke 4:16---- eiselthen . . . en te hemera ton sabbalon he entered ... on the day of the Sabbath eis ten sunagogen. into the synagogue.
Josephus [Antiquities, III, vi, 6] says: ten hebdomenthe seventhhemeran sabbala kaloumen. day Sabbath we call.
In none of these quoted passages can the forms sabbala and sabbaton be translated as plurals; they are in each instance singular in meaning, though plural in form. More than one explanation has been advanced for this strange usage, but perhaps the most plausible is that of the widely recognized New Testament scholar, A. T. Robertson (A Grammar of the Greek New Testament in the Light of Historical Research [London: Hodder and Stoughton, n.d.], pp. 95, 105). He suggests that the two forms, sabbaton and sabbata, while apparently the sin gular and plural of the same word, are in reality each the singular of different words. He points out that the Hebrew word for "Sabbath," as is commonly known, is shab-bdth, and is the logi cal source of the common Greek term sabbaton. In postexilic times, however, Aramaic was widely used in Palestine, and its term for "sab bath" is shab-betha', a word which could easily have been taken into Greek as sabbata. Thus sabbaton was always a singular, while sabbata might be either singular or plural, depending upon whether it was used as the derivative of the Aramaic or as the plural of sabbaton.
It becomes evident, then, that the argument from the use of the plural form in Colossians 2:16 is not substantial, for the original sabbaton used there may be either singular or plural. Indeed, the presumption may well be in favor of a singular meaning, because the "holyday" and the "new moon" with which it is listed are both singular. Either a singular or a plural translation gives quite the same meaning to the text.
The best evidence for the ceremonial nature of these "Sabbath days" appears to lie in the context of the term. The Sabbath to which Paul refers is classed with regulations regarding food and drink, various feasts, and the new-moon festivals. These observances were distinctly a part of the Jewish economy; they were a "shadow of things to come." When the Jews rejected Christ and that economy lost its meaning, such regulations lost their ceremonial significance. But the weekly Sabbath, with its roots in creation and its fruit in the new earth, did not point forward specifically to Christ and cannot be called a "shadow of things to come." It falls under a very different classification from that to which Paul here refers.
The Jews in Prophecy
By: Frank H. Yost
We have been preaching for many years that the Jews would not be established in Palestine. Since the State of Israel has been established there, must we not now change not only our preaching but our interpretation of prophecy?
Seventh-day Adventists have always taught that the prophecies of the Bible concerning the restoration of Israel apply, not to the descendants of Jacob by blood descent, but to those who are heirs of the promises through faith. (Gal. 3:29.) We have understood that these promises are not to be fulfilled on a racial or national basis, but in the person of those who have accepted the Lord Jesus Christ as their personal Saviour. The fulfillment will be, not on this present earth, but in the earth made new
In expressing this idea, some have doubtless, on occasion, preached very emphatically that the literal Jews would never return under any circumstances to the literal Palestine. Probably this point has been overemphasized, and the emphasis has left no room lor the unexpected and often temporary developments that take place in human political history. One of these developments we now see in the establishment of a Jewish republic in the ancient Jewish homeland.
But this republic does not fulfill the terms of the prophecies. Even those fundamentalists whose eschatological system requires the return of the Jews, do not believe that the present situation is what they have been looking for.
We believe that the Jews as a people will not have a permanent national life in Palestine. Rather, prophecies will be fulfilled in terms of the total gospel promises.
Again and again during the Hitler era we were asked what we should preach from Daniel 2, since Germany was presenting a picture of a world empire, or certainly dominating a European empire. We replied that the prophecy of Daniel was not rendered void by the political picture of a moment; that the rise of Hitler was but another one of that series of seeming nullifications of Daniel 2 in which Louis XIV and Napoleon Bonaparte belong. Now Hitler and the empire he formed no longer exist. The prophecy of Daniel stands.
May we suggest that we be not alarmed at any particular current political issue, nor that we shape our prophetic interpretations by the shifts and changes of the moment. Rather let us preach prophetic fulfillment in terms of the long-range view, and not be either confused or diverted by some immediate event.