Jews & the Sabbath

The forgotten cover up!

Jewish scholars acknowledge that Saturday is not the ancient, original Sabbath of Scripture.

Mark Twain, a famous novelist and humorist, once wryly observed: “It usually takes more than three weeks to prepare an impromptu speech.”  Public speakers quickly learn that a lot of thought and preparation must go into any presentation or debate if it is to be persuasive.  There are even certain types of arguments which public speakers are taught never to use because while they may sway emotions, they are not logical.  Thus, ultimately, they will not convince anyone. 

One argument that is frequently heard opposing the concept of the lunar Sabbath is: “The Jews have never lost track of the true Sabbath!”  Such an argument does not prove anything!  In fact, it violates two rules of argumentation: circular reasoning

  1. It appeals to authority to prove its point.  In this case, it assumes modern Jews are a trustworthy authority on when the true Sabbath occurs.
  2. It uses circular reasoning!  In other words, it uses the point it is trying to prove as proof itself!  A) The Jews worship on Saturday; therefore, B) Saturday is the Sabbath because, C) that is when the Jews worship.

The truth is, regardless of what the average Jew believes or practices, Saturday is not the Sabbath of the Bible.  Jewish scholars have never “lost” the Sabbath but they did deliberately and knowingly change the calendar by which the Sabbath was calculated.  And it happened so long ago it is possible many Jews themselves are unaware of everything that was affected by this change of calendars.

The Council of Nicea is of great significance in the history of Christianity because it was at that time heathenism invaded the Church and diluted the pure, apostolic faith of the early Christians.  The Council of Nicea is significant in the history of Judaism as well because it was after this that intense persecution fell on all who wanted to cling to Biblical time-keeping.

At the Council of Nice [Nicea] the last thread was snapped which connected Christianity with its parent stock.  The festival of Easter had up till now been celebrated for the most part at the same time as the Jewish Passover, and indeed upon the days calculated and fixed by the Synhedrion in Judea for its celebration; but in future its observance was to be rendered altogether independent of the Jewish calendar.1

Constantine the Great, the emperor who assembled the council to further his personal political agenda, decreed the course the Christians were to take.  He wanted them to fully separate themselves from their spiritual heritage grounded in Judaism.  He declared that no future religious observances were to be calculated by the Jewish calendar, explaining:

Constantine the Great

For it is unbecoming beyond measure that on this the holiest of festivals [Easter] we should follow the customs of the Jews.  Henceforward let us have nothing in common with this odious people; our Savior has shown us another path.  It would indeed be absurd if the Jews were able to boast that we are not in a position to celebrate the Passover without the aid of their rules ([calendation] calculations).2

This declaration had far-reaching, catastrophic effects on the ancient method of time-keeping.  Constantius, Constantine’s son, went still further.  Constantine had outlawed the use of the Jewish calendar for Christian observances.  Constantius forbade the use of it by the Jews, too.  “Under the reign of Constantius (337-362) the persecutions of the Jews reached such a height that . . . the computation of the calendar [was] forbidden under pain of severe punishment.”3  The significance of this act cannot be overlooked.  Under intense persecution, the Jews themselves modified their calculation of time.  Patriarch Hillel II, the last president of the Sanhedrin, was himself responsible for a change that, ultimately, led to the acceptance of Saturday as the Sabbath.

The miserable condition of Judea was the occasion of an act of self-renunciation on the part of the Patriarch Hillel, which has not yet been thoroughly appreciated.  The custom had prevailed up till now of keeping secret the computation of the new moon and the leap year, and of making known the times of the festivals to the communities in the neighboring lands by announcing them by messengers.  During the persecutions under Constantius this method had proved itself to be impracticable and useless.  Whenever the Synhedrion was prevented from fixing the date of the leap year, the Jewish communities in distant countries were left in utter doubt concerning the most important religious decisions.  In order to put a stop to all difficulty and uncertainty, Hillel II introduced a final and fixed calendar . . . With his own hand the Patriarch destroyed the last bond which united the communities dispersed throughout the Roman and Persian empires with the Patriarchate.4

The fact that this change occurred over 1,600 years ago explains why people assume that Saturday is the true Sabbath simply because the Jews worship on it.  Jewish scholars, however, remain well aware that this was a complete change of calendar:

Declaring the new month by observation of the new moon, and the new year by the arrival of spring, can only be done by the Sanhedrin.  In the time of Hillel II, . . . the Romans prohibited this practice.  Hillel II was therefore forced to institute his fixed calendar, thus in effect giving the Sanhedrin's advance approval to the calendars of all future years.5

It cannot be emphasized enough: Jewish scholars are fully aware that the calendar they now use is different than the one established by Yahuwah, and confirmed by Moses at the Exodus.  The historical documentation in this article is taken entirely from the writings or statements of the Jews themselves.  They establish that not only is Saturday not the Sabbath of the Bible but they know it is not.

Calendar Change

Jewish scholars know that it was specifically a calendar change that changed the Sabbath.  Rabbi Louis Finkelstein was a well-known, well-respected Jewish scholar.  The Jewish Communities of the World selected Finkelstein as one of the top 120 Jews who best represented “a lamp of Judaism” to the world.  In a letter dated February 20, 1939, Finkelstein readily admitted, “The Jewish calendar was fixed in the fourth century.”6

Heinrich Graetz, in his voluminous, six-volume work published by the Jewish Society of America, acknowledged: “Even the computation of the calendar and trade in articles of religious use were forbidden” in the fourth century.7

Many people assume that because the papal Gregorian calendar today has a continuous weekly cycle of seven days each, the week in use today was somehow fitted to the Hebrew week of seven days.  Therefore, they conclude, Saturday is the seventh-day Sabbath of Scripture.  Such assumptions, however, do not understand the basic difference between a solar calendar format and how the Biblical luni-solar calendar worked. 

Ancient Sabbath Different

Lunar Sabbath

Lunar Sabbath

Jewish scholars know that the Sabbath as observed by the faithful from the days of the fourth century clear back to Creation, was not part of a continuous weekly cycle.  Rather, months followed the phases of the moon.  The weekly cycle itself restarted with each new moon.  Therefore, the seventh-day Sabbath was not part of a continuous weekly cycle as is the modern Saturday.

The New Moon is still, and the Sabbath originally was, dependent upon the lunar cycle . . . Originally, the New Moon was celebrated in the same way as the Sabbath; gradually it became less important while the Sabbath became more and more a day of religion and humanity, of religious meditation and instruction, of peace and delight of the soul.8

Jews today still calculate their annual religious festivals off a luni-solar method of time measurement.  It is for this reason that Passover (Pascha) and Day of Atonement (Yom Kippur) drift from date to date on the continuous weekly cycle of the Gregorian calendar.  Their weekly Sabbaths, however, no longer have any connection to the phases of the moon. 

Many assume that because the Jews worship on Saturday, the Biblical weekly cycle was always continuous with only the annual festivals having a lunar connection.  This is not an assumption shared by Jewish scholars.

It is here that most people trying to prove Saturday is the Biblical Sabbath make a mistake.  They assume that because the Jews worship on Saturday, the Biblical weekly cycle was always continuous with only the annual festivals having a lunar connection.  This is not an assumption shared by Jewish scholars.  They are fully aware that the ancient Sabbath could not be part of a continuous weekly cycle because it was linked to the phases of the moon.  This startling fact is acknowledged by this quote from the Universal Jewish Encyclopedia: “With the development of the importance of the Sabbath as a day of consecration and the emphasis laid upon the significant number seven, the week became more and more divorced from its lunar connection . . . .”9

It is probable that the change from a Sabbath closely connected to the phases of the moon to a continuously cycling Saturday-sabbath occurred at the time Hillel II “fixed” the calendar.  He did more than just reveal their rules of calendation.  It appears he also was responsible for introducing a Saturday-sabbath because when he fixed the calendar, he also had to introduce “rules of postponement.”  Up until that time, these rules were unnecessary because annual festivals and the weekly Sabbaths were all observed on the same, luni-solar calendar.  But when the annual festivals were calculated by a luni-solar calendar, while the seventh-day Sabbath was calculated by a different, solar calendar, there were occasional conflicts.  Thus the need arose for new “rules of postponement.”

Sadducees: Calendar Authorities

Occasionally a well-intentioned person will argue, “But if the calendar were off in the time of Yahushua, He would have corrected it!”  This is true, which reveals that the calendar being used by the Israelites in the first century was still the calendar of Creation.  At that time, the High Priest was in charge of the calendar.  It was his responsibility to declare New Moons and when a thirteenth month needed to be intercalated.  The high priests always came from the Sadducee class.  This is significant.  Although the Sadducees beliefs were not without error, they, like Yahushua, rejected the Pharisees’ oral law of man-made traditions.  They maintained the Torah, the books of Moses, was the sole source of divine authority.

Yahushua clearly saw that the “traditions of men” imposed by the Pharisees were an onerous burden, separating mankind from their Maker.  He repeatedly and vehemently denounced the multitude of rules and traditions imposed by the Pharisees.  These man-made regulations were a burden and a barrier to truth.  Shortly before His death, Yahushua made one last attempt to reach the hearts of these hypocrites.  His discourse, recorded in Matthew 23, is a heart-breaking attempt to turn hearts of stone to the truth.

The result of elevating man-made rules and traditions to being on a par with the divine law was reduced spirituality.  “Woe unto you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! for ye compass sea and land to make one proselyte, and when he is made, ye make him twofold more the child of hell than yourselves.”  (Matthew 23:15) 

Ultimately, the Pharisees triumphed.  The Sadducee class, who had been in charge of the Biblical calendar, ceased to exist after the destruction of Jerusalem. 

With the destruction of the Temple (70 A.D.) the Sadducees disappeared altogether, leaving the regulation of all Jewish affairs in the hands of the Pharisees. Henceforth, Jewish life was regulated by the Pharisees; the whole history of Judaism was reconstructed from the Pharisaic point of view, and a new aspect was given to the Sanhedrin of the past. A new chain of tradition supplanted the older priestly tradition (Abot 1:1). Pharisaism shaped the character of Judaism and the life and thought of the Jew for all the future.10

Talmud Book SetThe Pharisees alone remained to impose their rules and regulations on all.  The oral traditions of the Pharisees, recorded in the Talmud, became Rabbinic Judaism.  The calendar used by Jews today is nothing more than a perversion of the original calendar.  It has been corrupted by man-made traditions of the Pharisees recorded in the Talmud!  Rabbi Louis Finkelstein, quoted earlier, stated:

Pharasaism became Talmudism ... [But] the spirit of the ancient Pharisee survives unaltered. When the Jew ... studies the Talmud, he is actually repeating the arguments used in the Palestinian academies. . . . The spirit of the [Pharisees'] doctrine has remained quick and vital. . . . From Palestine to Babylonia; from Babylonia to North Africa, Italy, Spain, France and Germany; from these to Poland, Russia, and Eastern Europe generally, ancient Pharasaism has wandered.11

Talmudic tradition teaches that if one looses track of when the Sabbath occurs, all one has to do is worship on every seventh day.  This is the rationale used to justify keeping Saturday as the seventh-day Sabbath.

Talmudic tradition teaches that if one looses track of when the Sabbath occurs, all one has to do is worship on every seventh day. This is the rationale used to justify keeping Saturday as the seventh-day Sabbath.

The Talmud derives its authority from the position held by the ancient academies (i.e. Pharisee). The teachers of those academies, both of Babylonia and of Palestine, were considered the rightful successors of the older Sanhedrin. . . . At the present time, the Jewish people have no living central authority comparable in status to the ancient Sanhedrins or the later academies. Therefore, any decision regarding the Jewish religion must be based on the Talmud as the final resume of the teaching of those [Pharisee] authorities when they existed.”12

Note that Finkelstein himself is stating that the Talmud is from the traditions of the Pharisees.  This is the same “traditions of men” the Saviour so resoundingly denounced during His ministry.  This is significant for it was Pharisaical traditions that allowed the Jews to set aside the original Sabbath.  Chapter 7 of Tractate Shabbat states: “One who has been travelling in a desert and does not know what day is Sabbath, must count six days from the day (on which he realizes) that he has missed the Sabbath, and observe the seventh.”13

Creator's Calendar

The Creator's Calendar

The argument that believers should worship on Saturday because the Jews do is based on the erroneous assumption that the Jews would never worship on anything but the true Sabbath.  Statements from the Jews themselves prove this assumption is wrong.  They did indeed change the Sabbath when they changed the calendar by which the Sabbath was calculated.

The Sabbath is not a man-made institution.  It was divinely established by the Creator.  As such, no earthly authority, be it pope or Jew, has the right to establish a different day of worship or a different method of calculating when it occurs.  The Sabbath is to be a perpetual sign between the Creator and His loyal creatures.  “Verily my sabbaths ye shall keep: for it is a sign between me and you throughout your generations; that ye may know that I am Yahuwah that doth sanctify you.  Ye shall keep the sabbath therefore; for it is holy unto you.”  (Exodus 31:13-14)

All who desire to honor their Maker by obeying Him and worshipping on His Sabbath, will not look to the traditions of the Jews nor the calendar of the Catholics.  Rather they will worship Him on the holy Sabbath as calculated by the original luni-solar calendar established at Creation.

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1 Heinrich Graetz, History of the Jews, Vol. 2, p. 563, emphasis supplied.

2 Graetz, Vol. 2, pp. 563-564.

3 Excerpted from The Jewish Encyclopedia, “Calendar.”

4 Graetz, Vol. 2, pp. 572-573, emphasis supplied.

5 "The Jewish Calendar and Holidays (incl. Sabbath): The Jewish Calendar: Changing the Calendar,", emphasis supplied.

6 Box 6, Folder 4; Grace Amadon Collection, (Collection 154), Center for Adventist Research, Andrews University, Berrien Springs, Michigan.

7 Graetz, Vol. 2, p. 571.

8 Universal Jewish Encyclopedia, "Holidays," p. 410.

9 Universal Jewish Encyclopedia, Vol. X, "Week," p. 482.

10 "Pharisees,"The Jewish Encyclopedia, Vol. IX, (1901-1906 ed.), p. 666.

11 Louis Finkelstein,The Pharisees: The Sociological Background of their Faith, (Philadelphia: The Jewish Publication Society of America, 1946), Vol. 1, Forward to first edition, p. XXI, emphasis supplied.

12 Louis Finkelstein, The Jews - Their History, Culture, and Religion, (Philadelphia: The Jewish Publication Society of America, 1949), Vol. 4, p. 1332.