What can you do on the Sabbath? (Mk 3:3-3:4)

“Jesus said to the man

Who had the withered hand.

‘Come here!’

Then he said to them.

‘Is it lawful

To do good

Or to do harm,

On the Sabbath?

Is it lawful

To save life

Or to kill?’

But they were silent.”

 

καὶ λέγει τῷ ἀνθρώπῳ τῷ τὴν χεῖρα ἔχοντι ξηράν Ἔγειρε εἰς τὸ μέσον.

καὶ λέγει αὐτοῖς Ἔξεστιν τοῖς σάββασιν ἀγαθὸν ποιῆσαι ἢ κακοποιῆσαι, ψυχὴν σῶσαι ἢ ἀποκτεῖναι; οἱ δὲ ἐσιώπων.

 

This is similar to Luke, chapter 6:8-9, while Matthew, chapter 12:11-12, had Jesus go on to talk about saving lost sheep on the Sabbath.  Mark indicated that Jesus said to the man with the withered hand (καὶ λέγει τῷ ἀνθρώπῳ τῷ τὴν χεῖρα ἔχοντι ξηράν) to come to him (Ἔγειρε εἰς τὸ μέσον).  Then he asked “them” (καὶ λέγει αὐτοῖς) if it was lawful to do good or harm or evil, on the Sabbath (Ἔξεστιν τοῖς σάββασιν ἀγαθὸν ποιῆσαι ἢ κακοποιῆσαι)?  Was it lawful to save life or kill on the Sabbath (ψυχὴν σῶσαι ἢ ἀποκτεῖναι)?  However, the “they” were silent (οἱ δὲ ἐσιώπων).  Jesus wanted to know what were the exceptions to the Sabbath restrictions.

Would Jesus heal on the Sabbath? (Mk 3:2-3:2)

“They watched him,

To see whether

He would cure him

On the Sabbath.

Thus,

They might accuse him.”

 

καὶ παρετήρουν αὐτὸν εἰ τοῖς σάββασιν θεραπεύσει αὐτόν, ἵνα κατηγορήσωσιν αὐτοῦ.

 

Matthew, chapter 12:10, and Luke, chapter 6:7, are similar to this incident in Mark.  However, Matthew had the Pharisees confront Jesus with a question, while Luke followed Mark in saying that the Scribes and Pharisees were watching to see if Jesus would cure this man with the withered hand on the Sabbath.  Mark said that the unnamed “they” were watching Jesus (καὶ παρετήρουν αὐτὸν) to see if he would cure the man with the withered hand on the Sabbath (εἰ τοῖς σάββασιν θεραπεύσει αὐτόν).  Then they would accuse Jesus (ἵνα κατηγορήσωσιν αὐτοῦ). They were trying to see if they could charge Jesus of breaking the Sabbath.  However, Jewish law allowed people to help in cases of distress on the Sabbath.

The man with a withered hand (Mk 3:1-3:1)

“Again,

Jesus entered

The synagogue.

A man was there

Who had a withered hand.”

 

Καὶ εἰσῆλθεν πάλιν εἰς συναγωγήν, καὶ ἦν ἐκεῖ ἄνθρωπος ἐξηραμμένην ἔχων τὴν χεῖρα·

 

Matthew, chapter 12:9-10, and Luke, chapter 6:6, are similar to this incident in Mark, so that he might be the source of this discussion about the Sabbath that continued in the local synagogue about the man with the withered hand.  Mark said that Jesus entered this synagogue (Καὶ εἰσῆλθεν πάλιν εἰς συναγωγήν).  There was a man in this synagogue with a withered or dried out hand (καὶ ἦν ἐκεῖ ἄνθρωπος ἐξηραμμένην ἔχων τὴν χεῖρα).  What was Jesus going to do?

Disciples plucking grain (Mk 2:23-2:23)

“One sabbath,

Jesus was going through

The grain fields.

As they made their way,

His disciples

Began to pluck

Heads of grain.”

 

Καὶ ἐγένετο αὐτὸν ἐν τοῖς σάββασιν παραπορεύεσθαι διὰ τῶν σπορίμων, καὶ οἱ μαθηταὶ αὐτοῦ ἤρξαντο ὁδὸν ποιεῖν τίλλοντες τοὺς στάχυας.

 

Matthew, chapter 12:1, as well as Luke, chapter 6:1, are similar to Mark.  In Matthew and Luke, the disciples were also eating the grain, but that is not explicitly mentioned here.  Mark said that Jesus was going through the grain fields on the Sabbath (Καὶ ἐγένετο αὐτὸν ἐν τοῖς σάββασιν παραπορεύεσθαι διὰ τῶν σπορίμων).  This is the only use of the word “σπορίμων” in all the biblical literature.  All three synoptics use this word that meant a sown field or a grain field, so that they may have copied it from Mark.  Jesus’ disciples (καὶ οἱ μαθηταὶ αὐτοῦ) made their way through the field (ἤρξαντο ὁδὸν).  They began to pluck the heads of the grain in the field (ποιεῖν τίλλοντες τοὺς στάχυας).  This is a unique word “τίλλοντες, plucking” that only appears in the New Testament literature in this story by the three synoptics.  Once again, Mark may have the source for this word.  This set up the problem of plucking grain on the Sabbath.

Jesus went to a Capernaum synagogue (Mk 1:21-1:21)

“They went

Into Capernaum.

Immediately,

When Sabbath came,

Jesus entered

The synagogue.

He taught there.”

 

Καὶ εἰσπορεύονται εἰς Καφαρναούμ· καὶ εὐθὺς τοῖς σάββασιν εἰσελθὼν εἰς τὴν συναγωγὴν ἐδίδασκεν.

 

There is something similar to this in Luke, chapter 4:31, where Jesus was teaching on the Sabbath in Capernaum.  Jesus and his entourage of at least 4 disciples went, traveled, or entered Capernaum (Καὶ εἰσπορεύονται εἰς Καφαρναούμ).  When suddenly the Sabbath came (καὶ εὐθὺς τοῖς σάββασιν), Jesus entered the synagogue (εἰσελθὼν εἰς τὴν συναγωγὴν) and taught there (ἐδίδασκεν).  Matthew, chapter 4:13, mentioned that Jesus set up his home in Capernaum.  John, chapter 2:12, said that he went with his family to Capernaum for a few days.  Capernaum was about 20 miles northeast of Nazareth, probably a fishing village of about 1,500 people at that time, on the northwest corner of the Sea of Galilee, in the old Israelite tribal territory of Zebulun and Naphtali.  Synagogues were a new thing in the first century CE, something like local Jewish town hall meetings, but also as centers of study and worship, obviously outside of Jerusalem and its Temple.  There may have been some sort of Sabbath worship taking place.  Jesus with his disciples went there, which would not have been unusual.  However, the fact that he taught there might seem a little strange, if not invited.

The Marys visit the tomb (Mt 28:1-28:1)

“After the Sabbath,

As the first day

Of the week

Was dawning,

Mary Magdalene

And the other Mary

Went to see

The tomb.”

 

Ὀψὲ δὲ σαββάτων, τῇ ἐπιφωσκούσῃ εἰς μίαν σαββάτων, ἦλθεν Μαριὰμ ἡ Μαγδαληνὴ καὶ ἡ ἄλλη Μαρία θεωρῆσαι τὸν τάφον.

 

There is no confusion about the day of the week when the empty tomb was first found.  All 4 gospel stories have it take place after the Sabbath, on the early morning of the first day of the week, Sunday.  Interesting enough the same Greek word is used for the day Sabbath and the week “σαββάτων.”  Thus, this would have been the 3rd day since the death of Jesus on Friday.  Mark, chapter 16:1-2, has something similar.  However, the other Mary was identified as the mother of James, but also with Salome, the mother of the sons of Zebedee.  Luke, chapter 23:56-24:1, said that it was the women from Galilee who brought spices to anoint the body.  Only Luke did not mention Mary Magdalene.  John, chapter 20:1, said that it was Mary Magdalene alone who came to the tomb.  In all these stories, there was either one or more women, no men, who came to the tomb.  Matthew said that after the sabbath (Ὀψὲ δὲ σαββάτων), as the first day of the week was dawning (τῇ ἐπιφωσκούσῃ εἰς μίαν σαββάτων), Mary Magdalene (ἦλθεν Μαριὰμ ἡ Μαγδαληνὴ) and the other Mary (καὶ ἡ ἄλλη Μαρία) went to see or experience the tomb (θεωρῆσαι τὸν τάφον).  The idea of visiting a tomb or grave site would not have been out of the question, since this was a common practice.

The gathering with Pilate (Mt 27:62-27:62)

“The next day,

That is,

After the day of Preparation,

The chief priests

And the Pharisees

Gathered before Pilate.”

 

Τῇ δὲ ἐπαύριον, ἥτις ἐστὶν μετὰ τὴν Παρασκευήν, συνήχθησαν οἱ ἀρχιερεῖς καὶ οἱ Φαρισαῖοι πρὸς Πειλᾶτον

 

This is unique to Matthew, who said that the next day or the tomorrow (Τῇ δὲ ἐπαύριον), after the day of Preparation (ἥτις ἐστὶν μετὰ τὴν Παρασκευήν), the chief priests and the Pharisees gathered before Pilate (συνήχθησαν οἱ ἀρχιερεῖς καὶ οἱ Φαρισαῖοι πρὸς Πειλᾶτον).  Now we have the problem of dating the crucifixion.  What does the following day mean?  This tomorrow was the day after the day of Preparation.  Was it the day of preparation for the Sabbath or the day of preparation for Passover?  Perhaps Passover fell on the Sabbath.  Anyway, the chief priests were joined by the Pharisees, but not the elders or presbyters of Jerusalem as in all the other preceding meetings.  Why did the Pharisees suddenly show up here?  There were no elders, scribes, or Sadducees at this meeting before Pilate, the governor of Judea.

Wrong times (Mt 24:20-24:20)

“Pray that your flight

May not be

In the winter

Or on a Sabbath.”

 

προσεύχεσθε δὲ ἵνα μὴ γένηται ἡ φυγὴ ὑμῶν χειμῶνος μηδὲ σαββάτῳ·

 

Mark, chapter 13:18, mentions only the problem of winter, while Luke does not mention a bad time at all.  Jesus said to pray (προσεύχεσθε δὲ) that their flight would not be in the winter (ἵνα μὴ γένηται ἡ φυγὴ ὑμῶν χειμῶνος) or on a Sabbath (μηδὲ σαββάτῳ).  Matthew added the comment about the Sabbath since he considered himself and the followers of Jesus as faithful Jews.

The Pharisees react (Mt 12:2-12:2)

“When the Pharisees saw it,

They said to Jesus.

‘Look!

Your disciples are doing

What is not lawful to do

On the sabbath!’”

 

οἱ δὲ Φαρισαῖοι ἰδόντες εἶπαν αὐτῷ Ἰδοὺ οἱ μαθηταί σου ποιοῦσιν ὃ οὐκ ἔξεστιν ποιεῖν ἐν σαββάτῳ.

 

Matthew has the Pharisees react to the disciples of Jesus plucking and eating grain on the Sabbath.  This is similar to Mark, chapter 2:24, at the beginning of Jesus’ ministry.  It is also the same as Luke, chapter 6:2.  Deuteronomy, chapter 25:24-25 stated that it was okay to pluck the ears with your hand, but you could not put a sickle to your neighbor’s standing grain or carry it away in a container.  However, Exodus, chapter 34:21, explicitly said that you could not harvest grain on the Sabbath but did not mention hand picking.  Thus, the Pharisees saw what had happened (οἱ δὲ Φαρισαῖοι ἰδόντες).  They said to Jesus (εἶπαν αὐτῷ) that his disciples were doing unlawful things on the Sabbath by plucking and eating the grain (Ἰδοὺ οἱ μαθηταί σου ποιοῦσιν ὃ οὐκ ἔξεστιν ποιεῖν ἐν σαββάτῳ).

The free will offerings (Ezek 46:12-46:12)

“When the prince provides

A freewill offering,

Either a burnt offering

Or a peace offering,

As a freewill offering

To Yahweh,

The gate facing east

Shall be opened

For him.

He shall offer

His burnt offering

Or his peace offering

As he does

On the Sabbath day.

Then he shall go out.

After he has gone out

The gate

Shall be closed.”

The prince could make a free will offering at any time, whether it was a burnt offering or a peace offering. The eastern gate would be opened for him. He would make the offerings the same as if it was the Sabbath. He would go in and come out the same gate, unlike the straight-ahead procedure for the people of the land. However, after he left, the east gate was to be closed.