Daniel Gregg is interested in and has done a lot of research on Biblical chronology. From the sound of it, and from this comment I am about to dissect, I would have to say I find his methodology suspect. I let a number of comments slide the last few days due in part to busyness (leading 11 seders in 2 weeks!) and in part to the fact that I did not feel I needed to have the last word.
Now, someone has commented with a pointed argument that I feel I should not ignore.
If you wonder what I am talking about, please read the original post, “Passover and Yeshua’s Crucifixion.”
I will respond to a few of Daniel Gregg’s comments and for reference will list his entire comment below.
First, Gregg says that it is only by circular reasoning that anyone (including nearly every scholar who has ever written on the gospels) could arrive at the conclusion that “Sabbaton” in the NT means “week.” Circular reasoning is pretty much the same as begging the question, which is logical fallacy of starting out with a pre-conceived notion and then proving that notion by repeating it again and again. For example, circular reasoning in this case would be, “Sabbaton in the New Testament often means “week,” a fact which we know because sabbaton means week.”
I don’t understand why Gregg thinks that I or anyone else arrived at the idea that Sabbaton means week (in many contexts) by circular reasoning. All Bible translators understand that Sabbaton is a Greek form of the Hebrew word Shabbaton, or Sabbath. The idea that it often means “week” in the New Testament is not something that was arrived at by circular reasoning. It is something that was arrived at by examining the contextual uses of the word. This is the right way to define a word (synchronically) and the wrong way is to insist on an ancient and unchanging root meaning (which is what Gregg is doing).
I have used as an example Luke 18:12 in which a Pharisee claims to fast twice a Sabbaton. I have said the idea that this could mean fasting twice on the Sabbath is ridiculous. One commenter said it means he skips 2 meals on the Sabbath. I have yet to see the concept of fasting defined as skipping a meal in the practices of Biblical times. How many meals could the person then eat? I could say I fasted today because I had three meals and only one snack instead of five.
Furthermore, I have said that Mark 16:2 makes no sense if Sabbaton means Sabbath. Mark 16:2 says, very early on the first day of the week they went to the tomb when the sun had risen. According to Gregg’s translation it should be very early on the first of the Sabbaths they went to the tomb when the sun had risen. This means the first of the seven Sabbaths between Passover and Shavuot, he tells us.
Well, is Sabbaton plural? Or is it a Greek version of Shabbaton? Gregg decides it must be plural, but he doesn’t mention the other possibility which would detract from his theory. Further, how would the reader gather from “first of the Sabbaths” that this referred to the seven Sabbaths between Passover and Shavuot? Gregg is stretching to avoid a simpler and more consistent answer.
Gregg further says that in Luke 18:12 the word does not mean week either. He offers an explanation I cannot decipher:
…Luke 18:12 excepted, and ’sabbatou’ there does not mean ‘week’ either. It is just redacted Byzantine Greek to say so.
He can’t be saying that some later redactors in the Byzantine tradition changed an earlier word “week” to the word “Sabbath.” Or at least I hope that is not what he is saying. What possible motivation could they have to take a clear word and make it unclear (unless this is a conspiracy theory that the Byzantine scholars wanted to throw us off by making us think Sabbaton means week)? Besides, what clear word for week would they use? There was not a word.
Gregg says that there is a clear Greek word for week, the same one used in the Greek version of Daniel (hebdamos). Well, that word is related, as I understand it, to the word seven and is not strictly speaking a word for a time period called a week. Although the ancient Greeks could coin a word for a seven-day period, this was not a native concept.
Gregg argues that since Adam and Eve the whole world knew about the existence of and importance of a week.
This is far-fetched. It amounts to saying that the ancients all knew the Genesis story (though none referred to it except possibly in myths that contained shadows of the primeval past). Perhaps Mr. Gregg could provide some references from ancient literature to persuade us that they all knew about Adam and Eve and the idea of a week.
It is not circular reasoning to determine the meaning of a word from its context. The translators of the New Testament through the ages have not been unaware that Sabbaton means Sabbath. All of them have been aware of this. It is not new information. Nor was there a conspiracy to change the day of the Resurrection from Saturday to Sunday (anyone who says so, the burden of proof is on you and you need more than some internet research to prove your point). Note: It is a popular thing on the internet for people to pose as experts and have only enough knowledge to fool those with less knowledge — which renders internet research valuable only to the extent you know a writer to be reliable.
Rather, the translators of the New Testament found it quite natural and were quite aware in the early days of the use of Sabbath to mean Sabbath-period, which is a week.
Gregg’s alternative (the first of [the seven] Sabbaths) is what we call a forced answer to arrive at a desired goal: to be seen as a discoverer of “new” truth.
Appendix: Daniel Gregg’s Comment in Its Entirety
I am the author of the mentioned book. You mention that “sabbaton” means “week” in other NT passages. The problem is that this is a case of circular reasoning. For it is those very passages that pertain to the resurrection and which are mistranslated, Luke 18:12 excepted, and ’sabbatou’ there does not mean ‘week’ either. It is just redacted Byzantine Greek to say so.
Also, the words ‘mia’ and ’sabbaton’ mean the same thing in both classical and koine Greek, and actually even more so in koine. Also, most secular scholars read a lot of classical, but they they are compentent enough with koine. What they lack is the bias of Church tradition to tell them what the Greek must mean before they read it.
The Greeks do have a word for week. It is “ebdomados”. Did you know that Dr. William Mead Jones produced a chart of the week demonstrating the concept of the “week” in over 160 languages and cultures in the world? Daniel 10:2 uses “ebdomados” in the LXX for Shavuah, i.e. “week” or “a seven”. The concept of the week is not exclusive to the bible, but is as old as Adam and Noah and all of their descendents.
The Greek “mia ton sabbaton” means “first of the Sabbaths” and Sabbaths is in plural. Refer to Lev. 23:15 where it says to count 7 sabbaths after Passover. It does not mean the first point in one sabbath (i.e. Friday night) as you misunderstood, but the first Sabbath after Passover.