Colossian 2:16: Is it the Seventh Day Sabbath?

Some Christians try to prove that the 7th Day Sabbath is now done away by referring to Col 2:14-17 as proof.

Colossians 2:14-17 reads, “blotting out the 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: Which are a shadow of things to come; but the body is of Christ. ”

Is the 7th day Sabbath really done away in the above scripture passage? Notice the following key points:

1) The Greek word for “handwriting” in Col 2:14 is “cheirographon”, pronounced “khi-rog'-raf-on” and the definition is, “something handwritten (”chirograph”), that is, a manuscript (specifically a legal document or bond (figuratively)): - handwriting.” And the Greek word for "Ordinances” is “dogma”, pronounced “dog'-mah” and the Strong's definition is “a law (civil, ceremonial or ecclesiastical): - decree, ordinance.”

Did you note the last one? It means “a law”, but what type of law? The two words we should be very familiar with are “ceremonial” i.e., “ceremonial law” and “ordinances” which comprised the things contained in the ceremonial law. This is what is done away.

2) Luke 1:6 KJV also demonstrates 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 also the ordinances as well as the Ten Commandments, but the New Covenant has only the Ten Commandments that God now writes in our hearts so it will be our hearts desire to obey Him. God said that the fault with the Old Covenant was the people would not obey it and nowhere does God say that His law lost any Commandments.

3) Colossians 2:14 refers to “the handwriting of ordinances that was against us, which was contrary to us,” as being taken out of the way and nailed to the cross. Now God did not write the 10 Commandments (which includes the 7th day Sabbath) by hand, but by finger:

Exodus 31:18, "And he gave unto Moses, when he had made an end of communing with him upon mount Sinai, two tables of testimony, tables of stone, written with the finger of God".

The 10 commandments including the 7th day Sabbath was written on "stone". Moses, however, wrote with his “hand” the ordinances found in the book of the law:

2 Chronicles 33:8, "Neither will I anymore remove the foor of Israel from out of the land which I have appointed for your fathers; so that they will take heed to do all that I have commanded them, according to the whole law, and the statutes and the ordinances by the hand of Moses".

Now notice that the Scripture is specific about what was against us”:

Deutoronomy 31:26, "Take this book of the law, and put it in the side of the ark of the covenant of the LORD your God, that it may be there for a witness against thee".

Note that Paul said that this “handwriting of ordinances” was “against us” (Colossians 2:14). Yet, the law of 10 Commandments could have never been against anyone, for it was “perfect” –Psalm 19:7. It was “book” of Moses that was “against us” (Deuteronomy 31:26). See also Col:214-16 for more details.

4) The word "which" in v. 17 is a limiting pronoun and refers to the sabbaths only. How do we know it refers to the sabbaths only? It agrees with them in gender and number, as such pronouns must agree with their antecedent. The Greek, with no verse numbers, says "and sabbaths which are a shadow" making it clear that [a] not all Sabbaths are shadows, and [b] only those Sabbaths which are shadows are being referenced.

5) The context Colossians 2:11-23 is focused on the ceremonial law.


“Circumcision” (v. 11)
“Ordinances” (v. 14)
“Meat” (v. 16)
“Holyday” (v. 16)
“New Moon” (v. 16)
“Ordinances” (v. 20)

Since Paul mentions “ordinances” twice in Colossian 2, it is clear that what he had in mind was the ceremonial law.

6) Colossians 2:16 is a parallel passage to Ezekiel 45:17.

Ezekiel 45:17

Colossians 2:16

And it shall be the prince's part [to give] burnt offerings, and meat offerings, and drinkofferings, in the feasts, and in the new moons, and in the sabbaths, in all solemnities of the house of Israel

Let no man therefore judge you in meat, or indrink, or in respect of an holyday, or of the new moon, or of the sabbath [days]

Note that Paul lists all five elements in Ezekiel in the EXACT order and this could mean that he is referencing Ezekiel 45:17.

Holyday (feasts)
New moon

Then, Ezekiel adds the phrase מועד, translated in KJV as, “in all the solemnities”. This phrase is never employed in the Old Testament in connection with the seventh day Sabbath, but is frequently used in connection with the “feasts” (See 1 Chron. 23:31, 2 Chron. 2:4, 8:13, 31:3, Neh. 10:33, Lam. 2:6), and with “ordinance” in Ex. 13:10 and 2 Chron. 2:4. This is how the NIV translates Ezekiel 45:17:

“It will be the duty of the prince to provide the burnt offerings, grain offerings and drink offerings at the festivals, the New Moons and the Sabbaths—at all the appointed feasts of the house of Israel.”

Hence, we conclude that the “Sabbaths” in Ezekiel 45:17 is referring to the annual Sabbath days that were part of the “appointed feasts”. Given the context of Col 2:16,17 and the parallelism with Ezekiel 45:17, it is easy to see that Paul had the “appointed feasts” in mind when he listed the Sabbath.

Some put forward this arguement: "The annual Sabbaths are already included in the “holyday” category, and it would make no sense for Paul to mention the annual Sabbaths twice. Furthermore, in the Old Testament, the terms “feasts”, “new moons”, and “Sabbaths” occur in proximity to each other numerous times, and these Old Testament verses refer to the seventh day Sabbaths, not the annual Sabbaths (1 Chron. 23:31, 2 Chron. 2:4, 8:13, 31:3, Neh. 10:33, Isa. 1:13-14, Eze. 45:17).]"

Regarding the OT uses of Sabbath with the new moons and feasts, nothing is more natural in writing than to organize data categorically. If we were in the age of the OT, the laws that refer to which times are to be kept holy would be one category that we would naturally group together. It would be the category that affects our calendar and planning. So I can read nothing more into the grouping than that these all relate to time.

It is also common for Bible writers to use redundancy in series for emphasis. However, the context would always trump word order. The context in Col 2:16 is certainly referring to the ceremonial sabbaths.

Some alternative responses with regard to the order in Col 2:16:

Pastor Ron du Preez, ThD, DMin, in his book, 'Putting the “Sabbath” to Rest: A Scriptural Study of the Sabbatōn in Colossians 2:16"', shows that the structure that the apostle Paul employs in this passage is the chiasm, familiar in Hebrew writing and having an ABA (or ABCBA, etc.) structure. Hence, he shows that Colossians 2:16 refers to ceremonial yearly, monthly, and yearly observances. The key to this understanding is derived from Hosea 2:11, in which God states of Israel's ceremonial observances, “I will also cause all her mirth to cease, her feast days, her new moons, and her sabbaths, and all her solemn feasts.” In Hosea 2:11, the sequence is chiastic, which is typical of Hebrew thought. In Colossians 2:16 Paul, a Hebrew, is making reference to Hosea 2:11 by speaking of yearly feast days, such as Passover, the monthly new moon observances, and the yearly Sabbaths, e.g., the Day of Atonement. These are all part of the ceremonial law which have been nailed to the cross in Colossians 2:14.

Another point that Dr. du Preez brings out is that when the weekly seventh-day Sabbath is spoken of in the Bible, there are linguistic clues that help the reader distinguish between the ceremonial sabbaths and the Seventh-day Sabbath, which is an everlasting covenant instituted at Creation. One of these linguistic clues is that God refers to the Seventh-day weekly Sabbaths as “My Sabbaths," whereas He refers to the ceremonial sabbaths as “her,” “its,” or “your” sabbaths. (Referenced: )

- The order in Hosea 2:11 and Ezekiel 45:17

“I will also cause all her mirth to cease, her feast days, her new moons, and her sabbaths, and all her solemn feasts.”

In every other passage in the Bible where the Sabbath, new moons, and feasts are all mentioned in the same verse, the following order is used (See: 1 Chronicles 23:31, 2 Chronicles 31:3, 2 Chronicles 8:13, 2 Chronicles 2:4, Nehemiah 10:33)?:

- Sabbaths
- New Moons
- Feasts

This order seems to indicate the Sabbath as being of primary importance and hence being listed first.

However, in Ezekiel 45:17 and Hosea 2:11, we find that the order is reversed:

- Feasts
- New Moons
- Sabbaths

And both Ezekiel 45:17 and Hosea 2:11 add the Hebrew phrase מועד after “Sabbaths”, confirming those Sabbaths in the context of the festive assemblies, not the Seventh Day Sabbath.

Arguement: [Colossian 2:16 Sabbath is “a shadow of things to come; but the body is of Christ” –verse 17].

The seventh day Sabbath is not a shadow. Now a shadow points to something, whether forward or backwards. Which way did the seventh day Sabbath point? Take a look: Ex 20:11,"For in six days the LORD made heaven and earth, the sea, and all that in them is, and rested the seventh day: wherefore the LORD blessed the sabbath day, and hallowed it". The Sabbath points backwards, and not forward. It was set up in creation week as a memorial of creation, showing all living inhabitants of the earth that it was he who made all things and is the true God. It was not a shadow… “of things to come” as verse 17 says, but rather of things past… the creation.

Below are two Bible Commentaries from famous theologians who had no trouble in understanding the truth on Colossians 2:16.

Adam Clarke's Commentary on the Bible, LL.D., F.S.A., (1715-1832) “Colossians 2:14 - Blotting out the hand-writing of ordinances - By the hand-writing of ordinances the apostle most evidently means the ceremonial law: this was against them, for they were bound to fulfill it; and it was contrary to them, as condemning them for their neglect and transgression of it. This law God himself has blotted out.

Nailing it to his cross - When Christ was nailed to the cross, our obligation to fulfill these ordinances was done away.”

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.”

Albert Barnes' Notes on the Bible (1798-1870)“Colossians 2:14 - Blotting out the handwriting - The word rendered handwriting means something written by the hand, a manuscript; and here, probably, the writings of the Mosaic law, or the law appointing many ordinances or observances in religion. The allusion is probably to a written contract, in which we bind ourselves to do any work, or to make a payment, and which remains in force against us until the bond is cancelled. That might be done, either by blotting out the names, or by drawing lines through it, or, as appears to have been practiced in the East, by driving a nail through it. The Jewish ceremonial law is here represented as such a contract, binding those under it to its observance, until it was nailed to the cross. The meaning here is, that the burdensome requirements of the Mosaic law are abolished, and that its necessity is superseded by the death of Christ.

Of ordinances - Prescribing the numerous rites and ceremonies of the Jewish religion.Which was contrary to us - Operated as a hindrance, or obstruction, in the matter of religion. The ordinances of the Mosaic law were necessary, in order to introduce the gospel; but they were always burdensome.

Nailing it to his cross - As if he had nailed it to his cross, so that it would be entirely removed out of our way. The death of Jesus had the same effect, in regard to the rites and institutions of the Mosaic religion, as if they had been affixed to his cross.

Colossians 2:16 - Or in respect of a holy day - Margin, part. The meaning is, “in the part, or the particular of a holy day; that is, in respect to it” The word rendered “holy-day” - εορτὴ heorte - means properly a “feast” or “festival;” and the allusion here is to the festivals of the Jews. The sense is, that no one had a right to impose their observance on Christians, or to condemn them if they did not keep them. They had been delivered from that obligation by the death of Christ; Colossians 2:14.

Or of the new moon - On the appearance of the new moon, among the Hebrews, in addition to the daily sacrifices, two bullocks, a ram, and seven sheep, with a meat offering, were required to be presented to God; Num 10:10; Num 28:11-14. The new moon in the beginning of the month Tisri (October) was the beginning of their civil year, and was commanded to be observed as a festival; Lev 23:24, Lev 23:25.

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 - not 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.”


See also: : Is Sabbath plural or Singular?