A False Doctrine Spreading Among Sabbatarians
By Kelly McDonald, Jr.
There is a false doctrine spreading among Sabbatarians that directly contradicts the True Sabbath. It is called the lunar sabbath. What is the lunar sabbath?
It is the belief that the true Sabbath is kept on the seventh, fourteenth, twenty-first, and twenty-eighth days from the appearance of the New Moon. While this belief has spread in recent years in the Body of Christ, it is certainly not new. A.H. Sayce was an archeologist who did work in the Middle East. He gives us insight into the origins and ancient practice of the lunar sabbath:
“An old list of Babylonian festivals and fast-days tells us that on the seventh, fourteenth, nineteenth, twenty-first, and twenty-eighth days of each month the Sabbath-rest had to be observed” (Sayce, The Higher Criticism and the Verdict of the Monuments, p 74).
The only difference between the ancient practice of lunar sabbaths and its modern reappearance is that the ancient Babylonians rested on the nineteenth day as well. Despite this difference, the practice of honoring the Sabbath based upon the appearance of the moon is still Babylonian.
In the Bible, we are instructed to come out of Babylon, not to go into her. “And I heard another voice from heaven, saying, Come out of her, my people, that ye be not partakers of her sins…” (Rev. 18:4).
How does this teaching contradict the Bible?
First of all, the Sabbath is honored every seventh day of the week (Friday sunset to Saturday sunset). It is not honored on the seventh day of each month. God makes this very clear in the Bible. Let’s look at some examples from Scripture.
When God gave the Fourth Commandment, He said: “Six days shalt thou labour, and do all thy work: But the seventh day is the sabbath of the LORD thy God: in it thou shalt not do any work…For in six days the Lord made the heavens and the earth, the sea, and all that is in them, but he rested on the seventh day. Therefore the Lord blessed the Sabbath day and made it holy” Exodus (20:9-10a, 11). Notice that a month is not mentioned in these verses. The Sabbath is called a specific day.
In Leviticus chapter 23, God discusses His Feasts. The first of these special days is the Sabbath. Nowhere in His description of the Sabbath is the term “month” found; it is found on the seventh day of every week. “Six days shall work be done: but the seventh day is the sabbath of rest, an holy convocation; ye shall do no work therein: it is the sabbath of the LORD in all your dwellings” (Leviticus 23:3).
When we read the rest of Leviticus chapter 23, the Annual Festivals ARE based upon specific months of the year. Consider Passover as an example: “In the fourteenth day of the first month at even is the LORD’S passover” (Lev 23:5). God specifies the difference between a festival that occurs on a day of the week (the Sabbath) versus one that is related to a specific day of a specific month (such as Passover).
There are no verses that say the Sabbath is held on the seventh, fourteenth, twenty first, and twenty-eighth day of the month.
Secondly, the lunar month is not divisible by seven. The lunar cycle is approximately 29 ½ days. This means that if one kept the lunar sabbath, then there would be four weeks of seven days followed by one week of either eight or nine days. This means that the sabbath would not fall every seventh day. This breaks God’s continuous weekly cycle of seven days.
I have heard proponents of the lunar sabbath claim that the days between the fourth lunar Sabbath and the appearing of the next New Moon do not count as days. This also contradicts the Bible. God defines a day as evening followed by daytime. “…evening and the morning were the first day” (Gen 1:5b). God reckons this as a day whether we want it to be or not. We can’t just say ‘they don’t count’ without God instructing us about it!
For another Biblical illustration of the seven day week, consider the manna in the desert. God gave one portion of manna for five days, twice as much on the sixth day, and none on the seventh day. This weekly cycle of manna lasted for 40 years. God did not allow a break in this seven-day cycle to wait for the new moon to appear.
Third, there is no way to honor Pentecost under such a system. Pentecost is reckoned by counting seven Sabbaths from the weekly Sabbath during Unleavened Bread (Lev. 23:15-21). The day after the seventh Sabbath is called Shavuot or Pentecost; this is the fiftieth day. There is no manner of reckoning time under the lunar sabbath system where the day after the seventh lunar sabbath is the fiftieth day. God reckons Pentecost based upon a seven-day week regardless of the month.
Fourth, there are dozens of languages that preserve which day of the week is the Sabbath. Consider the words for Saturday in the following languages: Indonesian (Sabut), Tagalog (Sabado), Italian (Sabato), Spanish (Sabado), Greek (Sabatoh), Arabic (Al Sabt), and Mandingo (Sibiti).
As the writer of Hebrews warned us: “Therefore we must pay much closer attention to what we have heard, lest we drift away from it” (Hebrews 2:1). Like a boat that drifts slowly from the shore, we can drift away from God’s purpose for our lives. The lunar sabbath causes this sort of drifting. It disconnects people from the reality of God’s Creation; it causes people to miss the true Sabbath. Furthermore, the notion disregards the Word of God and the seven-day weekly cycle established by God.
Unfortunately, I have had friends who have been deceived by this false doctrine. I pray for them to turn away from it. Please share this article and help others avoid this doctrine which has led many astray and shipwrecked their faith.
Kelly McDonald, Jr.
BSA President – www.biblesabbath.org