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Colossians 2:16: Is it the weekly Sabbath?

August 23, 2010

I was attending the ECYC conference this past weekend, and I attended a seminar by Dr. Ron du Preez,  current Director of Communications for the Michigan Conference.  The seminar was something along the lines of the “Principles of Becoming A Peculiar People”, or how Adventists have developed a unique, and thorough understanding of Scriptures.  He goes on to use Luke 24:27, as a principle verse in how we should study the Scriptures, and list 7 important steps when studying the Bible, as not to err in forming doctrines and beliefs.

One of the steps involved properly exegeting passages by looking at the context, as well as literary structures used by the writers.  He used Colossians 2:16 as an example of where a lot of Christians go wrong when interpreting the verse, and the remainder of this post will be focused on the interpretation of that verse, as I learned it that day.

16 So let no one judge you in food or in drink, or regarding a festival or a new moon or sabbaths, (NKJV)

This is a very controversial verse, so much so that Dr. du Preez has written an entire book on that verse, and is currently writing a dissertation towards another doctorate on this very verse.  He mentioned 400 pages worth of writing just to expound this passage.  He gave us a brief synopsis of his research, and I’ll do my best to summarize it here.

Firstly, if you look at the passage that many Christians say Paul was referring to the weekly Sabbath, it may appear so:

regarding a festival [Annual] or a new moon [monthly] or sabbaths [weekly],

They may be correct on that surface level view, but if you dig deeper, as Dr. du Preez emphasizes when studying God’s Word,  you’ll find a whole new truth.  There are so many ways to skin this cat, in terms of proving that this verse isn’t talking about the weekly, seventh-day Sabbath, but the one method I learned this weekend was by looking at the literary structure of the chapter.

Dr. du Preez mentioned that Jewish writers often wrote in a Chiastic Structure, meaning that the verses are written in parallel points that follow a pattern.  For example, a pattern can be A B B A, or ABCDDCBA, ABAB etc.  If one looks at Colossians 2:16, one may think it is an ABC pattern,

regarding a festival [A] or a new moon [B] or sabbaths [C],

but upon closer inspection, Colossians 2 follows an alternating ABAB parallel pattern, and I’ll prove it using TWO methods:

regarding a  festival (annual)[A] or a  new moon (monthly)[B] or sabbaths (annual) [A],

Method 1, is the simplest and easiest way, just look at the rest of the chapter and how Paul writes:  For example, look at verse 21 where Paul makes a list:

21 “Do not touch [A], do not taste [B], do not handle [A],”

Both touching and handling are parallels, which involve using your hands, or coming in contact with something. Dr. du Preez gave the above example, but I took the liberty to look for more:

11 In Him you were also circumcised with the circumcision made without hands [A], by putting off the body of the sins of the flesh[B], by the circumcision of Christ[A],

12 buried with Him in baptism, [A] in which you also were raised with Him through faith in the working of God, who raised Him from the dead[B]. 13 And you, being dead in your trespasses and the uncircumcision of your flesh[A], He has made alive together with Him, having forgiven you all trespasses,[B]

14 having wiped out the handwriting of requirements that was against us, [A]which was contrary to us [B]. And He has taken it out of the way, having nailed it to the cross [A].

15 Having disarmed principalities and powers, [A] He made a public spectacle of them [B], triumphing over them in it. [A]

The pattern in the chapter more closely resembles an ABA parallel, than an ABC type pattern.

Method 2 involves a greater understanding of the original greek language, and Hebrew customs, which most Christians, including myself are greatly lacking in.  So it was quite refreshing to learn the following, that both “festivals” and “sabbaths” refer to annual celebrations.  Dr. du Preez went on to prove it.

The word for ‘festivals’ is a very specific word, which denotes the “Pilgrimage” festivals, (Pesach (Passover), Shavuot (Pentecost), and Succoth (Tabernacles)) in which males made a pilgrimage to Jerusalem to celebrate.  For example, Jesus had to wait till he was of age to attend the yearly Passover celebrations (Luke 2:42).

New Moons were monthly Sabbaths, which are straight forward.  The confusion is over the “sabbath” celebrations.  Many say they are weekly, but in the context of Colossians, it is clearly other annual sabbaths, in which everyone was to celebrate, Yom Kippur (Day of Atonement) Rosh Hashanah (Feast of Trumpets/New Year).

Therefore, sabbaths refers to more annual celebrations, further proving the ABA parallel.  There is no way that Paul was talking about a weekly Sabbath, as the rest of his letters have no hint that the Sabbath was done away with.

The literary context of the passage, as well as the remainder of Paul’s writings, just does not allow “sabbaths” in Colossians 2:16 to be viewed as the weekly seventh-day Sabbath.

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25 Comments leave one →
  1. Victoria permalink
    August 25, 2010 8:42 am

    I like this interpretation… explains it really well.

  2. September 3, 2010 7:20 pm

    It took me a while to get back to read this, but I made it 🙂 I had never thought of it that way, its, good that some people can take it that deep. You should really try to make this a video on youtube. I know it’ll help many there.

    • September 7, 2010 8:51 am

      Yeah, it takes 400 or so pages to make a point about one passage, amazing huh? The fact remains though, try as hard as they may, no one can dispense with God’s law, especially the Sabbath.

  3. Shaun permalink
    February 14, 2011 9:06 pm

    I would disagree with this interpretation, as you have had to pull the verse to pieces to make it say what you want it to say, thereby twisting Scripture. Why don’t you just read the verse as it is written? Because it does not line up with your beliefs. You need to line your beliefs up with Scripture, not line Scripture up with your beliefs.

    • February 16, 2011 3:20 pm

      Why don’t you just read the verse as it is written?

      Right because the Bible was originally written in plain English, and nothing was lost in the translation right?

  4. kittycat77 permalink
    February 15, 2011 9:31 pm

    Greetings,

    When you get a chance, download this book entitled “The Festivals and Sacred Days of Yahweh” from yahweh.org

    Make sure that you key in dot-org and not dot-com or dot-net.

    It’s for free, and it will explain all of this.

    • February 16, 2011 3:23 pm

      Thanks I’ll check it out.

    • February 16, 2011 3:27 pm

      Wow… the book is quite in depth… I’ll have to take some time to digest it… I was thinking it was a simple article, but I’ll have to allot some time to further study from the Jewish perspective.

      • kittycat77 permalink
        February 16, 2011 3:43 pm

        Well, the first part of it goes out to prove that all of mankind has to keep it in the first place because otherwise, the argument is just moot. Next is a section about the Jewish perspective of keeping the Passover, then it goes to the Christians. You will find loads of valuable information in it.

      • kittycat77 permalink
        February 16, 2011 3:46 pm

        This is just the pits. I see so many people trying to use one scriptural verse to prove something, and they avoid the scriptural guidelines of study by taking one single verse out of context, mistranslating it on top of that. And here I’m talking about people trying to use this verse because they think that it proves that we don’t keep sabbath.

        One of the key words in Col. 2:16 is the Greek word “merei,” which means participating in, the sharing in….

        The verse should read thus: Let no man therefore condemn you in meat, or in drink, or in the participating in (or sharing in) a sacred day, or a new moon or Sabbaths (all Sabbaths, including high Sabbaths), which are a shadow of things to come, but the body is the messiah’s.

        Now this verse actually has just the opposite meaning that people are trying to make it state. For the verse to work in the way that they want it to, meaning they don’t have to keep Sabbaths, they would need the negative form of “not sharing.” Paul is saying to not let anyone judge you (and he’s talking to the nations here who were non-Israelite people) because you’re keeping the sabbaths, in your sharing in, participating in.

        Compare the verse with Paul talking about keeping the Passover in 1 Cor. 5:8. Also compare verses where Paul was keeping sabbath, which I’ve listed these before somewhere, but here are some, Acts 13:13-15, 42-44, 16:13, 17:1-4, 18:4-6.

      • February 18, 2011 9:34 am

        There are various ways to tackle this verse to prove Sabbath observance hasn’t been done away with. Thanks for your insight!

  5. kittycat77 permalink
    February 18, 2011 1:51 pm

    Hi, emmilglenn,

    Well, keep in mind to do the precept upon precept, line upon line that is mentioned in Isa. 28, twice:

    Isa 28:9 To whom shall He teach knowledge? And to whom shall He explain the message? Those weaned from milk, those moving from breasts?
    Isa 28:10 For precept must be on precept, precept on precept; line on line, line on line; here a little, there a little.

    Then compare v. 13, plus add to that in Isa. 34, every Scripture has her mate:

    Isa 34:16 Search and read from the Book of Yahweh; not one of these misses, each not lacking her mate; for He has commanded my mouth, and by His ruach He has assembled them.

    This is the way that it’s put together. All the pieces are spread throughout. So you must allow it to build its precepts on a subject matter.

    Also, many times when Yahweh speaks about “sabbaths” in the plural, he’s talking about not only the weekly Sabbath, but he’s talking about the high sabbaths.

    You have a place in Genesis that talks about the moadim (appointed times), but the translators really don’t translate that word correctly. Many usually put the word “seasons,” yet it means appointed times, feasts.

    Gen 1:14 And eloahim said, Let luminaries be in the expanse of the heavens, to divide between the day and the night. And let them be for signs and for moadim (appointed times, sacred feasts) , and for days and years.

    Also, the weekly Sabbath is not only a royal commandment, it’s also defined as an appointed time too!

    Lev 23:1 And Yahweh spoke to Moses, saying,
    Lev 23:2 Speak to the sons of Israel, and you shall say to them, The appointed moadi (appointed times, feasts) of Yahweh which you shall proclaim, sacred gatherings, shall be these: These are My appointed moadi (not seasons):

    First on the list of appointed times is what?

    Lev 23:3 Work is to be done six days, and in the seventh day shall be a sabbath of rest, a sacred gathering; you shall do no work; it is a sabbath to Yahweh in all your dwellings.

    Then he goes on into the other sabbaths.

    So when it says “Sabbaths” in Col. 2:16, it’s talking about all the Sabbaths collectively. Paul kept them all, as well as the other early Christians. And you can just keep building the precept upon precept, line upon line to that.

  6. kittycat77 permalink
    February 18, 2011 2:06 pm

    And want you to know that I’m not trying to be pushy about it, just wanted to throw that out there. Our nature is to isolate verses. But that’s not the scriptural guidelines of study, and that’s why there are so many various religions.

  7. kittycat77 permalink
    February 18, 2011 2:31 pm

    I glanced at it, and when I have a chance later and more time, I’ll go over it. Right off the bat the person is not dividing the word of truth correctly and IS NOT following scriptural guidelines.

  8. kittycat77 permalink
    February 18, 2011 6:36 pm

    I’ll hopefully be back later. However, keep in mind, we all have a proclivity to not correctly divide the word of truth, and we don’t do the line upon line as we should do. This causes conflicts and untruths because, number one, it starts a new doctrine many times. It’s one thing that happened to early Christianity. Again, this is why so many different religions in Christianity are there presently. Well, we call it neo-Christianity because it’s much different from the early days of Christianity when peo0ple left truth doctrines one by one.

    Some assemblies left the sabbaths (that means all of them, as in the western assemblies first) and some took in the ineffable name doctrine from the rabbis and pharisees, which was a huge truth to lose and is costing us today. Many early Christians unfortunately took that in. Then there are others that I don’t want to go into now.

    It’s a sad situation. We must ask for the old road and walk in it. It’s a difficult road to walk in this world-age, and it’s getting worse as time goes on. The main key is this, gain an absolute love of the truth, follow the scriptural guidelines for study (ask the Scriptures), which there are more guidelines than what I stated earlier. The love of the truth will guide you, but it’s still a difficult road. You will not be well-liked or well-loved, maybe by members of your own family and friends, and at the same time, you still have to love them.

    Please consider the cost. It’s a huge one.

    So do this, and do this seriously, count the cost before you start building your house (your house). If you start following the truth, you will have to make the choice. It’s just the way that it is. And I’m telling you this now, make sure that you don’t turn your back on knowledge. Once you receive the knowledge, check it all out as the Bereans did. Every thing that you can to prove truth, do it.

  9. kittycat77 permalink
    February 18, 2011 6:37 pm

    Correction:

    So do this, and do this seriously, count the cost before you start building your house (which is yourself).

  10. kittycat77 permalink
    February 18, 2011 6:49 pm

    And one more thing that I want to add, when you gain a love for the truth and thirst for it, you will see that the churches do not supply it presently. I have a feeling that some of that may change, though.

    Here’s the thing, many people start a doctrine in a church, and then later it proves out to be incorrect. Do they change it? No! Why? Because they don’t want to appear weak. Yet if they just said, hey, look, we thought this was the truth, but it has been tested and it’s not the truth. That’s the attitude to have. I’m not lying to you, it’s very painful because in the process, you may lose friends and family.

    One case in point, and I’m really not trying to pick on them at all, it’s the JWs. I worked with a JW gal for a couple of years, and she was a wonderful person. Just loved her, but we didn’t agree on many things. Mostly the sabbaths and the name, which I use Yahweh.

    But when countered, they have a book out that says that Yahweh is the name. It’s in their own book, but they won’t change their name because they will say, it’s tradition, people recognize it, etc.

    From the same place that I sent you the link to the Festivals book, you can download the book entitled “The Sacred Name Yahweh” and it is a good study. Very excellent!

  11. Kevin Southwell permalink
    June 1, 2011 10:13 pm

    hmmm…. Well to be honest with you, not as strong of an argument as I had hoped. I would much rather use defined words rather than patterns to explain a scripture such as this, but thanks anyways.

    • June 2, 2011 10:52 am

      Analyzing the language of the Bible is one way of studying and interpreting it. See Psalms as the Hebraic pattern is very clear there.

      I suggest you get on of Dr. Du Preez’s book on the text. I believe at the time of the conference, he mentioned he was working on a 400 page book/thesis on the very text. 400 pages to expound on one text may seem like much, but there is a lot to study to gain the complete understanding of a very controversial passage.

      A cursory, surface reading and interpretation of Scripture doesn’t do anyone justice. As Isaiah says, line upon line, precept upon precept.

  12. Dakotaguy28 permalink
    August 11, 2011 5:14 pm

    I just read Dr. Du Preez’s book. Very informative. It has gotten the attention of many within the NCT group. I see their main objection is Dr. Du Preez’s seeming lack of text dealing with “all her feasts” (mow`ed) in Hosea 2. However, Dr. Du Preez clear deals with that issue when he labels it an inclusio. In other words it finishes out the chiasm. I’m hoping he fleshes out that point greater in his next edition.

    Anyway, great review and thanks for your work in Christ.

    • August 15, 2011 2:23 pm

      What was the most interesting finding you took from the book? Anything that you can share here?

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