Acts 20:7 Says What?
By Christine Egbert
False teaching (through either ignorance or in some cases duplicity) has led to many church doctrines that are–simply put–NOT founded on Scripture. One of these false church doctrines has to do with the biblical Sabbath being changed to Sunday. Many have based this heresy on a mistranslation of Acts 20:7, which in the KJV reads thus:
“And upon the first day of the week, when the disciples came together to break bread, Paul preached unto them…”
Based on this rendering, they say things like, “See! The disciples gathered for worship on the first day of the week. On Sunday! This proves they changed the Sabbath to Sunday.” Of course, this is not the case. Intentionally or unintentionally, the bias of translators has led many into doctrinal error.
First off, God, Who never changes, and Who commanded hundreds of times throughout Scripture that His people are to keep “holy” His 7th Day Sabbath, would not change this day He set apart on the 7th day of Creation via some spurious mention in the book of Acts. Another pesky fact that shoots holes into this theory that the disciples changed the Sabbath to Sunday is the word the KJV rendered as “day”. It simply does NOT appear in this passage in the Greek manuscripts. “Day” was added by the translators. That is why you will find it italicized in most translations.
The LITV (Literal Version) renders the Greek words “mia ton sab’-bat-on” as: “On the first of the Sabbaths…” This is better, but still misses the mark. For they translated the Greek word “mia” as first, when “mia” (Strong’s G3391) in this case (as I will prove) should have been translated as “one”, as it is translated in Luke 22:59 as “one hour”, in 1stCorinthins 6:16 as “one flesh”, and in 2ndCorinthians11:24 as “forty stripes plus one.” To build my case, and to fully understand what the writer of Acts meant by “on ONE of the Sabbaths” we must go back and read the previous verse.
“But we sailed along after the days of Unleavened Bread from Philippi, and came to them at Troas in five days, where we stayed seven days. And on “one of the sabbaths” the disciples having assembled to break bread, being about to depart on the morrow (which at sunset would be Sunday), Paul reasoned to them. And he continued his speech until midnight.”
Verses 8-15 then go on to recount how a young man fell asleep then fell out a window, but did not die, etc, etc, then in verses 15-16, we read the key to rightly understanding the phrase “on one of the Sabbaths.”
“And sailing away from there, on the next day we arrived off Chios, and on the next, we crossed to Samos. And remaining at Trogyllium, the next day we came to Miletus. For Paul had determined to sail past Ephesus, so that he might not lose time in Asia; for, if it were possible for him, he hastened to be at Jerusalem on the day of Pentecost.
That’s right, Paul, who the unlearned and unstable (2 Peter 3:16) always take out of context, “hastened” to be at the Feast of Shavuot/ Pentecost. The same Paul who elsewhere in Acts 18:21 “took leave of them, saying, I must by all means keep the coming feast at Jerusalem.”
Acts 20:7, you see, has NOTHING at all to do with the disciples changing God’s 7th Day Sabbath to Sunday, the first day of the week. Indeed they were counting the 7th Day Sabbaths. For the phrase “on ONE of the Sabbaths” is in reference to God’s instructions in Leviticus 23 to count the Omer.
Lev 23:15-16 And you shall number to you from the next day after the sabbath, from the day you bring in the sheaf of the wave offering (First Fruits during Passover); they shall be seven complete sabbaths; the next day, after the seventh sabbath, you shall number fifty days, and you shall bring near a new food offering to Jehovah.”
Now, let’s read Acts 20:7 once more. This time I will add brackets based on what we have read in the other passages to make the verse quite clear. Acts 20:7 “And on ONE of the sabbaths [leading up to Shavuot–known as counting the Omer], the disciples assembled to break bread…”
Let me close with this article excerpt dealing with the literal meaning of “mia ton sabbaton”. It comes from the website: jesuswordsonly.com.
“Protos means first; mia never does. Only a forced presupposition that twists this word (mia) into “first” explains the mistranslation (designed to justify Sunday-as-Sabbath as a practice before the 300s when it first truly began)…There is no doubt what the words mia ton sabbaton literally mean. For example, in the very authoritative Green’s Interlinear Bible (sold in print or through Logos software), the English is translated directly under the Greek, for Acts 20:7 as:”on and the one of the Sabbaths.” Taking into account Greek grammatical rules, this is translated: “And, upon one of the Sabbaths.” This fits the context because Paul was talking about going to Jersualem to worship which requires counting several Sabbaths from Passover to determine the Feast of Pentecost. Thus, the apparent meaning of this verse is that this particular Sabbath was one of the seven Sabbaths in the count to the Day of Pentecost.”
So the next time some well meaning (but deceived) person cites Acts 20:7 as their proof text for claiming the disciples changed the Sabbath to Sunday, you can show them their error–show them that Paul was actually meeting with fellow believers on the Sabbath–but do it gently, with honey on your lips.