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You state in your booklet, "Jesus Christ–A Great Mystery," on pages 83 and 84, that the word for "Sabbath" in Matthew 28:1 is derived from the plural form of the Greek word (i.e., "sabbata") and should be translated "Sabbaths." However, the Greek Interlinear Translation shows that the Greek word is in the singular–"sabbaton," not "sabbata"–and it should therefore be translated in the singular ("Sabbath," not "Sabbaths"). Also, in the same phrase in Matthew 28:1, the Greek word for "week" is "sabbaton," but it seems to have nothing to do with the weekly Sabbath.

You are referring to the following statements in our above-mentioned booklet:

“In addition, Matthew 28:1 also reveals–correctly translated–that there were actually two ‘Sabbaths’ during the crucifixion week, a weekly Sabbath and an annual Sabbath. Cockrell points out: ‘Matthew makes it plain that two Sabbaths had passed since Jesus was crucified. The KJV [Authorized Version] has this rendering: “In the end of the Sabbath, as it began to dawn toward the first day of the week, came Mary Magdalene and the other Mary to see the sepulcher” (Matth. 28:1). On this verse nearly all translators have allowed tradition to control their translation. It is not “Sabbath” but “Sabbaths” in the Greek text (the genitive case and the plural number). The verse properly translated would read: “In the end of the Sabbaths…” This allows for an annual Sabbath on Thursday and a regular Sabbath on Saturday.

“The Fenton Bible renders this verse correctly as, ‘after the Sabbaths,’ and it includes the following footnote: ‘The Greek original is in the plural, “Sabbaths,” which is retained.’ Alfred Marshall’s Parallel New Testament in Greek and English likewise translate the clause as, ‘after the Sabbaths.’

“In the Greek, the word for ‘Sabbath’ in the clause, ‘after the Sabbath,’ is ‘sabbata.’ This is the plural form of ‘sabbaton,’ and it is translated elsewhere many times (but unfortunately, not always, and not consistently) in the plural. For instance, we read in Matthew 12:5 (Authorized Version): ‘… how that on the sabbath days [in Greek, ‘sabbata’] the priests in the temple profane the Sabbath [Greek, ‘sabbaton’]. Matthew 12:10 (AV) states: ‘”Is it lawful to heal on the sabbath days?”‘ The Greek is, ‘sabbata.’ Luke 4:31 (AV) reads: ‘… and taught them on the sabbath days [Greek, ‘sabbata.’].’ The New King James Bible translates this word quite accurately here as, ‘Sabbaths.’ Further examples can be found in Luke 6:2, 9; Colossians 2:16; and Acts 17:2.”

A good help in regard to the correct original Greek in the above-quoted Scriptures, including Matthew 28:1, can be found in Young’s Analytical Concordance to the Bible. It lists, under “Sabbath,” the Scriptures which use the word in the singular (“sabbaton”) and in the plural (“sabbata”). Strong’s Exhaustive Concordance to the Bible is not helpful in this case, as it does not differentiate between the singular and the plural forms. Vine’s Expository Dictionary of New Testament Words is not extremely helpful, either. It does admit that the Greek word “sabbata” is the plural form, but it continues to state rather doubtful artificial reasons for the differentiation between the singular and the plural in the Greek. Quite inconsistently, however, the commentary does admit that the plural is used, and should be translated as such, in passages such as Matthew 12:5 and Acts 16:13.

Further research on the question reveals that the Authorized Version translates many times–but unfortunately not always–the plural for “Sabbaths” as “Sabbath days” (for instance, in Matthew 12:5, 10; Luke 4:31; Luke 6:2, 9; Colossians 2:16; and Acts 17:2). In the original Greek, there is no word for “days”–the correct translation should be “Sabbaths.” The New King James Bible translates most of these passages as “Sabbaths.”

To add to the confusion, the Greek word in Matthew 28:1 (The New King James Bible translates, quite inaccurately: “Now after the Sabbath…”) is “sabbaton,” but it is still the PLURAL form–not the singular form. In the Greek, the genitive plural form is used–and the genitive plural form of “sabbata” is “sabbaton.” In the Original, it says that it was “late on” or “in the end OF” the Sabbaths–that is, it was in the end OF SABBATON. Since SABBATON is here the genitive plural of SABBATA, it is still a plural expression, and in English, it must be correctly translated: “Now in the end of the Sabbaths…”

This shows, as we explain in our booklet, that there were actually TWO Sabbaths during the crucifixion week–a weekly Sabbath (the period from Friday sunset to Saturday sunset), and an annual Holy Day–the First Day of Unleavened Bread, which fell in that week on a Thursday–beginning with sunset on Wednesday. The women came to the grave at the end of the WEEKLY Sabbath, when the annual Sabbath had already ended and the weekly Sabbath was about to end.

In addition, it is correct that the word “week” in Matthew 28:1 is also derived from the Greek plural word for Sabbath, i.e. “SABBATA.” (Even though the Greek in Matthew 28:1 is “sabbaton,” it is again the genitive plural of “sabbata,” since it says, in the original Greek, “… as it was getting dusk toward the first day OF the week…”). Young’s Analytical Concordance of the Bible explains that the phrase “week” in Matthew 28:1 is to be understood as “from Sabbath to Sabbath”–that is, a week is composed of the time from one weekly Sabbath to the next weekly Sabbath. It is mostly used in the plural (“sabbata”), meaning “one OF Sabbaths,” signifying the first day AFTER the weekly Sabbath. Examples where the word “week” is translated from the Greek plural word for Sabbath (i.e., “sabbata”), can be found, in addition to Matthew 28:1, in Mark 16:2; Luke 24:1; John 20:1, 19; Acts 20:7; and 1 Corinthians 16:2.

In a few cases, such as Luke 18:12 and Mark 16:9, the Greek word for “week” is in the singular form for Sabbath (i.e., “sabbaton”). In Luke 18:12, the Pharisee claims that he is fasting “twice a week.” It literally says: “twice of the Sabbath”; that is, “twice in the days after the weekly Sabbath.”

Rather than abolishing the weekly and annual Sabbaths, the above-quoted examples show that the New Testament clearly upholds the sanctity of God’s weekly and annual Holy Days. For more information, please read our free booklet, “God’s Commanded Holy Days.”

Lead Writer: Norbert Link