The Council of Laodicea states in canon 29:

Christians must not judaize by resting on the Sabbath, but must work on that day, rather honouring the Lord's Day; and, if they can, resting then as Christians. But if any shall be found to be judaizers, let them be anathema from Christ.

Anathema, being basically excommunication, is a serious thing. Why did the members of this council consider Saturday worship a sin and even worthy of such punishment? Why were Saturday worshipers on the same level as heretics and enemies of the church?

Also, why would the church state something that is in direct contrast with the ten commandments? Calling the Sabbath rest Judaizing is one thing, but then it says to do it on Sunday.

8 “Remember the Sabbath day by keeping it holy. 9 Six days you shall labor and do all your work, 10 but the seventh day is a sabbath to the Lord your God. On it you shall not do any work, neither you, nor your son or daughter, nor your male or female servant, nor your animals, nor any foreigner residing in your towns. 11 For in six days the Lord made the heavens and the earth, the sea, and all that is in them, but he rested on the seventh day. Therefore the Lord blessed the Sabbath day and made it holy. Exodus 20:8-11

I would prefer answers from theologians and church leaders of this time. What did they say about it?

The complete canons can be read here.

  • anathema means accursed - that's a fair sight worse than excommunicated
    – warren
    Commented Apr 22, 2013 at 19:41
  • Judaizing Christians, mostly of a pharisaic background (Acts 15:5), have lost their cause at the apostolic council (Acts 15:28-29), and virtually half of the New Testament (Paul's letters) has been written for the sole specific purpose of countering their opinion (Acts 15:22-25). I would prefer answers from theologians and church leaders of this time. - See Chrysostom's Against Judaizers.
    – user46876
    Commented Aug 24, 2021 at 15:13

4 Answers 4


Judaizer is a term for those early Christians who held that adherence to Mosaic law was necessary for salvation. Observance of these laws (such as circumcision and the distinction of clean and unclean foods) was proscribed in Acts 15 and 11, respectively.

The New Testament distinguishes the Lord's Day from the Sabbath, and it commemorates the day of the Resurrection. While the topic has only a few scriptural references (e.g., Acts 20:7, Rev 1:10), the testimony of the early Church Fathers is consistent.

The intent by the Council in using the term Judaizer seems clear: Christianity is not just another sect of Judaism. Jews worship on the seventh day, the Sabbath. Christians worship on the eighth day of Creation, the Lord's Day, to commemorate the day of the Resurrection. Those who teach otherwise must be called out.

You can find the complete canons of the Synod of Laodicea here.

  • Thanks for the link. I made an edit to the question. Do you have a second, non-Catholic source (secular would be best) that verifies the use of the word Judaizer?
    – user3961
    Commented Apr 20, 2013 at 13:25
  • Wiki articles are usually reliable, especially when sourced with references, and the one on Judaizers is no exception.
    – Firstrock
    Commented Apr 20, 2013 at 15:42
  • The Council of Laodicea is not a Catholic thing. I predates the division of the church into Catholic and 'others'. Commented Sep 25, 2013 at 4:09
  • let us continue this discussion in chat Commented Sep 26, 2013 at 0:58

"[W]e too would observe the fleshly circumcision, and the Sabbaths, and in short all the feasts, if we did not know for what reason they were enjoined [on] you—namely, on account of your transgressions and the hardness of your heart. . . . [H]ow is it, Trypho, that we would not observe those rites which do not harm us—I speak of fleshly circumcision and Sabbaths and feasts? . . . God enjoined you to keep the Sabbath, and imposed on you other precepts for a sign, as I have already said, on account of your unrighteousness and that of your fathers . . ." (Dialogue with Trypho the Jew 18, 21 [A.D. 155]).

It would seem to me that the argument given by Justin Martyr is that because the law (Old Testament and specifically Genesis-Deuteronomy) had been fulfilled by Christ, then it was no longer necessary to keep them, seeing as they were fulfilled in Christ. Now that Christ has become the lamb of God, we no longer need to keep passover...etc. It appears that this was his logic behind the 7th day sabbath, saying Christ is our sabbath and when we come to him we enter into that rest. It becomes apparent then, that to impose these things (circumcision, sabbath, passover, etc.) would be taking us back and placing us under the requirements of the law and tying our doing of those deeds to our justification/salvation.

The sabbath thus being done away with, having been fulfilled, the Christian must find a day to worship on.

"But Sunday is the day on which we all hold our common assembly, because it is the first day on which God, having wrought a change in the darkness and matter, made the world; and Jesus Christ our Savior on the same day rose from the dead" (First Apology 67 [A.D. 155]).

This day becomes Sunday, for various reasons. It is the beginning of the Creation of God, and God was birthing new creations in Christ (2 Corinthians 5:17 ESV). This is confirmed by Athanasius (who was a contemporary of the council and probably took part.) saying:

"The Sabbath was the end of the first creation, the Lord’s day was the beginning of the second, in which he renewed and restored the old in the same way as he prescribed that they should formerly observe the Sabbath as a memorial of the end of the first things, so we honor the Lord’s day as being the memorial of the new creation" (On Sabbath and Circumcision 3 [A.D. 345]).

And it was the Day of the Resurrection, the same being shown to be the beginning of new life after we have died to the flesh. (Romans 6:4-11)

Hope this helps.

  • Well, kind of. It isn't really about the council. This post mostly just quotes some random contemporaries. Also, the second part of my question about the Sabbath being a commandment is ignored. Your quotes might lead one to think that any day is acceptable. The council condemned Sabbath worship, calling those who would do it, anathema, which is a very serious thing.
    – user3961
    Commented Nov 27, 2013 at 19:20
  • 1
    Not bad for a first post. I hope you post more on other questions. The community would be very happy to have another regular, well read member.
    – user3961
    Commented Nov 27, 2013 at 19:20
  • Welcome to the site! Like fredsbend, I hope to see more of you! This next has nothing to do with the quality of your answer, it's just standard to help new visitors avoid misunderstanding the site (as I did at first.) As a new visitor, I'd recommend checking out the following two posts, which are meant to help newcomers "learn the ropes": help page and How we are different than other sites? Commented Nov 27, 2013 at 19:42

That the council had to legislate on the matter shows that some Christians were, indeed, resting on the sabbath.

Socrates Scholasticus, writing in the 5th century, states that churches in many places honored the sabbath with 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. The Egyptians in the neighborhood of Alexandria, and the inhabitants of Thebais, hold their religious assemblies on the sabbath, but do not participate of the mysteries in the manner usual among Christians in general... (Church History 5.22)

So attitudes toward the sabbath in early Christianity were diverse.

The bishops of Laodicea probably had multiple motives for legislating as they did. Jew-hatred cannot be ruled out as one factor.


In Christianity, it has been central tenet that Christians are free from the Law since the very beginning. The New Testament very much makes it clear that observance of holy days, including the Sabbath, is optional for Christians. Paul makes it clear in Romans 14.

One person considers one day more sacred than another; another considers every day alike. Each of them should be fully convinced in their own mind. Whoever regards one day as special does so to the Lord. Whoever eats meat does so to the Lord, for they give thanks to God; and whoever abstains does so to the Lord and gives thanks to God.

The vast majority of Christians have not celebrated the Jewish Sabbath since the time of Paul, based on this teaching. Over time there has arisen a tradition of observing a day of rest on the first day, and this has grown up and been strong in the Catholic church, but also in many others (Scottish Presbyterians are very fervent in keeping, so please don't try to tell them it's a Catholic tradition).

The pronouncement at the council of Laodicia is not against those who keep a day of rest. It is against those who insist that keeping a Sabbath is necessary for the Christian. Such an insistance is viewed as a return to the jewish Law, and thus entirely incompatible with Christianity (other have of course disagreed with them).

  • Duplicating this comment here for others. I used to think that Romans 14 would apply to the Sabbath. But you can search the entire chapter and not find one mention of the Sabbath. Romans 14 is purely a reference to the feast days. It cannot be a reference to the seventh-day Sabbath for at least two reasons. First, Matthew 5:17-18 says the ten commandments are still binding. Secondly Paul writes in Hebrews 4:9 "There remains therefore a rest for the people of God." The word rest there is sabbatismos which means a keeping of the Sabbath. blueletterbible.org/lang/lexicon/… May the Lord guide us.
    – HelloWorld
    Commented Sep 25, 2013 at 15:05
  • The spirit of the verse you quote is that you may rest on any day you want, or even not at all. The spirit of the Council quote is never rest on the Sabbath, you must work the Sabbath, honor the Lord's Day instead and rest then if you can. It is very distinctly saying that it is wrong to rest any other day. The Council changed the Sabbath; they did not loosen the rules on it.
    – user3961
    Commented Oct 25, 2013 at 3:41
  • @HelloWorld Matthew 5 doesn't single out the Ten COmmandments. If you think it means the Law is still in force, then ALL of the Law is still in force. You would have to stop eating pork or wearing mixed fibre clothing. You would also have to ignore much of Paul's writings. Commented Oct 25, 2013 at 13:21

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