Sabbath in Christianity
Sabbath in Christianity is the inclusion or adoption in Christianity of a Sabbath day. Established within Judaism through Mosaic Law, Christians inherited a Sabbath practice that reflected two great precepts: the commandment to remember the Sabbath and keep it holy (Exodus 20:8, the "Sabbath commandment"), and God's blessing of the seventh day (Saturday) as a day of rest (Genesis 2:2-3). The first of these provisions was associated in Judaism with the assembly of the people to worship in the temple or synagogues.
The teachings of Paul the Apostle declared how Christians had been freed from the letter of the Mosaic law (Rom. 7:6) by Christ's divine authority (Mark 2:27-28), through his fulfillment of the law (Mt. 5:17-18) in his resurrection. Not a liberty to disobey the law (Rom. 6:15), the faithful partook of Christ's fulfillment of the law in righteous obedience to him (Rom. 6:16) who with authority interpreted the commandments (Mt. 5:21-37, Mt. 22:36-40) and other laws (Mt. 5:38-48). The law of the Spirit (law of liberty) took precedence over the letter of Mosaic law (Rom. 8:2, Gal. 6:2). This early understanding of the Church (Acts 15:6-35), shared still by the vast majority of Christians today, shaped its growing understanding of the Sabbath and how it applied to the new faith.
The position held by most Western Christian denominations is that observance of the Lord's Day, Sunday, supplanted the Jewish Sabbath, Saturday, in that the former "celebrated the Christian community's deliverance from captivity to sin, Satan, and worldly passions, made possible by the resurrection on the first day of the week." However, beginning about the 17th century, a few groups of Protestants arose to take issue with some of the practice of the churches around them, sometimes also questioning the theology that had been so widely accepted throughout 16 centuries. Mostly Sabbatarians, they broke away from their former churches to form communities that followed Sabbath-based practices that differed from the rest of Christianity, often also adopting a more literal interpretation of law, either Christian or Mosaic.
- 1 History
- 2 Common Theology
- 3 Non-sabbatarian churches
- 4 First-day sabbatarian organizations
- 5 Seventh-day sabbatarian churches
- 6 Other definitions
- 7 Notes
- 8 References
The Hebrew Sabbath, the seventh day of the week, is often spoken of loosely as "Saturday". In the Hebrew calendar, however, the new day begins at sunset, not midnight. The Sabbath therefore coincides with what the modern civil calendar identifies as Friday sunset to Saturday sunset. Similarly, the first day of the week ("Sunday") coincides with Saturday sunset to Sunday sunset. The Sabbath remained on the seventh day in the early Christian church.[note 1] To this day, the Sabbath continues to coincide with the Hebrew Sabbath timing in the church calendars in Catholicism, Orthodoxy, and Oriental Orthodoxy.
The first Hebrew converts to Christianity received the teaching of the apostles and "broke bread" (celebrated the Eucharist) in their homes, but on the Sabbath also continued to pray in the temple as they always had (Acts 2:42,46-47). There were immediate conflicts with Jewish authorities, though, when the apostles taught there about Jesus (Acts 4-5). The conflicts continued and spread to synagogues outside of Judea as the Apostle Paul preached to the Jews (Acts 13), often on the Sabbath (Acts 13:14,44).
As Gentile converts joined the Church, some of the Hebrew Christians began to teach that it was necessary for Gentiles to follow the Mosaic Law and Hebrew practices. At first, the most prominent issue was circumcision (Acts 15:1-5), although the Sabbath remained an issue for longer, as many Jewish Christians continued in Jewish observances. The apostles, at the Council of Jerusalem, jointly rejected the Hebrew teaching, sending representatives to communicate the decision (Acts 15:6-35). The Apostle Paul continued to teach against it as more issues arose in Gentile lands (Gal. 6:12-15, Col. 2:16-17), reminding the faithful of the place of Mosaic law and the law of liberty (Gal. 3:24-25). The teaching of compliance to Mosaic Law and Hebrew practice eventually became known as Judaizing.
Apostolic teaching also stressed the centrality of Christ's resurrection (1 Cor. 15:14). Likewise, its remembrance in the breaking of the bread (Eucharist) was from the earliest times central to Christian worship (Acts 2:42). The Church never considered its celebration to be restricted to a particular day, but it did focus on the celebration of Easter (Pascha), and settled on the first day, Sunday, the day of Christ's resurrection, as its proper day of observance. It soon also established Sunday as a day of weekly festal observance of the resurrection, the "little Easter", the Lord's Day, the day of the week that eventually became most central to Christian worship. Patristic writings attest that by the 2nd century AD, it had become commonplace to celebrate the Eucharist in a corporate day of worship on the first day. A Church Father, Eusebius of Caesarea, stated that for Christians, "the sabbath had been transferred to Sunday".
While the Lord's Day observance of the Eucharist was established separately from the Sabbath, the centrality of the Eucharist itself made it the commonest early observance whenever Christians gathered for worship. In many places and times as late as the 4th century, they did continue to gather weekly on the Sabbath, often in addition to the Lord's Day, celebrating the Eucharist on both days. No disapproval of Sabbath observance of the Christian festival was expressed at the early church councils that dealt with Judaizing. The Council of Laodicea (363-364), for example, mandated only that Sabbath Eucharists must be observed in the same manner as those on the first day. Neander has suggested that Sabbath Eucharists in many places were kept "as a feast in commemoration of the Creation".
The issues about Hebrew practices that continued into the 2nd century tended to relate mostly to the Sabbath. Justin Martyr, who attended worship on the first day, wrote about the cessation of Hebrew Sabbath observance and, echoing the apostles, stated that the Sabbath was enjoined as a temporary sign to Israel to teach it of human sinfulness (Gal. 3:24-25), no longer needed after Christ came without sin. He rejected the need to keep literal seventh-day Sabbath, arguing instead that "the new law requires you to keep the sabbath constantly." With Christian corporate worship so clearly aligned with the Eucharist and allowed on the seventh day, Hebrew Sabbath practices primarily involved the observance of a day of rest.
Day of rest
A common theme in criticism of Hebrew Sabbath rest was idleness, found not to be in the Christian spirit of rest. Irenaeus (late 2nd c.), also citing continuous Sabbath observance, wrote that the Christian "will not be commanded to leave idle one day of rest, who is constantly keeping sabbath", and Tertullian (early 3rd century) argued "that we still more ought to observe a sabbath from all servile work always, and not only every seventh-day, but through all time". This early metaphorical interpretation of Sabbath applied it to the entire Christian life.
Ignatius, cautioning against "Judaizing" in his letter to the Magnesians, contrasts the Jewish Sabbath practices with the Christian life which includes the Lord's Day: "Let us therefore no longer keep the Sabbath after the Jewish manner, and rejoice in days of idleness .... But let every one of you keep the Sabbath after a spiritual manner, rejoicing in meditation on the law, not in relaxation of the body, admiring the workmanship of God, and not eating things prepared the day before, nor using lukewarm drinks, and walking within a prescribed space, nor finding delight in dancing and plaudits which have no sense in them. And after the observance of the Sabbath, let every friend of Christ keep the Lord's [Day, Dominicam] as a festival, the resurrection-day, the queen and chief of all the days."
The 2nd and 3rd centuries solidified the early church's emphasis upon Sunday worship and its rejection of a Jewish (Mosaic Law-based) observation of the Sabbath and manner of rest. Christian practice of following Sabbath after the manner of the Hebrews declined, prompting Tertullian to note "to [us] Sabbaths are strange" and unobserved. Even as late as the 4th century, Judaizing was still sometimes a problem within the Church, but by this time it was repudiated strongly as heresy.
All judges and city people and the craftsmen shall rest upon the venerable day of the sun. Country people, however, may freely attend to the cultivation of the fields, because it frequently happens that no other days are better adapted for planting the grain in the furrows or the vines in trenches. So that the advantage given by heavenly providence may not for the occasion of a short time perish.
While established only in civil law rather than religious principle, the Church welcomed the development as a means by which Christians could the more easily attend Sunday worship and observe Christian rest. At Laodicea also, the Church encouraged Christians to make use of the day for Christian rest where possible, without ascribing to it any of the regulation of Mosaic Law, and indeed, anathematizing Hebrew observance on the Sabbath. The civil law and its effects made possible a pattern in Church life that has been imitated throughout the centuries in many places and cultures, wherever possible.
From ancient times to Middle Ages
Augustine of Hippo followed the early patristic writers in spiritualizing the meaning of the Sabbath commandment, referring it to eschatological rest rather than observance of a literal day. Such writing, however, did serve to deepen the idea of Christian rest on Sunday, and its practice increased in prominence throughout the early Middle Ages.
Thomas Aquinas taught that the Decalogue is an expression of natural law which binds all men, and therefore the Sabbath commandment is a moral requirement along with the other nine. Thus in the west, Sunday rest became more closely associated with a Christian application of the Sabbath, a development towards the idea of a "Christian Sabbath" rather than a Hebrew one. While Sunday worship and Sunday rest combined powerfully to relate to Sabbath commandment precepts, the application of the commandment to Christian life was nevertheless a response within the law of liberty, not restricted to a single day but continuous, and not a displacement of the Sabbath in time.
Continuations of Hebrew practices
Seventh-day Sabbath was observed at least sporadically by a minority of groups during the Middle Ages. An Eastern body of Christian Sabbath-keepers mentioned from the 8th century to the 12th is called Athenians ("touch-not") because they abstained from uncleanness and intoxicating drinks, called Athinginians in Neander: "This sect, which had its principal seat in the city of Armorion, in upper Phrygia, where many Jews resided, sprung out of a mixture of Judaism and Christianity. They united baptism with the observance of all the rites of Judaism, circumcision excepted. We may perhaps recognize a branch of the older Judaizing sects.
Cardinal Hergenrother says that they stood in intimate relation with Emperor Michael II (AD 821-829), and testifies that they observed Sabbath. As late as the 11th century Cardinal Humbert still referred to the Nazarenes as a Sabbath-keeping Christian body existing at that time. But in the 10th and 11th centuries, there was a great extension of sects from the East to the West. Neander states that the corruption of the clergy furnished a most important vantage-ground on which to attack the dominant church. The abstemious life of these Christians, the simplicity and earnestness of their preaching and teaching, had their effect. “Thus we find them emerging at once in the 11th century, in countries the most diverse, and the most remote from each other, in Italy, France, and even in the Harz districts in Germany.” Likewise, also, “traces of Sabbath-keepers are found in the times of Gregory I, Gregory VII, and in the 12th century in Lombardy.”
Protestant reformers, beginning in the 16th century, brought new interpretations of Christian law to the west. According to Bauckham, while Martin Luther and John Calvin repudiated the idea that Christians are bound to obey the Mosaic law, including the fourth commandment of the Decalogue concerning Sabbath, they did follow Aquinas's concept of natural law. They viewed Sunday rest as a civic institution established by human authority, which provided an occasion for bodily rest and public worship. In his work against the Antinomians, Luther rejected the idea that he had taught the abolition of the Ten Commandments. Another Protestant Reformer, John Wesley, stated "This 'handwriting of ordinances' our Lord did blot out, take away, and nail to His cross (Col. 2:14). But the moral law contained in the Ten Commandments, and enforced by the prophets, He did not take away .... The moral law stands on an entirely different foundation from the ceremonial or ritual law .... Every part of this law must remain in force upon all mankind and in all ages."
Sabbatarianism arose and spread amongst both the continental and English Protestants during the 17th and 18th centuries. The Puritans of England and Scotland brought a new rigorism into the observance of the Christian Lord's Day, in reaction to the customary Sunday observance of the time, which they regarded as lax. They appealed to Sabbath ordinances with the idea that only the Bible can bind men's consciences in whether or how they will take a break from work, or to impose an obligation to meet at a particular time. Their influential reasoning spread to other denominations also, and it is primarily through their influence that "Sabbath" has become the colloquial equivalent of "Lord's Day" or "Sunday". Sunday Sabbatarianism is enshrined in its most mature expression, the Westminster Confession of Faith (1646), in the Calvinist theological tradition. Chapter 21, Of Religious Worship, and the Sabbath Day, sections 7-8 read:
7. As it is the law of nature, that, in general, a due proportion of time be set apart for the worship of God; so, in his Word, by a positive, moral, and perpetual commandment binding all men in all ages, he hath particularly appointed one day in seven, for a Sabbath, to be kept holy unto him: which, from the beginning of the world to the resurrection of Christ, was the last day of the week; and, from the resurrection of Christ, was changed into the first day of the week, which, in Scripture, is called the Lord’s day, and is to be continued to the end of the world, as the Christian Sabbath.
8. This Sabbath is then kept holy unto the Lord, when men, after a due preparing of their hearts, and ordering of their common affairs beforehand, do not only observe a holy rest, all the day, from their own works, words, and thoughts about their worldly employments and recreations, but also are taken up, the whole time, in the public and private exercises of his worship, and in the duties of necessity and mercy.
The confession holds that not only is work forbidden in Sunday, but also "works, words, and thoughts" about "worldly employments and recreations." Instead, the whole day should be taken up with "public and private exercises of [one's] worship, and in the duties of necessity and mercy."
Strict Sunday Sabbatarianism is sometimes called "Puritan Sabbath", which may be contrasted with "Continental Sabbath". The latter follows the continental reformed confessions, such as the Heidelberg Catechism, which emphasize rest and worship on the Lord's Day, but do not explicitly forbid recreational activities. However, in practice, many continental Reformed Christians also abstain from recreation on the Sabbath, following the admonition by the Heidelberg Catechism's author Zacharaias Ursinus that "To keep holy the Sabbath, is not to spend the day in slothfulness and idleness".
Though first-day Sabbatarian practice declined in the 18th century, the evangelical awakening in the 19th century led to a greater concern for strict Sunday observance. The founding of the Lord's Day Observance Society in 1831 was influenced by the teaching of Daniel Wilson.
Some Christian non-Sabbatarians advocate physical Sabbath rest on any chosen day of the week, 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.
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 and an eschatological symbol. 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]."
Lutheran writer Marva Dawn keeps a whole day as Sabbath, advocating for rest during any weekly complete 24-hour period and favoring rest from Saturday sunset to Sunday sunset, but regarding corporate worship as "an essential part of God's Sabbath reclamation."
Much of Western Christianity came to view Sunday as a transference of Sabbath observance to the first day, identifying Sunday with a first-day "Christian Sabbath". While first-day Sabbatarian practice declined during the 18th century, leaving few modern followers, its concern for stricter Sunday observances did have influence in the west, shaping the origin of the Christian Sabbath. The term no longer applies to a specific set of practices, but tends to be used to describe the general establishment of Sunday worship and rest observances within Christianity. It does not necessarily imply the displacement of the Sabbath itself, which is often recognized as remaining on Saturday. As such, the Christian Sabbath generally represents a reinterpretation of the meaning of the Sabbath in the light of Christian law, emphases of practice, and values.
In 1998 Pope John Paul II wrote an apostolic letter Dies Domini, "on keeping the Lord's day holy". He encourages Catholics to remember the importance of keeping Sunday holy, urging that it not lose its meaning by being blended with a frivolous "weekend" mentality.
In the Western Catholic Church, Sunday is kept in commemoration of the resurrection of Christ and celebrated with the Eucharist (Catholic Catechism 2177). It is also the day of rest. Lord's Day is considered both the first day and "the eighth day" of the seven-day week, symbolizing both first creation and new creation (2174). Roman Catholics view the first day as a day for assembly for worship (2178, Heb. 10:25), but consider a day of rigorous rest not obligatory on Christians (Rom. 14:5, Col. 2:16). Catholic recommendations to rest on Sunday do not hinder participation in "ordinary and innocent occupations". In the spirit of the Sabbath, Catholics ought to observe a day of rest from servile work, which also becomes "a day of protest against the servitude of work and the worship of money" (Catholic Catechism 2172). This day is often (traditionally) observed on Sunday in conjunction with the Lord's Day (Catholic Catechism 2176).
Cardinal Gibbons affirmed Sunday observances as one of the examples of the Roman Catholic Church's sufficiency as guide:
Now the Scriptures alone do not contain all the truths which a Christian is bound to believe, nor do they explicitly enjoin all the duties which he is obliged to practice. Not to mention other examples, is not every Christian obliged to sanctify Sunday and to abstain on that day from unnecessary servile work? Is not the observance of this law among the most prominent of our sacred duties? But you may read the Bible from Genesis to Revelation, and you will not find a single line authorizing the sanctification of Sunday. The Scriptures enforce the religious observance of Saturday, a day which we never sanctify.—Faith of Our Fathers, Cardinal Gibbons, p. 72 
Orthodox Sunday worship is not a direct Sabbath observance. The Eastern Orthodox Church observes the first day (liturgical Sunday, beginning Saturday evening) as a weekly feast, the remembrance of Christ's resurrection, and a mini-Pascha. As such, it tends to hold the first place within a week's observances, sharing that place only with other major feasts which occur from time to time. The Divine Liturgy is always celebrated, joining the participants on earth with those who offer the worship in God's kingdom, and hence joining the first day to the eighth day, wherein the communion of the whole Church with Christ is fully realized. As such, it is never surpassed as a time for the Orthodox to assemble in worship.
The Church affirms its authority to appoint the time of this feast (and all observances) as deriving from the authority given to the apostles and passed to the bishops through the laying-on of hands, for the sake of the governance of the Church on earth, and under the guidance of the Holy Spirit (John 20:22, John 14:26, Rom. 6:14-18, Rom. 7:6). It does not treat Sunday worship as a transference of Sabbath worship, but identifies the Sabbath, still on Saturday, as a Biblical "type", a precursor, realized fully only after Christ's fulfillment of the Mosaic Law (Mat. 5:17-18). Thus, the Sabbath and the Mosaic Law both remain as a teacher, reminding Christians to worship in holiness, but now according to grace, in Christian observations and Sunday worship.
The grace received in baptism binds the Church to Christ, Who has given his people the freedom to seek him directly in relationship, not to pursue whatever suits one's fancy. The goal of that freedom is always union with Christ in theosis, and the maintenance of that union all the time, throughout this life and into the next, which is sometimes described as the "sanctification of time". Grace therefore never permits of whatever is sinful or unhelpful to salvation, such as laziness or hedonistic revelry. Rather, it becomes a stricter guide for behavior than any legal code, even the Mosaic, and disciplines the believer in some degree of ascetic endeavor (Rom. 6:14-18).
Orthodoxy recognizes no mandated time for rest, a day or any other span, but the Church leads the individual to holiness in different ways, and recognizes the need for economy and for rest. Activities such as sleep, relaxation, and recreation become a matter of balance and proper handling, and acceptance of God's mercy. St. Basil the Great expresses thanks for this in a prayer often said by Orthodox Christians in the morning, after rising: "You do we bless, O Most High God and Lord of mercy, ... Who has given unto us sleep for rest from our infirmity, and for repose of our much-toiling flesh." In recognition of God's gifts, therefore, the Church welcomes and supports civil laws that provide a day away from labor, which then become opportunities for Christians to pray, rest, and engage in acts of mercy. In grace do Christians respond, remembering both the example of the Sabbath rest, and Christ's lordship (Mk. 2:21-28).
Eastern Orthodox and Eastern Catholic churches distinguish between the "Sabbath" (Saturday) and the "Lord's Day" (Sunday), and both continue to play a special role for the faithful. Many parishes and monasteries will serve the Divine Liturgy on both Saturday morning and Sunday morning. The church never allows strict fasting on any Saturday (except Holy Saturday) or Sunday, and the fasting rules on those Saturdays and Sundays which fall during one of the fasting seasons (such as Great Lent, Apostles' Fast, etc.) are always relaxed to some degree. During Great Lent, when the celebration of the Liturgy is forbidden on weekdays, there is always Liturgy on Saturday as well as Sunday. The church also has a special cycle of Bible readings (Epistle and Gospel) for Saturdays and Sundays which is different from the cycle of readings allotted to weekdays. However, the Lord's Day, being a celebration of the Resurrection, is clearly given more emphasis. For instance, in the Russian Orthodox Church Sunday is always observed with an All-Night Vigil on Saturday night, and in all of the Eastern Churches it is amplified with special hymns which are chanted only on Sunday. If a feast day falls on a Sunday it is always combined with the hymns for Sunday (unless it is a Great Feast of the Lord). Saturday is celebrated as a sort of leave-taking for the previous Sunday, on which several of the hymns from the previous Sunday are repeated.
In part, Eastern Christians continue to celebrate Saturday as Sabbath because of its role in the history of salvation: it was on a Saturday that Jesus "rested" in the tomb after his work on the cross. For this reason also, Saturday is a day for general commemoration of the departed, and special requiem hymns are often chanted on this day. Orthodox Christians make time to help the poor and needy as well on this day.
The Ethiopian Orthodox Church (part of the Oriental Orthodox communion) observes both Saturday and Sunday as Sabbaths, but places greater emphasis on Sunday. The Ethiopian Catholic Church practices likewise as does the Eritrean Orthodox Church.
Lutheran founder Martin Luther stated "I wonder exceedingly how it came to be imputed to me that I should reject the law of Ten Commandments...Whosoever abrogates the law must of necessity abrogate sin also." The Lutheran Augsburg Confession, speaking of changes made by Roman Catholic pontiffs, states: "They refer to the Sabbath-day as having been changed into the Lord's Day, contrary to the Decalog, as it seems. Neither is there any example whereof they make more than concerning the changing of the Sabbath-day. Great, say they, is the power of the Church, since it has dispensed with one of the Ten Commandments!" Lutheran church historian Augustus Neander states "The festival of Sunday, like all other festivals, was always only a human ordinance".
Lutheran writer Marva Dawn keeps a whole day as Sabbath, advocating for rest during any weekly complete 24-hour period and favoring rest from Saturday sunset to Sunday sunset, but regarding corporate worship as "an essential part of God's Sabbath reclamation."
The Baptist Church Manual states "We believe that the law of God is the eternal and unchangeable rule of His moral government." As a result of this belief, a small group of Seventh Day Baptists also arose in the early 17th century.
Latter Day Saints
In 1831, Joseph Smith published a revelation commanding his related movement, the formative Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, to go to the house of prayer, offer up their sacraments, rest from their labors, and pay their devotions on the Lord's day (D&C 59:9–12). Latter-day Saints believe this means performing no labor that would keep them from giving their full attention to spiritual matters (Ex. 20:10). LDS prophets have described this as meaning they should not shop, hunt, fish, attend sports events, or participate in similar activities on that day. Elder Spencer W. Kimball taught that mere idle lounging on Sabbath does not keep the day holy, and that Sabbath calls for constructive thoughts and acts (Miracle of Forgiveness, pp. 96–97).
Latter-day Saints are encouraged to prepare only simple foods on Sabbath (D&C 59:13, Is. 58:13) and believe the day is only for righteous activities. In most areas of the world, Latter-day Saints worship on Sunday, but in parts of the world where traditional Sabbath is on another day, such as in Israel or in Saudi Arabia, Latter-day Saints observe local Sabbath.
Most other Latter Day Saint sects also observe Sunday as the Sabbath.
The members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints (Strangite), which followed James Jesse Strang after he produced a letter from Joseph Smith appointing him as his successor, changed to observing Saturday as the Sabbath after Strang claimed a revelation to this effect. A few other small sects which have separated from this group maintain this teaching also.
First-day sabbatarian organizations
The founder of the Moody Bible Institute states, "Sabbath was binding in Eden, and it has been in force ever since. This fourth commandment begins with the word 'remember,' showing that the Sabbath already existed when God wrote the law on the tables of stone at Sinai. How can men claim that this one commandment has been done away with when they will admit that the other nine are still binding?"
Organizations that promote Sunday Sabbatarianism include Day One Christian Ministries.
Seventh-day sabbatarian churches
Seventh-day Protestants regard Sabbath as a day of rest for all mankind and not Israel alone, based on Jesus's statement, "the Sabbath was made for man" (i.e., purposed for humankind at the time of its creation, Mark 2:27, cf. Heb. 4), and on early-church Sabbath meetings. Seventh-day Sabbatarianism has been criticized as an effort to combine Old Testament laws, practiced in Judaism, with Christianity, or to revive the Judaizers of the Epistles or the Ebionites.
Seventh-day Sabbatarians practice a strict seventh-day Sabbath observance, similar to Shabbat in Judaism. John Traske (1586–1636) and Thomas Brabourne first advocated seventh-day Sabbatarianism in England. Their ideas gave rise to the Seventh Day Baptists, formed in early 17th-century in England. Samuel and Tacy Hubbard began the first American congregation on Rhode Island in 1671.
Seventh-day Adventist Church
The Seventh-day Adventist Church arose in the mid-19th century in America after Rachel Oakes, a Seventh Day Baptist, gave a tract about the Sabbath to an Adventist Millerite who passed it on to Ellen G. White.
Fundamental Belief # 20 of the Seventh-day Adventist Church states:
The beneficent Creator, after the six days of Creation, rested on the seventh day and instituted the Sabbath for all people as a memorial of Creation. The fourth commandment of God's unchangeable law requires the observance of this seventh-day Sabbath as the day of rest, worship, and ministry in harmony with the teaching and practice of Jesus, the Lord of the Sabbath. The Sabbath is a day of delightful communion with God and one another. It is a symbol of our redemption in Christ, a sign of our sanctification, a token of our allegiance, and a foretaste of our eternal future in God's kingdom. The Sabbath is God's perpetual sign of His eternal covenant between Him and His people. Joyful observance of this holy time from evening to evening, sunset to sunset, is a celebration of God's creative and redemptive acts. (Gen. 2:1-3; Ex. 20:8-11; Luke 4:16; Isa. 56:5, Isa. 6; Isa. 58:13, Isa. 14 ; Matt. 12:1-12; Ex. 31:13-17; Eze. 20:12, Eze. 20; Deut. 5:12-15; Heb. 4:1-11; Lev. 23:32; Mark 1:32.)—Seventh-day Adventist Fundamental Beliefs
In his book From Sabbath to Sunday, Adventist theologian Samuele Bacchiocchi contended that the transition from the Saturday Sabbath to Sunday in the early Christian church was due to pagan and political factors, and the decline of standards for the Sabbath day.
Latter Day Saints
Members of the Strangite Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints changed to observing Saturday as the Sabbath after James Strang, whom they believe to be the rightful successor of Joseph Smith, claimed to have received a revelation about this. Some other groups which have separated from this movement keep this teaching as well.
By synecdoche the term "Sabbath" in the New Testament may also mean simply a "se'nnight" or seven-day week, namely, the interval between two Sabbaths. Jesus's parable of the Pharisee and the Publican describes the Pharisee as fasting "twice a week" (Greek dis tou sabbatou, literally, "twice of the Sabbath").
Seven annual Biblical festivals, called by the name miqra ("called assembly") in Hebrew and "High Sabbath" in English, serve as supplemental testimonies to Sabbath. These are recorded in the books of Exodus and Deuteronomy and do not necessarily occur on Sabbath. They are observed by Jews and a minority of Christians. Three of them occur in spring: the first and seventh days of Passover, and Pentecost. Four occur in fall, in the seventh month, and are also called Shabbaton: Trumpets; Atonement, "Sabbath of Sabbaths"; and the first and eighth days of Tabernacles.
The year of Shmita (Hebrew שמיטה, literally, "release"), also called Sabbatical Year, is the seventh year of the seven-year agricultural cycle mandated by the Torah for the Land of Israel. During Shmita, the land is to be left to lie fallow. A second aspect of Shmita concerns debts and loans: when the year ends, personal debts are considered nullified and forgiven.
Jewish Shabbat is a weekly day of rest cognate to Christian Sabbath, observed from sundown on Friday until the appearance of three stars in the sky on Saturday night; it is also observed by a minority of Christians. Customarily, Shabbat is ushered in by lighting candles shortly before sunset, at halakhically calculated times that change from week to week and from place to place.
The new moon, occurring every 29 or 30 days, is an important separately sanctioned occasion in Judaism and some other faiths. It is not widely regarded as Sabbath, but some Messianic and Pentecostal churches, such as the native New Israelites of Peru and the Creation Seventh Day Adventist Church, do keep the day of the new moon as Sabbath or rest day, from evening to evening. New-moon services can last all day.
In South Africa, Christian Boers have celebrated December 16, now called the Day of Reconciliation, as annual Sabbath (holy day of thanksgiving) since 1838, commemorating a famous Boer victory over the Zulu.
Many early Christian writers from the 2nd century, such as pseudo-Barnabas, Irenaeus, Justin Martyr and Hippolytus of Rome followed rabbinic Judaism (the Mishna) in interpreting Sabbath not as a literal day of rest, but as a thousand-year reign of Jesus Christ, which would follow six millennia of world history.
Secular use of "Sabbath" for "rest day", while it usually refers to Sunday, is often stated in North America to refer to different purposes for the rest day than those of Christendom. In McGowan v. Maryland (1961), the Supreme Court of the United States held that contemporary Maryland blue laws (typically, Sunday rest laws) were intended to promote the secular values of "health, safety, recreation, and general well-being" through a common day of rest, and that this day coinciding with majority Christian Sabbath neither reduces its effectiveness for secular purposes nor prevents adherents of other religions from observing their own holy days.
- The civil calendar of the ancient Roman Empire, the Julian calendar (founded in 45 BC), marked days loosely in general practice, since the timing of midnight was difficult to determine widely at that time. Thus, the early church easily adopted for its own use the Hebrew calendar's sunset-to-sunset formula for marking the days, even after it began to calculate Easter according to the Julian calendar. Its daily cycle of church services began with Vespers, which was often celebrated just after sunset, in the early evening. This pattern made its way into both Roman and Eastern liturgical practice, and continues in use in the Eastern Orthodox Church to this day.
- Donato, Christopher John (15 March 2011). Perspectives on the Sabbath. B&H Publishing Group. p. 149. ISBN 9781433673375.
The fathers did not regard the Christian Sunday as a continuation of, but as a substitute for, the Jewish Sabbath.
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Significantly, the first Christian writer to suggest that the sabbath had been transferred to Sunday is Eusbius of Caesarea (post 330).
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[Editorial notes of Van Espen]: Among the Greeks the Sabbath was kept exactly as the Lord’s day except so far as the cessation of work was concerned
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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.
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