A Greek Falsehood


LIKE the frogs which came upon Egypt, Sunday sermons, Sunday tracts, Sunday pamphlets, and Sunday books are now swarming over all our land; and they are just about as much of a blessing to mankind. Our friends kindly forward copies of many of these to this Office, with the request that they be noticed. It is impossible to do this with all, as we would be glad to do; hence a selection must be made of those which for various reasons seem to possess special claims for consideration. Such an one we have just received from our brethren in Ohio. It is by “J.B. Knappenberger, B.D.,” and is entitled, “The Old and the New Sabbath.” GRFA 13.1

The very title betrays its character, and shows it to be an effort to defend a human institution; for where in the Bible is there anything said about a “new” Sabbath? — Nowhere. The Bible knows but one Sabbath; and that is neither Jewish nor Christian, neither old or new, peculiar to neither one dispensation and people nor to another; but it is the Sabbath of the Lord our God, and his only from the beginning to the end. We might just as well talk about “the old and the new” marriage relation, as about the old and the new Sabbath. GRFA 13.2

We discover in the book one great fundamental error, which lies at the foundation of all the confusion respecting the moral and ceremonial laws, and the perversions of Scripture, which are apparent all through this work; and that is that the Sabbath with the moral law to which it belongs, constituted the old covenant, and has been superseded by a new covenant. A new covenant has indeed taken the place of the old, but that does not affect the Sabbath at all; for the Sabbath was no part of that covenant. The ten-commandment law to which the Sabbath belongs, was not the old covenant. Beat out from the minds of men this idea which some religious teachers are laboring so zealously to instill into them. It is a terrible and deadly error. It leads to conclusions the most horrible. Just look. The old covenant was made with the Hebrew people when they came out of Egypt. “The Lord made not this covenant with our fathers,” says Moses, “but with us, even us, who are all of us here alive this day.” Deuteronomy 5:3. Now if this covenant was the ten commandments, and the making of this covenant brought upon the people the obligation to keep these commandments, as this contends, then it follows that the ten commandments were not given till the time of Moses, and none were under any obligation to keep them till that time; for certainly, none are under obligation to keep a covenant before it is made, and no people are to keep it except those with whom it is made. Think of the world, then, for twenty-five hundred years with no obligations of this kind resting upon them! But this is the inevitable conclusion resulting from this theory. There is no possibility of avoiding it. Hold it up to the scorn of mankind, and bury it beneath the execrations of all right minded people! GRFA 13.3

But every reader of the Bible and every person of intelligence knows that the ten commandments were binding upon the world before Moses. Cain was a murderer, and was condemned as such, because the law against murder was in force; the antediluvians were destroyed for their wickedness, because the law against covetousness, theft, murder and adultery, blasphemy and idolatry, was in force; Noah was righteous because his life was in accordance with a true standard of right, which could have been none other than the moral law, as that includes all righteousness. Lot was righteous, and the Sodomites fit subjects for fire and brimstone — by what law? — By the law of ten commandments; for the requirements of that law were just what they were transgressing. So all the way from Adam to Moses traces can be found of the violation of every one of the ten commandments, and the condemnation of that violation as a sin. This is an open fact of which every candid reader of the Scriptures must be aware. How, then, dare men affirm that the ten commandments constituted a covenant which was not made till the time of Moses? Reason and revelation, facts and figures, are all against them; and the truth will witness terribly against them in the Judgment of the great day. GRFA 14.1

It does not seem to us that there can by any excuse for confounding together the two laws, the moral and the ceremonial, of for asserting that the Sabbath is ever classed with those ordinances which were nailed to the cross. It is never so classed; and those who believe that it is, have either deceived themselves, or have suffered others to deceive them. GRFA 15.1

But that portion of the pamphlet before us which is most calculated to deceive the general reader, simply because he is not familiar with that branch of study, is the wonderful display that is made over the Greek of Matthew 28:1, and parallel passages. Much space is wasted in giving the Greek text in full in the eight passages where the expression “first day of the week” occurs, and then a pretended “interlinary” translation. (Can some reader give us a little light on “interlinary,” and tell us what it means?) The writer says:— GRFA 15.2

“We are asked to give one text in which the first day of the week, or resurrection day, is called the Sabbath by divine authority. It gives us great pleasure to do exceeding abundantly above all that is demanded on this point.” GRFA 16.1

No one but an ignoramus would pen such a sentence as that, as we will presently show. But first let us look at a few other flashes of his marvelous wisdom. These statements we quote from pages 20 and 21 of his pamphlet:— GRFA 16.2

“The chosen apostles of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ, endued with miraculous power as their credentials from the court of Heaven, and inspired by the Holy Ghost to give to the world its last and greatest revelation, have with united testimony declared the day of Christ’s resurrection the Sabbath. Some may say that the inspired penmen have used the word Sabbaton in the plural number (with one exception) when applying it to the first day of the week, or resurrection day; to this we reply that they have used Sabbaton in the same number, gender and case as used by the Septuagint translators in their rendering of the fourth commandment.” GRFA 16.3

The reader will please note here that he pretends to know something about the number, gender, and case of Greek nouns. How much, we shall presently see. A little farther on he has this:— GRFA 16.4

Sabbaton does not mean week, and cannot be so translated without doing violence to the Greek text: the Greek word for week was not Sabbaton but Hebdomas, and is familiarly known as the ‘hebdomadal division,’ or the dividing of time into periods of seven days. (A correct reading will be obtained of all those passages in the New Testament in which the phrase ‘first day of the week’ occurs by omitting the italicized word ‘day’ and substituting the word ‘Sabbath’ for that of ‘week.’)” GRFA 16.5

We are now prepared to look at his pompous display of Greek; and the matter can be made so plain that the English reader can readily understand it. The phrase rendered in the common version, “toward the first day of the week,” in Matthew 28:1, is, as our readers are well aware, from the Greek words eis mian sabbaton, eis being the preposition “to” or “toward,” main the numeral adjective “first,” and sabbaton the noun rendered, “of the week.” This Mr. Knappenberger translates, “into first Sabbath.” It will be seen that he makes the adjective “first” agree with “Sabbath.” Now, as he claims to know something about gender, number, and case, we must charitably suppose that he understands the universal rule that an adjective must agree with its noun in gender, in the same number, and in the same case. Thus, if the adjective mian “first,” agrees with sabbaton, as he claims, it must be the same gender as sabbaton, and in the same number and case. Now let us ask a few questions concerning this construction, to which he must give the following answers, if he has the least knowledge of what he is talking about. Take the noun sabbaton: What is its gender? — It is neuter. What is its number? — It is plural. What is its case? — It is in the genitive case. Take now the adjective mian, which Mr. K. makes agree with this noun sabbaton: What is the gender of mian? — It is feminine. What is its number? — It is in the singular! What is its case? — It is in the accusative case! How, then, can it agree with sabbaton? — There is no agreement at all. In not one single particular of the three, which are all essential to his construction, is there any correspondence between the adjective and the noun. Yet he says that they agree, and should be rendered “first Sabbath.” This is rather a bad showing for a “bachelor of divinity.” Why will men inflict such stuff upon a long-suffering and patient community? We do not know what answer they would render in words; we know what answer their actions plainly imply, which is this: Oh! we are bound to assert that Sunday is called the Sabbath, presuming upon the ignorance of the people to prevent their discovering the fact that we are making fools of ourselves in so doing. GRFA 17.1

Mian, as must be apparent to every one, does not, and cannot, agree with sabbaton. But it is there, and must be disposed of in some way. How shall it be? There is only one possible way, and that is, to supply some noun with which it may agree; and this noun must be in the feminine gender, singular number, and accusative case, and hold a correct grammatical relation to sabbaton. There is just one possible noun that can be supplied which will meet all the requirements of the case, and that is hemeran (accusative from the nominative hemera), “day.” This is a feminine noun, singular number, and accusative case, after the preposition eis. What would be its relation to sabbaton? That word is in the genitive case; and that case expresses a relation which in the English is denoted by the word “of.” So it would be “the first day of the sabbaton.” But in this case what can sabbaton mean? If we say it means just the Sabbath, the seventh day, we should have “the first day of the Sabbath,” or “first day of the seventh day” which would be nonsense. But the Hebrews gave the term “Sabbath” to the whole weekly cycle because that was marked by the Sabbath, and spoke of the different days of the week, as “the first day in the Sabbath, the second day in the Sabbath, the third day in the Sabbath,” etc., which expressions mean, and were designed to be understood, the first day, second day, third day, etc., of the week. The Talmudists wrote the days of the week in this manner, according to Lightfoot and Ideler, as quoted by Robinson in his Greek lexicon, under sabbaton. The Greek writers of the New Testament adopted this Hebraism, and always express the week in this manner. They never use the term hebdomas. GRFA 18.1

The next question to be decided is, How shall we know when the term sabbaton means “week,” and when it means only the “seventh day of the week”? This is a point easily determined. The rule is that when this term is preceded by a numeral adjective specifies which day of the week is intended. And it is just this construction that is used in each of the eight instances where the first day of the week is mentioned, the form of the numeral adjective (from heis “one,” by a Hebraism used as an ordinal — the “first”) being mias, as in Mark 16:2; mia, as in Luke 24:1; John 20:1, 19; Acts 20:7; mian, as in Matthew 28:1; 1 Corinthians 16:2; or another numeral adjective, prote, as in Mark 16:9. But the construction is the same in all these cases, the numeral adjective being feminine gender, singular number, and either genitive, dative, or accusative case, agreeing with “day” understood, and the word sabbaton, being always of the neuter gender, and, with the exception of Mark 16:9, in the plural number, and in the genitive case, meaning “week”. In Mark 16:9, though both are in the singular number, the adjective, prote, is in the dative feminine, and sabbaton in the genitive neuter. GRFA 19.1

So the leading Greek lexicographers, Liddell and Scott, Robinson, Greenfield, Bagster, and Parkhurst, give the word “week,” as one of the definitions of sabbaton, under the conditions named above; all the learned men who made the King James version, and the probably more learned men who have given us the revised version, so understood it; and so the commentators and translators understand and render it. But lo! a little bachelor of divinity rises up in Ohio, and charges all these men with stupidity and classical incompetency, saying that it cannot be so rendered without “doing violence to the Greek text”! It becomes a question difficult to determine whether this man does not know any better, or whether he is intentionally laboring to deceive by deliberately falsifying. GRFA 19.2

But is not the same word, sabbaton, in the genitive plural, used by the Septuagint in the fourth commandment? — Yes; and because our author sees the word there, and the same word in the New Testament, where the first day of the week is spoken of, he hastens to write himself down as utterly ignorant of the construction of the Greek language, by claiming that the passages are exactly parallel. No statement could be more false. The word sabbaton, it is true, occurs in the fourth commandment, as in the passages referred to in the New Testament, but in an entirely different declaration. When any one speaks of “the day of the Sabbath,” every one understands it at once as equivalent to “the Sabbath day;” that is, the day which has been set apart as the rest day. Now this is exactly the construction of the fourth commandment. The word “day” is expressed. But there is no numeral adjective in the sentence quoted from the fourth commandment; namely, “Remember the Sabbath day to keep it holy;” literally, “Remember the day of the Sabbath to keep it holy.” But this is altogether different from speaking of “the first day of the Sabbath,” in which case “Sabbath” must mean “week,” according to the authorities above referred to. GRFA 20.1

The book is handled by the Wesleyan Methodist Publishing House, at Syracuse, N.Y. With that denomination we have not much acquaintance. But if they have any truly educated men among them, who are not dead to all literary decency, they will hang their heads with shame at this exhibition by “J.B. Knappenberger, Bachelor of Divinity.” GRFA 20.2