When Sunday was Saturday Night

While the Apostle Paul was on his way to Jerusalem with a gift for the poor saints there, he passed through Troas. The apostles and his friends decided to remain in Troas for a week so they could worship with the saints there. Some of the modern English versions differ in their translations in a most interesting way. For example, the New International Version reads:

“On the first day of the week we came together to break bread” (Acts 20:7).

The KJV, ASV, CEV, ERV, RSV, NASB – even The Message, Geneva and Wycliffe, all agree, but the Good News Bible, for some strange reason, says “On Saturday evening we gathered together for the fellowship meal.” Why would they do that? Because it was.

Have you ever stood outside at midnight and looked up? Nothing remarkable happens. There are no flashing lights or ringing bells to inform you the new day has begun. It seems rather arbitrary, but the Romans started their new day at midnight and so do we. On the other hand, the Jewish people sensibly began the new day at sundown. (They could have just as easily used sunrise.) Sundown is easy to observe. (If they sky was cloudy, they used two threads: one blue and the other white. When you could no longer tell the difference, that counted as sundown.)

And so today, just as it has for thousands of years, the Sabbath begins at sundown on what we call Friday night and extends until sundown Saturday night when Sunday, the first day of the week, begins.

Remember, the first Christians were Jewish. They would have enjoyed the Sabbath meal “Friday” night and attended the synagogue services on the Sabbath (our Saturday). Then, when the sun set, they, like Paul in Troas, gathered for Christian worship and the Lord’s Supper. Thus, even though it was what we would call “Saturday night,” it truly was the first day of the week, the Lord’s Day, so all the English translations are correct.

Over the years, as the distinction between Jews and Christians became stronger, the Roman practice of beginning the new day at Midnight became accepted and the saints met at 10:00 A.M. for Bible School and 11:00 A.M. for worship. (Okay, I made that last part up, but you get the idea.)

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