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Friday, 16 March 2007

The Eighth Day

One of the earliest extant works of early Christianity is the letter of Ignatius to the Magnesians, first composed around the turn of the second century. In one edition of this epistle--the long one, which has wider textual support--Ignatius quotes from the Septuagintal Psalms in reference to a solemnizing of "The Eighth Day." The quote goes as follows:

56 Let us therefore no longer keep the Sabbath after the Jewish manner, and rejoice in days of idleness; for "he that does not work, let him not eat."57 For say the [holy] oracles, "In the sweat of thy face shalt thou eat thy bread."58 But let every one of you keep the Sabbath after a spiritual manner, rejoicing in meditation on the law, not in relaxation of the body, admiring the workmanship of God, and not eating things prepared the day before, nor using lukewarm drinks, and walking within a prescribed space, nor finding delight in dancing and plaudits which have no sense in them.59 And after the observance of the Sabbath, let every friend of Christ keep the Lord's Day as a festival, the resurrection-day, the queen and chief of all the days. Looking forward to this, the prophet declared, "To the end, for the eighth day. . ."

"The Eighth Day" thus seems to be a primitive Christian reference to what the pagans of the time called The Day of the Sun and is now referred to throughout Christendom as either a translation of the same, or of hmera kuriou, "The Lord's Day." Where outside of Christendom it is not called "Heaven Day" (as it is in China), and in the few sects that eschew naming days altogether, it is still referred to by its original designation as "The First Day."

Why would Christians not start over with one, but carry over one more day in the week by calling the first day "the eighth?"

It's pretty clear to me that this was a reference to the original such day, when Christians first gathered together in the name of the risen Lord--although they didn't realize at the time that is what they were doing. Observe the significance of "the eighth day" in Scripture:

Leviticus 12:3
And in the eighth day the flesh of his foreskin shall be circumcised.

Leviticus 23:36
Seven days ye shall offer an offering made by fire unto the LORD: on the eighth day shall be an holy convocation unto you; and ye shall offer an offering made by fire unto the LORD: it is a solemn assembly; and ye shall do no servile work therein.

Numbers 29:35
On the eighth day ye shall have a solemn assembly: ye shall do no servile work therein:

Nehemiah 8:18
Also day by day, from the first day unto the last day, he read in the book of the law of God. And they kept the feast seven days; and on the eighth day was a solemn assembly, according unto the manner.

Ezekiel 43:27
And when these days are expired, it shall be, that upon the eighth day, and so forward, the priests shall make your burnt offerings upon the altar, and your peace offerings; and I will accept you, saith the Lord GOD.

Luke 9:28
And it came to pass about an eight days after these sayings, he took Peter and John and James, and went up into a mountain to pray.

John 20:26
And after eight days again his disciples were within, and Thomas with them: then came Jesus, the doors being shut, and stood in the midst, and said, Peace be unto you.

So we note that The Eighth Day always denotes some sort of meeting: Firstly, a small family or community meeting to celebrate the birth, circumcision, and naming of a son. This was given through Abraham. Then, a solemn assembly of the entire people of Israel to conclude the Passover week. This was given through Moses. Finally, a gathering together of believers to enjoy the presence of the Lord. This was initiated by Jesus himself when he joined the disciples for a meeting on the eighth day after his resurrection. And it is evident that from that original meeting to now, Christ's disciples have again met to gather every eight days, on the eighth day, to share his peace.

Note: Nowadays we would say "every seven days on the first day" but the meaning is the same. Middle Eastern time orientation of that period counted any part of the initial day as the first, the next day as the second, and the following as the third; for a total of three days, even if only 24 hours and 1 minute are involved. We do not now consider "the day after tomorrow" to be the "third" day, but the "second." Thus our present difficulty in grasping how Jesus could have risen on the "third" day less than two days, according to our reckoning, after he died.

Another implication of this way of thinking is that a boy should be circumcised a week, not a week and a day, after birth. The Sunday following a previous Sunday is "the eighth day."

1. Sunday
2. Monday
3. Tuesday
4. Wednesday
5. Thursday
6. Friday
7. Saturday
8. Sunday

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