The Sabbath and the Catholic Church

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The Sabbath and the Catholic Church – Testimony of an ex-WCG member

… by Dan Severino, circa 2004

Blog editor’s note: I got this essay from an ex-member of the Worldwide Church of God. Below is his brief explanation, followed by his essay.

I used to be a member of the Worldwide Church of God. I returned to the Catholic Church about a year and a half ago. My mother is a member of one of the branches of this organization and the attached article is a rough draft I’m sending her to explain the Catholic position. I think it may be helpful for your site (of course it would have to be considerably edited which you or I could do.) But if some of my thought might prove helpful so someone and you think so, please feel free to use it.

The Sabbath is an identifying sign of the United Church of God. The Sabbath command is clearly stated in the Decalogue. Yet, the Catholic Church observes Sunday and says it keeps the Ten Commandments – all ten of them. How can this be?

This paper will, as clearly as I am capable, explain the Catholic position. I will use Catholic documents; e.g. the Catechism of the Catholic Church, the papal letter of Pope John Paul II entitled Dies Domini – On Keeping the Lord’s Day Holy, various writings of Catholic scholars, secular historians, Protestant scholars, as well as the Sacred Scriptures. Even though you may not agree with the conclusions, you will understand the Catholic position. Having been a member of the Worldwide Church of God for well over 30 years I know how often it has been misrepresented by the press, especially to those who were not friendly to the organization. The same thing can be said of the Catholic Church. It is also notoriously misrepresented. Just as you wouldn’t want me to get information about your Church from your detractors I ask the same courtesy. This paper is going to touch on several issues as they relate to bringing you the Catholic understanding of the Sabbath commandment as well as several other issues.

Before getting into the details of this paper I think you’d be enlightened by a recent document produced by the Vatican. This article is from Zenit, a Vatican news agency.

VATICAN CITY, JAN. 17, 2002 ( A new Vatican document says it is not possible to understand Christianity fully, without reflecting on divine revelation as contained in the Jewish Bible.

Moreover, the text, published by the Pontifical Biblical Commission, affirms that it is mistaken “to use as a pretext for anti-Judaism” the “warnings” that the Christian Bible addresses to Jews.

Likewise, the document recognizes that “in the past, errors were committed by unilaterally insisting on the discontinuity” that exists between the Jewish Bible (Old Testament) and the Christian Bible (Old and New Testament).

The 200-page study, entitled “The Jewish People and Their Sacred Scriptures in the Christian Bible,” was published by the Vatican Press. At present, it is not on the Vatican’s Web page.

“This is a total novelty,” Chief Rabbi Joseph Levi of Florence told the Italian press. Rabbi Levi is especially pleased with the objective of the document: to manifest officially “the amazing force of the spiritual ties that unite the Church of Christ with the Jewish people.”

The Biblical Commission, presided over by Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, is composed of 20 leading biblicists. The members were appointed by John Paul II at the cardinal’s suggestion.

In introducing the study, which began in 1997, Cardinal Ratzinger invites Christians to recognize “the Jewish reading of the Bible as a possible reading.” In other words, such a reading might be of great help in important questions, such as the Messiah.

The new publication “hopes to foster love toward the Jews in the Church of Christ,” following the “abominable crimes” of which they were object during World War II.

In “light of the Scripture, the rupture between the Church of Christ and the Jewish people should not have happened,” the document affirms.

The newly published document is divided into chapters. The first one, which is fundamental, states that the New Testament recognizes the authority of the Old Testament as divine revelation, and cannot be understood without being intimately related to it and with the Jewish tradition that transmitted it.

The second chapter examines more analytically how the writings of the New Testament accept the rich content of the Old Testament, referring to its fundamental topics in light of Jesus Christ.

The third chapter records the extremely varied attitudes on the Jews reflected in the New Testament, something which also occurs in the Old Testament.

There are a couple reasons for bringing the article to your attention. Certainly one is the very friendly and sympathetic attitude the Catholic Church has toward the Jewish peoples. It is the habit of the Catholic Church, in her liturgical celebrations to intercede and pray for the Jewish people, especially during her sacred feasts as Passover and Yom Kippur. Rabbi Levi spoke of “the amazing force of the spiritual ties that unite the Church of Christ with the Jewish people.” (As an aside, the Catholic Church is formally known as the Church of Christ.

(Rom 16:16 KJV) Salute one another with an holy kiss. The churches of Christ salute you.)

Historical documents, e.g. a letter from St. Ignatius of Antioch written 110 AD, show that by the early second century the church became known as the Catholic Church. St. Ignatius’ letter would show that the Church was known as the Catholic Church before 110 AD. This name was given to distinguish it from heretical groups.

I remember as a member of the Worldwide Church of God the suspicion it carried toward the Catholic Church. I remember hearing ministers speak of the Catholic Church forcing all peoples to keep “her Sabbath” forcing them to abandon their personal cherished beliefs. The Catholic Church would put to death anyone who wouldn’t bow to their demands. The thought was that the Sabbath commandment would be the test commandment to bring persecution to all faithful Sabbath keepers, following the pattern of the Israelites of the Old Testament. This is the same view that Seventh-day Adventists take. However, there is simply no basis of fact in this belief.

Vatican Council II produced several important documents restating the Catholic Churches consistent positions on many of the important matters of faith. One such document is the Declaration on Religious Freedom, Dignitatis Humanae. This document states the church’s belief that all people of all religions must be respected, Christian and even non-Christian. There is a separate document stating the approach to Christian Communities, Unitatis Redintegratio. It states the following about non-Catholic, yet Christian men and women in one of its concluding paragraphs. These paragraphs would be the attitude the Catholic Church would express to members of the United Church of God, or any non-Catholic Christian fellowship.

The daily Christian life of these brethren is nourished by their faith in Christ and strengthened by the grace of Baptism and by hearing the word of God. This shows itself in their private prayer, their meditation on the Bible, in their Christian family life, and in the worship of a community gathered together to praise God. Moreover, their form of worship sometimes displays notable features of the liturgy which they shared with us of old.

Their faith in Christ bears fruit in praise and thanksgiving for the blessings received from the hands of God. Among them, too, is a strong sense of justice and a true charity toward their neighbor. This active faith has been responsible for many organizations for the relief of spiritual and material distress, the furtherance of the education of youth, the improvement of the social conditions of life, and the promotion of peace throughout the world.

The following quote is from the document Nostra Aetate. This document provides the Churches attitude to non-Christians such as Jews, Muslims, and Buddhists.

We cannot truly call on God, the Father of all, if we refuse to treat in a brotherly way any man, created as he is in the image of God. Man’s relation to God the Father and his relation to men his brothers are so linked together that Scripture says: “He who does not love does not know God” (1 John 4:8).

No foundation therefore remains for any theory or practice that leads to discrimination between man and man or people and people, so far as their human dignity and the rights flowing from it are concerned.

The Church reproves, as foreign to the mind of Christ, any discrimination against men or harassment of them because of their race, color, condition of life, or religion. On the contrary, following in the footsteps of the holy Apostles Peter and Paul, this sacred synod ardently implores the Christian faithful to “maintain good fellowship among the nations” (1 Peter 2:12), and, if possible, to live for their part in peace with all men, so that they may truly be sons of the Father who is in heaven.

The United Church of God has absolutely nothing to fear in regard to the Catholic Church taking away her freedom to observe the seventh day Sabbath. This is especially true since the new Vatican document quoted from Zenit says; “it is not possible to understand Christianity fully, without reflecting on divine revelation as contained in the Jewish Bible.” I heard on national TV a Catholic priest encourage a Jewish rabbi to follow his Judaism, which would certainly include keeping the seventh day Sabbath, on his earthly journey in seeking his Creator.

The following paragraph of the article has ramifications to our Sabbath discussion. Surprisingly, the Catholic Church is not going to say the Sabbath commandment has been totally abolished. There is continuity between the Old Testament and the New Testament; but I’m getting ahead of myself.

Likewise, the document recognizes that “in the past, errors were committed by unilaterally insisting on the discontinuity” that exists between the Jewish Bible (Old Testament) and the Christian Bible (Old and New Testament).

To properly understand the Catholic understanding of the Sabbath commandment it is important to understand their view of the Sacred Scriptures. The following is a quote from another of the documents of Vatican Council II called Dei Verbum – The Dogmatic Constitution on Divine Revelation.

The Church has always venerated the divine Scriptures just as she venerates the Body of the Lord, since, especially in the sacred liturgy, she unceasingly receives and offers to the faithful the bread of life from the table both of God’s Word and of Christ’s Body. She has always maintained them and continues to do so, together with Sacred Tradition, as the supreme rule of faith, since as inspired by God and committed once for all to writing, they impart the Word of God himself without change, and make the voice of the Holy Spirit resound in the words of the prophets and apostles. Therefore, like the Christian religion itself, all the preaching of the Church bust be nourished and regulated by Sacred Scripture. For in the sacred books, the Father who is in heaven meets his children with great love and speaks with them; and the force and power in the Word of God is so great that it stands as the support and energy of pure and everlasting source of spiritual life. Consequently, these words are perfectly applicable to Sacred Scripture: “For the Word of God is living and active; (Heb 4:12) and “it has the power to build you up and give you your heritage among all those who are sanctified: (Acts 20:32; cf 1 Thes 2:13).

The worship of Jesus is very deep and profound in the Catholic Church and her love of the Sacred Scriptures is approached with complete reverence and holiness. There is none of the recklessness that people assume the Catholic Church takes toward scripture. However, the Catholic Church believes that one of Jesus’ primary missions was to establish His Church, not to establish a canon of scriptures. The Church came first, the scriptures followed.

(1 Tim 3:15 KJV) But if I tarry long, that thou mayest know how thou oughtest to behave thyself in the house of God, which is the church of the living God, the pillar and ground of the truth.

Jesus’ Church would be the foundation of truth. It is from this pillar and ground that the Sacred Scriptures of the New Testament had their origin. The Bible is a product of the Catholic Church. And, as Catholic apologist, Peter Kreeft puts it; “If the cause (the Church) is not infallible, how can its effect (the Scriptures) be infallible?”

The New Testament authors didn’t know they were writing Sacred Scriptures as they penned their gospels and epistles. They didn’t know their writings were going to become part of the inspired canon of scripture. However, various writings became highly regarded by the Apostolic Church and her subsequent generations and were especially used for liturgical purposes. History shows there were also writings that were venerated that didn’t make it into the Bible. Someone had to decide which writings were part of the sacred canon and which were not.

The Apostolic Church followed the liturgical pattern of the Jewish peoples in establishing their liturgy. This became much more urgent after the destruction of the temple in 70 AD.

However, the church didn’t feel compelled to produce any new canon, a table of contents, if you will, of scriptures produced by the Church Jesus built, until very late in the 4th century. The reason a definitive canon became necessary was because of a Gnostic heresy propagated by a man named Marcion. What Marcion did was to produce his own canon of scriptures. He used the same writings as those highly regarded by the early church. The problem is that, among other things, the Gnostics viewed matter as evil. Therefore, Christ was looked upon as a phantom, and not a real part of the created order. What Marcion did was to selectively only include in his canon only those passages that could be construed to support his heretical ideas. This heresy wouldn’t allow him to have God (Jesus) pollute Himself with the physical world by actually becoming a flesh and blood (physical) human being. Therefore, anything that gave the impression that Christ was a real flesh and blood human was rejected as being contrary to Marcion’s gospel and therefore not a part of his canon of scripture.

This forced the church into establishing a canon of scriptures; something the faithful could depend upon. A canon was presented to the church and shortly thereafter this became the sanctioned scripture of the Catholic Church, though not infallibly decreed to be so until the Council of Trent in the 16th century. In regards to the Old Testament the early Apostolic Church highly regarded the Septuagint, which was a Greek translation of the Hebrew scriptures. This was the version of the Old Testament that was used by the apostle Paul. The Catholic Church from its earliest days used this canon. Interestingly, it is the canon of the Septuagint that people brings the false charge that the Catholic Church added books to the Bible. There was no debate as to the authority of the books in the Catholic Bible until the time of the Reformation. It’s important to note that the Catholic Church didn’t add books to the canon; the Protestant churches took away books from the canon. Today, there are only two canons of Sacred Scriptures – the Catholic and the Protestant. You must accept one or the other. For those who accept the Protestant canon I would like to ask what did your forebears use before the Reformation when there was only one choice. And that one choice wasn’t the King James, since it was a product of the 17th century! The Waldensians and the Albegensians didn’t have use of the Protestant Canon of Scripture as they lived several centuries before this time. It’s beyond the scope of this paper, but these two groups, from which several Protestant groups use as their continuity with the Apostolic church, believed some things that would be anathema to both your and my belief system. For example, there was no harm in sexual immorality. Also, there were branches of the Waldensians that though not in agreement with the Catholic Church on all points, still looked to her authority.

Without a definitive canon of scriptures until the late 4th century the Church operated on tradition. In fact, so did the first century Apostolic Church.

(2 Th 2:15 KJV) Therefore, brethren, stand fast, and hold the traditions which ye have been taught, whether by word, or our epistle.

For almost four centuries there was no definitive canon, no New Testament to look to at as totally authoritative. The Church didn’t feel any need to compile a new canon of scriptures unique from the Old Testament. Christ gave the apostles no command to write a book. It wasn’t until this false canon of Marcion was composed that the Church decided it would be in the best interest of the Church to make known a set of authoritative New Testament writings.

As a point of interest Hebrews and Revelation were considered by several church leaders not to be included in the list. It was the influence of St. Augustine and the Pope that helped their entry into our New Testament.

A couple points are important to note. First, the Bible is a product of the Catholic Church. It is a product that comes directly from the Apostolic Church and is an important part of the Sacred Tradition of the Catholic Church. It was Catholic scholars, under inspiration of the Holy Spirit that produced this “table of contents” (canon) of the Holy Bible. Someone had to decide which books belonged in the canon. History shows that it was the Catholic Church. Since there were no printing presses in these early centuries it was faithful Catholic monks who laboriously and faithfully copied the sacred writings.

My natural question is why would God use the Catholic Church, the church accused by many non-Catholics as being apostate, and entrust to them the formation of the Sacred Scriptures? It is a clear part of the historical record that the Catholic Church established the canon. According to many fundamentalist Protestants, the Catholic Church was clearly apostate by 400 AD and yet God is using this apostate church to canonize His Sacred Word? This is very reminiscent of Jesus’ words in the gospel of Matthew.

(Mat 12:26 KJV) And if Satan cast out Satan, he is divided against himself; how shall then his kingdom stand?

Satan isn’t going to be involved in producing a book that is going to bring about his demise! That’s ludicrous, and was Jesus’ point in Matthew 12. No, God used the Catholic Church to produce His scriptures because it is a good church fully capable of producing good fruit. Of course it is only good because God is good and has given it of His abundant graces. All good resides in Him. But if you love the Bible, you love the good work of the Catholic Church. This is the historical record.

We both agree that by 400 AD the Catholic Church and all of Christendom was keeping Sunday and not Saturday as the Sabbath. Let’s now begin looking at the Sabbath question in earnest and see when this came to be. The Catholic Church isn’t against Sabbath keepers as their attitude toward the Jewish peoples is very positive. This is why I started this paper with the article on the Catholic Church’s official position concerning the Jewish people and their scriptures.

If one examines the scriptures and history together one can easily see the continuity in the church as it moves from the day of Jesus’ resurrection through the first decades after the church was established on Pentecost. The Bible (the New Testament canon) and history (both church history as recorded by clerics and secular historians) work together to form a very logical connection with each other. The Bible record doesn’t contradict the historical record.

We both agree that Pentecost falls on a Sunday, so there is nothing intrinsically wrong with worship occurring on a Sunday. But it in interesting to note the times that the first day of the week is mentioned beginning with Jesus’ resurrection.

The resurrection became known to the followers of Jesus on the first day of the week.

(Mat 28:1 KJV) In the end of the sabbath, as it began to dawn toward the first day of the week, came Mary Magdalene and the other Mary to see the sepulchre.

I think it’s interesting to note that the scripture says it was the end of the Sabbath as it began to dawn toward the first day of the week. There are several hours between sunset and dawn. The precise reckoning of days ending at sunset doesn’t seem to be important to Matthew, the most “Jewish” of the gospel writers.

Luke comments on the resurrection this way. Luke, not writing to a Jewish audience, has no need to mention the Sabbath and doesn’t.

(Luke 24:1 KJV) Now upon the first day of the week, very early in the morning, they came unto the sepulchre, bringing the spices which they had prepared, and certain others with them.

The meeting with the disciples on the road to Emmaus occurred on the first day of the week. Also, the miraculous appearance of Jesus to his chosen disciples occurred on this same day.

(John 20:19 KJV) Then the same day at evening, being the first day of the week, when the doors were shut where the disciples were assembled for fear of the Jews, came Jesus and stood in the midst, and saith unto them, Peace be unto you.

Thomas was not at this initial reunion on the Sunday evening after the resurrection. But a week later he was. And again we have recorded a meeting Jesus had with his disciples occurring on a Sunday.

(John 20:24-26 KJV) But Thomas, one of the twelve, called Didymus, was not with them when Jesus came. {25} The other disciples therefore said unto him, We have seen the Lord. But he said unto them, Except I shall see in his hands the print of the nails, and put my finger into the print of the nails, and thrust my hand into his side, I will not believe. {26} And after eight days again his disciples were within, and Thomas with them: then came Jesus, the doors being shut, and stood in the midst, and said, Peace be unto you.

The King James records verse 26 as “after eight days” but this is simply an idiom meaning a week later. Other translations, such as the New Revised Standard and the New International Version, translate these words as “a week later”. (My Catholic Bible translates it as “after eight days”.) I know that the New International Version (NIV) is not a highly literal translation, as is the King James. But this is a case of knowing the ancient use of language to understand the meaning to a 21st century reader. The following is a note from J. Ramsey Michaels New International Biblical Commentary on the gospel of John comments on “after eight days”.

A common ancient custom was to count both the first and the last days in a series, so that eight days would be the equivalent of a week. The meaning is that the appearance took place on the next Sunday after Easter (cf. John 20:19).

Of course, there is he birth of the Church also occurring on a Sunday, Pentecost Sunday. In Acts we find the early church meeting on the first day of the week.

(Acts 2:1 KJV) And when the day of Pentecost was fully come, they were all with one accord in one place.

Now let’s consider some other scriptures.

(Acts 20:7 KJV) 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.

The important point to note here is that the emphasis is on the first day of the week. The same emphasis is in John’s gospel listed above. The writers of the gospels, writing several years after Jesus’ resurrection, are giving emphasis to events occurring on the first day of the week.

If one wanted to be picky with Acts 20 and speculate that Paul was preaching on the Sabbath and his preaching just went over into the first day of the week, then one would need to do the same with John’s gospel. John 20:19 talks of this event happening at evening which would certainly go past sunset into the next day, the secondday of the week. John, like Matthew, isn’t concerned with precision on events occurring at one side of sunset or the other, and neither is Luke, who wrote Acts. The ancient world didn’t have a preoccupation with time, as does our modern world. The importance is that these events, the important thing being expressed by these gospel writers, occurred on the first day of the week, Sunday.

If the Sabbath was of real concern Luke would have been better to write – After the Sabbath, when the disciples came together to break bread. Why else emphasize this event occurring on the first day of the week? I remember many occasions while a member of the Worldwide Church of God in the winter time, by the time Church and fellowship were complete the Sabbath would be over. In retelling the events of the day I would never say – “And upon the first day of the week, after services we had a potluck dinner.” It was always – “After the Sabbath we had a potluck supper.” The fact that these events occurred on the first day of the week is because the emphasis is on the day of the week these events occurred. A Sabbath keeper will naturally relate events surrounding the Sabbath in relationship to the Sabbath, as I did. A Sunday keeper will do the same in relationship to Sunday. After the resurrection of Christ the gospel writers stop writing about events in their relationship to the Sabbath, but how they relate to the first day of the week.

More scriptures concerning the first day of the week.

(1 Cor 16:1-2 KJV) Now concerning the collection for the saints, as I have given order to the churches of Galatia, even so do ye. Upon the first day of the week let every one of you lay by him in store, as God hath prospered him, that there be no gatherings when I come.

The same logic applies to this verse in 1 Corinthians. If these Corinthians were of a Sabbath keeping tradition the language would be much more likely to say On the morrow after the Sabbath let everyone of you lay by him in store.

In the Old Testament, when there was a seventh day Sabbath tradition, events occurring on a Sunday were framed from the Sabbath.

(Lev 23:11 KJV) And he shall wave the sheaf before the LORD, to be accepted for you: on the morrow after the sabbath the priest shall wave it.

(Lev 23:15 KJV) And ye shall count unto you from the morrow after the sabbath, from the day that ye brought the sheaf of the wave offering; seven sabbaths shall be complete:

(Lev 23:16 KJV) Even unto the morrow after the seventh sabbath shall ye number fifty days; and ye shall offer a new meat offering unto the LORD.

In the New Testament, from the time the resurrection, the point of emphasis in relationship to days shifts from the seventh day to the first day of the week, and the first time this occurred was on the day of Jesus’ resurrection.

The four gospels, Acts, and 1st Corinthians mentioned in the examples above were written decades after Jesus’ resurrection and ascension. The writing reflects back upon the events of Jesus life and the life of the Church. The 4 gospels, Acts, 1st Corinthians reflect an emphasis given to important events occurring on the first day of the week. This, in itself, it is certainly no command to the worship of Sunday. It does, however, reflect the gospel writers thought patterns and reflection on the most momentous day in history. When the whole picture is known and studied from both the Biblical evidence and the extra-biblical historical record we can see a clear de-emphasis of the seventh day Sabbath giving way to an emphasis to the first day of the week. These inspired writers willingly give emphasis to the first day of the week, compared to the morrow after the Sabbath. In fact, the first day of the week is not given any mention in the whole Bible until after the resurrection.

Pope John Paul II’s Apostolic Letter, Dies Domini, begins as follows.

The Lord’s Day, as Sunday was called from Apostolic times, has always been accorded special attention in the history of the Church because of its close connection with the very core of the Christian mystery.

The following are some quotes from very early documents in the first and very early second centuries; Apostolic times. The apostle John was still alive at the time of the first two writings, so these writings were part of the documentation written in the Apostolic Age, part of the tradition of the Church.

The Didache
“But every Lord’s day . . . gather yourselves together and break bread, and give thanksgiving after having confessed your transgressions, that your sacrifice may be pure. But let no one that is at variance with his fellow come together with you, until they be reconciled, that your sacrifice may not be profaned” (Didache 14 [A.D. 70]).

Notice also from this document that breaking bread does not mean having a meal. It refers to the Eucharist, what you would call the New Testament Passover. Also notice, this is done every Lord’s Day (Sunday) and not once a year. The Didache was an early church manual also called The Teaching of the 12 Apostles. The following is a quote from Holman’s Bible Dictionary, a very basic reference work, concerning the Didache.

The Didache or Teaching of the Twelve Apostles was not rediscovered until 1883 despite the fact that it had considerable usage in early centuries. An early church manual, it may be the earliest of the Apostolic Fathers, in its current form no later than A.D. 100 but possibly much earlier. Part one (chs. 1-6) contains the Jewish catechetical material known as “The Two Ways” adapted to Christian usage by insertion of teachings of Jesus. Part two gives directions concerning baptism (7), fasting and prayers (8), the Eucharist (9-10), travellers who seek hospitality (11-13), worship on the Lord’s day (14), and bishops and deacons (15). An exhortation to watchfulness concludes The Didache. Several allusions indicate Syria (perhaps Antioch) as the place of origin.

So, when it says in Acts 20:7 that “upon the first day of the week, when the disciples came together to break bread, breaking bread is a reference to the early Church keeping the Lord’s Supper. Early church leaders consistently refer to the scriptures breaking of bread to the Lord’s Supper, the Catholic Eucharist. Again, it is important to note that this became known by the early leaders of the church before the canonization process took place in the 390’s AD. There was Catholic commentary on the scriptures even before they were considered scripture! Therefore, their commentary on the meaning of these now presently canonized scriptures has considerable more authority than someone looking upon these verses 1900 years later and thinking the breaking of bread is simply participation in an ordinary meal. The following quote from the Navarre Bible Commentary explains this point. The Catholic Church did not just make this up. Even while at Ambassador College we were taught of the integrity of Catholic scholarship.

The “breaking of bread” refers to the Blessed Eucharist and not just to an ordinary meal. This was a special way the early Christians had of referring to the making and distribution of the sacrament containing the Lord’s body. This expression, connected with the idea of a banquet, was soon replaced by that of “Eucharist”, which emphasizes the idea of thanksgiving (cf. Didache, IX, 1).

Also note that the Didache contains Jewish cathechetical material that was adapted to Christian usage. So, the apostolic church kept continuity with Jewish cathechetical material. This was not material that was anti-Jewish. The Church was not anti-Jewish but it was still keeping Sunday. (Actually, at this early date the Church was keeping both days and living in peace. This was Paul’s admonition in Romans 14:)

(Rom 14:5-6 KJV) One man esteemeth one day above another: another esteemeth every day alike. Let every man be fully persuaded in his own mind. {6} He that regardeth the day, regardeth it unto the Lord; and he that regardeth not the day, to the Lord he doth not regard it. He that eateth, eateth to the Lord, for he giveth God thanks; and he that eateth not, to the Lord he eateth not, and giveth God thanks.

James R. Edwards in his Commentary on Romans (pages 8 – 11) gives reason as to why there would be this difficulty in the young Church at Rome and why Paul would be making a comment to different days being esteemed. As is typical in the early Apostolic Church recorded in scripture, there is the tension between the Jewish converts and the Gentile converts. The tension is caused by Jewish peoples wanting to keep to their traditions and Gentiles who, as in Acts 15:, are not required to adhere to Old Covenant traditions. Romans 14: spells out these tensions in relation to dietary matters and the observance of days. History collaborates with the scriptural record.

The Edict of Claudius. Claudius, who ruled Rome from AD 41 to 54, found the Pax Romana threatened by Jewish disturbances from Rome to distant Egypt. In his first year of office he imposed a restraining order on the Jews, “forbidding them to meet together in accordance with their ancestral way of life.” Eight years later, in AD 49, he cracked down on fireigners in general. The Roman historian Suetonius says, “Since the Jews constantly made disturbances at the instigation of Chrestus, (Claudius) expelled them from Rome.” …..

The expulsion of Jews from Rome dramatically changed the constituency of the fledgling Christian communities there. A movement that from its inception had identified more or less with Judaism was now confronted with a predominantly, if not exclusively, Gentile Christian membership. Freed from the influence of scrupulous Jewish Christians, particularly in dietary matters, the Gentile Christian communities would have grown numerically stronger. But more importantly, they more than likely developed a distinctly antinomian consciousness during the absence of their Jewish Christian counterparts. How long this situation lasted we cannot say, but the five years between the proclamation of the edict in AD 49 and Claudius; death in AD 54 is a reasonable guess.

This changed when Claudius died and the edict lapsed. It is not difficult to imagine the difficulties which must have ensued when Jewish Christians returning from exile tried to reestablish themselves in Christian communities that had since matured in Gentile character, especially regarding laxness toward the Torah. Paul’s greetings at the end of Romans seem directed to several different (house) churches (see 16:5, 14. 15), the existence of which may be evidence of tensions between Jewish and Gentile Christians. If our dating of Romans is correct – and the date cannot bave been more than a year or two away from AD 57 – then Romans was written only a few years after the onset of this social and religious maelstrom.”

The Didache simply added Christian material to Jewish material. What were added would be things distinct from Jewish practice. Worship on the Lord’s Day was once such direction given by the apostles to the first century Christians. The Lord’s Day is distinct from Jewish practice because the Lord’s Day is Sunday.

The next quote is from 74AD. (Later on I’ll go into more material on the early church notion of the eighth day.)

The Letter of Barnabas 
“We keep the eighth day [Sunday] with joyfulness, the day also on which Jesus rose again from the dead” (Letter of Barnabas 15:6-8 [A.D. 74]).

The final quote is from Ignatius of Antioch. Ignatius has a direct lineage to the Apostle John who wrote the Book of Revelation. Here a clear distinction is made between the Sabbath and the Lord’s day.

Ignatius of Antioch 
“[T]hose who were brought up in the ancient order of things [i.e. Jews] 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” (Letter to the Magnesians 8 [A.D. 110]).

Ignatius of Antioch, disciple of the Apostle John refers to the Lord’s Day being Sunday. Pope John Paul II speaks of the Lord’s Day, Sunday, being observed from Apostolic Times. And now the apostle that Jesus loved, the last apostle to die wrote in the Book of Revelation that he “was in Spirit on the Lord’s Day”. Certainly, this is a reference to Sunday as the Lord’s Day and this was synonymous with Sunday in the first century church. The lingo of the early church was such that when someone spoke of the Lord’s Day the people knew that Sunday was being referred to.

(Rev 1:10 KJV) I was in the Spirit on the Lord’s day, and heard behind me a great voice, as of a trumpet,

Again, the quote from Pope John Paul’s Apostolic Letter, Dies Domini.

The Lord’s Day, as Sunday was called from Apostolic times, has always been accorded special attention in the history of the Church because of its close connection with the very core of the Christian mystery. In fact, in the weekly reckoning of time Sunday recalls the day of Christ’s Resurrection.

The resurrection is the event upon which the whole church stands or falls.

(1 Cor 15:14-19 KJV) And if Christ be not risen, then is our preaching vain, and your faith is also vain. {15} Yea, and we are found false witnesses of God; because we have testified of God that he raised up Christ: whom he raised not up, if so be that the dead rise not. {16} For if the dead rise not, then is not Christ raised: {17} And if Christ be not raised, your faith is vain; ye are yet in your sins. {18} Then they also which are fallen asleep in Christ are perished. {19} If in this life only we have hope in Christ, we are of all men most miserable.

Dies Domini:

Therefore, in commemorating the day of Christ’s Resurrection not just once a year but every Sunday, the Church seeks to indicate to every generation the true fulcrum of history, to which the mystery of the world’s origin and its final destiny leads.

For the Christian, Sunday is above all an Easter celebration, wholly illumined by the glory of the Risen Christ. It is the festival of the “new creation”.

Another important scripture on this point is Romans 4:25.

(Rom 4:25 KJV) Who was delivered for our offences, and was raised again for our justification.

The resurrection is the turning point of human history. Without it we have no justification. There’s no means to make us just before God. As the fulcrum of history we have on one side the old and on the other side the new. One the one side we have the physical creation of the other side we have the beginning of the restoration of all things. One the one side we have the Old Covenant and the other side we have the New Covenant. On the one side we have the generations of Adam on the other side we have the generations of Christ, the second Adam.

From the Catechism of the Catholic Church paragraph 1994:

“Justification is the most excellent work of God’s love made manifest in Christ Jesus and granted by the Holy Spirit. It is the opinion of St. Augustine that ‘the justification of the wicked is a greater work than the creation of heaven and earth,’ because ‘heaven and earth will pass away but the salvation and justification of the elect . . . will not pass away.’ He holds also that the justification of sinners surpasses the creation of the angels in justice, in that it bears witness to a greater mercy.”

Since justification (the work of spiritual creation and redemption) is a greater work that the material creation it is logical to have a different Sabbath to denote the “rest” created by this new redemptive Creation.

John’s gospel begins with a very striking Genesis motif. This is no accident.

In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.

The parallel to Genesis continues with the motif of light in verses 4 and 5.

In him was life; and the life was the light of men. {5} And the light shineth in darkness; and the darkness comprehended it not.

The early leaders of the Church saw in the Incarnation of Christ the beginning of a New Creation. Revelation speaks of the New Heavens and the New Earth and Jesus Himself talks of making all things NEW.

(Rev 21:5 KJV) And he that sat upon the throne said, Behold, I make all things new. And he said unto me, Write: for these words are true and faithful.

The Pope speaks of this in Dies Domini.

This active presence of the Son in the creative work of God is revealed fully in the Paschal Mystery, in which Christ, rising as “the first fruits of those who had fallen asleep” (1 Cor 15:20), established the new creation and began the process which he himself will bring to completion when he returns in glory to “deliver the kingdom to God the Father, so that God may be everything to everyone” (1 Cor 15:24,28).

And in speaking of Sunday he says,

For the Christian, Sunday is above all an Easter celebration, wholly illumined by the glory of the Risen Christ. It is the festival of the “new creation”.

Sunday is an Easter celebration, a celebration of the resurrection, the day the Risen Lord manifested His triumph over death. Again the Biblical authors emphasize this occurring on the first day of the week, beginning to draw attention to the first day of the week as the day when the event that is the fulcrum of history occurred. Just as the changes in the law concerning circumcision didn’t become immediately apparent to the early church the change of the Sabbath didn’t become immediately apparent. However, there are clear indications in scripture that the Mosaic Covenant has become obsolete.

(Heb 8:13 KJV) In that he saith, A new covenant, he hath made the first old. Now that which decayeth and waxeth old is ready to vanish away.

This formally occurred in 70 AD at the destruction of the temple in Jerusalem. The Old Covenant has decayed waxed old and has vanished away. The sacrificial system, which God began to express in Exodus 12 (more of this later), with all its cultic stipulation listed in Leviticus, including the seventh day Sabbath, were no longer in force and obsolete. How has this effected the Sabbath. Here is how the Pope himself states it.

The Sabbath precept, which in the first Covenant prepares for the Sunday of the new and eternal Covenant, is therefore rooted in the depths of God’s plan. This is why, unlike many other precepts, it is set not within the context of strictly cultic stipulations but within the Decalogue, the “ten words” which represent the very pillars of the moral life inscribed on the human heart. In setting this commandment within the context of the basic structure of ethics, Israel and then the Church declare that they consider it not just a matter of community religious discipline but a defining and indelible expression of our relationship with God, announced and expounded by biblical revelation. This is the perspective within which Christians need to rediscover this precept today. Although the precept may merge naturally with the human need for rest, it is faith alone which gives access to its deeper meaning and ensures that it will not become banal and trivialized.

Notice carefully, the Pope does not say that the Sabbath was “done away” with all the other cultic stipulations of the Mosaic Covenant. Why? Because it is part of the Decalogue, the very pillars of humanities moral life, and therefore part of the defining and indelible expression of our relationship with God which cannot be “done away”. Catholics, unlike Protestants, insist that obedience to the Decalogue is obligatory. The Council of Trent, the council that convened immediately after the Protestant Reformation, does speak of the cultic elements of the Sabbath, as well as the observance of the Sabbath on the seventh day to be made null and void.

“The other commandments of the Decalogue are precepts of the natural law, obligatory at all times [and for all people] and unalterable. Hence, after the abrogation of the Law of Moses, all the Commandments contained in the two tables are observed by Christians, not indeed because their observance is commanded by Moses, but because they are in conformity with nature which dictates obedience to them
“This Commandment about the observance of the Sabbath, on the other hand, considered as to the time appointed for its fulfillment, is not fixed and unalterable, but susceptible of change and belongs not to the moral, but the ceremonial law. Neither is it a principle of the natural law; we are not instructed by nature to give external worship to God on that day, rather than on any other. And in fact the Sabbath was kept holy only from the time of the liberation of the people of Israel from the bondage of Pharaoh.
“The observance of the Sabbath was to be abrogated at the same time as the other Hebrew rites and ceremonies, that is, at the death of Christ. …Hence St. Paul, in his epistle to the Galatians, when reproving the observers of the Mosaic rites, says: “You observe days and months and times and years; I am afraid of you lest perhaps I have labored in vain amongst you’ (Gal 4:10). And he writes to the same effect to the Colossians (Col. 2:16).”
(Gal 4:9-11 KJV) But now, after that ye have known God, or rather are known of God, how turn ye again to the weak and beggarly elements, whereunto ye desire again to be in bondage? {10} Ye observe days, and months, and times, and years. {11} I am afraid of you, lest I have bestowed upon you labour in vain.

The references to days, months, times, and years, according to the Council of Trent, are references to the Sabbath (days) New Moons (months) and Yearly Festivals of Leviticus 23: Paul calls them weak and beggarly elements here in Galatians. In 2 Corinthians he calls the tables of stone the ministration of death. It is called this in spite of the glory of the Old Covenant law and in spite of the fact that Moses face shone so brightly that he had to wear a veil to conceal the brightness.

(2 Cor 3:7 KJV) But if the ministration of death, written and engraven in stones, was glorious, so that the children of Israel could not stedfastly behold the face of Moses for the glory of his countenance; which glory was to be done away:

(Exo 34:29 KJV) And it came to pass, when Moses came down from mount Sinai with the two tables of testimony in Moses’ hand, when he came down from the mount, that Moses wist not that the skin of his face shone while he talked with him.

So, how do we get from the seventh day Sabbath to the first day Sabbath?

The Catholic Church believes in Natural Law. The Natural Law is written on the human heart. When the Catholic Church speaks of The Natural Law is the same law Paul speaks of in the book of Romans.

(Rom 2:14-15 KJV) For when the Gentiles, which have not the law, do by nature the things contained in the law, these, having not the law, are a law unto themselves: {15} Which show the work of the law written in their hearts, their conscience also bearing witness, and their thoughts the mean while accusing or else excusing one another;)

The Law is written on the human heart. However, through Adam’s sin, our ability to obey this law is severely wounded. The Pope is saying the keeping of a Sabbath is part of what’s written on the human heart. However, until the Mosaic Covenant there is no Sabbath command. The first mention of the keeping of a Sabbath is shortly before the Sinai Covenant.

(Exo 16:29 KJV) See, for that the LORD hath given you the sabbath, therefore he giveth you on the sixth day the bread of two days; abide ye every man in his place, let no man go out of his place on the seventh day.

It is a day the LORD gave them. There’s no mention of God giving the Sabbath to anyone before this time.

Tradition has Moses as the author of the Pentateuch. He is the author/editor of Genesis and Exodus. Moses gives the Sabbath commandment no continuity from Adam forward to the time of the Israelites. Also remember that there would be no canon of scripture before Moses. It was Moses job to set in order the traditions, under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit. His formation years in Egypt, being given the best education possible in his day, would have been Providential. I think sometimes, without thinking, we assume the Israelites must have had to book of Genesis because this time period was ancient history to them. And because they had Genesis they would have automatically known about the creation mentioned in Genesis one and would have figured out they had a Sabbath to keep. The Books of Moses, the Pentateuch, didn’t come into being until Moses! Not one of the great patriarchs of Genesis had access to Sacred Scripture. God spoke to these patriarchs, often through angelic mediators. And, when Moses retells the story of all the great men of God from the Garden of Eden to the Israelites exile to Egypt there is not one mention of them keeping a Sabbath.

Another point for consideration is that for Moses, the book of Genesis would be historical. He would be recounting events of the past. From Exodus Moses would be writing contemporary events. So, in writing Genesis Moses would have to make decision as to what to include based upon considerable theological reflection. Having hindsight would give Moses time for a more considered, accurate and thoughtful insight into his writing that would occur for him when writing about contemporaneous events. When writing of the origin of all things Moses would certainly write according to contemporary needs (as did Paul in the New Testament writings). The Creation account was one such need especially since this relates critically to the Sabbath Commandment. What is said and what is not said is of utmost importance.

Each type of writing would certainly have the Holy Spirits infallible guarantees of truth. What the Holy Spirit inspired the very learned and sage prophet was critical and highly important since he is writing about the origin of the physical universe. It’s very important to get the beginning right and the Holy Spirit guided a real sage in Moses.

Had the seventh day Sabbath been an eternal moral command given to man, Moses, under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, certainly doesn’t make it clear. There’s no mention of the Sabbath until Exodus 16. Genesis 1 and 2 only mention God’s creative work done on the six days of Genesis 1 and His rest on the seventh day. No command is given. There is no eternal moral law concerning the keeping of a seventh day Sabbath even hinted to by Moses.

In Exodus 12 the religious calendar year is mentioned. It is this calendar which God ordained all the festivals He gave the ancient Israelites. These are mentioned in detail in Leviticus 23 and the Sabbath is among them. In Exodus the Sabbath isn’t mentioned until chapter 16 after the revelation of the Israelites sacred calendar.

I think it’s very significant that the very first thing mentioned in Ex 12 (after the calendar is brought to mind) is the lamb without blemish, the Passover, Jesus.

(Exo 12:1- 3,11 KJV) And the LORD spake unto Moses and Aaron in the land of Egypt, saying, {2} This month shall be unto you the beginning of months: it shall be the first month of the year to you. {3} Speak ye unto all the congregation of Israel, saying, In the tenth day of this month they shall take to them every man a lamb, according to the house of their fathers, a lamb for an house: {11}it is the LORD’S passover.

In other words, already, the reason God is inspiring a calendar is to prepare, through Old Testament types, for His Son’s redemptive sacrifice, the New Testament Passover. The shadows are being cast leading up to the reality Jesus brought and brings.

(Col 2:16-17 KJV) Let no man therefore judge you in meat, or in drink, or in respect of an holyday, or of the new moon, or of the sabbath days: {17} Which are a shadow of things to come; but the body is of Christ.

He does however mention in Genesis 1: of God resting on the seventh day. This is what God reflects upon in the Sinai Covenant. Man, being created in God’s image, is to imitate His Creator in work and in rest.

(Exo 20:8-11 KJV) Remember the sabbath day, to keep it holy. {9} Six days shalt thou labour, and do all thy work: {10} But the seventh day is the sabbath of the LORD thy God: in it thou shalt not do any work, thou, nor thy son, nor thy daughter, thy manservant, nor thy maidservant, nor thy cattle, nor thy stranger that is within thy gates: {11} For in six days the LORD made heaven and earth, the sea, and all that in them is, and rested the seventh day: wherefore the LORD blessed the sabbath day, and hallowed it.

The repetition of the Law in Deuteronomy gives a different emphasis to the Sabbath command.

(Deu 5:12-15 KJV) Keep the sabbath day to sanctify it, as the LORD thy God hath commanded thee. {13} Six days thou shalt labour, and do all thy work: {14} But the seventh day is the sabbath of the LORD thy God: in it thou shalt not do any work, thou, nor thy son, nor thy daughter, nor thy manservant, nor thy maidservant, nor thine ox, nor thine ass, nor any of thy cattle, nor thy stranger that is within thy gates; that thy manservant and thy maidservant may rest as well as thou. {15} And remember that thou wast a servant in the land of Egypt, and that the LORD thy God brought thee out thence through a mighty hand and by a stretched out arm: therefore the LORD thy God commanded thee to keep the sabbath day.

The emphasis in the keeping of the Sabbath in Deuteronomy is for their remembrance of their liberation from slavery. Both reflections are very important. Dies Domini devotes several pages to these two reflections.

In the Creator’s plan, there is both a distinction and a close link between the order of creation and the order of salvation. This is emphasized in the Old Testament, when it links the “shabbat” commandment not only with God’s mysterious “rest” after the days of creation (cf. Ex 20:8-11), but also with the salvation which he offers to Israel in the liberation from the slavery of Egypt (cf. Dt 5:12-15). The God who rests on the seventh day, rejoicing in his creation, is the same God who reveals his glory in liberating his children from Pharaoh’s oppression. Adopting an image dear to the Prophets, one could say that in both cases God reveals himself as the bridegroom before the bride (cf. Hos 2:16-24; Jer 2:2; Is 54:4-8).

These three scripture passages are important to read to see the Pope’s point, so I include them below. As an aside, I think it’s necessary for non-Catholics to see the very intense probing of Scripture that the Pope uses to make his points. Having begun to read some of the Popes weekly addresses I find this kind of probing insight coming from him continually. His addresses and writings are thoroughly immersed in the scriptures.

(Hosea 2:16-23 KJV) And it shall be at that day, saith the LORD, that thou shalt call me Ishi; and shalt call me no more Baali. {17} For I will take away the names of Baalim out of her mouth, and they shall no more be remembered by their name. {18} And in that day will I make a covenant for them with the beasts of the field, and with the fowls of heaven, and with the creeping things of the ground: and I will break the bow and the sword and the battle out of the earth, and will make them to lie down safely. {19} And I will betroth thee unto me for ever; yea, I will betroth thee unto me in righteousness, and in judgment, and in lovingkindness, and in mercies. {20} I will even betroth thee unto me in faithfulness: and thou shalt know the LORD. {21} And it shall come to pass in that day, I will hear, saith the LORD, I will hear the heavens, and they shall hear the earth; {22} And the earth shall hear the corn, and the wine, and the oil; and they shall hear Jezreel. {23} And I will sow her unto me in the earth; and I will have mercy upon her that had not obtained mercy; and I will say to them which were not my people, Thou art my people; and they shall say, Thou art my God.

(Jer 2:2 KJV) Go and cry in the ears of Jerusalem, saying, Thus saith the LORD; I remember thee, the kindness of thy youth, the love of thine espousals, when thou wentest after me in the wilderness, in a land that was not sown.

(Isa 54:4-8 KJV) Fear not; for thou shalt not be ashamed: neither be thou confounded; for thou shalt not be put to shame: for thou shalt forget the shame of thy youth, and shalt not remember the reproach of thy widowhood any more. {5} For thy Maker is thine husband; the LORD of hosts is his name; and thy Redeemer the Holy One of Israel; The God of the whole earth shall he be called. {6} For the LORD hath called thee as a woman forsaken and grieved in spirit, and a wife of youth, when thou wast refused, saith thy God. {7} For a small moment have I forsaken thee; but with great mercies will I gather thee. {8} In a little wrath I hid my face from thee for a moment; but with everlasting kindness will I have mercy on thee, saith the LORD thy Redeemer.

Dies Domini continues:

As certain elements of the same Jewish tradition suggest,(12) to reach the heart of the “shabbat”, of God’s “rest”, we need to recognize in both the Old and the New Testament the nuptial intensity which marks the relationship between God and his people.

This is the real Sabbath rest God made for man. He is the Lord of the Sabbath and the rest He desires will be accomplished. The rest all Christians can enjoy is fulfilled in Jesus and was accomplished by His death and resurrection. The ordinances of the Old Covenant, all the sacred calendar days (Ex 12) and sacrifices (Lev 23), which pictured Jesus; as He was their reason for coming into existence in the first place, was in a very real way with Him (Jesus IS the sacred calendar with it’s system of sacrifices and holydays), nailed to the Cross. As Lord of the Sabbath He can, and did, nail them to His Cross.

(Mark 2:28 KJV) Therefore the Son of man is Lord also of the sabbath.

This is how Jesus “fulfilled” the law concerning the Sabbath. The passion and resurrection fulfilled this. This is how the law was not destroyed, but fulfilled. But still, Sabbath is part of the moral law, the natural law, written on the human heart.

(Mat 5:18 KJV) For verily I say unto you, Till heaven and earth pass, one jot or one tittle shall in no wise pass from the law, till all be fulfilled.

The Pope speaks of the fulfillment of the Sabbath in this way.

This aspect of the Christian Sunday shows in a special way how it is the fulfillment of the Old Testament Sabbath. On the Lord’s Day, which, as we have already said, the Old Testament links to the work of creation (cf. Gn 2:1-3; Ex 20:8-11) and the Exodus (cf. Dt 5:12-15), the Christian is called to proclaim the new creation and the new covenant brought about in the Paschal Mystery of Christ. Far from being abolished, the celebration of creation becomes more profound within a Christocentric perspective, being seen in the light of the God’s plan “to unite all things in [Christ], things in heaven and things on earth” (Eph 1:10). The remembrance of the liberation of the Exodus also assumes its full meaning as it becomes a remembrance of the universal redemption accomplished by Christ in his Death and Resurrection. More than a “replacement” for the Sabbath, therefore, Sunday is its fulfillment, and in a certain sense its extension and full expression in the ordered unfolding of the history of salvation, which reaches its culmination in Christ.

This is what God will gradually accomplish, in offering salvation to all humanity through the saving covenant made with Israel and fulfilled in Christ.

How did the Church change from Saturday to Sunday? Was it to capitulate to pagan sun worship? Dies Domini states it this way.

This Christocentric vision sheds light upon another symbolism which Christian reflection and pastoral practice ascribed to the Lord’s Day. Wise pastoral intuition suggested to the Church the christianization of the notion of Sunday as “the day of the sun”, which was the Roman name for the day and which is retained in some modern languages. This was in order to draw the faithful away from the seduction of cults which worshipped the sun, and to direct the celebration of the day to Christ, humanity’s true “sun”.

Writing to the pagans, Saint Justin uses the language of the time to note that Christians gather together “on the day named after the sun”, but for believers the expression had already assumed a new meaning which was unmistakeably rooted in the Gospel. Christ is the light of the world (cf. Jn 9:5; also 1:4-5, 9), and, in the weekly reckoning of time, the day commemorating his Resurrection is the enduring reflection of the epiphany of his glory.

Some accuse the Catholic Church of capitulating to the pressure of pagan Rome and caving in to Sunday worship. But the history of the early church does not bear this out. The change from Sabbath to Sunday was totally the result of a change in Covenant. It was only after the church had internally established the Lord’s Day (Sunday), did it centuries later use it a tool for christianizing the pagan Roman world. There was no capitulation. The metaphor of sun and light became a useful teaching tool. Later in this paper I’ll explain how the Roman Calendar was not based upon a system of a seven-day week. The month was the basic unit of time, divided into three sets of ten days. The division of the month into weeks was introduced into Rome from Egypt. The date is uncertain, but historians say it was not earlier than the second century AD and probably the third century AD.

Some of these scriptures have already been commented on but they bear repeating. I will remark on the Popes comments and then follow up with different material, both historical and scriptural.

Dies Domini:

It was for this reason that, from Apostolic times, “the first day after the Sabbath”, the first day of the week, began to shape the rhythm of life for Christ’s disciples (cf. 1 Cor 16:2).

The change from Sabbath to Sunday didn’t occur immediately; but neither did the understanding of the need for circumcision. The Council of Jerusalem, mentioned in Acts 15, cleared up this issue and gave the Church its definitive and infallible teaching. The import of the resurrection took the Church several decades for the Church to grasp. Jesus didn’t give the disciples instruction either. He did say that He would build His Church and also promise the Holy Spirit that would lead them into all truth. But, the scriptures that we do have do demonstrate this new emphasis on the first day of the week that began to shape the rhythm of life in the early New Testament church. Jesus is beginning to make all things new through His New Covenant. At the Last Supper we have the institution of the New Covenant and the early church slowly begins to realize, with the aid of the Holy Spirit, that this New Covenant brings with it many new changes. Jesus didn’t teach these things to the Apostles while the incarnate God-man. He did say that He had to go to the Father before the Holy Spirit would come. It was the Holy Spirit that would teach the New Covenant Church about the import of Jesus’ passion and resurrection.

(John 16:13-14 KJV) Howbeit when he, the Spirit of truth, is come, he will guide you into all truth: for he shall not speak of himself; but whatsoever he shall hear, that shall he speak: and he will show you things to come. {14} He shall glorify me: for he shall receive of mine, and shall show it unto you.

In Colossians Paul draws the parallel between the Old Covenant rite of circumcision and and the New Covenant rite of baptism. Circumcision is no longer necessary. But notice how this change also brings glory to Christ, reflecting Jesus’ words that the Holy Spirit “shall glorify me”. We follow Jesus’ death and resurrection through our baptism. Jesus is the Way and baptism is our way.

(Col 2:11-13 KJV) In whom also ye are circumcised with the circumcision made without hands, in putting off the body of the sins of the flesh by the circumcision of Christ: {12} Buried with him in baptism, wherein also ye are risen with him through the faith of the operation of God, who hath raised him from the dead. {13} And you, being dead in your sins and the uncircumcision of your flesh, hath he quickened together with him, having forgiven you all trespasses;

Immediately after Paul demonstrates the change in from the circumcision of the Old Covenant to the baptism of the New Covenant the discussion continues with more rites (ordinances) that the New Covenant has changed. So the context is the changes between Old and New Covenant.

(Col 2:14-17 KJV) Blotting out the handwriting of ordinances that was against us, which was contrary to us, and took it out of the way, nailing it to his cross; {15} And having spoiled principalities and powers, he made a show of them openly, triumphing over them in it. {16} Let no man therefore judge you in meat, or in drink, or in respect of an holyday, or of the new moon, or of the sabbath days: {17} Which are a shadow of things to come; but the body is of Christ.

Not only does the New Covenant unbind one from circumcision it also unbinds one from the Jewish festal calendar; including its system of holydays, new moons, and sabbath days. But as the New Covenant gives us New ordinances it also gives us a New Sabbath. And as baptism gives glory to Christ so does the observance of Sunday, the day of resurrection, the day the earth forever changed, glorify and give honor to Christ.

One argument that I remember concerning Col 2:14 was that this passage couldn’t possibly be talking about the Law, the Ten Commandments, because the law is not against us. But we must remember that in 2 Cor 3:7 that in spite of the admitted glory Paul gives to the Old Covenant “engraven in stone”, he also calls it a “ministration of death”.

Another argument was that this passage couldn’t refer to the weekly Sabbath because the plural “sabbaton” is the word translated “Sabbath”. But if you check Mat 28:1; Luke 4:16; and Acts 16:23 the plural “sabbaton” is used, yet Sabbath is translated as singular. Frankly, only scholars schooled in Hebrew and Greek should seek be given consideration in biblical studies when the debate is about original languages. In the vast majority of cases a good translation will be sufficient to understand most passages.

My Navarre Commentary gives a rather complete commentary on each of the phrases of this passage of Scripture. I’m including the commentary given to each phrase of this passage to convey the complete meaning of the passage. The commentary makes sense of the complete passage, especially in light of the thought of the Jewish community and their traditions that Paul would be familiar in the mid-first century; as well as problems being caused because of influence of contemporary pagan philosophies influencing the Church laity as well. Both were being addressed by Paul in his letter to the Colossians. Commenting on Col 2:15 it says:

Jesus is the only mediator between God and man. The angelic principalities and powere are insignificant by comparison with him: God has overpowered them and publicly exposed them through the death of his Son. The sentence seems to evoke the idea of the parade of a victorious general complete with trophies, booty and prisoners.

Some scholars interpret this passage differently; the “public spectacle”, according to their interpretation, would refer to the fact that the good angels had been mediators in the revelation of the Mosaic Law (cf. Gal 3:19) and were being venerated by some contemporary Jews (among them some converts from Colossae) with a form of worship bordering on superstition. God would have caused them to become “a public spectacle” when they acted as a kind of escort in Christ’s victory parade. Thus, both interpretations lead to the conclusion that angels, who are Christ’s servants, should not be rendered the worship due to him alone, even though they do play an important part in God’s plan of salvation.

The fact that angels (principalities and powers) are part of this passage also draws attention to what was going on in Judaism in the first century AD. This gives greater weight to the idea that Paul was dealing with the element of Judaizing (wanting to hold on to the Old Covenant practices that were no longer necessary) going on in the church at Colosse and Paul needed to deal with it in his letter. The whole beginning of the Book of Hebrews demonstrates that Jesus in higher than the angels. The Navarre Bible Commentary comments on Heb 1:4.

The prologue ends with a very important statement, which introduces the theme of the rest of the first chapter; Christ is superior to the angels. To understand this comparison of Christ with the angels, one needs to bear in mind the outlook of the Jews at the time. The period immediately prior to the New Testament had seen a considerable development of devotion to angels among the ordinary religious Jews; with the result that this was the danger of Jesus, because he was a man, in some way being seen as on a lower level that angels who, created beings though they are, are pure spirits. In the Acts of the Apostles (cf. Acts 23:9), we find the Pharisees in the Sanhedrin surmising that St. Paul’s preaching may result from revelation given him by an angel; and belief in the existence of angels was a point of contention between Pharisees and Sadducees (cf. Acts 23:7). For this reason the author of Hebrews wants to make it quite clear to Christians of Jewish origin that Jesus is much more than an angelic being.

Navarre Commentary on Col 2:16-18

The text points to the abuses which were in evidence at Colossae due to the inroads of pre-Gnostic heresies. These abuses had to do basically with three points – abstention from certain kinds of food, celebration of certain feasts (v. 16) and exaggerated veneration of angelic spirits (v. 18).

The days of the new moon (cf. Lev 23:24) were Jewish festivals which went back to the nomadic period. In Saul’s time they had become traditional feasts celebrated with a sacred meal and the offering of sacrifice (cf. 1 Sam 20:24ff). Later, Ezekiel specified certain liturgical and sacrificial rites to be celebrated in the temple at the start of each month (cf. Ezek 46:3).

The “Sabbath” was of course the weekly Jewish holy day, a day kept for Yahweh, which he himself had sanctified (Ex 20:11), It was a day devoted to rest and prayer and was marked by religious rites and ceremonies.

Abstinence from certain types of food and drink was carefully regulated in the Old Testament (cf. Lev 10:9; 11:1-47; Num 6:3), as were the festivals to be celebrated in Yahweh’s honor (cf. Num 28:1-26). These prescriptions were not meant to be permanent; they were designed to prepare the chosen people for the coming of the Messiah. In the new stage of salvation history inaugurated by Christ it is no longer necessary to continue to burden men’s consciences with out-of-date regulations (cf. Gal 4:9-10).

St. Paul explains this by using a simile: the Old Law is as it were the shadow of the New Law promulgated by Christ. A shadow indicates that a body is present. The Mosaic Law, the shadow, had the function of marking the way until the coming of Christ; but now that he has come and promulgated the New Law, it would not make sense to give greater importance to the shadow than to the body which casts it.

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“The first day after the Sabbath” was also the day upon which the faithful of Troas were gathered “for the breaking of bread”, when Paul bade them farewell and miraculously restored the young Eutychus to life (cf. Acts 20:7-12).

As commented on before the first day gathering for “the breaking of bread” is the language of the celebration of the Eucharist. It’s also worthy to note that when Paul went to the synagogues on the Sabbath day there is never comment given the breaking of bread. Paul is simply going to evangelize those who would come to the synagogue, not to participate in a worship service. You don’t see Christians, those already converted, going on any regular basis to the synagogue to worship. You do see Paul going to the unconverted., both Jew and Gentile. To the Jews Paul is becoming as a Jew to win them to Christ.

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The Book of Revelation gives evidence of the practice of calling the first day of the week “the Lord’s Day” (1:10).

As commented on before “the Lord’s Day” became the name for Sunday. The following is from Holman’s Bible Dictionary. This is common knowledge from history. If one studies the liturgical nature of the Book of Revelation on can easily see that this vision makes sense to occur on a Sunday as it was the day the early Christians came to worship.

LORD’S DAY A designation for Sunday, the first day of the week, used only once in the New Testament (Rev. 1:10). The Greek word for “Lord’s,” however, is precisely the same as that used in the term for “Lord’s Supper” (1 Cor. 11:20). In fact, the Didache, an early Christian manual for worship and instruction, links the two terms together, indicating that the Lord’s Supper was observed each Lord’s Day (14:1). Herein may lie the origin of the term. Because the first day of the week was the day on which the early Christians celebrated Lord’s Supper, it became known as Lord’s Day, the distinctively Christian day of worship.

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This would now be a characteristic distinguishing Christians from the world around them. As early as the beginning of the second century, it was noted by Pliny the Younger, governor of Bithynia, in his report on the Christian practice “of gathering together on a set day before sunrise and singing among themselves a hymn to Christ as to a god”. And when Christians spoke of the “Lord’s Day”, they did so giving to this term the full sense of the Easter proclamation: “Jesus Christ is Lord” (Phil 2:11; cf. Acts 2:36; 1 Cor 12:3). Thus Christ was given the same title which the Septuagint used to translate what in the revelation of the Old Testament was the unutterable name of God: YHWH.

The Lord’s Day was the Day of YHVH. No longer was the name unspoken but through the victory of the resurrection but given it’s day of proclamation. On Easter Catholics sing the text of Psalm 118: a prophesy of Christ becoming our salvation. This day, the day of resurrection, is a day marvelous in our eyes. This is the day we rejoice and are glad. It is the day of the fulcrum of history; it is the day YHVH, to unspoken name of God, brings salvation to His people. It is the day the Church proclaims to speak to the world its salvation, eternal life, and victory over death.

(Psa 118:21-24 KJV) I will praise thee: for thou hast heard me, and art become my salvation. {22} The stone which the builders refused is become the head stone of the corner. {23} This is the LORD’S doing; it is marvellous in our eyes. {24} This is the day which the LORD hath made; we will rejoice and be glad in it.

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In those early Christian times, the weekly rhythm of days was generally not part of life in the regions where the Gospel spread, and the festive days of the Greek and Roman calendars did not coincide with the Christian Sunday.

It is part of the historical record that Sunday was not a day of worship to the sun when the early Apostolic Church began the observance of Sunday. The Greek and Roman calendars of the first century AD didn’t even follow a seven-day weekly pattern. The Assistant Keeper of Greek and Roman Antiquities, F.N. Pryce said:

“… both for Greeks and Romans the month was the unit and not the week. The Greek calendar varied in different states but the month was generally divided into three periods of ten days. The Romans reckoned from three fixed points in the month, the Kaleend or first, the Nones fifth or seventh, the Ides thirteenth or fifteenth. These subdivisions in themselves had no religious significance. Also in the Roman calendars were nundinal, or market days, at periods of eight days. On these days farm work, etc., stopped and citizens flocked into the town markets. To some extent this may be a regular stoppage of secular work; but it had no religious significance.”

This is a well-known fact of history. I could list several other authorities that would state the same thing.

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For Christians, therefore, it was very difficult to observe the Lord’s Day on a set day each week. This explains why the faithful had to gather before sunrise. Yet fidelity to the weekly rhythm became the norm, since it was based upon the New Testament and was tied to Old Testament revelation. This is eagerly underscored by the Apologists and the Fathers of the Church in their writings and preaching where, in speaking of the Paschal Mystery, they use the same Scriptural texts which, according to the witness of Saint Luke (cf. 24:27, 44-47), the Risen Christ himself would have explained to the disciples. In the light of these texts, the celebration of the day of the Resurrection acquired a doctrinal and symbolic value capable of expressing the entire Christian mystery in all its newness.

It was this newness which the catechesis of the first centuries stressed as it sought to show the prominence of Sunday relative to the Jewish Sabbath. It was on the Sabbath that the Jewish people had to gather in the synagogue and to rest in the way prescribed by the Law. The Apostles, and in particular Saint Paul, continued initially to attend the synagogue so that there they might proclaim Jesus Christ, commenting upon “the words of the prophets which are read every Sabbath” (Acts 13:27).

Some communities observed the Sabbath while also celebrating Sunday.

Soon, however, the two days began to be distinguished ever more clearly, in reaction chiefly to the insistence of those Christians whose origins in Judaism made them inclined to maintain the obligation of the old Law.

Saint Ignatius of Antioch writes: “If those who were living in the former state of things have come to a new hope, no longer observing the Sabbath but keeping the Lord’s Day, the day on which our life has appeared through him and his death …, that mystery from which we have received our faith and in which we persevere in order to be judged disciples of Christ, our only Master, how could we then live without him, given that the prophets too, as his disciples in the Spirit, awaited him as master?”.

By 110 AD Sunday became the custom of the church. There is no struggle in recorded history of those who opposed Sunday observance. If the Sabbath was an issue of such magnitude history would have certainly recorded the struggle. There is sufficient information in recorded history as to the goings on of the Church where one can get hints from both scripture and history to see that the seventh day Sabbath and/or the observance of Sunday was never an issue that caused a division in the church. There may not be an abundance of information, but there certainly is a sufficient historical record for us to understand the development of the Apostolic Church and those generations that immediately followed. The New Testament does allude to the threat of Gnosticism that indeed did become a struggle and doctrinal heresy that afflicted the Church. There is plenty in the historical record that informs us of this struggle.

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Saint Augustine notes in turn: “Therefore the Lord too has placed his seal on his day, which is the third after the Passion. In the weekly cycle, however, it is the eighth day after the seventh, that is after the Sabbath, and the first day of the week”.

St. Ambrose, another church leader of the 4th century says this concerning the eighth day. Sunday was not only the first day of the week, but also the eighth day. Early Church baptisteries were often octagonal in shape to highlight the rebirth of creation, which baptism symbolizes. Again, Jesus is making all things new. Remember when Jesus’ side was pierced with a lance out flowed blood and water. According to Catholic theology, the blood is naturally symbolic of the forgiveness of sins, but the water symbolizes our being washed in baptism.

(Rom 6:4 KJV) Therefore we are buried with him by baptism into death: that like as Christ was raised up from the dead by the glory of the Father, even so we also should walk in newness of life.

(2 Cor 5:17 KJV) Therefore if any man be in Christ, he is a new creature: old things are passed away; behold, all things are become new.

a quote from St. Ambrose.

“The number 8 was, for ancient Christianity, the symbol of the Resurrection, for it was on the day after the Sabbath, and so the eighth day, that Christ rose from the tomb. Furthermore, the seven days of the week are the image of the time of this world, and the eighth day of life everlasting [this understanding was also that of the Jews]. 
Sunday is the liturgical commemoration of this eighth day, and so at the same time a memorial of the Resurrection and a prophecy of the world to come. Into this eighth day, inaugurated by Christ, the Christian enters by his Baptism. We are in the presence of a very ancient baptismal symbolism, to which it may well be that St. Peter alludes in his first Epistle.
1 Pet3:20 – ‘In the body he was put to death, in the spirit he was raised to life, and, in the spirit, he went to preach to the spirits in prison. They refused to believe long ago, while God patiently waited to receive them, in Noah’s time when the ark was being built. In it only a few, that is eight souls, were saved through water. It is the baptism corresponding to this water which saves you now …’, and which occurs frequently in ancient Christianity.”

from the Catechism of the Catholic Church paragraph 349

“The eighth day. But for us a new day has dawned: the day of Christ’s Resurrection. The seventh day completes the first creation. The eighth day begins the new creation. Thus, the work of creation culminates in the greater work of redemption. The first creation finds its meaning and its summit in the new creation in Christ, the splendor of which surpasses that of the first creation.”

continue Dies Domini:

The distinction of Sunday from the Jewish Sabbath grew ever stronger in the mind of the Church, even though there have been times in history when, because the obligation of Sunday rest was so emphasized, the Lord’s Day tended to become more like the Sabbath.

Moreover, there have always been groups within Christianity which observe both the Sabbath and Sunday as “two brother days”.

This was going on in the time of St. Gregory of Nyssa who lived in the latter half of the 4th century. The Marionite Liturgy stresses the link between the Sabbath and Sunday, beginning with the “mystery of Holy Saturday”. The Catholic Church provides flexibility through its different liturgical rites provided certain norms are universally kept. The following is the Byzantine Catholic vespers stichera for Holy Saturday (the day before Easter Sunday).

This day was symbolically foreshadowed by the great Moses, when he said: “And God blessed the seventh day.” For this is the blessed Sabbath; this is the day of resting, because on this day he rested from all his labor the only-begotten Son of God; in this respect, death became a Sabbath rest; then, returning to what HE IS, by His resurrection He gave us, too, eternal life; for He is good, and He loves mankind.

This gives some background into the Catholic understanding of the Sabbath. First, the Catholic Church has a friendly relationship with the Jews. The Catholic Churches official documents demonstrate friendliness to those who don’t believe as they believe. The Catholic Church welcomes non-Catholic denominations as brothers, as fellow Christians. It will not call non-Catholics non-Christians. It respects all men, regardless of religion, as children of God made in His image and worthy of full dignity and respect. Therefore, the many outrageous accusations made against the Catholic Church are totally false. The Catholic Church prays for peace in our world, wisdom to be given to world leaders, the dignity of all humans from conception to natural death, in every one of their liturgical celebrations. The blood of the Catholic faithful, as well as many faithful Protestants, is spilled yearly for spreading the news of Jesus’ message of eternal life through belief in Him. There are hundreds of hospitals and orphanages that are supported and operated by the Catholic faithful. They are at the forefront of the battle to end abortion. I hope to inform those who falsely accuse her of their error and to see the God given goodness of the Catholic Church.

In regards to the Sabbath there is a clear consistency with the Biblical record, the historical record, and the internal record of the Catholic Church that tells the story of the early church and how the early church came to see the magnitude of Christ’s accomplishment in His cross for our redemption. Changes didn’t happen overnight. But Jesus changed everything. He began to make everything new. Jesus began the creation of the New Heaven and the New Earth through His New Covenant which began on the eighth day. As the first Adam found light and life on the first day of his existence in the Old Creation, Sunday, so Christ, the second Adam, restores light and life on the first day of the New Creation, Sunday. The whole sacred calendar with its Sabbaths and sacrifices pointed to and were fulfilled through the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ. Not one jot or tittle of the law was destroyed – all was fulfilled. One the first day of the Old Creation God said Let there be light and there was light and God saw that it was good. On the first day of the New Creation God again said, Let there be light and there was light and God said I am the light of the world: he that follows me shall not walk in darkness, but shall have the light of life.

Come unto me, all ye that labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.

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