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Yemenite Jew blowing the shofar (ram's-horn trumpet) for Sabbath in the 1930s.

Non-Sabbatarianism is the affirmation of the religious liberty not to observe a weekly rest or worship day (Sabbath), usually in Christianity. While keepers of weekly days usually also believe in religious liberty,[1] non-Sabbatarians believe themselves particularly free to uphold Sabbath principles, or not, without limiting observance to either Saturday or Sunday.


Sabbath in the Bible is informed by the Genesis creation narrative and has a formal origin before the giving of the Ten Commandments. By the time of Jesus, an emphasis on freedom from legalistic Sabbaths had arisen (compare Is. 1:13). Some of Jesus's teachings are considered as redefining the Pharisees' Sabbath laws (Lk. 13:10-17, Jn. 5:16-18, 9:13-16).[2] Since Jesus is understood to have fulfilled the Law of Moses (Mk. 2:28, Mt. 5:17, Antithesis of the Law), non-Sabbatarian Christians believe that they are not bound by Sabbath as Sabbatarians consider themselves to be. Non-Sabbatarians can thus exhibit Christian liberty or antinomianism. On principles of religious liberty, non-Sabbatarian Jews similarly affirm their freedom not to observe Shabbat as Orthodox Jews do.

The 29th canon of the Council of Laodicea (late 4th century) states that Christians must not Judaize by resting on Sabbath but must work that day and then if possible rest on the Lord's Day, and that any found to be Judaizers are anathema from Christ.[3][4] Historical figures such as Justin Martyr, Augustine, and Luther taught that Sabbath according to the Decalogue does not apply in a binding fashion to Christians. Historical non-Sabbatarians from later times include the Anglicans Peter Heylin, William Paley, and John Milton; the nonconformist Philip Doddridge; the Quaker Robert Barclay; and the Congregationalist James Baldwin Brown.[5] Some modern Christians do not see themselves as required to observe a day of rest either on Saturday or Sunday.[6][7]


Many Christian theologians believe that Sabbath observance is not binding for Christians today,[8][9] citing for instance Col. 2:16-17.[10]

Some Christian non-Sabbatarians advocate physical Sabbath rest on any chosen day of the week,[11] and some advocate Sabbath as a symbolic metaphor for rest in Christ; the concept of "Lord's Day" is usually treated as synonymous with "Sabbath". This non-Sabbatarian interpretation usually states that Jesus's obedience and the New Covenant fulfilled the laws of Sabbath, the Ten Commandments, and the Law of Moses, which are thus considered not to be binding moral laws, and sometimes considered abolished or abrogated. While Sunday is often observed as the day of Christian assembly and worship, in accordance with church tradition, Sabbath commandments are dissociated from this practice.

Non-Sabbatarian Christians also cite 2 Cor. 3:2-3, in which believers are compared to "a letter from Christ, the result of our ministry, written ... not on tablets of stone but on tablets of human hearts"; this interpretation states that Christians accordingly no longer follow the Ten Commandments with dead orthodoxy ("tablets of stone"), but follow a new law written upon "tablets of human hearts". 3:7-11 adds that "if the ministry that brought death, which was engraved in letters on stone, came with glory ..., will not the ministry of the Spirit be even more glorious? .... And if what was fading away came with glory, how much greater is the glory of that which lasts!" This is interpreted as teaching that New Covenant Christians are not bound by the Mosaic Law, and that Sabbath-keeping is not required. Further, because "love is the fulfillment of the law" (Rom. 13:10), the new-covenant "law" is considered to be based entirely upon love and to rescind Sabbath requirements.

Spiritual rest[edit]

Non-Sabbatarians who affirm that Sabbath-keeping remains for God's people (as in Heb. 3:7-4:11) frequently regard this as present weeklong spiritual rest or future heavenly rest rather than as physical weekly rest. For instance, Irenaeus saw Sabbath rest from secular affairs for one day each week as a sign of the way that Christians were called to permanently devote themselves to God[12] and an eschatological symbol.[13] One such interpretation of Hebrews states that seventh-day Sabbath is no longer relevant as a regular, literal day of rest, but instead is a symbolic metaphor for the eternal salvation "rest" that Christians enjoy in Christ, which was in turn prefigured by the promised land of Canaan.

"The NT indicates that the sabbath followed its own channel and found its goal in Christ's redemptive work [John 5:17, cf. 7:23, Colossians 2:16, Matthew 11:28–12:14, Hebrews 3:7–4:11]. It is true to the NT to say that the Mosaic sabbath as a legal and weekly matter was a temporary symbol of a more fundamental and comprehensive salvation, epitomized by and grounded in God's own creation sabbath, and brought to fulfillment (in already–not yet fashion) in Christ's redemptive work. Believers are indeed to 'keep sabbath,' no longer by observance of a day of the week but now by the upholding of that to which it pointed: the gospel of the [Kingdom of God]."[14]

Weekly rest[edit]

Lutheran writer Marva Dawn keeps a whole day as Sabbath, advocating for rest during any weekly complete 24-hour period[11] and favoring rest from Saturday sunset to Sunday sunset,[15] but regarding corporate worship as "an essential part of God's Sabbath reclamation."[16]


Many early Christian writers beginning in the second century, such as pseudo-Barnabas, Irenaeus, Justin Martyr, and Hippolytus, interpreted Sabbath not as a continuing literal day of rest, but (following rabbinic Judaism) as a thousand-year reign of Messiah, which would follow six millennia of world history.[17]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Berkowitz, Richard & Michele (1991). Shabbat. Baltimore: Lederer Publications. pp. 11–2. ISBN 1880226006. We have a remembrance–a physical Sabbath day–to remind us anew of our spiritual freedom in him .... Observance paints a sacred picture of what it is like to be united in faith with Messiah Yeshua. One other reason to observe Shabbat is God has a blessing for us. 
  2. ^ Edersheim, Alfred (1994). "Sabbath in the Temple". The Temple: Its Ministry and Services (updated ed.). Peabody, Massachusetts: Hendrickson Publishers. pp. 149–50. ISBN 1565631366. There was scarcely any Divine ordinance, which the Rabbis, by their traditions, rendered more fully void, and converted into [a yoke], than the Sabbath law. [Christ] exhibited the true meaning and object of the Sabbath. Never did the antagonism between the spirit and the letter more clearly appear. 
  3. ^ NPNF2-14. The Seven Ecumenical Councils | Christian Classics Ethereal Library
  4. ^ Eusebius, in Life of Constantine 3.18, claims Constantine stated: "Let us then have nothing in common with the detestable Jewish crowd; for we have received from our Saviour a different way."
  5. ^ Bauckham, R. J. (1982). "Sabbath and Sunday in the Protestant Tradition". In Carson, D. A. From Sabbath to Lord's Day. Zondervan. pp. 311–342. 
  6. ^ e.g., Ashton, Michael. Sunday and the Sabbath - Bible teaching about God's day of rest. The Christadelphian Magazine and Publishing Association, Birmingham, 1993.
  7. ^ "Should Christians Keep The Sabbath Today?". Aletheia College. 
  8. ^ S. Bacchiocchi, From Sabbath to Sunday (Rome: The Pontifical Gregorian University Press, 1977); R. J. Bauckham, "The Lord's Day" and "Sabbath and Sunday in the Postapostolic Church" in From Sabbath to Lord's Day, ed. D. A. Carson (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1982), 221–98; R. T. Beckwith and W. Stott, This Is the Day (London: Marshall, Morgan & Scott, 1978); H. Bietenhard, "Lord, Master," NIDNTT, 2:508–20; R. H. Charles, Revelation of St. John (2 vols.; ICC; Edinburgh: T & T Clark, 1920); J. S. Clemens, "Lord's Day" in Dictionary of the Apostolic Church, ed. J. Hastings (2 vols.; Edinburgh: T & T Clark, 1915), 1:707–10; A. Deissmann, Light from the Ancient East (Grand Rapids: Baker, 1965, repr.); J. D. G. Dunn, The Epistles to the Colossians and to Philemon (NIGTC; Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1996); T. C. Eskenazi et al., eds., The Sabbath in Jewish and Christian Traditions (New York: Crossroad, 1991); J. A. Fitzmyer, "κύριος, κυριακός", EDNT 2:331; W. Foerster, "κυριακός", TDNT 3:1095–96; C. N. Jefford, "Did Ignatius of Antioch Know the Didache?" in The Didache in Context, ed. C. N. Jefford (NovTSup 77; Leiden: E. J. Brill, 1995), 330–51; J. Jeremias, "πάσχα," TDNT 5:896–904; P. K. Jewett, The Lord's Day (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1971); J. Laansma, "'I Will Give You Rest': The Background and Significance of the Rest Motif in the New Testament with Special Reference to Mt 11 and Heb 3–4" (Ph.D. dissertation, University of Aberdeen, 1995; Tübingen: J. C. B. Mohr, forthcoming); Martin, R. P., & Davids, P. H. (2000) [1997], Dictionary of the later New Testament and its developments (electronic ed.), Downers Grove, Illinois: InterVarsity Press; J. Murray, "Romans 14:5 and the Weekly Sabbath" in Epistle to the Romans (NICNT; Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1959, 1965) 257–59; W. Rordorf, Sabbat und Sonntag in der Alten Kirche (Zürich: Theologischer Verlag, 1972) [texts of primary sources]; W. Rordorf, "Sunday" (London: SCM, 1968); W. Rordorf, "Sunday: The Fullness of Christian Liturgical Time," StudLit 14 (1982) 90–96; W. R. Schoedel, Ignatius of Antioch (Herm; Philadelphia: Fortress, 1985); C. Spicq, "κυριακός" in Theological Lexicon of the New Testament (3 vols.; Peabody, Massachusetts: Hendrickson, 1994) 2:338–40; W. Stott, "A Note on the Word ΚΥΡΙΑΚΗ in Rev. 1:10", NTS 12 (1965) 70–75; W. Stott, "Sabbath, Lord's Day," NIDNTT 3:405–15; K. A. Strand, ed., The Sabbath in Scripture and History (Washington, D.C.: Review and Herald Publishing Association, 1982); M. M. B. Turner, "The Sabbath, Sunday and the Law in Luke-Acts" in From Sabbath to Lord's Day, ed. D. A. Carson (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1982) 99–157.
  9. ^ P. S. Alexander, "Aqedah", in Dictionary of Biblical Interpretation, ed. R. J. Coggins and J. L. Houlden (Philadelphia: Trinity Press International, 1990) 44–47; J. Behm, "θύω κτλ," TDNT III.180–90; R. J. Daly, The Origins of the Christian Doctrine of Sacrifice (Philadelphia: Fortress, 1978) 59–65; R. J. Daly, "The Soteriological Significance of the Sacrifice of Isaac", CBQ 39 (1977) 45–75; P. R. Davies and B. D. Chilton, "The Aqedah: A Revised Tradition History", CBQ 40 (1978) 514–46; G. D. Fee, "II Corinthians vi.14—vii.1" NTS 23 (1976–77) 140–61; E. Ferguson, "Spiritual Sacrifice in Early Christianity and Its Environment", ANRW–89; Hawthorne, G. F., Martin, R. P., & Reid, D. G. (1993), Dictionary of Paul and his letters (857), Downers Grove, Ill.: InterVarsity Press; M. Hengel, The Atonement: The Origins of the Doctrine in the New Testament (Philadelphia: Fortress, 1981); J. Jeremias, "πάσχα" TDNT V.896–904; E. L. Kendall, A Living Sacrifice (London: SCM, 1960); H.-J. Klauck, "Kultische Symbolsprache bei Paulus" in Gemeinde—Amt—Sacrament: Neutestamentliche Perspektiven, ed. H. J. Klauck (Würzburg: Echter, 1989), 348–58; J. Lambrecht, "'Reconcile Yourselves' ... A Reading of 2 Cor 5:11–21" in The Diakonia of the Spirit (2 Cor 4:7–7:4) (Rome: Benedictina, 1989); S. Lyonnet and L. Sabourin, Sin, Redemption and Sacrifice (AnBib 48; Rome: Pontifical Biblical Institute, 1970); L. Morris, The Atonement (Downers Grove, Illinois: InterVarsity, 1983) 43–67; F. Thiele and C. Brown, "Sacrifice etc.," NIDNTT 3.415–38; H. Thyen, "θυσία, θύω" EDNT 2.161–63; R. K. Yerkes, Sacrifice in Greek and Roman Religions and Early Judaism (New York: Scribners, 1952); F. M. Young, Sacrifice and the Death of Christ (London: SCM, 1975).
  10. ^ "Colossians 2:16, 17, notes". ESV Study Bible. The false teachers were advocating a number of Jewish observances, arguing that they were essential for spiritual advancement. On 'new moon,' see note on Num. 28:11–15 .... The old covenant observances pointed to a future reality that was fulfilled in the Lord Jesus Christ (cf. Heb. 10:1) .... Christians are no longer obligated to observe ... 'a festival ... new moon ... Sabbath' [Col. 2:16], for what these things foreshadowed has been fulfilled in Christ. It is debated whether the Sabbaths in question included the regular seventh-day rest of the fourth commandment, or were only the special Sabbaths of the Jewish festal calendar. 
  11. ^ a b Dawn, Marva J. (2006). The Sense of the Call: A Sabbath Way of Life for Those Who Serve God, the Church, and the World. pp. 55–6. 
  12. ^ "Against Heresies". 3.16.1. 
  13. ^ "Against Heresies". 4.33.2. 
  14. ^ Martin, R. P., and Davids, P. H. (2000) [1997]. Dictionary of the Later New Testament and Its Developments (electronic ed.). Downers Grove, Illinois: InterVarsity Press. 
  15. ^ Dawn, Marva J. (1989). "Appendix". Keeping the Sabbath Wholly: Ceasing, Resting, Embracing, Feasting. Grand Rapids.  In Bacchiocchi, Samuele (1998). "7". The Sabbath Under Crossfire: A Biblical Analysis Of Recent Sabbath/Sunday Developments. Biblical Perspectives. 
  16. ^ Dawn, Marva J. (2006). The Sense of the Call: A Sabbath Way of Life for Those Who Serve God, the Church, and the World. pp. 69–71. 
  17. ^ Bauckham, R. J. (1982). "Sabbath and Sunday in the Postapostolic Church". In Carson, D. A. From Sabbath to Lord's Day. Zondervan.