SUNDAY A PAGAN DAY OF WORSHIP?
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:
Question 1: Did the pagan Romans and Greeks ever have any regular
weekly day of rest from secular work?
Question 2: Did they ever have any weekly festival
Question 3: Did they have any regular weekly day
when they assembled for pagan worship?
Question 4: When was our calendar of the week fi rst
introduced among the Romans and Greeks?
Answer: The division of the month into weeks
was introduced into Rome from Egypt. The date is
uncertain, but it was not earlier than the second
century, A. D.
Question 5: When was our calendar of the week
fi rst recognized in Roman law?
Answer: The earliest Sunday legislation was enacted
under Constantine I, 321 A.D. No legislation of
earlier date on the division of the month is known.
Question 6: As each day of the week was dedicated
to some god, as Sunday to the Sun, Monday to the
Moon, Saturday to Saturn, etc., was each of these
supposed deities worshipped on one particular day
more than any other day?
Question 7: Did the pagan Romans have any one
special day in the week when individuals, if they
chose, went to make prayers or offerings to their
Question 8: Did Apollo have any special day in the
week or month more than any other day when he
was worshipped with prayers or offerings?
—Very truly yours, R. RATHBORN.
Canright addressed the same questions to George F.
Moore, Professor of Ancient Roman and Greek History,
at Harvard University, Cambridge, Massachusetts.
Here was his response:
There are two seven-day weeks: the Jewish week, with a Sabbath on the
seventh day; and the Astrological week, with days named after the sun,
moon, and fi ve planets, in our order determined by the theories of
astrology, but without any day of rest....
The Astrological week fi rst appears in Greek and Latin writings about
the beginning of the Christian era….It had no use in ordinary life.
Abstinence from labor on the seventh day, or on one day in seven, is a
distinctively Jewish institution.
The edict of Constantine (321 A.D.) closing the courts on Sunday and
prohibiting some kinds of labor on that day, is the first recognition
of a seven-day week in Roman law. The ancient Romans had a market day
every eight days, when the peasants came to town to market, but it was
in no sense a day of rest. In the old Roman calendar there were many
days when the courts were closed and other public and private business
was not done. They had also many festivals
on which the people left their ordinary occupation
to take part in the celebrations, but these have no
periodicity like that of the week….
The planetary week in which the days were named from their regents,
Saturday, Sunday, etc., was an invention
of the astrologers, probably in the second century, B. C., and
has no relation to religion or influence upon it. Saturn, for example,
was not worshipped on Saturday, nor Jupiter on Thursday. The festivals
of the several gods were never weekly festivals. Private persons went
to the temples when they had occasion to offer prayers or sacrifi ces
or to make vows, etc.
There were no stated days for such visits—though some days were in some
temples luckier than others, and there was nothing like a stated day
for the assembling of a worshipping con-gregation except the festivals
of the local calendar.
—Very truly yours, GEORGE F. MOORE.
The following response was from Professor W. H.
Westerman of the University of Wisconsin, Madison,
I shall answer your questions briefly, and in the order in which you
1. The pagan Greeks and Romans never had a weekly
day of rest.
2. They never had a weekly holiday or festival day.
3. They never had a special day in the week on which they made
offerings or prayers to heathen gods. (Neither the pagan Greeks nor the
Romans recognized a seven-day division or week division in the month.)
4. They made no offerings or prayers on Sunday to their gods any more
than on other days.
5. The seven-day period of dividing the month or the week was never
adopted into the calendar of the pagan Greeks. It appears in the Roman
calendar after the time of Theodosius, or after 391 A.D., but the week,
or seven-day period, fi rst appears in Roman law in a constitution of
Constantine, promulgated in 321 A. D. In the constitution of
Constantine, which spoke of the “venerable day of the sun,” Constantine
regards Sunday as venerable undoubtedly from the Christian
standpoint…If it was in any way venerable or a holiday to the pagans,
so far as my information goes, the pagans must have adopted the
practice from the Christians.
Apollo was not worshipped on any stated day of the week or month more
than any other. I do not believe that there is any proof that the early
Christians were led to observe Sunday by the example of any pagan
worship upon that day.
–Very Sincerely yours, W. H. WESTERMAN.
These same basic points were confi rmed in a letter Canright received
from J. W. Moncrieff, Professor at the University of Chicago, who went
on to say that the notion Sunday was a weekly holiday among the Romans
is simply not true—that “reliable, competent historians, with one
accord proclaim this notion to be a myth, pure and simple.…I have
consulted sixteen encyclopedias and dictionaries, and they differ in no
essential detail in their treatment of the subject.”
These statements from men who have devoted considerable
time to the study of history are weighty. As historians they could
provide answers without any need to uphold, or deny, a doctrinal
position. And they answered independently of each other. Two other
university Professors referred Canright to the book Roman Festivals by
Fowler. This book, though it describes many Roman festivals, says
absolutely nothing about any weekly day of rest or worship. Wouldn’t
this be a strange omission, if indeed Sunday had been their
national holiday—the day they assembled every week to worship the
Sun-god? Obviously this was not the case! Schaff, in his Church
History, says: “The pagan Romans paid no more regard to the Christian
Sunday than to the Jewish Sabbath.”
The Roman Calendar at the time of Christ and the founding of the
Christian church, was divided into months, not weeks—that feature was
added later. The Encyclopedia Americana, article “Week,” says: “The
Romans and Greeks…were not acquainted with the week till a late period.
The Romans had, however, for civil uses, as the arrangement of market
days, a cycle of eight days, the ninth being the recurring one, instead
of the eighth as with us.” Accordingly, their days were: 1, 2, 3, 4, 5,
6, 7, 8, then 1, 2, 3, etc. Whereas, with a seven day week, the days
are: 1, 2,
3, 4, 5, 6, 7, then 1, 2, 3, etc.
Now this should be carefully noticed. IF pagans gathered on the first
day of the week to worship Apollo, Mithra, or some other Sun-god, this
would not correspond, week after week, to what we call Sunday.
For example: Suppose our calendar had eight days in a week
(instead of seven), and we met for Christian worship at seven day
intervals. This would require a change of day each week! If we met the
first week on Saturday, seven days later we would meet on Friday. Seven
days later we would meet on Thursday. Seven days later we would meet on
Wednesday, etc. There is simply no way that the fi rst day—of an
eight-day cycle—will consistently correspond with the first day of a
seven-day cycle. This cries out in a loud voice, then, that the pagan
Romans did not observe what
we call Sunday as a weekly sacred day!
The edict of Constantine, A. D. 321, was the very first time in Roman
law that Sunday was set aside as a holiday. It is pretty obvious then,
isn’t it, that Sunday had not been the pagan national holiday of the
Roman empire before this time!
There are some—atheists, agnostics, etc.—who try to discredit
Christianity by finding parallels in pagan religions. They argue that
Christianity, in its entirety, was adopted from paganism. They do this
by citing a few similarities while ignoring vast differences. Often,
what may appear to be pagan is not pagan at all, when it is studied out
completely. Our present subject provides a good example of this.
Because the first day of the week is called “Sunday,” all someone has
to say is that this was the day each week when pagans gathered to
worship the sun-god, and people believe
it. From here it is only another step for someone to claim the practice
of Christians meeting on Sunday came from pagan sun worship!
Some Christian groups have spent millions of dollars
promoting the idea that Sunday worship came from paganism. Some believe
that in the end-time all Christians will be forced to worship on
Sunday—that this will tie in with the mark of the Beast! I believe,
from my studies over the years, these claims are seriously flawed. It
is my opinion that there are issues of greater importance—but I am not
throwing stones at anyone! I accept as Christians all who know Jesus
Christ as Lord—those who love him and whose lives have been changed by
him—regardless of denominational tag.
Over the years, I have had the opportunity to speak for many churches
and groups—including those who meet on Saturday, as well as many who
meet on Sunday. I have fine friends and pastors, for whom I have the
highest regard, in both camps. In this article I have purposely tried
to keep the
focus on the question, “Did Sunday Worship Come From Paganism?”—without
branching out into other details and issues. For the reasons I have
briefly stated here, I must reject the idea that Sunday was a
well-established, popular, weekly holiday in the pagan world—so popular
that church leaders gave in to the pressure, rebelled against God, and
adopted it as the day for Christian worship. How could Sunday worship
have come from paganism, when Sunday was never a pagan holiday?
THERE"S PLENTY OF EVIDENCE THE CHRISTIANS KEPT SUNDAY AS THE CHRISTIAN
SABBATH, EVEN BEFORE CONSTANTINE.
While Sabbatarians will quote 20th century authors who guess about what
happened 1900 years earlier, we quote Christians whose writings are
1900 years old!
(Date of the writing given first)
90 AD DIDACHE: "Christian Assembly on the Lord's Day: 1. But every
Lord's day do ye gather yourselves together, and break bread, and give
thanksgiving after having confessed your transgressions, that your
sacrifice may be pure. 2. But let no one that is at variance with his
fellow come together with you, until they be reconciled, that your
sacrifice may not be profaned. 3. For this is that which was spoken by
the Lord: In every place and time offer to me a pure sacrifice; for I
am a great King, saith the Lord, and my name is wonderful among the
nations." (Didache: The Teaching of the Twelve Apostles, Chapter XIV)
100 AD BARNABAS "We keep the eighth day [Sunday] with joyfulness, the
day also on which Jesus rose again from the dead" (The Epistle of
Barnabas, 100 AD 15:6-8).
100 AD BARNABAS: Moreover God says to the Jews, 'Your new moons and
Sabbaths 1 cannot endure.' You see how he says, 'The present Sabbaths
are not acceptable to me, but the Sabbath which I have made in which,
when I have rested [heaven: Heb 4] from all things, I will make the
beginning of the eighth day which is the beginning of another world.'
Wherefore we Christians keep the eighth day for joy, on which also
Jesus arose from the dead and when he appeared ascended into heaven.
(15:8f, The Epistle of Barnabas, 100 AD, Ante-Nicene Fathers , vol. 1,
110AD Pliny: they were in the habit of meeting on a certain fixed day
before it was light, when they sang in alternate verses a hymn to
Christ, as to a god, and bound themselves by a solemn oath not to (do)
any wicked deeds, never to commit any fraud, theft, or adultery, never
to falsify their word, nor deny a trust when they should be called upon
to deliver it up; after which it was their custom to separate, and then
reassemble to partake of good food—but food of an ordinary and innocent
kind. (About three years after the death of Ignatius in 250, an
important official communication was sent from one Pliny to Trajan the
Roman emperor. Pliny, the Roman governor of Bithynia, wrote of the
Christians who had been congregating there probably from at least A.D.
62 onwards. In this remarkable it is explicitly stated that these early
Christians observed the substance of most of the Ten Commandments, and
it is implied that they observed all ten as far as they were able to do
so. As far as they were able, for as most of the early Christians were
of slave stock or from other lower classes'-, and those who had heathen
masters or employers—the vast majority—would be forced to work on their
day of rest, which was unfortunately an official working day throughout
the empires' until Constantine's "Sabbath" Edict in 321 A.D. gave them
some measure of public protection. Hence one reads that after meeting
"on a certain fixed day before it was light", the first century
Bithynian Christians had "to separate"—many of them having to labour
for their masters and/or employers from dawn to dusk—"and then
reassemble to partake of . . . food". The "certain fixed day" [stato
die"'] on which the Christians met, is regarded by Seventh-day
Adventists as Saturday'-. Certainly the expression would seem to
indicate a regular day of meeting, probably each week. But Sunday is
far more likely to have been the "certain fixed day" than Saturday. For
if Pliny had been referring to the old Saturday Sabbath, as a Roman he
would doubtless have referred to the "later" meeting first and only
then to the morning meeting on the day al ter the "certain fixed day",
seeing that the old Saturday Sabbath was demarcated from the evening of
one day to the evening of the following day. But Pliny makes no such
reference. Instead, he mentions that the pre-dawn meeting took place
first—and only afterwards the later meeting; and that both meetings
took place on the same "certain fixed day". This rather points to the
Roman (and—more importantly!—New Testament) midnight to midnight
demarcation of modern Sunday-keepers than to the evening to evening
demarcation of the Jews and the Seventh-day Adventists. (The
covenantial Sabbath, Francis Nigel Lee, Pg 242)
150AD EPISTLE OF THE APOSTLES.- I [Christ] have come into being on the
eighth day which is the day of the Lord.
150AD JUSTIN: "He then speaks of those Gentiles, namely us, who in
every place offer sacrifices to Him, i.e., the bread of the Eucharist,
and also the cup of the Eucharist, affirming both that we glorify His
name, and that you profane [it]. The command of circumcision, again,
bidding [them] always circumcise the children on the eighth day, was a
type of the true circumcision, by which we are circumcised from deceit
and iniquity through Him who rose from the dead on the first day after
the Sabbath, [namely through] our Lord Jesus Christ. For the first day
after the Sabbath, remaining the first of all the days, is called,
however, the eighth, according to the number of all the days of the
cycle, and [yet] remains the first.". (Justin, Dialogue 41:4)
150AD JUSTIN: ...those who have persecuted and do persecute Christ, if
they do not repent, shall not inherit anything on the holy mountain.
But the Gentiles, who have believed on Him, and have repented of the
sins which they have committed, they shall receive the inheritance
along with the patriarchs and the prophets, and the just men who are
descended from Jacob, even although they neither keep the Sabbath, nor
are circumcised, nor observe the feasts. Assuredly they shall receive
the holy inheritance of God. (Dialogue With Trypho the Jew, 150-165 AD,
Ante-Nicene Fathers , vol. 1, page 207)
150AD JUSTIN: But if we do not admit this, we shall be liable to fall
into foolish opinion, as if it were not the same God who existed in the
times of Enoch and all the rest, who neither were circumcised after the
flesh, nor observed Sabbaths, nor any other rites, seeing that Moses
enjoined such observances... For if there was no need of circumcision
before Abraham, or of the observance of Sabbaths, of feasts and
sacrifices, before Moses; no more need is there of them now, after
that, according to the will of God, Jesus Christ the Son of God has
been born without sin, of a virgin sprung from the stock of Abraham.
(Dialogue With Trypho the Jew, 150-165 AD, Ante-Nicene Fathers , vol.
1, page 206)
150AD JUSTIN: "And on the day called Sunday, all who live in cities or
in the country gather together to one place, and the memoirs of the
apostles or the writings of the prophets are read, as long as time
permits; then, when the reader has ceased, the president verbally
instructs, and exhorts to the imitation of these good things. Then we
all rise together and pray, and, as we before said, when our prayer is
ended, bread and wine and water are brought, and the president in like
manner offers prayers and thanksgivings, according to his ability, and
the people assent, saying Amen; and there is a distribution to each,
and a participation of that over which thanks have been given, and to
those who are absent a portion is sent by the deacons. And they who are
well to do, and willing, give what each thinks fit; and what is
collected is deposited with the president, who succours the orphans and
widows and those who, through sickness or any other cause, are in want,
and those who are in bonds and the strangers sojourning among us, and
in a word takes care of all who are in need. But Sunday is the day on
which we all hold our common assembly, because it is the first day on
which God, having wrought a change in the darkness and matter, made the
world; and Jesus Christ our Saviour on the same day rose from the dead.
For He was crucified on the day before that of Saturn (Saturday); and
on the day after that of Saturn, which is the day of the Sun, having
appeared to His apostles and disciples, He taught them these things,
which we have submitted to you also for your consideration." (First
apology of Justin, Weekly Worship of the Christians, Ch 68)
150AD JUSTIN: Moreover, all those righteous men already mentioned
[after mentioning Adam. Abel, Enoch, Lot, Noah, Melchizedek, and
Abraham], though they kept no Sabbaths, were pleasing to God; and after
them Abraham with all his descendants until Moses... And you [fleshly
Jews] were commanded to keep Sabbaths, that you might retain the
memorial of God. For His word makes this announcement, saying, "That
you may know that I am God who redeemed you." (Dialogue With Trypho the
Jew, 150-165 AD, Ante-Nicene Fathers , vol. 1, page 204)
150AD JUSTIN: There is no other thing for which you blame us, my
friends, is there than this? That we do not live according to the Law,
nor, are we circumcised in the flesh as your forefathers, nor do we
observe the Sabbath as you do. (Dialogue with Trypho 10:1. In verse 3
the Jew Trypho acknowledges that Christians 'do not keep the Sabbath.')
150AD JUSTIN: We are always together with one another. And for all the
things with which we are supplied we bless the Maker of all through his
Son Jesus Christ and through his Holy Spirit. And on the day called
Sunday there is a gathering together in the same place of all who live
in a city or a rural district. (There follows an account of a Christian
worship service, which is quoted in VII.2.) We all make our assembly in
common on the day of the Sun, since it is the first day, on which God
changed the darkness and matter and made the world, and Jesus Christ
our Savior arose from the dead on the same day. For they crucified him
on the day before Saturn's day, and on the day after (which is the day
of the Sun the appeared to his apostles and taught his disciples these
things. (Apology, 1, 67:1-3, 7; First Apology, 145 AD, Ante-Nicene
Fathers , Vol. 1, pg. 186)
155 AD Justin Martyr "[W]e too would observe the fleshly circumcision,
and the Sabbaths, and in short all the feasts, if we did not know for
what reason they were enjoined [on] you--namely, on account of your
transgressions and the hardness of your heart. . . . [H]ow is it,
Trypho, that we would not observe those rites which do not harm us--I
speak of fleshly circumcision and Sabbaths and feasts? . . . God
enjoined you [Jews] to keep the Sabbath, and impose on you other
precepts for a sign, as I have already said, on account of your
unrighteousness and that of your fathers" (Dialogue with Trypho the Jew
180AD ACTS OF PETER.- Paul had often contended with the Jewish teachers
and had confuted them, saying 'it is Christ on whom your fathers laid
hands. He abolished their Sabbath and fasts and festivals and
circumcision.' (1: I)-2
180AD GOSPEL OF PETER: Early in the morning when (he Sabbath dawned, a
multitude from Jerusalem and the surrounding country came to see the
scaled sepulchre. In the night in which the Lord's day dawned, while
the soldiers in pairs for each watch were keeping guard, a great voice
came from heaven. [There follows an account of the resurrection. Early
in the morning of the Lord's day Mary Magdalene, a disciple of the Lord
…. came to the sepulchre. (9:34f.; 12:50f.)
190AD CLEMENT OF ALEXANDRIA: (in commenting on each of the Ten
Commandments and their Christian meaning:) The seventh day is
proclaimed a day of rest, preparing by abstention from evil for the
Primal day, our true rest. (Ibid. VII. xvi. 138.1)
190AD CLEMENT OF ALEXANDRIA: He does the commandment according to the
Gospel and keeps the Lord's day, whenever he puts away an evil mind . .
. glorifying the Lord's resurrection in himself. (Ibid. Vii.xii.76.4)
190AD CLEMENT OF ALEXANDRIA: Plato prophetically speaks of the Lord's
day in the tenth book of the Republic, in these words: 'And when seven
days have passed to each of them in the meadow, on the eighth they must
go on." (Miscellanies V.xiv.106.2)
200AD BARDESANES: Wherever we are, we are all called after the one name
of Christ Christians. On one day, the first of the week, we assemble
ourselves together (On Fate)
200AD TERTULLIAN: "We solemnize the day after Saturday in
contradistinction to those who call this day their Sabbath"
(Tertullian's Apology, Ch 16)
200AD TERTULLIAN: It follows, accordingly, that, in so far as the
abolition of carnal circumcision and of the old law is demonstrated as
having been consummated at its specific times, so also the observance
of the Sabbath is demonstrated to have been temporary. (An Answer to
the Jews 4:1, Ante-Nicene Fathers Vol. 3, page 155)
200AD TERTULLIAN: Let him who contends that the Sabbath is still to be
observed a balm of salvation, and circumcision on the eighth day
because of threat of death, teach us that in earliest times righteous
men kept Sabbath or practiced circumcision, and so were made friends of
God. .. ...Therefore, since God originated Adam uncircumcised, and
inobservant of the Sabbath, consequently his offspring also, Abel,
offering Him sacrifices, uncircumcised and inobservant of the Sabbath,
was by Him commended... Noah also, uncircumcised - yes, and inobservant
of the Sabbath - God freed from the deluge. For Enoch, too, most
righteous man, uncircumcised and inobservant of the Sabbath, He
translated from this world... Melchizedek also, "the priest of most
high God," uncircumcised and inobservant of the Sabbath, was chosen to
the priesthood of God. (An Answer to the Jews 2:10; 4:1, Ante-Nicene
Fathers Vol. 3, page 153)
200AD TERTULLIAN: Others . . . suppose that the sun is the god of the
Christians, because it is well-known that we regard Sunday as a day of
joy. (To the Nations 1: 133)
200AD TERTULLIAN: To us Sabbaths are foreign. (On Idolatry, 14:6)4
220AD ORIGEN "On Sunday none of the actions of the world should be
done. If then, you abstain from all the works of this world and keep
yourselves free for spiritual things, go to church, listen to the
readings and divine homilies, meditate on heavenly things. (Homil. 23
in Numeros 4, PG 12:749)
220 AD Origen "Hence it is not possible that the [day of] rest after
the Sabbath should have come into existence from the seventh [day] of
our God. On the contrary, it is our Savior who, after the pattern of
his own rest, caused us to be made in the likeness of his death, and
hence also of his resurrection" (Commentary on John 2:28).
225 AD The Didascalia "The apostles further appointed: On the first day
of the week let there be service, and the reading of the Holy
Scriptures, and the oblation, because on the first day of the week our
Lord rose from the place of the dead, and on the first day of the week
he arose upon the world, and on the first day of the week he ascended
up to heaven, and on the first day of the week he will appear at last
with the angels of heaven" (Didascalia 2).
250AD CYPRIAN: The eight day, that is, the first day after the Sabbath,
and the Lord's Day." (Epistle 58, Sec 4)
250 AD IGNATIUS: "If, therefore, those who were brought up in the
ancient order of things have come to the possession of a new hope, no
longer observing the Sabbath, but living in the observance of the
Lord's Day, on which also our life has sprung up again by Him and by
His death-whom some deny, by which mystery we have obtained faith, and
therefore endure, that we may be found the disciples of Jesus Christ,
our only Master-how shall we be able to live apart from Him, whose
disciples the prophets themselves in the Spirit did wait for Him as
their Teacher? And therefore He whom they rightly waited for, being
come, raised them from the dead. If, then, those who were conversant
with the ancient Scriptures came to newness of hope, expecting the
coming of Christ, as the Lord teaches us when He says, "If ye had
believed Moses, ye would have believed Me, for he wrote of Me; " and
again, "Your father Abraham rejoiced to see My day, and he saw it, and
was glad; for before Abraham was, I am; " how shall we be able to live
without Him? The prophets were His servants, and foresaw Him by the
Spirit, and waited for Him as their Teacher, and expected Him as their
Lord and Saviour, saying, "He will come and save us." Let us therefore
no longer keep the Sabbath after the Jewish manner, and rejoice in days
of idleness; for "he that does not work, let him not eat." For say the
[holy] oracles, "In the sweat of thy face shalt thou eat thy bread."
But let every one of you keep the Sabbath after a spiritual manner,
rejoicing in meditation on the law, not in relaxation of the body,
admiring the workmanship of God, and not eating things prepared the day
before, nor using lukewarm drinks, and walking within a prescribed
space, nor finding delight in dancing and plaudits which have no sense
in them. And after the observance of the Sabbath, let every friend of
Christ keep the Lord's Day as a festival, the resurrection-day, the
queen and chief of all the days [of the week]. Looking forward to this,
the prophet declared, "To the end, for the eighth day," on which our
life both sprang up again, and the victory over death was obtained in
Christ, whom the children of perdition, the enemies of the Saviour,
deny, "whose god is their belly, who mind earthly things," who are
"lovers of pleasure, and not lovers of God, having a form of godliness,
but denying the power thereof." These make merchandise of Christ,
corrupting His word, and giving up Jesus to sale: they are corrupters
of women, and covetous of other men's possessions, swallowing up wealth
insatiably; from whom may ye be delivered by the mercy of God through
our Lord Jesus Christ! (Epistle of Ignatius to the Magnesians, Chapter
250AD IGNATIUS: "On the day of the preparation, then, at the third
hour, He received the sentence from Pilate, the Father permitting that
to happen; at the sixth hour He was crucified; at the ninth hour He
gave up the ghost; and before sunset He was buried. During the Sabbath
He continued under the earth in the tomb in which Joseph of Arimathaea
had laid Him. At the dawning of the Lord's day He arose from the dead,
according to what was spoken by Himself, "As Jonah was three days and
three nights in the whale's belly, so shall the Son of man also be
three days and three nights in the heart of the earth." The day of the
preparation, then, comprises the passion; the Sabbath embraces the
burial; the Lord's Day contains the resurrection." (The Epistle of
Ignatius to the Trallians, chapter 9)
250AD IGNATIUS: If any one fasts on the Lord's Day or on the Sabbath,
except on the paschal Sabbath only, he is a murderer of Christ. (The
Epistle of Ignatius to the Philippians, chapter 8)
250AD IGNATIUS: "This [custom], of not bending the knee upon Sunday, is
a symbol of the resurrection, through which we have been set free, by
the grace of Christ, from sins, and from death, which has been put to
death under Him. Now this custom took its rise from apostolic times, as
the blessed Irenaeus, the martyr and bishop of Lyons, declares in his
treatise On Easter, in which he makes mention of Pentecost also; upon
which [feast] we do not bend the knee, because it is of equal
significance with the Lord's day, for the reason already alleged
concerning it." (Ignatius, Fragments)
300 AD Victorinus "The sixth day [Friday] is called parasceve, that is
to say, the preparation of the kingdom. . . . On this day also, on
account of the passion of the Lord Jesus Christ, we make either a
station to God or a fast. On the seventh day he rested from all his
works, and blessed it, and sanctified it. On the former day we are
accustomed to fast rigorously, that on the Lord's day we may go forth
to our bread with giving of thanks. And let the parasceve become a
rigorous fast, lest we should appear to observe any Sabbath with the
Jews . . . which Sabbath he [Christ] in his body abolished" (The
Creation of the World).
300AD EUSEBIUS: "They did not, therefore, regard circumcision, nor
observe the Sabbath neither do we; … because such things as these do
not belong to Christians" (Ecc. Hist., Book 1, Ch. 4)
300AD EUSEBIUS: [The Ebionites] were accustomed to observe the Sabbath
and other Jewish customs but on the Lord's days to celebrate the same
practices as we in remembrance of the resurrection of the Savior.
(Church History Ill.xxvii.5)
300 AD Eusebius of Caesarea "They [the pre- Mosaic saints of the Old
Testament] did not care about circumcision of the body, neither do we
[Christians]. They did not care about observing Sabbaths, nor do we.
They did not avoid certain kinds of food, neither did they regard the
other distinctions which Moses first delivered to their posterity to be
observed as symbols; nor do Christians of the present day do such
things" (Church History 1:4:8).
300 AD Eusebius of Caesarea "The day of his [Christ's] light . . . was
the day of his resurrection from the dead, which they say, as being the
one and only truly holy day and the Lord's day, is better than any
number of days as we ordinarily understand them, and better than the
days set apart by the Mosaic Law for feasts, new moons, and Sabbaths,
which the Apostle [Paul] teaches are the shadow of days and not days in
reality" (Proof of the Gospel 4:16:186).
345 AD Athanasius "The Sabbath was the end of the first creation, the
Lord's day was the beginning of the second, in which he renewed and
restored the old in the same way as he prescribed that they should
formerly observe the Sabbath as a memorial of the end of the first
things, so we honor the Lord's day as being the memorial of the new
creation" (On Sabbath and Circumcision 3).
350 AD APOSTOLIC CONSTITUTIONS: Be not careless of yourselves, neither
deprive your Saviour of His own members, neither divide His body nor
disperse His members, neither prefer the occasions of this life to the
word of God; but assemble yourselves together every day, morning and
evening, singing psalms and praying in the Lord's house: in the morning
saying the sixty-second Psalm, and in the evening the hundred and
fortieth, but principally on the Sabbath-day. And on the day of our
Lord's resurrection, which is the Lord's day, meet more diligently,
sending praise to God that made the universe by Jesus, and sent Him to
us, and condescended to let Him suffer, and raised Him from the dead.
Otherwise what apology will he make to God who does not assemble on
that day to hear the saving word concerning the resurrection, on which
we pray thrice standing in memory of Him who arose in three days, in
which is performed the reading of the prophets, the preaching of the
Gospel, the oblation of the sacrifice, the gift of the holy food?
(Constitutions of the Holy Apostles, book 2)
350 AD APOSTOLIC CONSTITUTIONS: For if the Gentiles every day, when
they arise from sleep, run to their idols to worship them, and before
all their work and all their labors do first of all pray to them, and
in their feasts and in their solemnities do not keep away, but attend
upon them; and not only those upon the place, but those living far
distant do the same; and in their public shows all come together, as
into a synagogue: in the same manner those which are vainly called
Jews, when they have worked six days, on the seventh day rest, and come
together in their synagogue, never leaving or neglecting either rest
from labor or assembling together... If, therefore, those who are not
saved frequently assemble together for such purposes as do not profit
them, what apology wilt thou make to the Lord God who forsakes his
Church, not imitating so much as the heathen, but by such, thy absence
grows slothful, or turns apostate. or acts wickedness? To whom the Lord
says to Jeremiah, "Ye have not kept My ordinances; nay, you have not
walked according to the ordinance of the heathen and you have in a
manner exceeded them... How, therefore, will any one make his apology
who has despised or absented himself from the church of God?
(Constitutions of the Holy Apostles, book 2)
350 AD APOSTOLIC CONSTITUTIONS: Do you therefore fast, and ask your
petitions of God. We enjoin you to fast every fourth day of the week,
and every day of the preparation, and the surplusage of your fast
bestow upon the needy; every Sabbath-day excepting one, and every
Lord's day, hold your solemn assemblies, and rejoice: for he will be
guilty of sin who fasts on the Lord's day, being the day of the
resurrection, or during the time of Pentecost, or, in general, who is
sad on a festival day to the Lord For on them we ought to rejoice, and
not to mourn. (Constitutions of the Holy Apostles, book 5)
350 AD APOSTOLIC CONSTITUTIONS "Which Days of the Week We are to Fast,
and Which Not, and for What Reasons: But let not your fasts be with the
hypocrites; for they fast on the second and fifth days of the week. But
do you either fast the entire five days, or on the fourth day of the
week, and on the day of the Preparation, because on the fourth day the
condemnation went out against the Lord, Judas then promising to betray
Him for money; and you must fast on the day of the Preparation, because
on that day the Lord suffered the death of the cross under Pontius
Pilate. But keep the Sabbath, and the Lord's day festival; because the
former is the memorial of the creation, and the latter of the
resurrection. But there is one only Sabbath to be observed by you in
the whole year, which is that of our Lord's burial, on which men ought
to keep a fast, but not a festival. For inasmuch as the Creator was
then under the earth, the sorrow for Him is more forcible than the joy
for the creation; for the Creator is more honourable by nature and
dignity than His own creatures." (Constitutions of the Holy Apostles,
350 AD APOSTOLIC CONSTITUTIONS "How We Ought to Assemble Together, and
to Celebrate the Festival Day of Our Saviour's Resurrection. On the day
of the resurrection of the Lord, that is, the Lord's day, assemble
yourselves together, without fail, giving thanks to God, and praising
Him for those mercies God has bestowed upon you through Christ, and has
delivered you from ignorance, error, and bondage, that your sacrifice
may be unspotted, and acceptable to God, who has said concerning His
universal Church: "In every place shall incense and a pure sacrifice be
offered unto me; for I am a great King, saith the Lord Almighty, and my
name is wonderful among the heathen." (Constitutions of the Holy
Apostles, book 7)
350 AD Cyril of Jerusalem "Fall not away either into the sect of the
Samaritans or into Judaism, for Jesus Christ has henceforth ransomed
you. Stand aloof from all observance of Sabbaths and from calling any
indifferent meats common or unclean" (Catechetical Lectures 4:37).
360 AD Council of Laodicea "Christians should not Judaize and should
not be idle on the Sabbath, but should work on that day; they should,
however, particularly reverence the Lord's day and, if possible, not
work on it, because they were Christians" (canon 29).
387 AD John Chrysostom "You have put on Christ, you have become a
member of the Lord and been enrolled in the heavenly city, and you
still grovel in the Law [of Moses]? How is it possible for you to
obtain the kingdom? Listen to Paul's words, that the observance of the
Law overthrows the gospel, and learn, if you will, how this comes to
pass, and tremble, and shun this pitfall. Why do you keep the Sabbath
and fast with the Jews?" (Homilies on Galatians 2:17).
387 AD John Chrysostom "The rite of circumcision was venerable in the
Jews' account, forasmuch as the Law itself gave way thereto, and the
Sabbath was less esteemed than circumcision. For that circumcision
might be performed, the Sabbath was broken; but that the Sabbath might
be kept, circumcision was never broken; and mark, I pray, the
dispensation of God. This is found to be even more solemn that the
Sabbath, as not being omitted at certain times. When then it is done
away, much more is the Sabbath" (Homilies on Philippians 10).
412 AD Augustine "Well, now, I should like to be told what there is in
these Ten Commandments, except the observance of the Sabbath, which
ought not to be kept by a Christian . . . Which of these commandments
would anyone say that the Christian ought not to keep? It is possible
to contend that it is not the Law which was written on those two tables
that the apostle [Paul] describes as 'the letter that kills' [2 Cor.
3:6], but the law of circumcision and the other sacred rites which are
now abolished" (The Spirit and the Letter 24).
597 AD Gregory I "It has come to my ears that certain men of perverse
spirit have sown among you some things that are wrong and opposed to
the holy faith, so as to forbid any work being done on the Sabbath day.
What else can I call these [men] but preachers of Antichrist, who when
he comes will cause the Sabbath day as well as the Lord's day to be
kept free from all work. For because he [the Antichrist] pretends to
die and rise again, he wishes the Lord's day to be had in reverence;
and because he compels the people to Judaize that he may bring back the
outward rite of the Law, and subject the perfidy of the Jews to
himself, he wishes the Sabbath to be observed. For this which is said
by the prophet, 'You shall bring in no burden through your gates on the
Sabbath day' (Jer. 17:24) could be held to as long as it was lawful for
the Law to be observed according to the letter. But after that the
grace of almighty God, our Lord Jesus Christ, has appeared, the
commandments of the Law which were spoken figuratively cannot be kept
according to the letter. For if anyone says that this about the Sabbath
is to be kept, he must needs say that carnal sacrifices are to be
offered. He must say too that the commandment about the circumcision of
the body is still to be retained. But let him hear the apostle Paul
saying in opposition to him: 'If you be circumcised, Christ will profit
you nothing' (Gal. 5:2)" (Letters 13:1).
(c) Uncommon Sense
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