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Friday, May 16, 2014

SUNDAY OBSERVANCE -- Established Long Before the Reign of Emperor Constantine

by Lawrence Fox
"Nor do people put new wine into old wineskins; otherwise the wineskins burst, and the wine pours out and the wineskins are ruined; but they put new wine into fresh wineskins, and both are preserved." (Matt. 9:17)
“Alas Constantine, you are held responsible for everything -- even the Easter Bunny!” Susan Fox, editor
"Emperor Constantine did this to me!"
         Get into a conversation with a modernist and suddenly the Roman Emperor Constantine (272-337 A.D.) becomes the cause for the doctrine of the Trinity, Christians worshipping on Sunday (not Saturday), the Great Apostasy and the Easter Bunny.
He is also viewed as the greatest persecutor of “alternative” movements to Catholic Christianity. Among those he allegedly harassed are: Marcionites (primitive Protestants), Donatists (primitive Puritans) and Arians (primitive Muslims and Jehovah Witnesses).
Emperor Constantine's Image on a Roman Coin
The reason the modernists jump on Constantine is because they artificially divide Church History into three stages: “the Age of Apostles, the Age of Apostasy, and the Age of Recovery.” This tripartite crisis of history generally equates Emperor Constantine with the “Age of Apostasy” as a means of avoiding a serious dialogue on the first four centuries of the Church.
The seeker of historical truth comes in direct contact with the “Deposit of Faith” by reading Ignatius of Antioch, Clement of Rome, Polycarp of Smyrna, Melito of Sardis, Irenaeus of Lyons, Origen, Tertullian, John Chrysostom, Basil, Jerome, Augustine of Hippo, Ambrose of Milan, Hilary of Poitiers and the numerous cast of “Who’s Who in Church History.”  Such an engagement with the past demonstrates that the Apostolic Churches were vibrantly devoted to the faith of the apostles, sacramental, hierarchal, liturgical, oral,  biblical, catechetical, creedal and dogmatic, in summary: Catholic in nature.
 In the Second Century, St. Irenaeus the Bishop of Lyon, while defending the faith against various Gnostic movements, recognized that the apostles of Jesus Christ put into the Universal Catholic Church the “Deposit of Faith,” something which the Gnostics had entirely rejected:
“When therefore we have such proofs, it is not necessary to seek among others the truth which is easily obtained from the Church. For the Apostles like a rich man in a bank, deposited within her most copiously everything that pertains to the truth; and everyone whosoever wishes, draws from her the drink of life.”[1]
As a result of this artificial understanding of history, the early writings are not read, nor understood, and therefore ignorance and Gnosticism abounds. Plus the specter of “religious conspiracy” becomes increasingly vogue and plausible in the modern world.
Saturday versus Sunday Argument
One such “religious conspiracy,” which epitomizes this tripartite crisis of history, is the imagined establishment of the Christian Sabbath Worship on Sunday as a result of Emperor Constantine’s edict in 321 A.D. He identified “the day of the sun” as a weekly Roman holiday.  Citizens were to cease from forced labor on the “day of the sun,” except for farmers whose lives were ruled by planting, weather, and seasons. But in fact, Constantine simply facilitated the Christians’ existing desire to worship on Sunday, free of labor.
 Since the Reformation, Seventh Day movements have argued that Christians observed the Sabbath on Saturday, then they went underground while the alleged Apostate Church celebrated Sunday following Constantine’s decree to cease labor. In more recent times, a so-called faithful remnant of Seventh Day Christians emerged. [2]
The biblical and historical evidence against such a “religious conspiracy” is significant. But prior to rebutting this argument, it is my intent to mollify the adherents to this artificial view of history especially as it relates to secular rulers and the people of God. For example, Jesus was born in the town of Bethlehem as a result of a decree issued by a secular ruler -- Caesar Augustus. (Luke 2:1) With this secular decree, the prophecy made by God through the prophet Micah was fulfilled. And there are many more examples of God using secular rulers like Constantine as a means of bringing about His will in salvation.
Secular Rulers and the People of God
God warned the people of Northern Kingdom of Israel time and again to give up their worship of the Baal(s), Asherah and the practice of child sacrifice. They didn’t, so in 722 B.C, the Assyrians under the rule of the pagan Sargon II dispersed the people of Israel from the Promised Land. The remnant that remained intermarried with the Assyrians and became identified as Samaritans.  
The people of Judea in the Southern Kingdom were also warned time and again to give up their worship of the Baal(s), Asherah, and the “shedding of much innocent blood.” (2 Kings 21:16) Jeremiah declared that the rulers in Jerusalem turned the Holy Temple into a “den of thieves.” (Jer. 7:11) Jesus Christ echoed this language centuries later when He addressed the temple rulers in Jerusalem. (Mark 11:12-18) The people of Judea did not repent. So the Babylonians in three stages (605 AD, 597 AD, and 587 AD) exiled the people from the land of Judah into Babylon.
But God promised they would be brought back into the land. (Jer. 25:11-12: 29:10) In 538 B.C., God inspired the Persian King Cyrus to facilitate the return of the Jews to Judea and to re-establish the temple in Jerusalem. (Is 44:28; 45:1)
God also promised that the Northern and Southern tribes both would be brought back into one fold. How this would be accomplished remained a mystery until the Feast of Pentecost since the 10 Northern tribes were completely lost. Peter filled with the power of the Holy Spirit speaks to the various pilgrims from all over the known world, some of whom were descended from the lost tribes of Israel. Preaching about Jesus Christ, he addresses them both as “Jews” and by the name of the lost tribes, the “Children of Israel.” (Acts 2: 14, 22) As a result of his words, 3000 were baptized and added to the number of disciples that day. (Acts 2:41) God’s word to bring all peoples into one fold began on Pentecost.   
Before that, Jesus prophesied regarding the Temple in Jerusalem that “not one stone would be left upon another.” (Mark 13:1) The temple was reduced to rubble by the Roman ruler Titus in 70 AD.
 The “Old Jerusalem” -- in the Book of Revelation named “Sodom and Egypt where their Lord was put to death on the cross.” (Rev. 11:8) -- was destroyed. The New Jerusalem (Rev 21:2) -- established by Jesus Christ  upon Peter the Rock (Matt, 16:18) -- became the one fold promised by God.   
No human activity is free from the mind of God who either allows or wills the events which happen in human history as a means of guiding and completing salvation. The Christians in the Fourth Century would have viewed the ascendency of Emperor Constantine as an expression of God’s mercy because he ceased persecution of the Church for the first time since its inception!
Struggles of the People of God
The church established by Jesus Christ wrestled against four (4) significant movements in the ancient world during the first three centuries: Judaism, which rejected Jesus as Messiah; Gnosticism/Neo-Platonism, which rejected the doctrine of the Incarnation; paganism, which rejected monotheism; and Imperial Rome which persecuted and murdered those who confessed that “Jesus Christ was Lord and God” and who refused to offer incense to the image of Caesar, a false idol.
Christian persecution at the hands of Roman authorities occurred in various times and in various degrees for 300 hundred years beginning with the crucifixion of Jesus: Pilate, Herod, Nero, Domitian, Pliny, Trajan, Marcus Aurelius and Decius. Persecutions increased in horror and frequency just prior to the age of Constantine under Diocletian, Maximin Daia, and Galerius. Constantine’s father Constantius Chlorus, the Roman Emperor from 293 to 306, did not favor the murder of the citizens of the Empire. He passed this sentiment down to Constantine.
Emperor Constantine was the first Roman Emperor to stop the worship of the Emperor’s Image and to secure the toleration of Christians, giving them the right to worship Christ. Previous emperors were self-deified; Constantine self-identified as the “servant of God.[3] When Constantine became Emperor, he was not a baptized Christian, nor an adherent of Trinitarian theology. He was not in fact baptized until near his own death.
Constantine's vision: "In this sign you shall conquer." 
But his sympathies were with the “most holy bishops of the savior of Jesus Christ,” or so he stated at the Council or Arles in 314 AD.[4] According to Constantine, it was this savior of the Christians who revealed to him:  in this sign (Chi Rho) you shall conquer.” He believed that was responsible for his overthrow victory “against all odds” of the wicked Maxentius at the Milvian Bridge on October 28, 312 AD.
Constantine experienced some form of a conversion in 312 AD, according to Bishop Eusebius of Caesarea, who wrote the biographical Life of Constantine and who by the way had Arian sympathies. Constantine took steps to return property back to the Catholic Church that was confiscated during the various persecutions. He also paid for the building of new Churches. His grasp of Catholic theology, however, was limited and many of his moral decisions were imperfect. But he had little to gain by aligning himself with Christianity -- still widely despised throughout the Roman Empire.[5]

Sunday -- the Weekly Roman Holiday
Emperor Constantine’s Sunday Day of Rest decree stated that on the “day of the sun” citizenry of the empire were to be free from compulsive labor. Such a decree was not the cause of Sunday worship within the Empire. Christians were already worshiping on Sunday.  If there was a “conspiracy,” it would be the conspiracy of Christians to be free of persecution so they could worship on Sunday. Christians influenced Constantine’s view on the establishment of a Roman Weekly Holiday.
No doubt Christians received the Sunday Rest decree with rejoicing because it seemed to be evidence that the great persecution was over.  Some perceived the decree as a defeat of ritual Judaism: “Therefore do not let anyone judge you by what you eat or drink, or with regard to a religious festival, a New Moon celebration or a Sabbath Day. These are a shadow of the things that were to come; the reality is the (body) of Christ.” (Colossians 2:16, NIV)  But for sake of argument, suppose Constantine was addressing the subtleties of Jewish-Christian disagreements with respect to the keeping of Mosaic ceremonial laws: circumcision, kosher, and Sabbath Worship. Was he the first? Absolutely not.
Long before Constantine was conceived, St. Paul writing to the Christian churches in Galatia and Colossae reminded them that through the indwelling of the Holy Spirit, the disciples of Jesus were abiding in “God’s Rest,” participating in “An Eternal Sabbath Observance” which Moses and Joshua held out as a promise to God’s People by shadows and figures, but which they never received through the Old Law. (Hebrews 1: 4)  Jesus and His apostles challenged the important ceremonial works of the law, including circumcision, kosher, and Sabbath observance. It was recorded in the New Testament:
·     Sabbath – “The Sabbath was made for man, not man for the Sabbath. So the Son of Man is Lord of the Sabbath.” (Mark 2:27)
·     Kosher – “Don’t you see that nothing that enters a man from the outside can make him unclean. For it doesn’t go into his heart but into his stomach and then out his body.” In saying this, Jesus declared all foods clean. (Mark 7:18-19)
·     Circumcision – Some men came down from Judea to Antioch and were teaching the brothers, “Unless you are circumcised, according to the custom taught by Moses you cannot be saved.” “Peter standing at the Council in Jerusalem answered, “No! We believe it is through the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ that we are saved, just as they are.” (Acts 15:1,11)
       All three Mosaic observances reach their fulfillment in the Person of Jesus Christ. And with the indwelling of the Holy Spirit, his disciples now “worship the Father in Spirit and in Truth.” (John 4:23) Circumcision is fulfilled through the gift of Baptism. Kosher is fulfilled by participating in the Lord’s Supper. Sabbath observance is fulfilled by participating in the observance of the Lord’s Resurrection on Sunday.
The Origins of Sunday Observance
Let us look at what the Catholic Church teaches about the origins and significance of Sunday Observance as found within the Vatican II Document, Constitution on the Sacred Liturgy:
"By a tradition handed down from the apostles, which took its origins from the very day of Christ’s Resurrection, the Church celebrates the paschal mystery every eighth day, which is appropriately called the Lord’s Day or Sunday. For on this day, Christ’s faithful should come together into one place so that hearing the word of God and taking part in the Eucharist, they may call to mind the passion, resurrection, and glory of the Lord Jesus Christ, and may give thanks to God who ‘has begotten them again through the resurrection of Christ from the dead, unto a living hope.' The Lord’s day is the original feast day, and it should be proposed to the faithful and taught to them so that it may become in fact a day of joy and of freedom from work. Other celebrations, unless they be truly of the greatest importance, shall not have precedence over Sunday, which is the foundation and kernel of the whole liturgical year."[6]
The Catholic Church teaches that Sunday Observance has its origins in the faith delivered to the saints by the apostles. (Jude 1:3)  The apostles delivered to the Church everything they received from Jesus Christ. Through their teachings, their way of life, their purpose, and the example of their faith, patience, love, endurance, persecutions, and sufferings, their faith was passed on. (2 Timothy 3:10)  Integral to their way of life was their manner of prayer and worship, which the Church received by Sacred Tradition, (1 Corinthian 13:1) including the worship of God on the First Day of the Week. What the disciples of the apostles received by word and letter, they passed on to the next generation in apostolic fashion.
The Significance of Sabbath (Saturday) Observance
Sabbath Observance is based upon the Six-Day Creation Narrative and resting on the Seventh: “And God blessed the seventh day and sanctified it, because in it he ceased from all his works which God began to do.” (Genesis 2:3 Septuagint) This Seventh Day remembrance expresses the covenant relationship between God and His Creation and His people Israel. It should be noted that unlike the previous six days, which consist of an evening and a morning, the seventh day is eternal and unending. The Seventh Day is a day set apart, which means it is “Holy.” In the Old Testament, to be “Holy” is to participate in God’s unending Seventh Day.
The word “sabbaton” is the Greek translation of the Hebrew word "shabbat" (Sabbath), which derives from the verb “shavat.” It means “rest” or “cessation from labor.” But its root form means “seven” and the “oath” of a covenant. The Sabbath is one of God’s 10 commandments to the children of Israel through the prophet Moses:
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 to the Lord your God; in it you shall not do any work, you or your son, or your daughter, your manservant or your maidservant or your cattle or the sojourner who is within your gates; for in six days the Lord made the heaven 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 hallowed it.” (Exodus 20: 8-11 RSV)
The children of Israel were commanded to keep the Sabbath. The Sabbath signified through the element of time, God’s covenant relationship with them. In other words, seven days and cycles of seven (weeks, months, and years) re-enforced into their memory a covenant relationship with the Lord God. Sabbath equals Covenant. This relationship between Sabbath and Covenant is significant to the understanding that Sunday is a fulfillment of Covenant in the Person of Jesus Christ.
On the night before He died, Jesus took the cup, saying, “This cup is the new covenant in my blood, which is poured out for you.” (Lk. 22:20, 21)  Jesus’ gave a command to his disciples, “Do this in memory of me.” (Lk.22: 19) This command re-enforced His disciples’ memory that a new covenant relationship was being established at the Last Supper. The Lord’s Supper is a “key” to understanding the Christian observance of Sunday as the new Sabbath.
But These Words are Hard to Take.
During the time of first and second Maccabees (175-135 B.C), the Greek king of the Seleucid Empire ordered the people of Judah to abandon their ceremonial practices of circumcision, kosher, and the keeping of the Sabbath. The Greek persecution of the Jewish people was brutal. The Jewish response to this persecution was mixed: submit, fight, or suffer martyrdom. As a result of this eventful period, a few “zealous” movements emerged within Judaism, most notably the Pharisees and the Essenes.
Their “zeal” for the Law of Moses was matched only by their bitterness towards all things Gentile. The Sadducees on the other hand, identified as Hellenizing Jews favored by the Hasmonean priest-kings, were bitterly hated by the various “zealous” movements. (Acts 23:6)
The Pharisees taught that fidelity required a meticulous adherence to the ceremonial laws of Moses, but as they understood the meaning of fidelity. Jesus Christ taught that the Sabbath was made for man and not man for the Sabbath and as such the Son of Man was Lord of the Sabbath. (Mark 2:27)
The Pharisees heard these words from the lips of Jesus and clearly understood their implication. In their mind, Jesus’ words were blasphemous and his works of healing on the Sabbath were the work of the devil and therefore deserved death. (Mark 3:6) The Herodians, Pharisees, and Sadducees (movements which despised each other) rejected the mercy and promise of a New Covenant with God through the Person of Jesus Christ as celebrated at the Last Supper. In no way, shape or form would the Pharisees accept a “new covenant” which replaced the Mosaic Law. The argument over Sunday Observance ended on the First Day of the Week when Jesus rose from the Dead.
Christian Sabbath and 
Eternal Rest in Christ Jesus
Paul writes that the people of God were baptized into Moses as they crossed the Red Sea, and followed Moses toward the Promised Land. (1Cor. 10:2) God allowed Moses to see the Promised Land from a distance, but never to enter it.. Joshua, the successor to Moses, entered the Promised Land with the second generation of Israelites as they carried the Mosaic commandments and ceremonial laws. Still, the Author of Hebrews states that the children of Israel never entered  into God’s rest:
For if Joshua had given them rest, God would not have spoken later about another day. There remains then a Sabbath-rest for the people of God; for anyone who enters God’s rest also rests from his own work, just as God did from His. Let us make every effort to enter that rest, so that none will fall by the side as did those following their example of disobedience.” (Hebrews 4: 8-11)
        The promise of a Sabbath-rest was to be fulfilled in the Person of Jesus Christ. Jesus, while preaching to the people in the temple yard, stated: “Come to me all you who are heavy laden and are filled with life’s burdens and I will give you rest.” (Matthew 11:28) Jesus, who is the Lord of the Sabbath, gives rest to those who come to him and are baptized into His Life, Death and Resurrection. (Romans. 6:4)
Eternal Rest, the same thing as Sabbath Observance, begins with abiding in the Person of Jesus Christ. Jesus Himself said, “I have not come to abolish the law and the prophets but to fulfill them.” (Matt 5:17) In fact Jesus says, “I am making everything new.” (Rev. 21:5) In other words, the laws of Moses, including Sabbath Observance, find their fulfillment in Jesus Christ. This is why Paul of Tarsus writes to the Church in Colossae:
Therefore do not let anyone judge you by what you eat or drink, or with regard to a religious festival, a New Moon celebration or a Sabbath Day. These are a shadow of the things that were to come; the reality is the body of Christ.” (Colossians 2:16, NIV)
Christian Sabbath and Resurrection Joy
 on the First Day
The Old Testament prophets proclaimed The Sabbath to be a day of joy and not a time of weeping. Nehemiah and Ezra encouraged the people to rejoice with the Lord while re-building the temple after their return from the Babylonian Captivity. (Ezra 3:4) In this context, the Sabbath was an invitation to the people of God to embrace God’s Mercy and His promises of Redemption. “Destroy this temple and I will rebuild it in three days,” Jesus said. (John 2:19) The Resurrection of Jesus Christ on the First Day of the Week was for his disciples the epitome of Christian joy, “The disciples were overjoyed when they saw the Lord.” (John 20:20) Their joy is re-enacted liturgically each Sunday as an acknowledgment of God’s Mercy and the Promise of Redemption within God’s new temple:  
As you come to him, the living Stone — rejected by men but chosen by God and precious to him —  you also, like living stones, are being built into a spiritual house to be a holy priesthood, offering spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ.” (1Peter 2:4-5)
How long did the disciples of Jesus Christ reflect upon the mystery that the Church was the New Temple? Didn’t they recognize -- along with their bitter sufferings — that their consoling joy was rooted in the Resurrection of Jesus Christ on the First  Day of the Week?
Praise be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! In his great mercy he has given us a new birth and a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead..In this you greatly rejoice though for now you may have to suffer grief in all kinds of trials..Though you have not seen him, you love him; and even though you do not see him now you believe in him and are filled with an inexpressible and glorious joy…” (1Peter 1:3-9)
And how long did it take the disciples to understand that a new Sabbath was established on the First Day of the Week? Not very long, so it seems.
Sabbath Observance in the New Testament
Noticeably absent from the Acts of the Apostles and the Epistles are apostolic directives requiring the  Gentiles to observe the Sabbath. The Apostles, who are natural born Jews, visited the Synagogues on the Sabbath as observant Jews. But they did it for the purpose of evangelizing their own people. The apostles do not command Gentile converts to observe the Jewish Sabbath and Jewish converts are not commanded to forgo their observance of Saturday Sabbath. But Jewish Christians who advocated circumcision had a different message, which still resonates within several Christian movements today. These Jewish Christians came to Antioch and taught that without circumcision there was no salvation. Peter and the Council of Jerusalem responded stating that the Gentiles received the Holy Spirit, not by observing the Law (Circumcision, Kosher, Sabbath) but by believing in the Good News of Jesus Christ. (Acts 14:11)
The Significance of Sunday Observance
The Catholic Church teaches that Sunday Observance is not a rejection of the Jewish Sabbath but an affirmation of Faith in the Resurrection of Jesus Christ, who rose from the dead on the First Day of the Week.
The apostles identified the Resurrection of Jesus Christ as the source of Christian Hope. “If Christ had not been raised, our faith would be futile; we would still be in our sins. If Jesus was not raised from the dead, then our hope in Christ in this life only, would be a cause for us to be pitied more then all men.” (1Cor 15:12) Sunday Observance is an expression of faith and a blessing in action: “Blessed are those who believe and have not seen” (John 20:29). 
The movement of God’s People from the strict observance of the Mosaic ceremonial laws to that which is fulfilled in Jesus Christ is foreshadowed in the Old Testament Prophets and Psalms.  The Church, founded on the foundation of apostles and prophets (Ephesians 2:19), is the “Bride of Christ” (Ephesians 5: 32). The Holy Spirit speaks prophetically to this “Bride” through the Psalmist , encouraging  her to forget the house of her father, and to come forth and embrace Jesus Christ. He is Lord of Lords and King of Kings for whom and through whom all things exist and have their being: 
Listen, O daughter give ear to my words:
forget your own people and your father’s house.
So will the King desire your beauty.
He is your Lord, pay homage to him.
And the people of Tyre shall come with gifts,
the richest of people shall seek your favor.
The daughter of the king is clothed in splendor,
her robes embroidered with pearls set in gold.
She is led to the King with maiden companions.
They are escorted amid gladness and joy,
they pass within the palace of the King.
Sons shall be yours in place of your fathers,
you will make them princes over all the earth.
May this song make your name forever remembered,  
May the peoples praise you for age to age.”
(Psalm 44(45))
Christian Sabbath and
 the First Day of the Week
Each of the Four (4) Gospel writers, introduce the Resurrection narrative with the expression the First Day of the Week.  MATTHEW recounts in the Gospel that after the Sabbath, as it was on the first day of the week, Mary Magdalene and the other Mary went to look at the tomb…(Matthew 28:1-10). MARK recounts in the Gospel that when the Sabbath was over (Saturday 6:00 PM), Mary Magdalene, Mary the Mother of James and Salome brought spices so that they might go to anoint Jesus’ body. Very early on the first day of the week, just after sunrise, they were on their way to the tomb and they asked each other, “Who will roll the stone away from the entrance of the tomb?” (Mark 16: 1-8). LUKE recounts in the Gospel that on the first day of the week, very early in the morning the women took spices they prepared and went to the tomb... (Luke 24: 1-8). JOHN recounts in the Gospel that early on the first day of the week, while it was still dark, Mary Magdalene went to the tomb and saw that the stone had been removed from the entrance…(John 20: 1-21).
By the time the Gospels are written between 50 AD and 90 AD, the expression First Day of the Week, was synonymous with the Resurrection of Jesus Christ, and was already evolving into these expressions: the Lord’s Day, the Eighth  Day, the Lord’s Day of the Lord, and Sunday. 
Christian Sabbath and the Worship of Jesus
 on the First Day of the Week
Matthew recounts in the Gospel that several disciples encountered the resurrected Jesus, on the First Day of the Week, and they worshipped Him:
After the Sabbath, at dawn on the first day of the week, Mary Magdalene and the other Mary went to look at the tomb. There was a violent earthquake, for an angel of the Lord came down from heaven and going to the tomb rolled back the stone and sat on it… The angel said to the women, ‘do not be afraid for I know that you are looking for Jesus who was crucified. He is not here, he has risen, just as he said.’… So the women hurried away from the tomb, afraid yet filled with joy and ran to tell his disciples. Suddenly Jesus met them, ‘Greetings,’ he said, they came to him, clasped his feet and worshipped him. Then Jesus said to them, “do not be afraid, Go and tell my brothers to go to Galilee; there they will see me.” (Matthew 28:1-10).
By this story, Matthew presents to his readers a manner of observing the First Day of the Week, namely imitating the disciples who worshipped the Risen Jesus Christ.
Christian Sabbath and Word and Sacrament
 on the First Day of the Week
Luke recounts in the Gospel that on the First Day of the week, Mary Magdalene and the other women ran to the apostles to tell them that the tomb was empty. The disciples did not believe their word and so Peter and John ran to the tomb, which they find empty.
Luke then tells us that on the same day, two disciples journey to Emmaus and encounter Jesus. Although Jesus prevents them from recognizing him, He speaks with them. Beginning with Moses and the Prophets, He explains to them how everything that was written foretold that the Messiah would have to suffer, die and then enter into His Glory. The two disciples beg this “hidden Jesus” to stay with them. When Jesus was at table with them, He took bread, gave thanks, broke it and began to give it to them. And their eyes were opened. They recognized Him and He disappeared. The two disciples then run back to Jerusalem where they find the eleven. Those assembled with them say to the two disciples, “It is true the Lord has risen and has appeared to Simon.” Then the two disciples told what had happened on the way, and how they recognized Jesus in the breaking of the bread. (Luke 24: 13-35)
By this story, Luke presents the manner of observing the First Day of the Week:
·     The proclamation of Jesus Christ in the Sacred Word, in which the hearts of the disciples are found burning as Jesus explains the Sacred Texts.
·     The proclamation of Jesus Christ in the Breaking of the Bread, in which the eyes of the disciples are opened as they recognize Jesus in the Breaking of the Bread. 
Christian Sabbath and Profession of Faith
 on the First Day of the Week
John recounts in the Gospel that on the evening of that first day of the week, when the disciples were together with the doors locked for fear of the Jews, Jesus came and stood among them and said, “Peace be with you.” (John 20: 19)  Jesus breathed on them and said: “Receive the Holy Spirit. Those sins you forgive are forgiven and those sins you retain are retained.” Thomas was not with the remaining apostles and disciples in the upper room when Jesus appeared to them the first time. 
St. Thomas: "My Lord and My God."
We are told that Thomas doubted that Jesus appeared to them alive in the flesh. A week later and again on the First Day of the week, these same disciples were gathered in the same place and this time Thomas was with them (John 20: 26). Jesus then asked Thomas to “Put your finger here: see my hands, Reach out your hand and put it into my side. Stop doubting and believe.”  Thomas said to Jesus: “My LORD and My GOD.” 
Note that Jesus does not appear to Thomas during the course of the week, but waits until the disciples are gathered again seven days later on Sunday, the First Day of the Week.  
Through this story, John demonstrates the manner of observing the First Day of the Week:
·     Peace and the forgiveness of sins are brought about through the action of faith.
·     The unbeliever is brought to an act of faith.  
Christian Sabbath and the Offering 
on the First Day of the Week
Paul of Tarsus encourages the Church at Corinth to do exactly what he instructed the Galatian churches to do on the First Day of the Week. Each disciple was to save a sum of money in keeping with his income to donate to the Church. (1 Corinthians 1: 2).  It is not certain when Paul came to gather up the collection, but what is certain is that the Church was to collect the funds on the First Day of the Week.
The same instruction was given to the churches in Galatia because they were being pulled back into the Jewish Observance of the Laws, New Moons, Sabbaths, and Circumcision. To bring them back into Christian reality, Paul assigned them to participate in an “offertory” sacrifice on the First Day of the week while offering their Sunday worship, defined as  devoting themselves to the apostles’ teaching, and to communion, to the breaking of bread, and to the prayer.” (Acts 2:42)
Christian Sabbath: 
Gathering to Break Bread on First Day of the Week
 And upon the first day of the week, when the disciples came together to break bread, Paul preached unto them, ready to depart on the morrow; and continued his speech until midnight.”(Acts 20:7)
Why did the disciples come together? They were in the habit of breaking bread on the First Day of the week.  Paul does not plan to travel on the First Day of the week, which is similar behavior to a Jew who would be observing the Saturday Sabbath. If the Church in Ephesus were observing the Saturday Sabbath, the order of events would have been reversed. Paul would have preached on Friday evening and Saturday morning and then traveled on Sunday.
Christian Sabbath and Worship in Spirit and Truth on the Lord’s Day
In the Book of Revelation, John writes that on the Lord’s DayI was in the Spirit, and I heard behind me a loud voice like a trumpet.”(Revelation 1: 9-11)
While in the Spirit, John describes how Sunday Worship was patterned after heavenly worship. In the Letter to the Hebrews, the author drives home the point that the Jewish priests served at a sanctuary that is a copy and shadow of what is in heaven. That is why Moses was instructed in what manner to fashion the  tabernacle: “See to it that you make everything according to the pattern shown to you on the mountain.” (Hebrews 8:4)
But a new temple of spiritual stones is under construction and their worship reflects the pattern described in the Book of Revelation:
·     There is the Son of Man arrayed in priestly garb with liturgical vessels (Revelation 1:12-19) – an expression of liturgical gathering and entrance procession.
·     There are instructions to the Seven Churches (Revelation 2 and 3) -- an expression of liturgical readings and exhortations: the homily.
·     There are 24 presbyters surrounding the throne and worshipping God and Lamb of God (Revelation 4) -- an expression of con-celebration with presbyters performing their priesthood among the shared priesthood of God’s people.
·     There is the Lamb slain from the foundation of the earth in the center – an expression of the sacrificial nature of the Lord’s Supper, the Eucharist or  Breaking of Bread.
·     There are the presbyters and angels offering incense to the Lamb, which is the prayers of the saints (Revelation 5) -- an expression of Eucharistic Adoration.
·     There is an altar of sacrifice and under the altar there are souls slain for the Word of God (Revelation 5) -- an expression of the Communion of Saints.

     It is on the Lord’s Day (kyriake) that God reveals this Heavenly Liturgy to John, not on the Sabbath. The term “kyriake” is an adjective derived from the word Kyrios (Lord) and is found in the New Testament on one other occasion where Paul addresses the Church in Corinth:
"When you come together, it is not the Lord’s (kyriake) supper you eat, for as you eat, each of you goes ahead without waiting for anybody else. One remains hungry, another gets drunk. Don’t you have homes to eat and drink in?" (1Corinthians 11:20).
Here in the New Testament the term kyriake is connected with both Sunday and the Lord’s Supper (Breaking of Bread). Many readers of the Sacred Scripture lack a key hermeneutic of interpretation. They do not recognize that Sacred Scripture was written primarily for liturgy. The various New and Old Testament authors were inspired by God to frame and convey His “Written Word” within a liturgical framework; so that what was “read and heard” conformed to their worship of Him in spirit and truth. John -- by writing to the seven Churches -- conveys that the Church is universal and God’s new covenant and creation.  The number seven always has a universal and covenantal context, just as the world was created in seven days.
Christian Sabbath and Polemics 
in Extra-Biblical Sources
It is important to understand that extra-biblical sources also teach Sunday worship.   Luke states that in Antioch after Jesus’ death, the followers of Jesus were identified as Christians. (Acts 11:26) Paul, Barnabas, John, and Peter all ministered to the Church there. Ignatius was the bishop of Antioch at the end of the First Century. Usually, when the Church experienced persecution at the hands of the Roman magistrates, the critical person to be arrested was the Bishop. In about 110 AD, Ignatius was rounded up and taken as a prisoner to Rome where he would later be put to death as a martyr for Jesus Christ. While on his journey to Rome, Ignatius writes seven letters to the Ephesians, Magnesians, Trallians, Romans, Philadelphians, Smyrneans and one personally to Polycarp the Bishop of Smyrna. In his Letter to the Church at Magnesia, Ignatius writes:
We have seen how former (Jewish) adherents of the ancient customs have since attained a new hope; so that they have given up keeping the Sabbath; and now order their lives by the Lord’s Day instead – the day when life first dawned for us, thanks to him and his death.[7]
      Jews who accepted Jesus as Lord no longer centered their lives on the Sabbath, but on the Lord’s Day. Life did not dawn for the disciple with Jesus entering the tomb, but with his coming out from the tomb alive on Sunday, the First Day of the Week.
Another extra-biblical text known as the Epistle of Barnabas (120 AD) testifies to Sunday Worship. The author writes that Christians do not celebrate the Sabbath, but celebrate the eighth day because that was when Jesus rose from the dead, showed Himself and ascended into heaven.[8]
The document is a polemic, which highlights that Sabbath Observance is only fulfilled in the Person of Jesus Christ. That’s why Christians emphasize the Resurrection of Jesus through Sunday Observance.
A similar polemical defense of the Christian Sabbath was written by the Latin-speaking lawyer Tertullian, who converted to Christianity in 193 AD. In his polemic, “Against the Jews,” he writes that Jewish practices are not necessary for salvation. “Circumcision, Sabbath observance, the ancient sacrifices have been abolished along with the “eye for an eye” ordinance which has yielded to the law of love.  The giver of this new sacrifice, the observer of the eternal Sabbath has already appeared, Jesus Christ, foretold by the prophets as the everlasting King of the Universe.[9]
Christian Sabbath and Sunday
Another extra-biblical source defending the Sunday Observance is Justin the Martyr (110-165AD), who was a convert to Catholic Christianity. During the persecutions conducted by Roman Emperor Marcus Aurelias, he wrote his First Defense of Christianity, identifying what Christians do when they gather to worship:
…but Sunday is the Day on which we all hold our common assembly, because it is the first day on which God ...made the world; and Jesus Christ our savior on the same day rose from the dead.”[10]
The Didache “The Teaching of the Twelve” (70 AD), another extra biblical text, instructs the Christians to assemble on the Lord’s Day:[11]
Assemble on the Lord’s Day of the Lord (kyriake), and break bread and offer the Eucharist; but first make confession of your faults, so that your sacrifice may be a pure one.”
Jesus is recorded as saying: “Therefore if you are presenting your offering at the altar, and there remember that your brother has something against you, leave your offering there before the altar and go first be reconciled to your brother, and then come and present your offering.” (Matt. 5:23, 24) A Jew would make his offering at the altar on the Sabbath. The Didache gives us the same rubric for repentance and offering of sacrifice on Sunday as what is practiced today in the Holy Mass.
Christian Sabbath and Apostolic Traditions
The Sunday Worship is confirmed also in canonical form through the writings of Hippolytus of Rome. He  records in the Apostolic Traditions (215 AD), the various liturgical rules used during ordinations, the Eucharist, and Baptism in the Catholic Church. For example, the consecration of the Bishop takes place on the Sunday after he has been chosen by all the people and in the most public manner possible. The neighboring bishops are to attend and lay their hands upon the elected person. The liturgy of the Mass described by Hippolytus contains the oldest Canon of Eucharistic prayer that the Roman Rite possesses:
The Lord with You.
And with your Spirit.
Lift up your hearts.
We have lifted them in the Lord.
Let us give thanks to the Lord.
It is proper and right.
We thank Thee Lord God through thy beloved servant Jesus Christ whom Thou hast sent in the latter times to be our Savior and Redeemer and the messenger of your counsel, the Logos who went out from thee, through whom Thou hast created all things, Whom Thou wast pleased to send out from heaven into the womb of the Virgin, and in her body He became incarnate and was shown to be Thy Son born of the Holy Ghost and of the Virgin. In order to fulfill Thy will and to make ready for Thee a holy people, He spread out His hands when He suffered in order that He might free from sufferings those who have reached faith in Thee.
And when He gave Himself over to voluntary suffering, in order to destroy death, and to break the bonds of the devil, and to tread down hell, and to illuminate the righteous and to set up the boundary stone, and to reveal the Resurrection, He took bread, gave thanks and said: “Take, eat, this is my body which is broken for you.” In the same manner also the cup and said: “This is my blood which is poured out for you. As often as you do this you keep my memory.”
When we remember His death and His Resurrection in the way, we bring to Thee the bread and the cup and give thanks to Thee because Thou hast thought us worthy to stand before Thee and to server Thee as priests.
And we beseech Thee that thou  wouldst send down Thy Holy Spirit on the sacrifice of Thy Church. Unite them and grant to all the saints who partake in the sacrifice, that they may be filled with the Holy Spirit, that they may be strengthened in the faith, in the truth, in order that we may praise and laud thee through Thy Servant Jesus Christ, through whom praise and honor be to Thee in the Holy Church, now and forever more. Amen.[12]
The canonical language in the Apostolic Traditions gives evidence that the Eucharistic prayers developed by the end of the Second Century. They were no longer improvised as they once were as illustrated in the writings of Justin the Martyr. The language also demonstrates that Christian worship was centered on the Eucharist and on Sunday. The Apostolic Traditions was translated into Coptic, Syriac, Arabic, and Ethiopic and used in the codification of their respective canon and liturgical rites of ordination.


The New Testament demonstrates that Christian disciples assembled on the First Day of the week and worshiped Jesus as Lord and God, confessed and sought the forgiveness of sins, listened as Jesus explained to them the Scriptures, collected monies as a sign of being in communion with the other churches, recognized Jesus in the breaking of the bread, and in the Spirit, participated in the Heavenly Liturgy. This form of apostolic worship was passed down through a ministry of succession responsible for guarding the deposit of faith  with the help of the Holy Spirit who lives in us.” (2Tim. 1:14)
The New Testament and extra-biblical Christian literature witnessed to the Deposit of Faith. These writings demonstrated that Christians centered their lives around the celebration of the Eucharist on Sunday, the First Day of the Week, also known as the Lord’s Day. And all these things were practiced and developed long before the reign of Emperor Constantine.
"I still don't like Constantine!"


Bettenson, Henry. Documents of the Christian Church. 2nd ed. New York, NY: Oxford University Press, 1967.

Brenton, Lancelot C.L. Septuagint with Apocrypha: Greek and English. 3rd ed. Peabody MA: Hendrickson Publishers, 1990.

Carroll, Warren H. The Founding of Christendom. A History of Christendom Volume 1. Royal Virginia: Christendom Press. 1993.

Catechism of the Catholic Church. 2nd ed. Washington: United States Catholic Conference, 1997. 

Documents of Vatican II. General Editor Abbot, Walter M S.J. New York: Here and Herder Associated Press, 1966.

Louth, Andrew and Betty Radice, eds. Early Christian Writings: The Apostolic Fathers. Translated by Maxwell Staniforth. London: Penguin Classics. September 1, 1987

Peloubet, F.N. and Adams, Alice. Peloubet’s Bible Dictionary. Grand Rapids MI: Zondervan Publishing House. 1967

Quasten, Johannes. The Beginning of Patristic Literature. Vol. 1 of Patrology. Westminster MD: Christian Classics, Inc. 1990

Quasten, Johannes. The Ante-Nicene Literature After Irenaeus. Vol. 2 of Patrology. Westminster MD: Christian Classics, Inc. 1990

Quasten, Johannes. The Golden Age of Greek Patristic Literature. Vol. 3 of Patrology. Westminster MD: Christian Classics, Inc. 1990

[1] Johannes Quasten. The Beginning of Christian Literature Vol. 1 of Patrology. (Westminster MD: Christian Classics, Inc. 1990), 301.
[2] Note: It is argued that Constantine’s establishment of Sunday (1st Day of the Week) as a day to cease from labor in the Roman Empire was evidence of “human tradition” attempting to nullify God’s Word and the 4th Mosaic Commandment which identified Saturday as the day of rest set aside by God. Various Christian movements worship on Friday/Saturday along with Observant Jews and not on Sunday. It is an argument rooted in the “Scripture Alone”, “Faith Alone”, and “Spirit Alone”, dichotomies embraced by various Reformers within Church History.

[3] Warren H Carroll. The Founding of Christendom. A History of Christendom Volume 1. (Royal Virginia: Christendom Press).  1993, 525.
[4] Warren H Carroll, 524.
[5] Warren H Carroll, 524-541.
[6] Documents of Vatican II. General Editor Abbot, Walter M S.J. New York. (Herder and Herder Associated Press 1966), 106.
[7]  Andrew Louth and Betty Radice, eds. Early Christian Writings: The Apostolic Fathers. Translated by Maxwell Staniforth. (London: Penguin Classics. September 1, 1987),73
[8]  Andrew Louth and Betty Radice, eds. Early Christian Writings: The Apostolic Fathers. Translated by Maxwell Staniforth. (London: Penguin Classics. September 1, 1987), 178.
[9] Johannes Quasten. The Beginning of Christian Literature Vol. 1 of Patrology. (Westminster MD: Christian Classics, Inc. 1990), 186.
[10] Andrew Louth and Betty Radice, eds. Early Christian Writings: The Apostolic Fathers. Translated by Maxwell Staniforth. (London: Penguin Classics. September 1, 1987), 197
[11] Andrew Louth and Betty Radice, eds. Early Christian Writings: The Apostolic Fathers. Translated by Maxwell Staniforth. (London: Penguin Classics. September 1, 1987), 197

[12] Johannes Quasten. The Ante-Nicene Literature After Irenaeus. Vol. 2 of Patrology. (Westminster MD: Christian Classics, Inc. 1990), 188-189


  1. God Creates, man invents. There is only One Church which can make the claim to be the bride of Christ. the one which matches the day of her birth 2014 years ago. all others are merely imitators. Always a bridesmaid, never the Bride. even Christ gave missions to those who were not actual disciples, The woman at the well, The woman caught in the act of adultery, the woman who poured oil over our Lords feet, their mission and actions are still inspiriations to all of us even unto today. they are bridesmaids, but not the bride. DLH

  2. Yes, the Catholic Church is the sun, and all others the moon. If the sun fails, there will be no light from the moon. Thanks for your comment Dan. God bless you. Susan