Sabbath

Discussion in 'Ancient History and Mythology' started by iBrian, Nov 7, 2006.

  1. iBrian

    iBrian Peace, Love and Unity Staff Member

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    Curious question - I've seen some strong debates within Christianity as to whether the Sabbath is Saturday or Sunday.

    In Judaism, has the Sabbath always traditionally been regarded as one of these days, and if so, which one?

    And is it likely the day has changed even within Judaism within the past couple of millenia?
     
  2. dauer

    dauer Active Member

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    Hey Brian. :)

    In Judaism the day has always been from Friday at sunset to Saturday at nightfall. I've never read anything to suggest it had at one time been on another day. The movement in Germany which eventually gave rise to the Reform mevement, when they were trying to assimilate into the culture, did start observing a Sunday Sabbath. But by and large the Reform movement today observes the Sabbath on Saturday like everyone else. I've never actually been to a shul with Sunday services, or even seen any type of modern flyer or bulletin from one.

    Dauer
     
  3. bananabrain

    bananabrain awkward squadnik

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    the early church changed it from saturday to sunday when they were trying to make a definitive break from judaism, i think about the C3rd, but not absolutely sure. however, the linguistic clues persist in spanish and portugues languages (although not in english), SáBaDo for saturday being linguistically derived from ShaBbaT - for some reason they never got round to erasing the reference. you will further note that the word for sunday, "domingo", means "the lord's day". originally, it was called some equivalent of "sunday", don't know what exactly, but they changed it. the sephardic jews, refusing to refer to sunday as being the sabbath, gave it an arabic name, "al-hattat", the same way as they refer to G!D as "Dio" rather than "Dios" in order to avoid any suggestion of trinitarianism.

    b'shalom

    bananabrain
     
  4. iBrian

    iBrian Peace, Love and Unity Staff Member

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    Ah, thanks for the clarification - much appreciated. :)
     
  5. Chavak

    Chavak New Member

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    It has always been and always will be from sundown Friday to sundown
    Saturday
    No...
     
  6. Wavy_Wonder1

    Wavy_Wonder1 Above the average dabbler

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    The Sabbath was originally on none of the days of our week because our fixed septenary cycle of days did not exist where we find the earliest mention of the Sabbath, which didn't originate with ancient Judaism.

    The Sabbath was a lunar festival, attached with certain phases of the moon, as far as some scholars can tell, beginning in Babylonia.

    Thanks,
    Eric
     
  7. lunamoth

    lunamoth Episcopalian

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    Hi Wavy Wonder, and welcome to Interfaith Online. :)

    I have never heard this theory of Sabbath before. Do you have any references for it?
     
  8. Wavy_Wonder1

    Wavy_Wonder1 Above the average dabbler

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    Here's something I wrote recently explaining my basic position:

    Scholars today are generally not quite certain of the origin of the Jewish Sabbath, or Calendar for that matter [1], but of the views represented I tend to agree with the view that the Sabbath day was once regarded and celebrated in Israel's ancient past as a lunar event, probably borrowed from Babylonia; that is to say, it was originally calculated by the phases of the moon. This was recognized as early as the 19th century:
    The older theories of the origin of the Jewish Sabbath (connecting it with Egypt, with the day of Saturn, or in general with the seven planets) have now been almost entirely abandoned. The disposition at present is to regard the day as originally a lunar festival, similar to a Babylonian custom.[2]

    On into the 20th century this view prevailed:
    The name, Sabbath, first appears in Babylonia and as an institution may, in fact, be traced back to the early pre-Semitic inhabitants of that land, the Sumerians. In a bilingual tablet, K.6012 + K.10684, containing a list of the days of the month, the equation U-XV-KAM = sa-bat-ti (line 13) appears, i.e. the 15th day of the month was known in Babylonia as the sabattu, and further, it is the only one of the month that is so named...We would infer, then, that the sabattu was identical with the day of the full moon and with it alone.[3]


    The Babylonians developed and used a lunar calendar[4]. Their months were synodic (i.e., corresponded to the phases of the moon) and the 15th day here is significant because the full moon phase coincides with the 15th day of every synodic month (cf. Psalm lxxxi.3). This day held special significance with the Israelites as it marked the beginning of two of the most important feasts in Israel: the Feast of Unleavened Bread and the Feast of Tabernacles (see Leviticus xxiii.6, 34). The count to Pentecost was also counted from the 15th of day of Unleavened Bread (the first day of this seven-day feast) which is explicitly called the Sabbath in Leviticus xxiii.15. The LXX reads 'first day' here (referring to the 15th of Unleavened Bread, called the 'Sabbath' in the Masoretic Text) and this was understood in the first century by the Pharisees[5] and by Josephus[6].

    The introduction of the Sabbath recurring every seventh day after an interval of six work days in the Priestly tradition (Genesis i.1-ii.3; Exodus xx.11; Leviticus xxiii.3, etc.) places the Sabbath at the end of each lunar week of the synodic month in accord with the phases of the moon: namely, the 8th, 15th, 22nd, and 29th days of the month. This is possible because the day of the new moon (the 1st day of any given month) was not counted in the seven-day cycle (cf. Ezekiel xlvi.1), placing the Sabbaths on the same days each month (the first day of the first lunar week beginning with the 2nd day of the month). A perfect illustration of this is found in Exodus xvi, where Israel arrives in the Wilderness of Sin on the 15th day of the second month (verse 1). I understand the mention of 'Sin' here (the moon god and one of the chief deities in the Babylonian pantheon) as deliberate, for in this chapter, the first recorded instance in the Hebrew bible of Israel observing the Sabbath, the god Yahweh appropriates the Sabbath to serve as a holy institute for Israel to keep in honor of himself (verse 23) every seventh day of the lunar week in the synodic month (as opposed to only the full moon, or 15th).

    But observe the chronology here: Israel arrived in the Wilderness of Sin on the 15th day of the month, 'grumbled' about the shortage of food, and Yahweh commands them to gather bread for the next six days (twice the daily portion on the sixth day) and rest on the seventh (verses 2-5). As it happens, the next six days fall on the following dates:

    16th (1)
    17th (2)
    18th (3)
    19th (4)
    20th (5)
    21st (6)

    That places the 7th day (Sabbath) on the 22nd day of the month with the next one trailing behind on the 29th. Counting backwards from the 22nd that places the previous Sabbaths on the 15th and 8th days of the month...in perfect accord with the understanding above, and this is no mere coincidence.

    Scholars are also uncertain of when the change to the uninterrupted, contiguous cycle of seven days culminating with the Sabbath took place (i.e., what is known today as the Sabbath or 'Saturday')[7]. Conjecture as to when this occurred ranges from the pre-exilic period (when prophets like Isaiah were condemning Israel for idolatry associated with the celestial bodies including the moon; cf. Isaiah xxiv.21) to the exilic period during the ministries of prophets like Ezekiel[8].

    I, however, believe lunar Sabbaths were kept down to at least the first century, even if not universally, based upon the writings of Philo, where he correlates the weeks with the phases of the moon[9], associates the keeping of the Sabbath with the count from the new moon[10], correlates the Sabbath with the feast days[11], just as done above, and explicates the significance of the number 7 in the context of the phases of the moon and the seventh day.[12]

    As of yet in my studies I know of no evidence refuting the practice of lunar Sabbaths in Israel.

    Thanks,
    E.L.B.




    [1] See S. J. De Vries, 'Calendar', The Interpreter's Dictionary of the Bible, Abingdon Press, 1962, vol. 2, pp. 483-488
    [sup]2[/sup] C. H. Toy, 'The Earliest Form of the Sabbath', Journal of Biblical Literature, vol. 18, no. 1/2, 1899, p.190 (referencing the earlier treatments of Lotz, Nowack, and Wellhausen)
    [3] T. J. Meek, 'The Sabbath in the Old Testament: (Its Origin and Development)', JBL, vol. 33, no. 3, 1914, p. 202.
    [4] See 'Calendar', Encyc. Brit., Macro., 15th ed., 1990, vol. 15, p. 463
    [5] Meg. Ta'an. i.; Men. 65a. Reference: http://www.jewishencyclopedia.com/vi...arch=sadducees
    [6] Antiquities, Book iii, 10.5-6
    [7] See E. G. Kraeling, 'The Present Status of the Sabbath Question', The American Journal of Semitic Languages and Literatures, vol. 49, no. 3, 1933, pp. 218-228
    [8] See Meek, 'The Sabbath in the Old Testament'
    [9] Congr. XIX (106)
    [10] Decal. XX (96)
    [11] ibid., XXX (159)
    [12] Spec. leg., i, 178; LA, i, 8.
     
  9. brucegdc

    brucegdc Moderator

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    An interesting assertion, Wavy. I've taken one of the two copies of the post and moved it to Belief & Spirituality as it's probably a better location for this discussion - more visibility and it's likely to focus on historical data rather than the faith specifics.
     
  10. bananabrain

    bananabrain awkward squadnik

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    the word "shabbat" is etymologically related to the word for "seven", so presumably it has to be seven of something. and *obviously* we can't *possibly* believe the traditional answer now, can we? our calendar is lunar in any case and some of the months have the same names as the babylonian months, but the months have no obvious relationship with the days of the week. so this argument basically, is:

    1. the earliest thing which sounds a bit like "shabbat" is in babylonia.
    2. they had a lunar calendar.
    3. they didn't have a seven-day week.
    4. therefore it must be the same thing.
    5. therefore the jews took a lunar festival, turned it into a solar festival and engineered their language around it so that every mention of "seven" or "rest" was related to it.
    6. oh, but the jews kept a lunar calendar and completely eliminated the relationship of the weekly cycle to it.

    i can't be the only one that finds this somewhat of a nonsensical argument.

    we're also not actually interested in the full moon at all - we don't make a fuss about the 15th as a general thing. we're interested in the *new* moon, which falls on the first day of the month. and pentecost (shavuot) falls on the 49th (7x7) day after passover but guess what, that's actually the 6th of the month of sivan. yet according to the scholars, these three festivals are related to each other, aren't they?

    says it all, really.

    b'shalom

    bananabrain
     
  11. Dream

    Dream New Member

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    Noticing a similarity is not proving derivation. Similarities found in Babylonian sources are often presumed to preexist vaguely similar items in the Bible. I remember trying to find some information about Enoch once and the assertion was repeatedly made that Enoch was a fabrication based upon some character in Babylonian myths, but no explanation was provided as to why they thought Enoch was copied from those myths! Why should we assume one came before the other? At least admit that you don't know, or you are not helping anyone. People want to know -- not to assume.
     
  12. Wavy_Wonder1

    Wavy_Wonder1 Above the average dabbler

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    Not an argument

    This isn't an argument and a rather poor caricature of my post. Firstly, it's true that the word for 'Sabbath' is related to the word for 'seven'....but that's precisely why the phases of the Moon on which the lunar Sabbaths are based on fall every seven days: on the 8th, 15th, 22nd, and 29th days of the month (each seven days apart). Secondly, Babylonia did have a seven-day week. Their understanding of 'weeks', however, was related to the Moon, just as I'm arguing for the Hebrews. So these portions of your argument are nothing but a straw men.

    Also, we see evidence of the Sabbath being detached from the Moon in the Dead Sea Scrolls, markedly in the book Jubilees which was found at Qumran, and which was written in polemic to the lunar system of Temple Judaism.[1] It's also interesting that this book specifically states that the Sabbaths were to be observed by the Sun[2] (presumably, as opposed to by the Moon).

    Perhaps you should take the time to actually read some material on this before you attempt to tackle this issue again.

    The Hebrew bible disagrees.[3] And if you cared to check the references from Philo I supplied, you would have seen that, so far as he's concerned, the end of the second week coincides with the full moon.[4] This perfectly accords with the understanding in my post, since the 15th of every synodic month falls on the full moon (and the second Sabbath, i.e., the end of the second week, in the month).

    Lastly, like I said, the major pilgrim feasts of Israel, Unleavened Bread, Tabernacles, and Pentecost (counting from the morrow after the Sabbath, i.e., the first day of Unleavened Bread), are all associated with the 15th of the month--the day of the full moon.

    See above.


    Thanks,
    Eric




    [1] Jubilees vi.30-38
    [2] Jubilees ii.9
    [3] Psalm lxxxi.3: Blow the trumpet at the new moon, At the full moon, on our feast day.
    [4] Please see Congr. XIX (106)
     
  13. Wavy_Wonder1

    Wavy_Wonder1 Above the average dabbler

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    Sabbath derivation

    The lunar Sabbath in ancient Hebrew religion does not have to mean that they borrowed it directly from Babylonia. Both could derive conjointly from older Semitic history. However, the similarities themselves cannot be dismissed. Israel seems to have penchant for sharing similar customs and legends with Babylon.

    Thanks,
    Eric
     
  14. bob x

    bob x New Member

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    Re: Sabbath derivation

    It is far older than the Semitic group: pan-Eurasian. The phan wat "auspicious day" (for visiting a Buddhist shrine or other such purposes) in Thailand is still defined in this way, seven days to the half moon phan wat, then eight days to the full moon phan wat, seven days to the waning half phan wat, seven days to the new moon phan wat and maybe the eighth day is still phan wat or maybe it is the first day of the count to the next half moon, depending on whether a visible crescent appears at sunset.
    The Hebrew text urges the people to "remember the sabbaths and new moons", suggestive of a similar system.
     
  15. juantoo3

    juantoo3 ʎʇıɹoɥʇnɐ uoıʇsǝnb

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    Hey Dream,

    I hadn't heard about Enoch in older references, but I have frequently heard others refer to Noah and flood myths, particularly the Epic of Gilgamesh.

    Deluge (mythology - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia)

    Not saying I fully agree, but it is one line of thought out there.

    Hope this helps. :D
     
  16. Dream

    Dream New Member

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    It is the biggest collection of flood stories I've seen, and I read the entire article. Thanks for the indigestion! You know, I've personally collected ocean fossils in inland Mississipi, USA and know people who've found shark teeth on the hills there. Shark teeth apparently can last a long time. I believe you still have a pair, Juantoo3. :)
     
  17. Wavy_Wonder1

    Wavy_Wonder1 Above the average dabbler

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    I'm curious

    What are the texts supporting this? And how old are they and how can we know the ideas in them (if they are based on late writings) predate the time in question? (the prehistory of Semites?) And what's the relationship to the Sabbath here? Lunar observations don't indicate the idea of 'Sabbaths'.

    This is not something I have studied, and I'm interested.

    Thanks,
    Eric
     
  18. bob x

    bob x New Member

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    Re: I'm curious

    The inference that these practices predate the splitting of the Eurasian stock into Semitic, Indo-European, Sino-Tibetan, Austro-Asiatic etc. language group arises from the occurrence of similar practices in cultural groups split among all of these subgroups (but only the Eurasian groups: I do not know of such things in Africa or the Americas). Obviously, we have no written texts from a time earlier than proto-Semitic or proto-Indo-European. Lunar "observations" do not themselves indicate the idea of "sabbaths", true (in Africa and the Americas they also counted the days of the lunations); what is common in Eurasia is to associate the quarter-phase days specifically with religious observances, calling it a particularly appropriate time to go to a shrine or hold a public holiday, etc. The full moon is the most common date to set the public holidays, but the other quarter-phase days at intervals of usually seven days, sometimes eight, would also be noted and specially marked.
     
  19. bananabrain

    bananabrain awkward squadnik

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    <panto>*ooooh* yes it is!</panto>

    well, hark at you. we're not a journal. that was how your argument came across to me, so i called it like i saw it. like dream says:

    this is kind of what annoys me; the idea that nothing in judaism is at all original or in any way revolutionary. i believe the "asapatu" or whatever it was called in babylon was actually a day of ill-omen and nothing to do with a) the Creation or b) rest, joy and pleasure, to say nothing of stopping work. i'd give references, but i'm only a humble traditionalist on an interfaith dialogue site, not a top-notch academic writing a paper. no doubt you can quote chapter and verse to debunk my blind faith.

    ok, so what you have established is that the words for "seven" are related, not that the origin of the *jewish* festival is the same as the origin of the babylonian one. if both had a seven-day cycle (which isn't beyond belief) it doesn't consequently mean that all seven-day festivals are related. you will no doubt be aware that there are animal sacrifices and a priesthood in judaism as well. it is well understood that the revolutionary nature of judaism was to take such established tools of religion and subvert them so that they conveyed an entirely new message and worldview. on reflection, i don't see any reason why the Torah shouldn't have decided to do the same thing for the week, but it still doesn't mean that this persisted later on or, if so, it was anything less than idolatrous.

    if that is the case, why would we have broken this link between the weekly cycle and the lunar cycle? i mean, we still have a lunar calendar and new moon ceremonies and used to go to elaborate lengths to work out when the new moon was visible in jerusalem in order to send runners to babylon? we have, generally speaking, preserved our arguments and reasoning in the oral tradition. and how about the moon blessing ceremony? i've taken a look at the text and can't find anything to do with weeks or anything that could be construed as referring to the full moon, but i wasn't able to find anything. the central point, however, remains the same - on what basis can you assert that these two festivals are somehow the same? i mean, there are harvest festivals in every single culture, but nothing like Shabbat as it is outlined in the Torah - and it is Torah that is my reference point, not the pseudepigrapha, which are not part of the jewish canon. you could quote a Qur'anic text about what we were supposed to have got up to if you like, it wouldn't make it authoritative. nor is josephus, or philo, for that matter (don't actually have a copy of philo, only josephus, is he on the web somewhere?).

    there were a lot of sects around at that time - by the same token, would you expect me to take christian texts as being evidence of what jews did or didn't believe? surely the qumran sect are proverbial for having been an odd bunch of people and not exactly mainstream.

    the *hebrew* does nothing of the sort. it's merely a number of translations that disagree and i must take issue with them based on how this verse is traditionally interpreted. my copy of jastrow doesn't show "full moon" as a translation of the word "KeSeH", rather "designated", giving the translation as "blow the shofar on the new moon on the designated day of our festival", which makes more sense than to try and make out that it refers to the full moon at the same time as the new moon, when the two are 15 days apart. i would also argue that the context of the word in the verse refers to one day - rashi says rosh hashanah, in fact, which is why it talks about the shofar being blown. he supports this further with the reference to joseph later on in the psalm, joseph having been released on rosh hashanah (BT rosh hashanah 11a). rosh hashanah, of course, is always on rosh hodesh tishri, which would of course be the new moon, the word for "month" being the same as the word for "new" - i'm not actually sure what the full moon is called in biblical hebrew, but from rashi i'm pretty sure it isn't "keseh", despite what the normally reliable JPS seem to think. of course, first day rosh hashanah is sometimes on shabbat, so that might be what causes the confusion - the translation then exacerbates it by putting in a comma to resolve the consequent confusion by splitting the sentence into two halves, whereas there's no comma in the hebrew.

    perhaps you should take some time to understand what Shabbat actually is before you take this kind of patronising, snooty tone.

    b'shalom

    bananabrain
     
  20. bob x

    bob x New Member

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    What was ill-omened was to do certain kinds of work on that day.
    That would be leaning heavily on coincidence. The significance of the number seven, in other cultures that have such a cycle, is that it is the nearest integer approximation to the quarter-phase of the moon; otherwise the only significance of the number seven is that it is an awkward prime number which would not be a good choice for subdividing anything.
    To ensure that everyone does it on the same day, either you need everyone concentrated in cities so that you can rely on the circulation of official announcements, or you need such a straightforward rule that everyone can keep track for themselves.

    By my private lunisolar calendar, which I have been keeping for the last 14 years, it is now "three days past full" and the next phanwat (quarter-phase; waning-half in this case) runs from 11AM Monday to 11AM Tuesday (I break the days at 1500 GMT, to correspond roughly with "sundown in Jerusalem"); but of course, someone else's count could have it at "four" days past full depending on when the "visible" crescent starting the first "week" of this month is reckoned to have been. If you want to make sure everyone abstains from work on the same day, it will be troublesome if some people think the phanwat is Monday and others think it is Tuesday. The strict seven-day count fixes that ambiguity.

    On the timing of this first visible crescent, Jewish practice for a long time has been to take it for granted that some people are going to be off by a day, so holidays tied to it should be allowed to run for two days, thus at some point everyone will be celebrating at once; it would not be practical to run the Sabbath for two days, with such wide restrictions on what kinds of "work" to avoid.

    The Latins, by the way, broke with the custom of having lunar weeks of variable length, usually seven but sometimes eight, in the opposite way: the "nundinal" cycle was always eight days from one nundina to the next. In the earliest versions of the Roman calendar, there were still quarter-phase days, the nones at waxing half, the ides at full moon exactly eight days after the nones, a less-important waning-half day eight days after full, but then after eight days (running past the new moon) on the kalends "announcement" day, it would be decided how short (from five to seven days) the interval to the nones should be. These names persisted into the Roman calendar of Caesar's day, but had lost touch with the lunar cycle long before. Both the nundina (by a strict eight-day count, no exceptions) and the nominal quarter-phase days would be nefas "don't do it!" for certain kinds of activity, though neither involved the widespread avoidance of "work" that the Sabbath calls for.
    And the point is, that some of these Jewish sects, even at this astonishingly late date, still differed as to how to regulate the Sabbath, whether "by the moon" (on the quarter-phase, with intervals of usually-seven-sometimes-eight) or "by the sun" (seven days, period, no exception).
    On this issue, they sided with you, and the mainstream: they insisted strongly on the strict-seven-day week and denounced the quarter-phase people.
    No, no, no: in rosh hodesh it is the rosh "head-of-" which means "new", the hodesh "moon" which means "month"; same as in rosh ha-shanah "new year", lit. "head-of the-year".
    It was the shmoneh "fat" moon, from the root sh-m-n "fat; overflowing" seen in shemen "oil". Not by coincidence, shmoneh also became the numeral for "eight" (an eighth day was intercalated into the week at full moon).
     

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