Which Day of the week is the Sabbath

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  • Despite doctrinal differences on various other topics, most Christians agree that a day of rest is an integral part of the Christian life. But on which day are we to rest?

    “By the seventh day God had finished the work he had been doing; so on the seventh day he rested from all his work. And God blessed the seventh day and made it holy, because on it he rested from all the work of creating that he had done” (Genesis 2:2, 3). The very word “sabbath” means rest, and to rest implies that you have labored. It’s logical, then, for God to have designated the last day of the week a day of rest. “The seventh day is a Sabbath to the Lord your God” (Exodus 20:10).

    Language reflects the customs of the culture that speaks it. Nearly every culture, from Babylon through modern times, rested on the seventh day. As languages developed, the name for the seventh day of the week remained “rest day.” In the mid 19th century, Dr. William Meade Jones created this “Chart of the Week,” listing the name for the seventh day in 160 languages, including some of the most ancient (shown below). Babylonian, in use hundreds of years before Abraham or the giving of the Ten Commandments at Sinai, calls the seventh day of the week sa-ba-tu, meaning “rest day.”

    Even today more than 100 languages worldwide, many of them unrelated to ancient Hebrew, use the word “Sabbath” for Saturday—and none of them designate any other day as a day of rest. Though the world’s language groups have evolved so as to be unintelligible from each other, the word for the seventh day of the week has remained fairly recognizable.

    The Sabbath predates Judaism

    For the thousands of years since Judaism began, an entire nation of Jews has kept track of the weekly cycle and observed the seventh day Sabbath, sometimes even without a calendar. Nevertheless, many rationalize that it’s impossible to verify which day of the week is actually the biblical Sabbath because Pope Gregory XIII changed the calendar. The Julian calendar, instituted by Julius Caesar around 46 B.C., calculated the length of the year as 365 ¼ days. In reality, the year is 11 minutes less than 365 ¼ days. So by the 1580s, the calendar and the solar cycle were ten days off. In 1582, Gregory changed the calendar so that Friday, October 5, became Friday, October 15, creating the Gregorian calendar we use today. But it did not confuse the days of the week; Friday still follows Thursday, Saturday still follows Friday, and so on and so forth.

    Exodus 16 recounts a series of weekly Sabbath miracles over a period of forty years. God reiterated the Sabbath at Sinai (Exodus 20:8-11), and the Jews were still observing the seventh day when Jesus was born. Jesus kept the Sabbath (Luke 4:16; 23:54, 56; 24:1) until his death, which Luke indicates occurred on the day before the Sabbath: “Going to Pilate, [Joseph of Arimathea] asked for Jesus’ body. Then he took it down, wrapped it in linen cloth and placed it in a tomb cut in the rock, one in which no one had yet been laid. It was Preparation Day, and the Sabbath was about to begin” (Luke 23:52-54). Luke goes on to describe the actions of the women who followed Jesus. “The women who had come with Jesus from Galilee followed Joseph and saw the tomb and how his body was laid in it.

    “Then they went home and prepared spices and perfumes. But they rested on the Sabbath in obedience to the commandment. On the first day of the week, very early in the morning, the women took the spices they had prepared and went to the tomb” (Luke 23:55, 56; 24:1). The women discovered that Jesus had risen on Sunday morning; Christians acknowledge this fact by celebrating Easter. The day on which the women rested between the preparation day (Friday) when Jesus died, and the first day of the week (Easter Sunday) when Jesus rose again, had to be Saturday. Scripture clearly portrays God designating the seventh day of the week as the Sabbath, and throughout the centuries of history recounted in the Bible, His followers celebrated it as such. Unless it was changed, the seventh day is still the Sabbath. So why do so many people today honor Sunday, the first day of the week, instead of the seventh day? (Why do so many people worship on Sunday?)

    Chart of the Week (Showing the position of the true Sabbath)

    Compiled by Dr. William Meade Jones, 1887
    LANGUAGE (Where Spoken, Read, or Otherwise Used)
    Name of the SEVENTH DAY
    Shemitic Hebrew Bible world-wide
    Day One
    Day Second
    Day Third
    Day Fourth
    Day Fifth
    Day the Sixth
    Yom hash-shab-bath Day the Sabbath
    Hebrew (Ancient and Modern)
    One into the Sabbath
    Second into the Sabbath
    Third into the Sabbath
    Fourth into the Sabbath
    Fifth into the Sabbath
    Eve of Holy Sabbath
    Targum of Onkelos (Hebrew Literature)
    Day One
    Day Second
    Day Third
    Day Fourth
    Day Fifth
    Day the Sixth
    Yom hash-shab-bath Day the Sabbath
    Targum Dialect of the Jews in Kurdistan
    Day One of the Seven
    Day 2nd of the Seven
    Day 3rd of the Seven
    Day 4th of the Seven
    Day 5th of the Seven
    Day of Eve (of Sabbath)
    yoy-met sha-bat kodesh Holy Sabbath Day
    Ancient Syriac *Each day proceeds on, and belongs to the Sabbath
    One into Sabbath
    Two into Sabbath
    Three into Sabbath
    Four into Sabbath
    Five into Sabbath
    Eve (of Sabbath)
    Shab-ba-tho Sabbath
    Chaldee Syriac Kurdistan and Urdmia, Persia
    One into Sabbath
    Two into Sabbath
    Three into Sabbath
    Four into Sabbath
    Five into Sabbath
    Eve (of Sabbath)
    Shap-ta Sabbath
    Samaritan (Old Hebrew Letters) Nablus, Palestine
    Day One
    Day Second
    Day Third
    Day Fourth
    Day Fifth
    Day Sixth
    Shab-bath Sabbath
    Babylonian Euphrates Tigris Valleys Mesopotamia (Written lang. 3800 B.C.)
    Sa-ba-tu Sabbath
    Assyrian Euphrates and Tigris Valleys, Mesopotamia
    sa-ba-tu Sabbath
    Arabic (Very old names)
    Business Day
    Light Moon
    War Chief
    Turning Day or Midweek
    Familiar or Society Day
    Eve (of Sabbath)
    Shi-yar Chief or Rejoicing Day
    Arabic (Ancient and Modern) Westn. Asia, E,W & N. Africa
    The One
    The Two
    The Three
    The Four
    The Fifth
    Assembly (day, Muham)
    as-sabt The Sabbath
    Maltese, Malta
    One (day)
    Two (and day)
    The 3 (3rd d.)
    The 4 (4th d.)
    Fifth (day)
    Is-sibt. The Sabbath
    Ge-ez or Ethiopic Abyssinia (Ge-ez signifies “original”)
    One (day)
    Eve (of Sabbath)
    san-bat Sabbath
    Tigre Abyssinia (Closely related to Ge-ez)
    One (First day)
    Eve (of Sabbath)
    san-bat Sabbath
    Amharic, Abyssinia (Nearly related to Ge-ez)
    Eve (of Sabbath)
    san-bat Sabbath
    Falasha (Language of the Jews of Abyssinia)
    yini sanbat The Sabbath
    Coptic Egypt (A dead lang. for 200 years)
    The First Day
    The 2nd Day
    The 3rd Day
    The 4th Day
    The 5th Day
    The 6th Day
    pi sabbaton The Sabbath
    Orma or Galla South of Abyssinia (This language has two sets of names, the first being the oldest)
    Lady, Virgin Mary Day. Great or Festival Sabbath
    Second day. First Trade Day
    3rd Day to the Sabbath. Second Trade Day
    4th day to the Sabbath. Fourth (day)
    Fifth (day)
    Assembly (day)
    Last day of the half-week inclusive of 4th day Little or Humble or Solemn Sabbath (A day of no ceremonial display and no work)
    Tamashek or Towarek (From ancient Lybian or Numidian). Atlas Mountains, Africa.
    First day
    Second day
    Third day
    Fourth day
    Fifth day
    Assembly Day
    a-hal es-sabt. The Sabbath Day
    Kabyle or Berber. (Ancient Numidian) North Africa
    Day the One (First)
    Day the Two (2nd)
    Day the Three (3rd)
    Day the Four (4th)
    Day the Fifth
    The Assembly Day
    ghas or wars assebt The Sabbath Day
    Hausa (Central Africa)
    The One (1st)
    The Two (2nd)
    The Three (3rd)
    The Four (4th)
    The Fifth
    The Assembly
    assebatu The Sabbath
    Urdu or Hindustani (Muhammadan and Hindu, India) (Two names for the days)
    One to Sabbath. Sunday
    2nd to Sabbath. Moon-day
    3rd to Sabbath. Mars
    4th to Sabbath. Mercury
    5th to Sabbath. (Eve of Juma)
    Assembly (day)
    sanichar – Saturn shamba – Sabbath
    Pashto or Afghan Afghanistan
    One to the Sabbath
    Two to Sabbath
    Three to Sabbath
    Four to Sabbath
    Five to Sabbath
    Assembly (day)
    khali – Unemployed-day, Shamba – Sabbath

    The table above includes some of the oldest languages known to man. One of these, the Babylonian language, was in use hundreds of years before the Hebrew race was founded by Abraham. That language designated the seventh day of the week as “sa-ba-tu”, meaning rest day — another indisputable proof that the Bible “Sabbath” was not, and is not, exclusively Jewish.

    Very few realize that the word “Sabbath” and the concept of resting from work on the seventh day of the week (Saturday) is common to most of the ancient and modern languages of the world. This is evidence totally independent of the Scriptures that confirms the biblical teaching that God’s seventh-day Sabbath predates Judaism. The concept of a Saturday holy day of rest was understood, accepted, and practiced by virtually every culture from Babylon through modern times.

    In the study of the many languages of mankind, you will find two important facts:

    1. In the majority of the principal languages the last, or seventh, day of the week is designated as “Sabbath.”
    2. There is not even one language that designates another day as the “day of rest.”

    From these facts we may conclude that not only those people who called the last day of the week “Sabbath,” but all other peoples and races, as far as they recognized any day of the week as “Sabbath,” rested on the seventh day. In fact, it was recorded by the great historian Sozomen that in his time the whole known world, with the exception of Rome and Alexandria, observed the seventh day of the week.

    “The people of Constantinople, and almost everywhere, assemble together on the Sabbath, as well as on the first day of the week, which custom is never observed at Rome or at Alexandria” (Socrates, “Ecclesiastical History,” Book 7, chap.19).

    Another interesting fact is that the words in the original languages that are used to designate the seventh day of the week as the “Sabbath” have continued to be very similar while the other words have been so changed over time that they are unintelligible to people of other language groups. This is another proof that the Sabbath and the words used to designate the seventh day of the week as the “Sabbath day” originated at Creation in complete harmony with the biblical record found in Genesis 2:1–3.

    Language List

    LanguageWord for Saturday/7thDayMeaning
    Latin (Italy)SabbatumSabbath
    Spanish (Spain)SábadoSabbath
    Portuguese (Portugal)SabbadoSabbath
    Italian (Italy)SabbatoSabbath
    French (France)SamediSabbath day
    High German (Germany)SamstagSabbath
    Prussian (Prussia)SabaticoSabbath
    Russian (Russia)SubbotaSabbath
    ArabicAssabtThe Sabbath
    TurkishYomessabtDay Sabbath
    MalayAri-SabtuDay Sabbath
    Lusatian (Saxony)SobotaSabbath
    Bulgarian (Bulgaria)SubbotaSabbath
    New Slovenian (Illyria, in Austria)SobotaSabbath
    Illyrian (Dalmatia, Servia)SubotaSabbath
    Wallachian (Roumania or Wallachia)SambataSabbath
    Roman (Sapin, Catalonia)DissapteDay Sabbath
    Ecclesiastical Roman (Italy)SabbatumSabbath
    D’oc. French (ancient and modern)DissataDay Sabbath
    Norman French (10th -11th Centuries)SabbediSabbath Day
    Wolof (Senegambia, West Africa)Alere-AsserLast Day Sabbath
    Congo (West Equatorial Africa)Sabbado or KiansbulaSabbath
    Orma (South of Abyssiania)Zam-ba-daSabbath
    Kazani – TARTAR (East Russia)SubbotaSabbath
    Osmanlian (Turkey)Yome-es-sabtday of the Sabbath
    Arabic (Very old names)Shi-yarChief or rejoicing day
    Ancient SyriacShab-ba-thoSabbath
    Chaldee Syriac (Kurdistan,Urumia,Persia)ShaptuSabbath
    Babylonian Syriac (A Very Old Language)Sa-Ba-tuSabbath
    Maltese (Malta)Is-sibtthe Sabbath
    Ethiopic (Abyssinia)San-batSabbath
    Coptic (Egypt)Pi sabbatonthe Sabbath
    Tamashek (Atlas mountains, Africa)A-hal es-sabtthe Sabbath
    Kabyle (North Africa, Ancient Numidan)Ghas assebtthe Sabbath day
    Hausa (Central Africa)Assebatuthe Sabbath
    Pasto (Afghanistan)ShambaSabbath (pleasantest day of the week)
    Pahlivi (ancient Persian)ShambidSabbath
    Persian (Persia)ShambahSabbath
    Armenian (Armenia)ShapatSabbath
    Kurdish (Kurdistan)ShambaSabbath
    Ndebele (Zimbabwe)SabathaSabbath
    Shona (Zimbabwe)SabataSabbath
    Miscellaneous Middle Ages Languages
    Georgian (Caucasus)ShabatiSabbath
    Suanian (Caucasus)SammtynSabbath
    Ingoush (Caucasus)ShattSabbath
    Malayan (Malaya, Sumatra)Hari sabtuday Sabbath
    Javanese (Java)Saptoe or saptuSabbath
    Dayak (Borneo)SabtuSabbath
    Makassar (s. Celebes & Salayer islands)SattuSabbath
    Malagassy (Madagascar)AlsabotsyThe Sabbath
    Swahili (east equatorial Africa)SabatoThe Sabbath
    Mandingo (west Africa, s. of Senegal)SibitiSabbath
    Teda (central Africa)EssebduThe Sabbath
    Bornu (central Africa)AssebduThe Sabbath
    Logone (central Africa)Se-sibdeThe Sabbath
    Bagrimma (central Africa)SibbediSabbath
    Maba (central Africa)SabSabbath
    Permian (Russian)SubotaSabbath
    Votiak (Russian)SubbotaSabbath

    – Emily Thomsen