"Saturday" or "Sunday"?

"And upon the first day of the week, when the disciples came together to break bread, Paul preached unto them, ready to depart on the morrow; and continued his speech until midnight. ... And we went before to ship, and sailed unto Assos, there intending to take in Paul: for so he had appointed, minding himself to go afoot. And when he met with us at Assos, we took him in, and came to Mitylene." (Acts 20: 7,13-14).

In Today's English Version the "first day of the week" is replaced by Saturday, on the assumption that the writer was using the Jewish method of reckoning the days. If this were true, then the disciples met on Saturday evening after the conclusion of the Jewish Sabbath, and Paul spent the greater part of the Sunday walking about twenty miles to Asses, while his fellow-travellers made their way there by sea. This view is maintained either in the text or notes of Dr. Barclay’s version, the New English Bible and the Jerusalem Bible among others. Conybeare and Howson also insist that it was the Saturday evening following the Jewish Sabbath.

There are good reasons for dismissing this rendering as incorrect. Jamieson, Brown and Faussett comment - "Arriving on a Monday, they staid over the Jewish Sabbath and the Lord's Day following, occupying himself, doubtless, in strengthening and refreshing fellowship with the brethren during the interval .... 'Upon the first day of the week' (compare 1 Cor. 16. 2 etc.) indicates that the Christian observance of the day afterwards called "the Lord's Day" was already a fixed practice of the Churches."

In his commentary on the Greek New Testament Dr. Christopher Wordsworth wrote - "Some learned writers have supposed that the MIA SABBATON here mentioned is the evening which succeeded the Jewish Sabbath, and that Paul set forth on his journey early on the Sunday morning. But it appears to be more probable that this meeting for breaking of bread took place on the evening of Sunday .... It appears

then that this was a stated day and hour for Christian assemblies, not perhaps without some reference to the fact mentioned by John(20. 19) concerning the first Lord's day of the Christian Church; "The same day

at evening, being the first day of the week, came Jesus and stood in the midst, and saith unto them, Peace be unto you."

"The Holy Supper was instituted on an evening; and it was toward evening when our Lord took bread and blessed it, and gave it to the two disciples at Emmaus (Luke 24: 29, 30). It is not likely that Luke, writing for the use of Gentile Christians in all ages, should reckon his days from sunset, in the Jewish manner, especially when speaking of a Christian festival. Even Matthew, writing more particularly for Jewish Christians, says (28. 1) "In the end of the sabbath, as it began to dawn toward the first day of the week .. ." (This certainly does not imply that the "first day of the week" began on Saturday evening).

Dr. A. T. Robertson gives no reason for his assertion that "they probably met on our Saturday evening, the beginning of the first day at sunset." He is on firmer ground when he adds -- "So these Christians began the day "Sunday" with worship. But since this is a Gentile community, it is quite possible that Luke means our Sunday evening as the time when this meeting occurs, and the language of John 20. 19, "it being evening on that day the first of the week," naturally means the evening following the day, not the evening preceding the day." "Word Pictures in the New Testament", Vol. 3, page 339).

Professor G. V. Lechler, D.D., of Leipsic, in Lange's Commentary (1870), wrote - "Luke here relates an event which occurred in Troas.... at the time when Paul was conducting religious services on the eve of his departure, namely, upon the first day of the week. According to the Hebraistic usage peculiar both to the Gospels and the Acts, and also to the Epistles of Paul(l Cor. 16. 2). MIA is used for PROTE (first). Now the first day of the week was our Sunday; and we here observe the first trace of the observance of Sunday which the history of the Church exhibits .... The first mention of the observance of Sunday is made in connection with a Gentile Christian congregation ...." (page 368).

Manuscripts and Versions and the Printed Greek Text

This phrase in Acts 20. 7 is not affected by various readings in the manuscripts, all of which agree in using EN TE MIA TON SABBATON, and the various editions of the printed text are also in agreement. The editions of Erasmus, Stephens, Beta, Mill, Griesbach, Scholz, Lachmann, Tischendorf, Tregelles, Alford, Green, Wordsworth, Westcott and Hort, the Revisers of 1881, Weiss, Nestlé, Von Soden, Kilpatrick, Tasker (N.E.B. Greek), and Aland and Metzger, all have precisely the same reading here. The matter in dispute is whether this expression means the "Saturday" or "Sunday". The literal meaning is "in the first of the Sabbaths", but the plural of this word is used in the New Testament to signify a week. In Luke 18. 12 the singular also has this meaning DIS TOU SABBATOU -- I fast twice in the week. The lexicons of Thayer, Abbot Smith, S. G. Green, and Arndt and Gingrich agree that the expression in Acts 20. 7 means "the first day of the week." The great majority of the versions, ancient and modern, in English and in other languages, agree with the Authorised Version in rendering the Greek in this way. The list includes:-

Wyclif, Haak, Haweis, Newcome, SPCK 1808, Smith, Sharpe, S. Green, Wilson, American Bible Union 1866 and 1883, Bowes, Alford, Bagster's Critical English N.T., Bagster's Interlinear 1877, Crickmer, R.V., J. N. Darby, Weymouth, A.S.V., Twentieth Century, Lloyd, Clarke, Panin, Moffatt, Goodspeed, Lamsa, Wade, Cunnington, C. B. Williams, Spencer, Book of Books, Basic English, Berkeley, R.S.V., Phillips, Arendzen. Confraternity, New World, C. K. Williams, Rieu, Amplified, N.A.S.V., Wuest, Norlie, J. Green -- Modern K.J.V., Children's Version, Teenage Version, R.C. R.S.V., Jerusalem, New Scofield, New Berkeley, Good News for the World, Judean and Authorised, New American Bible, New World, Restoration of Sacred Name, Klingensmith, King James II, Common Bible (R.S.V.), Greber, Twofold N.T. (Green), New International Bible, Byington. Kingdom Modern Language Version.

Many editions of Luther, Van Ess, Allioli, and Elbefeld (German); Osterwald, De Saci, Segond, Stapfer, Synodale, Darby, Martin, Lausanne, Revision Nouvelle (French); Valera, Scio, A.B.U., Versi6n

Popular (Spanish); Almeida, Boys, Figueiredo (Portuguese); Diodati, Revised Diodati; Martini, A.B.U., Luzzi, La Buona Notizia (Italian); Statenvertaling (Dutch); Beta's Latin, and the Modern Greek (which

replaces SABBATON by HEBDOMADOS, "week", the equivalent in present usage). To this list may be added versions in scores of other languages.

Tyndale rendered it "on the morrow after the Sabbath day"; the Geneva Bible -- "the first day after the Sabbath"; Schonfield -- "on the day after the Sabbath"; Living Bible -- "on Sunday"; Beck -- "on Sun-

day"; Great Bible, Bishop's Bible, Concordant Idiomatic Version, and Kingdom interlinear -- "upon one of the Sabbath days"; Rheims, Wilson interlinear, Ferrar Fenton, -- "in the first of the Sabbath" (or sabbaths"); Young and Rotherham -- "on the first of the week"; Concordant Interlinear and Marshall (R.S.V. interlinear) -- "the one of the sabbath"; (Marshall gives 'first' and 'week' as alternatives for 'one' and 'sabbaths’ ).

Souter's Pocket Lexicon of the Greek N.T. gives the meaning - "the first day after the Sabbath, the day following the Sabbath, that is, from about 6 pm, on Saturday till about 6 pm. on Sunday. He describes the expression in Acts 20. 7 as "Hebraistic", but does not mention that in this context Luke was not likely to use the Jewish method of reckoning the days.

Ronald Knox has "when the new week began" and his note favours Saturday evening. In this opinion he is supported by Rieu's note, the New English Bible, Jerusalem Bible note, Today's English Version, and W. Barclay, but these stand against the great array of more than a hundred authorities referred to above, and the reader has very strong grounds for retaining "on the first day of the week" as the correct translation, and "Sunday" rather than "Saturday" as the day specified in this verse. No special revelation was given to the translators of these versions to warrant changing the Greek to "Saturday", and the change is not supported by adequate evidence.


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