According to American Atheists there is a contradiction between Exodus 20:8 and Romans 14:5.

American Atheists

“Remember the Sabbath day, to keep it holy.” — Exodus 20:8

“One man esteemeth one day above another: another esteemeth every day alike. Let every man be fully persuaded in his own mind.” — Romans 14:5


How is the textual discrepancy between Exodus 20:8 and Romans 14:5 explained?

  • 2
    There is no textual discrepancy. Exodus is quoting the Ten Commandments. Romans is not quoting anything (not in 14:5, anyway). You might as well ask why there's a textual discrepancy between Ender's Game and Starship Troopers.
    – Matthew
    Commented Aug 29, 2022 at 5:05

6 Answers 6


Without going into too great detail of a subject which is at the heart of the Gospel and, indeed, all of God's revelation to us, these two verses do not point up a discrepancy or contradiction but, instead, illuminate a difference between two covenants; one of law and the other of promise.

If there is considerable debate within Christendom concerning the role of the law (and there is) then the atheist is at a severe disadvantage in that they cannot ascribe promise keeping power to a deity they do not acknowledge.

The command (s) of the law, of which Sabbath keeping is one, given by God to Israel through Moses were not given to produce righteousness but, instead, were given to delineate and condemn unrighteousness:

Wherefore then serveth the law? It was added because of transgressions, till the seed should come to whom the promise was made; and it was ordained by angels in the hand of a mediator. Now a mediator is not a mediator of one, but God is one. Is the law then against the promises of God? God forbid: for if there had been a law given which could have given life, verily righteousness should have been by the law. - Galatians 3:19-21

Just as the law "Thou shalt not commit adultery..." was spoken to a humanity that is prone to it and, just as obeying this law outwardly does not remove the inner proclivity:

Ye have heard that it was said by them of old time, Thou shalt not commit adultery:  But I say unto you, That whosoever looketh on a woman to lust after her hath committed adultery with her already in his heart. - Matthew 5:27-28

so outward obedience to the Sabbath law does not remove the inner disposition to become unmindful of the Creator.

The Law, says the apostle Paul, was added because of transgressions [until the promised seed should come]. Paul (in 2 Corinthians 3) also refers to the law as a ministry of death and as a ministry of condemnation. He does so, not to point out a flaw in the law but to point out the flaw in man which the law was intended to restrain until the flaw in man is remediated. This is the Old Covenant. That schoolmaster or guardian kept us until the remediation occurred:

But the scripture hath concluded all under sin, that the promise by faith of Jesus Christ might be given to them that believe. But before faith came, we were kept under the law, shut up unto the faith which should afterwards be revealed. Wherefore the law was our schoolmaster to bring us unto Christ, that we might be justified by faith. But after that faith is come, we are no longer under a schoolmaster. For ye are all the children of God by faith in Christ Jesus. - Galatians 3:22-26

The New Covenant is that remediation. Jesus has represented humanity in the perfect keeping of the Old Covenant in that he positively never disobeyed either in word, deed, or intent (no sin was found in Him) and also in that he bore humanity's penalty for disobedience in Himself:

Who his own self bare our sins in his own body on the tree, that we, being dead to sins, should live unto righteousness: by whose stripes ye were healed. - 1 Peter 2:24

Once one comes to Christ there is no longer any need for the guardian/law and this is not because adultery is now permitted but because the Christian now has been given a new spirit ... the guardian is no longer external (law) but internal. It is actually the Spirit of the Living God, the Spirit of Christ, who lives within and teaches and enables the believer to keep the righteous requirement of the law:

There is therefore now no condemnation to them which are in Christ Jesus, who walk not after the flesh, but after the Spirit. For the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus hath made me free from the law of sin and death. For what the law could not do, in that it was weak through the flesh, God sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh, and for sin, condemned sin in the flesh: That the righteousness of the law might be fulfilled in us, who walk not after the flesh, but after the Spirit. - Romans 8:1-4

This is why Paul is able to say "One man esteemeth one day above another: another esteemeth every day alike. Let every man be fully persuaded in his own mind." and that is clarified in the following verses:

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. For whether we live, we live unto the Lord; and whether we die, we die unto the Lord: whether we live therefore, or die, we are the Lord's. For to this end Christ both died, and rose, and revived, that he might be Lord both of the dead and living. - Romans 14:6-9


As can be seen, under the new covenant the believer who keeps one particular Sabbath and the believer who considers every day as the Lord's have one thing in common ... they regard it unto the Lord. This is what the law is schoolmaster of and what Jesus has brought to pass:

And whatsoever ye do in word or deed, do all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God and the Father by him. - Colossians 3:17


The proper translation of Romans 14:5 is : One man esteemeth one day above another ; another esteemeth every day , meaning that some esteem every day as a perpetual state of rest in Christ, through faith.

ος μεν κρινει ημεραν παρ ημεραν ος δε κρινει πασαν ημεραν [Textus Receptus : Beza, Stephanus, Elzevir and Scrivener are identical : Undisputed]

one man esteems (a) day above (a) day ... another esteems every day.[Englishman's Greek New Testament, Interlinear, Literal Translation]

The words 'the same' or 'alike' (esteems 'every day the same'or 'every day alike') are not in the original, it is an interpolation and an interpretation.

Some highly regard one day above another ; some highly regard every day ; is the literal translation of the undisputed Greek text.

The sabbath was a figure. It was a foretaste, practically, of the rest that would be revealed once Christ came - the rest in faith that is in his work of redemption. The sabbath was but for a time, as a figure.

Now is come the true rest in Christ that is perpetual.

Once the true translation is realised and once the true experience of faith and a rest in faith is experienced, it is seen that there is no discrepancy in the texts mentioned.

One prefigures the other.

The second is the full realisation of the first.

This is reiterated by the writer to the Hebrews :

For we which have believed do enter into rest, as he said, As I have sworn in my wrath, if they shall enter into my rest: although the works were finished from the foundation of the world.

For he spake in a certain place of the seventh day on this wise, And God did rest the seventh day from all his works. 5And in this place again, If they shall enter into my rest. 6Seeing therefore it remaineth that some must enter therein, and they to whom it was first preached entered not in because of unbelief:

For he that is entered into his rest, he also hath ceased from his own works, as God did from his. 11Let us labour therefore to enter into that rest, lest any man fall after the same example of unbelief.

Hebrews 4: 4-6 and Hebrews 4: 10.

  • 1
    Excellent treatment. +1 Commented Aug 28, 2022 at 17:40

Why it is a false case of "textual discrepancy"

Better atheists would have done their homework and would have better respect to interpret Christian scripture, according to how Christians read them, i.e. with its proper theological context, making the two verses not contradictory at all.

According to this Logical Fallacies infographic (thanks to @RayButterworth !) they committed the ambiguity fallacy since their treatment of Bible verses as logical statements misrepresents what each verse would have meant to the original audience (the ground rule for exegesis).

[Definition]: Using double meanings or ambiguities of language to mislead or misrepresent the truth.

[Example]: When the judge asked the defendant why he hadn't paid his parking fines, he said that he shouldn't have to pay them because the sign said 'Fine for parking here' and so he naturally presumed that it would be fine to park there.

That Exodus 20:8 is in the Old Testament section but Romans 14:5-6 is in the New Testament section should already signaled a big hint that the two mentions of Sabbath in two different testaments should be interpreted differently.

One proper Christian exegesis

  1. Ex 20:8 is part of the Mosaic covenant Ten Commandments, which Jesus has fulfilled but not abolished (cf Matt 5:17-18, see GotQuestions article for an explanation).
  2. How does it affect the commandment to keep the Sabbath day holy? Christians interpret Jesus's fulfillment of the Sabbath commandment as Jesus himself is our Sabbath rest (cf Heb 4, see another GotQuestions article for an explanation).
  3. Paul also understood Jesus and Sabbath that way, but in the letter to the church in Rome, one issue he addressed in Rom 14 was the conflict arising from different understanding of worshiping God between Gentile and Jewish Christians.
    • Gentiles never had to observe Sabbath, because they were never part of the ancient Judaism religion.
    • But prior to conversion, the Jewish Christians had been inculcated since childhood to be very meticulous in respecting God's commandments and there are many OT verses warning against desecrating the Sabbath. To the Jewish Christians, separating the Sabbath day as holy was part of doing what is right, which Paul himself affirmed positively earlier in the letter (Rom 6:13 "use your whole body as an instrument to do what is right for the glory of God"). Thus they wanted to continue to set apart the Sabbath as a holy day (Friday night to Saturday night) to honor God. It is similar to how Jews today continue observing the Sabbath, although for an additional reason (to keep their good standing within the Mosaic covenant).
    • But after Jesus, no day is separated as holy ("every day alike"), although Christians later set aside the Lord's day (Sunday) for worship. For Christians every day is an opportunity to practice righteous living no longer under the law but under the freedom of God's grace (Rom 6:14) by using our whole body as an instrument to do what is right for the glory of God (Rom 6:13b).
    • In Rom 14:5 Paul wanted the Gentiles to give the Jewish Christians room to worship and honor God through observing the Sabbath requirement (vv 6-8) although no longer required. Hence, "One man esteemeth one day above another [Jewish Christian]: another esteemeth every day alike [Gentiles]." So Paul was saying that if Jewish Christians still wanted to worship God on Sabbath (probably out of weakness in faith, v. 1), Gentiles should respect that (hence "Let every man be fully persuaded in his own mind.") and let God be the judge since God is the master of all (v. 4, both Jewish and Gentile Christians have become "slaves to righteous living", Rom 6:18).
    • Paul applied this similar exhortation to the issue of eating non-Kosher food (such as pork, cf Rom 6:14-17).


I understand that different Christian groups have different positions on the meaning of Sabbath for Christians today, on how the 10 commandments are applicable to Christians today, on how Jesus fulfills the Sabbath, and on the application of Romans 14 for today, but we can at least agree that any Christian exegesis would not see the two texts as contradictory at all.

  • Is a better atheist one who is better at disbelieving there is anything remotely like a God who can inspire the writing of any books? :-) +1 btw Commented Aug 29, 2022 at 11:58
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    @MikeBorden :-). Better atheist makes a Christian apologist work harder by understanding the Christian position accurately rather than constructing strawman to attack like this. Bad Christian apologist makes the same mistake when attacking science indiscriminately. Commented Aug 29, 2022 at 12:20
  • @GratefulDisciple, it's strange how we can read the same scriptures and come to such different conclusions. This applies to all the points above, but especially the last two, which I see as completely opposite in interpretation. Commented Aug 29, 2022 at 12:51
  • @RayButterworth My take on our differences is that Paul's original exhortation still applies to us today where Christians of various denominations are each convinced in their conscience before the Lord and want to honor, obey, and glorify the same God. It's well known that different Christian groups have different understanding about OT law applicability, of Sabbath, and even exegesis of related texts! I have learned to accept this unity in diversity, especially when facing a common opponent: atheists referred in the OP, communist China, and imperialistic Russia. Commented Aug 29, 2022 at 13:59
  • 1
    @Grateful. I saw a brief "freethinkers" presentation about finding the truth, logical reasoning, etc., with handouts like Thou Shalt Not Commit Logical Fallacies. We thought it might be interesting and so went to one of their meetings. It was like a revival meeting for fundamentalist atheists, with everyone taking turns ranting about how religious people are evil morons. Their logic was perfect, but their facts third-hand; they'd obviously never touched a Bible, Qur'an, etc., much less read any of them. Commented Aug 29, 2022 at 15:12

Paul does not deal with the question of Old vs. New covenants here. Rather, he is explaining that Christians should not judge each other over the issue of the Sabbath, among others. Paul's teaching here is not for or against Sabbath-keeping. Rather, he argues that Christians respect each others' view on the issue. The key sentences here are "Let every one be fully convinced in his own mind. He who observes the day, observes it in honor of the Lord."

Let's take a deeper look at the chapter:

As for the man who is weak in faith, welcome him, but not for disputes over opinions. 2 One believes he may eat anything, while the weak man eats only vegetables. 3 Let not him who eats despise him who abstains, and let not him who abstains pass judgment on him who eats; for God has welcomed him. 4 Who are you to pass judgment on the servant of another?... 5 One man esteems one day as better than another, while another man esteems all days alike. Let every one be fully convinced in his own mind. 6 He who observes the day, observes it in honor of the Lord. He also who eats, eats in honor of the Lord, since he gives thanks to God; while he who abstains, abstains in honor of the Lord and gives thanks to God.

Paul's attitude here is similar to what he expresses on the issue of of food sacrificed to idols In 1 Cor. 8:

Some, through being hitherto accustomed to idols, eat food as really offered to an idol; and their conscience, being weak, is defiled. 8 Food will not commend us to God. We are no worse off if we do not eat, and no better off if we do. 9 Only take care lest this liberty of yours somehow become a stumbling block to the weak. 10 For if any one sees you, a man of knowledge, at table in an idol’s temple, might he not be encouraged, if his conscience is weak, to eat food offered to idols?

For Paul, issues such as vegetarianism, Sabbath-keeping and eating food sacrificed to idols were not essential. Thus he says "Let every one be fully convinced in his own mind." The important thing is that people should follow their consciences, and they should avoid offending each other as much as possible.

Among the Pharisees [of whom Paul himself was one] there were often debates about minor points of Jewish law. Is it OK to eat without washing your hands first, or does this only refer to priests making offerings to God? Is it kosher to eat milk and meat together, or should we follow the literal letter of the law and simply refrain from cooking a kid in its mother's milk? Does keeping the Sabbath mean we must not even lift a hand to save another's life? Paul hated to see similar debates beginning to divide the church.

So how should the apparent discrepancy between the 10 Commandments and Paul's teaching to be explained? Not with reference to the Old vs the New Covenant. But rather as an expression of Paul's broad-minded interpretation of the Law, much as Reform Jews hold today. He does not speak against Sabbath-keeping. Indeed he supports it, saying that 'He who observes the day, observes it in honor of the Lord.'

  • Good comparison with the school of thoughts / denominations of ancient + modern Judaism. Commented Sep 2, 2022 at 21:43

"Let every man be fully persuaded in his own mind." doesn't mean that everyone can decide what is right or wrong for themselves. It means don't force someone to accept a truth until that person is ready to be persuaded and willing to accept that truth.

Consider the context leading up to this verse:

Receive one who is weak in the faith, but not to disputes over doubtful things. For one believes he may eat all things, but he who is weak eats only vegetables. Let not him who eats despise him who does not eat, and let not him who does not eat judge him who eats; for God has received him. Who are you to judge another’s servant? To his own master he stands or falls. Indeed, he will be made to stand, for God is able to make him stand. One person esteems one day above another; another esteems every day alike. Let each be fully convinced in his own mind.
— Romans 14:1–5

Paul is talking about recent converts (or those interested in converting) from Paganism. Some are vegetarians, some regard every day as special, some believe physical pleasure is wrong, some … .

Paul's point is not about any of these details. But he is concerned that some of the Christians are more concerned about these details than about the central message of Christianity.

The new converts need to learn about Christianity first, and they will eventually be able to accept that eating meat is allowed, that physical pleasure can be freely enjoyed, that certain days are for certain purposes, etc.

But if they are forced to eat meat against their will before they have truly learned that it is acceptable to do so, they will feel uncomfortable, they will resist, and they will be distracted from learning the Gospel message. Forcing a vegetarian to eat meat, or ridiculing him for not doing so, is more likely to chase this person away than to teach him to be a Christian.

Paul is telling them to teach the essentials, and to allow time for the former Pagans to accept the things that they have spent their whole lives believing to be wrong. Insisting on immediate full acceptance of everything will only alienate them, and possibly lose them.

Teach the essentials of the Christian message, wait, and people will eventually be convinced by themselves to change their life-long views.

  • "they will eventually be able to accept ... that certain days are for certain purposes" This makes it sound like you think literal Sabbath keeping is a behavior of those who are mature in the faith. Commented Aug 29, 2022 at 12:05
  • @MikeBorden: "Sabbath keeping is a behavior of those who are mature in the faith". I see nothing in the Bible that indicates otherwise. ¶ Cardinal Gibbons (Faith of Our Fathers) says: "You may read the Bible from Genesis to Revelation, and you will not find a single line authorizing the sanctification of Sunday. The Scriptures enforce the religious observance of Saturday, a day which we never sanctify.". 5 February 1950's Our Sunday Visitor says: "Protestants do not realize that by observing Sunday, they accept the authority of the spokesperson of the Church, the Pope". Commented Aug 29, 2022 at 12:35
  • Do you also think that vegetarians will begin to eat meat as they mature in the faith? Commented Aug 29, 2022 at 23:51
  • @MikeBorden, yes. People raised as vegetarians all their life will certainly not want to suddenly start eating meat immediately after baptism. But as they learn what God's way is all about, gradually they will realize that regarding meat as a sin was part of their old Pagan life, not their new Christian life. This doesn't mean that everyone will, but even those few that don't will learn to accept other people's eating meat, and not think of it as wrong. (Just as someone that hates broccoli doesn't think you are sinning when you eat it.) Commented Aug 30, 2022 at 0:43

Jesus said that The Sabbath was made for man, not man for the Sabbath. This indicates that Jesus is in charge and that the law is a tool toward the ends of loving God and loving people.

There is nothing special about whatever day people take a Sabbath on. The Sabbath serves a purpose. That purpose is God's purpose. That purpose is honoring humans as sacred by allowing them to rest, and thus communicating to them that they are not a means to an end of accomplishing tasks.

The purpose is what is sacred. The day itself is not. There are other ways we honor people, and don't force them to engage in 7 day a week labor. Taking a Sabbath doesn't inherently mean you are honoring workers either. But the Sabbath is a hard boundary as far as executing the purpose of honoring workers as sacred, and not just robots that do things.

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