Col 2:14-17 – does this refer to the 7th day Sabbath?

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Col 2:16-17

(Col 2:13) And you, being dead in your sins and the uncircumcision of your flesh, hath he quickened together with him, having forgiven you all trespasses;
(Col 2:14) Blotting out the handwriting of ordinances that was against us, which was contrary to us, and took it out of the way, nailing it to his cross;
(Col 2:15) And having spoiled principalities and powers, he made a show of them openly, triumphing over them in it.
(Col 2:16) Let no man therefore judge you in meat, or in drink, or in respect of a holy day, or of the new moon, or of the sabbath days:
(Col 2:17) Which are a shadow of things to come; but the body is of Christ.

Paul starts by mentioning that the law is nailed to the cross, and he goes on to mention a few laws as examples. One law that he mentions is the Sabbath. Sabbatarians try to argue that this word does not mean the 7th day Sabbath in this context. That argument is unscriptural and illogical for two main reasons.

First, the word used is the word used to describe the Sabbath. This word is NEVER used to describe ANY other day, outside the five books of Moses. After the time Moses wrote the books, the word Sabbath lost the meaning that it had in terms of other days, and became used exclusively for the 7th day Sabbath. Only in the earliest times were these days called Sabbaths. After that they were called holy days.

The issue of whether the word is singular or plural is totally irrelevant, because there are many places in the Bible where the plural and the singular are used, BOTH describing a single Saturday, not even describing several Saturdays, certainly not describing a collection of holy days. Col 2:16 uses the word just as the rest of the Bible does – to mean the 7th day Sabbath. To claim otherwise is to ignore the meaning of the word used and its place in the language and grammar of the time.

Paul would never refer to these days as “sabbaths” because it was not part of the language we wrote in.. Since the Greek and Hebrew of their day did not consider the word “Sabbath” to describe these days, the Sabbatarian argument is flawed.

Secondly, the whole term used refers to festivals and new moons and Sabbaths. Take a look at all the times when this and similar phrases are used, phrases listing various types of religious days. Each and every time, this term refers to the religious days observed under the Old Covenant. And if you look at what each subsection in the phrase means, you see that festivals are the yearly holy days (Passover, Pentecost, Yom Kippur, Trumpets, etc), the new moons are the monthly observance of the new moon, and the Sabbath is the only thing left – exactly what the word meant in the language of the time – the 7th day of the week.

Since he lists the annual festivals and the sabbath separately, the word “sabbaths” clearly cannot mean “annual festivals” because then he would be writing redundantly, and sound silly. Comparing the phrase to similar uses throughout the Bible, this construct includes the annual, monthly, and weekly observances of the Old Covenant.

(1Ch 23:31) And to offer all burnt sacrifices unto the LORD in the sabbaths, in the new moons, and on the set feasts, by number, according to the order commanded unto them, continually before the LORD:

(2Ch 2:4) Behold, I build a house to the name of the LORD my God, to dedicate it to him, and to burn before him sweet incense, and for the continual shewbread, and for the burnt offerings morning and evening, on the sabbaths, and on the new moons, and on the solemn feasts of the LORD our God. This is an ordinance forever to Israel.

(2Ch 8:13) Even after a certain rate every day, offering according to the commandment of Moses, on the sabbaths, and on the new moons, and on the solemn feasts, three times in the year, even in the feast of unleavened bread, and in the feast of weeks, and in the feast of tabernacles.

(2Ch 31:3) He appointed also the king’s portion of his substance for the burnt offerings, to wit, for the morning and evening burnt offerings, and the burnt offerings for the sabbaths, and for the new moons, and for the set feasts, as it is written in the law of the LORD.

(Neh 10:33) For the shewbread, and for the continual meat offering, and for the continual burnt offering, of the sabbaths, of the new moons, for the set feasts, and for the holy things, and for the sin offerings to make an atonement for Israel, and for all the work of the house of our God.

(Eze 45:17) And it shall be the prince’s part to give burnt offerings, and meat offerings, and drink offerings, in the feasts, and in the new moons, and in the sabbaths, in all solemnities of the house of Israel: he shall prepare the sin offering, and the meat offering, and the burnt offering, and the peace offerings, to make reconciliation for the house of Israel.

(Hos 2:11) I will also cause all her mirth to cease, her feast days, her new moons, and her sabbaths, and all her solemn feasts.

(Gal 4:10) Ye observe days, and months, and times, and years.

(Col 2:16) Let no man therefore judge you in meat, or in drink, or in respect of a holy day, or of the new moon, or of the sabbath days:

My interpretation is as follows:

festivals = yearly feasts

new moons = monthly new moon feast mentioned in Ezekiel and other texts

sabbaths = weekly 7th day sabbaths

Note that ALL are in the plural – so it is not unexpected to find the Sabbath being plural too. In fact, the plural Greek word used, “sabbaton” is a plural used in other texts like Matt 28:1, Luke 4:16, and in the Septuagint, the version of the Old Testament the Apostles quoted from, Exodus 20:8 and Leviticus 23:37-38. So this word “sabbaton” can and does mean the 7th day of the week.

Also, the lack of a definite article in the original Greek also does not prevent the word “sabbaton” from being translated as the 7th day Sabbath. Matt 28:1, John 5:9, 5:10 and 5:16 all use the same term without the definite article, and all of them DO mean the 7th day Sabbath.

In the original Greek, the word used by Matthew in Matt 28:1 is the SAME plural Greek word SABBATON used by Paul in Col 2:16.

In the original Greek, the word used by Luke in Matt 4:16 is the SAME plural Greek word SABBATON used by Paul in Col 2:16.

Therefore, SABBATON in Col 2:16 is to be seen in the same light as SABBATON in Matt 28:1 and Luke 4:16 – as a singular.

See also the Septuagint, the version of the Old Testament the Apostles quoted from, Exodus 20:8 and Leviticus 23:37-38.

I would like to know from you how you interpret each of those three types of day mentioned in Col 2:16 – if the word “sabbath” means annual feasts, what does the word “festival” mean? And what are your reasons for doing so? And why is my reasoning wrong?

If it refers to the annual Sabbaths, Paul is really making silly mistakes here – he would in fact be saying, “with regard to an annual sabbath, a monthly feast, or an annual sabbath.” To repeat himself like that makes no sense.

Paul uses the term “festival” and the term “sabbath” in one phrase, so they obviously mean something different in that phrase – they cannot be synonyms if they are used in this way in one phrase. Paul lists three different types of feast here – it would be absurd to claim he is talking about two types, and just mentioned once twice.

Obviously, the word “festival” means something different to “sabbath” here – “festival” means “annual feasts” and “sabbath” means the 7th day. Paul’s writing skills were not that poor.

Therefore we have to accept that the Sabbath is merely a shadow of Christ. Now that we have the real thing in our lives, the Sabbath is no longer obligatory for us as Christians.

Based on BOTH grammar and language meaning on the one hand, AND parallel biblical examples on the other, we see that the only logical interpretation of this text is to accept that the weekly Sabbath is indeed listed as one of the precepts of the Old Covenant now nailed to the cross.

So far, all I can see is that Paul DID mean to refer to the 7th day Sabbath, so we should accept that instead of fighting it. Often, I know, that is hard, because we are brought up in a certain way, and it’s human nature to resist change. But take a careful look at the New Testament, and if you really can find references to the Sabbath being necessary, to the Sabbath being kept by Christians, I’d love to hear them – I cannot find any.

Col 2:16 says that the 7th day Sabbath is a shadow of something to come. Elsewhere the Bible says it is a memorial of something past. So we seem to agree, the 7th day Sabbath is BOTH a shadow of Christ (already come) and a memorial of the old creation (which turned to sin.) The logical Christian choice is to keep the day that looks forward to the NEXT coming of Christ, and looks back on the NEW creation WITHOUT sin – Sunday.

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