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COLOSSIANS 2 AND THE JEWISH SABBATH
 
Colossians 2:16-17 seems to forbid judging anybody who keeps the Sabbath and some say this is referring to those who use the Sunday Sabbath or who retain Saturday as the Sabbath.  It is remarkable how Christianity gives no respect to those who wish to use Saturday.  The verse seems inconclusive for sabbaths appears to refer to specifically Jewish feastday Sabbaths not the Saturday Sabbath.

The view that the Sabbath has been done away and now we can celebrate and worship on a Sunday and may not even have to keep the regulations about rest is commonly believed. This stance is based on Colossians 2:16 alone. This verse says that nobody is bound to keep Sabbaths because they were signs of the body of Jesus. The Jewish Sabbath is not a sign of the body but of the creation and so it cannot be meant. Exodus in the ten commandments says that the Jewish Sabbath is in remembrance of creation and the day God rested. This implies the Sabbath should be kept by the whole world for the whole world was created. Colossians is referring to unscriptural Sabbaths. Sunday is an unscriptural Sabbath.

It is agreed by careful Bible interpreters that nothing in Colossians 2:16 cancels the Sabbath though many of them still think the Sabbath has been switched to Sunday (page 120, Encyclopaedia of Bible Difficulties). For us it is enough that Colossians still believes in a Sabbath to prove that the Saturday one might still be in force.
 
Let us look at it more deeply. Paul or an impostor in his Colossians 2:16,17 says that because Christ has overcome the hostile forces that “Therefore” we must let nobody judge us “with regard to a feast day or a New Moon or a Sabbath. Such [things] are only the shadow of things to come, and they have only a symbolic value.” Because before this writer wrote that the demands of the Law had been done away in the death of Christ people suppose that he must mean the Jewish Sabbath and feasts. But between them both is the assertion that Jesus overcame the hostile powers which many heretics at Collosae at the time were worshipping. Many heresies did and still do combine paganism with its belief in many gods, some of whom are malignant, with Christianity. This means that the connection they make may be incorrect. They put the verse in the wrong context. Instead of telling us that the Sabbath and feasts are abrogated Paul, or the writer, may be saying that the Sabbaths and feasts of the hostile powers are not binding. The “Therefore” goes with the bit about the conquest.
 
Seventh-Day Adventists say the passage only forbids the special Sabbaths or the extra ones invented by the Jews. Against this it is argued that Paul or the writer would have been clear on what he meant by Sabbath so he must have abolished the seventh-day one as well. They say he was declaring all Sabbaths, God’s and man’s across the board to be abolished. But that would have done away with the Sunday Sabbath he allegedly wanted the people to observe too. And yet people using this argument want to believe Sunday is the Sabbath! If it doesn’t abolish Sunday as the Sabbath how can we say it abolishes Saturday as the Sabbath?
 
The Adventists also stated that the Saturday Sabbath was kept before the Law was given and even by Adam and Eve. The Bible does not mention anybody keeping the Sabbath before the coming of the Law but that proves nothing. Genesis says that God sanctified the seventh-day before he made Adam which means he set it apart for holy use. He spoke face to face with Adam so Adam would have known he did this. So it is reasonable to suppose Adam did keep the Sabbath. It follows that the Adventists are right. Why would God set apart that day then if he was not going to institute the Sabbath until the Law came later? When the Sabbath existed before the Law it must be an everlasting duty upon us. It is nonsense to object that no instructions were given for the Sabbath day before that so there could have been no Sabbath for God making the day a holy day of rest said it all. It was a day for rest and prayer.
 
Another objection is that the Israelites in Egypt were unable to keep the Sabbath because they were enslaved. That does not work either for there could have been an obligatory Sabbath despite the fact that they could not keep it.
 
Now when Christianity commanded us to observe the Sabbath from the very beginning though it has disagreed on what day the Sabbath falls on, it is clear that this verse does not mean the true Sabbath (whether it be the Saturday Sabbath or the Sunday) one but false Sabbaths and not the traditional feasts of the Jews but the newly invented ones. A false Sabbath would be a day kept for prayer and resting by allegedly divine command that has no divine authority at all. Even false Sabbaths have value but only as symbols. All pagan and heretical practices contain a morsel of truth that gives them great meaning as metaphors. The people Paul was writing to were guilty of idolatry and mixing Christianity with heathenism. They were condemned for inventing festivals of idolatry.
 
The author of Colossians is not saying that since the Sabbath and the feasts have only symbolic value they should not be kept. He may be hinting that the heretics gave them some other kind of estimation, a magical one. He was against the implementation of unnecessary rules and the condemnation of those who did not keep them. He does not want people judged for bypassing them.

If the verse relates to the seventh-day Sabbath being out the door then it would say so clearly. The author knew that some heretics would argue on the basis of the text that it was wrong to have an obligatory Sabbath day at all and therefore he could not afford to be ambiguous. Read the words, they could mean that there is to be no Sabbath at all when you read them out of their religious context which refers to pagan practices. So, he was not being ambiguous for he didn’t mean the scriptural Sabbaths and feasts.
 
In his Encyclopaedia of Bible Difficulties, Gleason W Archer writes that the word translated Sabbath in the verse which is sabbaton should be translated as the more accurate Sabbaths. The Hebrew religious calendar had Sabbaths other than the seventh-day Sabbath. These Sabbaths were supposed to be the days of the Feast of Tabernacles and Unleavened Bread both of which ran for eight days each (page 120). Now all these days must be kept to obey the Bible (Deuteronomy 16 requires that the Feast of Booths be kept for 7 days).
 
We must realise that the author was unlikely to have meant these days after the feasts if he had already declared the feasts to have been abolished. If the feasts are done away then why keep the days after them which are related to them? This would make it more likely that the verse is against the man-made Sabbaths and feasts of the heretical Christians.
 
After what he wrote, the author said that these things were shadows of what was to come and the reality is the body of Jesus. So, he could not have meant the Sabbath and the feasts commanded by God in the Law for they did not all picture the sacrifice of the body of Jesus. The Sabbath pictured the completion of creation.
 
The Bible feasts and Sabbaths were not pictures of the atoning and saving work of Jesus because not keeping them holy brought very harsh penalties with it. God wouldn’t come down that heavy on mere pictures or symbols especially when he never said anywhere in the Old Testament that the feasts and Sabbaths never symbolised anything about the Messiah Jesus or anybody.

Before (2:8) and after (2:22) what the author wrote about the Sabbath and the feasts he condemns human traditions so the context is about man-made doctrines and rites. So how can Christians say that the condemned Sabbath and feasts were those commanded by God in the Law of Moses?
 
The Christian interpretation of Colossians rests on one thing only. The assumption that the early Christians did not retain the Jewish feast days and the Sabbath. If they had they would have known that Colossians was not telling them to stop. So since the days were not abolished explicitly it is obvious that the Christians would have carried them on. Colossians condemns man-made Sabbaths – such as the man-made feasts and holydays of obligation of the Roman Catholic Church on which work is forbidden – therefore it condemns the purely man-made Sunday Sabbath.