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Sabbath in Christianity

In Christianity, the Sabbath is generally a weekly religious day of rest as ordained by one of the Ten Commandments (the third by Roman Catholic and Lutheran numbering, and the fourth by Eastern Orthodox and usual Protestant numbering). The practice is inherited from Judaism, the parent religion of Christianity; shabbat (šhabbat) meaning "the [day of] rest" and entailing a ceasing or resting from labor. The institution of the Old Testament Sabbath, taken as a "perpetual covenant ... a sign for ever" by the people of Israel (-NRSV), was in respect for the day during which God rested after having completed the creation in six days ().

Originally denoting a rest day on the seventh day of the week (in Judaism, the period from Friday sunset to Saturday nightfall), the term "Sabbath" has acquired the connotation of a time of communal worship and now has several meanings in Christian contexts:

  • The period from Friday sunset to Saturday sunset, in reference to the Jewish day of rest, observed by some Christian groups;
  • Rarely, any of the seven annual High Sabbaths, rest days called shabbaton (such as Pentecost); or the Sabbatical Year;
  • Sunday, as a synonym for "Lord's Day", in commemoration of the Resurrection of Jesus, a time of communal worship for most Christians;
  • Any weekly day of rest, prayer, worship, or ritual, as some Christian leaders practice;
  • A symbolic metaphor for the eternal "rest" that Christians enjoy in Christ, rather than a weekly observance.

Both those who observe a seventh-day Sabbath, and those who adhere to a Puritan Lord's-Day Sabbath, have laid claim to the name Sabbatarians; the term is less frequent for those who hold a different rest day.

Overview

According to the book of Genesis, the first book of the Bible, God created the world in six days, and on the seventh day "he rested from all his labors", and "blessed the seventh day and made it holy". ()

According to Exodus, God liberated the Israelites from Egyptian bondage and brought them to Mount Sinai where He revealed the Law to them. Among the ten commandments given at Sinai was a command to remember to observe the seventh day of the week as the Sabbath, as a memorial of creation. Prior to this, the Israelites had been commanded not to gather manna on the seventh day (). In , the Sabbath is called a "sign forever" between God and Israel, as well as a "perpetual covenant"; breaking the Sabbath would incur the death penalty (see List of capital crimes in the Torah). The Sabbath command reappears several times in Exodus, Leviticus and Numbers. In , the commandment relating to the Sabbath is reiterated, but instead of commemorating creation it now symbolizes the redemption of Israel from Egypt.

In New Testament times (the first century and second century A.D. or Apostolic Age), Saturday was observed as the Sabbath by Jesus Christ and his followers. Controversy arose when Jesus was accused of desecrating the Sabbath, to which he responded that "the Sabbath was made for man, not man for the Sabbath" and that "the son of Man is the Lord of the Sabbath" (). He also taught that it was right to do good on the Sabbath (). Some have argued that Jesus' teachings abrogated the laws of Sabbath, while others maintain that his teachings state the Pharisaic position on Sabbath observance. Some Christian churches observe Saturday as the Sabbath (eg Seventh-day Adventists).

After the crucifixion and resurrection of Jesus, Saturday observance continued and was a time of communal gathering for early Christians, both Jew and Gentile (). This situation continued for some time. At the same time, worship on the first day of the week, or Sunday (also called the Lord's Day) appeared very early in the Christian Church (perhaps or Ignatius' Epistle to the Magnesians 9.1) many Christian denominations consider it an ordinance instituted by the Holy Spirit through the Apostles for the celebration of the day of the Lord's resurrection. In Rome, Carthage, Alexandria and the Eastern churches, the observance of the seventh-day Sabbath gradually ceased, and in some respects was condemned as a Jewish or Judaizing practice; by the early 4th century Sunday worship was common, though not universal.

The keeping of a seven day week recalls creation by God in six days and its completion on the seventh day, when God rested. The custom of refraining from work on the Sabbath for the purpose of worship, to hear the word of God, to celebrate the Eucharist, and to perform works of mercy, commemorates Redemption and its completion with the Resurrection of Jesus and the gift of the Holy Spirit at Pentecost.

A practical distinction sometimes arises between the Lord's Day (Sunday) and the Sabbath (Saturday or Sunday). Some Christians insist on Sunday observance (sometimes referred to as "first day Sabbatarianism", or "eighth day Sabbatarianism") because it is the "day of light", the first day of the new creation, and the traditional day on which many Christians have met. Alternatively, many Christians suggest that on the weight of Biblical evidence Sabbath-keeping is not a prescribed duty for Christians under the New Covenant and thus worshiping on Sunday is acceptable, see also Biblical law in Christianity.

Today, Protestant and Roman Catholic doctrine maintains that Sunday observance was instituted by the authority of the Holy Spirit acting in the church, and is attested in Scripture rather than commanded.

Some Christians have revived observance of Sabbath on the seventh day, including the Seventh-day Adventist Church, Seventh-day Churches of God and Seventh Day Baptists. Such groups have existed at various times throughout the Christian era.

Early church practice

In Early Christianity, the first Christians were Jews and Jewish Proselytes, who on the weight of Biblical evidence are usually assumed to have kept the Jewish customs, including the observation of the Sabbath from Friday sunset to Saturday sunset. These Christians are sometimes referred to as Jewish Christians. This practice may have continued at least until Herod's Temple in Jerusalem was destroyed in AD 70 or the city was renamed Aelia Capitolina in AD 135. According to Eusebius, the first 15 Bishops of Jerusalem were "of the circumcision". Alister McGrath claimed that many of the Jewish Christians were fully faithful religious Jews, only differing in their acceptance of Jesus as the Messiah.

At the same time, a widespread early Christian tradition was to meet for worship on the first day of the week (Sunday) in commemoration of the resurrection of Jesus; Sunday thus came to be known as the Lord's Day. For example, the Corinthian church probably met on Sunday, since Paul expected them to gather their collection for the saints on the first day of the week. Early observance of Sunday in place of the Sabbath is attested to in patristic writings of the late 1st century and early 2nd century (see Apostolic Fathers).

The Apostolic Constitutions, generally dated in the 4th century and found in the Ante-Nicene Fathers collection contain evidence of both Saturday and Sunday observance in the church:

2.36 the Sabbath should be observed by resting and studying the Law.
6.19 the Law has not been dissolved as Simon (probably Simon Magus) claims citing the introduction to the Expounding of the Law in the Gospel of Matthew.
7.23 keep the Sabbath and the Lord's Day festival.

It is known that some (perhaps many) early Gentile Christians openly observed the seventh-day Sabbath; some of these early Christians kept the seventh-day Sabbath in conjunction with a first-day Sunday worship. The Council of Laodicea around AD 365 attempted to put a stop to the practice. Some conjecture, then, that prior to the Laodicean council Saturday was observed as a Sabbath and Sunday as a day of worship, primarily in Palestine; but after the Laodicean Council, resting on the Sabbath was forbidden. This is often considered an attempt of the early Christian church to distance itself from Judaism which had become unpopular in the Roman Empire after the Jewish-Roman wars (see also Constantine and the Jews and Homilies against the Jews (Chrysostom)).

The 59 decrees of the Council of Laodicea are part of the Nicene and Post-Nicene Fathers collection: Number 16 states the Bible is to be read on the Sabbath, No. 29 states Christians must not Judaize by resting on the Sabbath but must work that day and then if possible rest on the Lord's Day and any found to be Judaizers are anathema from Christ; Number 49 and number 51 state that the Sabbath and Lord's Day are to be excepted from Lenten restrictions.

In the 5th century, Socrates Scholasticus Church History book 5 states:

Nor is there less variation in regard to religious assemblies. For although almost all churches throughout the world celebrate the sacred mysteries on the sabbath of every week, yet the Christians of Alexandria and at Rome, on account of some ancient tradition, have ceased to do this.

Also in the 5th century, Sozomen Church History book 7 states:

Assemblies are not held in all churches on the same time or manner. The people of Constantinople, and almost everywhere, assemble together on the Sabbath, as well as on the first day of the week, which custom is never observed at Rome or at Alexandria.

Seventh-day (Saturday) Sabbatarianism

New Testament arguments

The following are some of the New Testament reasons adduced for keeping the seventh day of the week (Saturday) as a Sabbath day of rest. Sabbatarians take the statement made by Jesus, before the foundation of the Christian Church, that "the Son of Man is lord even of the Sabbath", to indicate that Sabbath-keeping is central to following Christ: since He kept the seventh-day Sabbath, this is the true Lord's day. Further, in , Christ, in reference to the future destruction of Jerusalem, told his listeners, "Pray that your flight may not be in winter or on the Sabbath." Sabbatarians, therefore, maintain that this indicates that Jesus expected the Sabbath to be kept after his death. recounts that, after the death of Jesus, the women who wished to prepare his body rested on the Sabbath, intending to finish their work on the first day of the week, but on finding he was risen were unable to do so. Also, on the weight of , which speaks of a Sabbath rest superior to the rest that Joshua won for the Israelites, Sabbatarians say that the Sabbath remains a Christian Holy Day and that Sabbath-keeping is an abiding duty as prescribed in the fourth commandment.

In that passage is found the word "σαββατισμός" (sabbatismós). The Authorized Version (King James Version of 1611) render this word as "rest". Modern translations, including all those whose name begins with the word "New" have either "Sabbath rest" or "rest".

The Darby translation simply transliterates the word as "Sabbatism". The Scriptures, translated by The Institute For Scripture Research, renders it as "Sabbath observance", while The Bible in Basic English gives "Sabbath keeping". Professor Andrew T. Lincoln, on page 213 in his symposium From Sabbath to Lord's Day, states: "The use of sabbatismos elsewhere in extant Greek literature gives an indication of its more exact shade of meaning. It is used in Plutarch, De Superstitione 3 (Moralia166A) of Sabbath observance. There are also four occurrences in post-canonical literature that are independent of Hebrews 4:9. They are Justin, Dialogue with Trypho 23:3; Epiphanius, Adversus Haereses 30:2:2; Martyrium Petri et Pauli 1; Apostolic Constitutions 2:36:2. In each of these places the term denotes the observance or celebration of the Sabbath. This usage corresponds to the Septuagint usage of the cognate verb sabbatizo (cf. ; ; ; ). Thus the writer to the Hebrews is saying that since the time of Joshua an observance of the Sabbath rest has been outstanding."

Matthew Henry's Concise Commentary on the Whole Bible has the following: "It is evident, that there is a more spiritual and excellent sabbath remaining for the people of God, than that of the seventh day, or that into which Joshua led the Jews. This rest is, a rest of grace, and comfort, and holiness, in the gospel state. And a rest in glory, where the people of God shall enjoy the end of their faith, and the object of all their desires. The rest, or sabbatism, which is the subject of the apostle's reasoning, and as to which he concludes that it remains to be enjoyed, is undoubtedly the heavenly rest, which remains to the people of God, and is opposed to a state of labour and trouble in this world. It is the rest they shall obtain when the Lord Jesus shall appear from heaven. But those who do not believe, shall never enter into this spiritual rest, either of grace here or glory hereafter. God has always declared man's rest to be in him, and his love to be the only real happiness of the soul; and faith in his promises, through his Son, to be the only way of entering that rest."

Non-Sabbatarians see indications in the New Testament of a special Sunday observance on the part of Christians. The work involved in gathering together and preparing this observance after the Sabbath rest ended at sunset on Saturday would not scandalize the Jews, whether Christian or non-believers in Jesus. tells of an occasion when, on the first day of the week (i.e. Sunday), the Christians in Troas gathered "to break bread" and Paul continued his preaching until midnight. According to Jewish tradition, however (and as described in ), a day begins when the sun goes down and this meeting apparently gathered in the evening. So, those who have believed that the Christians kept the Sabbath on the seventh day argue that this meeting would have begun on Saturday night. Paul would have been preaching on Saturday night until midnight and then walked eighteen miles from Traos to Assos on Sunday. He would not have done so, if he had regarded Sunday as the Sabbath, much less boarded a boat and continued to travel to Mitylene and finally on to Chios. Sabbatarians often claim that Biblical evidence suggests that Paul was a lifelong Sabbath keeper for the sake of the Jews, and if Sunday was now the Sabbath, then this journey would have been contrary to his character. Those opposed to a Sabbath claim that the practice had been abolished by this time, and thus would have no impact on Paul's actions.

Some doubt that this is an instance of Paul keeping the Sabbath, although it may be if it shows him waiting until the morning of the first day to continue his work. The focus of the story is about Eutychus, his accident, and his resurrection, not the changing of the Sabbath from the seventh day to the first day of the week. Also in , they went to the Temple in Jerusalem and broke bread from house to house "daily". There is no mention of the Sabbath, and it is debatable whether this is a reference to Communion. There are many instances of the Gospel being taught and preached on non-specific days as well as daily. One example is in another is , where it clearly indicates that Jesus himself taught and preached daily. , written in about the year 57, does not mention meeting together, but does speak of the first day of the week as a day in which the apostle wanted them to lay aside their offering for a collection for the Christians in Jerusalem. uses the expression "the Lord's day" as one that would be familiar to its readers. Non-Sabbatarians see this as indicating a day different from the Sabbath and indeed the first day of the week, as indicated in the other two New Testament passages mentioned and as quite explicitly in later writings. Sabbatarians say instead that the expression refers to the Sabbath, and quote in this regard , which speaks of the Sabbath as "the holy day of the LORD". speaks of Sabbath observance as on the same level as the observance of new moon festivals and rules about food and drink, merely "a shadow of things to come, but the body is of Christ." Nevertheless, even if such observance was seen as non-essential, Christians did continue to observe Old Testament festivals, as seen in , , , , and , and, until they were excluded, often attended the Jewish synagogues on the Sabbath. Non-Sabbatarians see them as holding their specifically Christian celebrations after the Sabbath had ended.

For many Sabbatarians, keeping the seventh day is about worshipping God as Creator. For non-Sabbatarians, it is principally about celebrating the resurrection of Jesus, which occurred on the first day.

Historical Seventh-day Sabbatarians

A split from Unitarianism in Central Europe to adopt Mosaic law and customs, including the Judaic Shabbat. It was founded in Transylvania at the end of the 16th century by a Eössi András. The Unitarian Church condemned Sabbatarianism as innovation (forbidden by the Transylvanian law on religious toleration) in 1618. The last Sabbatarian congregation in Transylvania disappeared in the 19th century and the remaining Sabbatarians, who were known as "Somrei Sabat" (the Hungarian transliteration of the Hebrew words for "Sabbath observers") joined the existing Jewish communities, which they were eventually absorbed into. Sabbatarianism also expanded into Russia, where its adherents were called Subbotniks, and from there, the movement expanded into other countries. Some of the Russian Subotniki maintained a Christian identity doctrinally speaking, whereas others also formally converted to Judaism and assimilated within the Jewish communities of Russia. Some of the latter, however, who had become Jewish, although they and their descendants practiced Judaism and had not practiced Christianity for nearly two centuries, still retained a distinct identity as ethnic Russian converts to Judaism until recent times. It was also practiced among the English Dissenters under the leadership of John Traske (1586-1636).

The Socinian churches of Eastern Europe and the Netherlands were emphatically anti-Sabbatarian. However, a small number of them adopted Saturday as the day of worship. This small Seventh-day sect finally abandoned Christianity in favor of orthodox Judaism. Seventh-day Sabbatarianism did not become prevalent to any degree among Protestants, until it was revived in England by several groups of English Baptists, and through them the doctrine spread to a few churches in other denominations. Unitarian and seventh day leaders and churches were persecuted as heretics by the Trinitarian and Sunday-observing establishment, in England.

The Seventh Day Baptists originated in the 17th century and arrived at the height of their influence on other sects in the middle of the 19th century, in the United States. Their doctrines were instrumental in the founding of the Seventh-day Adventist Church and the Seventh-day Church of God.

Africa

Charles E. Bradford has argued that the Sabbath has existed in Africa since the beginning of recorded history.

Modern Seventh-day Sabbatarians

The Seventh-day Adventist Church is the largest modern seventh-day Sabbatarian denomination, with about 15 million members. Seventh-day Adventism grew out of the Millerite movement in the 1840s, and its founders were converted to Sabbatarianism under the influence of Rachel Oakes Preston, a Seventh Day Baptist. They have traditionally taught that the Seventh-day Sabbath will be a test, leading to the sealing of God's people during the end times, though there is little consensus about how this will play out. The church has traditionally taught that there will be an international Sunday law enforced by a coalition of religious and secular authorities; all who do not observe it will be persecuted and killed. This is taken from Ellen G. White's interpretation of and , Revelation 7; Ezekiel 20: 12, 20; Exodus 31:13, where the subject of persecution in prophecy is thought to be about the Sabbath commandment.

The Worldwide Church of God, which (after 1934) was descended from a schism in the Seventh-day Church of God, was founded as a seventh-day Sabbath-keeping church, but in 1995 it renounced Sabbatarianism and moved toward the Evangelical "mainstream." Its move away from Sabbatarianism, and other doctrines, caused more schisms, with large groups splitting off and continuing to observe the Sabbath as new church organizations. See the list of Sabbath keeping Churches of God. The largest breakaway group is the United Church of God which rejected the 1990s doctrinal changes, and which still keeps the Sabbath. In 2005 its flagship magazine had a circulation of 400,000.

The Seventh Day Baptist World Federation represents over 50,000 people worldwide.

Other minor Sabbatarian churches include:

  • Seventh-day Remnant home-churches
  • The primarily Chinese True Jesus Church supports a Saturday Sabbath, and has approximately 2 million believers worldwide. Initial founder Ling-Sheng Zhang accepted the Sabbath after studying Seventh-day Adventist theology, and co-founder Paul Wei was originally a Seventh-day Adventist. An American missionary named Fendelson, who was from a Sabbath-keeping Church of God, also influenced the founders.
  • Logos Apostolic Church of God in the UK, Kenya, Uganda, Tanzania, and Sudan.

Messianic Jews also keep the Sabbath. They are culturally Jewish but believe that Jesus (Yeshua) is the saviour and the resurrected Jewish Messiah. There were about 500,000 Messianic Jews in 1993.

Christian Sunday observance

New Testament background

It was on the first day of the week, according to the Bible, that Jesus was raised from the dead (, , ). The disciples of Jesus testified that on that same evening, called "the first day of the week", the resurrected Christ came to them while they were gathered in fear (). Eight days later (i.e. the next Sunday), Jesus is said to have appeared to them a second time (). The writer called Luke, in the Acts of the Apostles, writes that "After his suffering, he showed himself to these men and gave many convincing proofs that he was alive. He appeared to them over a period of forty days and spoke about the kingdom of God." At the end of forty days, the Bible states that Jesus ascended into heaven while the disciples watched and ten days later, at the onset of the feast of Pentecost (See: Shavuot) the Bible says that the Spirit of God was given to the disciples of Christ, establishing the Christian Church, on the first day of the week.

There are two instances in the New Testament where the first Christians are said to have come together on the first day of the week to break bread, to listen to Christian preaching and to gather collections for the financial assistance of others. However, some argue that these references are not sufficient to prove that Sunday observance was an established practice in the primitive New Testament church.

Early church

Several very early Christian writers and historians attest to the fact that Christians regularly assembled on the first day of the week, citing the resurrection of Jesus as the reason for observing the Lord's Day. These writers include Barnabas (AD 100), Ignatius of Antioch (107), Justin Martyr (145), Bardaisan (154), Irenaeus (178), Tertullian (180), Cyprian (200), Saint Victorinus (280), and Eusebius of Caesarea (324) [Note: dates are traditional and approximate]. These early Christians believed that the resurrection and ascension of Christ signals the renewal of creation, making the day on which God accomplished it a day analogous to the first day of creation when God made the light. It is a day of fulfillment of the Jewish Shabbat which preceded it, an "eighth day" on which sin was overcome and death was conquered. Therefore the first day has become like the seventh day when God's creating work attained to its goal, a day on which man attained to the goal of rest in God. Reasoning this way, some wrote of the first day as a greater day than the Sabbath, an "eighth day" on which, through Christ, mankind was redeemed out of futility and brought into the Sabbath-rest of God. However, these writers do not call the day a Sabbath.

The Didache (AD 70-120?) uses the term κυριακήν (kyriaken), which literally means "the Lord's," with the word ἡμέρα hemera ("day") being ellided. In extrabiblical Christian literature, κυριακήν always refers to Sunday except for two early instances where textual readings have given rise to questions of proper translation. The use of κυριακήν in the Didache is one of those instances. The Greek expression normally translated as "On the Lord's day" in the Didache is κατά κυριακήν δέ κύριος (Holmes M. The Apostolic Fathers - Greek Texts and English Translations), which literally would be rendered in English as "On the Lord's [day] of the Lord". Consequently, Didache 14 has often been translated as "On the Lord's own day, gather yourselves together and break bread and give thanks," apparently a reference to the weekly Sunday Eucharist (cf. Acts 2:42; 20:7). Some who dispute this translation argue that it should be translated "according to the Lord's commandment gather yourselves together to break bread...".

The Epistle of Barnabas (120-150) uses to suggest that the "eighth day" marks the resurrection, and as such denotes the completion of God's work of saving mankind from sin. Although there is dispute over whether this is a correct interpretation of Isaiah, it is a good indication that Sunday observance was a common practice in Christianity at that time.

Ignatius of Antioch in Letter to the Magnesians 9.1 is another very early writer (100-115) who teaches that Sabbath keeping had been replaced by observance of the Lord's Day. This comes as part of a larger attack against Judaizers.

Although the epistles of Ignatius are almost universally accepted as authentic, they have been disputed by several Seventh-day Adventist scholars (Samuele Bacchiocchi. From Sabbath to Sunday; Lewis A.H. A Critical History of the Sabbath and Sunday in the Christian Church) due to the existence of textual variants.

Justin Martyr (mid 2nd century) wrote in his apologies about the cessation of Sabbath observance and the celebration of the first (or eighth) day of the week in its place. He argued that the Sabbath was not kept before Moses, and was only instituted as a temporary measure because of Israel's sinfulness (Dialogue with Trypho chapters 21, 23). Curiously he also draws a parallel between the Israelite practice of circumcision on the eighth day, and the resurrection of Jesus on the same day.

Tertullian (early 3rd century), writing against Christians who participated in pagan festivals (Saturnalia and New-year), makes reference to the celebration of Sunday and also states that the Jewish Sabbath is no longer kept.

Edict of Constantine

On 7 March 321, Constantine I decreed that Sunday (dies Solis) will be observed as the Roman day of rest [CJ3.12.2]:

On the venerable day of the Sun let the magistrates and people residing in cities rest, and let all workshops be closed. In the country however persons engaged in agriculture may freely and lawfully continue their pursuits because it often happens that another day is not suitable for grain-sowing or vine planting; lest by neglecting the proper moment for such operations the bounty of heaven should be lost.

Though some Christians use the decree in support of the move of the Sabbath day to Sunday, in fact the decree was in support of the worship of the Sun-God (see Sol Invictus). In any event, the decree did not apply to Christians or Jews. It was part of the Roman civil law and religion and not an edict of the Church.

Although this does not indicate a "change" of the Sabbath, it does favor a different day for rest, in the cities at least, over the Jewish Sabbath day. The dominant religions in the regions of the world where Christianity was developing were pagan, and in Rome, Mithraism, specifically the cult of Sol Invictus, had taken hold. Mithraism met on Sunday. Some theorize that, because the practice favored the Christian day by coincidence, it also helped the church to avoid implicit association with the Jews. Jews were being persecuted routinely at this time, because of the Jewish-Roman Wars, and for this reason Constantine's edict, and Christian reception of it, is sometimes labelled anti-semitic. On a closely related issue, the Quartodeciman, Eusebius in Life of Constantine, Book III chapter 18, claims Constantine stated: "Let us then have nothing in common with the detestable Jewish crowd; for we have received from our Saviour a different way."

Roman Catholicism

The Roman Catholic Church draws a distinction between Sabbath observance and Sunday worship, celebrating the occurrence of Jesus' resurrection on the eighth day (that is, Sunday ). From the Catechism of the Catholic Church:

2174 Jesus rose from the dead "on the first day of the week."[104] Because it is the "first day," the day of Christ's Resurrection recalls the first creation. Because it is the "eighth day" following the sabbath,[105] it symbolizes the new creation ushered in by Christ's Resurrection. For Christians it has become the first of all days, the first of all feasts, the Lord's Day (he kuriake hemera, dies dominica) Sunday: We all gather on the day of the sun, for it is the first day [after the Jewish sabbath, but also the first day] when God, separating matter from darkness, made the world; and on this same day Jesus Christ our Savior rose from the dead.[106] Sunday- fulfillment of the sabbath

2175 Sunday is expressly distinguished from the sabbath which it follows chronologically every week; for Christians its ceremonial observance replaces that of the sabbath. In Christ's Passover, Sunday fulfills the spiritual truth of the Jewish sabbath and announces man's eternal rest in God. For worship under the Law prepared for the mystery of Christ, and what was done there prefigured some aspects of Christ:[107] Those who lived according to the old order of things have come to a new hope, no longer keeping the sabbath, but the Lord's Day, in which our life is blessed by him and by his death.[108] 2176 The celebration of Sunday observes the moral commandment inscribed by nature in the human heart to render to God an outward, visible, public, and regular worship "as a sign of his universal beneficence to all."[109] Sunday worship fulfills the moral command of the Old Covenant, taking up its rhythm and spirit in the weekly celebration of the Creator and Redeemer of his people.

2177 The Sunday celebration of the Lord's Day and his Eucharist is at the heart of the Church's life. "Sunday is the day on which the paschal mystery is celebrated in light of the apostolic tradition and is to be observed as the foremost holy day of obligation in the universal Church."[110]

2178 This practice of the Christian assembly dates from the beginnings of the apostolic age.[112] The Letter to the Hebrews reminds the faithful "not to neglect to meet together, as is the habit of some, but to encourage one another."[113] Tradition preserves the memory of an ever-timely exhortation: Come to Church early, approach the Lord, and confess your sins, repent in prayer.... Be present at the sacred and divine liturgy, conclude its prayer and do not leave before the dismissal.... We have often said: "This day is given to you for prayer and rest. This is the day that the Lord has made, let us rejoice and be glad in it."114

"The Church, on the other hand, after changing the day of rest from the Jewish Sabbath, or seventh day of the week, to the first, made the Third Commandment refer to Sunday as the day to be kept holy as the Lord's Day." The Catholic Encyclopedia Topic: "Ten Commandments", 2nd paragraph.
In 1998 Pope John Paul II wrote an apostolic letter Dies Domini, "on keeping the Lord's day holy". He encourages Catholics to remember the importance of keeping Sunday holy, urging that it not lose its meaning by being blended with a frivolous "weekend" mentality.

Protestant Sunday-observance

Many Protestants have historically regarded Lord's Day, Sabbath, and Sunday as synonymous terms for the Christian day of worship (except in those languages in which the name of the seventh day is literally equivalent to "Sabbath" — such as Spanish, Portuguese, Italian, Russian, Modern Greek, Amharic, Arabic, and of course Hebrew). However, it should be noted that relatively few Christians regard first day observance as entailing all of the ordinances of Jewish Shabbat.

A new rigorism was brought into the observance of the Christian Lord's Day with the Protestant reformation, especially among the Puritans of England and Scotland, in reaction to the laxity with which Sunday observance was customarily kept. Sabbath ordinances were appealed to, with the idea that only the word of God can bind men's consciences in whether or how they will take a break from work, or to impose an obligation to meet at a particular time. Their influential reasoning spread to other denominations also, and it is primarily through their influence that "Sabbath" has become the colloquial equivalent of "Lord's Day" or "Sunday". The most mature expression of this influence survives in the Westminster Confession of Faith, Chapter 21, "Of Religious Worship, and the Sabbath Day". Section 7-8 reads:

7. As it is the law of nature, that, in general, a due proportion of time be set apart for the worship of God; so, in his Word, by a positive, moral, and perpetual commandment binding all men in all ages, he hath particularly appointed one day in seven, for a Sabbath, to be kept holy unto him: which, from the beginning of the world to the resurrection of Christ, was the last day of the week; and, from the resurrection of Christ, was changed into the first day of the week, which, in Scripture, is called the Lord’s day, and is to be continued to the end of the world, as the Christian Sabbath.

8. This Sabbath is then kept holy unto the Lord, when men, after a due preparing of their hearts, and ordering of their common affairs beforehand, do not only observe a holy rest, all the day, from their own works, words, and thoughts about their worldly employments and recreations, but also are taken up, the whole time, in the public and private exercises of his worship, and in the duties of necessity and mercy.

Eastern Christianity

Eastern Orthodox Church distinguishes between "the Sabbath" (Saturday) and "the Lord's Day" (Sunday), and both continue to play a special role for the faithful. Many parishes and monasteries will serve the Divine Liturgy on both Saturday morning and Sunday morning. The church never allows strict fasting on any Saturday (except Holy Saturday) or Sunday, and the fasting rules on those Saturdays and Sundays which fall during one of the fasting seasons (such as Great Lent, Apostles' Fast, etc.) are always lessened to some degree. During Great Lent, when the celebration of the Liturgy is forbidden on weekdays, there is always Liturgy on Saturday as well as Sunday. The church also has a special cycle of Bible readings (Epistle and Gospel) for Saturdays and Sundays which is different from the cycle of readings allotted to weekdays. However, the Lord's Day, being a celebration of the Resurrection, is clearly given more emphasis. For instance, in the Russian Orthodox Church Sunday is always observed with an All-Night Vigil on Saturday night, and in all of the Orthodox Churches it is amplified with special hymns which are chanted only on Sunday. If a feast day falls on a Sunday it is always combined with the hymns for Sunday (unless it is a Great Feast of the Lord). Saturday is celebrated as a sort of leave-taking for the previous Sunday, on which several of the hymns from the previous Sunday are repeated.

In part, the reason Orthodox Christians continue to celebrate Saturday as the Sabbath is because of its role in the history of salvation: it was on a Saturday that Jesus "rested" in the tomb after his work on the cross. For this reason also, Saturday is a day for general commemoration of the departed, and special requiem hymns are often chanted on this day.

The Ethiopian Orthodox church (part of the Oriental Orthodox communion, having about 40 million members) observes both Saturday and Sunday as holy, but places extra emphasis on Sunday.

Latter-day Saints

In 1831, Joseph Smith published a revelation commanding his related movement, the formative Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, to go to the house of prayer, offer up their sacraments, rest from their labors, and pay their devotions on Sunday (D&C 59:9–12). Latter-day Saints believe this means performing no labor that would keep them from giving their full attention to spiritual matters (Ex. 20:10). Movement prophets have described this as meaning they should not shop, hunt, fish, attend sports events, or participate in similar activities on that day. Elder Spencer W. Kimball taught that mere idle lounging on the Sabbath does not keep the day holy, and that the Sabbath calls for constructive thoughts and acts (Miracle of Forgiveness, pp. 96–97).

Latter-day Saints prepare only simple foods on the Sabbath (D&C 59:13, Is. 58:13) and believe the day is only for righteous activities, such as:

  1. Attending Church meetings
  2. Reading the Standard Works and the words of Church leaders
  3. Visiting the sick, the aged, and loved ones
  4. Listening to uplifting music and singing hymns
  5. Praying to Heavenly Father with praise and thanksgiving
  6. Performing Church service as assigned
  7. Preparing family history records and personal histories
  8. Telling faith-promoting stories, bearing testimony to family members, and sharing spiritual experiences with them
  9. Writing letters to loved ones
  10. Fasting with a purpose
  11. Sharing time with children and others in the home

Doctrine teaches that, though there may be times when one is required to work on the Sabbath, one should avoid it whenever possible, and, when work is absolutely necessary, one should instead maintain the spirit of Sabbath worship in one's heart as much as possible.

Other Sabbatarians

Some modern Christians keep a Sabbath day but do not limit its observance to either Saturday or Sunday, instead advocating any day of the week, although other considerations such as communal worship may impact the timing.

Marva Dawn, who is from the Lutheran tradition, keeps a whole day as a Sabbath. In the book Keeping the Sabbath Wholly she emphasizes the four themes of ceasing, resting, embracing and feasting, which also form the subtitle of the book. She does not argue for a specific day of the week, but simply a complete 24-hour period. However she believes "corporate worship" is "an essential part of God's Sabbath reclamation."

Eugene Peterson, author of The Message, keeps or kept a Sabbath on Mondays.

Rob Bell, pastor of Mars Hill Bible Church, creator of the NOOMA videos, and popular Emerging Church leader, also keeps a Sabbath:

"Now when we read the word Sabbath, most of us think of a day in the week, which is what it is. But I have learned that the real issue behind the Sabbath isn't which day of the week it is but how we live all the time.
I decided to start taking one day a week to cease from work.

Opposition to Christian Sabbatarianism

Many Christians today consider that they are not required to observe a day of rest either on Saturday or Sunday. It is generally argued by these Christians that the Ten Commandments, along with the entire Law of Moses, was fulfilled by Christ and is therefore no longer binding as a moral law. While Sunday is observed as the day of Christian assembly and worship, in accordance with church tradition, the Sabbath commandment is dissociated from this practice.

New Testament arguments

Some Christian theologians use to show that Sabbath observance for Christians has been abolished — "Let no man therefore judge you in meat, or in drink, or in respect of an holyday, or of the new moon, or of the sabbath days: Which are a shadow of things to come; but the body is of Christ." This is often cited as a direct parallel to , where the Sabbath is described alongside burnt offerings and new moons; all things which are claimed to have been made obsolete with the coming of Christ. On the other hand, many cite parallels (; ; ) with ceremonial Sabbaths (as distinguished from the weekly Sabbath) are mentioned in conjunction with other elements present.

In conjunction with this, a second Pauline epistle is often quoted, namely , which states "One man esteemeth one day above another: another esteemeth every day [alike]. Let every man be fully persuaded in his own mind. He that regardeth the day, regardeth [it] unto the Lord; and he that regardeth not the day, to the Lord he doth not regard [it]." Ritual observance of a weekly Sabbath is thus not required, but is optional according to the conscience of each individual Christian. is used as further justification that a Sabbath is no longer in effect under the New Covenant: "But now, after that ye have known God, or rather are known of God, how turn ye again to the weak and beggarly elements, whereunto ye desire again to be in bondage? Ye observe days, and months, and times, and years. I am afraid of you, lest I have bestowed upon you labour in vain." Essentially, non-Sabbatarians suggest Paul's claim here is that ritual observance of days, including the weekly Sabbath, is no longer prescribed under the New Covenant. (Sabbatarians often counter-argue that Paul may have been referring to the Jewish festivals rather than the weekly Sabbath, or that perhaps Paul was targeting Gnostic beliefs which had infiltrated the church.)

To further support these ideas, is often used, "Ye are our epistle written in our hearts, known and read of all men: Forasmuch as ye are manifestly declared to be the epistle of Christ ministered by us, written not with ink, but with the Spirit of the living God; not in tables of stone, but in fleshy tables of the heart." Hence, Christians no longer follow a law written "in tables of stone" (that is, the Ten Commandments), but follow a law written upon "fleshy tables of the heart." The argument continues with , , "But if the ministration of death, written and engraven in stones, was glorious,...which glory was to be done away... For if that which is done away was glorious, much more that which remaineth is glorious." Non-Sabbatarians claim this is a direct reference to the 10 Commandments; therefore New Covenant Christians are no longer under the Mosaic law, and thus Sabbath-keeping is no longer required. The New Covenant "law" is based entirely upon love, and love is considered the fulfillment of the law ().

In addition to the Pauline teachings which appear to rescind the Sabbath, Jesus himself is recorded as redefining the Sabbath law. Some examples of this include , , and . As Jesus proclaimed Himself to be "Lord of the Sabbath" who has "fulfilled the Law", this has been interpreted by many Christians to mean that those who follow Him are no longer bound by the Sabbath.

Finally, non-Sabbatarians frequently use the epistle to the Hebrews 3:7-4:11 to argue that the seventh-day Sabbath is no longer relevant as a regular, literal day of rest, but instead is a symbolic metaphor for the eternal "rest" that Christians enjoy in Christ, which was in turn prefigured by the promised land of Canaan.

To be non-Sabbatarian doesn't necessarily equate to making all days alike. A member of a non-Sabbatarian church may nevertheless be very conscientious about avoiding certain kinds of activities, and doing others, because it is the day for the church to gather, a day for prayer and for works of mercy.

Biblical references to the Sabbath Day

Old Testament;;;;;;;;;;;;;;;;;;;;;;;;;;;;;;;;;;;;;;;;;;;;;New Testament;;;;;;;;;;;;;;;;;;;;;;;;;;;;;;

See also

References

Recommended resources

Historical (more neutral):

Supporting:

  • (Seventh-day Adventist)
  • (Seventh-day Adventist; 4 of 8 chapters online)
  • (Evangelical; former Seventh-day Adventist minister, a response to Ratzlaff)
  • (Jewish, yet popular with many Christians also)
  • (Catholic; author has also joined Muslims and Jews for worship)
  • Marva Dawn. The Sense of the Call: A Sabbath way of life for those who serve God, the church, and the world; Keeping the Sabbath Wholly: Ceasing, Resting, Embracing, Feasting (Lutheran)

Refuting:

  • (evangelical, a response to Bacchiocchi's work; varied conclusions)
  • Earlier version titled, Sabbath in Crisis, 1990. (Evangelical; former Seventh-day Adventist)

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