Roman Catholic

Please Note: The statements made on this page which have no Scriptural foundation are found in underlined type below.


THE NEW TESTAMENT MAKES CLEAR that the first day of the week, or Sunday, was a holy day for the primitive Christians. For a time, when the Church was made up predominantly of those of Jewish origin, the Sabbath also was observed out of respect for their feelings. But after the fall of Jerusalem in 70 A.D., the Church became less and less Jewish in membership and more and more Gentile.

It is not surprising, therefore, that by the end of the first century, after the year 100 A.D., the obseruance of the Sabbath in Christian communities had almost entirely disappeared. There is on record no law promulgated either by our Lord or by the Apostles to this effect; the law most probably remained unwritten. There was no need of legislation. The practice was universally accepted without the backing of a law. It had the approval of the Apostles.

The name given to this new holy day was the Lord's Day. St. John, in the Book of Revelation (1:10), calls the day by that name. That the new name caught on and was quite generally used is clear from the fact that it is found in the apochryphal Gospel of Peter (150 A.D.), in the epistle of Ignatius of Antioch to the Magnesians (110 A.D.) and in the Didache (90 A.D.).

In addition to the witness of these writers, there are many inscriptions on tombstones, or burial plaques, stating that "so-and-so" died on the Lord's Day. These bear convincing testimony that such terminology was in use by the common people at a very early age. The term Sabbath is rarely encountered in Christian sources of information. The testimony of Ignatius of Antioch is especially significant, as he speaks of people given to obsolete (that is, old-fashioned, out-of-style, no-longer-in-use) practices such as observing the Sabbath, and contrasts them with the loyal followers of Jesus who observe the Lord's Day instead, that is, the day on which the Lord rose from the dead.

DAYS OF THE WEEK

The days of the week in the Roman Empire when Christianity was born into the world were dedicated to various planetary gods. This practice seems to have started in Egypt and Greece in the third century before Christ. Under the influence of the Chaldeans, who were devoted astrologers, the practice spread and was introduced into the Roman Empire. The dispersion of the Jews throughout the pagan world may possibly have spurred on the Romans to adopt the planetary week. They would not adopt the Jewish system of designating the days of the week, because of their hatred for the Israelites. They saw the desirability of a distinctively pagan way of naming the days of the week, and thus there arose dies solis (day of the Sun, our Sunday); dies lunae (day of the moon, our Monday), dies Martis (day of Mars, our Tuesday, this modern name being due to Saxon influence), dies Mercurii (day of Mercury, our Wednesday after the old Saxon god, Woden), dies Jovis (day of Jupiter, our Thursday, after the Saxon god, Thor), dies Veneris (day of Venus, our Friday after the old Saxon god, Freias) and dies Saturni (day of Saturn, our Saturday).

For several centuries the followers of Jesus of Nazareth were a small minority in the Roman Empire. They could not hope to have the pagan world adopt their system of names for the days of the week. They had practically no choice but to adapt themselves to the prevailing system.

A man coming from China to America could not expect us to adopt his calendar with its names for the days and months. Doing business with us, he would follow our calendar. So it was with the early Christians, and thus it came about that the current names for days and months, which are of pagan origin, found their way into the vocabulary of the Christians. In the official calendars of the Christian Church, however, the old system is still used as it was taken over by the Christians from Judaism. There were some minor changes. Dies Dominica (Sunday), Feria II, III, IV, V, VI and Sab

But when some arose to resist the universal practice and question the unwritten law, then the proper authorities stepped in to enact remedial legislation. This did not become necessary in the Church until the Council of Elvira, held about 300 A.D. Further legislation was enacted at the Council of Laodicea about 390 A.D., and the so-called Apostolic Constitutions (written about 390 A.D.) call for assistance at the Lord's Supper (the Catholics call it Mass), and cessation from work on Sunday.

From that day to this the Church had not found it necessary to enact any new laws respecting the observance of Sunday rather than Saturday as the Lord's Day.

The practice and the laws concerning the Lord's Day or Sunday, came into being at a time when there was but one Church. Back in Apostolic days, as has already been pointed out, the one Church sanctioned the observance of Sunday, and indicated that the law of Moses had been repealed, "nailing it to the cross," in the emphatic phrase of St. Paul (Col. 2:14). And shortly afterwards laws were promulgated proclaiming the obligation of keeping the Sunday holy instead of the Sabbath.

For centuries the whole Church, the "pillar and the ground of truth," has observed Sunday as the Lord's Day, the holy day. This must be God's will, else all that the divine Founder said about the authority of the Church to make laws is a hoax and a delusion. Else all that St. Paul, inspired of God, said about the Church must be false.

Surely Jesus Christ did not set the Church against God Himself by giving it power to change the eternally enduring commandments of Almighty God! Do we not read that the law of Moses was to be eternal law and covenant? There is repeated reference to statutes that are to endure forever as in Exodus 12:14,17; 28:43, and many other passages. The Covenant of Sinai is referred to in 1 Chronicles 16:17 as eternal, or everlasting or eternally enduring. Many such passages could be quoted. See for example Psalm 105:10.

In the Old Testament these terms sometimes mean merely a very long time, many generations, many centuries, but not forever. That they must be taken in this sense is made quite plain from the unmistakable teaching of the New Testament that this "everlasting" Covenant has been annulled.

When we read in Exodus 31:16: "The people of Israel shall keep the sabbath, observing the sabbath throughout their generations, as a perpetual covenant. It is a sign for ever between me and the people of Israel," we note immediately that the law is made binding on the children of Israel. Secondly, we note that Sabbath observance was a sign of the covenant, and is therefore to remain as long as the covenant endures. When the covenant is annulled, the sign passes away with it. But we know-the New Testament makes it as clear as crystal-that God did revoke the Old Covenant, and by that very fact the sign of the covenant, which is Sabbath observance along with circumcision, ceases to have any binding force. St. Paul assures that the law and the covenant of Sinai came to an end on Calvary. The law was canceled, nailing it to the cross (Col. 2:14), and he also assures us that no one is to judge us Christians "with regard to.. . a sabbath" (Col. 2:16).