Should Christians Worship on Saturday or Sunday? "The Lord's Day": An Analysis of the Meaning of the Phrase in Revelation 1:10
In the study of semantics, we are often confronted with the fact that the meaning of a word changes over time. An example of this is the term ‘fourth of July.’ To someone living in the United States of America in the twenty-first century, this phrase means the day in which America declared its independence from Great Britain. However, prior to 1775 this same term ‘fourth of July’ only referred to the fourth day in the month of July. At times in biblical studies we are confronted with a word that is rarely used and which has polysemous meanings. Such is the word ‘Lord’ (kuriakos) which is used only twice in the New Testament, once in 1 Corinthians 11:201 to refer to the ‘Lord’s Supper’ (kuriakon deipnon) and once in Revelation 1:10 to refer to ‘the Lord’s day’ (kuriakh hmera).2 This paper will seek to determine the meaning of the phrase ‘the Lord’s day’ as used in Revelation 1:10.
Lord noun vs. Lord adjective
To the English reader these two passages seem no different than hundreds of similar passages where the word Lord refers to either God or Jesus Christ as Lord. However, in every other case in the Greek Septuagint (Old Testament or LXX) and in the Greek New Testament the word for Lord is the masculine noun form ‘kurios.’ However, in these two passages the adjective ‘kuriakos’ is used. In fact, 1 Corinthians 11:201 is the first time that the adjective ‘kuriakos’ appears in Greek literature. It is used neither in the LXX nor in any other contemporary Jewish literature. The first use outside of the New Testament does not appear until A.D. 68 and refers to Caesar’s household, treasury or imperial administration.3
By the second century ‘Kuriakos’ was used extensively by the church fathers. Wilfrid Stott notes that the following nouns were used with ‘kuriakos’ and “. . . in each case referring to our Lord: ‘the head,’ ‘the body,’ ‘the flesh,’ ‘the soul,’ ‘the blood,’ ‘the passion,’ ‘the cross,’ ‘the burial,’ ‘the sayings and teachings,’ ‘the parables,’ ‘the commands,’ ‘the power and authority,’ ‘the name.’ ”It conveys the meaning of ‘belonging to the Lord’, ‘given by ’or ‘instituted by the Lord’.4 Thus, the ‘Lord’s supper’ mentioned in 1 Corinthians 11:201 clearly refers to the ‘last supper’ instituted by Christ to remember His shed blood and broken body. Likewise, ‘the Lord’s day’ refers to a day belonging to the Lord to remember Him in some special way.
Each time the New Testament refers to the first day of the week (Sunday) it uses the phrase ‘mia twn Sabbatwn’ which means literally the first (day) after the Sabbath. The Gospel of Peter, which dates around 150 to 180 A.D., is the first unambiguous instance where ’the Lord’s day’ (kuriakh) replaces ‘mia twn Sabbatwn’ to identify the day of Christ’s resurrection. By the latter part of the second century ‘the Lord’s day’ (kuriakh hmera) or ‘kuriakh’ modifying the implied noun hmera became the commonly designated phrase that referred to Sunday as the day of Christian worship. The question that must be answered is, does John’s use of ‘the Lord’s day’ in A.D. 90 also designate Sunday as the day of Christian worship [Revelation 1:10]?2
Lord’s Day in Revelation 1:10
Four possible meanings have been suggested for kuriakh hmera in Revelation 1:10. First, that it means the final eschatological Day of Judgment. Second, that it is a reference to the seventh-day Sabbath. Third, that it refers to Easter Sunday. Fourth, that it used to designate Sunday as the weekly day of Christian worship. As we shall see, there are arguments for and against each of these possibilities, although I believe that the evidence strongly suggests that ‘the Lord’s day’ refers to Sunday as the day of Christian worship.
Those who argue that ‘the Lord’s day’ means the eschatological day of God’s judgment note that John’s Revelation is filled with the theme of the last judgment. Critics, however, have noted that with only one possible exception, the church fathers in the second and third centuries never use ‘kuriakh hmera’ to refer to the final judgment. The one exception is Origen Comm. S. John, x.35. Wilfried Stott notes that “. . . Origen is not meaning ‘the Day of the Lord’ in the Old Testament sense, but allegorically describing the resurrection as the final, great Sunday, the day of resurrection.”5 These same critics ask, if John meant to refer to the final judgment in Revelation 1:10 why does he not use the term ‘the day of the Lord’ (hmera tou kuriou), which is used at least seventeen times in the LXX and at least four times in the New Testament (1 Corinthians 5:5, 1 Thessalonians 5:2, 2 Thessalonians 2:2, and 2 Peter 3:10)6 to refer to the eschatological day of God’s judgment at the end of the age? (See Appendix One). Furthermore, these critics note that while the Revelation certainly deals with the final judgment, it also deals with other events that both lead up to and follow the Day of Judgment.
In response to those objections, Baccchiocchi notes that John uses two other different expressions in Revelation 16:14 and 6:17 to designate the final judgment. He further observes that the New Testament uses a wide variety of terms to refer to the final judgment. While acknowledging that the Revelation covers more than the final Day of Judgment he contends that John was carried by the Spirit, at the very beginning of his vision, to the actual time of the final judgment. We are then to understand that when Christ called from behind John and he turned to face Christ, he was then brought back from seeing the future Day of Judgment to the current time of the seven churches in A.D. 90. He sees the reference to the sound of the trumpet both here in Revelation 1:10 and in a close parallel passage in Revelation 4:1-2 as a further reference to the final Day of Judgment.7 He suggests that “It would seem legitimate to conclude therefore, that just as the expression ‘Lord’s Supper’ was used once by Paul as an exception to what apparently was know as “the breaking of bread, ” it is possible also that the phrase ‘Lord’s day’ was employed once by John as an exception and variation of the common expression ‘day of the Lord’.”8
Bacchiocchi’s argument fails to convince for the following reasons. It is certainly true that in several passages of the New Testament the sound of the trumpet is associated with the Second Coming of Christ and the Day of Judgment. However, in context, both Revelation 1:109 and Revelation 4:1-210 describe events that happen prior to the final Day of Judgment. In addition, S. Llewelyn points to the fact that the verb ‘was’ (egenomhn) used in Revelation 1:10 is also used in Revelation 4:2, 8:1, and 11:13;11 in each of these cases he notes “The time reference is to when the event occurred. By analogy, the reference in Revelation 1:10 must be to the time when the seer had his spiritual experience. Second, if the writer wished to indicate a future time towards which he was transferred in the vision, then one would have expected a prepositional phrase in the accusative (eis thn kuriakhn hmeran) rather than one in the dative.”12
In Revelation 1:9-10,13 John seeks to answer the following questions that the reader might have. Who wrote the book? John. Where was he when he wrote it? He was on the Island of Patmos. Why was he there? Because of the word of God, and for the testimony of Jesus Christ. What happened to him? He was taken off in the Spirit. When did this vision occur? This vision commenced on ‘the Lord’s day.’ Immediately after saying that he had been taken off in the Spirit on ‘the Lord’s day,’ the conjunction ‘and’ connects the remainder of the sentence in which John is commanded by Christ to write what he sees in vision. There is nothing in the context of Revelation 1:10-11 to suggest that John first saw the final Day of Judgment. Rather, we find John first recording in vision Christ’s message of blessing and reproof to the seven churches of Asia Minor.
The significance of John recording the time in which the vision occurred as ‘the Lord’s day’ would be to connect both John and the members of the seven churches to their risen Lord on the day in which they had gathered to worship Him. The fact that Revelation 1:314 mentions a blessing to the one who reads and those who hear the words of this prophecy clearly envisions the regular time when the church would meet to hear this revelation read. The mention of ‘the Lord’s day’ would assure both John and the believers in the seven churches that, although they were presently going though difficult trials for their faith, Christ had not forgotten them. Therefore, they could look back with confidence to Christ’s resurrection as guaranteeing their forgiveness through His shed blood. Likewise, they could look forward with full confidence to the future coming of Christ, the Day of Judgment, and of the coming New Heaven and Earth where they will live eternally with Christ.
Worship on which day?
If ‘the Lord’s day’ does not refer to the final Day of Judgment but rather to the day in which Christians gathered to worship their risen Lord, the question still remains as to what day that was. Seventh-day Adventists believe that all Christians are still called to keep the seventh-day Sabbath. Therefore, they contend that ‘the Lord’s day,’ in Revelation 1:10, refers to the Sabbath and reflects the fact that John and the seven churches faithfully kept the Sabbath. For they note “...that although the Scripture nowhere identifies Sunday as having any religious connection with the Lord, repeatedly it recognizes that the seventh day, the Sabbath, is the Lord’s special day. God is said to have blessed and sanctified the seventh day (see Gen. 2:3);15 He declared it to be the memorial of His act of creation (see Ex. 20:11);16 He called it specifically “my holy day” (see Isa. 58:13);17 and Jesus declared Himself to be “Lord also of the Sabbath” (see Mark 2:28)18 in the sense that as Lord of men, He was also Lord over that which was made for man, the Sabbath.”19
While the Seventh-day Adventist theological position leads them to conclude that “the Lord’s day’ refers to the Sabbath, there is nothing in the first two centuries of church history to support this view. First there is no other example from the second century church fathers where ‘the Lord’s day’ was ever used to refer to the Sabbath. Secondly the Greeks, from the second century to the twenty-first century, have consistently referred to the seventh-day (Saturday) as the Sabbath (sabbaton) and the first day (Sunday) as “the Lord’s day’ (kuriakh hmera). An example of this is the Acts of Paul, about A.D. 170, which represents the apostles as praying “on the Sabbath as the Lord’s Day drew near” (epercomenhs ths kuriakhs).”20 This was unlike the English speaking world which at least from the 1600’s has often used the terms ‘Sabbath,’ ‘Lord’s day,’ and ‘Sunday’ interchangeably as synonyms to refer to the first day of the week as the Christian day of worship.
In addition, the Seventh-day Adventist theological position rests on the assumption that the Gentile believers in the first century were taught by the apostles to keep the Sabbath. While there is clear evidence that the Jewish members of the Jerusalem church remained zealous for the Law at least until 57 A.D., and that this zeal for the Law would certainly have included the keeping of the Sabbath [Acts 21:21-25],21 there is no evidence, however, that the Gentiles were, likewise, commanded to keep the Sabbath. In fact, the leaders of the Jerusalem church made it clear that while they wanted Paul, because he was a Jew, to be seen as one who kept the Law, they reaffirmed the conclusion of the Jerusalem council in A.D. 49 that the Gentiles where not required to be circumcised or to keep the Law [Acts 15:5-11].22
Seventh-day Adventists affirm that Paul kept the Sabbath because on his missionary journeys he preached Christ in the synagogue on the Sabbath in each new city that he visited [Acts. 13:14-16, 42-44; 16:11-13; 17:2; 18:4].23 Paul found a ready audience of Jews and God fearing Gentiles in the synagogues to whom he could preach Christ. He explained that he lived as though he was under the Law so that he might lead Jews to Christ [1 Corinthians 9:19-23].24 However, by A.D. 51 in Corinth, Paul met such opposition from unbelieving Jews that he declared to them “Your blood be upon your own heads, I am clean; from now on I shall go to the Gentiles [Acts 18:6].25 Acts never again mentions Paul visiting a synagogue on the Sabbath nor does it ever mention Paul meeting with the Church on the Sabbath. But Acts does mention that Paul met with the church in Troas on the first day of the week, “... when we were gathered together to break bread,... [Acts 20:7].”26
Paul’s custom of visiting synagogues on the Sabbath cannot be taken as evidence that he felt that Gentiles believers should keep the Sabbath. While Paul never condemned the Jews for keeping special days to the Lord [Rom. 14:1-6],27 he became very concerned when he discovered that certain Jewish believers were seeking to impose the keeping of days on the Gentiles [Gal. 4:10-11].28 Paul explicitly included the weekly Sabbath when he stated, “Therefore, let no one act as your judge in regard to food or drink or in respect to a festival or a new moon or a Sabbath day- things which are a mere shadow of what is to come; but the substance belongs to Christ.”[Col 2:16-17].29 These three terms ‘festival’ ( eorths ), ‘new moon’(neomhnias ) ,and ‘Sabbaths’ ( sabbatwn ) are used together eleven times in the LXX. In addition, Giem cites numerous examples of ‘festival,’ ‘new moon,’ and ‘sabbaths’ being mentioned in this same sequential order in both the OT-Apocrypha and the Dead Seas scrolls. In every case they are used to include all the holy days given by God to the Jews and they follow a logical sequence in which ‘festival’ refers to the yearly festivals, the ‘new moon’ refers to the monthly, and the ‘Sabbath’ refers to the weekly.30 (See Appendix Two).
Since Giem believes that the seventh-day Sabbath should still be kept by believers, he is somewhat uncomfortable stating that the Sabbath is a shadow of Christ. He fails to note that the Sabbath foreshadowed Christ as both the creator of the heavens and the earth and our eternal redeemer. The very reason Israel was called to keep the Sabbath was both to remember that God was the Creator of the heavens and earth [Ex. 20:8-11],31 and that He had also redeemed them out of Egypt [Deut 5:12-15].32 He believes that, “...the weight of evidence indicates that what Paul actually had reference to was the sacrifices on the seventh-day sabbath prescribed in Num 28:9-10, which pointed forward to Christ and are no longer binding on the Christian since his death.”33 Giem is certainly correct when he states that the sacrifices performed on the festivals, new moons and sabbaths foreshadow what Christ would accomplish on the cross. However, one wonders why these sacrifices would have become an issue of controversy among the believers in Colossae. These sacrifices could only be performed at the temple in Jerusalem. As a result, the Gentile believers in Colossae would have had no direct involvement in the offering of these sacrifices. It would seem much more likely that the false teachers were urging the keeping of various festivals and the seventh-day sabbaths as days of rest as commanded in the Law of Moses with Paul responding that believers must not allow others to judge them with regard to their keeping of holy days to the Lord since Christ the reality has now come.
When to celebrate Easter?
The Seventh-day Adventist claim that ‘the Lord’s day’ in Revelation 1:10 refers to the seventh-day Sabbath is seriously undermined by a controversy over when to keep Easter, which arose about one hundred years after the writing of the Revelation. These same seven churches, to whom John wrote in the Revelation, were among the eastern churches called Quartodeciman, because they continued to keep the yearly remembrance of Christ’s resurrection by breaking their fast on the 14th of Nisan, the actual day of Passover, while the western church, citing ‘apostolic tradition,’ did not break the fast until ‘the Lord’s day’ (Sunday) following Passover. Fasting was viewed as an act of mourning. The western church felt that it was only proper to fast on Good Friday and on the Sabbath to mourn Christ death and burial. However, Resurrection Sunday was not to be a day of fasting but one of rejoicing. Irenaeus cited evidence that this differing practice regarding whether to keep Easter on the actual day of Passover or on the Lord’s day following Passover dated back at least to A.D. 115 when Bishop Xystus of Rome received those from the eastern churches that kept Passover on the 14 of Nisan. This would indicate that these two divergent practices dated back into the first century.34
In what became known as the Quartodeciman controversy Bishop Victor of Roman in 190 A.D., one hundred years after John’s vision, sought to compel these eastern churches to change their customary practice and instead break their fast on ‘the Lord’s day’ following Passover. They steadfastly refused, citing the fact that they were adhering to the practice handed down to them by the Apostle John.35 If these eastern churches, from apostolic times, had kept according to the Jewish reckoning both the seventh-day Sabbath, calling it ‘the Lord’s day,’ and the Passover why would they have given up keeping `the Sabbath while persisting in keep Passover in face of such wide spread opposition? Yet as Kraft observes, “As far as can be determined from the sources, the Quartodecimans were not at all considered strange for their weekly observances-apparently they kept the Lord’s Day as did their opponents.”36 (See Appendix Three for Eusebius’ full text).
It is Bacchiocchi’s thesis that the Church of Rome would have originated not only the yearly celebration of Christ’s resurrection on the Sunday following Passover but the weekly keeping of Sunday as well. He believes that Rome around 130 A.D. adopted the keeping of the weekly Sunday and through its ecclesiastical power was able to impose this practice on the whole church.37 His thesis is seriously undermined by the fact that the Roman bishop Victor in A.D. 190 failed in his attempt to impose the uniform practice of keeping Eastern on the Sunday following Passover. If the Roman bishop did not yet have sufficient ecclesiastical power to impose his will on the entire church in A.D. 190 how could an earlier Roman bishop in A.D.130 have imposed the universal practice of keeping of the weekly of Sunday on the entire church? One would expect that any such attempt, likewise, would have produced controversy and the defense for the continued keeping of the Sabbath in certain parts of the church who would have cited the teachings and practices of the apostles in their support.
‘The Lord’s day’ as Sunday
Let us now look at the evidence that strongly suggests that ‘the Lord’s day’ in Revelation 1:10 refers to Sunday. As we have previously noted, the Gospel of Peter, which dates from 150-180 A.D., is the first unambiguous second century text that replaces the canonical Gospels’ ‘first day of the week’ (mia twn sabbatwn) with ‘the Lord’s day’ (Kurakh) to designate the day Christ rose from the dead. By A.D. 170 ‘Kuriakh hmera’or ‘kuriakh’ standing by itself had become the common term to refer to Sunday as the day of Christian worship.
“A reference to weekly Sunday worship seems very probable but not certain in the Letter of Bishop Dionysius of Corinth to bishop Soter of Rome (c. 170): “Today we have kept the Lord’s holy day (kuriakh agia hmera), on which we have read your letter.” At about the same time, however, a passage in the Acts of Peter (Act. Verc. 29) clearly identifies dies dominica (“the Lord’s Day”) with “the next day after the Sabbath,” and the Acts of Paul represents the apostles as praying “on the Sabbath as the Lord’s Day drew near” (epercomenhs ths kuriakhs).”38
In many of these passages kuriakh is used to refer specifically to the Sunday of Christ’s resurrection. This has lead some to conclude that ‘the Lord’s day’ began first as a yearly remembrance of Christ’s resurrection on the Sunday following the Passover. They believe that gradually over time ‘the Lord’s day’ came to be celebrated weekly. They would argue that Revelation 1:10 referred to Easter Sunday and not to the weekly Sunday. This interpretation fails to take into account the fact that the seven churches in Asia Minor to whom John wrote the Revelation were Quartodeciman. Therefore, they did not celebrate Christ’s yearly Resurrection on Sunday but rather on the 14th of Nisan the actual day of Passover which would fall on any day of the week.
The problem remains that all of the above references to ‘the Lord’s day’ date at least sixty to eighty years after the writing of the Revelation. Yet as we move closer to the time that John wrote the Revelation, we find ‘eighth day’ and ‘Sunday’ being used to describe the day of Christian worship. In the Epistle of Barnabas , which dates around A.D.135, the author states, “Wherefore, also we keep the eight day with joyfulness, the day also on which Jesus rose again from the dead. ”In addition, he stated that Jesus Christ abolished the Sabbath.39 It is perhaps understandable that Justin Martyr would use the Roman term ‘Sunday’ to refer to the first day of the week since he was addressing his apology to the Emperor Antoninus Pius who reigned from A.D. 138-161. He said, “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 form the dead.”40
Much closer in time to the writing of the Revelation is Ignatius who was bishop of Antioch in Syria and was martyred in Rome around 108 A.D. On his trip to Rome to be martyred he passed through Asia Minor and wrote letters to many of the churches in Asia Minor. In Magnesians 9:1 Ignatius writes, “If, therefore, those who were brought up in the ancient order of things have come to the possession of a new hope, no longer keeping the Sabbath but living in accordance with the Lord’s day, on which our life also arose through him and his death...” (mhketi sabbatizontes alla kata kuriakhn zwhn zwntes, en h kai h Zwh hmwn aneteilen di autou kai tou qanatou autou).41 Guy notes that there are textual problems because of the inclusion of zwhn (life) after kuriakhn (Lord’s) in this passage. This would allow the possibility of translating this passage as “living according to the Lord’s life.”
“In Greek (or Hebrew or Aramaic) syntactical constructions that use a “cognate accusative,” a noun in the accusative case is coupled with a verb or participle belonging to the same etymological family, producing an idiom that often has no proper literal parallel in English. Whereas a Greek sentence may read literally, “Do not fear the fear of them” (1 Peter 3:14),42 the meaning is more smoothly rendered in English by the reading “Do not fear them” (RSV). Thus, kata kuriakhn zwhn zwntes can be read “living a life according to the Lord’s day” just as correctly as “living according to the Lord’s life.”43
Ignatius in Magnesian 8 commented that “...the divinest prophets lived according to Christ Jesus.” Because of this reference to the OT prophets Lewis feels Ignatius has OT prophets in mind as he begins Magnesian 9:1. This leads Lewis to object that having the text read Lord’s day would “...have the double absurdity of ‘divine prophets’ forsaking the sabbath and observing Sunday.”44 However, Ignatius mentions the OT prophets because he sees that they were “...being inspired by His grace to fully convince the unbelieving that there is one God, who has manifested himself by Jesus Christ,...” This would naturally lead one to conclude that Ignatius, in chapter 9:1, had in mind unbelieving Jews, who came to believe in Christ. Therefore, 9:1 mirrors his statement in chapter 8, “For if we still live according to the Jewish law, we acknowledge that we have not received grace.”(See Appendix Three for the full text.)
While finding no other example of a cognate accusative in Ignatius’ writings, Guy does find similar wording such as cara cairein (“greetings in joy”), ‘o cwrwn cwreitw (“let the one who understands, understand”), and ekklhsia ou kaleite (the “church [‘called our’] is not called”). “While these examples are not directly parallel to zwhn zwntes, they reflect the kind of interest in words that would also be reflected in the use of the cognate accusative ‘living a life.’ ”Guy notes, “In view, however, of the necessarily symbolic and broad connotation of ‘sabbatizing’ in the same sentence, the idea of ‘the Lord’s day’ (with a similarly symbolic and broad connotation) can not be ruled out as a possible correct interpretation.” He concludes that while there is some ambiguity to this text it is certainly possible that Ignatius is in fact referring to the practice of keeping ‘the Lord’s day’ (Sunday) in the early second century.45
The other early use of ‘kuriakh’ that probably refers to ‘the Lord’s day’ is found in the Didache 14:1 “On the Lord’s own day (Kata kuriakhn de kuriou) gather together and break bread and gives thanks, having first confessed your sins so that your sacrifice may be pure.” Because the Didache speaks of a church structure of bishops and deacons and of traveling apostles and prophets, Holmes suggests that a date for the Didache ‘...reflect a time closer to that of Paul and James (who died in the 60’s) than Ignatius (who died sometime after 110).”46 This could possibly date the Didache prior to the Revelation and suggest that ‘the Lord’s day’ was already in use in the first century to refer to the first day of the week.
However, Bacchiocchi argues that in this passage of the Didache “the noun implied is not hmeran (day) but didachn (doctrine), so that the phrase should be translated “according to the sovereign doctrine of the Lord.” Bauckham responds to Bacchiocchi by noting that the only attested usage in the second century church fathers of kuriakh with an implied noun is with hmera (day).47 In addition, the Apostolic Constitutions (7:30:1) interpreted the Didache 14:1 as follows, “On the day of the resurrection of the Lord, that is, the Lord’s day, assemble yourselves together.”48
It is certainly understandable why Christians who gathered on the first day of the week to worship would need to chose a name for that day that indicated that it was given over to remembrance of Christ’s resurrection until He returned. They could not use the ‘Day of the Lord’ (hmera tou kuriou) lest it be confused with the final Day of Judgment. This could account for their distinctive use of ‘kuriakh hmera’ (the Lord’s day) to refer to the day of Christ’s resurrection. Kuriakh was already in use in the first century to refer to the Imperial authority, administration, and the treasury of Caesar. In addition, Caesar was worshipped by the Romans as a god. Kuriakh would seem to be an ideal word with which to ascribe true Lordship to Jesus Christ who not only created all things but who also rose from the dead on the first day of the week.
The use of ‘kuriakh’ in the Didache and by Ignatius in Magnesians suggests, but does not conclusively prove, that ‘kuriakh’ had the same meaning at the time John wrote the Revelation as it did after 170 A.D. where it clearly referred to Sunday as the day of Christian worship. This conclusion would have been greatly strengthened if there were other clear examples in the New Testament where ‘kuriakh’ was used to replace ‘mia twn sabbatwn’in referring to the first day of the week. The fact that Paul does not use ‘kuriakh’ in 1 Corinthians 16:249 in 54 A.D. in reference to the first day of the week after he had first used this same adjective for the Lord’s supper in 1 Corinthians 11:201 suggests that ‘kuriakh hmera’ had not yet come into common usage to refer to the first day of the week. Just as it took some time before the early followers of Christ were first called Christians at Antioch [Acts 11:26],50 so likewise, Christians could have begun to regularly meet on the first day of the week some time before they began to call it ‘the Lord’s day.’
Eusebius writing around 324 A.D. commented on the beliefs of a group of Jewish Christians called Ebionite that supports the conclusion that the Didache, the Revelation, and Ignatius’ Maganesian are all using ‘the Lord’s day’ to refer to the first day of the week as a time of regular Christian worship. He observed that they rejected the writings of the Apostle Paul “calling him a renegade from the Law.” He continued “...they observed the Sabbath and the whole Jewish system: yet on the Lord’s Day they celebrated rites similar to our own in memory of the Savior’s resurrection.”51 It is difficult to determine from Eusebius the date when the Ebionites held these beliefs and how closely they were connected to the original Jerusalem church. Their keeping of the Lord’s Day in addition to the Sabbath, given their rejection of Paul, certainly suggests that their reason for doing so was not because of external Gentile Christian influences. It is certainly possible that their keeping of the Lord’s day stemmed from the practice of the original Jewish believers in Jerusalem. (See Appendix Three or Eusebius’ full text).
Christ’s resurrection from the dead on the first day of the week is emphasized in each of the four Gospel. Likewise, the Holy Spirit was poured out on the Sunday of Pentecost marking the beginning of the New Covenant [Lev. 23:4-16, Acts 2:32-33].52 Geraty writing on the origin of Sunday worship notes that there were seven Sundays that linked Resurrection Sunday with the Sunday of Pentecost. He cites Van Goudoever’s belief that the observance of these seven Sundays between Resurrection Sunday and Pentecost lead to keeping Sunday every week of the year. “Just as the weekly Sabbath was held in commemoration of the yearly Passover (Deut. 5:15)53 as well as, of course, a memorial of creation (Ex. 20:11),54 the early Christians could have begun to keep the weekly Sunday in commemoration of the annual Sunday when their Lord arose.”55 While noting that the NT and historical evidence is not complete or conclusive, he states “But such evidence as we do have would seem to indicate the possibility of there having been a tradition from the beginning of the Christian church in which an annual Sunday celebration in honor of the Lord’s resurrection was known and observed as the ‘Lord’s Day’.”55
The Jewish ceremony of ‘first fruits’ occurred on the Sunday Christ rose from the dead and again fifty days later on Sunday of Pentecost . Paul speaks of Christians celebrating the feast of Passover in a new way, “For Christ our Passover also has been sacrificed.”56 Likewise, Paul links the symbolism of the ceremony of first fruits with Christ’s resurrection by saying. “But now Christ has been raise from the dead, the first fruits of those who are asleep.”57 In the very next verses, Paul instructs the believers in both Galatia and Corinth to set aside money on the first day of the week for the saints in Jerusalem. While he doesn’t give an explicit reason for selecting this day, it would be only natural that they would have remembered Christ’s resurrection each Sunday as they set aside their collection for the saints.58 It is certainly interesting that the record of Paul’s meeting with the church at Troas on the first day of the week fell on one of the Sundays between Passover and Pentecost. The way in which Luke recorded this meeting, “And of the first day of the week, when we were gathered together to break bread...” certainly suggested that believers were gathering on the first day of the week to regularly celebrate the Lord’s Supper.59
The three-fold link of the use of ‘kuriakh hmera’ in the early church fathers, the NT evidence, and the second century evidence of church history strongly supports the conclusion that ‘the Lord’s day’ in Revelation 1:10 does refer to the first day of the week as the regular day of Christian worship. But can this evidence be used to support the belief that Christ and His apostles had made Sunday the Christian Sabbath and that in the New Covenant the fourth commandment of the Decalogue now commands the keeping of Sunday as a 24-hour day of sabbath rest? In the absence of explicit teaching on the meaning of the first day of the week in the New Testament one must be careful not to attempt to prove too much from Revelation 1:10. If the Gentile believers had been instructed by the apostles to keep either the Sabbath or ‘the Lord’s day’, as a sabbath of rest, they would have confronted many practical problems in attempting to keep the day. A believer could not expect to be released from work by his employer on either day. This problem would have been compounded for a slave who could not expect his pagan master to allow him one day in seven as a day of rest and worship. Paul as an apostle to the Gentiles had to deal with many questions, problems, and sins in the Gentile church. The fact that Paul never addressed any of these practical issues concerning Sabbath or Sunday keeping certainly suggests that he never taught the Gentiles to kept either day as a day of complete rest.
Pliny (the Younger) was the Roman governor of Bithynia, a province in Asia Minor, in 112 A.D. He wrote a letter to the emperor in which he described the practices of Christians who had been brought before him. He wrote that:
“...on the appointed day they had been accustomed to meet before daybreak, and recite a hymn antiphonally to Christ, as to a god....”After the conclusion of this ceremony it was their custom to depart and meet again to take food; but it was ordinary and harmless food;...”60
Christians by meeting early in the morning and perhaps again in the evening would be able both to meet for regular weekly worship while also satisfying the work demands of their employers. Justin Martyr (A.D. 110-165) was a Gentile Christian who wrote the Dialogue with Trypho. Trypho was a Jew who did not believe that Jesus was the Christ. Justin quotes often from the Law and the Prophets to seek to convince Trypho that Jesus was the Christ. Trypho felt that Justin must be circumcised and keep the Law to be righteous before God. As a result, Justin addressed in detail how the New Covenant effected the Christian’s relationship to the Mosaic Law and the Sabbath. Justin clearly saw the Sabbath as having only a temporary function.
“For if there was no need of circumcision before Abraham, or of the observance of Sabbaths, of feasts and sacrifices, before Moses; no more need is there of them now, after that, according to the will of God, Jesus Christ the son of God has been born without sin, of a virgin sprung from the stock of Abraham.”61
Likewise, Justin identifies four different views that Christians, in his day, held concerning the Sabbath.
- Jewish believers who kept the Law and the Sabbath and sought to compel the Gentiles to do likewise.
- Jewish believers who kept the Law and the Sabbath but did not compel the Gentiles to keep them.
- Justin identified himself with Gentile believers who did not keep the Law and the Sabbath but who had full fellowship with the Jewish believers as long as they did not compel others to keep the Sabbath.
- Gentile believers who did not keep the Law nor Sabbath and who had no fellowship with Jewish believers who did.62 (See Appendix Three for more of Justin’s on the Sabbath)
I believe that Justin’s attitude captures the spirit of the apostle Paul’s council neither to command the keeping of the Sabbath on the Gentiles nor to condemn Jewish believers who kept special days to the Lord. Today, some who keep the seventh-day Sabbath may find themselves holding similar beliefs to the first group of Jewish believers mentioned by Justin. Likewise, some of those who keep ‘the Lord’s day’ may hold the same attitude as the fourth group of Gentile believers Justin mentioned. Sabbath keepers could condemn other Christians for failing to keep the commandments of God. Those who keep Sunday as the Christian Sabbath could, likewise, feel that the Sabbath keepers are Judaizing and not keeping Sunday as the Sabbath of the New Covenant.
In conclusion, I believe Irenaeus gives wise counsel to anyone tempted to judge others over the manner and the day in which they remember the risen Christ. Although he was addressing the controversy over when to keep Easter, his words are also relevant to the issue surrounding the weekly keeping of the Sabbath or the Lord’s day. He concluded his letter to Bishop Victor in Rome in A.D. 190 by saying, “...the divergency in the fast emphasizes the unanimity of our faith.”63
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- Daniel Seven-Nine: Does it Support Seventh Day Adventism
- Matthew 5:17-19; Too Slender of a Reed to Support Seventh-Day Sabbatarianism
- Is the Sabbath a Creation Ordinance?
- A Review of Judging the Sabbath by Ron du Preez
- The Shut-door and the Sanctuary: Historical and Theological Problems
- Therefore when you meet together, it is not to eat the Lord’s Supper, (1 Corinthians 11:20)
- I was in the Spirit on the Lord’s day, and I heard behind me a loud voice like the sound of a trumpet, (Revelation 1:10)
- Bauckham, R. J. (1999). The Lord’s Day. In Carson, D. A.(Ed). From Sabbath to Lord’s Day: (pp. 221-250). Eugene, OR: Wipf and Stock Publishers, p. 222.
- Stott, W. (1966). A note on the word KYPIAKH in Revelation 1:10. New Testament Studies, 12, p. 71, 73.
- Ibid, p. 71.
- I have decided to deliver such a one to Satan for the destruction of
his flesh, so that his spirit may be saved in the day of the Lord Jesus.
(1 Corinthians 5:5)
For you yourselves know full well that the day of the Lord will come just like a thief in the night. (1 Thessalonians 5:2)
that you not be quickly shaken from your composure or be disturbed either by a spirit or a message or a letter as if from us, to the effect that the day of the Lord has come. (2 Thessalonians 2:2)
But the day of the Lord will come like a thief, in which the heavens will pass away with a roar and the elements will be destroyed with intense heat, and the earth and its works will be burned up. (2 Peter 3:10)
- Bacchiocchi, S. (1977). From Sabbath to Sunday. Rome: The Pontifical Gregorian University Press, p. 124, 129-130.
- Ibid, p.127.
- I was in the Spirit on the Lord’s day, and I heard behind me a loud voice like the sound of a trumpet, (Revelation 1:10)
- After these things I looked, and behold, a door standing open in heaven, and the first voice which I had heard, like the sound of a trumpet speaking with me, said, “Come up here, and I will show you what must take place after these things.” Immediately I was in the Spirit; and behold, a throne was standing in heaven, and One sitting on the throne. (Revelation 4:1-2)
- Immediately I was in the Spirit; and behold, a throne was
standing in heaven, and One sitting on the throne. (Revelation
When the Lamb broke the seventh seal, there was silence in heaven for about half an hour. (Revelation 8:1)
And in that hour there was a great earthquake, and a tenth of the city fell; seven thousand people were killed in the earthquake, and the rest were terrified and gave glory to the God of heaven. (Revelation 11:13)
- Llewelyn, S.R. (2001) The use of Sunday for meetings of believers in the New Testament. Novum Testamentum, 43, 3, p. 222.
- I, John, your brother and fellow partaker in the tribulation and kingdom and perseverance which are in Jesus, was on the island called Patmos because of the word of God and the testimony of Jesus. I was in the Spirit on the Lord’s day, and I heard behind me a loud voice like the sound of a trumpet, (Revelation 1:9-10)
- Blessed is he who reads and those who hear the words of the prophecy, and heed the things which are written in it; for the time is near. (Revelation 1:3)
- Then God blessed the seventh day and sanctified it, because in it He rested from all His work which God had created and made. (Genesis 2:3)
- “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.” (Exodus 20:11)
- “If because of the sabbath, you turn your foot From doing your own pleasure on My holy day, And call the sabbath a delight, the holy day of the LORD honorable, And honor it, desisting from your own ways, From seeking your own pleasure And speaking your own word,” (Isaiah 58:13)
- “So the Son of Man is Lord even of the Sabbath.” (Mark 2:28)
- Nichol, F. (Ed). (1957). Seventh-day Adventist Bible Commentary. Vol. 7, p. 736.
- Bauckham, R. J. (1999). The Lord’s Day. In Carson, D. A.(Ed). From Sabbath to Lord’s Day: (pp. 221-250). Eugene, OR: Wipf and Stock Publishers, p. 229.
- and they have been told about you, that you are teaching all the Jews who are among the Gentiles to forsake Moses, telling them not to circumcise their children nor to walk according to the customs. “What, then, is to be done? They will certainly hear that you have come. Therefore do this that we tell you. We have four men who are under a vow; take them and purify yourself along with them, and pay their expenses so that they may shave their heads; and all will know that there is nothing to the things which they have been told about you, but that you yourself also walk orderly, keeping the Law. But concerning the Gentiles who have believed, we wrote, having decided that they should abstain from meat sacrificed to idols and from blood and from what is strangled and from fornication.” (Acts 21:21-25)
- But some of the sect of the Pharisees who had believed stood up, saying, “It is necessary to circumcise them and to direct them to observe the Law of Moses.” The apostles and the elders came together to look into this matter. After there had been much debate, Peter stood up and said to them, “Brethren, you know that in the early days God made a choice among you, that by my mouth the Gentiles would hear the word of the gospel and believe. And God, who knows the heart, testified to them giving them the Holy Spirit, just as He also did to us; and He made no distinction between us and them, cleansing their hearts by faith. Now therefore why do you put God to the test by placing upon the neck of the disciples a yoke which neither our fathers nor we have been able to bear? But we believe that we are saved through the grace of the Lord Jesus, in the same way as they also are.” (Acts 15:5-11)
- But going on from Perga, they arrived at Pisidian Antioch, and
on the Sabbath day they went into the synagogue and sat down. After
the reading of the Law and the Prophets the synagogue officials sent
to them, saying, “Brethren, if you have any word of exhortation for
the people, say it.” Paul stood up, and motioning with his hand
said, “Men of Israel, and you who fear God, listen:” (Acts
As Paul and Barnabas were going out, the people kept begging that these things might be spoken to them the next Sabbath. Now when the meeting of the synagogue had broken up, many of the Jews and of the God-fearing proselytes followed Paul and Barnabas, who, speaking to them, were urging them to continue in the grace of God. The next Sabbath nearly the whole city assembled to hear the word of the Lord. (Acts 13:42-44)
So putting out to sea from Troas, we ran a straight course to Samothrace, and on the day following to Neapolis; and from there to Philippi, which is a leading city of the district of Macedonia, a Roman colony; and we were staying in this city for some days. And on the Sabbath day we went outside the gate to a riverside, where we were supposing that there would be a place of prayer; and we sat down and began speaking to the women who had assembled. (Acts 16:11-13)
And according to Paul’s custom, he went to them, and for three Sabbaths reasoned with them from the Scriptures, (Acts 17:2)
And he was reasoning in the synagogue every Sabbath and trying to persuade Jews and Greeks. (Acts 18:4)
- For though I am free from all men, I have made myself a slave to all, so that I may win more. To the Jews I became as a Jew, so that I might win Jews; to those who are under the Law, as under the Law though not being myself under the Law, so that I might win those who are under the Law; to those who are without law, as without law, though not being without the law of God but under the law of Christ, so that I might win those who are without law. To the weak I became weak, that I might win the weak; I have become all things to all men, so that I may by all means save some. I do all things for the sake of the gospel, so that I may become a fellow partaker of it. (1 Corinthians 9:19-23)
- But when they resisted and blasphemed, he shook out his garments and said to them, “Your blood be on your own heads! I am clean. From now on I will go to the Gentiles.” (Acts 18:6)
- On the first day of the week, when we were gathered together to break bread, Paul began talking to them, intending to leave the next day, and he prolonged his message until midnight. (Acts 20:7)
- Now accept the one who is weak in faith, but not for the purpose of passing judgment on his opinions. One person has faith that he may eat all things, but he who is weak eats vegetables only. The one who eats is not to regard with contempt the one who does not eat, and the one who does not eat is not to judge the one who eats, for God has accepted him. Who are you to judge the servant of another? To his own master he stands or falls; and he will stand, for the Lord is able to make him stand. One person regards one day above another, another regards every day alike. Each person must be fully convinced in his own mind. He who observes the day, observes it for the Lord, and he who eats, does so for the Lord, for he gives thanks to God; and he who eats not, for the Lord he does not eat, and gives thanks to God. (Romans 14:1-6)
- You observe days and months and seasons and years. I fear for you, that perhaps I have labored over you in vain. (Galatians 4:10-11)
- Therefore no one is to act as your judge in regard to food or drink or in respect to a festival or a new moon or a Sabbath day-- things which are a mere shadow of what is to come; but the substance belongs to Christ. (Colossians 2:16-17)
- Giem, P. (1981) SABBATON in Col. 2:16. Andrews University Seminary Studies, 3, p. 201-206.
- “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.” (Exodus 20:8-11)
- ‘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.’ (Deuteronomy 5:12-15)
- Giem, P. (1981) SABBATON in Col. 2:16. Andrews University Seminary Studies, 3, p. 210.
- Eusebius, (1989). Eusebius: The Church History. London: Penguin Books, p. 173.
- Ibid, p. 170-173.
- Kraft, R.A. (1965). Some notes on Sabbath observance in early Christianity. Andrews University, p. 31.
- Bacchiocchi, S. (1977). From Sabbath to Sunday. Rome: The Pontifical Gregorian University Press, p. 164.
- Bauckham, R. J. (1999). The Lord’s Day. In Carson, D. A.(Ed). From Sabbath to Lord’s Day: (pp. 221-250). Eugene, OR: Wipf and Stock Publishers, p. 229.
- Roberts, A. & Donaldson, J. (1989). The Ante-Nicene Fathers. Vol. 1. Grand Rapids: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, p. 138, 147.
- Ibid, p. 186.
- Holmes, M.W. (Ed). (1999). The Apostolic Fathers. Grand Rapids: Baker Books, p. 155.
- But even if you should suffer for the sake of righteousness, you are blessed. AND DO NOT FEAR THEIR INTIMIDATION, AND DO NOT BE TROUBLED, (1 Peter 3:14)
- Guy, F. (1964). “The Lord’s Day” in the letter of Ignatius to the Magnesians. Andrews University Seminary Studies, 2, p. 10.
- Lewis, R.B. (1968). Ignatius and the “Lord’s Day.” Andrews University Seminary Studies, 7, p. 58.
- Guy, F. (1964). “The Lord’s Day” in the letter of Ignatius to the Magnesians. Andrews University Seminary Studies, 2, p. 16-17.
- Holmes, M.W. (Ed). (1999). The Apostolic Fathers. Grand Rapids: Baker Books, p. 247.
- Bauckham, R. J. (1999). The Lord’s Day. In Carson, D. A.(Ed). From Sabbath to Lord’s Day: (pp. 221-250). Eugene, OR: Wipf and Stock Publishers, p. 227.
- Bacchiocchi, S. (1977). From Sabbath to Sunday. Rome: The Pontifical Gregorian University Press, p. 120.
- On the first day of every week each one of you is to put aside and save, as he may prosper, so that no collections be made when I come. (1 Corinthians 16:2)
- and when he had found him, he brought him to Antioch. And for an entire year they met with the church and taught considerable numbers; and the disciples were first called Christians in Antioch. (Acts 11:26)
- Eusebius, (1989). Eusebius: The Church History. London: Penguin Books, p. 91.
- “‘These are the appointed times of the LORD, holy convocations
which you shall proclaim at the times appointed for them. In the
first month, on the fourteenth day of the month at twilight is the
LORD’S Passover. Then on the fifteenth day of the same month there
is the Feast of Unleavened Bread to the LORD; for seven days you
shall eat unleavened bread. On the first day you shall have a holy
convocation; you shall not do any laborious work. But for seven days
you shall present an offering by fire to the LORD. On the seventh
day is a holy convocation; you shall not do any laborious work.’”
Then the LORD spoke to Moses, saying, “Speak to the sons of Israel
and say to them, ‘When you enter the land which I am going to give
to you and reap its harvest, then you shall bring in the sheaf of
the first fruits of your harvest to the priest. He shall wave the
sheaf before the LORD for you to be accepted; on the day after the
sabbath the priest shall wave it. Now on the day when you wave the
sheaf, you shall offer a male lamb one year old without defect for a
burnt offering to the LORD. Its grain offering shall then be
two-tenths of an ephah of fine flour mixed with oil, an offering by
fire to the LORD for a soothing aroma, with its drink offering, a
fourth of a hin of wine. Until this same day, until you have brought
in the offering of your God, you shall eat neither bread nor roasted
grain nor new growth. It is to be a perpetual statute throughout
your generations in all your dwelling places. You shall also count
for yourselves from the day after the sabbath, from the day when you
brought in the sheaf of the wave offering; there shall be seven
complete sabbaths. You shall count fifty days to the day after the
seventh sabbath; then you shall present a new grain offering to the
LORD.’” (Leviticus 23:4-16)
“This Jesus God raised up again, to which we are all witnesses. Therefore having been exalted to the right hand of God, and having received from the Father the promise of the Holy Spirit, He has poured forth this which you both see and hear.” (Acts 2:32-33)
- ‘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. (Deuteronomy 5:15)
- “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. (Exodus 20:11)
- Geraty, L T. (1965). The Pascha and the origin of Sunday observance. Andrews University Seminary Studies, 3, p. 93.
- Clean out the old leaven so that you may be a new lump, just as you are in fact unleavened. For Christ our Passover also has been sacrificed. Therefore let us celebrate the feast, not with old leaven, nor with the leaven of malice and wickedness, but with the unleavened bread of sincerity and truth. (1 Corinthians 5:7-8)
- But now Christ has been raised from the dead, the first fruits of those who are asleep. (1 Corinthians 15:20)
- On the first day of every week each one of you is to put aside and save, as he may prosper, so that no collections be made when I come. (1 Corinthians 16:2)
- On the first day of the week, when we were gathered together to break bread, Paul began talking to them, intending to leave the next day, and he prolonged his message until midnight. (Acts 20:7)
- Pliny Letters 10.96-97.
- Roberts, A. & Donaldson, J. (1989). The Ante-Nicene Fathers. Vol. 1. Grand Rapids: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, p. 138, p. 206.
- Ibid, Vol. 1, p. 218.
- Eusebius, (1989). Eusebius: The Church History. London: Penguin Books, p. 173.
The Use of Term Hmera (tou) Kuriou in the LXX
The Eschatological Day of the Lord
- Isaiah 2:12 For the day of the Lord (hmera Kuriou) of hosts shall be upon every one that is proud and lofty, and upon every one that is lifted up; and he shall be brought low:
- Isaiah 13: “Howl ye: for the day of the Lord (hmera Kuriou) is at hand: it shall come as a destruction from the Almighty.”
- Isaiah 13:9 “Behold, the day of the Lord (hmera Kuriou) cometh, cruel both with wrath and fierce anger, to lay the land desolate: and he shall destroy the sinners thereof out of it.
- Isaiah 34:8 “For it is the day of the Lord’s vengeance, (hmera gar krisews Kuriou) and year of recompenses for the controversy of Zion.”
- Ezekiel 30:3 “for the day is near, even the day of the Lord (hmera tou Kuriou) is near, a cloudy day: it shall be the time of the heathen.
- Joel 1:15 “Alas for the day! for the day of the Lord (h hmera Kuriou) is at had, and as a destruction from the Almighty shall it come.
- Joel 2:1 “Blow ye the trumpet in Zion and sound an alarm in my holy mountain: let all the inhabitants of the land tremble: for the day of the Lord (hmera Kuriou) cometh, for it is nigh at hand;
- Joel 2: 11 “And the Lord shall utter his voice before his army: for his camp is very great: for he is strong that executeth his word: for the day of the Lord (h hmera Kuriou) is great and very terrible: and who can abide it?
- Joel 2:31 “The sun shall be turned into darkness, and the moon into blood, before the great and the terrible day of the Lord (thn hmeran Kuriou thn megalhn) come.”
- Joel 3:14 “Multitudes, multitudes in the valley of decision: for the day of the Lord (hmera Kuriou) is near in the valley of decision.”
- Amos 5:18 “Woe unto you that desire the day of the Lord! (thn hmeran Kuriou) to what end is it for your? the day of the Lord (h hmera tou Kuriou) is darkness and not light.”
- Amos 5:20 “Shall not the day of the Lord (h hmera tou Kuriou) be darkness, and not light? even every dark, and no brightness in it?
- Obadiah 15 “For the day of the Lord (hmera Kuriou) is near upon all the heathen: as thou has done it shall be done unto thee: thy reward shall return upon thine own head.”
- Zephaniah 1:7 Hold thy peace at the presence of the Lord God: for the day of the Lord (hmera tou Kuriou) is at hand: for the Lord hath prepared a sacrifice, he hath bid his guests.”
- Zephaniah 1:14 “The great day of the Lord (hmera Kuriou H megalh): is near, it is near, and hasteth greatly, even the voice of the day of the Lord (hmeras Kuriou)the mighty man shall cry there bitterly.
- Zephaniah 1:18 “Neither their silver nor their gold shall be able to deliver them in the day of the Lord’s wrath (hmera orghs Kuriou); but the whole land shall be devoured by the fire of his jealousy: for he shall make even a speedy riddance of all them that dwell in the land.”
- Zephahiah 2:2-3 Before the decree bring forth before the day pass as the chaff, before the fierce anger of the Lord come upon you, before the day of the Lord’s anger (hmeran qumou Kuriou) come upon you. V. 3 Seek ye the Lord all ye meek of the earth, which have wrought his judgment: seek righteousness, seek meekness: it my be ye shall be hid in the day of the Lord’s anger (hmera orghs Kuriou).”
- 1 Thessalonians 5:2 “For yourselves know perfectly that the day of the Lord (hmera kuriou) so cometh as a thief in the night.”
- 2 Thessalonians 2:2 “That ye be not soon shaken in mind, or be troubled, neither by spirit, nor by word, nor by letter as from us, as that the day of Christ (h hmera tou kuriou) is a hand.”
- 2 Peter 3:10 “But the day of the Lord (hmera kuriou) will come as a thief in the night: in the which heavens shall pass away with a great noise, and elements shall melt with fervent heat, the earth also and the works that are therein shall be burned up.”
John In Revelation used other terminology for the Last Day.
- Revelation 6:17 “The great day of their wrath.” “h hmera h mealh ths orghs autwn”
- Revelation 16:1 “. . . that great day of God Almighty.” “ths hmeras ths megalhs tou qeou tou pantokratoros
The Use of the Terms Festivals, New Moons, and Sabbaths as found in the Greek Translation on the Old Testament called the Septuagint (LXX).
In Greek every noun has nine possible endings. Nouns are either singular or plural and have cases. The Nominative Case is the subject of the sentence. The Genitive Case shows source or possession. Son of man is an example of the use of the Genitive. The Dative Case is the indirect object and can show location or the instrument that does the action. The Accusative Case in the direct object of the sentence. The Vocative Case in the form of polite address. In each of the following texts the Sabbath will be identified both by case and wither it is singular or plural.
Leviticus 23:1-44 The Lord spoke again to Moses saying, V. 2 “Speak to the sons of, Israel and say to them, The Lord’s appointed times which you shall proclaim as holy convocations-My appointed times are these: V. 3 “For six days work may be done; but on the seventh day there is a sabbath of complete rest, a holy convocation. you shall not do any work; it is a sabbath to the Lord in all your dwellings. V. 5 In the first month, on the fourteenth day of the month at twilight is the Lord’s Passover. V. 6 “Then on the fifteenth day of the same month there is the Feast of Unleavened Bread to the Lord; for seven days you shall eat unleavened bread. V. 10-14 Feast of First Fruits. V. 15-21 Pentecost V. 27-32 The Day of Atonement “On exactly the tenth day of this seventh month is the day of atonement; it shall be a holy convocation for you do any work on this same day, for it is a day of atonement to make atonement on your behalf before the Lord your God. V. 29 If there is any person who will not humble himself on this same day, he shall be cut off from his people. V. 30 As for any person who does any work on this same day that person I will destroy from among his people. V. 31 “You shall do not work at all. It is to be a perpetual statute throughout your generations in all your dwelling places. V. 32 It is to be a sabbath of complete to you, and you shall humble your soul; on the ninth of the month at evening, from evening until evening you shall keep your sabbath. V. 34-43 Feast of Booths V. 44 So Moses declared to the sons of Israel the appointed times of the Lord.
Note: The sabbath is the nominative plural “sabbata”.
Numbers 28: 3 A continual burnt offering every day. V. 9 Then on the Sabbath day
two male lambs one year old without defect. V. 11 Then at the beginning of each of your months(New Moons) you shall present a burnt offering to the Lord: V. 16 (Festivals) Then on the fourteenth day of the first month shall be the Lord’s Passover. V. 26 Also on the Day of the First Fruits, when you present a new grain offering to the Lord in your Feast of Weeks. Numbers 29:1 Now in the seventh month on the first day of the month you shall also have a holy convocation V. 7 Then on the tenth day of this seventh month you shall have a holy convocation, and you shall humble yourselves; you shall not do any work. V. 12 Then on the fifteenth day of the seventh month you shall have a holy convocation; you shall do no laborious work.
Note: V. 9 the sabbath is the Genative Plural “sabbatwn”. This is the same plural form of sabbath found in Col 2:16.
1 Chronicles 23:30-31 And they are to stand every morning to thank and to praise the Lord, and likewise, at evening, V. 31 and to offer all burnt offerings to the Lord, on the sabbaths, the new moons and the fixed festivals in the number set by the ordinance concerning them, continually before the Lord. Note: the sabbaths is the dative plural “sabbatios”.
2 Chronicles 2:4 “. . . and to offer burnt offerings morning and evening on sabbaths and on the new moons and the appointed feasts of the Lord our God, this being required forever in Israel.”Note: the sabbaths is the dative plural “sabbatois”.
2 Chronicles 8:12-13 “Then Solomon offered burnt offerings to the Lord . . . and did so according to the daily rule, offering them up according to the commandment of Moses, for the Sabbaths, the new moons, and the three annual feasts the feast of unleavened bread, the feast of weeks and the feast of tabernacles. Note: the sabbaths is the dative plural “sabbatios”.
2 Chronicles 31:3 He also appointed the king’s portion of his goods for the burnt offerings, namely, for the morning and evening burnt offerings, and burnt offerings for the sabbaths and for the new moons and for the fixed festivals, as it is written in the law of the Lord. Note: the sabbath is the accusative plural “sabbata”.
Nehemiah 10:33 “. . . for the show bread, for the continual grain offering, for the continual burnt offering, the sabbaths, the new moon, for the appointed times, for the holy things and for the sin offerings to make atonement for Israel, and all the work of the house of our God. Note: the sabbaths is the genitive plural “sabbatwn”the same plural form of sabbaths used in Col. 2;16-17.
Isaiah 1:13-14 Bring your worthless offerings no longer, Their incense is a abomination to Me. New moon and sabbath, the calling of assemblies-I cannot endure iniquity and the solemn assembly. V. 14 “I hate your new moon festivals and your appointed feasts. They have become a burden to Me I am weary of bearing them. Note: the sabbath is the accusative plural “sabbata”.
Ezekiel 45:17 “And it shall be the prince”s part to provide the burnt offerings, the grain offerings, at the feasts, on the new moons, and on the sabbaths, at all the appointed feasts of the house of Israel: he shall provide the sin offering, to make atonement for the house of Israel. Note: the sabbath is the dative plural “sabbatois.”
Hosea 2:11 I will also put an end to all her gaiety, Her feasts, her new moons, her sabbaths, and all her festal assemblies. Note: the sabbaths is the accusative plural “sabbata”“sabbata.”
Colossians 2:16 Therefore, let no one act as your judge in regard to food or drink or in respect to a festival or a new moon or a sabbath day- things which are a were shadow of what is to come; but the substance belongs to Christ. Note: the sabbaths is the genitive plural “sabbatwn.”
Whenever the Sabbath is used it always refers to the weekly seventh-day sabbath except in Lev. 16:31 and Lev. 23:32 where the Day of Atonement is called a sabbath of complete rest. In the Greek both Lev. 16:31 and Lev. 23:32 refer to it as a “sabbath of sabbaths-“sabbata sabbatwn.”In every other case in both the Greek Old Testament and the Greek New Testament the weekly sabbath is called either “sabbaton”singular or “sabbata”plural.
A STUDY ON THE SABBATH AND THE LORD’S DAY
AND THE LAW IN THE OLD AND THE NEW COVENANTS
THE WITTNESS OF THE CHURCH FATHERS FROM A.D. 100-325
THE ANTE-NICENE FATHERS VOL. I
THE EPISTLE OF MATHETES TO DIOGNETUS
[A.D. 130] The anonymous author of this Epistle gives himself the title
(Mathetes) “a disciple of the Apostles,”
Chap. IV. -- The other observances of the Jews.
But as to their scrupulosity concerning meats, and their superstition as respects the Sabbaths, and their boasting about circumcision, and their fancies about fastings and the new moon, which are utterly ridiculous and unworthy of notice,--I do not think that you require to learn anything from me.
EPISTLE OF IGNATIUS TO THE MAGNESIANS
BY IGNATIUS [A.D. 30-107]
Chap. VIII Caution Against False Doctrines.
Be not deceived with strange doctrines, nor with old fables, which are unprofitable. For if we still live according to the Jewish law, we acknowledge that we have not received grace. For the divinest prophets lived according to Christ Jesus. On this account also they were persecuted, being inspired by His grace to fully convince the unbelieving that there is one God, who has manifested Himself by Jesus Christ His Son, who is His eternal Word, not proceeding forth from silence, and who in all things pleased Him that sent Him.
Chap. IX Let Us Live with Christ.
If, therefore, those who were brought up in the ancient order of things have come to the possession of a new hope, no longer observing the Sabbath, but living in the observance of the Lord’s Day on which also our life has sprung up again by Him and by His death-- whom some deny, by which mystery we have obtained faith, and Therefore, endure, that we may be found the disciples of Jesus Christ, our only Master-- how shall we be able to live apart from Him, whose disciples the prophets themselves in the Spirit did wait for Him as their Teacher?
EPISTLE OF BARNABAS
[A.D. 100] The writer of this Epistle is supposed to have been an Alexandrian Jew of the time of Trajan and Hadrian.
Ch. II The Jewish Sacrifices are now Abolished.
“Incense is a vain abomination unto Me, and your new moons and sabbaths I cannot endure.”He has there fore abolished these things, that the new law of our Lord Jesus Chris, which is without the yoke of necessity, might have a human oblation.
Chap. XV The False and the True Sabbath
The Sabbath is mentioned at the beginning of the creation [thus]: “And God made in six days the works of His hands, and made and end on the seventh day, and rested on it, and sanctified it.”Attend, my children, to the meaning of this expression, “He finished in six days.”This implieth that the Lord will finish all things in six thousand years, for a day is with Him a thousand year. And He Himself testifieth, saying, “Behold, to-day will be as a thousand years.”Therefore, my children, in six days, that is, in six thousand years, all things will be finished. “And He rested on the seventh day.”This meaneth: when His Son, coming [again], shall destroy the time of the wicked man, and judge the ungodly, and change the sun, and the moon, and the stars, then shall He truly rest on the seventh day.
Further He says to them “Your new moons and your Sabbaths I cannot endure ”Ye perceive how He speaks: Your present Sabbaths are not acceptable to Me but that is which I have made, [namely this,] when giving rest to all things, I shall make a beginning of the eighth day, that is, a beginning of another world. Wherefore, also, we keep the eight day with joyfulness, the day also on which Jesus rose again from the dead. And when He had manifested Himself, He ascended into the heavens.
THE FIRST APOLOGY OF JUSTIN
Justin Martyr (A.D. 110-165)
Chapter LXVII--Weekly worship of the Christians.
And we afterwards continually remind each other of these things. And the wealthy among us help the needy; and we always keep together; and for all things wherewith we are supplied, we bless the Maker of all through His Son Jesus Christ, and through the Holy Ghost. And on the day called Sunday, all who live in cities or in the country gather together to one place and the memoirs of the apostles or the writings of the prophets are read, as long as time permits: then when the reader has ceased, the president verbally instructs, and exhorts to the imitation of these good things. The we all rise together and pray, and , as we before said when our prayer is ended bread and wine and water are brought, and the president in like manner offers prayers and thanksgivings, according to his ability, the people assent saying Amen; and there is a distribution to each, and a participation of that over which thanks have been given, and to those who are absent a portion is sent by the deacons....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 form the dead. For He was crucified on the day before that of Saturn (Saturday); and on the day after that of Saturn, which is the day of the Sun, having appeared to His apostles and disciples, He taught them these things, which we have submitted to you also for your consideration.
DIALOGUE WITH TRYPHO
BY JUSTIN MARTYR (A.D. 110-165)
Chap. X--Typho Blames the Christians for this alone--the Non-Observance of the Law.
“Is there any other matter, my friends, in which we are blamed, than this, that we live not after the law, and are not circumcised in the flesh as your forefathers were, and do not observe sabbaths as you do? Are our lives and customs also slandered among you? And I ask this: have you also believed concerning us, that we eat men; and that after the feast having extinguished the lights, we engage in promiscuous concubinage? Or do you condemn us in this alone, that we adhere to such tenets, and believe in an opinion, untrue, as you think?”
“This is what we are amazed at,” said Trypho, “but those things about which the multitude speak are not worthy of belief; for they are most repugnant to human nature. Moreover, I am aware that your precepts in the so-called Gospel are so wonderful and so great, that I suspect no one can keep them; for I have carefully read them. But this is what we are most at a loss about: that you, professing to be pious, and supposing yourselves better than others, are not in any particular separated from them, and do not alter your mode of living from the nations, in that you observe no festivals or sabbaths, and do not have the rite of circumcision; and further, resting your hopes on a man that was crucified, you yet expect to obtain some good thing form God, while you do not obey His commandments. Have you not read, that that soul shall be cut off from his people who shall not have been circumcised on the eighth day? And this has been ordained for strangers and for slaves equally.”
Chap. XI.--The Law Abrogated; The New Testament Promised and Given by God.
“There will be no other God, O Trypho, nor was there form eternity any other existing”(I thus addressed him), “but He who made and disposed all this universe. Nor do we think that there is one God for us, another for you, but that He alone is God who led your fathers out form Egypt with a strong hand and a high arm. Nor have we trusted in any other (for there is no other), but in Him in whom you also have trusted, the God of Abraham, and of Isaac, and of Jacob. But we do not trust through Moses or through the law; for then we would do the same as yourselves. But now--(for I have read that there shall be a final law, and a covenant, the chiefest of all, which it is now incumbent on all men to observe as many as are seeking after the inheritance of God. For the law promulgated on Horeb is now old and belongs to yourselves alone; but this is for all universally. Now law placed against law has abrogated that which is before it, and a covenant which comes after in like manner has put an end to the previous one; and an eternal and final law--namely, Christ--has been given to us, and covenant is trustworthy, after which there shall be no law, no commandment, no ordinance.”
Chap. XVIII--Christians Would Observe the Law, if They did not Know why it was Instituted.
“For since you have read, O Trypho, as you yourself admitted, the doctrines taught by our Savior, I do not think that I have done foolishly in adding some short utterances of His to the prophetic statements. Wash therefore, and be now clean, and put away iniquity from your souls, as God bids you be washed in this laver and be circumcised with the true circumcision, For we 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 you,--namely, on account of your transgressions and hardness of your hearts. For if we patiently endure all things contrived against us by wicked men and demons, so that even amid cruelties unutterable, death and torments, we pray for mercy to those who inflict such things upon us, and do not wish to give the least retort to any one, even as the new Lawgiver commanded us: how is it, Trypho, that we would not observe those rites which do not harm us,--I speak of fleshly circumcision, and Sabbaths, and feasts?
Chap. XIX.--Circumcision Unknown Before Abraham. The Law was Given
by Moses on Account of the Hardness of Their Hearts.
Even you, who are the circumcised according to the flesh, have need of our circumcision; but we having the latter, do not require the former.
Melchizedek, the priest of the Most High, was uncircumcised; to whom also Abraham, the first who received circumcision after the flesh, gave tithes and he blessed him: after whose order God declared, by the mouth of David, that He would establish the everlasting priest. Therefore, to you alone this circumcision was necessary, in order that the people may be no people, and the nation no nation; as also Hosea, one of the twelve prophets, declares. Moreover, all those righteous men already mentioned though they kept no Sabbaths, were pleasing to God; and after them Abraham with all his descendants until Moses, under whom your nation appeared unrighteous and ungrateful to God, making a calf in the wilderness; wherefore God accommodating Himself to that nation, enjoined them also to offer sacrifices, as if to His name, in order that you might not serve idols. Which precept, however, you have not observed; nay, you sacrificed your children to demons. And you were commanded to keep Sabbaths, that you might retain the memorial of God . For His word makes this announcement, saying, ‘That ye may know that I am God who redeemed you.’
Chap. XXXIII--The Opinion of the Jews regarding the Law does an Injury to God.
“Wherefore, Trypho, I will proclaim to you, and to those who wish to become proselytes, the divine message which I heard from that man. Do you see that the elements are not idle, and keep no Sabbaths? Remain as you were born. For if there was no need of circumcision before Abraham, or of the observance of Sabbaths, of feasts and sacrifices, before Moses; no more need is there of them now, after that, according to the will of God, Jesus Christ the son of God has been born with sin, of a virgin sprung from the stock of Abraham. For when Abraham himself was in uncircumcision, he was justified and blessed by reason of the faith which he reposed in God, as the scripture tells. Moreover, the Scriptures and the facts themselves compel us to admit that he received circumcision for a sign, and not for righteousness.
Chap. XXVII--Why God Taught the same things by the Prophets as by Moses.
“Or why did He not teach those--who are called righteous and pleasing to Him, who lived before Moses and Abraham, who were not circumcised in their foreskin and observed no Sabbaths--to keep these institution?”
Chap. XXIX--Christ is Useless to Those who Observe the Law
Be not offended at, or reproach us with, the bodily uncircumcised with which God has created us; and think it not strange that we drink hot water on the Sabbaths, since God directs the government of the universe on this day equally as on all others; and the priests, as on other days, so on this, are ordered to offer sacrifices; and there are so many righteous men who have performed none of these legal ceremonies, and yet are witnessed to by God Himself.
Chap. XI.--He Returns to the Mosaic Laws, and Proves that They were Figures of the Things Which Pertain to Christ.
“The mystery, then, of the lamb which God enjoined to be sacrificed as the passover, was a type of Christ; with whose blood, in proportion to their faith in Him, they anoint their houses, i.e., themselves, who believe on Him. . . . And that this injunction was temporary, I prove thus. God does not permit the lamb of the passover to be sacrificed in any other place than where His name was named; knowing that the days will come, after the suffering of Christ, when even the place in Jerusalem shall be given over to your enemies, and all the offerings, in short, shall cease:
Chap. XLIII--He concludes that the Law had an End in Christ, who was Born of the Virgin.
“As, then, circumcision began with Abraham, and the Sabbath and sacrifices and offerings and feasts with Moses, and it has been proved they were enjoined on account of the hardness of your people’s heart, so it was necessary, in accordance with the Father’s will, that they should have an end in Him who was born of a virgin, of the family of Abraham and tribe of Judah, and of David; in Christ the Son of God, who was proclaimed as about to come to all the world, to be the everlasting law and the everlasting covenant, even as the forementioned prophecies show. And we, who have approached God through Him, have received not carnal, but spiritual circumcision which Enoch and those like him observed. And we have received it through baptism, since we were sinners, by God’s mercy; and all men may equally obtain it.
Chap. XLVI.--Trypho asks whether a man who keeps the Law even now will be Saved. Justin Proves that it Contributes Nothing to Righteousness.
Trypho asks, “But if some, even now, wish to live in the observance of the institutions given by Moses, and yet believe in this Jesus who was crucified recognizing Him to be the Christ of God, and that it is given to Him to be absolute Judge of all, and that His is the everlasting kingdom, can they also be saved?”
Justin answers, “But we, . . . believing that God will raise us up by His Christ, and will make us incorruptible, and undisturbed, and immortal; and we know that the ordinances imposed by reason of the hardness of your people’s hearts, contribute nothing to the performance of the righteousness and of piety.”
Chap. XLVII--Justin Communicates with Christians who Observe the Law. Not a Few Catholics do Otherwise.
I said, “In my opinion, Trypho, such an one will be saved, if he does not strive in every was to persuade other men,--I mean those Gentiles who have been circumcised from error by Christ to observe the same things as himself, telling the that they will not be saved unless they do so. This you [Trypho] did yourself at the commencement of the discourse, when you declared that I would not be saved unless I observed these institutions.”
Then he replied, “Why then have you said, ‘In my opinion, such an one will be saved, unless there are some who affirm that such will not be saved?”
“There are such people, Trypho,” I answered; “and these do not venture to have any intercourse with or to extend hospitality to such persons; but I do not agree with them. But if some, through weak-mindedness, wish to observe such institutions as were given by Moses, from which they expect some virtue, but which we believe were appointed by reasons of the hardness of the people’s hearts, along with their hope in this Christ, and [wish to perform] the eternal and natural acts of righteousness and piety, yet choose to live with the Christians and the faithful, as I said before, not inducing them either to be circumcised like themselves, or to keep the Sabbath or to observe any other such ceremonies, the I hold that we ought to join ourselves to such, and associate with them in all things as kinsmen and brethren. But if Trypho, I continued, “some of your race, who say they believe in this Christ, compel those Gentiles who believe in this Christ to live in all respects according to the law given by Moses, of choose not to associate so intimately with them, I in like manner do not approve of them. But I believe that even those, who have been persuaded by them to observe the legal dispensation along with their confession to God in Christ, shall probably be saved.
Chap. LXVII--Trypho Compares Jesus with Perseus; and Would Prefer [To Say] that He was Elected [to be Christ] on Account of observance of the Law. Justin Speaks of the Law as Formerly.
And Trypho said, “You admitted to us that He [Christ] was both circumcised, and observed the other legal ceremonies ordained by Moses.”
And I replied, “I have admitted it, and do admit it: Yet I have admitted that He endured all these not as if He were justified by them, but completing the dispensation which His Father the Maker of all things, and Lord and God, wished Him [to complete]. “...Trypho, answer me: Are those righteous patriarchs who lived before Moses, who observed none of those [ordinances] which, the Scripture shows, received the commencement of [their] institution form Moses, Saved; [and have they attained to] the inheritance of the blessed?”
And Trypho said, “The Scriptures compel me to admit it.”
“Likewise, I again ask you,” said I, “did God enjoin your fathers to present the offerings and sacrifices because He had need of them, or because of the hardness of their hearts and tendency to idolatry”
“The latter,” said he, “the Scriptures in like manner compel us to admit.”
“Likewise.” said I, “did not the Scriptures predict that God promised to dispense a new covenant besides that which [was dispensed] in the mountain Horeb?”
This too, he replied, had been predicted.
Then I said again, “Was not the old covenant laid on your fathers with fear and trembling, so that they could not give ear to God?”
He admitted it.
“What then?” said I: “God promised that there would be another covenant, not like that old one, and said that it would be laid on them without fear, and trembling, and lightnings, and that it would be such as to show what kind of commands and deeds God knows to be eternal and suited to every nation, and what commandments He has given, suiting them to the hardness of your people’s hearts, as He exclaims also by the Prophets
“To this also,” said he, “Those who are lovers of truth and not lovers of strife must assuredly assent.”
Chap. XCIII--The Same Kind of Righteousness is Bestowed on all. Christ Comprehends it in Two Precepts.
“For [God] sets before every race of mankind that which is always and universally just, as well as all righteousness; and every race know that adultery, and fornication, and homicide, and such like, are sinful; and though they all commit such practices, yet they do not escape form the knowledge that they act unrighteously whenever they so do...”
“And hence I thing that our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ spoke well when He summed up all righteousness and piety in two commandments, They are these; ‘Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy strength, and thy neighbor as thyself.”
Chap. XCIV.--In what Sense He who Hangs on a Tree is Cursed.
The I replied, “Just as God commanded the sign to be made by the brazen serpent, and yet He is blameless; even so, thought a curse lies in the law against persons who are crucified, yet no curse lies on the Christ of God, by whom all that have committed things worthy of a curse are saved.”
XCV.--Christ Took upon Himself the Curse Due to Us.
“For the whole human race will be found to be under a curse. For it is written in the law of Moses, ‘Cursed is every one that continueth not in all things that are written in the book of the law to do them.’ And no one has accurately done all, nor will you venture to deny this; but some more and some less than others have observed the ordinances enjoined. But is those who are under this law appear to be under a curse for not having observed all the requirements, how much more shall all the nations appear to be under a curse who practice idolatry, who seduce youths, and commit other crimes? If, then the Father of all wished His Christ for the whole human family to take upon Him the curses of all, knowing that after He had been crucified and was dead, He would raise Him up, why do you argue about Him, who submitted to suffer these things according to the Father’s will, as if He were accursed, and do not rather bewail yourselves?
THE HISTORY OF THE CHURCH
BY EUSEBIUS (A.D. 260-339)
BOOK 3, CH. 27. PAGE90-91
The Ebionites sect: the heresies of Cerinthus and Nicolaus: There were others whom the evil demon, unable to shake their devotion to the Christ of God, caught in a different trap and made his own, Ebionites they were appropriately named by the first Christians, in view of the poor and mean opinions they held about Christ. They regarded Him as plain and ordinary, a man esteemed as righteous through growth of character and nothing more, the child of a normal union between a man and Mary; and they held that they must observe every detail of the Law--by faith in Christ alone, and a life built upon that faith, they would never win salvation.
A second group went by the same name, but escaped the outrageous absurdity of the first. They did not deny that the Lord was born of a virgin and the Holy Spirit, but nevertheless shared their refusal to acknowledge His pre-existence as God the Word and Wisdom. Thus, the impious doctrine of the others was their undoing also, especially as they placed equal emphasis on the outward observance of the Law. They held that the epistles of the Apostle ought to be rejected altogether, calling him a renegade from the Law; and using only the ‘Gospel of the Hebrews,’ they treated the rest with scant respect. Like the others, they observed the Sabbath and the whole Jewish system: yet on the Lord’s Day they celebrated rites similar to our own in memory of the Savior’s resurrection. It is then because of such practices that they have been dubbed with their present name: the name of Ebionites hints at the poverty of their intelligence, for this is the way in which a poor man is referred to by the Hebrews.
Book 5, Chapter 22 Page 170-174
Notable bishops of the period
“In the tenth year of Commodus’ reign, after thirteen years’ service as bishop, Eleutherus was succeeded by Victor.” This would be about A.D. 190.
The controversy about the Easter festival
23. It was at that stage that a controversy of great significance took place, because all the Asian dioceses thought that in accordance with ancient tradition they ought to observe the fourteenth day of the lunar month as the beginning of the Paschal festival - the day on which the Jews had been commanded to sacrifice the lamb: on that day, no matter which day of the week it might be, they must without fail bring the fast to an end. But nowhere else in the world was it customary to arrange the celebrations in that way; in accordance with apostolic tradition, they preserved the view which still prevails, that it was improper to end the fast on any day other than that of our Savior’s resurrection. So synods and conferences of bishops were convened, and without a dissentient voice, drew up a decree of the “Church, in the form of letters addressed to Christians everywhere, that never on any day other than the Lord’s Day should the mystery of the Lord’s resurrection from the dead be celebrated, and that on that day alone we should observe the end of the Paschal fast. There is extant to this day a letter from those who attended a conference in Palestine presided over by Bishop Theophilus of Caeasrea and Narcissus of Jerusalem; and from those at Rome a similar one, arising out of the same controversy, which Names Victor as bishop. There are others from the Pontic bishops presided over by Palmas as the senior; from the Gallic province, over which Irenaeus presided, and from the bishops in Osrhoene and the cities of that region. There are also personal letters from bishop Bacchyllus of Corinth and every many more, who voiced one and the same opinion and judgment and gave the same vote. All these laid down one single rule-the rule already stated.
24. The Asian bishops who insisted that they must observe the custom transmitted to them long ago were headed by Polycrates, who in the letter which he wrote to Victor and the Roman church sets out in the following terms the tradition that he had received;
We for our part keep the day scrupulously, without addition or subtraction. For in Asia great luminaries sleep who shall rise again on the day of the Lord’s advent, when He is coming with glory from heaven and shall search out all His saints-such as Philip, one of the twelve apostles, who sleeps in Hierapolis with two of his daughters, who remained unmarried to the end of their days, while his other daughter lived in the Holy Spirit and rests in Ephesus. Again there is John, who leant back on the Lord’s breast, and who became a priest wearing the mitre, a martyr, and a teacher: he too sleeps in Ephesus. Then in Smyrna there is Polycarp., bishop and martyr: and Thraseas, the bishop and martyr from Eumenia, who also sleeps in Smyrna. Need I mentions Sagaris, bishop and martyr, who sleeps in Laodicea, or blessed Papirius, or Melito the eunuch, who lived entirely in the Holy Spirit, and who lies in Sardis waiting for the visitation from heaven when he shall rise from the dead? All of these kept the fourteenth day of the month as the beginning of the Paschal festivals, in accordance with the Gospel, not deviating in the least but following the rule of the Faith. Last of all I too, Polycrates, the least of you all, act according to the tradition of my family, some members of which I have actually followed: for seven of them were bishops and I am the eighth, and my family have always kept the day when the people put away the leaven. So I, my friends, after spending sixty-five years in the Lord’s service and conversing with Christians from all parts of the world, and going carefully through all Holy Scripture, an not scared of threats. Better people that I have said: ‘We must obey God rather that men.’
Referring to the bishops who were with him when he wrote, and shared his opinions, he adds:
I could have mentioned the bishops who are with me and whom I summoned in response to your request. If I write their names, the list will be very long. But through they know what an insignificant person I am, they approve my letter, knowing that I have not frittered away my long life but have spent it in the service of Christ Jesus.
Thereupon Victor, head of the Roman church, attempted at one stroke to cut off from the common unity all the Asian dioceses, together with the neighboring churches, on the ground of heterodoxy, and pilloried them in letters in which he announced the total excommunication of all his fellow-Christians there. But this was not to the taste of all the bishops: they replied with a request that he would turn his mind to the things that make for peace and for unity and love towards his neighbors. We still possess the words of these men, who very sternly rebuked Victor. Among them was Irenaeus, who wrote on behalf of the Christians for whom he was responsible in Gaul. While supporting the view that only on the Lord’s Day might the mystery of the Lord’s resurrection be celebrated, he gave Victor a great deal of excellent advice, in particular that he should not cut off entire churches of God because they observed the unbroken tradition of their predecessors. This is how he goes on:
The dispute is not only about the day, but also about the actual character of the fast. Some think that they ought to fast for one day, some for two, others for still more; some make their ‘day’ for forty hours on end. Such variation in the observance did not originate on our own day, but very much earlier, in the time of our forefathers, who-apparently disregarding strict accuracy-in their naive simplicity kept up a practice which they fixed for the time to come. In spite of that, they all lived in peace with one another, and so do we: the divergency in the fast emphasizes the unanimity of our faith.
We are what we think.
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Last Modified November 19, 2008