Acts 1:12, A Sabbath Day’s Walk

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

//The book of Acts tells us that the allowable distance an observant Jew could walk on the Sabbath without violating the law was about the distance from Jerusalem to the Mount of Olives. That’s about 3,000 feet, or 2,000 cubits. This distance is derived from Joshua 3:4, which is the distance specified between the people and the Ark of the Covenant as they travelled to the promised land:

Yet there shall be a space between you and it, about two thousand cubits by measure: come not near unto it, that ye may know the way by which ye must go: for ye have not passed this way heretofore.

Now let’s talk about the Essenes, an ultra-strict community of Jews who held rigid purity laws. In their scrolls, they insisted that the community latrines must be a distance of 2,000 cubits away*. This leads to an interesting conclusion: It appears that it was illegal for the Essenes to empty their bowels on a Saturday! The latrines would be further away than they could legally walk on the Sabbath. See the research of Robert Feather in the New Dawn Magazine, 12/23/2010.

* Different texts record different distances, from 1000 to 3000 cubits, and one archaeological discovery seems to locate a latrine area only 1640 feet from the Qumran site. So, take this post with a grain of salt!

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