Here's an exellent article on the subject by Ralph Woodrow
DID SUNDAY WORSHIP
COME FROM PAGANISM?
There are many Christians—not only those who meet on Saturday, but many
who attend church on Sunday—who assume that Sunday observance
originally came from paganism. The basic idea is this:
Sunday was the established day of rest, the weekly
holiday in the pagan world. On this day each week,
the Romans, Greeks, and other pagans, gathered in
temples to worship their pagan gods, particularly the
Sun-god—hence the term Sun-day. Later, when these
pagans professed Christianity, they gradually brought
the overwhelmingly popular practice of meeting on
Sunday into the “Church.”
The teaching that Sunday worship “came from paganism” has been so often
repeated, it may come as a surprise when I tell you this teaching has
no basis in fact.
It is misinformation.
If I can show you—and I believe I can—that Sunday was not a day
of rest and worship among pagans, then it should be quite clear that
the practice of Christians meeting on Sunday, the first day of the
week, did not come from this source.
In the New Testament, “the fi rst day of the week” is mentioned eight
times. These references do not give any information about whether or
not the fi rst day of the week—Sunday—was a day of rest and worship
among pagans. For this we will need to look into history. In doing so,
suppose we were to contact highly qualifi ed historians—at great
centers of learning like the British Museum, the Smithsonian Institute,
and Harvard University—and ask them if Sunday was a weekly holiday in
the pagan world. Surely their answers would be weighty.
Well, this has already been done—by D. M. Canright, a Seventh-Day
Adventist minister. He sincerely believed Sunday worship came from
teaching had been passed on to him by equally sincere people. But when
he began to look into the subject more fully, he came to a different
conclusion. It was
at this time—back in 1913-1914—that he contacted these great centers of
learning we have men-tioned.
He carefully avoided giving any idea of his own views or purpose in
writing, so as not to influence answers in any way. The responses he
received (which I have
abridged slightly because of space limitations) are as follows:
From the world renowned British Museum in London, England, Department
of Greek and Roman Antiquities:
I am commanded by the Assistant Keeper of Greek and Roman Antiquities
to reply as follows to your questions on the ancient week:
Question 1: Did the pagan Romans and Greeks ever have any regular
weekly day of rest from secular work?
Question 2: Did they have any regular weeklyfestival day?
Question 3: Did they have any regular weekly day when they assembled
for pagan worship?
Question 4: Did they have any special day of the week when individuals
went to the temples to prayor make offerings?
Answer: No; both for Greeks and Romans the month was the unit and not
the week. The Greek calendar varied in different states but the month
was generally divided into three periods of ten days. The Romans
reckoned from three fixed points in the month, the Kaleend or first,
the Nones fifth or seventh, the Ides thirteenth or fifteenth. These
subdivisions in themselves had no religious signifi cance. Also in the
Roman calendars were nundinal, or market days, at periods of eight
days. On these days farm work, etc., stopped and citizens fl ocked into
the town markets. To some extent this may be a regular stoppage of
secular work; but it had no religious signifi cance.
Question 5: As Sunday was sacred to the Sun, Monday to the Moon,
Saturday to Saturn, etc., were those supposed deities worshipped on
their own particular
days more than on any other days?
Answer: No; the old worship of the gods was disappearing when the
seven-day week came about. The signifi cance of the deities’ names was
not religious, e.g., if a person were born on Monday, the moon would
infl uence his horoscope, but the moon was never an object of common
Question 6: When was our week of seven days first introduced into the
Answer: There are traces in the literature of the late republic (fi rst
century B. C.) that the Romans used the week of seven days for
astrological purposes, in
connection with the many Eastern superstitions of the period. It was
probably the third century, A. D. before the seven day week came into
Question 7: From whom did the Romans learn the week of seven days?
Answer: From the Jews, alternately the Assyrians and Babylonians; the
names were probably fi xed by the Hellenistic Greeks.
Question 8: Did the pagan Greeks ever adopt in common life, or in their
calendar, the week of seven days?
Question 9: Did Apollo, the Sun-god, either among the Romans or Greeks,
have any special day on which he was worshipped with prayers or
offerings more than on any other day?
Answer: There were certain set festivals at various temples; these were
annual, not weekly.
Question 10: Did the pagan reverence for Sunday have anything to do in
infl uencing Christians to select that day as their rest day?
Answer: No; it can hardly be said that there was any special reverence
for Sunday in pagan times (see answer to Number 5).
—I am, sir, Your obedient servant, F. N.
Concerning this response, Canright says:
“You see this historian gives an unqualified NO to all the questions.
Notice particularly that the names of the days of the week were all
only astrological, not religious. There was no religious sacredness
attached to a day because it was named after some planet as
Sun-day—Sun’s day—or Monday, Moon’s day, etc. The sun was not
worshipped on Sunday, nor the moon on Monday, nor Saturn on Saturday,
etc. Also notice carefully that Apollo was not worshipped on
Sunday...his festival days were annual, not weekly.”
From the Smithsonian Institute, Washington, D.C., Canright received the
following response to similar questions:
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