Vol.VIII No.X Pg.5
December 1971

That Jewish Clock

Robert F. Turner

In the American Bible Societys Todays English version of the New Testament, Acts 20:7 is made to read:

On Saturday evening we gathered together for the fellowship meal. The Greek text contains no word to remotely suggest fellowship; and the day is identified as mia ton sabbaton — an expression recognized elsewhere as meaning first (day) of the week. The only possible excuse for translating Saturday evening is the obvious late hour, and the assumption that Jewish reckoning (beginning the day at 6: p.m.) was observed. Even if this is correct Saturday evening is a comment; not a translation.

But I am told that one church on the west coast is now meeting on Saturday evening for worship, and others are disturbed. I suppose the basic questions are: (1) Did the Holy Spirit use only Jewish time- reckoning? and, (2) Does its use (partially or wholly) have a binding significance. or was it only incidental?

Perhaps the best known example of Roman time—count (the day beginning at midnight) is in John 19:14. Here John says Jesus was on trial before Pilate at the sixth hour. But Mark says Jesus was crucified the third hour. (Mk. 15:25) There is no contradiction. John uses Roman time here, (Jesus was before Pilate at 6: a.m. ) and Mark used Jewish time, (Christ was crucified at 9: a.m.).

We may have another example of Roman time-count in John 20:19. Then the same day at evening, being the first day of the week, when the doors were shut where the disciples were assembled for fear of the Jews.. . We would judge this a later- than-sundown evening on the basis of immediate contest. Westcott says, The hour was evidently late, about 8: p.m. Time must be allowed for the return of the disciples from Emmaus, who were not likely to leave Jerusalem till after the evening prayer (Acts 3:1). (Cf. Lu. 24:29,33,36) In fact, Westcott contends that John used Roman reckoning in all time passages, followed a practice of the province in which he was living and for which he was writing. (Gospel According to John; p. 282.)

With even one clear example of Western time-reckoning in the word of God, can we say Jewish time-count is bound upon us? What about the Jewish calendar? Perhaps it is worth mention that by worshipping after midnight Saturday, and before 6: p.m. Sunday, we are within the limits of both the Roman and Jewish time-count.

Several years ago the Firm Foundation carried a news item from some preacher in Europe (Switzerland, I believe) telling of a baptism on Saturday afternoon, after which they returned to the hotel room for the Lords Supper. I wrote a letter to the address given, but have never received a reply. I felt then, although without real evidence, that perhaps it was a young man, carried away with the emotional fever generated by too many college devotionals. It may be that todays itch to break with traditions of the establishment has led some to revive the old Jewish arguments. Herbert Armstrong could be the fly in the oil. Let us spray!