For a complete discussion of the Sabbath in the first several centuries of the Church, see the author's work Historical Quotations on Sabbath / Lord's Day Observance. This document is in Adobe Acrobat .pdf form and is ready to print.)

Sabbath Keeping Examined

by Charles Dailey -- Revised 2/13/99

We are convinced the church of the 1st century had its own meeting on Sunday. The synagogue continued to keep the Sabbath (Saturday) and when Christians attended the synagogue service to proclaim the Messiah, naturally they attended on the Sabbath.

We have lifted the following statement from a letter written by Ignatius to the Magnesians about AD 110. You can verify it at that location.

" 9. Consequently, if the people who were given to obsolete practices faced the hope of a new life, and if these no longer observe the Sabbath, but regulate their calendar by the Lord's Day, the day, too, on which our Life rose by His power and through the medium of His death --though some deny this; and if to this mystery we owe our faith and because of it submit to sufferings to prove ourselves disciples of Jesus Christ, our only Teacher: how, then, can we possibly live apart from Him of whom, by the working of the Spirit, even the Prophets were disciples and to whom they looked forward as their Teacher? And so He, for whom they rightly waited, came and raised them from the dead."

This quotation shows those with the hope of a new life were NOT meeting on the Sabbath, but on the Lord's Day, defined as the day the Lord arose.

The Didache is dated by many at about AD 80. This statement shows the distinctive meeting of the church on the Lord's Day.

Didache 14:1: " And on the Lord's own day gather yourselves together and break bread and give thanks, first confessing your transgressions, that your sacrifice may be pure."

Before AD 150, another writer made a similar statement: Letter of Barnabas. We provide the quotation here, but the link goes to the original source. Barnabas wrote:

"15:9 Wherefore we keep the eighth day as a day of gladness, on which also Jesus rose from the dead, and after he had appeared ascended unto heaven."

There are like quotations in Justin.

"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" Justin: Apology I,67:1-3;

"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 Saviour on the same day rose from 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." Justin I.67.7;

The Dialogue with Trypho 10:1.
makes it plain that neither the Law of Moses nor the Sabbath were observed by early Christians.

"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?"
Signs of the Times is an official Seventh Day Adventist publication. Editor Marvin Moore, writing in the May 1996 edition, page 13, agrees that Sunday was observed very close to New Testament times:

There is no doubt that some Christians were observing the first day of the week by early in the second century, and the practice seems to have been quite widespread by the middle of that century. However, if we follow the Protestant principle of the Bible and the Bible only as our source of faith and practice, then these statements are authoritative only as historical records. They do not carry the weight of biblical authority as to what day those Christians should have kept or which day we, who live 2,000 years later, ought to keep.

While we concur with Editor Moore's assessment that the church was observing the first day of the week by the second century (AD 100 and after), we find the date was even earlier (notice the date of the Didache - AD 80). Significantly, it was back into the age when the inspired men were alive and functioning in the church. The Apostle John was still alive and did not warn about the practice because it was normal.

The argument that someone in history "changed the Sabbath to Sunday" falls flat in the light of these early quotation. It simply is not possible to get thousands of people in hundreds of towns and cities throughout the Roman Empire to switch from Saturday assembly to Sunday assembly. The obvious solution is that the early church met on Sunday, The Lord's Day, from the very first. The Church was launched at Pentecost in Acts 2 and Pentecost always fell on Sunday. The primary meeting day of the church has been on Sunday since day one.

For a complete discussion of the Sabbath in the first several centuries of the Church, see the author's work Historical Quotations on Sabbath / Lord's Day Observance. This document is in Adobe Acrobat .pdf form and is ready to print.)
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