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Which Day of the Week Is The Sabbath?

Hourglass - When is the Sabbath?

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) 1 2 3 4 5 6 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 Shab-bathSabbath
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.) First Second Third Fourth Fifth Sixth Sa-ba-tu Sabbath
Assyrian Euphrates and Tigris Valleys, Mesopotamia First Second Third Fourth Fifth Sixth 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) Assembly Is-sibt. The Sabbath
Ge-ez or Ethiopic Abyssinia (Ge-ez signifies "original") One (day) Second Third Fourth Fifth Eve (of Sabbath) san-bat Sabbath
Tigre Abyssinia (Closely related to Ge-ez) One (First day) Second Third Fourth Fifth Eve (of Sabbath) san-bat Sabbath
Amharic, Abyssinia (Nearly related to Ge-ez) One Second Third Fourth Fifth Eve (of Sabbath) san-bat Sabbath
Falasha (Language of the Jews of Abyssinia) One Second Third Fourth Fifth Sixth 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


Language Word for Saturday/7thDay Meaning
Greek Sabbaton Sabbath
Latin (Italy) Sabbatum Sabbath
Spanish (Spain) Sábado Sabbath
Portuguese (Portugal) Sabbado Sabbath
Italian (Italy) Sabbato Sabbath
French (France) Samedi Sabbath day
High German (Germany) Samstag Sabbath
Prussian (Prussia) Sabatico Sabbath
Russian (Russia) Subbota Sabbath
Polish Sobota Sabbath
Hebrew Shabbath Sabbath
Afaghan Shamba Sabbath
Hindustani Shamba Sabbath
Persian Shambin Sabbath
Arabic Assabt The Sabbath
Turkish Yomessabt Day Sabbath
Malay Ari-Sabtu Day Sabbath
Abyssinian Sanbat Sabbath
Lusatian (Saxony) Sobota Sabbath
Bohemian Sobota Sabbath
Bulgarian (Bulgaria) Subbota Sabbath
New Slovenian (Illyria, in Austria) Sobota Sabbath
Illyrian (Dalmatia, Servia) Subota Sabbath
Wallachian (Roumania or Wallachia) Sambata Sabbath
Roman (Sapin, Catalonia) Dissapte Day Sabbath
Ecclesiastical Roman (Italy) Sabbatum Sabbath
D'oc. French (ancient and modern) Dissata Day Sabbath
Norman French (10th -11th Centuries) Sabbedi Sabbath Day
Wolof (Senegambia, West Africa) Alere-Asser Last Day Sabbath
Congo (West Equatorial Africa) Sabbado or Kiansbula Sabbath
Orma (South of Abyssiania) Zam-ba-da Sabbath
Kazani - TARTAR (East Russia) Subbota Sabbath
Osmanlian (Turkey) Yome-es-sabt day of the Sabbath
Arabic (Very old names) Shi-yar Chief or rejoicing day
Ancient Syriac Shab-ba-tho Sabbath
Chaldee Syriac (Kurdistan,Urumia,Persia) Shaptu Sabbath
Babylonian Syriac (A Very Old Language) Sa-Ba-tu Sabbath
Maltese (Malta) Is-sibt the Sabbath
Ethiopic (Abyssinia) San-bat Sabbath
Coptic (Egypt) Pi sabbaton the Sabbath
Tamashek (Atlas mountains, Africa) A-hal es-sabt the Sabbath
Kabyle (North Africa, Ancient Numidan) Ghas assebt the Sabbath day
Hausa (Central Africa) Assebatu the Sabbath
Pasto (Afghanistan) Shamba Sabbath (pleasantest day of the week)
Pahlivi (ancient Persian) Shambid Sabbath
Persian (Persia) Shambah Sabbath
Armenian (Armenia) Shapat Sabbath
Kurdish (Kurdistan) Shamba Sabbath
Ndebele (Zimbabwe) Sabatha Sabbath
Shona (Zimbabwe) Sabata Sabbath
Miscellaneous Middle Ages Languages
Georgian (Caucasus) Shabati Sabbath
Suanian (Caucasus) Sammtyn Sabbath
Ingoush (Caucasus) Shatt Sabbath
Malayan (Malaya, Sumatra) Hari sabtu day Sabbath
Javanese (Java) Saptoe or saptu Sabbath
Dayak (Borneo) Sabtu Sabbath
Makassar (s. Celebes & Salayer islands) Sattu Sabbath
Malagassy (Madagascar) Alsabotsy The Sabbath
Swahili (east equatorial Africa) Sabato The Sabbath
Mandingo (west Africa, s. of Senegal) Sibiti Sabbath
Teda (central Africa) Essebdu The Sabbath
Bornu (central Africa) Assebdu The Sabbath
Logone (central Africa) Se-sibde The Sabbath
Bagrimma (central Africa) Sibbedi Sabbath
Maba (central Africa) Sab Sabbath
Permian (Russian) Subota Sabbath
Votiak (Russian) Subbota Sabbath

- Emily Thomsen

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