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Why Do We Go to Church on Sunday?

Jamey Escamilla

Jamey Escamilla  •  July 6, 2023

Learn why we have church on Sunday and explore Acts 20:7 in this simple teaching.


Going to church on Sunday morning might be something you do without thinking about it. But have you ever wondered why you do this?


I began researching this topic after seeing a video of a TikTok influencer teaching on Acts 20:7.


She said this scripture is traditionally used to teach that we should gather on the first day of the week, but if you look harder, it’s actually saying that the disciples gathered on the Sabbath Day (a Saturday), not Sunday.


If you search this topic, you might find that more people seem to agree with this influencer than not. We need good teaching on this matter to set the record straight.


Tons of information about this topic needs to be corrected.

Video Coming Soon

Don’t get all of your theology from TikTok videos or YouTubers. It’s usually like getting heart surgery from a person who has read many online articles about it. Yikes.


The Bible is a world different from ours in culture and language, and the best way to learn this subject is to go a bit deeper in your study.


That’s why in this post, you will learn:


  • The Bible does say that the church gathered on the first day of the week (a Sunday)

  • What the Greek words mean in Acts 20:7

  • How to debunk views that say the church did not gather on the first day of the week

Let’s begin! Let's start here:

Why We Gather on Sunday

It Doesn't Matter What Day We Meet On

Let me also begin by saying something that may surprise you. I believe that it doesn’t matter what day you choose to gather on:


Acts 2:46

Every day they devoted themselves to meeting together in the temple, and broke bread from house to house. They ate their food with joyful and sincere hearts,


As this scripture says, it was common for the disciples to meet on any day of the week to have a meal together, teach the Word, and take communion.


Now, there are plenty of good reasons to make Sunday your typical gathering day for your church. Namely because of the ones I listed above. If there was any day we should choose to be our regular gathering day, the most natural, Biblical one would be Sunday.


But this is not written in stone. Nowhere in the Bible does it command that we should meet on Sunday. You can have church on a Tuesday, and it can be just as powerful as Sunday.


Every day is a Holy Day unto the Lord, and when two spirit-filled believers gather anywhere on any day, that is a church assembly.

Churches can gather on any day

Romans 14:5-6

One person judges one day to be more important than another day. Someone else judges every day to be the same. Let each one be fully convinced in his own mind. 6 Whoever observes the day, observes it for the honor of the Lord.

I also believe that we should be part of a church, and chances are, our church gathers on Sundays. We should join them. There’s nothing wrong with this. It’s traditional, Biblical, and sound.

“The First Day of the Week”

This phrase, “the first day of the week”, is used six times in the Gospels to describe the resurrection of Jesus; he rose early in the morning on the first day of the week.

It’s also used in 1 Corinthians 16:2 when Paul tells the church to set a monetary gift aside on the “first day of the week” for the saints.

Then, it’s used here in Acts 20:7:

Acts 20:7

On the first day of the week, we assembled to break bread. Paul spoke to them, and since he was about to depart the next day, he kept on talking until midnight.

The most used scripture to teach a Sunday gathering is this one.

Acts 20:7

Would this be a case closed? It clearly says they gathered on the first day of the week, which we know as Sunday.

However, there’s an argument which says that if you look at Acts 20:7 in Greek, the text actually reads:

“On one of the Sabbaths” or “on the first Sabbath”.

We’ll refer to those who believe this as ‘one-of-the-Sabbaths’ supporters.

What they’re saying is this: “Because this scripture says that they gathered on “one of the Sabbaths”, what it’s showing is that the disciples gathered on Sabbath days (sometime between Friday night and Saturday night). We should also do this to be more Biblical and uphold the Sabbath.”

But is that really what the Greek is saying?

Looking at the Greek Words


Here is the beginning part of Acts 20:7 in Greek:

Greek Acts 20:7

As you can see, if we simply use the primary translations of each Greek word, we get this:


“in and the one of the sabbaths”


After we clean it up a bit and make it more readable in English, some translate the verse as:


“And on one of the Sabbaths”


So, yes, the words μιᾷ and σαββάτων are mostly translated as “one” and “Sabbaths” throughout the Bible. These are their usual translations.


With this translation, you might think, "Why then do most Bibles have this scripture as ‘And on the first day of the week’”?


Or, you might be thinking, “Why then do we have church on Sunday and not Saturday (during the Sabbath)?”


Slow Down and Use Reason


The first thing I would like you to do is use reason when exploring these questions and also say to yourself:


“There has to be a reason why most translations of the Bible list this scripture as “the first day of the week” and not “one of the Sabbaths”.”

First day of the week or one of the Sabbaths

In one online article, a ‘one-of-the-Sabbaths’ supporter says this:


“How many pounds of marijuana does a Bible translator have to smoke to get to the translation “the first day”? It is a colossal error to translate it into “first day of the week”.”


Not only is this an immature statement, but he’s essentially saying that hundreds of Bible translators have gotten it wrong, but he has it right, simply because he knows the Greek definitions behind these words.


Don’t you think that all the other translators have also seen these Greek words?


By remaining open, striving to study deeper, and not jumping to conclusions, we can discover why the Bible translates Acts 20:7 this way.


Let’s find out together.


Different Ways to Translate


The words μιᾷ and σαββάτων have two possible meanings:

Two Possible Meanings for Acts 20:7

The two words we need to pay attention to are ‘μιᾷ’ and ‘σαββάτων’. Let’s figure out the meaning of these words in context to get the correct translation.


μιᾷ --> sounds like “mia”

1. One (most used, basic definition)

2. First


σαββάτων --> sounds like “sabbaton”

1. Sabbath(s) (most used, basic definition)

2. Week


Why do we translate ‘μιᾷ’ as “first” when the basic definition is “one”?

Why do we translate ‘σαββάτων’ as “week” when the basic definition is “sabbaths”?


The main reason is because of something called dynamic translation.


With dynamic translation, we read a Greek verse in the Bible and focus more on bringing out the true meaning rather than doing a plain, word-for-word translation into English.


When this is done, the English translations of some words in the verse might differ from their regular, commonly used translations.


We do this with the Bible because language has to be understood not just in terms of definitions but also in terms of culture and context, which could include slang, figures of speech, and wordplay.


Think about each word you use in any given sentence. Many of those words could have multiple definitions and be used differently. The primary definition of a word is not always how we use the word.


Imagine I wrote a letter telling you, “It’s raining cats and dogs where I live.” Then, thousands of years later, someone who speaks another language finds that letter and tries to interpret it into their language.


Let’s also say that the “cats-and-dogs” phrase I wrote is not used anymore in this far away future. This happens constantly – words and phrases used hundreds or thousands of years ago no longer exist.


What if this person translated this letter and said, “Back then, it was raining literal cats and dogs. These animals were falling from the sky.”


“Why?” someone would ask.

They’d respond, “Because that’s the literal, basic definition of these words in 21st-century English. A cat is, well, a cat. It’s a feline mammal. And a dog is also a mammal. That’s the definition of these words, so that’s what this phrase means.”


This is the mistake of sometimes using literal, word-for-word translations of the Bible.

Literal translation is simply a word-for-word definition. It doesn’t look at the overall meaning of a passage.


But we’re trying to find the meaning of these scriptures, not just their definitions, although sometimes understanding the meaning requires that we do understand the definition.


Dynamic – true meaning

Literal – basic definition


Translating things literally could cause us to get incorrect meanings and poor grammar and syntax of passages. You can even miss the implications of specific figures of speech.


We can gloss over the Greek words and simply memorize their primary definitions. This is good for beginners. But to truly respect the language, you have to broaden your understanding.


“Especially for the person who is limited to using the language tools, caution is urged. Words are rarely simple; they are usually nuanced and sometimes idiomatic. The fact that every modern translation goes with “first day of the week” shows that there is an idiom at work…” (1)


So, in short, we translate ‘μιᾷ’ as “first,” even though the basic definition is “one.”

We translate ‘σαββάτων’ as “week,” even though the basic definition is “sabbaths” ...


… because this is what the scripture means, not what the scripture comes out to when translated according to each word’s primary definition.


But wait. How do we know this is what they meant?


The Meaning of Sabbaton (σαββάτων = Sabbaths/week) and Mia (μιᾷ = one/first)


Let’s start with sabbaton (σαββάτων = Sabbaths/week).


Again, whenever this word is used in the New Testament, it’s usually rendered as “Sabbath(s)” or “Sabbath day.” For example:


Acts 16:13

On the Sabbath (sabbaton) day we went outside the city gate by the river, where we expected to find a place of prayer. We sat down and spoke to the women gathered there.


This happened on a Sabbath day, the last day of the week.


But here in Acts 20:7, the same Greek word is used (sabbaton), but it’s now “week”:


Acts 20:7

On the first day of the week (sabbaton), we assembled to break bread. Paul spoke to them, and since he was about to depart the next day, he kept on talking until midnight.


Why is the word “week” used in Acts 20:7?


When the first-century Jews wanted to speak of a “week”, they would say “sabbaton” at times.


Jesus tells the story of a religious Pharisee who boasts of his own good works:


Luke 18:12

I fast twice a week (sabbaton); I give a tenth of everything I get.’


Surely, sabbaton could not mean “Sabbath” here. It doesn’t make sense that anyone could fast “twice” in one day.


Also, the Pharisees did not fast on Sabbath days. According to their laws, the Sabbath day was supposed to be a time of celebration, worship, and rest, not a day of pious works. (2)


This is also mentioned in the Didache. The Didache is a teaching document written in Greek by Christians no more than 70 years after the death of Jesus.


One part reads:

Didache 8:1

Notice how the word ‘σαββάτων’ is translated as ‘week’, and the thought was not to fast on the second and fifth day of the week.


Using sabbaton to mean a “week” is what is known as a metonym, which is a fancy word for a type of figure of speech. (3)


Unlike us, Hebrews did not have specific names for the days of the week, except their Sabbath day. Their Sabbath was essentially on Saturday (beginning at 6pm on Friday).


But other than sabbaton, they didn’t have a word for “Sunday”, “Monday”, and so on.


Instead, the Hebrews and some of their surrounding neighbors would use a cardinal number (“one”, “two”, “three”, etc) followed by their word for the seventh day. For example,




Sunday =        ḥaḏ (one)

                        b-šabbā (sabbath, Saturday, week)


                        ḥaḏ b-šabbā


Monday =       trēn (two)

                        b-šabbā (sabbath, Saturday, week)


                        trēn b-šabbā


Persian (Early New Persian)


Sunday =         yak (one)

                         šambih (sabbath, Saturday)




Monday =       (two)

                        šambih (sabbath, Saturday)




From this, we can see that the ancients deeply connected the idea of the “Sabbath” to the concept of the “week.” People viewed the Sabbath and the week as so intertwined that they inevitably used the same word to describe both. (4)


Fast forward to Acts when the Jews were also speaking Greek. They still used the Greek word for “Sabbath” (sabbaton) to mean “week” in specific contexts.


Like their surrounding neighbors, Hebrews used a cardinal number followed by their word for “week” to convey a specific day of the week, which is why they said mia (“one”) to mean “first” in Acts 20:7.


It was a common Jewish way to say, “the first day of the week”, by using the cardinal number (“one”) followed by “sabbaton.”


Friedrich Blass, a German Bible scholar, wrote in 1896 about this Greek grammar:


“The first day of the month or week is designated in the NT as in the LXX, not by πρώτῃ (“first”), but by μιᾷ (“one”), e.g. εἰς μίαν σαββάτων ‘on Sunday’ Mt 28:1…The model was Hebraic where all the days of the month are designated by cardinals…” (5, parenthesis mine)


However, the absolute best translation of the phrase is “the first day of the week” and not “Sunday.” The reason for this is that we don’t know exactly what time they gathered.


What Time Did They Gather in Acts 20:7?


There are two possible times that Acts 20:7 could have happened:

1. After 6:00 PM on Saturday night, if Luke was using the Jewish way of telling time


The traditional Jewish day began at 6:00 PM when the sun went down. The day lasted until the following sundown. This is different than how we tell time and set days (midnight is our new day).


Therefore, if Luke was using the traditional method of laying out his days, then “the first day of the week” in Acts 20:7 would be Saturday 6:00 PM to Sunday 6:00 PM.


Most scholars believe that the gathering in Acts 20:7 was a night meeting for three reasons:


  • Paul “kept on talking until midnight” (Acts 20:7)


It’s just a bit more logical that they gathered after 6:00 PM and preached for approximately 6 hours until midnight, rather than they met in the morning or mid-day and stayed all day!


  • “There were many lamps in the room” where they gathered (Acts 20:8)


The fact that they needed lamps, even though there were windows (verse 9), tells us it must have been dark outside.


  • Eutychus fell asleep (Acts 20:9)


A boy named Eutychus was sitting by a window and fell asleep, falling from the building. This shows us that it was most likely a usual, late hour that caused him to fall asleep.


Here’s what we know:


  • It was a night meeting

  • It was on the first day of the week


So, if Luke was using the Jewish method of laying out his days, this would definitely be a Saturday night, and Paul would have left Sunday morning:

Acts 20:7 - Jewish Time

If this is true, then translating mia ton sabbaton as “Sunday” would not be precisely correct. It would be best to simply leave it as “the first day of the week” and let the reader make their own conclusion.


2. After 6:00 PM on Sunday night, if Luke was using the Roman way of telling time


During the entire New Testament, the Jews were under the rule of Rome and were influenced by their culture.


The Romans told time and set their days pretty much as we do - midnight is the new day.


If Luke were using the Roman way of telling time, the first day of the week would be Sunday, midnight to midnight, and this night meeting would be after 6:00 PM. Paul would then leave Monday morning:

Acts 20:7 - Roman Time

Which one is right?


I don’t want to go into an extensive study about correct time-telling in the New Testament, but you should know that there are good arguments for both cases.


Often, ‘one-of-the-Sabbaths’ supporters and others will say, “Clearly, they would have told time the way the Bible tells them to. It would have been the Jewish way because this is how God ordained it.”


But those who say this are ignorant of the New Testament context. It’s as likely they would have told time in the Roman method since Rome ruled Israel for dozens of years by the time of Acts.


A considerable shift occurred from the Old Testament to the New Testament. The Jews weren’t operating precisely the way they did in the Old.


A few New Testament scriptures show that some writers used Jewish time, and others hint they were telling time in the Roman way. There’s a bit of both.


Many commentaries will tell you the writers were using the Roman way of telling time but the Jewish way of setting their days on their calendar to align with the festivals.


I lean more toward the belief that Luke used the Roman way of telling time in Acts 20:7.


Not just because some scriptures use Roman time (some even written by Luke himself) but also because of what we see if we read the passage carefully:


Acts 20:7

On the first day of the week, we assembled to break bread. Paul spoke to them, and since he was about to depart the next day, he kept on talking until midnight.


Notice how Paul was going to leave “the next day.” Then…


Acts 20:11

After going upstairs, breaking the bread, and eating, Paul talked a long time until dawn. Then he left.


Paul left the next day, which Luke says was at “dawn.”


This could tell us that Luke viewed “the next day” as beginning at midnight, the Roman way of telling time… exactly how we do it today. “Dawn” was the next day.


If he was using the Jewish way of telling time, and Paul wanted to leave “the next day,” then he wouldn’t have left until the next nightfall, which would be “the next day” (Sunday 6:00 PM).


But in the end, this isn’t that important.


All that matters is that we know this meeting was on the first day of the week, whether on Saturday or Sunday night.


Remember, it doesn’t matter what day and what time we meet.


How Do ‘One-Of-The-Sabbaths’ Supporters See the Time in Acts 20:7?


Before we move on, we must look at how ‘one-of-the-Sabbaths’ supporters view the time of day in Acts 20:7.


I’ve researched a lot of content from ‘one-of-the-Sabbaths’ supporters, and I’ve learned that it’s difficult to pinpoint exactly what time they say the church gathered in Acts 20:7.


Most of them ignore the time of day this took place and only run full force with the idea that the church gathered on the Sabbath.


But they seem to believe this gathering occurred “late on the Sabbath.” Here’s why.


One-of-the-Sabbaths supporters go with Jewish time-telling – the Sabbath day was from Friday at sundown to Saturday at sundown. Sundown was usually around 6:00 – 6:30 PM when three stars became visible in the night sky.


The Jews would gather in the synagogues on Friday night or Saturday morning for the primary Sabbath service.


‘One-of-the-Sabbaths’ supporters say that Acts 20:7 could not have happened on Friday night because Paul left the next day at dawn.


Since it was forbidden to travel extensively on a Sabbath, and since Paul didn’t work on Sabbath days (as they say), he would not have left Saturday morning because it would still be the Sabbath.


But they also know that Acts 20:7 could not have happened on a Saturday night because then it would no longer be the Sabbath, and the scripture clearly says, “On one of the Sabbaths….”


Therefore, they conclude that the church must have first gathered “late on a Sabbath Day” (say, 3:00 – 5:00 PM), and the meeting continued into the first day of the week (Saturday at 6:00 PM), with Paul leaving Sunday morning at dawn.


This would mean they more than likely gathered for their regular Sabbath service that Saturday morning, then met at the Acts 20:7 location later, but technically still that same Sabbath Day before the sun went down:

Acts 20:7 - Incorrect Time Interpretation

This interpretation of the time of day could fit (although it strikes me as a bit strange, and the other interpretations seem more believable).


But this interpretation would only be valid if mia ton sabbaton meant “one of the Sabbaths.” And we’ve already learned that it doesn’t.


Let’s move on.


Why Is the Word “Day” Not in the Greek?


So far, you’re probably starting to see that the phrase μιᾷ τῶν σαββάτων (mia ton sabbaton) is a figure of speech. It’s simply how they would say “first day of the week.”


But as you can see, the Greek word for “day” is not included in this phrase. Why not?


‘One-of-the-Sabbaths’ supporters seem to make a big fuss over the fact that the Greek word for “day” is not here; therefore, they say it was maliciously added in a biased manner by translators to make it say, “first DAY of the week.”


Although the Greek word “day” is not used, it is implied. Just as we sometimes do not say “day” in the phrase, “first of the month”, they would not say it when speaking of the first day of the week.


It would be ridiculous for them to use the word “day” when speaking this phrase because that’s just not how they said it.


The Bible is full of added words that you’ll see in italics, but these words were not added to cause harm. Most of them needed to be added in order for the English translation to make sense to us.

Italicized words in Bible


Again, language is big and complicated. There are some Greek and Hebrew words we just don’t know the meaning of, and some we don’t even have English words for.


Evidence in the Hebrew


“μιᾷ (“one/first”) τῶν (“of the”) σαββάτων (“sabbaths/week”)” was spoken in Greek to mean “the first day of the week” because this is how the Jews said it. This style is also seen in their native Hebrew language.


In Hebrew, they would use the cardinal number “one” to describe their first day of the week. This method of numbering days was carried over in the New Testament when they spoke in Greek.


Look at the Hebrew word for “one” --> אחד


In Hebrew, the name of the first day of the week is formed from the cardinal number “one.” So, “Sunday” is literally “day one” in Hebrew.


However, many English Bibles put it as “the first day,” as in Genesis 1:5. This is only because this sounds more natural.


But אחד doesn’t really mean “first.” It means “one.” There is an entirely different word in Hebrew for “first.”


Even though אחד translates to “one,” it’s used to mean “first.” If you read specific language tools for the Hebrew Old Testament, they will tell you that a possible meaning for אחד is “first” but only for dates!


This tells us that we should expect to see “one” when dealing with days of the week to signal the first day of the week.


One popular language tool called BDAG tells us that saying “the first day of the week” as “μιᾷ (“one) τῶν (“of the”) σαββάτων (“sabbaths”)” is “perhaps Hebraic,” meaning that this is a Jewish way to say it. (6)


It goes on to say that the cardinal number one is sometimes used as a “marker of something,” which is why we can say “first” for “one.”


Suppose you show me three cakes sitting on a table, and each one is marked with a little piece of paper by it, “1”, “2”, and “3”.

Three Cakes

I would look at the cake with the number “1” and say, “I want to eat that first cake.”


You would not stop me and say, “Hold on a minute. There is no “first” cake. There is a “cake one,” but no “first cake”.”


That would be absurd, right? We would both know that we can use the cardinal numbers “1, 2, and 3” to mean “first, second, and third.”


Likewise, we would not say that “day one of the month” is not the same thing as “the first day of the month.” Hebrews used cardinal numbers as markers for the days of the week.


I can offer more quotes from scholars who say the cardinal number “one” was used to mean “first” when talking about the first day of the week, but I’ll just give one more:


“That among the Greek-speaking Jews of Palestine, in the days of the Gospel, ἡ μία τῶν σαββάτων was the established method of indicating "the first day of the week,” is plain… It proves, indeed, to have been the ordinary Hellenistic way of exhibiting the vernacular idiom of Palestine. The cardinal (μία) for the ordinal (πρώτῃ) in this phrase was a known Talmudic expression, which is obtained also in Syriac.” (7)


Evidence in the Resurrections


The phrase used in Acts 20:7 to describe the first day of the week (μία τῶν σαββάτων – mia ton sabbaton) is the same one used in every Gospel to describe the day Jesus rose.


Matthew 28:1

After the Sabbath (σαββάτων – sabbaton – sabbath/week), as the first (μίαν – mian – one/first) day of the week (σαββάτων – sabbaton – sabbath/week) was dawning, Mary Magdalene and the other Mary went to view the tomb.


Notice how the word sabbaton is used twice here in the same verse.


Of course, no one would say that this verse should read, “After the Sabbath, as one of the Sabbaths was dawning…” That would not make sense.


Let’s break down what this verse means:


  1. “After the Sabbath” would mean that this happened sometime at least after 6pm Saturday…

  2. Then it says “μίαν σαββάτων.” Again, the literal translation of this would be to simply tag on the definitions “one Sabbaths.” However, you just learned that this phrase actually means “the first day of the week.”

  3. Last, we see that this first day of the week was “dawning”, meaning, it was in the morning right before the sun rose.

  4. So, our Bible is correct “After the Sabbath, as the first day of the week was dawning,” Jesus rose from the grave.


I’ll also show you the Greek for the resurrection in John:


John 20:1

On the first day of the week Mary Magdalene came to the tomb early, while it was still dark. She saw that the stone had been removed from the tomb.

John 201Greek.png

Because all of the Gospel resurrections use this same Greek, this is another reason why we should believe that Acts 20:7 does in fact mean that they gathered on the first day of the week.


We know that Jesus resurrected “after the Sabbath” on the morning of the first day of the week, which would be Sunday.


It would not make sense that the same Greek idiom suddenly changes in Acts 20:7 to mean “on one of the Sabbaths.”


Brief Summary of Everything We’ve Learned So Far


Let’s give a brief summary of everything we’ve learned so far. We’ll start by rereading our scripture:

Acts 20:7

On the first day of the week, we assembled to break bread. Paul spoke to them, and since he was about to depart the next day, he kept on talking until midnight.


1. The Greek words for “first day of the week” are:


  • μιᾷ (mia) = one/first

  • τῶν (ton) = of the

  • σαββάτων (sabbaton) = Sabbaths/week


2. One-of-the-Sabbaths’ supporters say this scripture does not actually mean “first day of the week” but “one of the sabbaths” because the literal, most-used definitions of mia and sabbaton are in fact “one” and “Sabbaths.”


3. However, “first day of the week” is the correct translation because mia ton sabbaton was the common Jewish way of saying so.


4. The word “Sabbath” was also used to mean a “week”“… since the essential feature of a week, as a Jewish division of time, was the recurrence of the Jewish day of rest; [sabbaton] … the Hebrew name for the day of rest, became transferred to the week .” (8)


5. Ancient Hebrews and surrounding countries would say a cardinal number before their word for “Sabbath/Saturday” to state the day of the week:


“day one of the week / first day of the week” = mia (one) ton (of the) sabbaton (Sabbaths)


6. The word “day” is not in the Greek but was implied in the minds of people who heard this phrase, just as it is today when we hear the phrase, “the first of the month.” We automatically supply the word “day.”


7. Mia ton sabbaton is also used to describe the day that Jesus rose from the grave, which was “after the Sabbath.” He could not have risen “on one of the Sabbaths” and “after the Sabbath.” By this, we know that Jesus rose on the first day of the week, and the disciples gathered on this day in Acts 20:7.


Flavors of ‘One-of-the-Sabbaths’ Supporters


The language evidence is enough to prove that Acts 20:7 is indeed saying that the disciples gathered on the first day of the week.


This is also why most Bibles translate this verse as “the first day of the week”. Translators knew that the Greek does not mean “on one of the Sabbaths”.


But it’s still important to try and understand why some studiers continue to see Acts 20:7 as saying, “on one of the Sabbaths”, despite this linguistical evidence.


It’s crucial to make a note about ‘one-of-the-Sabbaths’ supporters: Not all of them believe the exact thing about Acts 20:7.


Through my research, I’ve found that there are three main camps in this group:

Groups of 'One-Of-The-Sabbaths' Supporters

Group #1: “One of the Sabbaths” = The Disciples Gathered on a Normal Sabbath (Any Sabbath)


This group believes the Greek behind Acts 20:7 means, “On one of the Sabbaths, we assembled to break bread.”


When the text states, “on one of the Sabbaths,” they say this means they gathered on a regular Sabbath day.


It would be as if I was telling you a story about what I did on my 2-month trip to China, and I described one event by saying, “On one of the weekends, we went to the Great Wall.”


I said the phrase “on one of the weekends” for one of these reasons (or both):


  • I can’t remember which weekend it happened, or

  • Giving you the exact weekend simply isn’t necessary for this statement


That’s how Group #1 sees the phrase “on one of the sabbaths.”


Here’s why this view is incorrect:


ONE: The language argument we’ve been learning about proves this view wrong.


TWO: You must remove the article “the” in the scripture to make this view work.


Did you catch that?


If we translate each word literally (which all ‘one-of-the-Sabbaths’ supporters do), the Greek does not read, “On one of the sabbaths.”


It reads, “On THE one of the sabbaths.”


One-of-the-Sabbaths’ supporters believe it’s wrong to add the word “day” in the text to “make it” say, “On the first [day] of the week.”


However, if we follow this rule, we must accept that the Bible also mentions the evil of “removing” from the Word of God.


Why is it wrong to add the word “day” to convey the true meaning of the text, but it’s OK to remove the word “the” with no linguistical reason to do so to make the text sound more correct according to our view?


There has to be a reason why this little article is there. And I emailed a Greek professor to ensure I was correct in this thought.


The fact that “the” is in the text before mia ton sabbaton is good evidence that something else is happening here.


The writers included “the” in the text because it goes with the phrase mia ton sabbaton to describe the first day of the week.


The entire Greek phrase is:


tei mia ton sabbaton = τῇ μιᾷ τῶν σαββάτων = the first [day] of the week


It would not make sense to say, “On the one of the Sabbaths." But it does make sense to say, “On the first day of the week.”


THREE: “On one of the Sabbaths” is a clunky, odd way for Luke to describe what happened on this day.


Throughout the New Testament, whenever anyone wanted to describe an event that happened on a random Sabbath day, they would write something along the lines of, “On the Sabbath…” As in Acts 16:13:


Acts 16:13

On the Sabbath day we went outside the city gate by the river, where we expected to find a place of prayer. We sat down and spoke to the women gathered there.


Why would Luke describe this event as happening “on the Sabbath day”, but in Acts 20, he describes another event that also took place on a Sabbath (as ‘one-of-the-Sabbaths’ supporters say) and instead say, “on ONE OF the Sabbaths”?


Here are some other examples of events happening on a random Sabbath day (there are many more):

Examples of the Sabbath Day

It would just seem odd to translate Acts 20:7 as “on one of the Sabbaths.” Literally every other time a writer in the Bible wanted to tell us that something happened on a Sabbath day, they would simply say, “on the Sabbath”, and not, “on ONE OF the Sabbaths.”


If Acts 20:7 was on a Sabbath day, the text would read, “On the Sabbath, we assembled to break bread…”


It would not say, “On one of the Sabbaths…”


Group #2: “One of the Sabbaths” = One of the Sabbaths During the Counting of the Omer


This group says that “one of the Sabbaths” in Acts 20:7 doesn’t refer to just any Sabbath day, but it’s talking about one of the seven Sabbaths during the counting of the Omer.


Let’s read the scriptures about this, and then I’ll explain it:


Leviticus 23:5-6

5 The Passover to the Lord comes in the first month, at twilight on the fourteenth day of the month. 6 The Festival of Unleavened Bread to the Lord is on the fifteenth day of the same month. For seven days you must eat unleavened bread.


They would eat the Passover meal on the 14th, and on the next day, the Festival of Unleavened Bread would begin and last for seven days.


Leviticus 23:10-11

10 “Speak to the Israelites and tell them: When you enter the land I am giving you and reap its harvest, you are to bring the first sheaf of your harvest to the priest. 11 He will present the sheaf before the Lord so that you may be accepted; the priest is to present it on the day after the Sabbath.


On the Sunday that fell during the week of Unleavened Bread (“the day after the Sabbath”), this was the day of Firstfruits. They offered the first bit of their crops to the LORD to show gratitude for blessing the land.


Leviticus 23:15-16

15 “You are to count seven complete weeks starting from the day after the Sabbath, the day you brought the sheaf of the presentation offering. 16 You are to count fifty days until the day after the seventh Sabbath and then present an offering of new grain to the Lord.


Starting on the day of Firstfruits, the Israelites had to count off seven Sabbaths. This is called “the counting of the Omer.” On the day after the seventh Sabbath (“fifty days”), they celebrated the Feast of Weeks.


Here’s a visual representation of how these festivals could look:

Counting of the Omer

Now, Nisan 15 would usually fall on a different day of the week every year. So, sometimes Firstfruits would be closer to or farther away from Nisan 15.


As it turns out, Acts 20 was happening somewhere during the counting of the Omer! Here’s how we know:


Acts 20:5-7

5 These men went on ahead and waited for us in Troas, 6 but we sailed away from Philippi after the Festival of Unleavened Bread. In five days we reached them at Troas, where we spent seven days. 7 On the first day of the week, we assembled to break bread. Paul spoke to them, and since he was about to depart the next day, he kept on talking until midnight.


And a few verses later:


Acts 20:16

For Paul had decided to sail past Ephesus to avoid spending time in the province of Asia, because he was hurrying to be in Jerusalem, if possible, for the day of Pentecost.


As we can see, Acts 20:7 happened “after the Festival of Unleavened Bread,” but before the day of Pentecost.


During this time, the custom of the Jews was to be counting the Omer until the day of Pentecost.


Therefore, Group #2 says: “Mia ton sabbaton must mean “one of the Sabbaths” because in the context of this scripture, they would have been counting the seven Sabbaths of the Omer. When Luke says they gathered on “one of the Sabbaths,” he’s referring to one of the Sabbaths in counting the Omer.”


At first glance, this argument makes sense. That Luke would use the phrase “mia ton sabbaton” to describe a gathering on a Sabbath in the Omer rather than a regular Sabbath seems plausible.


But there are still problems with this group. Here are the reasons why this is also an incorrect view:


The above reasons 1-3 for Group #1 are also reasons why this group is not correct:


ONE: The language argument

TWO: You have to remove the article “the” to make this view work

THREE: “On one of the Sabbaths” is an unnatural way to make this statement


But let’s look closer at Reason THREE and how we can apply it more correctly to Group #2.


Group #2 would say, “You’re right. “Mia ton sabbaton” would not be a natural way to say “one of the Sabbaths” if Luke was talking about something they did on a random Sabbath Day. He would have just said, “On the Sabbath.” But it would be a natural way to say “one of the Sabbaths” if he was talking about one of the Sabbaths in the counting of the Omer.”


Here’s how I would respond:


While this theory makes more sense than Group #1, it would still be unnatural to say, “one of the Sabbaths,” even if he was talking about a Sabbath in the counting of the Omer. Here’s why.


If Luke was conveying that they gathered on a Sabbath during the Omer, it’s not likely that he would have simply said, “on one of the Sabbaths,” and left it at that. Consider these two scriptures:


Luke 6:1 NKJV

Now it happened on the second Sabbath after the first that He went through the grainfields. And His disciples plucked the heads of grain and ate them, rubbing them in their hands.


In Greek = deuteroprōtos sabbaton = second Sabbath after the first / second-first Sabbath


Nobody knows what “deuteroprōtos” implies. Most scholars simply think it was a translation error. Someone wrote down “first Sabbath,” and another wrote down “second Sabbath.”


Then, another didn’t know which one to use or thought they were both part of the original writing, so they left both “second-first Sabbath.”


But the point is this: Luke either meant “first,” “second,” or “second-first” Sabbath. This phrase could mean:

Meanings For Deuteroprōtos

No matter the reason Luke wrote this, here’s the point: Luke was able to describe a particular Sabbath as “first,” “second,” or “second-first” to distinguish this Sabbath. Why would he not do the same thing in Acts 20:7?


Why would he instead write, “on one of the Sabbaths,” if this Sabbath could also be described as “first,” “second,” “third,” and so on?


Group #2 would have us believe that Luke simply said, “on one of the Sabbaths,” to describe a Sabbath of the Omer in Acts 20:7 instead of saying exactly which one it was.


Wouldn’t he know which one it was? Wouldn’t he just say it and use the same type of descriptive language in Luke 6:1?


Or consider this scripture:


John 19:31a

Since it was the preparation day, the Jews did not want the bodies to remain on the cross on the Sabbath (for that Sabbath was a special day).


Here, John describes this Sabbath as “a special day,” which means a “high day” or “a significant Sabbath.” This was one of the special Sabbaths during the Feast of Unleavened Bread.


If Acts 20:7 was about a Sabbath during the Omer, Luke would have more than likely identified it as “special,” “high,” “first,” “second,” or “one of the Sabbaths AS WE WERE COUNTING THE OMER.”


Group #2 might respond, “But that is just an assumption. You don’t know if Luke would have described a Sabbath during the Omer this way.”


True, but we also don’t know if he was using the phrase “mia ton sabbaton” to specifically address a Sabbath in the Omer to begin with. There’s more confirmation that he wasn’t.


We simply need to ask ourselves what would make more sense:


  • That Luke was describing a Sabbath that occurred during the Omer but chose not to directly say so by identifying it as “special” or as its exact numerical place (“first,” “second,” “third”…), even though other scriptures handle special Sabbaths this way


  • Or he was simply using the common Jewish way of verbalizing “the first day of the week”


Now, let’s look at another reason why Group #2 is incorrect.


FOUR: This view is simply a contextual assumption.


It can be challenging for those in this group to be open to alternative viewpoints because they believe “context” is heavily on their side.


Let me explain. These days, everyone talks about the importance of “context.”

Biblical Context

In Acts 20:7, part of the context is most definitely the season where the Jews would have been counting the Omer.


But here’s where the error comes in: Because Group #2 sees this context, they believe that the phrase “mia ton sabbatonmust be translated as “one of the Sabbaths [in the counting of the Omer].”


They say, Mia ton sabbtonmust mean “one of the Sabbaths [in the counting of the Omer]” because that’s exactly what was going on during this scripture. The disciples’ backgrounds were Jewish, and they would have been counting the Omer.”


However, what Group #2 fails to see is that the background setting of the Omer does not require that we translate “mia ton sabbaton” this way.


Of course, translating mia ton sabbaton as “one of the Sabbaths [in the counting of the Omer]” is a possibility. But it’s only permitted. It doesn’t have to be true just because the Omer was the particular season they were in.


Even with the context, it is still a higher probability that “tei mia ton sabbaton” simply means “the first day of the week" because of the above reasons:

  • The language argument. The phrase tei mia ton sabbatonalways meant "the first day of the week." The words' individual translations don't make sense by themselves:

"the one of the Sabbaths"

But the words were put together to form a figure of speech that commonly meant "the first day of the week."

Group #2, however, is saying that because of the context of the Omer, the phrase should be translated literally, word-for-word.

That theory is possible, but it isn't as convincing.

  • Removing the article "the." In order for tei mia ton sabbatonto mean "one of the Sabbaths [during the counting of the Omer]," you have to drop the "the" (tei).

  • An odd way to say it. Luke would have directly said it was the Omer or given the exact number of the Sabbath ("first Sabbath," "third Sabbath").


This is why I call the argument “contextual assumption.” They’re not assuming the context, but they’re assuming what could be because of the context.


Here are some examples to help explain what I mean by “contextual assumption”:


  • “Jesus attended a wedding, so it’s “safe to say” that he danced.”


What is the context? The context is a wedding, where music, fun, and dancing are typical.


But while many people dance at weddings, we still shouldn’t assume that Jesus danced. However, if we can find evidence that would better prove this, let’s find it.


But if there’s none, let’s just leave the scripture alone.


  • “I saw Jamey buying bags of candy from the Halloween aisle during Halloween time, so it’s safe to say that he was going to hand this candy out to children on Halloween.”


Is that really “safe to say”? Can we say with complete confidence that this is what I was going to do when I bought the Halloween candy?


Not at all. If you’re like me, you might just buy the candy for yourself!


Even though much about the context could indicate that I’m going to hand the candy out to children (Halloween aisle, Halloween time, Halloween candy), this doesn’t automatically mean that that’s what I was going to do.


Lesson learned: Don’t simply assume based on context. Dig deeper.


Now, assuming based on context is not always a bad thing. We all do this with scripture.


But contextually based assumptions should never lead us to make severe changes to traditional interpretations of scriptures that make more sense and have textual evidence.


Again, most Bible translations say that mia ton sabbaton means “first day of the week.” But Group #2 says they know the “true meaning” and that the translators are all biased and wrong…


To alter a commonly accepted meaning of Acts 20:7, Group #2 needs clear textual evidence written elsewhere that lays out the opposing version they’re trying to prove.


But there’s nothing that says the disciples were counting the Omer in Acts 20 and that this is what Luke meant when he wrote “mia ton sabbaton.”


Group #2 takes pride when saying, “We have the right context of Acts 20, so our view is correct.” But don’t be fooled.


It sounds convincing to bring up the Omer and say this is the only part of the overall context we should pay attention to, but this is just a façade that totally ignores the linguistical context, which is the elephant in the room: The fact that “mia ton sabbaton” was a common Jewish way of describing the first day of the week.


Even though this was the period of the Omer, it’s still more likely that Luke used the phrase “mia ton sabbaton” to simply mean the “first day of the week”, since this was their familiar way of saying it.


In summary about Group #2…


Ancient writings, documents, history, linguistical evidence, translator support, and scriptures show that “the first day of the week” is correct.


Group #2 simply has assumptions based on the context. Some might hear the word “context” and say, “Well, they’re right then! They have the context.”


But even though they’re in the proper context, it’s still just “good-sounding” assumption. They ignore the alternative, accepted view, which has much more evidence that the phrase means “the first day of the week.”


The passage doesn’t directly say the disciples were celebrating the Omer and that this is why he chose to use the phrase “mia ton sabbaton.”


So, although it was the Omer season, it still makes more sense that “mia ton sabbaton” simply means the “first day of the week” in Acts 20:7.


Group #3: “Tei Mia Ton Sabbaton” = “The First of the Sabbaths”


Group #3 leaves the Greek word “mia” as “first” but changes “sabbaton” to “Sabbaths” = “the first of the Sabbaths.”

I’ve found that people in Group #3 just don’t go the extra mile to translate “mia” into “one.” They simply pay more attention to “sabbaton.”

Because of this, they might not even be aware of Groups #1 and #2.

Most in Group #3 believe that “the first of the Sabbaths” refers to the first Sabbath in the counting of the Omer.

Here are the reasons why this view is also incorrect.

From the previous reasons we used against Group #1 and #2, we can reuse these for Group #3 as well:

ONE: The language argument

TWO: This argument is contextual assumption

These would work nicely to give a rebuttal to Group #3. Please go back up in this document to revisit these reasons if needed.


Let’s take a look at a distinct reason why Group #3 does not hold water.


THREE: It would be impossible for Acts 20:7 to have happened on the first Sabbath of the Omer


As we’ve learned, the Jews began counting the Omer on the day of Firstfruits, which fell on a Sunday.


The first Sabbath in the Omer would be the next Sabbath after Firstfruits:

First Sabbath in the Omer

Let’s take a closer look at Acts 20:


Acts 20:5-6a

5 These men went on ahead and waited for us in Troas, 6 but we sailed away from Philippi after the Festival of Unleavened Bread.


Acts 20:7 happened in a city called Troas. Luke didn’t leave for Troas until “after the Festival of Unleavened Bread.”


Remember, Firstfruits always happened on the Sunday that fell in the seven days of Unleavened Bread. But the first day of Unleavened Bread fell on a different day each year.


Here are four possible ways that the festivals could have looked during Acts 20:

Omer Possibilities in Acts 20

As you’re going to see, it really doesn’t matter which possibility we choose, because the math never adds up with Group #3.


Let’s keep reading our passage to get more clues:


Acts 20:6

but we sailed away from Philippi after the Festival of Unleavened Bread. In five days we reached them at Troas, where we spent seven days.


Their total number of days spent getting to Troas and being at Troas was 12 days = 5 days to get there, then 7 days being there.


Acts 20:7

On the first day of the week, we assembled to break bread. Paul spoke to them, and since he was about to depart the next day, he kept on talking until midnight.


Acts 20:11

After going upstairs, breaking the bread, and eating, Paul talked a long time until dawn. Then he left.


On their last day at Troas, Paul preached until midnight, then left the next day at dawn.


Here’s what this leads me to conclude:


I don’t know for sure, but I would say that a good choice for how the festivals looked during Acts 20 would be Possibility #2 or #3. If you add 12 days after Unleavened Bread ends, it gets you to around a Sunday:

Luke's Journey to Troas in Acts 20

Even if Group #3 was correct in saying this happened on a Sabbath day (not a Sunday), there is no way that it could have been on the first Sabbath of the counting of the Omer, because twelve days after Unleavened Bread will never get you to the first Sabbath of the Omer:

Could not be the first Sabbath

In my research, I’ve found that the only way Group #3 tries to get around this is by changing the meaning of the word “after” in verse 6. Let’s look at it again:


Acts 20:6

but we sailed away from Philippi after the Festival of Unleavened Bread. In five days we reached them at Troas, where we spent seven days.


Group #3 says that the Greek word for “after” is μετὰ --> meta, and this word could mean “amid.”


Therefore, they say that verse 6 means, “We sailed away from Philippi amid the Festival of Unleavened Bread.”


If this was true, then Possibility #2 could fit. They would have left around the beginning of Unleavened Bread (amid the festival), then on the twelfth day, it would be the first Sabbath of the Omer on their last day in Troas when they gathered.


But this only hinges on whether the word meta in verse 6 means “amid.” That would totally change the timeline.


While it is true that Thayer’s Greek Lexicon says that meta is akin to another Greek word that means “midst,” this is not the best translation of meta.


And just like most Bibles translate mia ton sabbaton as “first day of the week,” all translate meta as “after” for verse 6.


This is very simple. The most used translation of meta is simply “with,” but it is also used many times as “after” throughout the Bible.


The Complete Word Study Dictionary for the New Testament tells us that when dealing with time, meta is always translated as “after” (9):


  • Matthew 17:1 – “after six days”

  • Matthew 25:19 – “after a long time”

  • 2 Peter 1:15 – “after my departure”

  • Acts 12:4 – “after the arrest”


The King James Bible translates meta as “after” 88 times, and at no time does it translate it as “amid.”


It would not make sense that they just up and left during the festival, anyways.


Group #3 says these festivals and Sabbaths were essential to the disciples, and they still saw spiritual significance in them.


Why would they just leave “amid” the festival, then? Wouldn’t they celebrate it entirely in one location so they could carefully adhere to this holiday's rules and special Sabbaths?


Leaving abruptly amid the festival would seem somewhat blasphemous and illogical for people who supposedly still celebrated the Jewish holidays.


In summary for Group #3…


It would be impossible for Acts 20:7 to have occurred on the first Sabbath of the Omer.


When it comes to the word “after” in verse 6, Group #3 should learn this simple rule for translating words in scriptures:


Choose the best translation based on evidence, not the best possible translation that fits our preconceived beliefs.


More evidence shows that meta in verse 6 means “after,” not “amid.”




When I was a kid, we would vacation at Port Aransas, Texas and always looked for sand dollars at the beach.


You could find a couple of sand dollars in the shallow water, but to find the most, you had to go into a few feet of water to a place called the sandbar.


I remember standing on the sandbar as a child with the water up to my chin, terrified as the waves were gently tossing me around.


But it was true – there were tons of sand dollars here! I felt them beneath my feet and was able to pull many of them up.


What ‘one-of-the-Sabbaths’ supporters do is this: They dip their face below the surface in the shallow water, pull up one or two sand dollars and say, “Look what I found guys! You all on the shore are sleeping and need to wake up! There’s so much more below the surface.”


Looking quickly at the Greek words and literal translations behind mia ton sabbaton is like putting your face below shallow water, pulling up a sand dollar, and thinking you’ve found something huge.


This is why I said at the beginning of this study that we should all be careful of getting our theology from social media influencers.


With all due respect, many of these influencers do not go deep enough to uncover the absolute truth.


They only wish to dip their face in, say a little something about what they found (which is usually a distortion of the truth), then move on to the next topic so they can keep the content coming and their followers happy.


This results in seemingly “good-sounding” explanations of Greek and could reward them with tons of “likes,” but their explanations are misleading and incomplete.


If the influencers are a bit biased, they’ll simply ignore alternative views, so you don’t get the whole truth.


But if we only have a small amount of information, this could lead us to say and believe things that are false. We need the whole truth. We need to go deeper into the sandbar.


When you go to the sandbar, you have all the pieces of the puzzle for Acts 20:7 and will make a correct conclusion.



  1. Mounce, Bill. Sabbath(s) and Sunday (σάββατον). Jan. 10, 2010.

  2. Ferguson, Everett. Backgrounds of Early Christianity, 3rd Edition. William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, Grand Rapids, Michigan, 2003, pp 556-557.

  3. Zodhiates, Spiros. The Complete Word Study Dictionary: New Testament. AMG International Inc., 1993, pp. 1270.

  4. de Blois, Francois. The Etymology of Sabbath. Jul. 15, 2015.

  5. Blass, Friedrich. A Greek Grammar of the New Testament and Other Early Christian Literature. The University of Chicago Press, 1961, pp. 129.

  6. William Arndt et al. A Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament and Other Early Christian Literature. University of Chicago Press, 2000, pp 293.

  7. Burgon, John W. The Last Twelve Verses of Mark. Sovereign Grace Publishers, Inc., 2002, pp. 228.

  8. Burgon, John W. The Last Twelve Verses of Mark. Sovereign Grace Publishers, Inc., 2002, pp. 229.

  9. Zodhiates, Spiros. The Complete Word Study Dictionary: New Testament. AMG International Inc., 1993, pp. 966.

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Jamey Escamilla

About Pastor Jamey

Jamey is the co-pastor of New Covenant Church in El Campo, Texas. He has served in ministry for over 10 years, teaching and preaching the Gospel of grace. He is the author of How to Understand the Bible in 30 Days, a simple guide that helps Christians everywhere understand the bigger picture of the Bible, along with how to study it properly and foundational truths. He continues to serve as a pastor and run


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