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Mistaken Notions Concerning the Beginning of Sunday Observance—No Sunday Observance in the New Testament—Sunday Directly Referred to but Three Times—It is Never Spoken of as a Sabbath, nor as Commemorative of Christ’s Resurrection—The Bible does not State that Christ Rose on Sunday—Christ and His Disciples Always Observed the Sabbath—The “Change of the Sabbath” Unknown in the New Testament—The Sabbath Never Called “Jewish” in the Scriptures, nor by Any Writer until after Paganism had Invaded the Church—Origin of Sunday Observance Found in Paganism—First Reference to Sunday Observance about 150 A.D.—No Writer of the Early Centuries Claimed Scriptural Reasons for Its Observance—Pagan Reasons and Arguments Adduced in Its Support; a Day of “Indulgence to the Flesh”—Pretended Scriptural Reasons, ex post facto.

There are few if any questions concerning which popular notions and ultimate facts are more at variance than the question of the early observance of Sunday. It is not uncommon for men to assert that “Sunday has been observed as the Christian Sabbath ever since the resurrection of Christ”; while the fact is, that the first authentic and definite statement concerning Sunday observance was made by Justin Martyr as late as 150 A.D. Even if we accept the passage quoted from[172] the Didache, the portion of that document in which the reference occurs cannot be placed earlier than 150, and it is probably much later. Since the facts as they appear in the New Testament can be easily obtained, I shall take only space enough to state them briefly.

“The first day of the week,” Sunday, is definitely referred to but three times in the New Testament. Each of the Evangelists speaks of the day on which Christ’s resurrection was made known to His disciples. These references are all to the same day.[161] The book of Acts has but one reference to Sunday[162]; and there is but one in all the Epistles.[163] Three other passages are quoted in favor of Sunday observance.[164]

It is so easy for the reader to examine these passages, and to compare them with popular notions and with what is said here, that I shall be content with the following summary of facts touching Sunday observance in the New Testament:

Six passages are quoted in favor of such observance. Only three of these passages mention the first day of the week in any manner. Neither of them speaks of it as sabbatic, or as commemorative of any event, or sacred, or to be regarded above[173] other days, and it is only by vague and illogical inferences that either of them is made to produce a shadow of proof for such a change. Concerning the other three, it is only supposed by the advocates of the popular theory, that they in some way refer to the first day. To this, therefore, does the “argument from example” come, when carefully examined. The New Testament never speaks of, or hints at, a change of the Sabbath; it contains no notice of any commemorative or sabbatic observance of Sunday. It does tell of the repeated and continued observance of the Sabbath by Christ and His Apostles. Will the reader please examine the Bible to see whether these things are so. Sunday is a myth, as far as the Bible is concerned, and the theory of a “change of the Sabbath by divine authority,” had its birth with English Puritanism less than three hundred years ago.
Christ’s Resurrection and Sunday.

Another popular notion is equally unsupported by New Testament history. The Bible never associates the observance of Sunday, or of any other day, with the resurrection of Christ. The Bible does not state that Christ rose from the grave on Sunday. The most that can be said on this point is, that when the friends of Christ first came to the tomb it was empty. He had risen and[174] gone. Matthew xxviii., 1, shows that the first visit was made ‘late on the Sabbath,’ i. e. on Saturday afternoon before sunset, at which time the tomb was empty.[165]

All references to Sunday are fully accounted for on other considerations than that it was a sacred or a commemorative day. New Testament arguments in favor of Sunday observance are all ex post facto; they were developed after the practice had been initiated for other reasons.
The Sabbath in the New Testament.

The history of the Sabbath in the New Testament is as much at variance with popular notions as is the history of Sunday. The statement sometimes made that “The Sabbath was never observed after the resurrection of Christ,” contains as much error as can be put into that number of words. Since the facts are in the hands of every reader of the New Testament, only a general summary of them is given here.

Collating the facts, and summing up the case as regards the example of Christ and His Apostles, it stands as follows:

1. During the life of Christ the Sabbath was always observed by Him and by His followers.[175] He corrected the errors and false notions which were held concerning it, but gave no hint that it was to be abrogated.

2. The book of Acts gives a connected history of the recognition and observance of the Sabbath by the Apostles while they were organizing many of the churches spoken of in the New Testament. These references extend over a period of eight or nine years, the last of them being at least twenty years after the resurrection.

3. In all the history of the doings and teachings of the Apostles, there is not the remotest reference to the abrogation of the Sabbath.

Had there been any change made or beginning to be made, or any authority for the abrogation of the Sabbath law, the Apostles must have known it. To claim that there was is therefore to charge them with studiously concealing the truth. And also, with recognizing and calling a day the Sabbath which was not the Sabbath.

Add to these considerations the following facts:

(a) The latest books of the New Testament, including the Gospel of John, were written about the year ninety-five or later. In none of these is there any trace of the change of the Sabbath, nor is the abrogation of the Sabbath law taught in them.

(b) The Sabbath is mentioned in the New Testament sixty times, and always in its appropriate character.


Thus the law and the gospel are in harmony, and teach that “the seventh day is the Sabbath of the Lord thy God.”

But some will say, “Christ and His Apostles did all this as Jews, simply.” If this be true, then Christ lived and taught simply as a Jew and not as the Saviour of the world. On the contrary, He was at war with the false and extravagant notions of Judaism concerning questions of truth and duty. If Christ were not a “Christian,” but a “Jew,” what becomes of the system which He taught? If His first followers, who perilled all for Him and sealed their faith with their blood, were only Jews, or worse, were dissemblers, doing that which Christians ought not to do, for sake of policy, where shall Christians be found? The assumption dies of its own inconsistency. More than this, New Testament history repeatedly states that the Greeks were taught on the Sabbath the same as the Jews; and in those churches where the Greek element predominated there is no trace of any different teaching or custom on this point. The Jewish Christians kept up their national institutions, for a time, such as circumcision and the passover, while all Christians accepted the Sabbath as a part of the law of God. The popular outcry against the Sabbath as “Jewish” is unscriptural. Christ was in all respects, as regards nationality, a Jew. So[177] were all the writers of the Old Testament, and all the writers of the New Testament. God has given the world no word of inspiration in the Bible, from Gentile pen, or Gentile lips. Is the Bible therefore “Jewish”? The Sabbath, if possible, is less Jewish than the Bible. It had its beginning long before a Jew was born. It is God’s day marked by His own example, and sanctified by His blessing, for the race of man, beginning when the race began, and can end only when the race shall cease to exist. Christ recognized it under the Gospel as He recognized each of the other eternal laws with which it is associated in the Decalogue; recognized them as the everlasting words of His Father, whose law He came to magnify and fulfil. It is manifestly unjust and unchristian to attempt to thrust out and stigmatize any part of God’s truth as “Jewish,” when all of God’s promises and all Bible truths have come to us through the Hebrew nation.[166]

As we were compelled to go outside the Bible to find the influences which undermined the Decalogue and the Sabbath, so we must seek for the origin of Sunday observance outside of that book.[178] We find the first mention of such observance, and of reasons therefor, in the same author, Justin, who we have seen was the first to formulate the anti-law and anti-Sabbath doctrines which have already been examined.[167]

This earliest reference to Sunday observance is found in Justin’s Apology as follows:

“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. Then 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, and 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. And they who are well to do, and willing, give what each thinks fit; and what is collected is deposited with the president, who succours the orphans and widows, and those who, through sickness or any other cause, are in want, and those who are in bonds, and the strangers sojourning among us, and in a word takes care of all who are in need. But Sunday is the day on which we all hold[179] 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.”[168]

There is nothing scriptural in the reasons given by Justin; the first is purely fanciful, and is in accord with the prevailing gnostic speculations of those times. His statement that Christ was crucified on Friday is the beginning of a popular error, which has come down, not unchallenged, but largely uninvestigated. Some writers claim that the last clause intends to state that Christ taught His disciples when He first appeared to them, what Justin had written concerning the Sunday; but one has only to read Justin’s words to see how entirely unfounded such a claim is. At all events, there is not a word in Scripture to support the reasons adduced by Justin for Sunday observance.

It is important that the reader note carefully what sort of Sunday observance Justin describes. Laying aside all “suppositions,” and “inferences,” and ex-post-facto conclusions, we learn from him[180] that at the middle of the second century a form of religious service was held on Sunday. But it is equally evident that there was no sabbatic regard for the da............
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