Sabbath Day’s Journey

Then returned they unto Jerusalem from the mount called Olivet, which is from Jerusalem a sabbath day’s journey.

Acts 1:12 (KJV)

Sabbath day’s journey – Wow, that sounds like a long distance, doesn’t it? Walking from the Mount of Olives to Jerusalem must have taken a very long time. A Sabbath day’s journey appears to be no small effort. Or is it? A “Sabbath day’s journey” is a very Jewish term and probably lost on most Christians today. Let’s dig in.

When I was in Israel last year, we actually walked from the Mount of Olives to the Temple inside the boundaries of old Jerusalem. It took about 15-20 minutes to walk down the Mount, through the Kidron valley, and on up to the Temple. Even the elderly in my group were able to do it.

Mount of Olives on the right. Kidron valley in the middle, and the Temple/Jerusalem during the time of Yeshua.

So how could the text say that this is a whole Sabbath day’s journey? Well let’s take a look at one of the Jewish laws (not God’s) that has to do with traveling on the Sabbath. Remember, this is not found in the Bible – it’s from the Talmud. has an article about this stating the maximum walking range on the Sabbath is 0.596 miles or 960 meters, and this only applies to outside the city. Walking within the city isn’t limited. This rule comes from the Mishnah.

On that day, Rabbi Akiva expounded [the verse], (Numbers 35:5) “You shall measure outside the city on the eastern outskirts, two thousand cubits…” (Numbers 35:5), and another verse says (Numbers 35:4) “… from the wall of the city and outward, 1000 cubits around.” It is impossible to say one thousand cubits, for it already said two thousand cubits, and it is impossible to say two thousand cubits, for it already said 1000 cubits. How does it work? One-thousand cubits is for the open land, and two thousand cubits is the Sabbath border [the distance one can travel from the city on Sabbath].” Rabbi Eliezer, son of Rabbi Yosi the Galilian says, one thousand cubits is for the open land, and two thousand cubits is for fields and orchards.

Mishnah Sotah 5

So one of the many Sabbath laws added by the Jews indicates that travel on the Sabbath also has a limitation. This is completely Jewish, and not explicitly identified in the Bible/Torah. So why is it in the book of Acts?

It’s in the New Testament because the book of Acts was written by Luke, a Jewish proselyte who was very familiar in Jewish culture. The walk is less than a half mile. It was permitted to walk that distance on the Sabbath when outside the city. Luke uses this phrase to help readers understand the distance which means this book must have been intended for a Jewish audience, albeit the Jews who believed in Yeshua as the Messiah. I find that fascinating that the New Testament would include such a purely Jewish phrase that focuses heavily on Jewish law and culture. Don’t you? Maybe the New Testament isn’t a “Christian” book after all? Maybe it’s every bit as Jewish as the Old Testament. In order to understand, we need to study Jewish 1st century culture. In order to pick up on these little details, we need to have sufficient knowledge of Jewish customs and laws; not just God’s laws, but the Talmud too!

Confusion of Good and Evil

And certain men which came down from Judaea taught the brethren, and said, Except ye be circumcised after the manner of Moses, ye cannot be saved.
Acts 15:1 (KJV)

Ye cannot be saved – The great contest is not between God fearing believers and unrighteous unbelievers. In this world, it seems, good and evil are mixed together in deceptive ways. Evil, when visibly obvious, poses no threat to my walk with God, but when it is subtle and under the guise of good, I become much more susceptible. Continue reading “Confusion of Good and Evil”

The Lost Desire of Obedience

And as they went on their way, they came unto a certain water: and the eunuch said, See, here is water; what doth hinder me to be baptized?

Acts 8: 36 (KJV)

What doth hinder me – What’s going on here? We have an Ethiopian man reading the scroll of Isaiah. First, he’s a Gentile. Second, he’s a eunuch. According to Jewish law at that time, he’s got two strikes against him. But God encourages Philip to go and speak to him.  Continue reading “The Lost Desire of Obedience”

Devout Men

And there were dwelling at Jerusalem Jews, devout men, out of every nation under heaven.

Acts 2:5 (KJV)

Men – This is a description of the day of Pentecost when the Spirit descended upon the followers of the Way. It wasn’t a fluke that so many people were gathered this day in Jerusalem. Who were these devout men, and why were they there? Continue reading “Devout Men”

The Troublesome Law

Wherefore my sentence is, that we trouble not them, which from among the Gentiles are turned to God:

Acts 15:19 (KJV)

Trouble – Don’t trouble the Gentiles with the law, right? They don’t need this because they have Jesus! And so James establishes an edict stating that the Gentiles just need to adhere to 4 things: abstain from pollutions of idols, and from fornication, and from things strangled, and from blood.  Continue reading “The Troublesome Law”

Pentecost’s Other Names

And when the day of Pentecost was fully come, they were all with one accord in one place.

Acts 2:1 (KJV)

Pentecost – It’s the name we Christians are most familiar with. Pentecost literally means “the 50th day”, but do we understand what it’s referring to here? Yes, Pentecost is the day that God poured out the Holy Spirit on all flesh as the prophet Joel prophesied in Joel 2:28. It’s what Yeshua was referring to when he told his apostles to tarry in Jerusalem and wait for the power from on high in Luke 24:49. And even the prophet Ezekiel speaks of this new spirit and its role in our lives in Ezekiel 36:27. But why does the name mean “the 50th day”? Continue reading “Pentecost’s Other Names”

Yeshua’s Purpose

Unto you first God, having raised up his Son Jesus, sent him to bless you, in turning away every one of you from his iniquities.

Acts 3:26 (KJV)

To bless – Why was Yeshua sent in the flesh? It’s such a basic question, and more often than not our immediate reaction is that He came to die for our sins. While this bears truth, does that truth apply to everyone on earth? According to Peter, not really. Continue reading “Yeshua’s Purpose”

The Priests Nobody Talks About

And the word of God increased; and the number of the disciples multiplied in Jerusalem greatly; and a great company of the priests were obedient to the faith.

Acts 6:7 (KJV)

Priests – Do you have all the facts? Are you sure it was the Jewish nation as a whole that sacrificed Christ? It seems to be the majority consensus, but is it true? Was the majority of the Jews against Yeshua? Christianity has been riding this wagon for a very long time. And for that reason we’ve separated ourselves from our roots because we don’t want to be associated with those people. Continue reading “The Priests Nobody Talks About”

And Thy House

And they said, Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and thou shalt be saved, and thy house.

Acts 16:31 (NASB)

And thy house – Does this strike you odd? This prison keeper asked Paul what he must do to be saved. And Paul’s answer is that if he would believe on Yeshua, then not only he would be saved, but his whole house as well. Isn’t salvation an individual choice? How is it that by this one man’s belief his entire household would be saved? Continue reading “And Thy House”

When to say ‘no’

But Peter said, Not so, Lord; for I have never eaten any thing that is common or unclean.

Acts 10:14 (KJV)

Not so, Lord – If the Lord came and commanded something of you, or showed you a vision, would you tell Him, “Sorry Lord, I aint doing it.”? Well Peter did. But then again, Peter was well versed in Torah, and he knew when to say “no”. He had never eaten anything unclean, and he wasn’t about to start now. Sure, we know now that the Lord was using a metaphor for Peter which represented the Gentiles (unclean). We can jump down to verse 28 and grasp the full meaning of the divine instruction, but Peter can’t. He’s living in the moment, and this vision seriously perplexes him. Why? Continue reading “When to say ‘no’”