Think you understand what a “week” is? Maybe you don’t! (Actually, yes you do…)

It's not that hard...
For those who can count to seven, finding the Sabbath is pretty easy…

Someone recently asked me a question that brought to mind a couple of thoughts about the structure and knowledge of the “week,” and I thought they might make for a nice blog post.

As one who has encountered a number of weird, private calendar ideas, I would say that one of the most novel is the idea that the week should restart or “reboot” with each month. For example: In one formulation, the first day of the month is always the first day of the week, the second day of the month is the second day of the week, etc. In such a formulation, the seventh-day “Sabbath” (I use “scare quotes” around the word Sabbath there because it would not really be the true seventh-day “Sabbath”) would always be the 7th, 14th, 21st, and 28th days of the month. In varying months, then, there would be variously eight or nine days from the beginning of the last Sabbath of one month (the 28th) to the beginning of the first Sabbath of the next (the 7th). That is, the seven-day cycle is broken at the end of each month, since there are variously 29 or 30 days in a month and each of those numbers is not divisible by 7.

In another formulation, the 1st day of the month is named the “weekly Sabbath” thus making the 1st, 8th, 15th, 22nd, and 29th of each month “Sabbaths.” In this instance, there are variously zero or only one day between the last Sabbath of one month (the 29th) and the first Sabbath of the next month (the 1st).

Both of these, however, fail when compared to Scripture. There are a number of ways to demonstrate that, but two are quick-and-easy clinchers for me.

(1) The Sabbath command clearly defines a seven-day week, and not just because it calls the Sabbath the “seventh day” (Ex. 20:10). It also clearly says, “six days you shall labor” (Ex. 20:9), tying them to God’s own acts of creation (Ex. 20:11). You can’t work for exactly six days if there are 8, 7, 1, or even zero days between Sabbaths. God defines the Sabbath in the commandment very clearly, and it is not as particular days of the month, but as the seventh in a sequence of seven days.

(2) The example of the Lord of the Sabbath, Jesus Christ, Himself, demonstrates these “week” formulations to be false. He was crucified on a Wednesday Passover on the 14th of the first month of the year. This is impossible to reconcile with these “monthly reboot” ideas. Each of those other formulations would require Him to be sacrificed on the Sabbath, itself, or on a Friday, neither of which fits the “three days and three nights” requirement He set forth for His time in the heart of the earth (Matt. 12:40).

Actually, on a second point, looking at Jesus’ own practice is also my favorite way of answering the “Has time been lost?” question concerning the seventh day – that is, the question some have about whether or not our seven-day week, today, still matches the seven days of Creation or whether some time over the last 6,000 years some mistake has been made, shifting it an unknown number of days and leaving the “true” seventh day a mystery.

There is no mystery. While it is possible to trace back a line of people from Creation to today who could ensure that knowledge of the correct seventh day of the week has been passed on accurately and faithfully to our own times, as far as I am concerned we don’t actually have to go back the full 6,000 years — we only have to go back 2,000 years to the life of Jesus Christ. And if anyone in the world knew when the Sabbath was, I’m pretty sure Jesus Christ did! After all, He created the week to begin with (John 1:1-3; Col. 1:16). Plus, we know that Jesus Christ’s own obedience to God’s law, including His Sabbath-keeping, was perfect (1 Peter 2:21-22; Hebrews 4:15). And the record of the last 2,000 years is clear and well documented.

I’ve known some who consider themselves “Christian” who say that they would keep the Sabbath if they could only be sure that today’s “seventh day” of the week was the right one. When demonstrated that today’s “seventh day” is exactly the same as Jesus’ “seventh day,” though, they have always seemed to find new reasons not to keep the Sabbath. (Which seems all the more contradictory, to me, since the answer to their question is being rooted in the actions of the very Savior they claim to follow.) Sometimes our reasons are only our excuses, it seems.

We can be thankful that some things really are as simple as they seem — like counting to seven. 🙂

3 thoughts on “Think you understand what a “week” is? Maybe you don’t! (Actually, yes you do…)

  1. The ancient Babylonians had their own way of dealing with their Sabattu, their way of trying to reconcile it with the number of days in a lunar and/or calendar month. I played around with it on an Excel spreadsheet once and I probably have that bad boy somewhere still.

    From the Dictionary of the Bible in the back of my old RSV (1964), article “Sabbath”:

    …The Babylonians observed a day of rest, called Sabattu, described as “a day of rest for the heart.” On that day it was forbidden to eat cooked meat, to put on fresh clothes, to offer sacrifices, to ride in a chariot, and the like. It fell on the 7th, 14th, 19th, 21st, and 28th days of the lunar month, the 19th day being the 49th day, or 7th week, from the 1st of the preceding month. [As I recall this assumes each month was 30 days long, something which is impossible if one keeps strict track of the lunar month as the Hebrew and Chinese calendars do. Both these calendars have months of either 30 or 29 days.] The Babylonian account of the Creation makes the Creator say to the moon: “On the 7th day halve thy disk; stand upright with its first half on the Sabbath (Sabattu).” [But again, this would not happen consistently in the “real world”.]

    It seems some false ideas really do die hard.

  2. obeirne

    Excellent blog, Mr. Smith! I don’t doubt that some, perhaps many, of those – maybe even the majority – who claim they would keep the seventh day Sabbath if it was proven to them, would not do so and use some lame excuse to justify their refusal in obeying God’s fourth commandment.

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