Colossians 2:16, Commandments, Sabbath or Ceremonial Law?

Colossians 2:16 is probably the most misunderstood Bible passage when it comes to understanding the ordinances and the Ceremonial law. So what actually is this Ceremonial law? Is it possible that Colossians 2:16 and associated verses are actually talking about the Ten Commandments or the Lord's Sabbath?

The Ceremonial law with its sacrificial system pointed the people to the coming of Christ. Every time the blood of an animal was shed in the old Jewish temple, it was a reminder to the onlooker that One would come and die for his sin. Hence, John the Baptist pointed to our Lord and declared the significant words, "Behold the Lamb of God." When He died on the cross of Calvary, the veil of the great temple curtain was torn from top to bottom, to signify that the entire ceremonial system was forever finished. No longer do the priests need offer up sacrifices.

How do the Ten Commandments and this Ceremonial law relate to each other? If a man sinned, he broke LAW No. 1 - the moral law of the Ten Commandments. So then he brought his offering, according to LAW No. 2 - the law of sacrifices, and he received forgiveness. LAW No. 1 defines sin, for sin is the transgression of the moral law. (1 John 3:4) LAW No. 2 defined sacrifices, the Ceremonial law which was the remedy for sin. When the Israelite sinned, he broke the first law. To secure forgiveness he had to obey the second law. So here are two very distinct laws.

When the One great and perfect final Sacrifice was offered that Friday afternoon and the true Passover Lamb bowed His head and died and cried out, "It is finished", the old Ceremonial law that pointed the people to His sacrificial death was nailed to the cross. Jesus is now the permanent remedy for when we break LAW No. 1. When we now sin, we genuinely repent and ask Jesus for forgiveness.

Now that we have a clear distinction between these two laws, we can now look at all the verses that such an amazing amount of controversy occurs over. These verses are Colossians 2:16, Galatians 4:9-10 and Romans 14:5. Since Colossians 2:16 is the main area of confusion we will cover that first.

The Ten Commandments were placed in the Ark.Colossians 2:16 reads "Let no man therefore judge you in meat (offering), or in drink (offering), or in respect of an holyday, or of the new moon, or of the Sabbath days:" and so the belief of some is the fourth Commandment was deleted from stone. What was actually done away with here was the ordinances (Ceremonial Law). This is clearly seen by noting what Paul said two verses earlier. Colossians 2:14 reads, "blotting out the handwriting (has to be Moses handwriting) of ordinances that was against us, which was contrary to us, and has taken it out of the way, nailing it to the cross." Paul then goes on to say, so "Let no man therefore judge you in meat, or in drink, or in respect of an holyday, or of the new moon, or of the sabbath days:" Luke 1:6 KJV proves what should already be evident in that the ordinances and the Ten Commandments are two totally different things. It states, "And they were both righteous before God, walking in all the commandments and ordinances of the Lord blameless." And Hebrews 9:1-2 says, "Then verily the first covenant had also ordinances of divine service, and a worldly sanctuary. 2 For there was a tabernacle made; the first, wherein was the candlestick, and the table, and the showbread; which is called the sanctuary." The first covenant had the ordinances as well as the Ten Commandments but the new covenant has only the Ten Commandments. Note that these ordinances unmistakably belong to the Hebrew sanctuary sacrificial system. It was the ceremonial law that was nailed to the cross "not one jot or one tittle" of any of the Ten Commandments. The obvious differences between the Ten Commandments and the ordinances of the ceremonial law are that the Commandments were written by God's finger, were written in stone and were placed inside the Ark of the Covenant and it is a law of love which is eternal as love is eternal as God is and is why we were created. The ordinances were in the Moses handwriting, were written in a book and were placed on the outside of the Ark of the Covenant and it is NOT a law of love and was temporary. The One great and perfect and final Sacrifice was offered that Friday afternoon, when the true Passover Lamb bowed His head and died. When He cried out, "It is finished", the old ceremonial law that pointed people to His sacrificial death was indeed forever nailed to the cross.

So is the phrase "sabbath days" in Colossians 2:16 referring to the Lord's Sabbath? Of course not. Firstly, "sabbaths" is definitely plural here which there were several in the ordinances of the ceremonial law, and secondly, everything in verse 16 belonged purely and only to the ordinances which Paul specifically tells us is in verse 14. Studying the table below will give clarity between the ceremonial sabbaths mentioned in Colossians 2:16 and the Sabbath of the Lord.

Sabbath of the Lord

Ceremonial Sabbaths

Spoken by God personally - (Exodus 20:1, 8-11)

Spoken by Moses - (Exodus 24:3)

Written in stone by God Himself - (Exodus 31:18)

Written by Moses hand on paper - (Exodus 24:4)

Placed inside the Ark of the covenant - (Deuteronomy 10:5)

Stored on the outside of the Ark - (Deuteronomy 31:26)

Breaking the Sabbath is sin - (1 John 3:4)

These were kept because of sin - (See Leviticus)

It is a law of love - (Matthew 22:35-40, Isaiah 58:13-14)

They were not love - (Colossians 2:14, Galatians 4:9-10)

It is a law of liberty (freedom) - (James 1:25, 2:10-12)

They were bondage - (Galatians 4:9-10, Colossians 2:14)

Was established before sin - (Genesis 2:1-3)

Were established after sin - (Exodus 20:24)

Was made at creation - (Genesis 2:1-3)

Were made after Sinai - (Exodus 20:24)

The Sabbath is for everyone - (Mark 2:27)

Only for the children of Israel & Jews - (Read Old Testament)

God calls it MY Sabbath - (Exodus 31:13, Ezekiel 20:20)

God calls them HER sabbaths - (Hosea 2:11, Lam 1:7)

The Sabbath is eternal - (Psalms 111:7-8, Isaiah 66:22-23)

Were nailed to the cross - (Colossians 2:14, Ephesians 2:15)

Consider the following three questions:

1) Why didn't God put His Sabbath with all the ceremonial sabbaths in Moses hand writing if it was to end at the cross?

2) Why didn't God put His Sabbath with the Jewish ceremonial sabbaths that ended at the cross, if His Sabbath was only for the Jews?

3) Why would our omniscient (all knowing) God put His Sabbath in His eternal law of love if it's not eternal or not a law of love?

The Ten Commandments stand forever but the Ceremonial law was nailed to the cross.Let's now observe how every single part of Colossians 2:16 and associated verses do refer to the ceremonial law. Unfortunately, most modern Bible translations have translated the word meat in verse sixteen incorrectly and most non Jews get this wrong including some of the best theologians. Ask some Jews that understand Hebrew. The King James Bible is one of the few translations that does translate these words correctly and is therefore recommended in these studies. So much gets lost at times when translators don't have a good understanding of Jewish culture and terminology. To be referring to clean or unclean foods here would be totally out of context for this passage, but when it is kept in context, every single point here refers to the various feasts and festivals and the sacrificial sanctuary system. Further clarification can be given here from Hebrews. Note that the context of this passage is undoubtedly the sanctuary service in regards to sacrifices and offerings, of which Christ became the final perfect sacrifice for us.

Paul is believed to be the author of the book of Hebrews and we see that the meat and drink has to be meat and drink offerings by the unmistakable context of this passage in Hebrews 9:7-14 below. Paul speaks of meat and drink offerings and carnal ordinances which were imposed until the time of reformation, being Jesus Christ who obtained eternal redemption for us and brought an end to the sacrifices prescribed by the ordinances of the ceremonial law once and for all.

This continues to illustrate the perfect context of Colossians 2:16 and as per Colossians 2:14, we see everything mentioned is part of the ordinances of the ceremonial law which Paul said in this verse, was against us and contrary to us and it was taken out the way and nailed to the cross by Jesus' perfect sacrifice.

Hebrews 9:7-14 "But into the second went the high priest alone once every year, not without blood, which he offered for himself, and for the errors of the people: The Holy Ghost this signifying, that the way into the holiest of all was not yet made manifest, while as the first tabernacle was yet standing: Which was a figure for the time then present, in which were offered both gifts and sacrifices, that could not make him that did the service perfect, as pertaining to the conscience; Which stood only in meats and drinks, and divers washings, and carnal ordinances, imposed on them until the time of reformation. But Christ being come an high priest of good things to come, by a greater and more perfect tabernacle, not made with hands, that is to say, not of this building; Neither by the blood of goats and calves, but by his own blood he entered in once into the holy place, having obtained eternal redemption for us. For if the blood of bulls and of goats, and the ashes of an heifer sprinkling the unclean, sanctifieth to the purifying of the flesh: How much more shall the blood of Christ, who through the eternal Spirit offered himself without spot to God, purge your conscience from dead works to serve the living God?"

As you can plainly see, like Colossians 2:16, nowhere in this passage are clean and unclean foods referred to and nowhere in the Bible where clean and unclean foods are discussed, are there issues of unclean drinks. There is talk of unclean containers but again does not fit into the context here. What is spoken of here in both Colossians and Hebrews are references to meat and drink offerings that were part of the sanctuary service that are in the ordinances of the ceremonial law which had meat and drink offerings. This is all that can possibly be referred to and when done so, it fits absolutely perfectly into the context of both passages as it remains totally and beautifully in context with the sanctuary service.

Alter used with the Ceremonial law is now obsolete.So let's re-examine Colossians 2:14 and Colossians 2:16-17 again to see if everything does actually refer to the ceremonial law by the fact that the context of the passage remains the same throughout. "Blotting out the handwriting", the ceremonial law was written in Moses handwriting. "Ordinances", Strong's dictionary also directly translates this word to ceremonial law, "that was against us, which was contrary to us, and took it out of the way", the ceremonial law is now against us and contrary to us, as Christ has become that One and perfect sacrifice for us. "Nailing it to his cross", and of course now that Christ has become that perfect sacrifice for us, no longer are meat and drink offerings and animal sacrifices and all associated Holy days necessary, so the ceremonial law was nailed to the cross. Moving onto verse sixteen, "Let no man therefore judge you in meat, or in drink", and as we have now seen were part of the ceremonial law. "Or in respect of an holyday", these Holy days included such days as Passover, Feast of Weeks and many others. "Or of the new moon", new moon celebrations were also part of the ordinances. "Or of the Sabbath days", Passover, Feast of Unleavened Bread, First Fruits, Feast of Weeks, Day of Atonement, Feast of Tabernacles and many others are all Sabbath days.

When referred to in plural and the context of the passage is the ceremonial law, then the Sabbaths referred to can be nothing else but ceremonial Sabbaths. Verse seventeen goes on to say, "Which are a shadow of things to come". These Sabbaths were called a shadow because Passover was a shadow of the crucifixion and Feast of Weeks was a shadow of Pentecost. These Old Testament feasts and holy days were shadows of what was to come and once those things had come and gone then the shadows also disappeared. Here is one verse from Leviticus that refers to such feasts and Holy days, which involves meat and drink, that is meat and drink offerings that Paul is referring to in Colossians 2:16. Leviticus 23:37 "These are the feasts of the LORD, which you shall proclaim to be holy convocations, to offer an offering made by fire unto the LORD, a burnt offering, and a meat offering, a sacrifice, and drink offerings, every thing upon his day"

Note below the perfect parallel between Colossians 2:16 and Ezekiel 45:17 and that this was a sin offering, to make reconciliation for the house of Israel for breaking God's moral law (Ten Commandments) as prescribed by the ceremonial law until such time that Jesus nailed this law to the cross. Parentheses are added. This is what Israel had to do to make atonement for sin, which is the breaking of God's Ten Commandments and includes the Seventh Day Sabbath. It clearly demonstrates the issue and leaves no doubt as to what Paul was explaining to the Colossians. Note first Strong's dictionary definition for holyday in Colossians 2:16.

G1859 heorte, Of uncertain affinity; a festival: - feast, holyday.

Colossians 2:16 "Let no man therefore judge you in meat [offerings], or in drink [offerings], or in respect of an holyday, or of the new moon, or of the sabbath days:"

Ezekiel 45:17 "And it shall be the prince's part to give burnt offerings, and meat offerings, and drink offerings, in the feasts, [holydays] and in the new moons, and in the sabbaths, in all solemnities of the house of Israel: he shall prepare the sin offering, and the meat offering, and the burnt offering, and the peace offerings, to make reconciliation for the house of Israel."

All the various Holy days and festivals being spoken of involved days that took place at various times of the year as well as yearly Holy days such as the Day of Atonement (Yom Kippur) and monthly such as the New Moon celebrations already discussed. As these were all a shadow of things to come and those things have past and the shadows are now gone, to still observe these days would be putting us back into unnecessary bondage. This is what Paul is talking about in Galatians 4:9-10 which says, "But now, after that you have known God, or rather are known of God, how turn you again to the weak and beggarly elements, whereunto you desire again to be in bondage? 10 You observe days, and months, and times, and years." Paul is obviously and definitely not saying you can just simply ignore anything that is a day, month or year in the Bible. He is referring to something in Galatians 4:10 that includes all of these things, which is and can only be the ceremonial law.

The Ten Commandments were written with God's own finger.Galatians 4:9 and Galatians 4:10 are talking about bondage and servitude. The ordinances and ceremonial law were exactly that, a law of servitude and bondage. Galatians 4:3 "Even so we, when we were children, were in bondage under the elements of the world:" Paul continues telling the Galatians that they are no longer servants in Galatians 4:7 "Wherefore you are no more a servant, but a son; and if a son, then an heir of God through Christ." God's Ten Commandments on the other hand are a law of liberty. James 1:25 "But whoso looketh into the perfect law of liberty, and continueth therein, he being not a forgetful hearer, but a doer of the work, this man shall be blessed in his deed." And for further clarity James 2:11-12 reads, "For he that said, Do not commit adultery, said also, Do not kill. Now if you commit no adultery, yet if you kill, you are become a transgressor of the law. 12 So speak you, and so do, as they that shall be judged by the law of liberty." If we keep these points in mind when studying the Bible it will help us see more clearly what law is being spoken of. We should also check the context of the entire chapter.

Since Colossians 2:14 says "handwriting of ordinances" which Moses wrote in a book. It should make perfect sense to all of us that if God intended for the Sabbath of the Lord to be temporary, He would have had Moses put it in his own handwriting along with the rest of the ordinances that included all the other temporary Sabbaths that were nailed to the cross. However, the fact is, God did not include the Sabbath that He blessed and sanctified in the beginning with creation and wrote in stone with His own finger with the other nine commandments and placed inside the original Ark of the Covenant that is in heaven right now and will be for all time. This leaves us with only two options. Either God is not omniscience (all knowing) as the Bible tells us and our perfect God made a mistake, or the only other possible answer there can be — God never did have any intentions on changing or abolishing it.

Read what Adam Clarke's Commentary on the Bible has top say on Colossians 2:16, "Colossians 2:16 - Let no man judge you in meat, or in drink - The apostle speaks here in reference to some particulars of the hand-writing of ordinances, which had been taken away, and the necessity of observing certain holydays or festivals, such as the new moons and particular sabbaths, or those which should be observed with more than ordinary solemnity; all these had been taken out of the way and nailed to the cross, and were no longer of moral obligation. There is no intimation here that the Sabbath was done away, or that its moral use was superseded, by the introduction of Christianity. I have shown elsewhere that, Remember the Sabbath day, to keep it holy, is a command of perpetual obligation, and can never be superseded but by the final termination of time.

As it is a type of that rest which remains for the people of God, of an eternity of bliss, it must continue in full force till that eternity arrives; for no type ever ceases till the antitype be come. Besides, it is not clear that the apostle refers at all to the Sabbath in this place, whether Jewish or Christian; his σαββατων, of sabbaths or weeks, most probably refers to their feasts of weeks, of which much has been said in the notes on the Pentateuch."

And this is what "Albert Barnes Notes on the Bible" has to say on Colossians 2:16 on Sabbath days, "Colossians 2:16 - Or of the Sabbath days - Greek, "of the Sabbaths." The word Sabbath in the Old Testament is applied not only to the seventh day, but to all the days of holy rest that were observed by the Hebrews, and particularly to the beginning and close of their great festivals. There is, doubtless, reference to those days in this place, since the word is used in the plural number, and the apostle does not refer particularly to the Sabbath properly so called. There is no evidence from this passage that he would teach that there was no obligation to observe any holy time, for there is not the slightest reason to believe that he meant to teach that one of the ten commandments had ceased to be binding on mankind. If he had used the word in the singular number - "the Sabbath," it would then, of course, have been clear that he meant to teach that that commandment had ceased to be binding, and that a Sabbath was no longer to be observed. But the use of the term in the plural number, and the connection, show that he had his eye on the great number of days which were observed by the Hebrews as festivals, as a part of their ceremonial and typical law, and not to the moral law, or the Ten Commandments. No part of the moral law - no one of the ten commandments could be spoken of as "a shadow of good things to come." These commandments are, from the nature of moral law, of perpetual and universal obligation."

Having adequately covered Colossians 2:16 and Galatians 4:9-10, we can now conclude with the final scripture on Romans 14:5 that some also misunderstand as so often seems to be the case when it comes to God's law of love, His Sabbath and the temporary ceremonial law which pointed the way to Christ. Five well respected Bible Commentaries have also been chosen to cover Romans 14:5, as they give very thorough and professional explanations on this verse.

The main scripture concerned is Romans 14:5 but so the context of the passage can be seen, other verses are also given. Romans 14:1-6, "Him that is weak in the faith receive you, but not to doubtful disputations. 2 For one believeth that he may eat all things: another, who is weak, eateth herbs. 3 Let not him that eateth despise him that eateth not; and let not him which eateth not judge him that eateth: for God has received him. 4 Who are you that judgest another man's servant? to his own master he standeth or falleth. Yes, he shall be holden up: for God is able to make him stand. 5 One man esteemeth one day above another: another esteemeth every day alike. Let every man be fully persuaded in his own mind. 6 He that regardeth the day, regardeth it unto the Lord; and he that regardeth not the day, to the Lord he does not regard it. He that eateth, eateth to the Lord, for he giveth God thanks; and he that eateth not, to the Lord he eateth not, and giveth God thanks."

To begin with, it must be admitted that the word "Sabbath" is not found in the entire chapter. People assume Paul is talking about the Sabbath. But is he really? The chapter begins, "Him that is weak in the faith receive you, but not to doubtful disputations." Romans 14:1. The NKJV reads, "disputes over doubtful things." This chapter concerns "doubtful things" and is not a discussion of the Ten Commandments. God's "Big Ten" are not "doubtful," but exceedingly dear and written personally with the finger of God on two tables of stone. Also very significant is that the word "alike" in verse 5 does not exist in the original Greek text and is an added word, which conveys an idea which the apostle never designed or intended.

It becomes clear from Romans 14 and 15 chapters, that many misunderstandings existed between Jewish and Gentile Christians in relation to certain customs which were sacredly observed by one but disregarded by the other. The main subject of dispute was concerning meats and days. The converted Jew retaining respect for the Law of Moses abstained from certain meats and observed ceremonial days while the converted Gentile understood that Christianity put him under no such obligation or regard to ceremonial points. It also appears that mutual and heartless judgments existed among them and that brotherly love and reciprocal tolerance did not always prevail. Paul exhorts that in such things no longer essential to Christianity, that even though both parties had a different way of thinking they might and probably do still have an honest and serious regard for God. Paul further explains they should not therefore let different sentiments hinder Christian fellowship and love, but they should mutually refrain and withhold and make allowance for each other and especially not carry their Gospel liberty so far as to prejudice a weak brother or a Jewish Christian.

The "weak" brother "eats" some things and "esteems one day above another" while the strong brother believes that he may "eat all things" and "esteems every day alike." Romans 14:2, 5. The early Church was made up of Jewish believers and Gentile converts. Although Paul did not specify what "days" he was referring to, he could only be talking about the "esteeming" or "not esteeming" of certain Jewish fast or feast days and certain pagan feast days when people were especially "eating of those things that are offered in sacrifice unto idols." 1 Corinthians 8:4.

A "strong" Jew who knew that "an idol is nothing" would have no scruples about eating "meat in an idols temple" on a pagan feast day. 1 Corinthians 8-4, 10. Paul warned these "strong" Jewish believers, "But take heed lest by any means this liberty of yours become a stumblingblock to them that are weak. [the Gentile convert from idolatry]. For if any man see thee which hast knowledge sit at meat in the idol's temple [on a pagan feast day], shall not the conscience of him that is weak be emboldened to eat those things which are offered to idols; and through your knowledge shall the weak brother perish [if he is drawn back to idolatry], for whom Christ died? But when you sin against the brethren, and wound their weak conscience, you sin against Christ. Wherefore, if meat make my brother to offend, I will eat no flesh while the world standeth." 1 Corinthians 8:9-13.

There is NO evidence that the discussion about "the weak and the strong" in Romans 14 and 1Corinthians 8 has anything to do with the Sabbath. God has never said "one man may choose to esteem MY Sabbath, while another man may choose to esteem Sunday, or every day alike." He has NOT left it up to us to "pick a day." Rather, God has commanded, "Remember the sabbath day to keep it holy ... the seventh day is the sabbath of the Lord thy God." Exodus 20:8-10. The book of Romans is very clear, "by the law is the knowledge of sin." Romans 3:20; 7:7, 12.

Jesus Said the Ten Commandments are here to stayWhen the passage is about a law of bondage as referred to in Galatians 4 or foods and days as in Colossians 2:16 and Romans 14:5, especially when associated with the sanctuary service, then we must realize that the Ten Commandments are not being referred to. When the Ten Commandments are being referenced, you can always tell as the context of the passage will always be centred around love, as that is what the Ten Commandments are. The Bible tells us in 1 John 4:8 "He that loves not, knows not God; for God Is Love." As God is eternal, then Love also must be eternal. 1 John 4:16 says, "And we have known and believed the love that God has to us. God is love; and he that dwells in love dwells in God, and God in him." Love is inseparable from God and the true Christian, as God is Love and Love is God. We were created in Love and for Love and no other reason. This is why the Ten Commandments are eternal and unchanging, as God changes not, and love changes not, and the guidelines on loving God and man also changes not. Jesus said in Matthew 5:17 that He did not come to destroy the law and that till heaven and earth pass, not one jot or tittle shall pass from the law. He also warned against not teaching the law and said great is he that does teach and uphold the law. Jesus then raises the bar even higher and tells us that if we think the crime we have done the crime as verse 27 goes on to say. Jesus is in no way implying the Ten Commandments are going to be abolished or change, but to the contrary Jesus shows they will become even stricter. To imply that Colossians 2:16, Galatians 4:10 or Romans 14:5 refer to the Ten Commandments takes them out of context and they then also fail to line up with other scripture throughout the Bible as well as being in contradiction to other scriptures.

The remainder of this topic on Romans 14:5 will now be left to some of the world's past but best theologians. By doing this, you can see that what has currently been taught is also backed up by some highly respected and famous theologians.

John Wesley's Explanatory Notes on the Whole Bible, Romans 14:5 - One day above another - As new moons, and other Jewish festivals. Let every man be fully persuaded - That a thing is lawful, before he does it.

Notice how the Treasury of Scriptural Knowledge, which primarily references other verses that are referring to the same topic, has referenced the passages that Paul discussed with the Romans, Galatians and Colossians regarding the ceremonial law also. This as we have now seen is because all these verses are referring to the ceremonial law.

Treasury of Scriptural Knowledge. Romans 14:5 - esteemeth: Galatians 4:9, Galatians 4:10; Colossians 2:16, Colossians 2:17

Adam Clarke's Commentary on the Bible, Romans 14:5 - One man esteemeth one day above another - Perhaps the word day, is here taken for time, festival, and such like, in which sense it is frequently used. Reference is made here to the Jewish institutions, and especially their festivals; such as the Passover, Pentecost, feast of tabernacles, new moons, jubilee, etc. The converted Jew still thought these of moral obligation; the Gentile Christian not having been bred up in this way had no such prejudices. And as those who were the instruments of bringing him to the knowledge of God gave him no such injunctions, consequently he paid to these no religious regard.

Another - The converted Gentile esteemeth every day - considers that all time is the Lord's, and that each day should be devoted to the glory of God; and that those festivals are not binding on him. We add here alike, and make the text say what I am sure was never intended, viz. that there is no distinction of days, not even of the Sabbath: and that every Christian is at liberty to consider even this day to be holy or not holy, as he happens to be persuaded in his own mind. That the Sabbath is of lasting obligation may be reasonably concluded from its institution (see the note on Genesis 2:3) and from its typical reference. All allow that the Sabbath is a type of that rest in glory which remains for the people of God. Now, all types are intended to continue in full force till the antitype, or thing signified, take place; consequently, the Sabbath will continue in force till the consummation of all things. The word alike should not be added; nor is it acknowledged by any MS. or ancient version.

Let every man be fully persuaded - With respect to the propriety or non-propriety of keeping the above festivals, let every man act from the plenary conviction of his own mind; there is a sufficient latitude allowed.

Albert Barnes' Notes on the Bible, Romans 14:5 - One man esteemeth - Greek "judgeth" krinei. The word is here properly translated "esteemeth;" compare Acts 13:46; Acts 16:15 . The word originally has the idea of "separating," and then "discerning," in the act of judging. The expression means that one would set a higher value on one day than on another, or would regard it as more sacred than others. This was the case with the "Jews" uniformly, who regarded the days of their festivals, and fasts, and Sabbaths (i.e. ceremonial Sabbaths) as especially sacred, and who would retain, to no inconsiderable degree, their former views, even after they became converted to Christianity.

Another "esteemeth - That is, the "Gentile" Christian. Not having been brought up amidst the Jewish customs, and not having imbibed their opinions and prejudices, they would not regard these days as having any special sacredness. The appointment of those days had a special reference "to the Jews." They were designed to keep them as a separate people, and to prepare the nation for the "reality," of which their rites were but the shadow. When the Messiah came, the Passover, the feast of tabernacles, and the other special festivals of the Jews, of course vanished, and it is perfectly clear that the apostles never intended to inculcate their observance on the Gentile converts. See this subject discussed in the second chapter of the Epistle to the Galatians.

Every day alike - The word "alike" is not in the original, and it may convey an idea which the apostle did not design. The passage means that he regards "every day" as consecrated to the Lord; Romans 14:6.

The question has been agitated whether the apostle intends in this to include the Christian Sabbath. Does he mean to say that it is a matter of "indifference" whether this day be observed, or whether it be devoted to ordinary business or amusements? This is a very important question in regard to the Lord's day. That the apostle did not mean to say that it was a matter of indifference whether it should be kept as holy, or devoted to business or amusement, is plain from the following considerations.

(1) The discussion had reference only to the special customs of the "Jews," to the rites and practices which "they" would attempt to impose on the Gentiles, and not to any questions which might arise among Christians as "Christians." The inquiry pertained to "meats," and festival observances among the Jews, and to their scruples about partaking of the food offered to idols, etc.; and there is no more propriety in supposing that the subject of the Lord's day is introduced here than that he advances principles respecting "baptism" and "the Lord's supper."

(2) The "Lord's day" was doubtless observed by "all" Christians, whether converted from Jews or Gentiles; see 1Corinthians 16:2; Acts 20:7; Revelation 1:10; compare the notes at John 20:26. The propriety of observing "that day" does not appear to have been a matter of controversy. The only inquiry was, whether it was proper to add to that the observance of the Jewish Sabbaths, and days of festivals and fasts.

(3) It is expressly said that those who did not regard the day regarded it as not to God, or to honor God; Romans 14:6. They did it as a matter of respect to him and his institutions, to promote his glory, and to advance his kingdom. Was this ever done by those who disregard the Christian Sabbath? Is their design ever to promote his honor, and to advance in the knowledge of him, by "neglecting" his holy day? Who knows not that the Christian Sabbath has never been neglected or profaned by any design to glorify the Lord Jesus, or to promote his kingdom? It is for purposes of business, gain, war, amusement, dissipation, visiting, crime. Let the heart be filled with a sincere desire to "honor the Lord Jesus," and the Christian Sabbath will be reverenced, and devoted to the purposes of piety. And if any man is disposed to plead "this passage" as an excuse for violating the Sabbath, and devoting it to pleasure or gain, let him quote it "just as it is," that is, let "him neglect the Sabbath from a conscientious desire to honor Jesus Christ." Unless this is his motive, the passage cannot avail him. But this motive never yet influenced a Sabbath-breaker.

Let every man... - That is, subjects of this kind are not to be pressed as matters of conscience. Every man is to examine them for himself, and act accordingly. This direction pertains to the subject under discussion, and not to any other. It does not refer to subjects that were "morally" wrong, but to ceremonial observances. If the "Jew" esteemed it wrong to eat meat, he was to abstain from it; if the Gentile esteemed it right, he was to act accordingly. The word "be fully persuaded" denotes the highest conviction, not a matter of opinion or prejudice, but a matter on which the mind is made up by examination; see Romans 4:21; 2Timothy 4:5. This is the general principle on which Christians are called to act in relation to festival days and fasts in the church. If some Christians deem them to be for edification, and suppose that their piety will be promoted by observing the days which commemorate the birth, and death, and temptations of the Lord Jesus, they are not to be reproached or opposed in their celebration. Nor are they to attempt to impose them on others as a matter of conscience, or to reproach others because they do not observe them.

The People's New Testament (1891) by B. W. Johnson, Romans 14:5-9 - One man esteemeth one day above another. A second difference of opinion is now cited. Some, Jewish converts or Gentiles who did not understand that the old covenant was ended, believed that the Jewish Sabbaths and new moons should be kept sacred. Compare Colossians 2:16, and Galatians 4:10.

This ends the Commentaries on Romans 14:5. You will note that the Peoples New Testament commentary above also references Colossians 2:16 and Galatians 4:10. It should now be clear that the context and the meaning of all these three passages is the ceremonial law with all its various holyday festivals, new moons and ceremonial sabbaths.

Additional reading and tables showing the difference between the Moral law and the Ceremonial law.

Notice how God's moral law (The Ten Commandments) is a reflection of God's most beautiful and holy character. To declare that the God's moral law is no longer relevant is an insult and attack on love, God and His Holy character.

Comparison of the Ten Commandments versus God's Character

» Romans 16:26: God is Eternal

» Psalm 111:7-8: The law is Eternal

» Luke 18:19: God is Good

» Romans 7:12: The law is Good

» I John 1:5: God is Light

» Proverbs 6:23: The law is Light

» John 4:24: God is Spiritual

» Romans 7:14: The law is Spiritual

» Deuteronomy 32:4: God is Just

» Romans 7:12: The law is Just

» Psalms 48:1: God is Great

» Hosea 8:12: The law is Great

» Psalm 145:17: God is Righteous

» Psalm 119:172: The law is Righteous

» 1 John 3:3: God is Pure

» Psalms 19:8: The law is Pure

» Deuteronomy 32:4: God is Truth

» Psalm 119:142: The law is Truth

» Matthew 5:48: God is Perfect

» Psalm 19:7: The law is Perfect

» I John 4:8: God is Love

» Romans 13:10: The law is Love

» Isaiah 5:16: God is Holy

» Romans 7:12: The law is Holy

When God led the children of Israel out of Egyptian bondage, He delivered to them in fiery majesty the Ten Commandments. This holy law was spoken by God, written by God, recorded on tables of stone, and is of eternal duration. At the same time another law, of temporary usage, was also delivered to the children of Israel. This law dealt with the ceremonial rites of the Jewish sanctuary service, and concerned itself with a system of religion that passed away at the cross. Large sections of Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers and Deuteronomy describe in detail this temporary ceremonial code. This Law can easily be identified in the Scriptures. It talks about circumcision (a religious Jewish rite), sacrifices, offerings, purifications, ceremonial holy days, and other rites associated with the Hebrew sanctuary service. Let the Bible itself explain and clarify the differences between these two laws in the following table.

THE MORAL LAW

(The Ten Commandments)

THE CEREMONIAL LAW

(A temporary Jewish law)

1. First spoken by God Himself. Exodus 20:1-22.

1. Spoken by Moses. Exodus 24:3.

2. Written by God's finger. Exodus 31:18; 32:16.

2. Written by Moses hand. Exodus 24:4; Deuteronomy 31:9.

3. First written on stones. Exodus 31:18.

3. In a book. Exodus 24:3, 7; Deuteronomy 31:24.

4. Handed by God its writer to Moses. Exodus 31:18.

4. Handed by Moses its writer to Levites.

Deuteronomy 31:25-26.

5. Deposited by Moses "in the ark."
Deuteronomy 10:5.

5. Deposited by the Levites "by the side of the ark."

Deuteronomy 31:26, ARV.

6. Deals with moral precepts. Exodus 20:3-17.

6. Deals with ceremonial, ritual matters.

(See parts of Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers and Deuteronomy)

7. Reveals sin. Romans 7:7.

7. Prescribes offerings for sins. (See book of Leviticus)

8. Breaking of "the law" is "sin." 1 John 3:4.

8. No sin in breaking, for now "abolished." Ephesians 2:15.

(Where no law is, there is no transgression. Romans 4:15)

9. Should "keep the whole law." James 2:10.

9. Apostles gave "no such commandment" to "keep the law."

Acts 15:24.

10. Because we "shall be judged" by this law.
James 2:12.

10. Not to be judged by it. Colossians 2:16.

11. The Christian who keeps this law is "blessed in his deed." James 1:25.

11. The Christian who keeps this law is not blessed.

(See for example, Galatians 5:1-6)

12. "The perfect law of liberty." James 1:25.

(Cf. James 2:12)

12. The Christian who keeps this law loses his liberty.

Galatians 5:1, 3.

13. Paul said, "I delight in the law of God."
Romans 7:22. (Cf. verse 7)

13. Paul called this law a "yoke of bondage."
Galatians 5:1; Galatians 4:3, 9. (See Acts 15:10)

14. Established by faith in Christ. Romans 3:31.

14. Abolished by Christ. Ephesians 2:15.

15. Christ was to "magnify the law and make it honourable." Isaiah 42:21.

15. Blotted "out the handwriting of ordinances that was against us." Colossians 2:14.

Is Sabbaths in Colossians 2:16 Plural or singular?

Is the reference to Sabbath days in Colossians 2:16 referring to the Seventh day Sabbath of the Lord or the various Ceremonial Sabbaths? Should it be translated as Sabbaths, clearly indicating that ceremonial Sabbaths are being referred to, or is it Singular which would cast some doubt as to if Paul was referring to the fourth commandment?

Since Paul is unmistakably referencing the ordinances (ceremonial law) in Colossians 2:14 and everything else he refers to in Colossians 2:16-17 are also part of the sanctuary system which was observed when the moral law was broken. The chances that Paul would be referring to the fourth commandment is probably less than 0.01%. It just would not fit the context of the passage in the slightest. All these issues and questions will now be clearly answered.

Those guilty of antinomianism or anti-sabbatarians often like to quote Bible translations that are not true to the original Greek text to support their argument while falling from truth. It does not necessarily mean these are bad translations as they are sometimes just trying to clarify a verse. The NASB is quite often used by these people, but note how it moves seriously away from the original meaning of the verse. Compare the KJV with the NASB and see which matches the original Greek text using the table below. The Greek New Testament which matches the KJV with Strong's is also given. The KJV gives much more clarity to what is being spoken about such as there is a big difference between "contrary to us" and "hostile to us". Handwriting and ordinances are very important keywords also. How are people supposed to interpret "having cancelled out the certificate of debt"? What debt? Handwriting on the other hand (pardon the pun) has to be Moses who wrote down the ordinances which can now be clearly seen as the ceremonial law.

 

Colossians 2:14 NASB "having canceled out the certificate of debt consisting of decrees against us, which was hostile to us; and He has taken it out of the way, having nailed it to the cross."

 

Colossians 2:14 KJV "Blotting out the handwriting of ordinances that was against us, which was contrary to us, and took it out of the way, nailing it to his cross;"

 

Colossians 2:14 GNT   εξαλειψας Blotting out 1813 V-AAP-NSM   το the 3588 T-ASN   καθ that was against 2596 PREP   ημων us 2257 P-1GP  χειρογραφον handwriting 5498 N-ASN   τοις the 3588 T-DPN  δογμασιν of ordinances 1378 N-DPN   ο which 3739 R-NSN   ην was 2258 V-IXI-3S  υπεναντιον contrary 5227 A-NSN   ημιν to us 2254 P-1DP   και and 2532 CONJ   αυτο it 846 P-ASN  ηρκεν took 142 V-RAI-3S   εκ out of 1537 PREP   του   3588 T-GSN   μεσου way 3319 A-GSN   προσηλωσας nailing 4338 V-AAP-NSM   αυτο it 846 P-ASN   τω   3588 T-DSM σταυρω to his cross, 4716 N-DSM

 

Colossians 2:14 Translation table

The bold writing is the King James Bible translation and the green number underneath is the Strong's dictionary number that corresponds. The row underneath contains the Strong's dictionary definition for each word. Note how well the King James Bible matches the Strong's dictionary Greek definition. It is definitely the most accurate Bible for this passage on Colossians 2:16 regarding the ceremonial law.

KJV text
Strong's

Blotting out
1813

the
3588

handwriting
5498

of ordinances
1378

that was against
2596

Strong's
Dictionary
Definition.

 

G1813 ex-al-i'-fo From G1537 and G218; to smear out, that is, obliterate (erase tears, figuratively pardon sin): - blot out, wipe away.

 

G3588 ho, hay, to The masculine, feminine (second) and neuter (third) forms, in all their inflections; the definite article; the (sometimes to be supplied, at others omitted, in English idiom): - the, this, that, one, he, she, it, etc.

 

G5498 khi-rog'-raf-on Neuter of a compound of G5495 and G1125; something hand written ("chirograph"), that is, a manuscript (specifically a legal document or bond (figuratively)): - handwriting.

 

G1378 dog'-mah From the base of G1380; a law (civil, ceremonial or ecclesiastical): - decree, ordinance.

 

G2596 kat-ah' A primary particle; (preposition) down (in place or time), in varied relations (according to the case [genitive, dative or accusative] with which it is joined): - about, according as (to), after, against,…over against ... In composition it retains many of these applications, and frequently denotes opposition, distribution or intensity.

KJV text

Strong's

us,
2257

which
3739

was
2258

contrary
5227

to us,
2254

Strong's
Dictionary
Definition.

 

G2257 hay-mone' Genitive plural of G1473; of (or from) us: - our (company), us, we.

G3739 hos, hay, ho Probably a primary word (or perhaps a form of the article G3588); the relative (sometimes demonstrative) pronoun, who, which, what, that: - one, (an-, the) other, some, that, what, which, who (-m, -se), etc.

G2258 ane Imperfect of G1510; I (thou, etc.) was (wast or were): - + agree, be, X have (+ charge of), hold, use, was (-t), were.

 

G5227 hoop-en-an-tee'-os From G5259 and G1727; under (covertly) contrary to, that is, opposed or (as noun) an opponent: - adversary, against.

 

G2254 hay-meen' Dative plural of G1473; to (or for, with, by) us: - our, (for) us, we.

 

KJV text

Strong's

and
2532

took
142

it
846

out of
1537

the
3588

Strong's
Dictionary
Definition.

G2532 kahee Apparently a primary particle, having a copulative and sometimes also a cumulative force; and, also, even, so, then, too, etc.; often used in connection (or composition) with other particles or small words: - and, also, both, but, even, for, if, indeed, likewise, moreover, or, so, that, then, therefore, when, yea, yet.

G142 ah'ee-ro A primary verb; to lift; by implication to take up or away; figuratively to raise (the voice), keep in suspense (the mind); specifically to sail away (that is, weigh anchor); by Hebraism (compare [H5375]) to expiate sin: - away with, bear (up), carry, lift up, loose, make to doubt, put away, remove, take (away, up).

G846 ow-tos' (perhaps akin to the base of G109 through the idea of a baffling wind; backward); the reflexive pronoun self, used of the third person, and (with the proper personal pronoun) of the other persons: - her, it (-self), one, the other, (mine) own, said, ([self-], the) same, ([him-, my-, thy-]) self, [your-] selves, she, that, their (-s), them ([-selves]), there [-at, -by, -in, -into, -of, -on, -with], they, (these) things, this (man), those, together, very, which.

G1537 ek, ex A primary preposition denoting origin (the point whence motion or action proceeds), from, out (of place, time or cause; literally or figuratively; direct or remote)

G3588 ho, hay, to The masculine, feminine (second) and neuter (third) forms, in all their inflections; the definite article; the (sometimes to be supplied, at others omitted, in English idiom): - the, this, that, one, he, she, it, etc.

KJV text

Strong's

way,
3319

nailing
4338

It
846

to his cross;
4716

 

Strong's
Dictionary
Definition.

 

G3319 mes'-os From G3326; middle (as adjective or [neuter] noun): - among, X before them, between, + forth, mid [-day, -night], midst, way.

G4338 pros-ay-lo'-o From G4314 and a derivative of G2247; to peg to, that is, spike fast: - nail to.

G846 ow-tos'

 

See G846 above.

G4716 stow-ros' From the base of G2476; a stake or post (as set upright), that is, (specifically) a pole or cross (as an instrument of capital punishment); figuratively exposure to death, that is, self denial; by implication the atonement of Christ: - cross.

 

Many anti-sabbatarians have also made the argument that since some places in the Bible where the Greek is genitive plural and Sabbath has been translated in the singular, that Colossians 2:16 is therefore also singular. The Greek New Testament definitely shows the declension for Sabbath as N-GPN, which stands for Noun- Genitive-Plural- Neuter. It is unfortunate that some modern Bible translations have reflected an anti-sabbatarian stand by insisting that the plural sabbatôn which is translated "sabbath days" in the KJV should really be translated as "sabbath day." The NIV, for example has "a sabbath day" based on that "though plural, it is often used in the New Testament in a singular sense" (Curtis Vaughan, "Colossians," in The Expositor's Bible Commentary) The "Vine's Expository Dictionary" provides the supposed proof that sabbatôn is singular and the KJV is wrong: "sabbaton … or sabbata: the latter, the plural form, was transliterated from the Aramaic word, which was mistaken for a plural; hence the singular, sabbaton was formed from it."

But notice what the author is saying. He is saying that someone had mistaken sabbata (an Aramaic transliteration) for a plural word, and therefore came up with the singular sabbaton. But sabbaton is a New Testament word. It may be that Paul is transliterating from sabbata, but it would be extraordinarily strange for him to use the plural genitive form if he meant the singular. As a Greek speaker writing to Greek readers, he would know that they would parse it as plural regardless of whether the word is derived from Aramaic or Hebrew. If Paul had meant the singular, he would have used sabbatou as in Matthew 12:8 "For the Son of man is Lord even of the sabbath day." I believe enough has been said. The KJV has translated the verse correctly. Attempts by anti-sabbatarians to render the verse in such a way as to suggest that Paul had in mind the weekly Sabbath are unsustainable. It would have been more true to the original Greek if the KJV used "new moon or Sabbaths" but "Sabbath days" is still correct. Below is a list of Bibles that had no trouble in establishing the context was the Ceremonial law and that the Greek is plural i.e. "sabbaths, 4521 N-GPN". P in N-GPN = Plural.

(ACV) "new moon or Sabbaths,"

(Darby) "new moon, or sabbaths,"

(DRB) "new moon or of the sabbaths,"

( Geneva) "moone, or of the Sabbath dayes,"

(KJ2000) "new moon, or of the sabbath days:"

(LONT) "new moon, or of sabbaths;"

(NET) "new moon, or Sabbath days -"

(NLT) "new-moon ceremonies or Sabbaths."

(TMB) "new moon or the Sabbath days,"

(VW-Edition) "new moon or sabbaths,"

(WmsNT) "monthly feasts or sabbaths."

(ALT) "new moon [festival] or of Sabbaths,"

(Bishops) "moone, or of the Sabboth [dayes]:"

(EMTV) "new moon or of sabbaths,"

(IAV NC) "New Moon, or of the Sabbath Days:"

(KJV21) "new moon or the Sabbath days,"

(MKJV) "new moon, or of the sabbaths."

(NIRV) "New Moons and Sabbath days."

(NRSV) "new moons, or sabbaths."

(TS98) "new moon or Sabbaths -"

(WCNT) "new moon, or of sabbaths,"

(WORNT) "new-moon, or sabbaths;"

(BBE) "new moons or Sabbaths:"

(CAB) "new moon or of sabbaths,"

(GB) "newe moone, or of the Sabbath dayes,"

(KJV) "new moon, or of the sabbath days:"

(LITV) "new moon, or of sabbaths,"

(Murdock) "new moons, and sabbaths;"

(NKJV) "new moon or sabbaths,"

(RYLT-NT) "new moon, or of sabbaths,"

(Tyndale) "newe mone or of the sabboth dayes."

(Webster) "new-moon, or of the sabbaths:"

(YLT) "new moon, or of sabbaths,"

This leaves only 5 of the more modern translations that don't use plural. But the big question is, do they mean "a weekly Sabbath day" or "a Ceremonial Sabbath day" since they do not specifically say "The Sabbath" or the "weekly Sabbath"?

(AMP) "New Moon or a Sabbath."

(RSVA) "new moon or a sabbath."

(ASV) "new moon or a sabbath day:"

(NASB) "new moon or a Sabbath day"

(NIV) "New Moon celebration or a Sabbath day."

As for the Bible translations that use the singular (sabbath) instead of the plural where the Greek shows the declension to be plural, they are the thoughts of the translators and it does not necessarily mean they are correct in using the singular even though to them it may have seemed right to change it to singular. It is also possible that many of the translators have overlooked that where Sabbath is referenced, it may be referring to both types of the Sabbath i.e. the Weekly "Sabbath of the Lord" in the Ten Commandments or the ceremonial Sabbaths as most references to Sabbath are before the cross and so the ceremonial law was not yet abolished. Example: The KJV in Matthew 28:1 translates to sabbath in both places where the genitive is plural (N-GPN). Did the translators get it right? Young's Literal Translation on the other hand translated correctly to sabbaths. At a glance this may not seem to make sense, yet if we look a bit deeper we will discover that Jesus was crucified on Passover which is a ceremonial Sabbath and was just before the weekly Sabbath. Gills commentary gives clarity on the second mention of "the sabbaths" that states the following; "towards the first day of the week, or "sabbaths"; so the Jews used to call the days of the week, the first day of the sabbath, the second day of the sabbath, &c. take an instance or two." There are only 4 out of 40 verses that the YLT Bible translates to singular that are genitive plural and of those 4 verses the "Literal Translation of the Bible" translates them to genitive plural. So it becomes very obvious that there is a problem when it comes to translating the plural here in the Bible at times. Therefore, the safest thing to always do is to analyse the context of the passage to see what is being said.

There is much more to be covered on this topic of the ceremonial law and Colossians 2:16, so there are links to other web sites that go into more detail that has not been covered here. You can find them in the top left corner under Related Links. If you want to contact us for feedback or questions, use the Contact Us from one of these other websites.

Matthew 28:1 KJV "In the end of the sabbath, as it began to dawn toward the first day of the week, came Mary Magdalene and the other Mary to see the sepulchre."

 

Matthew 28:1 YLT "And on the eve of the sabbaths, at the dawn, toward the first of the sabbaths, came Mary the Magdalene, and the other Mary, to see the sepulchre,"

 

Colossians 2:16 GNT   μη Let no 3361 PRT-N   ουν therefore 3767 CONJ   τις man 5100 X-NSM   υμας you 5209 P-2AP  κρινετω judge 2919 V-PAM-3S   εν in 1722 PREP  βρωσει meat 1035 N-DSF   η or 2228 PRT   εν in 1722 PREP  ποσει drink 4213 N-DSF   η or 2228 PRT   εν in 1722 PREP  μερει respect 3313 N-DSN  εορτης of a holy day 1859 N-GSF   η or 2228 PRT  νουμηνιας of the new moon 3561 N-GSF   η or 2228 PRT  σαββατων of the sabbaths, 4521 N-GPN

As per the Colossians 2:14 table, the bold writing is the King James Bible translation and the green number underneath is the Strong's dictionary number that corresponds. The row underneath contains the Strong's dictionary definition for each word. Only the last part of Colossians 2:16 is given here as that is all that is required to see the area of the verse that relates to the plural or singular issue.

KJV text
Strong's

of the new moon,
3561

or
2228

of the Sabbath days:
4521

Strong's
Dictionary
Definition.

 

G3561 noo-may-nee'-ah Feminine of a compound of G3501 and G3376 (as noun by implication of G2250); the festival of new moon: - new moon.

G2228 ay A primary particle of distinction between two connected terms; disjunctive, or; comparative, than: - and, but (either), (n-) either, except it be, (n-) or (else), rather, save, than, that, what, yea. Often used in connection with other particles.

G4521 sab'-bat-on Of Hebrew origin [H7676]; the Sabbath (that is, Shabbath), or day of weekly repose from secular avocations (also the observance or institution itself); by extension a se'nnight, that is, the interval between two Sabbaths; likewise the plural in all the above applications: - sabbath (day), week.

 
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