Updated: Jul 24, 2022
In Acts 20:7-12 we read, “And upon the first day of the week, when the disciples came together to break bread, Paul preached unto them, ready to depart on the morrow; and continued his speech until midnight. 20:8 And there were many lights in the upper chamber, where they were gathered together. 20: 9 And there sat in a window a certain young man named Eutychus, being fallen into a deep sleep: and as Paul was long preaching, he sunk down with sleep, and fell down from the third loft, and was taken up dead. 20:10 And Paul went down, and fell on him, and embracing him said, Trouble not yourselves; for his life is in him. 20:11 When he therefore was come up again, and had broken bread, and eaten, and talked a long while, even till break of day, so he departed. 20:12 And they brought the young man alive, and were not a little comforted.” (KJV)
Verse 7 in the passage has found its way into modern Christendom as a verse which proves that the Sabbath day was changed from Saturday to Sunday. After all, does the verse not say that it was the first day of the week? This proves, some say, that the early disciples stopped meeting on the Saturday Sabbath and started meeting on Sunday, the first day of the week. If you look this scripture up in any Christian Commentary that is what one will find. (At least every one that I have examined)
Now, as I’ve heard it said before, “now for the rest of the story!”
To begin with, the KJV of the Bible is very good about putting words in italics that were not in the original manuscripts, but were added for, supposedly, clarity in the English language. If you will notice in verse 7, the word day should not be there. It should say, “upon the first of the week”. Now, in Greek these words actually say, “the first of Sabbatons”. Any concordance will tell you that the word “Sabbaton” is of Hebrew origin meaning Sabbath, ie weekly repose or rest. Interestingly it will also say that Sabbaton means “an interval between two Sabbaths, a week.” Knowing this should completely make a person want to dig deeper.
First of all, in Hebraic understanding, a week is defined as being from the ending of one Shabbat through the next Shabbat. A more correct translation of this scripture would be, “And upon the first of the weeks .” The word "week" being plural.
Were they meeting upon a Sunday? No and Yes!
On Yahweh's calendar, and hence a Jewish calendar, a day begins at sunset and ends at sunset. (See Genesis Chapter 1) The disciples were meeting on their first day of the week according to the calendar that they followed. This would have been after sunset of their 7th day, or their Shabbat, our Saturday night. For them, the first day of the week would have already started at sundown. Since Paul was very, very long winded, he would have preached/continued talking on our Sunday which would have started after midnight. At midnight scripture records that Eutychus fell out of the window dead. Then Paul raises him and it is recorded in verse 11 that he broke bread, ate and then talked some more, even till day break, then he departed.
What is the significance of all of this? There is indeed no changing of the Sabbath from Saturday to Sunday taking place here! We know from Jewish writings that at least from the Talmudic period, but probably much, much earlier, that Jews traditionally met together at the ending of Sabbath. In Hebrew it is called Motza'ei-Shabbat, which means “departure of the Sabbath”. It refers to our Saturday night after sundown, which for them would have been the closing of the 7th day Sabbath and the first day of the new week towards the coming of the next Sabbath. Again, on Yahweh's calendar, the days of the week did not have names, except for the seventh one which was called Shabbat, because Yahweh commanded a rest. The days of the week were simply called 1st, 2nd,.....6th, Sabbath.
Jews met together after the ending of the 7th day, (Sabbath) to bring in the new week and ask God for His blessing and provision for the coming week. They have a meal together, fellowship etc.
Understand, this would be on our Saturday night after sundown. Paul and his like-minded believers met together at the close of the Sabbath day to enjoy fellowship and ask Yahweh for blessings for the coming week, as WAS THEIR CUSTOM.
Luke would have known this and the person that his letter was addressed to, Theophilus, would have known this also. Any Jewish or God-fearer of the day would have known this. To understand why Theophilus would have understood this, please see my teaching, “Theophilos, Who Was He and Why Does It Matter?”
Jews still do this today! Today it may be called the above, Motza'ei-Shabbat, but many Jews call it Havdalah. Havdalah means “separation”; this meaning that they are separating the Holy Sabbath from the rest of the week. They are declaring that the Sabbath was set-apart, and now that it is over they come together to separate the coming week from the Sabbath that just ended. They now look “towards the Sabbath” that is coming. This is a Jewish life in history, and today. The Sabbath means everything.
In addition, the Apostle Paul would have waited until after the Sabbath to depart on his journey. Since it would have been dark at that time, he departed in the morning; just as the scriptures say. This would have been our Sunday morning, and for first century Jews, the first day of a work week.
Having said all of the above, it is actually only half of the story, because as noted, the word "week" is plural. It's truest meaning is "on the first of the weeks". Something very important was going on here that I have not covered completely. These disciples of Yesuha were actually counting "weeks". What does this mean? They were counting weeks (counting the omer) till Shavuot (Pentecost). They were meeting together at the closing of a seventh day Sabbath that happened to be the Sabbath after Passover and celebrating firstfruits which is the day after the weekly Sabbath during the week of Passover (always on a Sunday). Notice they met in the evening after the end of the Saturday Sabbath and the first day (Sunday) had started at sundown and Paul preached till after midnight. It was firstfruits. It was the first week of counting the omer. You have to count 7 weekly Sabbath’s (Saturday) from Firstfruits to get to Shavuot. You cannot count seven unless you know when to start counting toward number one. This is what they were doing and celebrating. Firstfruits is not commanded by God (Leviticus 23) to be a Sabbath, hence Paul left on his journey in the morning at sun up (our Sunday morning). If you still aren’t a believer keep reading and in verse 16 it clearly states:
“For Paul had determined to sail by Ephesus, because he would not spend the time in Asia: for he hasted, if it were possible for him, to be at Jerusalem the day of Pentecost.“
Shavuot (Pentecost) was one of three Appointed Times where all males were required to go up to Jerusalem. We see here that Paul wanted to keep the feast in Jerusalem so he was trying to hasten in his journey. He had seven weeks to go where he needed and get back.
Please see my teaching on ”A Resurrection On The First of the Weeks”, for more clarity.
I hope this has helped your understanding. It is very important that we do not add to or take away from God's Word. A person who interprets scripture without taking into consideration its Jewishness, is going to be led astray. Context is very important. Context is in fact everything!