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24 Oct 2017 05:41am -0400 EDT
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ICOS 2008 Conference Abstract

On the Name of the Weekly Day of Rest

Author(s):
M Falk
Canada

In antiquity, Jews developed the concept of a seven-day week with the seventh day, named ‘Shabbat’, devoted to rest and worship. This concept was later borrowed by other religions and cultures but the day of rest was shifted to other days of the week. When the name ‘Shabbat’ was transmitted through Islam, it continued to denote the name of the seventh day of the week, but no longer the day of rest. When the name was transmitted through Christianity, however, a more complicated situation developed. Some day names derived from ‘Shabbat’ now denote the seventh day of the week, but no longer the day of rest and worship, while other names derived from ‘Shabbat’ denote the day of rest, but no longer the seventh day of the week. Still other terms derived from ‘Shabbat’ denote new and unrelated concepts. For example, in English Sabbath denotes the weekly day of rest, usually understood to be Sunday. The derived terms sabbatarian and sabbatical retain the sense of rest. On the other hand, witches’ sabbath denotes the very opposite of rest, a midnight orgy of frenzied demons, sorcerers and witches. I will discuss the etymology and the range of meanings of the root ‘sh-b-t’ in biblical and modern Hebrew. I will then trace the semantic changes that the day name ‘Shabbat’ has undergone when borrowed and used by other cultures.

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