First Day or First Week? A Big Difference

He is RisenMatthew 28:1, First of the week. Is this phrase only emphasizing that Yeshua’s resurrection was on the first day of the week, or is it also telling us something else? This verse reads:

 “In the end [Greek: de] of the sabbath [Greek: sabbaton], as it began to dawn [Greek: epiphosko] toward the first day [a supplied word which is not in the Greek] of the week [Greek: sabbaton], came Mary Magdalene and the other Mary to see the sepulchre.” (KJV)

The other parallel passages in the Gospel accounts include:

And when the sabbath [Greek: sabbaton] was past [diaginomai], Mary Magdalene, and Mary the mother of James, and Salome, had bought sweet spices, that they might come and anoint him. (Mark 16:1, KJV)

Now upon the first [Greek: mia] day [a supplied word which is not in original Greek] of the week [Greek: sabbaton], very early in the morning [Greek: orthros] , they came unto the sepulcher, bringing the spices which they had prepared, and certain others with them. (Luke 24:1, KJV)

Now one of the week, while still very early, they came on the tomb … (Luke 24:1, J.P. Green Interlinear)

The first [Greek: mia] day [a supplied word which is not in original Greek] of the week [Greek: sabbaton] cometh Mary Magdalene early, when it was yet dark, unto the sepulcher, and seeth the stone taken away from the sepulcher. (John 20:1, KJV)

According to Vine’s Expository Dictionary of New Testament Words, the Greek word shabbaton as used in Matthew 28:1, Mark 16:2, Acts 20:7,11 and 1 Corinthians 16:2 though translated in the KJV as “the first day of the week” literally and idiomatically means, “one of the sabbaths” signifying “the first day after the sabbath.” (p. 810)

Some scholars see this as a reference to the beginning count of the Feast of Weeks since in all the above references either that Feast or the Feast of Unleavened Bread is mentioned in the textual context of each passage.

The Interlinear Bible of J.P. Green translates sabbaton in Matthew 28:1, John 20:19, and Acts 20:7 as sabbaths, though he translates the same word not as sabbaths, but first of the week or of a week in Mark 16:2 and 1 Corinthians 16:2 respectively. Green translates the phrase containing sabbaton in Luke 24:1 as “But on one of the week, while still very early…” Likewise, Young’s Literal Translation reads, “And on the eve of the sabbaths, at the dawn, toward the first of the sabbaths…” The Bishops Bible of 1568 translates John 20:1 as, “The first day of ye Sabbothes, came Marie Magdalene early, when it was yet darke, unto the sepulchre, and sawe the stone taken awaye from the grave.”

On Acts 20:7, Vincent’s Word Studies in the New Testament admits that sabbaton is plural in the Greek, though he reference it as a singular word saying, “The plural [is] used for the singular, in imitation of Hebrew form. The noun Sabbath is often used after numerals in the signification of a week. See Matt 28:1; Mark 16:2; John 20:19” (vol. 1, p. 558).

The Greek word sabbaton, as noted, is from the Hebrew word shabbaton, which is from the Hebrew root word shabbat, which can mean “weeks of Sabbaths.” Shabbatown (Strong’s H7677, from H7676) means “a special holy day” and is used in reference to the weekly Sabbath, Day of Atonement, the sabbatical year, Day of Trumpets and the first and last days of the Feast of Tabernacles and is translated in the KJV as rest (8 times), sabbath (3 times). Examples of its usage include:

  • The weekly Sabbath: Exod 31:15; 16:23; 35:2; Lev 23:3
  • The Day of Atonement: Lev. 16:31; 23:32
  • The sabbatical year: Lev 25:4
  • The Day of Trumpets: Lev 23:24
  • The First day of the Feast of Tabernacles and the Eighth Day (Shemini Atzeret): Lev 23:34

What can we conclude from this? The word translated for first [as in “first of the weeks”] is the Greek word mia which, according to the Greek lexicons, refers to the cardinal number one and is not the ordinal number first, which is a completely different Greek word. Why would the writers of the Gospel accounts of the empty tomb emphasize literally week one? Could it be that they are referring to week one of the counting of the omer the seven weeks between the weekly Sabbath within the seven day festival of Hag HaMatzot (Feast of Unleavened Bread) and Shavout (Pentecost or the Feast of Weeks)? The Torah specifically speaks of the day after the Sabbath when the high priest would lift heavenward in a waving motion the freshly cut barley for Elohim to accept (Lev 23:9–14). This event, which would occur on the first day of the week (Sunday) would also commence the counting of the 49 days (seven weeks) of the omer concluding with the celebration of Shavuot (Pentecost, literally meaning to count fifty) on the fiftieth day (Lev 23:15–16).

It seems likely that not only did Yeshua resurrect just after the end of the Sabbath, and barely into the evening portion of the first day, but that he ascended to heaven on the first day, as well, when the priests were waving the barely omer—on Wave Sheaf or First Fruits Day.

Therefore, the Gospel writers were emphasizing a “morrow after the Sabbath” or first day (Lev 23:15) wave sheaf offering, which was a prophetic shadow-picture of Yeshua’s resurrection and ascension to his Father in heaven (John 20:17) to be accepted as the first of the first fruits of those resurrected from the dead (1 Cor 15:20–23) as well as the commencement of the counting of the seven weeks leading to Shavuot (Pentecost).

Interestingly, E.W. Bullinger, the noted late nineteenth-century British Bible scholar, linguist and author of the Companion Bible has come to the same conclusion. Bullinger says in his Companion Bible commentary on John 20:1, states that the phrase “On the first day of the week” should read “on the first (day) of the Sabbath.” He goes on to explain that this is passage is a reference to the Leviticus 23:15–17. On the day that the disciples found the empty tomb was “the first of the days for reckoning the seven Sabbaths to Pentecost. On this day, therefore, the Lord became the firstfruits (verses 10–11) of God’s resurrection harvest (1 Cor 15:23).” (The Companion Bible, p. 1570).


7 thoughts on “First Day or First Week? A Big Difference

  1. very interesting….this was something. fellow believers & myself

    discussed amongst ourselves a few months ago ON SHABBAT WHEN FELLOWSHIPPING TOGETHER.



    VERSE 8 AND”” THERE WERE MANY LIGHTS IN THE UPPER CHAMBER WHERE THEY WERE GATHERED TOGETHER.”.. .. I HAD ALWAYS THOUGHT FROM THESE VERSES THEY WERE BREAKING BREAD (having an evening meal @ the end…(sunset part) of shabbat 7th day (our saturday as we know it & Paul preached until 12 mn.(.shabbat had. ended officialy & as it was dark the 1st day of the week … i,we were thinking the morrow was after 12 mn…officially the western worlds Sunday ..we pondered & one of the brothers mentioned first day officially starts @ sunrise…he was quoting verses from Genesis re days starting etc…..then another brother was looking at the word first day in the Greek he looked it up on his phone & said the FIRST DAY was SHABBATON….IN MY KING JAMES IT QUOTES FIRST DAY OF THE WEEK BUT ON HIS ADVICE RE THE WORD IN GREEK ETC WE LOOKED AT THE HALLELUYAH SCRIPTURES ACTS 20 VERSE 7 READS AND ON ONE OF THE SHABBATON shabbathoth, THE TALMIDIM HAVING GATHERED TOGETHER TO BREAK BREAD,(evening meal shared) … PAUL) Sha”ul,intending to depart the next day ….was reasoning with them and was extending the word till midnight…big day

    verse 8 and there were many lamps in the upper room where they were assembled
    verse 9 and a certain man EUTUKOS was sitting in a window and fell asleep.etc.and fell down from the 3rd storey…
    problems in the translations re confusion between sabbath shabbaton & what constituted 1st day of the week…



    • Not sure what more I can say beyond what I’ve already said in my blog post on Acts 20.

      First, the biblical day starts at sundown, not at sunrise. Period. To say otherwise, one has to twist scriptures, the meaning of the Hebrew and to disregard the clear scriptures in favor of obscure, hard to understand passages. This is how most heresies and abhorrent biblical views begin.

      Second, Paul preached not only into Saturday evening, which was the beginning of the first day/Sunday, but this was also the beginning of the counting of the next week of the omer. That is, the beginning of Sunday was also the beginning of the next week in the omer count. So we have a double entendre/meaning here. The first of the weeks was also the first day of the week, which is when Eutychus fell out of the window.

      To be certain, I think we can all agree that this passage in no way proves that Sunday observance replaced Sabbath observance. To say so reveals a gross misunderstanding on the part of those who promote this idea and shows great ignorance of the NT/Hebraic culture, an ignorance of Scripture, an antipathy if not hatred for the Torah, and is evidence of trying to impose one’s preconceived and malinformed biases upon the Scriptures.

  2. This is a very debated topic in the HR Movement and one I have a hard time reconciling completely. I have no doubts that the Greek reads as it does but my only reservation on the matter that makes me somewhat believe we are still not getting it right is that when The Children of Israel were coming out of Egypt there was a consistent rhythm to there opening journey with no pauses so to speak. They prepared the lamb, ate it through the night until there was none left in the morning and then got up and left Egypt on their way to Siani to receive the Torah 50 days later. There were no pauses where this rhythm is interrupted. If you go by the weekly Sabbath to start your count you interrupt this rhythm and it will change from year to year. If Passover is on a Monday you have to wait all the way until the following Sunday (really Saturday Night after sundown) to start your count. I struggle with that. It seems to me that it ruins the pattern or rhythm of the journey of salvation that we all take. I also know that it says to count weeks and not necessarily Sabbaths. So if you start your count on the day after the first day of Unleavened bread and it is a Tuesday then you count 7 days from there over and over until you reach 49 and then the next day is Shavuot. Just like in our times when we would say, if it was a Tuesday, meet me at so and so place a week from today or three weeks from today. We just count the weeks from Tuesday until Tuesday. Anyway, I am not convinced either way on this topic. Good post brother, gives me a lot to think about and keep testing. Shabbat shalom!

    • Look up shabbaton in the Hebrew in any lexicon. It always means “weeks” starting from Sunday to Saturday, not seven days starting on any day of the week. This is where the rabbinic Jews miss it. They don’t even follow the meanings of their own Hebrew words.

      I suspect that Akiba or some other such Christian hating Jewish apostate in the very early part of the common era changed the beginning of the counting of the omer from starting on the morrow after the weekly Sabbath, to the morrow after the first high day of Unleavened Bread (i.e. Nissan/Abib 16). Can’t prove this, but he hated Christianity so much that he twisted many other Torah truths just to not do what the Christians were doing, and to get the focus off of Yeshua. (Read Dan Gruber’s “Rabbi Akiba’s Messiah.” This well-researched book lays it all out.) Indeed, when we go with the rabbinic manner of counting the omer, the focus is taken off of Yeshua’s resurrecting when the wave sheaf offering was presented. I discuss this whole issue in a 23 page paper on the Hosanna Rabbah website (

    • ).

      As far as rhythm goes, I go for the truth of Scripture over rhythms. Rhythms are subjective unless undergirded by truth. Besides, the year that the Israelites left Egypt, I suspect that all the days lined up perfectly and rhythmically. Every year the flow of events is different because the dates of the calendar changes each year. Who’s to say it didn’t flow perfectly that year? For example, the gospels make it clear (when you put the pieces of the puzzle together) that Yeshua died on Wednesday and resurrected at the end of the day on Saturday/beginning of Sunday and ascended on Sunday to heaven, which was wave sheaf day. Perfect rhythm that year. But this is seldom the case for us now unless of course Passover falls on a Wednesday. Then we could have the same chronology or timeline of Yeshua’s death and ascension.

      Just some things to think about. Iron sharpens iron. This is good.


      • Good stuff, I will look into your suggestions. The Akiba book sounds very interesting. I’ll check out your article too. Thanks for the insight. The good news is, when Messiah comes he will straighten us all out:)

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