Monday, December 17, 2012
What is "the second sabbath after the first" (Luke 6:1)?
Note: In preaching Sunday before last on Luke 6:1-11, I was intrigued by Luke's reference to "the second sabbath after the first." Here are some notes from the exposition:
We begin in v. 1: “And it came to pass on the second sabbath after the first, that he went throught the corn fields....” And we come immediately to a notorious place of difficulty in translation and interpretation of the text. The question is what is meant by “the second Sabbath after the first” (in Greek there appears the adjective deuteroprotos, a term that appears only here in all the NT). One interpreter notes that there are at least half a score different interpretations of what Luke meant by this and, in the end, no one really knows for sure precisely what he meant (see Godet, pp. 183-184). In the modern critical text the word is simply omitted--probably because it was so difficult to interpret—and so it does not even appear in modern translations.
The best answer is that this “second Sabbath after the first” refers to some “technical expression of the Jewish calendar” (as cited by Geldenhuys, Luke, p. 201). It might, for example, mean the second Sabbath after the Passover had taken place. The only thing we can really be sure about is that it was not essential that we know the precise meaning of this calendar term, though it was God’s perfect will for this term to appear in the text.
One commentator suggests that it is a mark of “the originality and antiquity of [Luke’s] sources of information” (Godet, p. 183). If this did not come from Luke’s source (perhaps an eyewitness) it is not something that he would have invented.
Another possibility is that it suggests from the beginning the penchant of some of the Jewish spiritual leaders—like the Pharisees—to introduce extra-biblical customs and practices, including the designation of Sabbaths in terms that did not come from clear Biblical mandate. The Sabbath is mentioned in the OT, but not the “second Sabbath after the first.” There is, then, foreshadowing of the conflict which is to come over the Sabbath and extra-biblical strictures attached to it.