Days of the Week

OK. I have some bits of information about the concept of seven-day weeks, but I’m not sure how they all tie together.

  1. Israel had a 7-day week based on the existence of the “Sabbath” or day of rest.

  2. Greece and Rome had a 7-day week based on (presumably Babylonian) astrology. This arose from taking the hours of the day (12 hours from dawn to dusk, 12 more hours from dusk till dawn), and assigning the planets to them, according to the speed of their motion (Saturn, Jupiter, Mars, Sun, Venus, Mercury, Moon). Now, the planet which ruled dawn on a given day was called the ruler of that day. Since there are 24 hours and 7 planets, every day the hour of dawn would be ruled by a planet 3 places down on the above list (SATURN-day jupiter mars SUN-day venus mercury MOON-day saturn jupiter MARS-day [Tuesday] and so on).

  3. The Hebrew name for Saturn is “The Sabbath [planet]”. (Shabbathai or something like that).

Now, is it just a coincidence that Israel had a 7-day Sabbath week and the Greeks and Romans also had a 7-day astrological week, or is there an old Babylonian connection there?

When did the Hebrew name for the Sabbath appear? Was it created by Jews who knew about the Roman/Greek astrological week, so the reasoning went, “Saturn is the planet which according to the goyim is the astrological ruler of the seventh day. The seventh day is the Sabbath. Therefore we’ll call Saturn the Sabbath Planet.” Or what?

(I’m aware that the English day-names are just translations of the Roman astrological day-names, with pagan Anglo-Saxon gods replacing the pagan Roman gods… And I know about how Christians changed the day of worship to Sunday, and in some areas the week is considered to begin on Monday because of that, blah blah blah. I’m not curious about that. I’m just curious about the Greco-Roman vs. Jewish questions above.)

This may have been a baseless assumption, but I always assumed that the seven day week was fundamental because the time between lunar phases is just a tad over 7 days.

Never regret what seemed like a good idea at the time.

Yeah, well, I’d read that one before, but that’s a fairly vague and wussy answer as Cecil’s answers go, and it doesn’t go anywhere near helping me with the precise questions I outlined above.

Cecil’s answer was not “vague or wussy.”
He was not asked about names for the sabbath.

I’ll wager Dex can help you, though.

No, it’s not a coincidence, not at all.

Judaism’s mystical tradition (the Kaballah) considers astrology (not in its modern form, but practiced according to Kabbalistic guidelines) to be a valid form of mysticism. Each of the planets is indeed considered to have a “power period” durting certain parts of the day, certain days of the week, and certain months of the year (each zodiacal symbol is considered to be “in the sphere” of one of the planets). The Greek-Roman-Babylonian stuff you are referring to all came from the same core of tradition that this came from.

As for “Shabtai” being the name of Saturn in Hebrew, it’s because Saturn is the planet “in power” on the Shabbat (which name means “abstaining”, i.e., from work…the planet was named for the day, not vice versa.

The correspondence between the days and planets seems to have translated pretty well into our current weekday names, except that Wednesday and Thursday seem to have gotten reversed (my books say that in the Kabbalistic tradition, Wednesday is presided over by Mercury, which would logically correspond to Thor, and Thursday by Jupiter, which would logically correspond to Odin, so it seems that something of that sort got lost in the translation).

Chaim Mattis Keller

“Sherlock Holmes once said that once you have eliminated the
impossible, whatever remains, however improbable, must be
the answer. I, however, do not like to eliminate the impossible.
The impossible often has a kind of integrity to it that the merely improbable lacks.”
– Douglas Adams’s Dirk Gently, Holistic Detective

cmkeller writes:

Only if we assume an identity, of function at least, between Odin/Jupiter and Thor/Mercury, which isn’t the case. In Germanic mythology, Thor® is depicted as the Thunderer, armed with the lightning, the tradiional weapon of Jupiter/Zeus; he is not, however, king/progenitor of the Aesir.
Odin/Woten, OTOH, was, as I recall, identified by Romans with Mercury, in his traditional function as chooser of the slain (cf. Mercury’s as guide of the dead).
There seems to have been a conflation in the Mediterranean basin of Indo-European “Father Sky” (*dyeu p@ter, with “@” standing in for schwa, a/k/a Juppiter, Zeus Pater) with Fertile Crescent “Lord Storm” (Hadad, Enlil), which makes comparisons between the Grecco-Roman and other Indo-European pantheons slippery at best.

“Kings die, and leave their crowns to their sons. Shmuel HaKatan took all the treasures in the world, and went away.”

You know, I can’t believe I had overlooked the “thunder” connection between Thor and Jupiter…I had always equated Jupiter with Odin because of the “chief deity” aspect. But you have a good point there. Thanks.

Chaim Mattis Keller

Hey, I’ll defend Cece when he deserves it and slag him when he deserves it. His answer to the days of the week question, wussy or not, was really vague on the points I’m interested in.

CMKellar, I’m aware of the Kabbalah, but I am not aware of any solid evidence on whether planetary/sephiroth attributions are historically old enough to have anything to do with this. Do you know of any?

And yes, Woden was known as “Mercurius Germanicus” to the Romans, so when Roman/Anglo-Saxon speakers translated “Dies Mercurii” into English it came out “Woden’s Day.” Same with Juppiter/Thor/Thursday.

Ed Heil:

Not outside the Jewish scriptures themselves. I know this isn’t generally considered “solid evidence,” but considering how well it jibes with the weekdays, there’s no reason to doubt that it all came from the same source, whatever that may be.

Chaim Mattis Keller

Might I suggest the book “Calendar” by a non-ficiton author whose name I can’t remember at the moment? It’s out as a trade paperback and is a very interesting book which disusses how humans historically wrapped their minds around the concept of time, eventually ending up with the modern, widely-accepted idea of the year. It also breaks down into weeks and I believe that it supports the lunar theory – meaning, that people independently recognized the phases of the moon and broke their concept of “time” into cycles of the moon and fractions thereof, and one fractional cycle of the moon (waxing, full, waning, none) roughly equates to one week. Anyhoo, it’s a really interesting book.

<< I’m aware of the Kabbalah, but I am not aware of any solid evidence on whether planetary/sephiroth attributions are historically old enough to have anything to do with this. >>

By and large, the Zohar dates from the late 1200s, although claiming to be much older. There is some (very limited) evidence that some of the concepts do date back to the first or second century AD, but I don’t think that includes the planetary stuff.

In any case, even by first or second century AD, we’re into the seven day week for Judaism and Christianity.