I am often asked this question by sincere Christians. Their inquiry stems from their personal interactions with the Holy Scriptures where, at least for the Israelites, ongoing Shabbat observance seems to be presumed. However, usually Christians do not ask the Jewish Shabbat question (How must I keep Shabbat?) but rather they ask the Christian Shabbat question (On which day must I worship?).

These concerns are caused by the western mindset that prizes the corporate (joined) worship that occurs for most Christians one day per week, usually on Sundays. Coming out of this mindset, a Christian logically asks on which day he or she must worship to be pleasing to God in Christ: Sunday or Saturday? For a Jew, however, even for the one steeped in western culture, this is never the question. For the Jew, “corporate” worship is an everyday practice and not a once-per-week occurrence. A Jew prays a lengthy set of prayers 3 times per day, often in the company of other Jews. This is why observant Jews wouldn’t drive to a place of worship 15-40 minutes away (as most Christians do), but would only attend something local. Not only must the synagogue be reached by foot on Shabbat (when driving is off limits), but it also must be very near for everyday community functions.

On Shabbat, Jews engage in some worship activities which differ from regular daily worship, but most prominently, they cease from the creative life in which they engage during the rest of the week. (For example, a Jew can read but must not write on Shabbat, charging his or her creative strengths to be unleashed during the six days of work). This central Jewish idea of the once-per week physical, emotional, and psychological rest is almost completely absent in Christian practice, where emphasis is placed on worship.

Committed and involved Christians often come out of Sunday feeling physically tired from one or two services and possibly even a church related function. Obviously, this description is not at all universal and does not apply to all Christian practice, but I think it is a fair characterization of the general tendency in Christian communities. The words of Jesus that, “a man is not made for the Sabbath, but the Sabbath is made for a man” (Mark 2:27) would then make perfect sense in their own Jewish context. (For my thoughts regarding Gentile Christian observance of the Feasts of the Lord, please, click here).

Humans, for thousands of years, divided times and seasons differently. The week as a period of time did not always exist, and a week did not always contain seven days. The seven-day week was one of the great gifts that was established by the God of Israel and given by the divine-human culture of Israel to the entire world. That is to say, whether the Christian worships corporately with others on the first day of the week (Sunday) or on the seventh (Saturday), he or she already worships in accordance with the Jewish seven-days-per-week cycle, with or without recognizing it.

Obviously, there is a lot more to this discussion, but this is where any responsible thinking should begin.

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53 COMMENTS

  1. “a week did not always contain seven days”
    Great observation. The naturally-occurring and easily observable spans of time would be daylight, dark, a “day”, half-month, month, and year.
    I suppose a quarter-month might be observed and correlated to a seven-day cycle, but there would be no reason to do so.

    • I mean “no reason to do so” except if we were told by someone (YHVH) to make special recognition of that span of time (a repeating seven day “week”). Thus, his people were set apart from the worshipers of creation who did not acknowledge him.

  2. God set aside a day as a remembrance that He is our Creator. He commanded we share that Day of Rest with Him as a Holy day. He picked the 24 hour period and said it was to be celebrated every 7th day. Jesus kept the same day. Never changed.

  3. It shouldn’t matter what faith or religion anyone is. God created Shabbat and all who descend from the first human Adam, should honor the Creator’s day of rest.

  4. It’s time to build the Third Temple so Father can come home and tell us himself. The High Priest will give one answer, and the world will know. Have you read 1 Sam 2:35? You have just heard from the Faithful Preist. Still waiting on Elijah, though. Rev 11.

  5. Todos los días debemos vivir para Dios, el señor dijo venid a mi los trabajos y cargados y yo los haré descansar. Quien acepto a Cristo entro en el descanso verdadero. Todos los días son para él.

    Every day we must live for God, the Lord said come to me you who are weary and heavy laden and I will give them rest. Who accepted Christ entered into true rest. Every day is for him.

  6. JESUS said, the sabbath is for man, NOT man for the sabbath. We can work ANY six days, and Sunday is NOT the first day of the week. This is based on jesus rising on Sunday, but there was an extra sabbath that week and Jesus rose OVERNIGHT Saturday.

    • Hi Bernie, thank you for posting. So, you wrote that Sunday is not the first day of the week (about which Merriam-Webster would disagree). Did you mean to say that the resurrection was not on Sunday? Anyway, thank you for reading the article!

      • So .. if anything, Jesus rose on the 7th day before 6pm, which makes indisputable sense since He’s God and rested on the 7th day.

    • Although it may not be clear which day of the week Jesus was crucified, it is clear from Scripture that Jesus was first seen on the first day of the week, early dawn, by the women; later that same day, by the disciples on the way to Emmaus, also by Simon Peter (Luke 24:1,13,36) Several witnesses see Him and recorded by inspiration of the Holy Spirit, on the first day of the week. Resurrection , even if the evening or sometime during the night, still seems to be first day of the week, reckoning by Jewish time keeping. I really do not understand how a sabbath resurrection makes sense Scripturally.

  7. Great article. Hashem is worshipped everyday, including Sunday.

    Problem is with Christians who don’t rest on the Sabbath. It is sometimes easy to forget that Yeshua gave the Sabbath to man (meaning all, not exclusively to Jews) for resting.

  8. Shalom Dr Eli

    Allow me to ask the correct question. How must I keep the Sabbath? Today, I went to church with the purpose of worshiping Hashem, but I came home exhausted. I did not experience rest.

    Regards
    Thandu

    • The Bible says to rest from all forms of work on the seventh day, and to focus on God as our Creator and Redeemer. This can take many forms, like strolling outdoors, studying the Bible together or enjoying a festive meal, but this is the Spirit of the Sabbath.

  9. I teach my church that Sunday can never be the Shabbat because according to my research is that all days in Hebrew are numbered day 1, day 2 etc. Shabbat is abnormal with a name as Shabbat, GOD’s rest day for all.

  10. IMPORTANT: Dr. Ili, There are conflicting starting points for the Sabbath. Sunset to sunset? Or at dawn. Both claim to derive the answers from Gen.1

    What Do you say the scripture says? A short Biblical text list to clarify the controversy will be helpful to many I am sure.

  11. The real reason for the day to worship given by God, was stated that he created the Jews to be the subjects to God that would keep times and dates forever. Not one day has ever been lost. Sundown Friday until Sundown Saturday as it is written.

  12. “The words of Jesus that, “a man is not made for the Sabbath, but the Sabbath is made for a man” (Mark 2:27) would then make perfect sense in their own Jewish context.

    Jesus taught to rest/have full faith in His finished work at the cross, not our works.

  13. But to the Son he says “Your throne, O God endures forever and ever. You rule with a scepter of justice. You love justice hate evil….. Therefore, O God, your God has anointed you,…… HEBREWS 1 VERSES 8..9. To Jesus from God.

  14. Dr Eli. You headline caught my attention, ” Gentile Christians”. In all of your writings, you never mistake by naming the Jewish-followers of Yeshua “Christians”. Any specific reasons? In Acts 26:29, Paul says….”and altogether such as I am”… Perhaps, Paul’s confirmation that he is indeed a Christian.

    • Hi Thandu, It is a matter of history, scripture and definitions. The term “Christian” did not exist until the Jesus movement was quite advanced, so it would be anachronistic to call the first followers “Christians”. Secondly, based on the three times that it appears in scripture, it appears arguably to be a pejorative that nonbelievers invented and used, not what believers called themselves. And finally, because of church history, the term today refers predominantly to wonderful believers that are unfortunately largely disconnected from the Jewishness of the Messiah and NT. But you are welcome to disagree.

    • I’ve two quite contrasting thoughts in line with this I would hope for some insight on (or please direct me to a study on them?)…I’ve recently noticed that the “halakhah” translates as “path/way”….Is it more likely the early Jesus movement were called “followers of the way” because of “halakhah” observance or the rumoured “third way” (not exclusively Hillel or Shammei) that Jesus brought?

      And speaking of Jesus…I always considered one meaning of the resurrection to be a “rest from works” (or the “works based contract”) for becoming tahor/clean…Meaning we now walk every day in His rest as opposed to one day a week?

      I’m not disputing Shabbat observance, however, no one looks at the concept of a day off and thinks “that’s the worst law” haha I’m just wondering: if Jesus poked into the heart of some of the 10 (Exodus 20) words, maybe there’s more to the heart of ALL of them?

      • 1) The Way (Acts 19.9,23;22.4;24.14) in Greek, Aramaic, and Latin refers to a path/track/trail, and is not etymologically related to halakhah (as religious laws that govern your way of living). Other texts (cf. Deu.5:33;10.12;30.16;Isa.42:24;Zech.3:7;CD 20.18;1QS 9.17–18) provide the background for using the term “the way” (haDerekh). 2) There is definitely more to the 10 commandments than meets the eye. But Heb.4:10 is likely referring to the millennial rest which is typified by the seventh-day rest. “Good works” never saved anyone, as they still don’t, but good works are certainly a secondary evidence of having faith (Heb.10:24).

        • Thank you for that response Dr Eli! It is very helpful, but while discussing Hebrews 4, verses 3-7 (specifically verse 7) couldn’t it be read as an opposition to a millenial interpretation? “Today” seems quite current and immediate a statement? While the end of verse 3 seems to clarify/solidify other NT commentary regarding what “has always been true”, but was rather revealed in the present age through Christ on the cross…

          I understand it as being never intended for us to strive or achieve salvation/forgiveness of sin through a “works based contract”; it was always about God’s character and our resting in the works that He has prepared for us…So Christ made this manifest for us to understand and enter into TODAY for those who believe?

          Maybe I’m misunderstanding or misreading something?

          • Verse 7 is a call to faithfulness, to be unlike the disobedient generation (v.6). I hear you repeating, “rest in his works” (v.10). This is Yeshua (not us, yet) resting in heaven from His earthly ministry work (just as God rested from His work of creation), and we (v.11) should strive (in obedience) to enter that same rest [by running the good race]. But if “rest in his works” is the believer’s part, then does that mean the believer refrains from “obedience” which is belief and good deeds (in opposition to vv.2,6,7,11) because of all the works of Jesus?

  15. Fantastic! God should be worshipped daily. (Our daily bread) The Sabbath rest (designated by God as the 7th day) cannot be changed by man. Romans 14:5 underscores observance can be any or all. The Sabbath from the beginning was the 7th day (and God rested.). “Ingraftees” should Sabbath rest also.

  16. Hi Dr Eli. Your explanation makes sense. So, I believe that Paul wanted Agrippa to be like him in a sense of Agrippa being also the follower of the Way just as Paul was.

  17. Thank you. Did misunderstand Romans; however I was, though clumsily, saying the Sabbath is, and always has been the 7th Day. I was agreeing wholeheartedly with your article.

    • I’m sorry, yes, I picked up on that, and I really should have included that in my previous post. Thank you for reading, and discussing! Blessings.

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