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Travis Fentiman

Puritan Board Freshman
Friends,

When Does the Sabbath Begin?

In the most comprehensive treatment to-date on the subject, I argue in this academic article from Scripture that the Sabbath has always been from dawn-to-dawn since Creation throughout the Bible, without exception.

Fentiman, Travis – The Biblical Sabbath is from Dawn to Dawn 2018 97 pp.​


To give a brief summary of the Biblical evidence:

The word ‘morning’ in the Creation account in Gen. 1 is more accurately translated as ‘dawn’, the phrase signifying that each day of Creation ended with dawn, with the next day beginning therefrom. The Old Testament speaks of days starting from the morning or dawn in over 30 verses. The Israelites kept the Sabbath morning to morning in Ex. 16 and the rest of Old Testament history is consistent with this reckoning.

The New Testament throughout its pages likewise reckons days to start in the morning. The Temple in the New Testament counted the hours of the day from 6 A.M. The disciples’ buying of spices in the evening after the death of Jesus is shown to be inconsistent with an evening-to-evening reckoning of the Sabbath. The Resurrection accounts of Christ rising from the dead at dawn assume continuity with the Old Testament reckoning. Christ celebrates the Lord’s Day in Jn. 20:19 with the disciples in the evening of the 1st day of the week, which the apostles continued to practice in Acts 20:7-11.​

The corruption of the Sabbath by Jewish traditionalism in keeping the Sabbath from evening to evening likely started in the inter-Testamental era and was preserved in their Talmuds. A very full survey of the inter-Testamental and extra-Biblical literature is surveyed on the issue, as well as reformed history.

Assure your mind and heart on this Scriptural subject and make the Sabbath a delight! (Isa. 58:13-14)

I hope the article is a blessing to you.
 

Contra_Mundum

Pilgrim, Alien, Stranger
Staff member
I plan to read the article, and thank you in advance for it.

A question prior to reading: what is your opinion of the proposal: that the keeping of days from dusk to dusk likely began as a habit by some during the Exile (earlier than inter-Testament), and was brought back to the land upon the Return, and became general custom?
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I've read the relevant (to the above Q.) portions of the paper, and noted many helpful items. I remain of the mind that the first Temple destruction and Exile is the best explanation for the change in habit (or the confused habit of two methods by NT time).

And, I argue that the arrival of the Messiah is the definitive sign that this time-keeping habit should be "set to right." Further, I argue that the rabbis--particularly after the second Temple destruction--probably cement the dusk-to-dusk rule among the Jews.

Thoughts?
 
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Travis Fentiman

Puritan Board Freshman
...A question prior to reading: what is your opinion of the proposal: that the keeping of days from dusk to dusk likely began as a habit by some during the Exile (earlier than inter-Testament), and was brought back to the land upon the Return, and became general custom?
____________________
edit.
I've read the relevant (to the above Q.) portions of the paper, and noted many helpful items. I remain of the mind that the first Temple destruction and Exile is the best explanation for the change in habit (or the confused habit of two methods by NT time).

And, I argue that the arrival of the Messiah is the definitive sign that this time-keeping habit should be "set to right." Further, I argue that the rabbis--particularly after the second Temple destruction--probably cement the dusk-to-dusk rule among the Jews.

Bruce, thanks for the question and your thoughts.

The answer to your question is largely conjectural. Even the scholars who elaborate the view that you believe to be the most likely, what primary source evidence are they going off of, other than that there was a certain evening to evening Sabbath in Babylonian culture?

The Babylonian's culture also had a predominant morning to morning reckoning (scholars are split on the whole topic). And the Hebrews were likely to have been around a evening to evening reckoning in the very land of Israel before the Captivity, from the Canaanites, and yet there is no evening-reckoning in that history of time in Scripture.

As the closing of Nehemiah's gates is consistent with, and better explained by a morning view, in my opinion, then where is the evidence that the Israelites actually practiced evening to evening at that time?

It is true the Talmudic rabbis attributed nearly their every opinion and practice to the post-Captivity Jewish leaders, such as Ezra and other rabbis, but much of this appears to be fanciful good hopes, than can actually be verified or is likely to be true.

There is a lack of primary sources for that time period, besides what is in Scripture. The oldest data we have about Babylonian influences on the Jewish calendar only goes back to the 2nd century A.D. Before that we simply don't know what the calendar was like in as much detail as we would like, except for what is in Scripture.

Even the OT Pseudipigraphia documents from the 3rd-1st century B.C. cannot be shown (that I have seen) to have specified an evening observance (I refer to passages in scholars' works which refute the claim that they do in my article).

There may have been such an evening-influence with exiles coming back, but there were still prophets in the land (Malachi, Haggai, etc) who, I don't believe would have erred on such an important point as this. And the 2nd Temple, in fact, built at that time, kept days from the morning (according to the Levitical precepts), which was the biggest influence in Israel.

Further, there is evidence that Israel made such observance changes a while after the return from Captivity. For instance, see the 2nd large paragraph on p. 1 of Steed's article:

Further, if evening to evening became the 'general custom' after the captivity, that does not explain the morning reckoning evidence during that inter-testamental era, which I document in the article from the Septuagint, Philo, etc.

At the end of the day, I don't really mind if one thinks that the evening practice became generally accepted after the Captivity (though the history is much more complex than this). The point that I am sure about, and claim in the article, is that by the mid-Inter-testamental era the evening practice probably started gaining momentum in Israel side by side with the morning practice.

I agree with your points about the Messiah and after the destruction of the 2nd Temple.

Hope this is helpful brother. Blessings.
 
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earl40

Puritan Board Professor
One practical reason I find compelling is that most people would fall asleep on Saturday night (In other words, before 12:00AM) and wake up on Sunday morning, and fall asleep well before Monday. Thus the "dawn to dawn" seems simply obvious to me.
 

Contra_Mundum

Pilgrim, Alien, Stranger
Staff member
Bruce, thanks for the question and your thoughts.

The answer to your question is largely conjectural. Even the scholars who elaborate the view that you believe to be the most likely, what primary source evidence are they going off of, other than that there was a certain evening to evening Sabbath in Babylonian culture?

The Babylonian's culture also had a predominant morning to morning reckoning (scholars are split on the whole topic). And the Hebrews were likely to have been around a evening to evening reckoning in the very land of Israel before the Captivity, from the Canaanites, and yet there is no evening-reckoning in that history of time in Scripture.

As the closing of Nehemiah's gates is consistent with, and better explained by a morning view, in my opinion, then where is the evidence that the Israelites actually practiced evening to evening at that time?

It is true the Talmudic rabbis attributed nearly their every opinion and practice to the post-Captivity Jewish leaders, such as Ezra and other rabbis, but much of this appears to be fanciful good hopes, than can actually be verified or is likely to be true.

There is a lack of primary sources for that time period, besides what is in Scripture. The oldest data we have about Babylonian influences on the Jewish calendar only goes back to the 2nd century A.D. Before that we simply don't know what the calendar was like in as much detail as we would like, except for what is in Scripture.

Even the OT Pseudipigraphia documents from the 3rd-1st century B.C. cannot be shown (that I have seen) to have specified an evening observance (I refer to passages in scholars' works which refute the claim that they do in my article).

There may have been such an evening-influence with exiles coming back, but there were still prophets in the land (Malachi, Haggai, etc) who, I don't believe would have erred on such an important point as this. And the 2nd Temple, in fact, built at that time, kept days from the morning (according to the Levitical precepts), which was the biggest influence in Israel.

Further, there is evidence that Israel made such observance changes a while after the return from Captivity. For instance, see the 2nd large paragraph on p. 1 of Steed's article:

Further, if evening to evening became the 'general custom' after the captivity, that does not explain the morning reckoning evidence during that inter-testamental era, which I document in the article from the Septuagint, Philo, etc.

At the end of the day, I don't really mind if one thinks that the evening practice became generally accepted after the Captivity (though the history is much more complex than this). The point that I am sure about, and claim in the article, is that by the mid-Inter-testamental era the evening practice probably started gaining momentum in Israel side by side with the morning practice.

I agree with your points about the Messiah and after the destruction of the 2nd Temple.

Hope this is helpful brother. Blessings.
I just wondered what you thought of that proposal; and I think that you are just as correct to say as you do, that a general change would take time (and face some resistance, possibly even prophetic opposition to the degree that it was recognized as a religious challenge), so a mixed condition would not be surprising even for a long time--centuries even.

I'm satisfied with the more modest claim that between OT & NT one finds the best evidence that a contest is underway. The main reason I have for appreciating your article, is how you have marshaled facts and scholarship. My opinion, on the other hand, was never "scholarly" but merely my private judgment. It looked to me like a change occurred from examining the biblical data, and having too little extraneous resources (I did not know for example if Babylonian practices potentially had influence, which you offer they could have had) I thought only in terms of likely causes.

The world-turned-upside-down event of the Exile/Temple-destruction seemed (and still seems) like a strong causal candidate. I can imagine the rationale offered: such as the nation was living in an "opposite" condition, thus a skewed day was fitting in some sense; and Messiah would bring order when he came.

Post-captivity, there is some return to normalcy, but not entirely. The return is neither a vindication, nor a reward for repentance. As Daniel acknowledged in his prayer: the people as a whole were not repentant, and did not deserve to be repatriated. And the prophetic word that comes to him states that the "days of indignation" will remain upon the nation--even as they are returned to the land--until Messiah brings them salvation.

I suggest a "mixed" condition in the land after the return is not incompatible (in an is-vs-ought sense) with a properly resumed Temple schedule; and a proper Sabbath, also "on time." Everything is not put all-to-rights in the time of the Return, and won't be for a good long time in spite of sincere priestly and prophetic labors. The reason I called the divergent day-keeping a "habit" (and not a regulation) is that I do not think there could have been a sanction respecting it until Judaism, after the NT age began, settled its character.

So, that encapsulates some of the theological reasoning that lay behind my proposal. And, I think the Judaism of today continues to operate partly according to that same topsy-turvy (though' somewhat rational) principle, now reinforced by a second Temple-destruction, Pharisee dominance, Talmudic exegesis, habit, all that.

Again, I am quite thankful for your efforts on this paper.
 

C. M. Sheffield

Puritan Board Senior
It is a very interesting topic. Generally, when it has been brought up, I have thought it best to reckon a day's beginning and ending according to the custom of the land. For most of the world this means midnight to midnight. But for others (Israel and the Middle East) this would be sunset to sunset.
 

iainduguid

Puritan Board Sophomore
It is a very interesting topic. Generally, when it has been brought up, I have thought it best to reckon a day's beginning and ending according to the custom of the land. For most of the world this means midnight to midnight. But for others (Israel and the Middle East) this would be sunset to sunset.
It's only in the modern world that there is a functional difference between sunset to sunset/midnight to midnight/dawn to dawn sabbath. For the pre-modern world, no significant work could be carried out in the dark anyway. And boqer certainly doesn't mean "dawn"; there are other more specific ways of saying that if you wish to (such as "at the rising of the dawn [shachad]" e.g. Josh 6:15 or "the morning light" 2 Sam 17:22).
boqer is a general time word much like our word (surprise, surprise) "morning". So too at the other end of the day "evening", which was broad enough to include the (roughly) 3 p.m. "evening" sacrifice. The "evening" when the disciples bought the spices would likely have been well before sun down. To be sure, in a Mediterranean country before electricity, their mornings started a lot earlier than most of ours and their evenings ended earlier. When it is specified that people "got up early in the morning" that might well be shortly after sun up (as it still is for farming folk). But "morning", "noon" and "evening" pretty much covered the daylight hours, and "night" covered the rest (see Ps 55:17).

I don't have a dog in the fight as to the main contention - evening to evening vs morning to morning Sabbath. It's something we have to think about and come to a conclusion about in the modern world. But I'm skeptical that it was a big issue in Biblical times. The prophets do not address it, though perhaps that is largely because their greater concern was people not keeping the Sabbath at all!
 
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