Colossians 2:16 has been a much-debated text, with no consensus reached yet as to its meaning. In view of this, it was felt that the passage should be re-examined to see if a better understanding of the text could be reached.
The study begins with a survey of the recent literature It is found that opinion on the meaning of the word [sabbaton] in Colossians 2:16 is divisible into four groups: Those who feel it meant the seventh-day sabbath in toto, those who feel that it meant the ceremonial sabbaths, those who feel that it meant the Jewish part of the Sabbath, and those who feel that it referred to keeping the Sabbath in honor of the elemental spirits of the Universe.
The study then deals with verses 14, 16, and 17, and their context. It is suggested that a generalized characterization of the Colossian heresy is not much help in determining the meaning of verse 16. It is suggested that verse 14 did not deal directly with the law, whether moral or ceremonial, and thus verse 16 did not describe an aspect of verse 14. It is also suggested that the eating and drinking referred to in verse 16 probably were rooted in pagan asceticism. Parallels to the phrase "a festival or a new moon or a sabbath" are noted in the Old Testament, in the War Scroll found at Qumran, and in the Book of Jubilees. The Old Testament passages, with one possible exception, and the War Scroll passage, all associate the phrase with the sacrificial service. Jubilees associates the phrase, in a much modified form, with the calendar peculiar to the Essenes. Verse 17 is examined, and found to fit better with the above phrase interpreted as sacrifices on the festivals, new moons and Sabbaths than when it is interpreted as the days themselves, as is usually done.
It is concluded that when Paul used the above phrase he meant the sacrificial system. It is recognized that this interpretation does not exclude other viewpoints, but it is held that this is the primary meaning of the phrase.
A. Graham Maxwell
Walter F. Specht
Kenneth L. Vine
Master of Arts (MA)
Year Degree Awarded
Date (Title Page)
Library of Congress/MESH Subject Headings
Bible. New Testament Colossians II -- Criticism, interpretation, etc
Loma Linda University Libraries
This title appears here courtesy of the author, who has granted Loma Linda University a limited, non-exclusive right to make this publication available to the public. The author retains all other copyrights.
Giem, Paul, "An Investigation of the Meaning of the Word SABBATON in Colossians 2:16" (1977). Loma Linda University Electronic Theses, Dissertations & Projects. 579.
Loma Linda University Electronic Theses and Dissertations
Loma Linda University. Del E. Webb Memorial Library. University Archives