Bible Question:

What does “Mia Ton Sabbaton” mean? It is a Greek word. I would like to know how to learn Greek. Can you provide a recommendation?

Bible Answer:

“Mia Ton Sabbaton” refers to the passage as follows in the NASB:

On the first day of the week, when we were gathered together to break bread, Paul began talking to them, intending to leave the next day, and he prolonged his message until midnight.  Acts 20:7

The English phrase which begins this verse is translated from the Greek phrase en de ta mia ton sabbaton. A literal translation into the English is as follows:

On and the first of the sevens . . .

The Greek word mia is commonly translated as “one.” It is a cardinal and therefore can be translated as “one” or “first.” The Greek word ta and the ending of sabbaton are plural genitives. That is, they are plural possessives implying ownership. Normally, the Greek word sabbaton is translated as “Sabbath.” But its general meaning is “sevens” or “weeks.”[1][2][3][4][5][6]

It is important to note that the Greeks did not have separate words for the individual days of the week. The term sabbaton simply referred to sevens and was often used to refer to the seventh day of the week. It should also be noted that M. Vincent states, “The noun ‘Sabbath’ is often used after numerals in the signification of ‘a week.'”[7]. Therefore, if we put all of this together, the passage should be correctly translated as “the first of the sevens,” or “first of the week,” and not “one Sabbath evening.”

Greek authorities such as Nicoll, Vincent, and A.T. Robertson translate the phrase as “the first day of the week” and not as “one of the Sabbaths.”[8][9][10] The New American Standard Bible (NASB), New International Version (NIV) Bible, the New Living Translation (NLT), English Standard Version (ESV), King James Version Bible (KJV), NET Bible, New Century Version (NCV), Contemporary English Version (CEV), and the New Jerusalem Bible (NJB) all translate Acts 20:7 as “the first day of the week” and translate a similar passage, 1 Cor. 16:2, as “first day of every week” or “first day of each week.”

Lenski states that the phrase in Acts 20:7 should be translated as “the first day of the week with reference to the Sabbath” [11]. His translation is slightly different but is consistent with our translation.

Conclusion:

Please note that the weight of the Greek authorities and the major Bible translations are consistent. The early Christians gathered together on the first of the week – Sunday. For a good book to start learning Greek, I would recommend “Basics of Biblical Greek” by William D. Mounce.

References:

1. Verlyn D. Verbrugge. Dictionary o New Testament Theology. Zondervan. 2000. , 512.
2. Louw & Nida. Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament. United Bible Societies. 1989. vol. 1, p. 651.
3. H. G. Liddell and R. Scott. Greek-English Lexicon. Oxford Press. 1996. p. 1579.
4. J. H. Thayer. The New Testament Greek-English Lexicon. Christian Copyrights Inc. p. 565.
5. Danker and Bauer. Greek-English Lexicon. University of Chicago Press. 1979., p. 910.
6. Kittel and Bromiley. Theological Dictionary of the New Testament. Eerdmans Publishing Co. 1971. Vol. 1, p. 6.
7. M. Vincent, Vincent’s Word Studies of the new Testament. MacDonald Publishing Co. Vol. 1, p. 558.
8. W. Robertson Nicoll, The Expositor’s Greek Testament. 1990., vol. 2., p. 424.
9. M. Vincent, Ibid.
10. A. T. Robertson. Word Pictures in the New Testament. Baker Publishing Co. 1930., vol. 3, p. 338-339.
11. R. C. Lenski, Commentary on the New Testament. Hendrickson Publishers. 1998., p. 826.

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