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When did most Christians (possibly excluding exceptions such as Seventh Day Adventists) and Jews start celebrating Sabbath on different days of the week and why?

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Some Christians celebrate the Sabbath, such as the Seventh Day Adventists. Although, they may not keep ALL the laws of the Sabbath, I'm not entirely sure. – Nathan Wheeler Aug 24 '11 at 2:05
Other Christians, particularly those in the Reformed churches adhering to the Westminster Standards, do keep the sabbath on Sunday. Here is a summary of the reasoning behind Sunday rather than Saturday from this perspective. – metal Jan 2 '14 at 19:27

11 Answers 11

up vote 47 down vote accepted

To be clear, most Christians do not celebrate "The Sabbath" on Sunday. Strictly speaking, Christians do not celebrate the Sabbath at all* (although many Christians still refer to their "day of rest" as their "sabbath day", even though this has no direct relationship to the Jewish Sabbath.) Christians traditionally celebrate on Sundays because this is the day Christ was raised from the grave.

I have not yet found a specific, authoritative reference for the fact that Christians worship on Sunday because that is when Christ was raised, but some references include here and here

*Apparently some Christian groups do call Sunday "the Sabbath" (with a capital S), but I believe this is a minority view, and is rarely considered dogma

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The Sabbath will always be Friday night into Saturday. However, the celebration is not the Sabbath. Christians can worship God whenever and wherever they please in spirit and truth!

John 4:21-24 (NIV)

   21 “Woman,” Jesus replied, “believe me, a time is coming when you will worship the Father neither on this mountain nor in Jerusalem. 22 You Samaritans worship what you do not know; we worship what we do know, for salvation is from the Jews. 23 Yet a time is coming and has now come when the true worshipers will worship the Father in the Spirit and in truth, for they are the kind of worshipers the Father seeks. 24 God is spirit, and his worshipers must worship in the Spirit and in truth.”

Early Christians (who were also practicing Jews) celebrated the thanksgiving sacrifice in the Jewish temple on the first day they could, which was the day after the sabbath.

More info from the Reverend Know-It-All (I heard the priest in charge of that site give this explanation on Relevant Radio a few months ago)

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I have never previously heard anyone claim that Sabbath is on Sunday.

Rather, I think Sabbath is on Saturday and the reason (a lot of) Christians have Sunday as the holy day has to do with the early church. There are passages from which it could be deduced that the early church met on Sunday, the first day of the week, to remember Jesus's resurrection that happened on that day of the week:

John 20:19 On the evening of that day, the first day of the week, the doors being locked where the disciples were for fear of the Jews, Jesus came and stood among them and said to them, "Peace be with you."

Acts 20:7 On the first day of the week, when we were gathered together to break bread, Paul talked with them, intending to depart on the next day, and he prolonged his speech until midnight.

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Here are some quotes from and references to Catholic and Protestant sources that attest to the changing of the Saturday Sabbath to the Sunday Sabbath (to speak simply).

"Sunday is a Catholic institution, and its claim to observance can be defended only on Catholic principles... From beginning to end of Scripture there is not a single passage that warrants the transfer of weekly public worship from the last day of the week to the first." - Catholic Press, Sydney, Australia, August 1900.

"Protestantism, in discarding the authority of the Church, has no good reason for its Sunday theory, and ought logically to keep Saturday as the Sabbath." - John Gilmary Shea, in the American Catholic Quarterly Review, January 1883.

"Ques. -Have you any other way of proving that the Church has power to institute festivals of precept?

Ans. -Has 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 there is no Scriptural authority." -Stephen Keenan, Doctrinal Catechism, p.176

There are many more quotes from the Catholic Church which I can provide. The Protestant view is presented next.

Anglican Church "And where are we told in the Scriptures that we are to keep the first day at all? We are commanded to keep the seventh; but we are nowhere commanded to keep the first day." -Isaac Williams, Plain Sermons on the Catechism, pp.334, 336

Southern Baptist "The sacred name of the seventh day is Sabbath. This fact is too clear to require argument [Exodus 20:10 quoted]... Not once did the disciples apply the Sabbath law to the first day of the week,-that folly was left for a later age, nor did they pretend that the first day supplanted the seventh." -Joseph Judson Taylor, The Sabbatic Question, pp.14-17,41.

Presbyterian "There is no word, no hint in the New Testament about abstaining from work on Sunday. The observance of Ash Wednesday, or Lent, stands exactly on the same footing as the observance of Sunday. Into the rest of Sunday no Divine Law enters." -Canon Eyton, Ten Commandments.

As with the Catholic quotes, there are more quotes from the mainstream Protestant churches I can provide.

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Early followers switched from the Judaistic tradition of having the Sabbath on Saturday to having it on Sunday to celebrate the resurrection of Christ, which was on a Sunday.

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In Old Testament times, the Jewish people observed the Sabbath on the seventh day of the week because God rested on the seventh day when He had created the earth. After the Resurrection of Jesus Christ, which occurred on the first day of the week, the Lord's disciples began observing the Sabbath on the first day of the week, Sunday.

Acts 20:7 (KJV)

7 And upon the first day of the week, when the disciples came together to break bread, Paul preached unto them, ready to depart on the morrow; and continued his speech until midnight.

Wikipedia talks about Sunday and the Sabbath and also references Acts 20:7 as a sign of the change. It cites in AD 363 a seventh-day Sabbath was prohibited by Canon 29 of the Council of Laodicea.

Judaism continues to celebrate on Saturday because they do not recognize the Resurrection of Jesus Christ.

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It was a deliberate act of anti-antisemitism of the roman church to distance themselves from their Jewish roots. – resident_heretic Jun 19 at 7:04

The Old Testament day of rest was a prefigure for the rest we have in Christ. As the author of Hebrews says, we "cease from our own works" every day (see Galatians 5:19-21), not just on a particular day of the week.

Hebrews 4:8-10 King James Version (KJV) For if Jesus had given them rest, then would he not afterward have spoken of another day. There remaineth therefore a rest to the people of God. For he that is entered into his rest, he also hath ceased from his own works, as God did from his.

Christians do not worship on the Sabbath, we live in the Sabbath, because every day in Christ is a day of rest. Christians hold worship services on Sunday in honor of the resurrection, which occurred on the first day of the week.

MARK 16:9 Now when Jesus was risen early the first day of the week, he appeared first to Mary Magdalene, out of whom he had cast seven devils.

Personally, I spend Sunday mornings and evenings at church, and the rest of the day in fellowship with other Christians. There isn't time to mow the lawn, clean the car, etc. The Pharisees around the time of Christ had strict laws against, for example, carrying a stick too far on the Sabbath. They even accused Jesus of breaking the Sabbath laws for healing people!

LUKE 6:7 And the scribes and Pharisees watched him, whether he would heal on the sabbath day; that they might find an accusation against him.

Should you work on Sundays? I defer to Paul...

Romans 14:5-7 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. He that eateth, eateth to the Lord, for he giveth God thanks; and he that eateth not, to the Lord he eateth not, and giveth God thanks. For none of us liveth to himself, and no man dieth to himself.

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I've been struggling with the 4th commandment for sometime, being part of a baptist church that worships on sunday, and that last verse in Romans really helped me. The first one in Hebrews is good too. Thanks! – Nick Rolando Mar 13 '12 at 0:24
I find it strange to defend the Sunday when God himself created the earth in 6 days and rested the seventh. Is it correct of us to do this different? One should of course live in Christ all days of the week, but the Sabbath is kept holy by God himself, why should we change this? And when did we get the authority to do so? I will find scriptures to support this claim... – Bjørn Øyvind Halvorsen Jan 8 '14 at 19:22
Bjorn, Christians remember the resurrection on Sunday, not the Sabbath. I just wanted to clarify that I am not defending Sunday as the Sabbath, but attempting to explain why Christians worship on Sunday and not Saturday. Every day to a New Testament Believer is holy unto the Lord, because we have "ceased from our own works" (Hebrews 4:10). – Bob Black Jan 13 '14 at 21:25

While there are references in the Bible to disciples meeting on a Sunday, I compiled a quick (non-authoritative) list to demonstrate that there's no strong argument to claim from the Bible that the early church met exclusively on Sunday. Bear in mind that the very early church met in people's homes and worshiped in the temple up until it was destroyed in AD70.

I suspect that the gradual move from every-day to Sunday worship coincided with the Jewish proportion of believers becoming a minority and the (related) adoption of Christianity as the official religion of Rome which removed the 'underground' element and resulted in church buildings for worship.

References to worshiping/meeting daily: Acts 2:46 Acts 2:47 Acts 5:42 Acts 16:5 Acts 17:11 Acts 17:17 Acts 19:9 Heb 3:13

References to worshiping/meeting on Sabbath (Fri eve/Saturday): Acts 13:14 Acts 13:42 Acts 13:44 Acts 16:13 Acts 17:2 Acts 18:4

References to worship/meeting on a Sunday John 20:19 Acts 20:7

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+1 for a non-biased discussion on the subject. Pretty flimsy to base a definitive doctrinal change off passing comments in scriptures!! – Mike S Aug 14 '12 at 6:24

The New Testament clearly retains a distinction between the Sabbath day (seventh day of the week) and "the first day of the week" (cp. John 20:19; Acts 20:7; 1 Cor. 16:2 v. Acts 13:14, 13:27, 13:42, 13:44, etc.). The Sabbath cannot be moved. It is simply the seventh day of the week as defined in the Torah.

Since Christians are not under the Law of Moses (certainly not Gentile Christians who never were) and all Christians rest in Christ, there would be no need to "move" the Sabbath. Although there is no commandment to observe the first day of the week as a specific day of worship, some Christians may insist they do so because Christ resurrected from the dead on the first day of the week.

Each Christian has liberty to worship "in Spirit and in truth" as the Holy Spirit moves him.

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Using a perspective from the past, America's greatest theologian, Jonathan Edwards, has a different take from most of the above answers here. In his sermon he argues that the 4th commandment (Remember the Sabbath day....) is binding on all people for all time. He says further, that is only the risen Christ Who has authority to change the day which His church is to keep the sabbath on. That He did at His resurrection. Edwards argues his point from Scripture.

This is also the plain teaching of the Westminster Confession of Faith, (chapter 7) which was written by over 120 Anglican clergy and is the adopted standard of Biblical interpretation by Presbyterians. The London 1689 Baptist Confession has the same wording on this subject.

The Jews of-course do not recognise the change of day as they do not agree that Jesus was the Christ or that He rose from the dead. Hence they continue to observe the 4th commandment on the last day of the week.

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I have only entered this because the question appears to have been talked around, with most viewpoints represented, but without anyone bringing the pieces together. All pious Jews and some Christians celebrate Saturday, the last day of the past week, as Shabbat or Sabbath, and most Christians celebrate Sunday, the first day of the new week, as the Lord's Day. Unfortunately some Christians call this the Sabbath which confuses the issue and probably originates from a misunderstanding of the meaning of the days.

The Sabbath commemorates the period of rest after the completion of creation. The Lord's Day commemorates the beginning of a new creation, brought about by Christ's resurrection. The first recorded occasion of a possible celebration of the Lord's Day is his appearance to Thomas two weeks after the resurrection, eight days after the appearance of the risen Christ in the upper room: 'Eight days later the disciples were again together in the house (John 20:26)'. The first gathering was in obedience to Leviticus 23: 7 to complete the Passover feast on the seventh day. This they did, albeit in a locked room for fear of being caught. But they next came together on the eighth day, our Sunday, when Thomas apparently was there reluctantly. A later mention is in Luke's Acts of the Apostles 20: 7, 'On the first day of the week we came together to break bread. Paul spoke to the people and, because he intended to leave the next day, kept on talking until midnight.' the practice became more generally accepted in the second century (Eusebius - life of Constantine, Ignatius, Magnesians. 9:1, and two early second century apocryphal gospels: Peter 35: 50 and Barnabas 15:9)

There are therefore two days, the Sabbath and the Lord's Day, a day of rest and a day of delight. Even though Christians may not feel bound by the rules of Sabbath, because Christ has freed us from the bonds of the Law, they should still respect it just as, celebrating new life in Christ, they worship on Sunday. All references seem to have been covered above.

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protected by Caleb Oct 3 '12 at 7:47

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