59

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?

  • 7
    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
  • 1
    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

13 Answers 13

55

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 out of ignorance of the significance of words, and is rarely considered dogma.

2
  1. When did Jews start sanctifying the 7th day of the week and why?

When: after they received the Ten Commandments.

The "Why" can be interpreted in two ways:

  • Why did they do it? Because God commanded them to do it.
  • Why did God command them to do it? For the reason stated in the Commandment itself, which is different in each version thereof.

“Remember the sabbath day, to keep it holy. Six days you shall labor and do all your work, but the seventh day is a sabbath of the LORD your God; in it you shall not do any work, you or your son or your daughter, your male or your female servant or your cattle or your sojourner who stays with you. For in six days the LORD made the heavens and the earth, the sea and all that is in them, and rested on the seventh day; therefore the LORD blessed the sabbath day and made it holy. (Ex 20:8-11, NASB).

‘Observe the sabbath day to keep it holy, as the LORD your God commanded you. Six days you shall labor and do all your work, but the seventh day is a sabbath of the LORD your God; in it you shall not do any work, you or your son or your daughter or your male servant or your female servant or your ox or your donkey or any of your cattle or your sojourner who stays with you, so that your male servant and your female servant may rest as well as you. You shall remember that you were a slave in the land of Egypt, and the LORD your God brought you out of there by a mighty hand and by an outstretched arm; therefore the LORD your God commanded you to observe the sabbath day. (Deut 5:12-15, NASB)

  1. When did Christians start sanctifying the 8th/1st day of the week and why?

When: Probably right after Pentecost, though the first record is during the third voyage of Paul, in 57-58 (Acts 20:7).

Why: As an immediate reason, because they could not fail to get a strong clue from the facts that:

  • Jesus rose from the dead and appeared to the disciples and the Apostles on a Sunday (Jn 20:19);
  • Jesus appeared again to the Apostles the following Sunday (Jn 20:26, "8 days" using Jewish inclusive counting);
  • The Holy Spirit descended on the Apostles on Pentecost, which fell on a Sunday (always per Lev 23:15-16 and that year in particular as Passover had been on a Sabbath).

As a deeper reason, I will offer an explanation based on the framework of the six days of creation in Gen ch. 1. Let us first note that:

  • In the Hebrew timekeeping scheme, the day starts at sunset. That's why the text says at the end of each day: "And there was evening and there was morning, a [nth] day."
  • The previous formula is not said of the 7th day, which implies that the 7th day was still going on at the time when the book of Genesis was written.

I posit that the timeframe of Gen ch. 1 continued thusly:

  • Nightfall of the 7th day: the sin of Adam and Eve.
  • Night of the 7th day: all of human history up to the coming of Jesus.
  • Sunrise of the 7th day: the coming of Jesus, "the Sunrise from on high" (Lk 1:78).
  • Diurnal part of the 7th day: the life of Jesus on Earth up to his Passion (*).
  • Nightfall of the 8th day: the Passion and Death of Jesus.
  • Night of the 8th day: the time during which Jesus was dead.
  • Sunrise of the 8th day: the Resurrection of Jesus, which occurred precisely just before sunrise of the 8th/1st day of the week.
  • Diurnal part of the 8th day: the time of the Church up to the Second Coming of Jesus.

In this theological timeframe:

  • given that Jews were living during the 7th day, it was logical that they should sanctify the 7th day of the week.
  • given that Christians are living during the 8th day, as we "have been raised with Christ" (Col 3:1), it is logical that we should sanctify the 8th/1st day of the week.

(*) There are three occasions in John's Gospel when Jesus describes his life on earth as a day, i.e. the diurnal part of a 24-hour period, of which He Himself is the Light:

  1. “We must work the works of Him who sent Me as long as it is day; night is coming when no one can work. While I am in the world, I am the Light of the world.” (Jn 9:4-5).

  2. The disciples said to Him, “Rabbi, the Jews were just now seeking to stone You, and are You going there again?” Jesus answered, “Are there not twelve hours in the day? If anyone walks in the day, he does not stumble, because he sees the light of this world. But if anyone walks in the night, he stumbles, because the light is not in him.” (Jn 11:8-10).

  3. So Jesus said to them, “For a little while longer the Light is among you. Walk while you have the Light, so that darkness will not overtake you; he who walks in the darkness does not know where he goes. While you have the Light, believe in the Light, so that you may become sons of Light.” (Jn 12:35-36).

0

enter image description here

The Council of Laodicea changed the Sabbath from Saturday to Sunday in A.D. 336, without any Scriptural authority to do so and in contravention to God's Word that forbade taking away from His Word. It is a man made doctrine & theological assertion.

Jesus & His disciples observed the weekly Sabbath as God instructs in Lev 23; in fact it is His very first instruction on obeying His (not "Jewish") Appointed Times:

Leviticus 23: 1 And the Lord spoke to Moses, saying, 2 “Speak to the children of Israel, and say to them: ‘The feasts of the Lord, which you shall proclaim to be holy convocations, these are My feasts. 3 ‘Six days shall work be done, but the seventh day is a Sabbath of solemn rest, a holy convocation. You shall do no work on it; it is the Sabbath of the Lord in all your dwellings.

And, God intended the Sabbath Day to be hallowed and "etched it in stone" in the 10 Commandments, as found in Exodus:

Exodus 20: 8 “Remember the Sabbath day, to keep it holy. 9 Six days you shall labor and do all your work, 10 but the seventh day is the Sabbath of the Lord your God. In it you shall do no work: you, nor your son, nor your daughter, nor your male servant, nor your female servant, nor your cattle, nor your stranger who is within your gates. 11 For in six days the Lord made the heavens and the earth, the sea, and all that is in them, and rested the seventh day. Therefore the Lord blessed the Sabbath day and hallowed it.

The Sabbath is a key essential ingredient of our faith (or it should be). God made it for a purpose. He scheduled that time with all those who believed in Him, which included Jesus, His disciples, & all who believed in Jesus, through (at least) the 1st Century.

It was the earliest version of the "Seeker Friendly" mindset which compromised with the Sunday sun-worshipping populace of pagans - along with an ever growing sentiment of anti-Semitism - which set the stage for an eventual obscuring & diminishment of the purpose and meaning of Sabbath by changing it to Sunday.

The "Feasts of the Lord" (not "Feasts of the Jews") found in Lev 23 immediately subsequent to God's instruction to us to honor His (not "the Jews'") Sabbath actually perfectly instruct & picture Jesus's death (Passover), burial - three days in the grave (Feast of Unleavened Bread), and Resurrection (First Fruits). The Spring Feasts of God (not "the Jews'") were synchronized with His First Coming culminating on the day after the seventh Sabbath from First Fruits (50-days) at Pentacost (Shavuot) when His Holy Spirit was poured out.

The Sabbath, contrary to God's forever instruction to us in His 4th Commandment, has been forgotten. It was forgotten and changed. Without Scriptural authority it was moved to a different day based on unprincipled, manmade doctrines which subtracted from the Word of God.

The Sabbath God envisioned us to keep is not what is practiced today. It's not just a matter of observing Sabbath on the proper day God instructed, it's the dedication of that day which is lacking too: Sunday church is a great time of fellowship and worship for the couple of hours there. But, is it a whole day devoted to God? If not, why not?

Typically, after Sunday church, it's back to pursuing our own things: cutting the lawn, washing the car, shopping, watching the game, etc., etc., etc. This is not what God intended when He hollowed His Sabbath Day.

The Sabbath is a vital weekly connection to God intended to unplug from the world and focus all on Him, all day, 24-hours. That's the kind of Sabbath He instructed us to "REMEMBER." Jesus did, His disciples did, the 1st Century followers did. What would Jesus do?

The Sabbath wasn't "done away with" or changed into some "principle of rest" wherein we can pick our day or time of our choosing. Upon what Biblical bases are such notions founded on? I believe, that, similar such notions found in this thread are errant, manmade doctrines or theological opinions absent the full counsel of His full Word.

I hope this helps. God Bless!

[By the way, I'm not associated with the organization (testeverything.net or 119Ministries.com) whose meme is pictured above. However, I have seen the referenced "The Sabbath Day - 119 Ministries" video on YouTube and highly recommend it to all on this topic of the Sabbath.]

  • You accidentally wrote Genesis 20:8 instead of Exodus 20:8 – Cannabijoy Aug 9 '17 at 9:10
29

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)

2

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.

  • Doesn't "eight days" after the first Sunday work out to Monday? – Ochado Jan 2 '18 at 23:01
4

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.

11

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.

16

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.

4

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.

11

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.

9

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

  • 1
    +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
8

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.

  • 1
    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 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
17

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.

  • From the quote in John, we cannot see that this Monday gathering was something usual for the disciples. Even the opposite, the concrete purpose is pointed out - fear from the Jews. As for Acts 20:7; the mentioning of the 1st day of the week seems to be because of the chronology that previous verses describe. Furthermore, the gathering itself is apparently after sunset on Monday, which by the disciples' understanding should be part of the 2nd day of the week. – sdd Aug 12 at 1:00

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.