Sabbath and Sunday in Early Christianity

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The Second Century

There was a question as to whether it was best to observe Passover on Nisan 14, the day the Jews celebrated it, no matter which day of the week it fell on, or whether to observe it on the Sunday nearest Nisan The early church made a special day of Sunday, but not because it was a day consecrated to the sun god, as is often suggested by Sabbath-keepers.

How was the Sabbath Changed to Sunday?

Instead, they consecrated Sunday as the Lord's Day , the day on which Jesus rose from the dead. The Lord's day was not a day of rest but a day of rejoicing. It was a tradition with the early churches not to kneel on Sunday because it was the day on which Jesus rose from the dead.

Thus, it was to be a day of celebration, and they did not kneel or fast De Corona 3. The early churches had two ways of settling controversies. One was to resort to the Scriptures. The other was to consult the tradition the apostles had given to the churches.

Paul assigns great importance to such tradition , telling both the Corinthians 1 Cor. He specifically told the Thessalonians that they were to do so whether the traditions were written or verbal.

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In this case, however, the Scriptures had nothing to say, and the traditions handed down to the various churches differed:. On the other hand, Polycarp couldn't persuade Anicetus to keep [Nisan 14] either. For [Anicetus] maintained that he was bound to adhere to the usage of the elders who preceded him. In this state of affairs they held fellowship with each other.

Which Day Did Jesus Keep?

The west still held to one practice, and the east another. The Council of Nicea—a council attended and somewhat led by Constantine—did make a decision for Sunday, but not to change the Sabbath to Sunday. Instead, they ruled only on the question of the celebration of Passover.

The church had been meeting on Sunday for centuries. If, therefore, those who were brought up in the ancient order of things [i. It should be obvious that the Lord's Day is the first day of the week, but people have argued and written books to the effect that the Lord's day is the Sabbath.

The Forgotten History of Sabbath and Sunday

These are the same people who have produced the myths about Constantine changing the Sabbath to Sunday and the fabricated history about the early Church keeping the Sabbath. As you can see, Ignatius contrasts the Lord's day with the Sabbath, and he tells us that it is the day "on which also our life has sprung up again by him. Justin doesn't bother referring to the Lord's day or the first day of the week. A Roman living in Rome and writing to a Roman emperor, he is content to refer to the day in Roman terminology: the day of the sun, or Sunday. And on the day called Sunday, all who live in cities or in the country gather together in 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.

So here is what the Council of Nicea did decree. This is from the synodal letter sent out after the council:. Since the synodal letter of the Council of Nicea was originally written in Greek, it would have used the Greek term Pascha , meaning Passover not Easter. The word Easter is only used in German and English, which derived from German. Spanish, for example, still uses Pascua , corresponding to the Greek Pascha , the word for Passover. Ref: Wikipedia , which cites the eighth-century history of the Venerable Bede. We further proclaim to you the good news of the agreement concerning the holy Easter, that this particular also has through your prayers been rightly settled; so that all our brethren in the East who formerly followed the custom of the Jews are henceforth to celebrate the said most sacred feast of Easter at the same time with the Romans and yourselves and all those who have observed Easter from the beginning.

As you can see, The only decision the Council of Nicea made about Sunday was that Passover would be celebrated on the Sunday nearest Nisan 14, rather than on Nisan 14 itself. It is important to point out that Constantine did make an edict, in , the year before the Council of Nicea, mandating worship of the Supreme God on Sunday Gonzalez, Justo, The Story of Christianity , p. This could be seen as honoring Christians, for whom Sunday was the Lord's day, but it could also be seen as honoring the sun god as well.

Either way, the idea that Constantine or the Council of Nicea changed the Sabbath to Sunday from Saturday is simply false.

Sabbath and the Early Church

The Christian Sabbath was never Saturday or any other day of the week , so there was nothing for Constantine to change. Return to Doctrine. Home Contact Me. Privacy Policy. More Gentiles were becoming Christians as well, which contributed to a desire to shake off Jewish customs. By the end of the first century, Sunday worship was the norm. We can assume the change caused some friction, for in Colossians Paul admonishes, "Therefore do no let anyone judge you by what you eat or drink, or with regard to a religious festival, a New Moon celebration or a Sabbath day.

It's important to note that the Sabbath was not simply moved; Christians altered the observance as well as the day. Hallmarks of the early Christian "Lord's day" celebration, according to Justin Martyr ca. By Jewish standards, Christians don't keep the Sabbath at all. To ask CHB editors a church history-related question, send an e-mail to cheditor christianitytoday. Due to the volume of mail, we cannot answer all questions.

Your question may be answered in a future "Ask the Editors" column. Do not expect a direct reply. Click here for reprint information on Christian History. Sections Home. Prayer Abortion Fatherhood. Subscribe Subscriber Benefits Give a Gift. Subscribers receive full access to the archives. Home Featured Holidays. Home Featured People. When did the Christian church switch the Sabbath from Saturday to Sunday? Elesha Coffman. Current Issue October Subscribe. Subscribe to Christianity Today and get instant access to past issues of Christian History!

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Sabbath and Sunday in Early Christianity Sabbath and Sunday in Early Christianity
Sabbath and Sunday in Early Christianity Sabbath and Sunday in Early Christianity
Sabbath and Sunday in Early Christianity Sabbath and Sunday in Early Christianity
Sabbath and Sunday in Early Christianity Sabbath and Sunday in Early Christianity
Sabbath and Sunday in Early Christianity Sabbath and Sunday in Early Christianity
Sabbath and Sunday in Early Christianity Sabbath and Sunday in Early Christianity
Sabbath and Sunday in Early Christianity Sabbath and Sunday in Early Christianity

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