Since Jesus and the Apostles kept the Sabbaths and the Holy Days (including the Day of Atonement, which is today in 2016), why do most who profess Christ not observe them?
While social pressure, tradition, and twisted interpretation of scripture all play a role, one role that is overlooked by many is the fact that there are a few passages in the New Testament that have often been intentionally mistranslated.
Colossians 2:16-17 and Galatians 4:8-10
The most common portion of the Bible that I have heard cited as “proof” that the biblical holy days are done away with is Colossian 2:16-17.
Here is one popular mistranslation of it:
16 So let no one judge you in food or in drink, or regarding a festival or a new moon or sabbaths, 17 which are a shadow of things to come, but the substance is of Christ. (Colossians 2:16-17, NKJV)
The above gives a rendering that suggests that the holy days are not important, like they have no substance. But that is not what the Apostle Paul was actually saying.
So, let’s examine two other translations of those passages:
16 Let no man therefore judge you in meat, or in drink, or in respect of an holyday, or of the new moon, or of the sabbath days: 17 Which are a shadow of things to come; but the body is of Christ. (Colossians 2:16-17, KJV)
16 Let no man therefore judge you in meat or in drink, or in respect of a festival day, or of the new moon, or of the sabbaths, 17 Which are a shadow of things to come, but the body is of Christ. (Colossians 2:16-17, Douay-Rheims)
The above translations are closer than the NKJV. However, they both added a word that is not in the original Greek.
The word added is “is.” Truly literal translation leave it out as it is not in there. Notice the Strong’s words for verse 17:
3739. 2076 4639… 3588……. 3195 3588…… 1161 4983 9999 3588 5547
Which are a shadow of things to come; the…. but.. body ….is…. of… Christ.
(Interlinear Transliterated Bible. Copyright (c) 1994 by Biblesoft).
It should be noted that 9999 means that there was no word in the biblical text–so oddly, even though they knew there was no word, even the Interlinear added something that the verse in Greek did not say. It should also be noted that #3588 is most often translated as “the.”
Because the same three Strong’s words (#4983, 3588, & 5547) are used four other times in the New Testament and in those times the KJV translates it as “the body of Christ” (Romans 7:4; 1 Corinthians 10:16; 1 Corinthians 12:27; Ephesians 4:12)–as does the NKJV (The Douay-Rheims translates it that way in three of those verses; in the one that it does not, 1 Corinthians 10:16, it translates it as “blood of Christ”).
Therefore, if all the translators were simply consistent with themselves, they would have translated Colossians 2:16-17 to state:
16 Therefore let NO MAN JUDGE YOU in eating and drinking or in respect of a festival or of an observance of the new moon or of a sabbath; 17 for those things are a shadow of the things to come, BUT THE BODY OF CHRIST.
Or in other words, do not let those outside the body of Christ (the church, Colossians 1:18) judge you regarding holy days, but only the church itself. Colossians 2:16-17 is not saying that the holy days are done away.
It is sad, but most in the Protestant and Catholic worlds have misunderstood Colossians 2:16-17 because translators who know better MISTRANSLATED it.
Even the early Orthodox bishop Ambrose of Milan recognized that Colossians 2:17 was referring to the “body of Christ” as he wrote the following commenting on it:
Let us, then, seek the body of Christ…where the body of Christ is, there is the truth.
(Ambrose of Milan. Book II. On the Belief in the Resurrection, section 107. A Select Library of Nicene and Post-Nicene Fathers of the Christian Church: Socrates, Sozomenus: Church histories. Schaff P, Wace H, editors. Christian literature Company, 1896 Original from the University of Virginia Digitized Nov 11, 2008, p. 192).
It is sad that modern translators of the Greek have often ignored what the expression really meant.
Furthermore, when the Apostle Paul wrote, in 1 Corinthians 5:8, “Therefore let us keep the feast, not with old leaven, nor with the leaven of malice and wickedness, but with the unleavened bread of sincerity and truth,” this was likely properly believed to show additional scriptural support that the Holy Days were still enjoined upon Christians.
Another common objection is to keeping the Holy Days is Galatians 4:8-10. Protestants, and some Catholics, tend to use this to say that no biblical dates are to be observed, so let’s look at that:
8 But then, indeed, when you did not know God, you served those which by nature are not gods. 9 But now after you have known God, or rather are known by God, how is it that you turn again to the weak and beggarly elements, to which you desire again to be in bondage? 10 You observe days and months and seasons and years. (Galatians 4:8-10, NKJV)
8 But then indeed, not knowing God, you served them, who, by nature, are not gods. 9 But now, after that you have known God, or rather are known by God: how turn you again to the weak and needy elements, which you desire to serve again? 10 You observe days, and months, and times, and years. (Galatians 4:8-10, Douay-Rheims)
There are two problems with using these passages as part of an anti-holy day argument.
The first is that the Galatians were Gentiles (although there were apparently some Jews addressed in later verses) and were NOT keeping the biblical Holy Days (plus, there is no way that the Bible would call biblical requirements as “beggarly elements”) .
The second is that Catholics/Protestants/Orthodox do observe various days and years (Sunday, Easter, Christmas, New Years), so they should not observe anything if they feel that no religious days are to be observed.
Galatians 4:8-10 is not doing away with the biblical Holy Days.
It is poor exegesis (biblical interpretation) to rely on a mistranslation to claim that the holy days are done away with.
A Wrong Sabbath Argument
The NKJV improperly translates Hebrews 4:9 as follows:
9 There remains therefore a rest for the people of God. (Hebrews 4:9, NKJV)
Because of this (as well as similar mistranslations by others), many do not realize that the New Testament specifically enjoins keeping the Sabbath.
Decades ago, a Protestant told me that he did not keep the Sabbath because he claimed that “the ten commandments were nailed to the cross” (they weren’t, for scriptural proof please see Were the Ten Commandments Nailed to the Cross?) and that all the other commandments were repeated in the New Testament after the resurrection, except the Sabbath commandment, hence it was done away and not intended to be observed.
I informed him that the second commandment against bowing down before graven images was not explicitly so stated after the resurrection in the New Testament. So, I asked him if he should bow down before graven images, and he said no. I asked why. He said because it was wrong. And when I asked him based on what, he had nothing to say.
Since he claimed that the Sabbath commandment was not repeated in the New Testament after the resurrection, I had him read the following:
3 Now we who have believed enter that rest, just as God has said, “So I declared on oath in my anger, ‘They shall never enter my rest.’” 4 And yet his work has been finished since the creation of the world. For somewhere he has spoken about the seventh day in these words: “And on the seventh day God rested from all his work.” 5 And again in the passage above he says, “They shall never enter my rest.” 6 It still remains that some will enter that rest, and those who formerly had the gospel preached to them did not go in, because of their disobedience…9 There remains, then, a Sabbath-rest for the people of God; 10 for anyone who enters God’s rest also rests from his own work, just as God did from his. 11 Let us, therefore, make every effort to enter that rest, so that no one will fall by following their example of disobedience (Hebrews 4:3-6,9-11, NIV).
This clearly shows that the command to keep the seventh day Sabbath is in the New Testament. It also shows that only those who will not observe it because of their disobedience argue otherwise. And that is why Paul observed it. Despite the fact that the New Testament stated that the Sabbath was to be kept, he who claimed to believe the Bible, would not do it.
Greek word in Hebrews 4:9 that the KJV/NKJV/Douay Rheims translates simply as “rest” is the word sabbatismós. It means keeping of the sabbath or sabbath-rest. The Greek word commonly translated as “rest” (meaning taking a break) a dozen times throughout of the New Testament is “anapaúsasthe.” Yet, that was not the inspired word in Hebrews 4:9. And Hebrews 4:9 should mention that a sabbath-rest or observance of the sabbath is being discussed.
Even the ancient Orthodox scholar Origen understood some of what Paul wrote in Hebrews as he wrote:
But what is the feast of the Sabbath except that which the apostle speaks, “There remaineth therefore a Sabbatism,” that is, the observance of the Sabbath, by the people of God…let us see how the Sabbath ought to be observed by a Christian. On the Sabbath-day all worldly labors ought to be abstained from…give yourselves up to spiritual exercises, repairing to church, attending to sacred reading and instruction…this is the observance of the Christian Sabbath (Translated from Origen’s Opera 2, Paris, 1733, Andrews J.N. in History of the Sabbath, 3rd editon, 1887. Reprint Teach Services, Brushton (NY), 1998, pp. 324-325).
Now I should add that although certain “modern” translators put their own word in instead (usually “rest”), the reality is that Origen began writing relatively close to when the New Testament was written and lived in a time when he should have been able to understood what the Greek word sabbatismós actually meant.
Acts 13:42-44 shows what Paul did:
…the Gentiles begged that these words might be preached to them the next Sabbath. Now when the congregation had broken up, many of the Jews and devout proselytes followed Paul and Barnabas, who, speaking to them, persuaded them to continue in the grace of God. On the next Sabbath almost the whole city came together to hear the word of God.
Also Acts 18:4 states:
And he reasoned in the synagogue every Sabbath, and persuaded both Jews and Greeks.
Hence the New Testament is clear that Paul kept the Sabbath, regularly preached on the Sabbath, and that he wrote that there remains “a Sabbath-rest for the people of God.”
The Apostle Peter warned:
14 Therefore, beloved, looking forward to these things, be diligent to be found by Him in peace, without spot and blameless; 15 and consider that the longsuffering of our Lord is salvation — as also our beloved brother Paul, according to the wisdom given to him, has written to you, 16 as also in all his epistles, speaking in them of these things, in which are some things hard to understand, which untaught and unstable people twist to their own destruction, as they do also the rest of the Scriptures. (2 Peter 3:14-16)
Many rely on mistranslations, and thus can be considered as part of the “untaught” that Peter warned about. And many have not only twisted what the Apostle Paul wrote, several scholars have likely intentionally mistranslated what he wrote, which results in even more inaccurate twisting of scriptures. But those that are diligent can see through this if they are willing to submit to the truth of God’s word and His plan.
Another verse whose meaning has sometimes been twisted is Revelation 1:10, but I will not make this article longer for it–details on it can be found in the article Is Revelation 1:10 talking about Sunday or the Day of the Lord?
The following is normally not mistranslated, but seems to be misunderstood, especially within the Protestant world:
14 Blessed are those who do His commandments, that they may have the right to the tree of life, and may enter through the gates into the city. 15 But outside are dogs and sorcerers and sexually immoral and murderers and idolaters, and whoever loves and practices a lie. (Revelation 22:14-15, NKJV)
Believing and relying on mistranslations instead of the actual word of God is consistent with loving and practicing a lie. True Christians would not want to do that.
Both the seventh-day Sabbath and the biblical Holy Days were kept by Jesus and His disciples. And they should be kept by those who wish to be faithful today.
The Continuing Church of God has a sermon online for today.
Christians, the Day of Atonement, and Fasting
What is the Day of Atonement? When is it? Does this Atonement have anything to do with Christianity? What scriptures discuss this in the Old Testament? Are there scriptures that discuss the Atonement in the New Testament? Did Jesus and the Apostle Paul keep the Day of Atonement? What true Christians kept the Day of Atonement throughout history? How is Satan involved? Are there health benefits to fasting? How does the Day of Atonement fit in God’s plan of salvation? Dr. Thiel addresses these questions and more.
Again, here is a link to the sermon video: Christians, the Day of Atonement, and Fasting.
Here is a link to a related offertory: Atonement Offerings?
Some items of possibly related interest may include the following:
The Sabbath in the Early Church and Abroad Was the seventh-day (Saturday) Sabbath observed by the apostolic and post-apostolic Church? Here is a related sermon video The Christian Sabbath and How and Why to Keep It.
The Dramatic Story of Chinese Sabbathkeepers This reformatted Good News article from 1955 discusses Sabbath-keeping in China in the 1800s.
Is God Unreasonable? Some have suggested that if God requires Sabbath-keeping He is unreasonable. Is that true?
Is There “An Annual Worship Calendar” In the Bible? This paper provides a biblical and historical critique of several articles, including one by the Tkach WCG which states that this should be a local decision. What do the Holy Days mean? Also you can click here for the calendar of Holy Days.
Did Early Christians Observe the Fall Holy Days? The ‘Fall’ Holy Days come every year in September and/or October on the Roman calendar. Some call them Jewish holidays, but they were kept by Jesus, the apostles, and their early faithful followers. Should you keep them? What does the Bible teach? What do records of church history teach? What does the Bible teach about the Feasts of Trumpets, Atonement, Tabernacles, and the Last Great Day? Here is a link to a related sermon: Should you keep the Fall Holy Days?
Is Revelation 1:10 talking about Sunday or the Day of the Lord? Most Protestant scholars say Sunday is the Lord’s Day, but is that what the Bible teaches?
Sunday and Christianity Was Sunday observed by the apostolic and true post-apostolic Christians? Who clearly endorsed Sunday?
Tradition and Scripture: From the Bible and Church Writings Are traditions on equal par with scripture? Many believe that is what Peter, John, and Paul taught. But did they? A related sermon is titled Tradition and Scripture.
Another Look at the Didache, Ignatius, and the Sabbath Did Ignatius write against the Sabbath and for Sunday? What about the Didache? What does the actual Greek reveal? Are mistranslations of these early writings relied on for false doctrinal positions?
Should You Observe God’s Holy Days or Demonic Holidays? This is a free pdf booklet explaining what the Bible and history shows about God’s Holy Days and popular holidays.