Has the Sabbath Morphed into Sunday?

10 Apr

Most Christians today worship on Sunday, and many of these worshipers call Sunday the Christian Sabbath. Yet, I have not found a single Scripture to support this idea. Am I saying that Christians should return to worshiping on the 7th day rather than Sunday? No—even though the reason we turned to Sunday had more to do with anti-Semitism than the truth, it is done. We do, however, need to be honest about what occurred, admit what we’ve done and move on. We are not under the Law but under Christ.

One cannot pick out portions of the Law one thinks agreeable and say: “this is binding, but the rest are not.” We have no authority to pick and choose what is binding in God’s word. Only God has that authority, and he has shown that gentiles are not under the Law. Paul says that we are a law unto ourselves (Romans 2:14), that is, we already have laws of our own—against stealing, lying, murder etc. What is not covered by the laws of our lands is covered in the principle that we are to love God with all our being and love one another as ourselves.

So, what about the Sunday/Saturday thing? What does God’s word tell us and why do most Christians worship on Sunday? In Acts 20:6-12 we find Paul at the culmination of his 3rd missionary journey, and he has organized an offering from the gentile churches in Asia Minor and Europe for the poor at Jerusalem. He intended to be in Jerusalem by Passover, but a plot against his life in Corinth changed his plan (Acts 20:3). Instead of Paul sailing from Chenchrea, the Corinthian seaport on the Aegean, he sent the disciples by sea to Troas, while he and at least eight others traveled by land through Achaea and Macedonia to Philippi, where Paul and company celebrated the Days of Unleavened Bread.

In Acts 20:6 Luke tells us that Paul set sail AFTER the Days of Unleavened Bread and in 5 days came to Troas and hooked up with the other brethren he sent by sea that were waiting for him. The troublesome phrase is “where we abode for seven days”. This doesn’t make sense for two reasons. First, Paul would have liked to be in Jerusalem by Passover but couldn’t, so why would he delay bringing the needed supplies to the poor at Jerusalem for another 7 days? Secondly, verse-7 begins with “And upon the first day of the week…” This is clearly wrong and gives the reader a wrong sense of the context of the meeting at Troas.

Luke gives us a sense of urgency, which is all but hidden by the assumptions of Sunday worship in the translation. The phrase: “And upon the first day of the week…” is wrong. First of all, day is supplied by the translators, and is NOT in the Greek. Secondly, the word translated week can also be translated “Sabbath”, which is preferred if the context supports it. Finally, this same Greek word is in the plural NOT in the singular. If one would literally translate the phrase, one could see it belongs to the Jewish method of counting toward Pentecost (cp. Acts 20: 16).[1]

Therefore, verse-7 literally translated would be: “And upon the first of the Sabbaths (weeks)…” But, what does this mean? In Leviticus 23 we discover a list of all the annual Holy Days, including the weekly Sabbath, that Israel was to observe in their seasons. The Jews were to count 7 Sabbaths, or weeks to Pentecost (Leviticus 23:15-16). The count began on the day following the weekly Sabbath falling between Passover (the 14th) and the 2nd Holy Day of the Days of Unleavened Bread (the 21st of the 1st month). By adding one more day to the calculation made it 50 days to the Feast of Weeks or Pentecost. Since the first day of the count is ALWAYS a Sunday, the phrase “seven Sabbaths shall be complete” can be translated “weeks” or “Sabbaths” without losing its meaning.

Acts 20:7 literally translated is “and upon the first of the Sabbaths… (weeks).” By sticking with a literal rendering, Luke’s sense of urgency isn’t lost in the translation. The plural in the Greek supports the context (v.16) of counting toward Pentecost. However, what about the troublesome phrase in verse-6: “…where we abode seven days”? If this is correct, it contradicts Luke’s sense of urgency to be in Jerusalem by Pentecost, and my point thus far is moot.

Luke says in Acts 20:6 that they left Philippi’s seaport AFTER the Days of Unleavened Bread—i.e. after the 21st of the first month or on the 22nd. He arrived in Troas five days later or on the 26th of the first month and broke bread with the disciples on the first of the (seven) Sabbaths or the 27th of the month. This scenario can be true without any contradiction **only** if the Passover began on a Sunday that year. The weekly Sabbath between the 14th and the 21st would have been observed on the 20th, making the 21st a Sunday, the 1st day counting toward Pentecost. Five days of travel to Friday or the 6th day of the 50 days before Pentecost. The next day would have been the 27th, a Saturday, when they broke bread on the “first of the (seven) Sabbaths…” This means that the troublesome phrase in verse-6 “…where we abode seven days” ought to be understood as Paul tarried until the end of the first seven days of the 50 day period at Troas. He stayed there only two days at the most, depending upon what time Friday he arrived and what time on Sunday he left.

So, why do we celebrate Sunday? By the beginning of the 2nd century CE Christians celebrated both Saturday (the Sabbath) and Sunday (in honor of Jesus’ resurrection), but when Constantine legalized Christianity in the 4th century CE, he outlawed meeting for worship on the 7th day, partially due to his being anti-Semitic (approved by some Christian leaders of the day), but mostly because he worshiped the sun god. I don’t believe he was a Christian! However, Sunday as a day of worship is not wrong in itself—we are not under the Law, but using Acts 20:7 to support our doing so is wrong and hides the truth of Luke’s message.

[1] Paul in Acts 20:16 “hastens” to get to Jerusalem for Pentecost, for he has a lot to do besides getting the offering to the poor. The word Luke uses is speudo (G4692); compare this verse with how Luke uses the word elsewhere in Luke 2:16; 19:5-6 and Acts 22:18. This argues against Paul spending 7 days in Troas for no apparent reason.


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12 responses to “Has the Sabbath Morphed into Sunday?

  1. Joseph Richardson

    April 12, 2013 at 19:07

    Eddie, you very patently ignored my citations from the history of the early Church. You claim to place a lot of stock in the work of historians; you cite several books. But historians work from primary sources, sources made by people who directly experienced a time or event. A work of history that isn’t based on and supported by primary sources is not history; it’s fiction.

    By way of credentials, if it means anything to you, I have a bachelor’s and master’s degrees in history. I made a very simple claim, that the practice of celebrating Sunday as the Lord’s Day was apostolic in origin. And I provided primary sources to back up that claim. That’s what historians do. Citing secondary works of history to me does not bear any weight; I can rightly say, “Who are these guys, are where are they getting these facts?” The claim that “The Christian Sunday was not made a ‘day of rest’ until Constantine decreed it in AD 321,” is not borne out by historical facts. Does Dr. Martin cite any sources to support it?

    I cite again these sources. Regardless of whether you accept the Tradition of the Catholic Church as authoritative, these sources are concrete historical records of the faith and practice of the Early Church. You cannot just sweep them aside and cite the claim of a twentieth century historian that is plainly contradicted by these records. I will even link directly to the sources for your examination, and give my commentary.

    On the Lord’s own day, assemble in common to break bread and offer thanks, but first confess your sins so that your sacrifice may be pure.” Didache, 14 (Widely believed to be the earliest extrascriptural Christian document — dated by some as early as A.D. 70, by others as late as A.D. 90).

    Here again is this reference to “the Lord’s Day.” When do you suppose that was? You also ignored my reference in Revelation 1:10 to St. John referring to the same thing. “The Lord’s Day” is when the faithful were to come together and break bread. The use of the term by St. John himself, as well as the definitively early date of the Didache, leaves no doubt that “the Lord’s Day” — apparently some day apart from the Jewish Sabbath — was when Christians celebrated Christian worship from apostolic times forward.

    “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.” Ignatius of Antioch, Epistle to the Magnesians, 9:1 (ca. A.D. 107).

    Here again another time is “the Lord’s Day” — with the explicit statement that the Lord’s Day is not the Sabbath. In fact, according to St. Ignatius, those of the “ancient order” — the Jews — have come to a “new hope” — Christ — and these Christians are “no longer observing the Sabbath, but living in the observance of the Lord’s Day,” the day of Jesus’s Resurrection — that is, Sunday. I don’t know if you are familiar with St. Ignatius or not, but he was bishop of Antioch (not of Rome) and a champion of Christian orthodoxy and unity. Upon his arrest and during his transport to Rome and to his martyrdom, he wrote a series of letters to the Churches of Asia Minor, exhorting the Christians there to hold to the faith and remain in union with their bishops. “Wherever the bishop shall appear, there let the multitude [of the people] also be; even as, wherever Jesus Christ is, there is the Catholic Church.” (Epistle to the Smyrnaeans, 8). The early date of these documents, and the wide expanse of Churches to which Ignatius wrote, from Antioch to Ephesus to Rome — attests to both the universality and the unity of the faith, that each of those churches welcomed and preserved letters from an Antiochan bishop and embraced the doctrines that he espoused. This record leaves no question that the celebration of the Lord’s Day, not the Sabbath, was by the end of the first century the universal practice within the Christian Church.

    The seventh [Sabbath] day, therefore, is proclaimed a rest – abstraction from ills – preparing for the Primal [First] Day, our true rest; which, in truth, is the first creation of light, in which all things are viewed and possessed. From this day the first wisdom and knowledge illuminate us. For the light of truth – a light true, casting no shadow, is the Spirit of God indivisibly divided to all, who are sanctified by faith, holding the place of a luminary, in order to the knowledge of real existences. By following Him, therefore, through our whole life, we become impossible; and this is to rest.” Clement of Alexandria, Stromata, 6:16 (ca. A.D. 202).

    Clement attests that the Sabbath day was still considered a day of rest, but it was a rest in preparation for the First Day, the Lord’s Day, our true rest. Here a voice from the Church in Africa affirms what the other sources above have established.

    “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.Teaching of the Apostles, 2 (ca. A.D. 225).

    The Teaching of the Apostles is a Syriac document, from a Greek original, dated by scholars to around A.D. 225. The teachings contained in the document, though, are very similar to those of the Didache (“Teaching” in Greek), and the two documents are clearly related. This quotation agrees with the other sources quoted above, and elaborates the explanation of why the Lord’s Day was chosen for Christian worship rather than the Sabbath.

    Now, if you aim to continue arguing that Christian worship was moved from the Sabbath to the Lord’s Day in the fourth century, by Constantine, then these are the sources you have to contend with. To make such an argument, you would have to find a way to reject the historicity of each of these these sources, explain why four sources from four different regions and different times within the first century and a half of Christianity agree on a position contrary to yours, and also provide a primary source that supports your argument.

    Now, to the Greek. Your readings, once again, are contrary to the plain sense of the Scriptures, and attempt to force upon the text your own preconceived understanding, rather than drawing the meaning from the sense of the text. This is what’s known as eisegesis, the very opposite of exegesis. You indicate that the fact that σάββατoν is in the genitive plural must must be translated “of the Sabbaths.” But Greek is not English. Greek functions by different rules than English. Very often a noun in the plural has an entirely different meaning than the noun in the singular, and that is clearly the case here. The verses with which you are arguing from the Gospels, in which the genitive plural of σάββατoν is used, are part of the Resurrection of narrative of Christ, and your emendations would contradict not only the traditional readings of the passages, but the very foundations of Christian orthodoxy. Jesus died on Friday and was laid in the tomb, and then on the third day — that’s Sunday — He rose again from the dead. You alteration would have him rising “early on the first of Sabbaths” — which not only is an abrupt and unexplained shift to a calendar date, and one that makes no sense in the context of the passage, but would leave Jesus having lain the tomb only mere hours, not rising “on the third day” as Scripture attests repeatedly.

    I didn’t offer you those citations of Greek as suggestions, but as evidence for how knowledgable translators of the Greek manuscripts have translated them. Those were not my translations that I gave, but were taken directly from the English Standard Version, and are in full agreement with every other translation of the Bible into Greek, ever. You admit that you know little about Greek. I at least know enough to defer to those who have devoted their lives to the study of Greek and biblical manuscripts. If you mean to argue that hundreds of people with doctorate degrees in biblcal languages, and hundreds of ancient commentators on the Scriptures over the ages, from the Church Fathers forward, have all been wrong, and that your translation alone is right, then there is really no other argument I can present to you.

    You are free to continue believing your preconceived notions, but I have here presented a plain contradiction of the argument you are presenting, backed up with both historical and exegetical evidence. You maintain that you are interested in learning about the history of the Church — in fact, that’s what your blog proclaims to be about. But you show that history counts for very little to you if you ignore its plain facts.

    Peace to you, and hope.

    • Eddie

      April 14, 2013 at 13:07

      Greetings Joe, I apologize for “ignoring” your primary sources. The hour was late and I was anxious to post to you. I read your entire post in the beginning, and I remember reading those citations, but I overlooked them when I was skimming through the document to see if I replied to each point you tried to make.

      I understand that you are a well educated man. I am not. I don’t mean by that that you should take it easy on me, but I wish to place your expectation of me in a proper perspective. You said my opinion was “ahistorical”, so I quoted from or referred to my source material to show you, and anyone else who might read our discussion, that I wasn’t “assuming” anything. The fact is the books I read enlightened me enough to change my opinion about some of what I thought I knew. I do the best I can with what I have, but concerning each primary source that you have presented, I will address them as I come to the paragraph or paragraphs where you mention them. I will go down your reply, paragraph by paragraph and or point by point. We may disagree with the stand we each take concerning those sources, but nothing will be left out this time. I am in no hurry to post this reply. :-)

      Concerning Dr. Martin, if I must defend my sources, I can only tell you what is written in the books I have. He is (or was at the time of the book’s writing) a professor of New Testament studies at Fuller Theological Seminary in Pasadena. The book, as I mentioned is a work done by many authors—some 60 contributors, if my first counting is correct. It has one editor, Tim Dowley, whose credentials are not given. The book is not footnoted, whether edited out or not, I don’t know. So, I suppose you can say the book itself was not written to scholars but to the layman, such as myself. So, if any of these men are fudging something, I wouldn’t know.

      I have no problem with a Catholic source or scholar. I have theological differences with Catholicism, so we may agree or disagree about certain subjects, but I’m not looking for a Catholic to trip me up or “corrupt” my understanding. I was born and raised Roman Catholic and I’m grateful for the Church through whom I was introduced to Jesus, but I have reasons why I am not Catholic today.

      I have no problem with your reference from the Didache. I have already admitted that Christians met on the 1st day of the week. My point was that it was not a day of rest – a Sabbath – until the 4th century. This reference neither contradicts my point nor helps yours.

      The phrase “the Lord’s Day” at Revelation 1:10 is the work of the translator and may have more to do with his theology than it does reflecting a Biblical theme. It can just as easily be worded (and in my mind, should be preferred) “the Day of the Lord”. There is no specific reference to the first day of the week here. It is how one reads the text. Again, this reference neither contradicts my point nor helps yours.

      Concerning Ignatius’ letter to the Magnesians, this reference does contradict my understanding and does help your point. My reply would be that I have theological differences with Ignatius, and I don’t believe all his views were held universally by other Christians as you claim. I would weigh what he says with accounts from others about the same subject matter, but in no way would I accept him as the sole support for what I accepted as true.

      Concerning Clement of Alexandria, you may think I am “reaching” here (I don’t think I am), but is Clement saying the 7th Day, as an Old Testament observance, pointed to or prepared us for resting on the first day of the week? Is this the “Primal Day he refers to, that the “rest from physical labor” was changed to the first day of the week, or should we see that “resting” from our physical labors pointed us to the day of the Resurrection of Jesus (the Primal Day), when we could rest from all our spiritual labor to become righteous, in that Christ is our Righteousness? We no longer need to “become” righteous or believe we must through our labor, because Jesus has made us righteous by his labor on our behalf?

      I believe the whole idea of meeting on the 1st day of the week was to celebrate and remember Jesus’ resurrection and what that means to us. That said, the “Primal Day” cannot be simply ‘the first day of the week’ but a **particular** first day of the week which discovered our true rest in Jesus’ own labor and resurrection. Therefore, I don’t understand Clement’s statement to say Christians rested from their “physical labors” on the first day of the week. It has a spiritual meaning—at least this is how I read his statement.

      Whether or not this next 3rd century document was really the “Teaching of the Apostles” I am not prepared to say one way or another. I can only point out that it does not count the first day of the week a day of “rest”. It is, indeed, a day that early Christians particularly used to honor and remember Jesus’ work on their behalf. A meeting was held on that day, but we both agree to that! The question is: when was the meeting held – after work – before work began? Was it a day of rest? I don’t believe so, but the citation doesn’t say one way or another. As it is, I have no argument with it, as it pertains to our present discussion.

      Concerning what I “aim to continue” to believe, unless I am reading the source material in a biased fashion (and if so, I am not aware of such a bias), then the only source that contradicts my understanding is that of Ignatius. Presently, I am unwilling to concede to this single source that what I’ve read elsewhere is wrong.

      Concerning how I understand the Greek and whether or not this understanding is preconceived, either I have misstated my case or you have misunderstood what I claimed. The Feast of Weeks (Pentecost) is a Jewish holy day – I am sure you know this. It is also the only Jewish holy day that is arrived at through **counting** — i.e. it doesn’t fall upon a specific date in the Jewish calendar, but it is always celebrated on the same day of the week—unlike all other Jewish feast days. But, I’m sure I am not telling you anything you don’t already know. Nevertheless, I fail to see how “In the end of the Sabbaths, as it began to dawn toward the first day of the Weeks (as in Feast of…) would cause me to undermine the “foundations of Christian orthodoxy.” We are still speaking of the resurrection occurring and taking place on the literal 1st day of the week, but expressed in Scriptures as “the first day of the Weeks.”

      Concerning the Greek evidence you offered me, you paint a very poor picture of me here. Perhaps it is deserved. God knows for sure.

      On the subject of the work of translators, I have both exalted and defended their works to others who tried to make light of their labor in a discussion with me. There are many translations; I have about 60 give or take. I know the labors of some scholars, at times, disagree pointedly with the works of other, equally qualified scholars as to how this or that verse should be worded – some, if taken as authoritative against other translators, would even change the manner in which we should see the deity of Jesus (which I have also defended in the past). I have learned not to base my faith on learned men. I respect their labor, but I understand even at their best, no one is infallible.

      In the past I have permitted a more learned man to undermine my faith. The Lord brought me through that time, and, yes, I do have scars. But I vowed a vow to God as I repented that the mistakes I would make in the future would be my own and not anyone else’s. I take responsibility for all I say here. I admit I may be in error, but when I find I am, I change my blog-post, and if someone had challenged me on that point, I note the change in a footnote. I told God years ago when I was repenting, that I would do my best to respect those men whom he brought into my life to teach me, but my real Teacher would have to be him, because I would never again **trust** another man – no matter what his qualifications – as much as I trusted the one who led me astray. I respect the qualifications of men who labored for years to become experts in their fields – theology, history, archeology, etc, but in the final analysis, I refuse to be intimidated by these truly great, but fallible men. I put **all** my trust in only One—Jesus.

      This may be a good time to interject why I have such a difficult time simply accepting how the translator has rendered his work in English at those places where the English is phrased “the first (day) of the week” when the Greek is in the plural. My problem is that it simply doesn’t make sense for two reasons. Why would the Apostles think they had the right or power to change the word of God to say the Sabbath is now on the first day rather than the seventh? Where is the precedent for such a thing? Where is the command of God for such a thing? Where is Jesus’ teaching for such a thing? From a different stand point the Jews have a history of incorporating **additional** days of worship which in time were celebrated as a “Sabbath” in their own right, commemorating some great historical event where God saved them from a great enemy. Hanukkah is one, and the Feast of Purim is another. God never commanded them to observe these days, but he accepted their devotion to him during these occasions. However, at no time did they replace any of the days God had set aside for them in the Law. So, again where is the precedent for the apostles to change anything God said or commanded?

      Secondly, if the Apostles were no longer following Judaism, why were Jews so interested in Jesus as the Messiah? Why did the high priest believe he had any authority over them? He had no power over anyone in another religion—it was only over what was considered Judaism that he was able to exercise any authority. If the Apostles changed the Sabbath from the seventh to the first day of the week, they would no longer be accepted as Jews, and they wouldn’t be permitted to preach in the Temple or synagogues. Why was Paul able to preach in the synagogues, and why was he so anxious to be in Jerusalem during the holy days, and why did he continue to sacrifice with the Jews there? The problem I see in many scholarly works is that they have no room for the Jewish roots of the Christian faith. Jesus was a Jew, a good Jew, and so were Peter and Paul, yet you would think by that attitude of some scholars (commentaries) the Jews were the abomination of desolation, and any Christian who associates with them or enjoys their perspective on a Biblical issue is a Judaizer.

      Anyway, that’s my take on it – whether correct or incorrect, it is **my** take. I am wholly and solely responsible for that understanding. I simply cannot make sense of the apostles changing the Sabbath from the seventh to the first day of the week. There is no precedent for such a thing; it was not commanded by God; Jesus didn’t’ teach it. Where did it come from and why? And, after it was done, how could they still be considered Jews up until the turn of the century? If a Roman Catholic refused to accept the authority of the Pope, could he still be Catholic? Wouldn’t he be excommunicated? Yet, the apostles were still considered Jews though they believed in and preached Jesus. Moreover, Jesus told the disciples to continue to do as the Jewish authorities commanded them, for they sat in Moses chair (Matthew 23).

      Concerning what I am free to continue to believe, I don’t consider my understanding to be ‘preconceived’. I may be wrong about anything I write, but if I am, it is an honest error, and one made after long and serious study. I pray often that God would keep me from hurting others through what I say (or write), for I remember how my family and I were hurt through men who had ulterior motives for preaching the word of God. I can either be silent or I can depend upon God to answer my prayer. I have chosen to do the latter, because I believe the former is cowardly.

      As far as “the plain facts” is concerned, I believe it would be more accurate to say that you and I have a difference of opinion about what is actually claimed in the sources you presented. I am sorry that our discussion has ended this way. Perhaps it is so due to my misstating my case. Maybe if I worded it differently and wasn’t so much in a hurry to reply to you a few nights ago, but it is what it is.

      Lord bless you Joe.

      • Joseph Richardson

        April 14, 2013 at 16:03

        Eddie, I want to say that I’m very embarrassed and contrite for how harshly and aggressively and rudely I became in my last message to you. You have been nothing but kind and gracious and understanding to me, and I have been critical, accusatory, confrontational, and mean-spirited. I’m deeply sorry, and I know my attitude in these sorts of posts, my anger and my haughty pride, is something the Lord is really dealing with me about. I haven’t been able to bring myself to read your full reply yet; it brings me to shame how gracious you continue to be. Maybe after I go to Confession I will be in a better frame of mind. I thank you for your lengthy reply and your kindness and forgiveness. May the peace of the Lord be with you.

        • Eddie

          April 14, 2013 at 18:50

          Greetings Joe, no, no, no, your reply, while I knew you weren’t happy with me, was not rude. People have treated me very rudely, and I’ve had to leave discussion boards, because I could no longer take the ill will. I could tell you were straining with what you hold as sacred truth and with replying to me, who challenged your understanding. It is difficult to discern it all properly and remain in a proper spirit in the Lord–because many people who disagree with us are our enemies, and treating them in love is big-time-Spirit-stuff. :-)

          I know what you mean about anger and God dealing with you for it. The Holy Spirit has dealt with me about this very matter. He has been very kind and gracious with me, while he worked with me — and still works with me, for we continue to fall back, because we are human and our spirits are frail. Heaven hurry the day that we shall be as he is, for we shall see him as he is.

          Lord bless you, Joe, but please don’t be so hard on yourself. I took the tone your previous reply to be your final one, but perhaps if there is more to say, we can continue. It is up to you. Perhaps all has been said that could be said at this time–don’ know. But, if so, now we both can rejoice with the Lord that, even if we disagree with one another about this matter in Christ, that we are able to do it in his love. That’s what it all about–the fruits. We are not known by our “correct doctrines” (although correct doctrine is important), but by the love we have for one another–the fruits of Jesus’ life within us. Lord bless you in all you do.

  2. Joseph Richardson

    April 11, 2013 at 22:43

    No problem; take your time in responding. I would definitely appreciate your thoughts. And if there’s anything I can do to clarify the Greek, please let me know. Peace to you.

    • Eddie

      April 12, 2013 at 00:51

      Greetings Joseph, and I was surprised that the medical stuff didn’t hinder me, so I stayed up to reply, as tomorrow may not be so accommodating due to friends and then relatives on the weekend. Before we get to what we disagree upon, I hope you remember that I really don’t consider Sabbath keeping something gentiles must do. We may disagree upon how we came to worship on Sunday, but I am not advocating that we return to Sabbath keeping. So, before we enter into our little discussion, in the end most Christians keep Sunday and that’s alright. :-)

      Concerning my understanding of its reasons being twofold: anti-Semitism and the ruling of Constantine, they are based upon my reading of Introduction to The History of Christianity, Edited by Tim Dowly. It has many contributors, so it may be difficult to identify whose writing I have actually based my understanding upon.

      The book refers to Justin Martyr saying to a Jewish teacher (Trypho?) that a Jewish convert to Christianity would not be required to discontinue his keeping the Law of Moses (provided he didn’t require gentiles to follow him), but Justin added that his attitude was not shared by all Christians. The church by this time (mid 2nd century) was predominantly gentile. Note:

      “According to Christian writers of the second and third centuries relations between Christians and Jews apparently became increasingly hostile. These writers tried to support believers faltering under the force of the Jewish objection, ‘How can Jesus be the Messiah if so few Jews have accepted him?’ They responded by portraying Israel as an unbelieving and apostate people from first to last.” [The History of Christianity, page 103]

      On the same page the author says that the second century churches in Asia held the Christian Pascha on the 14th day of the first month in the Jewish calendar. Opponents called them Quartodecimans. In time, however, “the Sunday Pascha became the standard practice, and formed the basis for Easter today.”

      The point is that it seems very clear that early Christians had been taught to follow the Jewish calendar for worship. Due to a great deal of anti-Semitism (it is difficult not to bring unbelieving baggage with you when one converts to Christianity, but shame on the one who doesn’t listen to the Spirit of God convicting him of sin) what Christianity had in common with Judaism was gradually dropped, and those who were reluctant to do so were labeled as Judaizers.

      In the same book in a section entitled: “How the first Christians worshiped,” (section authored by Dr. Ralph P. Martin), Dr. Martin claims “The Christian Sunday was not made a ‘day of rest’ until Constantine decreed it in AD 321.”

      I am unable to locate my reference to the fact that early Christians kept both the Sabbath and at least rose early on Sunday to have a special prayer meeting and perhaps later (after work) to meet for a special meal. I know I read it somewhere (I’ve read three Christian histories of varying length), but I am unable to find it now. Nevertheless, it should be obvious, even with a cursory reading of Acts that the Sabbath was not abandoned by Jewish Christians, which predominated the believing community throughout the 1st century. Only in the final decade did the Emperor begin to think of Christians as a non-Jewish group. Up to that time the faith fell under the Jewish umbrella of state approval. I cannot conceive of such a thing occurring, if Christians in mass abandoned the Sabbath in favor of the 1st day of the week. Now, please remember, I argue that we did honor God with some ceremony on the 1st day as well, but that was not a ‘day of rest’ until the 4th century.

      Now let’s get to the Greek.
      Matthew 26:17 – I have no argument with you here
      Matthew 28:1 – cannot be used for the “first day of the week”. Sabbath is in the plural and refers to a particular day. It was the first of the (Feast of) Weeks—i.e. it was the first (day), if you prefer, of 50 counting toward Pentecost. It should read something like: “In the end of the Sabbaths as it began to dawn toward the first day of the Weeks. That is a special day of the year, not simply of the week. It was the day in which the wave sheaf offering was made that blessed the entire harvest—Jesus is our Wave Sheaf Offering, blessing the harvest of souls to God.
      Mark 16:2 – refers to the same day as Matthew 28:1
      Mark 16:9 – does, in fact, refer to the first day of the week. As an aside, this part of Mark falls under the questionable material column, but I, for one, have no argument with it.
      Luke 13:32 – may apply to your argument concerning the word “day” should be assumed and placed at Acts 20:7, but it doesn’t apply to my argument concerning when it should not be assumed, because a particular day of the week is not referred to in Luke 13.
      Luke 24:1 – is plural and refers to the day the wave sheaf was offered
      John 20:1 – likewise, is in the plural and refers to the same thing as Matthew 28:1, Mark 16:2 and Luke 24:1
      John 20:19 is in the plural and refers to the day the wave sheaf was offered.
      Acts 27:19 – same argument as Luke 13:32
      1Corinthians 16:2 – if the Byzantine text is correct, then it shows Corinth was following the Jewish calendar, and they didn’t harvest anything until the harvest was blessed in Jerusalem. It would also show that Paul’s offering for the poor at Jerusalem had at least as much to do with grain as it did with money. If the Byzantine text is incorrect, then I cannot make sense of it, since Paul intended to winter at Corinth, and Acts 20:3 says he was at Corinth for 3 months. If everything was money, and it could be collected at anytime of the year, why couldn’t people continue to make monetary gifts up until the time of Paul’s departure? Paul was concerned that the poor didn’t get merely what was left over. He wanted the Corinthians to lay aside a portion of what they had for themselves, beginning with the spring harvest season.

      Concerning the word week(s) in the Greek, Luke 18:12 refers to fasting twice in the week (singular), so an idiom doesn’t seem to be involved as far as I can see, but as I said earlier, I’m not an expert.

      Concerning the word Sabbath, according to my concordance there are 55 occurrences in the New Testament—some in the singular and some in the plural. I have looked at a number of them (not all), and I can account for the reason for many that are plural in the Greek, but not every instance. I am unwilling to say that, because I cannot account for all, that all should be translated in the singular. There are specific reasons for the plural usage in the Greek (mistakenly translated to English in the singular, in my opinion). I believe that much of gentile scholarship has overlooked (forgotten?) its Jewish roots. But… I’m not a scholar; I merely read my Bible and try to understand as best I can. :-)

      Now let’s look at Acts 20:7. Since Luke mentions the Days of Unleavened Bread in the previous verse and that only five days (of a given week) were passed at sea, there is a very good reason that Luke could be referring to the first of seven Sabbaths before Pentecost, by which time Paul intended to be at Jerusalem. A simple reference to “the first day of the week” seems out of place, especially if the apostles were supposed to have changed everything after Jesus’ resurrection. It is quite odd, if they had, that there is so much silence about it in the New Testament. Wouldn’t you think?

      In Acts 20:6 Luke mentions that it took them 5 days to cross the Aegean from Philippi before coming to Troas. Then the text implies they stayed at Troas for 7 days, but this doesn’t make sense in light of what is to follow. Paul bypassed Ephesus so he wouldn’t be delayed there, rather he waited for the elders two days at Miletus. Paul had a schedule to keep. Why would he stay in Troas, which wasn’t an original scheduled stop when he intended at first to be in Jerusalem by Passover?

      I believe the meaning of the text (which is supported by my rendering of 20:7) that 5 days of the first week counting toward Pentecost was spent aboard ship, and Paul and company finished the first seven days at Troas. It makes sense also when taking into consideration that Paul had a schedule to keep. This understanding doesn’t fit if someone is trying to prove Paul advocated Sunday over Sabbath worship, but it fits very well if we believe Paul was faithful to his Jewish roots.

      When I get to Paul in Syria (if you are still interested in this point), I intend to offer an overview of his trip to Jerusalem. I’ve noticed that Luke may have referred to all seven of those Sabbaths and Pentecost itself, at least by implication, as he points out the time Paul was in various locations along the way. Paul and company were Sabbath keepers. At least in my mind and the manner in which I view the Scriptures, there is no doubt about this. However, that said, I am not advocating a change in days of worship. We are not under the Law. :-)

      Lord bless you,


  3. Joseph Richardson

    April 11, 2013 at 14:34

    Eddie, thank you for your defense of the Catholic Church above, from the other Joe. ;)

    I’m going to have to disagree with your reading of the Greek of Acts 20:7, as well as your ahistorical assumption that it was only in the fourth century under Constantine that worship moved from the Jewish Sabbath to Sunday, the Lord’s Day, and only on account of “anti-Semitism” (I’ve heard that charge before, from anti-Catholics, and there’s no historical merit to it.) There’s every indication, from both Scripture and Tradition (which, whether you accept it as divinely authoritative or not, represents concrete historical evidence) that meeting on the Lord’s Day was the practice of the Apostles.

    To the Greek:

    First of all, day is supplied by the translators, and is NOT in the Greek. Secondly, the word translated week can also be translated “Sabbath”, which is preferred if the context supports it. Finally, this same Greek word is in the plural NOT in the singular. If one would literally translate the phrase, one could see it belongs to the Jewish method of counting toward Pentecost (cp. Acts 20: 16).

    [ἐν] [<dative-attributive-pronoun>] <dative-adjective-of-number> <dative-genitive> is a very common Greek construction of denoting time-at-which, especially to say “the first (etc.) day” of something. When no other notation of time is given, “day” (ἡμἐρα) is almost invariably assumed. Cf. these instances:

    Matthew 26:17: Τῇ δὲ πρώτῃ τῶν ἀζύμων . . . (“Now on the first [day] of Azymos [the Feast of Unleavened Bread]”)
    Matthew 28:1: Ὀψὲ δὲ σαββάτων, τῇ ἐπιφωσκούσῃ εἰς μίαν σαββάτων (“After the Sabbath” , at the dawning on the first [day] of the week)
    Mark 16:2: καὶ λίαν πρωῒ τῇ μιᾷ τῶν σαββάτων (“And very early [on] the first [day] of the week . . .”)
    Mark 16:9: Ἀναστὰς δὲ πρωῒ πρώτῃ σαββάτου (“Now he having risen [on] the first [day] of the week . . .”) [The only case in which σάββατoν in the singular refers to a week, and a discrepancy in usage with v. 2, one indication that this part was added by a different author.]
    Luke 13:32: . . . καὶ τῇ τρίτῃ τελειοῦμαι. (“And [on] the third [day] I finish.”)
    Luke 24:1: τῇ δὲ μιᾷ τῶν σαββάτων (“Now [on] the first [day] of the week . . .”)
    John 20:1 Τῇ δὲ μιᾷ τῶν σαββάτων (“Now [on] the first [day] of the week . . .”)
    John 20:19: Oὕσης οὖν ὀψίας τῇ ἡμέρᾳ ἐκείνῃ τῇ μιᾷ σαββάτων . . . (“The evening of the same day [on] the first of the week . . .”)
    Acts 27:19: καὶ τῇ τρίτῃ (“And the third [day] . . . “)
    1 Corinthians 16:2: κατὰ μίαν σαββάτου [Byzantine text form reads σαββάτων] (“On the first of the week . . .”)

    Clearly in speaking of Jesus’s Resurrection, telling the day of the week is the context! Σάββατoν (‘”The Sabbath”) appears here repeatedly in the genitive plural — this is common when referring to a “week.” The idiom, perhaps, was “The first day [of that period of days initiated by] the Sabbath.” Σάββατoν in the singular usually meant “The Sabbath” proper, and the form σαββάτων appears in the NT only 11 times, five of which are listed here, in reference to “the first day of the week.” Acts 20:17 makes a sixth. And this is not even to mention the hundred or so cases I could cite from the Septuagint!

    As you may know, classical Greek had no concept of a “week.” The closest approximation was ἑβδομάς, the number seven, which in the context of time was assumed to refer to seven [days]. It’s interesting to me that even Mark and Luke, who I always was told were Gentiles when I was growing up, would reckon a week in reference to the σάββατον. You’ve been digging deeply into these people. Do you think they are Jews or Gentiles? Mark, upon a little study, appears to be a Jew. He was a cousin of Barnabas (Colossians 4:10), and his mother Mary was a Jew of Jerusalem (Acts 12:12). There is a very early tradition that Luke was one of the Seventy and also one of the two disciples on the Road to Emmaus, but the Catholic Encyclopedia rejects this based on Colossians 4:14, in which Paul separates Luke from the list of “the only Jews who have helped me to preach God’s kingdom” (v. 11).

    Now, the context: You are stretching awfully far and into some awfully awkward-looking positions to make “the first of Sabbaths” fit this context. Luke is narrating an itinerary. They sailed from Philippi and in five days came to Troas, where they stayed seven days. You certainly lose the sense of immediacy if you here suddenly shift to referring to a calendar date — especially a calendar date that would only make sense in a very limited case (“This scenario can be true without any contradiction **only** if the Passover began on a Sunday that year.”). The phrase in verse 6 is a perfectly straightforward piece of Greek which would otherwise leave no question about its meaning — it is only “troublesome” because you are making trouble for it where there is no trouble. Seven days is a week. Ἐν δὲ τῇ μιᾷ τῶν σαββάτων most certainly refers to the first of those days. It is the most natural reading of the Greek and the best reading to fit the context.

    Now, there are other references in Scripture that indicate that the Apostles celebrated the Christian mysteries on the first day of the week, not the Sabbath. In 1 Corinthians 16:2, Paul suggests that the Church take up a collection on “the first day of the week” because that’s when they would gathering. In Revelation 1:10, John states that he received his vision while in the Spirit “on the Lord’s Day” — which is what the early Church called Sunday, as made clear by the very earliest extrascriptural documents. It was called “the Lord’s Day” in celebration of Jesus’s Resurrection, and plainly this is the tradition received from the Apostles. I am sure you’ve noted in your study of Acts that Paul always went to the local synagogue to preach the Gospel of Christ to the Jews on the Sabbath — because that is when the Jews gathered there. But every clear reference to a gathering of Christians, to the celebration of the Christian mysteries (“the breaking of bread”) is on “the first day of the week.” It is apparent that the custom of the Jewish Christians was to attend the Sabbath synagogue services, and then after the sun went down, celebrate the Christian mysteries in someone’s home.

    Now, to look the the earliest Christian documents beyond the Bible — as I’ve complained before, you Protestants so easily get tunnel-vision when you ignore Tradition. ;) These are valid and important historical evidences of the faith and practice of the Early Church:

    On the Lord’s own day, assemble in common to break bread and offer thanks, but first confess your sins so that your sacrifice may be pure.” Didache, 14 (Widely believed to be the earliest extrascriptural Christian document — dated by some as early as A.D. 70, by others as late as A.D. 90).

    “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.” Ignatius of Antioch, Epistle to the Magnesians, 9:1 (ca. A.D. 107).

    The seventh day, therefore, is proclaimed a rest–abstraction from ills–preparing for the Primal [First] Day, our true rest; which, in truth, is the first creation of light, in which all things are viewed and possessed. From this day the first wisdom and knowledge illuminate us. For the light of truth–a light true, casting no shadow, is the Spirit of God indivisibly divided to all, who are sanctified by faith, holding the place of a luminary, in order to the knowledge of real existences. By following Him, therefore, through our whole life, we become impossible; and this is to rest.” Clement of Alexandria, Stromata, 6:16 (ca. A.D. 202).

    “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 lace 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.Teaching of the Apostles, 2 (ca. A.D. 225).

    I do believe these are a little bit earlier than Constantine. ;) And there is a lot more where they came from.

    • Eddie

      April 11, 2013 at 17:13

      Greetings Joe, thank you for reading my blog post and for your well thought out response. Concerning my defense of the Catholic faith, I think there has been too much fighting between Christians for too long. I don’t see all of us merging into one visible body again, but we can be considerate toward one another instead of looking for the worst, so (seemingly) we can feel better about the path we have chosen. At least that is the way it had been for me, and I hope I have repented of it all and it is behind me now.

      Anyway, concerning your response, you caught me at a bad time. Doctor visits and family visits are upon me, so it will take a few days before I can offer a proper reply. I do wish to respond, though I may have to concede to your greater knowledge of the Greek. My knowledge is wanting to say the least. However, I would take issue with you on some of the Scriptures you use for support.

      Lord bless you, and I hope to reply again in more detail in a couple of days.

  4. Joe

    April 10, 2013 at 14:51

    I would rethink this article. See below for quotes from the Roman Catholic Church aka the 1st beast from revelation or the last beast in Daniel has to say about the sabbath:

    “You may read the Bible from Genesis to Revelation, and you will not find a single line authorizing the sanctification of Sunday. The Scriptures enforce the religious observance of Saturday, a day which we never sanctified.” James Cardinal Gibbons, The Faith of Our Fathers (1917 ed.), pp.72,73

    “If protestants would follow the Bible, they should worship God on the Sabbath Day, that is Saturday. In keeping Sunday they are following a law of the Catholic Church.” Albert Smith, chancellor of the Archdiocese of Baltimore, replying for the cardinal in a letter of Feb. 10, 1920.

    “Have you not any other way of proving that the Church has power to institute festivals of precept?”
    “Had she not such power, she could not have done that in which all modern religionists agree with her, she could not have substituted the observance of Sunday, the first day of the week, for the observance of Saturday, the Seventh day, a change for which there is no Scriptural authority” Stephen Keenan, A Doctrinal Catechism 3rd ed. p. 174

    How prove you that the Church hath power to command feasts and holydays?
    By the very act of changing the Sabbath into Sunday, which Protestants allow of; and therefore they fondly contradict themselves, by keeping Sunday strictly, and breaking most other feasts commanded by the same Church.” Henry Tuberville, An Abridgment of the Christian Doctrine (1833 approbation), p.58 (Same statement in Manual of Christian Doctrine, ed. by Daniel Ferris [1916 ed.], p.67)

    “The Catholic Church,… by virtue of her divine mission, changed the day from Saturday to Sunday.
    ” The Catholic Mirror, official organ of Cardinal Gibbons, Sept. 23, 1893.

    “Is Saturday the 7th day according to the Bible and the 10 Commandments?”
    “I answer yes”.
    “Is Sunday the first day of the week and did the Church change the 7th day, Saturday, for Sunday, the 1st day?”
    “I answer yes”.
    “Did Christ change the day?”
    “I answer no!” Faithfully yours, “J. Cardinal Gibbons” Gibbons’ autograph letter.

    But this theory is entirely abandoned. It is now commonly held that God simply gave His church the power to set aside whatever day or days she would deem suitable as holy days. The church chose Sunday, the first day of the week, and in the course of time added other days as holy days.”
    John Laux A Course in Religion for Catholic High Schools and Academies 1936, vol.1 p.51

    Which is the Sabbath day?
    Saturday is the Sabbath day.
    Why do we observe Sunday instead of Saturday?
    We observe Sunday instead of Saturday because the Catholic Church transferred the solemity from Saturday to Sunday.”
    Peter Geiermann, The Convert’s Catechism of Catholic Doctrine (1946 ed.), p.50. Geiermann received the “apostolic blessing” of Pope Pius X on his labors, January 25, 1910.

    “The Catholic Church changed the observance of the Sabbath to Sunday by right of the divine, infallible authority given to her by her Founder, Jesus Christ. The Protestant, claiming the Bible to be the only guide of faith, has no warrant for observing Sunday. The Catholic Universe Bulletin, Aug. 14, 1942, p.4

    “The observance of Sunday by the Protestants is an homage they pay, in spite of themselves, to the authority of the [Catholic] church.” Monsignor Louis Segur, Plain Talk About the Protestantism of Today (1868), p. 213

    What power has claimed authority to change God’s law?
    The Papacy in Rome.
    “The Pope is of so great authority and power that he can modify, explain, or interpret even Divine Laws…The Pope can modify divine law, since his power is not of man, but of God, and he acts as vicegerent of God upon earth.” Translated from Lucius Ferraris, Prompta Bibliotheca (Ready Library), “Papa”, art. 2.

    What part of the law of God has the papacy thought to change?
    The Fourth Commandment.
    “Catholics alledge the change of the Sabbath into the Lord’s day, contrary, as it seemeth, to the Decalogue; and they have no example more in their mouth than the change of the Sabbath. They will needs have to be very great, because it hath dispensed with a precept of the Decalogue.” The Augsburg Confession (Lutheran), part 2, art. 7, in Philip Schaff, The Creeds of Christendom (Harper), vol. 3, p. 64.

    “It [the Roman Catholic Church] reversed the Fourth Commandment by doing away with the Sabbath of God’s word and instituting Sunday as a holiday.” N. Summerbell, History of the Christian Church (1873), p. 415.

    Does the papacy acknowledge changing the Sabbath?
    It does.
    The Catechismus Romanus was commanded by the Council of Trent and published by the Vatican Press, by order of Pope Pius V, in 1566. This catechism for priests says: “It pleased the church of God, that the religious celebration of the Sabbath day should be transferred to ‘the Lord’s day. Sunday.'” Catechism of the Council of Trent (Donovan’s translation, 1867), part 3, chap. 4, p. 345. The same in slightly different wording, is in the McHugh and Callan translation (1937 ed.), p. 402.

    Daniel 7:25
    “And he shall speak great words against the most High, and shall wear out the saints of the most High, and think to change times and laws: and they shall be given into his hand until a time and times and the dividing of time.”

    It certainly is wrong for any christian to celebreate Sunday as the sabbath.

    • Eddie

      April 10, 2013 at 15:11

      Thank you, Joe, for your comment and references, but I neither believe the Roman Catholic Church is the “Beast” of Revelation (or Daniel), nor do I believe just because Saturday is the Sabbath that it naturally follows gentiles are required to keep that day by the Law of God. Paul tells us we are **not** under the Law. I agree with you that Saturday is the Sabbath, but like it or not in the course of Christian history, whether for good or for bad, most Christians worship on Sunday rather than Saturday. I am not condemned or justified by whether or not I keep the Sabbath. In the greatest sense of the **rest** Jesus is my Sabbath. I **rest** from all my labors in him–not in a day of the week.

      Your are welcome to your understanding. I would not think of seeking to change your mind or try to lord it over your faith and walk in Christ. I do hope, however, you would reconsider the freedom other believers have in Christ to worship on another day. We are not called to serve God through the Law but to love him with our whole being and one another as Jesus loved us, and this can be done on any day of the week in particular, and should be done every day of the week in general.

      May the peace of the Spirit of God be with you,


  5. robind333

    April 10, 2013 at 14:12

    Personally, I believe it should be Saturday. It’s the only day which God sanctified and made Holy and he says to remember it. I understand we’re technically not under the law, but, in the book of the prophets when God speaks of the New Covenant he states, he would write the law upon our hearts and minds. If this is the case the commandments are within us on our hearts and in our minds. And to me this means we should honor the Sabbath as Saturday.

    Plus Christ also kept the Sabbath and we’re told to follow in his footsteps. So this is why I prefer my Sabbath worship on Saturday…Just my opinion! But definitely a great post….many, many blessings to you….Robin

    • Eddie

      April 10, 2013 at 14:48

      Thank you for your kind words and may the Lord richly bless you as well.


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