Christians and the Sabbath

Last update: April 28, 2017

Most Christian denominations today worship on Sunday, or the first day of the week, rather than on the Sabbath, or the seventh day of the week.  Yet, Seventh-day Adventists and other Sabbatarians continue to observe the Sabbath as a “holy day” – along with practicing Jews.  Why?  What is so important about Sabbath observance for Seventh-day Adventists?  And, is it even biblical?

Table of Contents

Common reasons why Adventists continue to keep the Sabbath:

Sabbath observance is one of the Ten Commandments:

Perhaps the primary reason why Adventists continue to observe the 7th-day Sabbath is that it is one of the Ten Commandments written by God’s own finger in stone (Exodus 8:20-11 and Deuteronomy 5:12-15). God does very little writing with His own finger – and only once in stone (Deuteronomy 5:22).  This suggests the permanent nature of the Ten Commandments as a written expression of the Royal Law of Love toward God and toward one’s neighbor (James 2:8; Galatians 5:14; Matthew 22:37-40). Added to this is the fact that only the Decalogue, written by the Finger of God, was placed inside of the Ark of the Covenant.  All of the other Mosaic laws were placed on the outside of the Ark “as a witness against you” (Deuteronomy 31:26).

Jesus kept the Sabbath:

Another common reason cited for Sabbath observance for the Christian is that Jesus kept the Sabbath.  It was His custom to worship in the local synagog on the Sabbath day (Luke 4:16).

And, when accused of breaking the Sabbath, He cited Jewish law that allowed for the breaking of the Sabbath in certain situations – to include a direct service to God (Matthew 12:5) or to relieve the suffering of man or even beast (Luke 13:15; Luke 14:5; Matthew 12:11).  Jesus concluded with the argument: “How much more valuable is a man than a sheep! Therefore it is lawful to do good on the Sabbath.” (Matthew 12:12).

Of course, since this was in fact right in line with Jewish law, there wasn’t much that could be said to contradict this conclusion on the matter.  However, just to drive His point home a bit more, Jesus added, “The Sabbath was made for man, not man for the Sabbath.” (Mark 2:27).  Here Jesus claimed that He had Himself originally created the Sabbath to be a blessing for all of mankind (“anthropos” in the original Greek text) – not just for the Jews. Also, as the Creator of the Sabbath, Jesus claimed to be able to appropriately define the meaning of the day as the “Lord of the Sabbath” (Mark 2:28). It is in this way that Jesus could accurately claim that He truly kept all of the Laws of God perfectly as God actually intended them to be kept (John 15:10).

Even during His own time in the grave, Jesus paid respect to the Sabbath by staying in the tomb over the Sabbath hours.  The same is true for His followers during this time. “Then they went home and prepared spices and perfumes, but they rested on the Sabbath in obedience to the commandment.” (Luke 23:56). This clearly indicates that neither Jesus nor His followers saw any change in Sabbath sacredness following the crucifixion.

Beyond this, Jesus predicted that future Christians would continue their observance of the Sabbath after His time – explaining that His followers should pray that their future flight from the Roman armies, armies that would destroy Jerusalem (some 40 years later in 70 AD), not take place in the winter or on the Sabbath day (Matthew 24:20). The usual counter to this argument is that Jesus said this for practical reasons, not because His disciples would be keeping the Sabbath as a holy day, but so that they could more effectively flee if their flight were not on a Sabbath day (given that the gates of the cities would be closed on the Sabbath).

The problem with this argument, however, is that, according to Josephus, the gates of Jerusalem and the temple itself were miraculously opened (Link). Also, the Roman armies retreated and the Jewish soldiers chased after them – leaving the city and the countryside undefended and wide open for the Christians to escape (Link).  Clearly then, there would have been no physical issue regarding Christian escape if it had been a Sabbath day.  So, this doesn’t seem to be the reason why Jesus reminded the Christians to pray that their flight not take place on the Sabbath day.  Rather, fleeing on the Sabbath day would be less desirable because it would mean that they wouldn’t be able to actually enjoy the Sabbath if they had to flee on that day.

The Sabbath was created in Eden before the Fall of mankind:

At the end of the creation week described in Genesis, “God blessed the seventh day and made it holy, because on it he rested from all the work of creating that he had done.” (Genesis 2:3).

It seems, then, that Jesus originally created the Sabbath day as a special social day of rest from the usual activities of life to have an entire day to spend with especially with God. This was a gift from God for all of humankind – originally given back in Eden before sin had even entered the world.  Why then would such a gift be discarded by the Christian?

The Sabbath will be kept in the New Earth by all mankind:

“As the new heavens and new earth that I make will endure before me,” declares the LORD, “so will your name and descendants endure. From one New Moon to another and from one Sabbath to another, all mankind will come and bow down before me,” says the LORD. (Isaiah 66:22-23)

The disciples of Jesus kept the Sabbath:

It seems as though the disciples of Jesus continued to keep the Sabbath, as Jesus kept it, even after His death and resurrection.  There are many mentions of the disciples and other followers of Jesus coming together to worship on the Sabbath day – as was their custom (Acts 17:2). The Book of Acts alone gives a record of Paul holding eighty-four worship meetings upon that day (Acts 13:14, 44; 16:13; 17:2; 18:4-11).  In fact, the best interpretation of John’s phrase “the Lord’s Day” is that John was talking about the Sabbath (Revelation 1:10).  After all, up until that point in the history of the early Christian Church, only the Sabbath had ever been referred to as “the Lord’s Day” (Mark 2:28 and Isaiah 58:13). This is right in line with the fact that the Christians continued to worship in the temple and in their synagogues, as they had always done (Acts 3:1). No significant changes to their customs of worship are described in the Bible.

There was also never any dispute between the Christians and the Jews about the Sabbath day. This is good evidence that the early Christians still observed the same day that the Jews did.

The Early Christian Church kept the Sabbath:

Historians are in general agreement that the early Christians, Jews and gentiles, continued to observe the Sabbath as a holy day – as well as Sunday in celebration of the resurrection. This is despite the fact that a number of early church fathers favored Sunday observance over the Sabbath – especially starting the second century during the anti-Jewish laws of Emperor Hadrian.

Philo of Alexandria (20 BC – 50 AD):

Philo, who was born and raised in Alexandria, Egypt.  He noted that the seventh day was to be a festival, “not of this or that city, but of the universe” – not to be reserved for the Jews only:

The seventh day is the completion of creation, “for it is the festival, not of a single city or country, but of the universe, and it alone strictly deserves to be called ‘public’ as belonging to all people and the birthday of the world.”

“Every seventh day is sacred, which is called by the Hebrews the sabbath; and the seventh month in every year has the greatest of the festivals allotted to it, so that very naturally the seventh year also has a share of the veneration paid to this number, and receives especial honour.”

“The fourth commandment has reference to the sacred seventh day, that it may be passed in a sacred and holy manner. Now some states keep the holy festival only once in the month, counting from the new moon, as a day sacred to God; but the nation of the Jews keep every seventh day regularly, after each interval of six days; and there is an account of events recorded in the history of the creation of the world, comprising a sufficient relation of the cause of this ordinance; for the sacred historian says, that the world was created in six days, and that on the seventh day God desisted from his works, and began to contemplate what he had so beautifully created; therefore, he commanded the beings also who were destined to live in this state, to imitate God in this particular also, as well as in all others, applying themselves to their works for six days, but desisting from them and philosophising on the seventh day, and devoting their leisure to the contemplation of the things of nature, and considering whether in the preceding six days they have done anything which has not been holy, bringing their conduct before the judgment-seat of the soul, and subjecting it to a scrutiny, and making themselves give an account of all the things which they have said or done; the laws sitting by as assessors and joint inquirers, in order to the correcting of such errors as have been committed through carelessness, and to the guarding against any similar offences being hereafter repeated.”

Philo of Alexandria (Link, Link)

Polycarp of Smyrna (69-155 AD):

Polycarp personally knew the Apostle John, and was his disciple.  All of his life he was devoted to the teachings of John and the other Apostles and was considered to be a Nazarene.  The 15th-century Jewish historian, sometimes called Rabbi Ifaac wrote:

“Polycarp…Born late in the reign of Nero, he became a Nazarene.”

Hoffman , David. Chronicles from Cartaphilus: The Wandering Jew. Published by , 1853. Original from the University of Michigan. Digitized Sep 7, 2007, p. 636

The Nazarenes:

Being a Nazarene meant, of course, that Polycarp continued to observe the Sabbath as a holy day of worship – as did the Apostle John before him since Polycarp was John’s disciple.

As late as the eleventh century, Cardinal Humbert of Mourmoutiers still referred to the Nazarene sect as a Sabbath-keeping Christian body existing at that time (Strong (1874), Cyclopedia, I, New York, p. 660). Modern scholars believe it is the Pasagini or Pasagians who are referenced by Cardinal Humbert, suggesting the Nazarene sect existed well into the eleventh century and beyond (the Catholic writings of Bonacursus entitled “Against the Heretics”). It is believed that Gregorius of Bergamo, about 1250 CE, also wrote concerning the Nazarenes as the Pasagians.

The Minim:

The same appears to be true of those who followed the teachings of the Apostle Paul – including the gentile Nazarenes up into the fourth and fifth centuries. They were sometimes derisively referred to as “Minim” by some of the Jews:

“In fact some Minim of gentile stock, following St. Paul, taught that the Law had been abolished with the exception of the Decalogue…”

Bagatti (Catholic Scholar). The Church from the Circumcision, p. 108

Irenaeus on Polycarp:

This devotion to the teaching of the Apostles was carefully noted by those around him and by those who came after.  For example, Irenaeus, a contemporary of Polycarp (130-220 AD), spoke of Polycarp as follows:

But Polycarp also was not only instructed by apostles, and conversed with many who had seen Christ, but was also, by apostles in Asia, appointed bishop of the Church in Smyrna…always taught the things which he had learned from the apostles, and which the Church has handed down, and which alone are true. To these things all the Asiatic Churches testify, as do also those men who have succeeded Polycarp down to the present time

Irenaeus. Adversus Haeres. Book III, Chapter 4, Verse 3 and Chapter 3, Verse 4.

It is also interesting to note that Irenaeus and Eusebius both record how the Apostles Philip and John, as well as faithful church leaders and martyrs such as Polycarp and Melito, kept the Passover on the 14th of Nisan in accordance with the gospel and would not deviate from it.

Besides observing the Passover exactly on the 14th of Nisan, not always on the Sunday following, Polycarp also observed the Sabbath – as did the Nazarenes in general. Irenaeus, on the other hand, was known as a “peacemaker” and so adopted weekly Sunday observance as well as Easter Sunday observance (not usually on the 14th of Nisan).  He also downplayed Sabbath observance, giving it a metaphysical meaning similar to the Gnostics – despite the influence of Polycarp.

Roman supporters ultimately did largely eliminate the Christian observance of the Passover on the 14th of Nisan – by the decree of the pagan Emperor Constantine in 325 AD.

In any case, while Irenaeus commended Polycarp for blasting the “heretic” Marcion (who tried to do away with the Old Testament, the law, and the Sabbath), he apparently did not think that changing the date of the Passover to Sunday (as some Roman bishops did) or the day of worship to Sunday (as Justin advocated) was heretical.

The account of Polycarp’s death at the stake also appears to cite Sabbath observance by his followers. According to the letter “The Martyrdom of Polycarp” by the Smyrnaeans:

“On the day of the preparation, at the hour of dinner, there came out pursuers and horsemen” and Polycarp was killed “on the day of the great Sabbath at the eighth hour.”

The encyclical epistle of the church at Smyrna, The Martyrdom of Polycarp, Bishop of Smyrna, Verses 7.1 & 8.1. Charles H. Hoole’s 1885 translation

Note: The margin says, “The great Sabbath is that before the passover.”

The use of these two expressions (“day of the preparation” and “the day of the great Sabbath”) strongly indicates that those in Polycarp’s area were still keeping the Sabbath as well as Holy Days, like the Passover, in the latter portion of the second century. Otherwise, since Asia Minor (including Smyrna) was a Gentile area, the terms “preparation day”, which was only used in reference to Friday following the weekly Sabbath day, and “great Sabbath” would not have been relevant.

Vita Polycarpi (3rd to early 4th century):

This work is attributed to Pionius and is dated anywhere from the 3rd to the early 4th century A.D.  Many historians view the Vita Polycarpi as a book of legends and fantastic supernaturalism, quoting non-existent documents, and not of any real historical value beyond what was taking place during the 3rd or 4th centuries. However, many historians view this document as having some historical value, such as in its descriptions of the life and liturgy of the 3rd-century church in Smyrna – as well as Christian interactions with the Jews and pagans. Specifically relevant to this discussion, the Christian community in this region of Smyrna is specifically described, in the Vita Polycarpi, as keeping the Saturday Sabbath in the same manner the Jews – and gathering for Biblical instruction and to celebrate Sabbath as a feast day with their brethren.

Polycrates of Ephesus (125-196 AD):

In the closing decades of the second century, Polycrates, a faithful church leader who had been personally trained by Polycarp, took over a leadership position (and was eventually crucified). He remained prominent Christian leader who was faithful to the example of the Apostles of the Jerusalem Church. Polycrates taught the true Gospel of the literal establishment of the Kingdom of God on earth, the unconscious state of the dead awaiting the resurrection, and the importance of keeping God’s Law.

Toward the end of the second century, Victor, bishop of Rome, had begun labeling Polycrates and those who followed his teachings as heretics—sources of discord and schism in the church. Polycrates remained faithful despite increasing pressure and isolation as well as persecution and hostility from fellow Christians as well as the surrounding pagan society.

Theophilus, Bishop of Antioch (120-190 AD):

And on the sixth day God finished His works which He made, and rested on the seventh day from all His works which He made. And God blessed the seventh day, and sanctified it; because in it He rested from all His works which God began to create…Moreover, [they spoke] concerning the seventh day, which all men acknowledge; but the most know not that what among the Hebrews is called the “Sabbath,” is translated into Greek the “Seventh” (ebdomas), a name which is adopted by every nation, although they know not the reason of the appellation.

Theophilus of Antioch. To Autolycus, Book 2, Chapters XI, XII. Translated by Marcus Dods, A.M. Excerpted from Ante-Nicene Fathers, Volume 2. Edited by Alexander Roberts & James Donaldson. American Edition, 1885. Online Edition Copyright © 2004 by K. Knight

In the fifteenth chapter of this book, Theophilus compares those who “keep the law and commandments of God” to the fixed stars, while the “wandering stars” are “a type of the men who have who wandered from God, abandoning his law and commandments.”

In short, Theophilus bears testimony to the validity and binding nature of the commandments of the Decalogue, including the Sabbath, and says not one word concerning the observance of Sunday or the “Lord’s Day” as a holy day.

Historians on Sabbath Observance by Early Christians:

Edward Brerewood (1565-1613):

“It is certain that the ancient Sabbath did remain and was observed (together with the celebration of the Lord’s day) by the Christians of the East Church, above three hundred years after our Saviour’s death.”

A learned treatise of the Sabbath, written by Mr Edward Brerewood professor in Gresham Colledge, London. (1631)

T. H. Morer (1701):

“The primitive Christians had a great veneration for the Sabbath, and spent the day in devotion and sermons. And it is not to be doubted but they derived this practice from the Apostles themselves, as appears by several scriptures to the purpose.”

Dr. T. M. Morer, Dialogues on the Lord’s Day, p. 189. London: 1701

Jeremy Taylor (1613-1667):

“The primitive Christians did keep the Sabbath of the Jews;…therefore the Christians, for a long time together, did keep their conventions upon the Sabbath, in which some portions of the law were read: and this continued till the time of the Laodicean council.”

“The Whole Works” of Rev. Jeremy Taylor, Vol. IX, p. 416 (R. Heber’s Edition, Vol XII, p. 416).

Dr. Theodor Zahn (1838-1933):

“[The early Christians] observed the Sabbath in the most conscientious manner: otherwise, they would have been stoned. Instead of this, we learn from the book of the Acts that at times they were highly respected even by that part of their own nation that remained in unbelief….

That the observance of Sunday commenced among them would be a supposition which would have no seeming ground for it, and all probability against it….

The Sabbath was a strong tie which united them with the life of the whole people, and in keeping the Sabbath holy, they followed not only the example, but also the command of Jesus.

Geschichte des Sonntags, pp. 13, 14.

Lutheran Bishop Grimelund of Norway (1912-1896):

“The early Christians were of Jewish descent, and the first Christian church in Jerusalem was a Jewish- Christian church. It conformed, as could be expected, to the Jewish law and Sabbath-custom; it had no express instruction from the Lord to do otherwise…

But, one could reason, that for all this it does not follow that one should give up and forsake the ‘Sabbath’ which God Himself has commanded, nor that we should transfer this to another day of the week, even if that is such a memorable day. To do this would require an equally definite command from God, whereby the former command is abolished, but where can we find such a command? It is true, such a command is not to be found.”

“Sondagens Historie,” p. 13-18. Christiania, Norway: Den norske Lutherstiftelses Forlag, 1886.

Johann Gieseler (1792-1854):

The well-known Protestant church historian, Johann Gieseler, explains the situation as follows:

“While the Jewish Christians of Palestine, who kept the whole Jewish law, celebrated of course all the Jewish festivals, the heathen converts observed only the Sabbath, and, in remembrance of the closing scenes of our Saviour’s life, the Passover, though without the Jewish superstitions. Besides these, the Sunday, as the day of our Saviour’s resurrection, was devoted to religious worship”

Church History, Apostolic Age to A.D. 70, Section 29. See also: A Compendium of Ecclesiastical History,” Vol. I, chap. 2, see. 30, p. 92. Edinburgh: 1846.

Peter Heylyn (1599-1662):

And, during the first few hundred centuries, “Sabbath keeping was the practice generally of the Easterne Churches; and some churches of the West… For in the Church of Millaine [Milan]; … it seemes the Saturday was held in a farre esteeme … Not that the Easterne Churches, or any of the rest which observed that day were inclined to Iudaisme [Judaism]; but that they came together on the Sabbath day, to worship Iesus [Jesus] Christ the Lord of the Sabbath.”

Augustine of Hippo, a devout Sunday keeper, attested that the Sabbath was observed in the greater part of the Christian world (Nicene and Post-Nicene Fathers, First Series, Vol. 1, pp. 353-354) and deplored the fact that in two neighbouring Churches in Africa, one observed the seventh day Sabbath, while another fasted on it.

Dr. Peter Heylyn, History of the Sabbath, London 1636, Part 2, para. 5, pp. 73-74, 416) original spelling retained)


Moses B. Stuart (1780-1852):

Professor Stewart, in speaking of the history of the Christian Church during the period from Emperor Constantine to the Council of Laodicea, says:

“The practice of it [the keeping of the Sabbath] was continued by Christians who were jealous for the honor of the Mosaic law, and finally became, as we have seen, predominant throughout Christendom. It was supposed at length that the fourth commandment did require the observance of the seventh-day Sabbath (not merely a seventh part of time). And reasoning as Christians of the present day are wont to do, viz., that all which belonged to the ten commandments was immutable and perpetual, the churches in general came gradually to regard the seventh day Sabbath as altogether sacred.”

Appendix to Gurney’s History, etc., of the Sabbath, pp. 115, 116.

So, after Constantine’s time, there seems to have been in a measure a revival of interest in, and reverence for, the Sabbath in the minds of most Christians throughout the Christian world – especially in the Eastern churches, where the influence of the Western Roman Church was less powerful.

Early Attempts to Remove the Sabbath from Christianity:

Hadrian (76-138 AD):

It is well documented that the early Christian church continued to keep the Sabbath throughout Christendom for a very long time.  However, in Rome and Alexandria Sabbath did observance first started to wane in the early second century. Under Vespasian (69-79 AD) both the Sanhedrin and the high priesthood were abolished, and under Hadrian, the practice of the Jewish religion and particularly Sabbathkeeping were outlawed (around 135 AD). There was, in fact, a growing sentiment against anything resembling Jewishness during this time that was widespread – to include the Christian world as well as the pagan world.

Writers such as Seneca (65 AD), Persius (34-62 AD), Petronius (66 AD), Quintilian (35-100 AD), Martial (40-104 AD), Plutarch (46 AD), Juvenal (125 AD), and Tacitus (55-120 AD), who lived in Rome for most of their professional lives, reviled the Jews racially and culturally. Particularly were the Jewish customs of Sabbathkeeping and circumcision contemptuously derided as examples of degrading superstitions.

Clearly then, Hadrian’s laws were not targetted at Christians, per se, but against the Jews in particular – largely because of the very bloody and costly Jewish revolts. Jerusalem was completely destroyed and then rebuilt as a Roman city with Roman temples. Jews were barred from even entering this city – while Christians were still allowed to enter. The Christians themselves largely got around the anti-Sabbath laws by “doing good deeds” and being generally active on the Sabbath – citing the activity of Jesus Himself on the Sabbath and how doing such activities for God was “lawful” to do on the Sabbath – as Jesus Himself point out.  Fairly quickly, however, the leadership of the Christian churches, especially in the west, saw the expediency of viewing Sabbath observance in a more and more spiritual sense rather than in the literal sense that it had previously been observed.

Research has shown that during the second and third centuries various prominent leaders of the Christian communities endeavored, by being busy doing “divine work” on the Sabbath and allegorizing the meaning of the Sabbath to lessen its status as compared to Sunday or “The Lord’s Day”, to cope with Roman laws against Sabbathkeeping – to include Justin Martyr (100-165 AD), Irenaeus (130-202 AD), Pothinus (87-177 AD), Tertullian (160-220 AD), Clement (150-215 AD), and Origen (185-254 AD).

Justin Martyr (100-165 AD):

Of course, many started to allegorize the meaning and purpose of the Sabbath – according to the teachings of the Gnostics which heavily influenced those in Rome and Alexandria beginning within the 2nd Century. For example, Justin Martyr wrote:

“The Lawgiver is present, yet you do not see Him; to the poor the Gospel is preached, the blind see, yet you do not understand. You have now need of a second circumcision, though you glory greatly in the flesh. The new law requires you to keep perpetual sabbath, and you, because you are idle for one day, suppose you are pious, not discerning why this has been commanded you: and if you eat unleavened bread, you say the will of God has been fulfilled. The Lord our God does not take pleasure in such observances: if any one has impure hands, let him wash and be pure; if there is any perjured person or a thief among you, let him cease to be so; if any adulterer, let him repent; then he has kept the sweet and true sabbaths of God. “

Dialogue with Trypho the Jew Chapter XII.

For we too would observe the fleshly circumcision, and the Sabbaths, and in short all the feasts, if we did not know for what reason they were enjoined you,—namely, on account of your transgressions and the hardness of your hearts. For if we patiently endure all things contrived against us by wicked men and demons, so that even amid cruelties unutterable, death and torments, we pray for mercy to those who inflict such things upon us, and do not wish to give the least retort to any one, even as the new Lawgiver commanded us: how is it, Trypho, that we would not observe those rites which do not harm us, —I speak of fleshly circumcision, and Sabbaths, and feasts?

Dialogue with Trypho the Jew Chapter XVIII.

“Wherefore, Trypho, I will proclaim to you, and to those who wish to become proselytes, the divine message which I heard from that man. Do you see that the elements are not idle, and keep no Sabbaths? Remain as you were born. For if there was no need of circumcision before Abraham, or of the observance of Sabbaths, of feasts and sacrifices, before Moses; no more need is there of them now, after that, according to the will of God, Jesus Christ the Son of God has been born without sin, of a virgin sprung from the stock of Abraham. For when Abraham himself was in uncircumcision, he was justified and blessed by reason of the faith which he reposed in God, as the Scripture tells. Moreover, the Scriptures and the facts themselves compel us to admit that He received circumcision for a sign, and not for righteousness…

As, then, circumcision began with Abraham, and the Sabbath and sacrifices and offerings and feasts with Moses, and it has been proved they were enjoined on account of the hardness of your people’s heart, so it was necessary, in accordance with the Father’s will, that they should have an end in Him who was born of a virgin, of the family of Abraham and tribe of Judah, and of David; in Christ the Son of God, who was proclaimed as about to come to all the world, to be the everlasting law and the everlasting covenant, even as the forementioned prophecies show.”

The Second Apology of Justin for the Christians, Addressed to the Roman Senate. Chapter XXIII and XLIII

As an aside, if Sunday was known as the “Lord’s day” during the last of the first and the early part of the second century, how can we explain the fact that the two strongest advocates of Sunday observance in the second century, Barnabas and Justin Martyr (in fact, the only ones who actually denounced Sabbath observance and urged the observance of Sunday in that period – most of the rest of the church leaders and members during this time clearly continued to observe the Sabbath day as a day of worship) never referred to Sunday as “the Lord’s day”? Although they were trying to find a reason for observing Sunday, yet they always referred to it simply as the first day, or the eighth day; and in one instance Justin used the heathen expression, “he tou heliou hemera,” the day of the sun, in referring to it. If Sunday was then known as “The Lord’s Day,” and these men were urging the observance of it as a replacement for the Sabbath, why did they not use that title, and cite the apostle John as their example? All this seems to indicate that these men and their associates knew nothing about Sunday as “The Lord’s Day.”

In any case, it is quite evident that the idea of being able to keep the Sabbath without actually being “idle,” as were the Jews, was rather widespread among the early second century Christians – despite those like Justin Martyr who wanted to give up the concept of Sabbath observance altogether. Christians during this time faced the constant possibility that, because of some adverse event, the pagans would rise up against them and accuse them, yet again, of causing the gods to become angry. Thus, Christian leaders did what they could to demonstrate by their lives that they were upright, noble citizens – not at all like the unruly Jews.

All this taken into account sufficiently distinguished the Christians from the Jews regarding Sabbath observance in the eyes of the Romans who were, during Hadrian’s time, primarily targeting the Jews themselves. Also, Hadrian’s laws were not evenly enforced throughout the Roman Empire.

However, there is no doubt that the various attitudes of Christians relating to the Sabbath laws of Rome during the second and third centuries paved the way for the more drastic changes that took place in the fourth century, especially during the reign of Emperor Constantine.

Never the less, Sabbath-keeping, the original position of the Church, had already spread west into Europe from Palestine. It spread East into India (Mingana, Early Spread of Christianity, Vol. 10, p. 460) and then into China.

Irenaeus (130-202 AD):

Irenaeus also acknowledged that Christ did not do away with the Decalogue or the law of the Sabbath within the Decalogue.

“Perfect righteousness was conferred neither by any other legal ceremonies. The decalogue however was not cancelled by Christ, but is always in force: men were never released from its commandments.” (ANF, Bk. IV, Ch. XVI, p. 480)

He emphasized, in contrast to the common Jewish position, however, that Jesus said, “It is lawful to do good on the Sabbath” (Matt. 12:12, NKJV). It followed, then, that humanity need not be idle on the Sabbath:

“And therefore the Lord reproved those who unjustly blamed Him for having healed upon the Sabbath-days. For He did not make void, but fulfilled the law. . . . And again, the law did not forbid those who were hungry on the Sabbath-days to take food lying ready at hand: it did, however, forbid them to reap and to gather into barns.”

Beyond this, however, Irrenaeus argued that Sabbath observance, on the 7th-day, was not really necessary – since, according to him, the Patriarchs before Moses did not observe the Sabbath.

“Abraham himself, without circumcision and without observance of Sabbaths, believed God, and it was imputed unto him for righteousness; and he was called the friend of God. James 2:23 Then, again, Lot, without circumcision, was brought out from Sodom, receiving salvation from God. So also did Noah, pleasing God, although he was uncircumcised, receive the dimensions [of the ark], of the world of the second race [of men]. Enoch, too, pleasing God, without circumcision, discharged the office of God’s legate to the angels although he was a man, and was translated, and is preserved until now as a witness of the just judgment of God, because the angels when they had transgressed fell to the earth for judgment, but the man who pleased [God] was translated for salvation. Moreover, all the rest of the multitude of those righteous men who lived before Abraham, and of those patriarchs who preceded Moses, were justified independently of the things above mentioned, and without the law of Moses. As also Moses himself says to the people in Deuteronomy: The Lord your God formed a covenant in Horeb. The Lord formed not this covenant with your fathers, but for you.” Deuteronomy 5:2

Iranaeus, Against Heresies, (Book IV, Chapter 16 – Link)

Tertullian (160-220 AD):

Tertullian pointed out:

“It is lawful to do good on the Sabbath” (Mark 3:4) and went on to explain, “For when it says of the Sabbath-day, ‘In it thou shalt not do any work of thine,’ by the word thine it restricts the prohibition to human work—which everyone performs in his own employment or business—and not to divine work.”

However, Tertullian went on to attack Sabbath observance in more direct terms:

“[L]et him who contends that the Sabbath is still to be observed as a balm of salvation, and circumcision on the eighth day . . . teach us that, for the time past, righteous men kept the Sabbath or practiced circumcision, and were thus rendered ‘friends of God.’ For if circumcision purges a man, since God made Adam uncircumcised, why did he not circumcise him, even after his sinning, if circumcision purges? . . . Therefore, since God originated Adam uncircumcised and unobservant of the Sabbath, consequently his offspring also, Abel, offering him sacrifices, uncircumcised and unobservant of the Sabbath, was by him [God] commended [Gen. 4:1–7, Heb. 11:4]. . . . Noah also, uncircumcised—yes, and unobservant of the Sabbath—God freed from the deluge. For Enoch too, most righteous man, uncircumcised and unobservant of the Sabbath, he translated from this world, who did not first taste death in order that, being a candidate for eternal life, he might show us that we also may, without the burden of the law of Moses, please God”

An Answer to the Jews Chapter II.

As far as Sunday observance, it was, according to Tertullian, all based on tradition – not on scripture:

We count fasting or kneeling in worship on the Lord’s day to be unlawful. We rejoice in the same privilege also from Easter to Whitsunday. We feel pained should any wine or bread, even though our own, be cast upon the ground. At every forward step and movement, at every going in and out, when we put on our clothes and shoes, when we bathe, when sit at table, when we light the lamps, on couch, on seat, in all the ordinary actions of daily life, we trace upon the forehead the sign [of the cross].

If, for these and other such rules, you insist upon having positive Scripture injunction, you will find none. Tradition will be held forth to you as the originator of them, custom, as their strengthener, and faith, as their observer. That reason will support tradition, and custom, and faith, you will either yourself perceive, or learn from some one who has.

Tertullian, De Corona, Sects. 3 and 4.

Then again, at times, Tertullian appears to actually give preference to the Sabbath – even over the observance of “the eigth day”:

For my own part, I prefer viewing this measure of time in reference to God, as if implying that the ten months rather initiated man into the ten commandments; so that the numerical estimate of the time needed to consummate our natural birth should correspond to the numerical classification of the rules of our regenerate life. But inasmuch as birth is also completed with the seventh month, I more readily recognize in this number than in the eighth the honor of a numerical agreement with the Sabbatical period; so that the month in which God’s image is sometimes produced in a human birth, shall in its number tally with the day on which God’s creation was completed and hallowed.

Tertullian, De Anima, chap 37.

In presenting such an argument Tertullian appears to show his faith in the Ten Commandments as the rule that should govern the Christian’s life – and even gives preference to the seventh day as the Sabbath, the origin of which is from God’s act of hallowing the seventh day at creation.

Occasionally, Tertullian also appears to put on equal footing the Sabbath and the Lord’s Day (or Sunday).  In this treatise “On Fasting,” chapter 14., he terms “the Sabbath – a day never to be kept as a fast except at the Passover season, according to a reason elsewhere given.” And, in chapter 15., Tertullian exempts from the two weeks in which meat was not eaten “the Sabbaths” and “the Lord’s days.”

He next declares that Isaiah’s prediction respecting the Sabbath in the new earth (Isaiah 66:22, 23), was “fulfilled in the time of Christ, when all flesh – that is, every nation came to adore in Jerusalem God the Father… Thus, therefore, before this temporal Sabbath [the seventh day], there was withal an eternal Sabbath foreshown and foretold.”

In chapter 6, Tertullian repeats his theory of the “Sabbath temporal” [the seventh day], and the “Sabbath eternal” or the “Spiritual Sabbath,” which is “to observe a Sabbath from all ‘servile works’ always, and not only every seventh day, but through all time.” He says that the ancient law has ceased, and that “the new law” and the Spiritual Sabbath has come whereby every day is the Sabbath.

Yet, in a seeming backpeddle, Tertullian appears to claim that Jesus never actually broke the Sabbath nor did Jesus do away with the Sabbath:

In order that he might, whilst allowing that amount of work which he was about to perform for a soul, remind them what works the law of the Sabbath forbade – even human works; and what it enjoined – even divine works, which might be done for the benefit of any soul, he was called ‘Lord of the Sabbath’ because he maintained the Sabbath as his own institution. Now, even if he had annulled the Sabbath, he would have had the right to do so, as being its Lord, [and] still more as he who instituted it. But he did not utterly destroy it, although its Lord, in order that it might henceforth be plain that the Sabbath was not broken by the Creator, even at the time when the ark was carried around Jericho. For that was really God’s work, which he commanded himself, and which he had ordered for the sake of the lives of his servants when exposed to the perils of war.

Tertullian, Book iv. chap 12.

In this paragraph, Tertullian explains the law of God in the clearest manner. He shows beyond all dispute that neither Joshua nor Christ ever violated it. He also declares that Christ did not abolish the Sabbath. He further explains this seemly contradictory position as follows:

Now, although he has in a certain place expressed an aversion of Sabbaths, by calling them ‘your Sabbaths,’ reckoning them as men’s Sabbaths, not his own, because they were celebrated without the fear of God by a people full of iniquities, and loving God ‘with the lip, not the heart,’ he has yet put his own Sabbaths (those, that is, which were kept according to this prescription) in a different position; for by the same prophet, in a later passage, he declares them to be ‘true, delightful, and inviolable.’ [Isaiah 58:13; 56:2.] Thus Christ did not at all rescind the Sabbath: he kept the law thereof, and both in the former case did a work which was beneficial to the life of his disciples (for he indulged them with the relief of food when they were hungry), and in the present instance cured the withered hand; in each case intimating by facts, ‘I came not to destroy the law, but to fulfill it,’ although Marcion has gagged his mouth by this word.

Tertullian, Book iv. chap 12.

Here Tertullian shows that God did not hate his own Sabbath, but only the hypocrisy of those who professed to keep it. He also expressly declares that the Saviour “did not at all rescind the Sabbath.”  He continues as follows:

For even in the case before us he fulfilled the law while interpreting its condition; [moreover] he exhibits in a clear light the different kinds of work, while doing what the law except from the sacredness of the Sabbath, [and] while imparting to the Sabbath day itself which from the beginning had been consecrated by the benediction of the Father, an additional sanctity by his own beneficent action. For he furnished to this day divine safeguards – a course which his adversary would have pursued for some other days, to avoid honoring the Creator’s Sabbath, and restoring to the Sabbath the works which were proper for it. Since, in like manner, the prophet Elisha on this day restored to life the dead son of the Shunammite woman, you see, O Pharisee, and you too, O Marcion, how that it was [proper employment] for the Creator’s Sabbaths of old to do good, to save life, not to destroy it; how that Christ introduced nothing new, which was not after the example, the gentleness, the mercy, and the prediction also of the Creator. For in this very example he fulfills the prophetic announcement of a specific healing: ‘The weak hands are strengthened’, as were also ‘the feeble knees’ in the sick of the palsy.”

Tertullian against Marcion, b. iv. chap 12.

Although Tertullian is mistaken here in his reference to the Shunammite woman (It was not the Sabbath day on which she went to the prophet: 2 Kings 4:23), he affirms many important truths here.

What we have then in the person of Tertullian is someone who very conflicting thoughts and statements. He often contradicts himself in the most extraordinary manner concerning the Sabbath and the law of God. He asserts that the Sabbath was abolished by Christ, and elsewhere emphatically declares that he did not abolish it. He says that Joshua violated the Sabbath, and then expressly declares that he did not violate it. He says that Christ broke the Sabbath and then shows that he never did this. He represents the eighth day as more honorable than the seventh, and elsewhere states just the reverse. He asserts that the law is abolished, and in other places affirms its perpetual obligation. He speaks of the Lord’s day as the eighth day, (the second of the early writers who makes an application of this term to Sunday, with Clement of Alexandria, A. D. 194, being the first). Also, like Clement, Tertullian uses the term “the eighth day” and teaches a “perpetual Lord’s day” – or, like Justin Martyr, a “perpetual Sabbath” in the observance of every day. He also promotes the bringing of “offerings for the dead” on the Lord’s day – and the perpetual use of the sign of the cross. However, Tertullian expressly affirms that these things rest, not upon the authority of the Scriptures, but wholly upon that of tradition and custom. And, although he speaks of the Sabbath as abrogated by Christ, he expressly contradicts this assertion by writing that Christ “did not at all rescind the Sabbath.”  Beyond this, Tertullian argues that Jesus imparted an additional sanctity to the Sabbath day – which “from the beginning had been consecrated by the benediction of the Father.”

This strange mingling of truth and error plainly indicates the age in which Tertullian lived. He was not so far removed from the time of the apostles but that many clear rays of divine truth shone upon him.  Yet, he was far enough advanced in the age of compromise with pagan concepts and secular civil laws against the Sabbath that he stood on the line between expiring day and advancing night.

See also the commentary of J. N. Andrews on Tertullian: Link


Clement (150-215 AD):

Clement of Alexandria wrote in a similar Gnostic manner regarding Sabbath observance for the Christian:

“For the teacher of him who speaks and of him who hears is one—who waters both the mind and the word. Thus the Lord did not hinder from doing good while keeping the Sabbath; but allowed us to communicate of those divine mysteries, and of that holy light to those who are able to receive them.”

Of course, so far this seems fairly straightforward.  However, Clement goes on to argue more clearly along Gnostic lines as follows:

“The eight day appears rightly to be named the seventh, and to be the true Sabbath, but the seventh to be a working day.”

Rev. A.A. Phelps, in “An Argument for the Perpetuity of the Sabbath,” p. 159

Here Clement argues that Sunday is really the seventh day and that the seventh day (Sabbath) is really the sixth day – and goes on to explain that Sunday is a work day of ordinary labor while Saturday remains a day of rest.  Clement proceeds at length to show the sacredness and importance of the number six – which for him is the Saturday the Sabbath. (Link)

It is also a striking coincidence that the first mention of Sunday as a mystic “eighth day” should be found in the Gnostic pseudo-Barnabas (Link), and that the first mention of the term “Lord’s Day” as a mystic day typifying the renewed life should be made by the Gnostic philosopher Clement of Alexandria – the very one who first endorsed this pseudo-epistle as valid scripture.  He was also the first to forward the solar day of the Pagans as the mystical “eighth day” of the Lord (represented by Sunday and the resurrection with Christ into a new world and a new eternal age of light).

“And they purify themselves seven days, the period in which creation was consummated. For on the seventh day the rest is celebrated; and on the eighth, he brings a propitiation, as it is written in Ezekiel, according to which propitiation the promise is to be received.”

Clement, Book iv. chap 25.

Again, the following quote is the first instance in the writings of the Christian fathers in which the term “the Lord’s day” is expressly applied to Sunday. However, Clement does not say that he inherited this concept from Saint John or any other apostle of Christ.  Rather, he finds authority for this in the writings of the Greek philosopher Plato, of all people, whom Clement thinks spoke of this concept prophetically!

And the Lord’s day Plato prophetically speaks of in the tenth book of the Republic, in these words: ‘

And when seven days have passed to each of them in the meadow, on the eighth day they are to set out and arrive in four days,’

By the meadow is to be understood the fixed sphere, as being a mild and genial spot, and the locality of the pious; and by the seven days each motion of the seven planets, and the whole practical art which speeds to the end of the rest. But after the wandering orbs the journey leads to Heaven, that is, to the eighth motion and day. And he says that souls are gone on the fourth day, pointing out the passage through the four elements.”

Clement, Book v. chap 14.

By the “eighth day” to which Clement here applies the name of the “Lord’s Day” is no doubt intended the first day of the week.  However, having presented arguments in favor of the eighth day, Clement, in the very next sentence, tries to establish, from the Greek philosophers no less, the sacredness of that seventh day. This shows that whatever regard he might have for the eighth day, he certainly thought of the seventh day as sacred as well…

But the seventh day is recognized as sacred, not by the Hebrews only, but also by the Greeks; according to which the whole world of all animals and plants revolves.

Hesiod says of it:-

‘The first, and fourth, and seventh days were held sacred.’
And again: ‘And on the seventh the sun’s resplendent orb.’

And Homer: ‘And on the seventh then came the sacred day.’
And: ‘The seventh was sacred.’
And again: ‘It was the seventh day, and all things were accomplished.’
And again: ‘And on the seventh morn we leave the stream of Acheron.’

Callimachus the poet also writes: ‘It was the seventh morn, and they had all things done.’
And again: ‘Among good days is the seventh day, and the seventh race.’ And: ‘The seventh is among the prime, and the seventh is perfect.’
And: ‘Now all the seven were made in starry heaven, In circles shining as the years appear.’

The Elegies of Solon, too, intensely deify the seventh day.

Clement, Book v. chap 14.

See also the review of J.N. Andrews: Link

Origen (185-254 AD):

Likewise, Origen (a disciple of Clement of Alexandria) argued that Christian Sabbath observance should be different from Jewish Sabbath observance:

“It is fitting for whoever is righteous among the saints to keep also the festival of the Sabbath. Which is, indeed, the festival of the Sabbath, except that concerning which the Apostle said, ‘There remaineth therefore a sabbatismus, that is, a keeping of the Sabbath, to the people of God [Hebrews 4:9]’. Forsaking therefore the Judaic observance of the Sabbath, let us see what sort of observance of the Sabbath is expected of the Christian. On the day of the Sabbath nothing of worldly acts ought to be performed…”

Homily on Numbers 23, para. 4, in Migne, Patrologia Græca, Vol. 12, cols. 749, 750

Beyond this, however, Origen argued that the Christian should live as if every day were holy to God, and clearly indicated that Sunday was considered a day of worship by Christians in his day – along with the Sabbath:

“If it be objected to us on this subject that we ourselves are accustomed to observe certain days, as for example the Lord’s day, the Preparation, the Passover, or Pentecost, I have to answer, that to the perfect Christian, who is ever in his thoughts, words, and deeds serving his natural Lord, God the Word, all his days are the Lord’s, and he is always keeping the Lord’s day.”

Origen Against Celsus. Book 8 Chapter XXII.

This wasn’t the only issue with Origen’s efforts to harmonize Christianity with Gnostic philosophy.

“In his attempt to reconcile the gospel and his philosophy he miserably compromises some of the most important truths of Scripture… [Origen] maintained the pre-existence of human souls, he held that the stars are animated beings; he taught that all men shall ultimately attain happiness; and he believed that the devils themselves shall eventually be saved.”

Killen, “Ancient Church,” second period, sec. 2, chap. I.

It is no wonder then that Origen wrote in such mystical terms regarding the Sabbath adn the “Lord’s Day” – as well as many other Christian Doctrines.

“There are countless multitudes of believers who. . .are most firmly persuaded that neither ought circumcision to be understood literally, nor the rest of the Sabbth, nor the pouring out of the blood of an animal, nor that answers were given by God to Moses on these points.”

Origen, De Principiis, b. ii. chap 7 (Link)

Origen continually asserts that the spiritual interpretation of the Scriptures, whereby their literal meaning is set aside, is something divinely inspired. But, when this notion is accepted as the truth who can tell what is actually intended by the author? Truth starts to become what anyone wants it to be – kind of like interpreting modern art. And, this is how Origen interpreted the concept of the Sabbath in Scripture as well.  He seem to recognize the origin of the Sabbath at the beginning of creation, but still gives it a hidden mystical meaning:

“For he [Celsus] knows nothing of the day of the Sabbath and rest of God, which follows the completion of the world’s creation, and which lasts during the duration of the world, and in which all those will keep festival with God who have done all their works in their six days, and who, because they have omitted none of their duties, will ascend to the contemplation [of celestial things], and to the assembly of righteous and blessed beings.”

Origen, Book vi. chap. 1xi. TFTC 86.4

Here we get an insight into Origen’s mystical Sabbath. It began at creation and will continue while the world endures. To those who follow the letter it is indeed only a weekly rest, but to those who know the truth, it is a perpetual Sabbath enjoyed by God during all the days of time and entered by believers either at conversion or at death.

This is true with regard to Sunday-observance as well – or the “Lord’s Day”. Origen divided his brethren into two classes. In one class are the imperfect Christians who content themselves with the literal day while in the other class are the “perfect Christians” whose Lord’s day embraces all the days of life.

Undoubtedly, Origen reckoned himself one of the perfect Christians since his own observance of the Lord’s day did not consist in the elevation of one day above another – for he counted them all alike as constituting one perpetual Lord’s day.  This is the same doctrine promoted by Clement of Alexandria, who was Origen’s teacher in his early life. The keeping of the Lord’s day with Origen (as with Clement) embraced all the days of his life and consisted, according to Origen, in serving God in thought, word, and deed, continually.  Or, as expressed by Clement, one “keeps the Lord’s [Day], when he abandons an evil disposition and assumes that of the Gnostic.”

Augustine of Hippo (354-430 AD):

Augustine of Hippo, regarding why the Christian no longer needed to observe the Sabbath wrote:

So, when you ask why a Christian does not keep the Sabbath, if Christ came not to destroy the law, but to fulfill it, my reply is, that a Christian does not keep the Sabbath precisely because what was prefigured in the Sabbath is fulfilled in Christ. For we have our Sabbath in Him who said, “Come unto me, all ye that labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn of me; for I am meek and lowly in heart, and ye shall find rest unto your souls.”

Augustine of Hippo: Reply to Faustus the Manichæan. Book XIX.-9

Sabbath vs. Sunday:

Emperor Constantine (274-337 AD):

The increase in references about the Sabbath in early Christian church literature, both for and against, indicate that some sort of struggle was beginning to manifest itself on a rather widespread basis. The controversy wasn’t so much about Sunday observance, for that had long been established in most Christian communities throughout the Christian world.  The problem was over continued Sabbath observance, which was also just as widespread throughout Christendom for the first several centuries. Some thought that a Sabbath fast should be imposed while others strongly rejected burdening the seventh-day Sabbath with fasting. Some wanted everyone to work on the Sabbath “doing good” and others wanted to maintain the Sabbath as a day of complete rest and idleness – similar to the way the Jews observed the Sabbath. And, of course, there were those who wanted to do away completely with Sabbath observance in order to get rid of all traces of Judaism.

However, the controversy over Sabbath observance increased significantly within the fourth and fifth centuries and expanded well beyond Rome and Alexandria. What could have triggered this conflict on such a wide scale in the fourth and fifth centuries? Undoubtedly, one of the most important factors is to be found in the activities of Emperor Constantine the Great in the early fourth century – and subsequently by other “Christian Emperors.”

Not only did Constantine give Christianity a new status within the Roman Empire (from being persecuted to being honored), but he also gave Sunday a “new look.” By his civil legislation, he made Sunday an official rest day of the state. His famous Sunday law of March 7, 321, reads:

“On the venerable Day of the Sun let the magistrates and people residing in cities rest, and let all workshops be closed. In the country, however, persons engaged in agriculture may freely and lawfully continue their pursuits; because it often happens that another day is not so suitable for grain–sowing or for vine–planting; lest by neglecting the proper moment for such operations the bounty of heaven should be lost.”

Codex Justinianus, iii., Tit. 12.3, trans. in Philip Schaff, History of the Christian Church, 5th ed. (New York, 1902), Vol. 3, p. 380, note 1.

This was the first in a series of steps taken by Constantine, and by later Christian Emperors, in regulating Sunday observance according to national civil laws. It is obvious that this first Sunday law was not particularly Christian in orientation (note the pagan designation “venerable Day of the Sun”). However, Constantine, on political and social grounds, was ever endeavoring to merge together heathen and Christian elements of his constituency by focusing on a common practice.

“Constantine’s decrees marked the beginning of a long though intermittent series of imperil decrees in support of Sunday rest.”

A History of the Councils of the Church, volume 2, page 316.

“What began as a pagan ordinance, ended as a Christian regulation; and a long series of imperial decrees, during the fourth, fifth, and sixth centuries, enjoined with increasing stringency abstinence from labor on Sunday.”

Hutton Webster, Rest Days, 1916, pp. 122-123, 270. [Webster (1875-1955) was an anthropologist and historian at the University of Nebraska].

In 386 AD, Theodosius I and Gratian Valentinian extended Sunday restrictions so that litigation should entirely cease on that day and there would be no public or private payment of debt. Laws forbidding circus, theater, and horse racing also followed and were reiterated as felt necessary.

Theodosian Code, 11.7.13, trans. by Clyde Pharr (Princeton, N.J., 1952), p. 300.

Constantine enacted several Sunday laws during his reign (306-337 A.D.) followed by at least fifteen additional Sunday decrees within the next few centuries after his death – including Governmental decrees in the years 365, 386, 389, 458, 460, 554, 589, 681, 768, 789, and onward and church council decrees in 343, 538, 578, 581, 690 and onward. These laws restricted what could be done on Sunday and forbade Sabbath keeping. Each law became more and more strict, each penalty more and more severe. This, in itself, is strong evidence of the continued desire by many Christians, throughout the Christian world, to continue to keep the 4th Commandment of the Decalogue of God.  In fact, in the centuries following Emperor Constantine, there was a significant revival in Sabbath observance within the majority of Christian Churches throughout Christendom.

Gregory of Nyssa (335-394):

Still, the concept of the Sabbath as a holy day held on in the Christian world.

Gregory of Nyssa, also known as Gregory Nyssen, was bishop of Nyssa from 372 to 376 and from 378 until his death. He is venerated as a saint in Roman Catholicism, Eastern Orthodoxy, Oriental Orthodoxy, Lutheranism, and Anglicanism.  Yet, even during this time, following the decrees of Constantine, Gregory wrote about the equality of the Sabbath day with the “Lord’s Day”, or Sunday worship:

With what eyes can you behold the Lord’s day, when you despise the Sabbath? Do you not perceive that they are sisters, and that in slighting the one, you affront the other?

Expostulation of Gregory of Nyssa, 372 AD, Dialogues on the Lord’s day, p. 188; Hessey’s Bampton Lectures, pp. 72, 304, 305.

Spain – Council of Elvira (A.D.305):

Canon 26 of the Council of Elvira reveals that the Church of Spain at that time kept Saturday, the seventh day.

“As to fasting every Sabbath: Resolved, that the error be corrected of fasting every Sabbath.”

This resolution of the council is in direct opposition to the policy the church at Rome had inaugurated, that of commanding Sabbath as a fast day in order to humiliate it and make it repugnant to the people.

Persia (335-375 AD):

“They despise our sun-god. Did not Zorcaster, the sainted founder of our divine beliefs, institute Sunday one thousand years ago in honour of the sun and supplant the Sabbath of the Old Testament. Yet these Christians have divine services on Saturday.”

O’Leary, “The Syriac Church and Fathers,” pp.83, 84.

Pope Innocent (402-417):
Pope Sylvester (314-335) was the first to order the churches to fast on Saturday, and Pope Innocent (402-417) made it a binding law in the churches that obeyed him (in order to bring the Sabbath into disfavor):

“Innocentius did ordain the Saturday or Sabbath to be always fasted.”

Dr. Peter Heylyn, “History of the Sabbath, Part 2, p. 44.

John Chrysostom (349-407 AD):

John Chrysostom, a contemporary of Gregory and Asterius and Archbishop of Constantinople, was strongly opposed to anything Jewish, including Sabbath observance.  Yet, Sabbath observance was so common in his day that he said:

“There are many among us now, who fast on the same day as the Jews, and keep the sabbaths in the same manner; and we endure it nobly or rather ignobly and basely.”

Comment on Galatians 1:7 in Commentary on Galatians (The Nicene and Post–Nicene Fathers [NPNF], 1st Series, Vol. 13, p. 8).

“Wherefore dost thou keep the sabbath, and fast with the Jews? Is it that thou fearest the Law and abandonment of its letter? But thou wouldest not entertain this fear, didst thou not disparage faith as weak, and by itself powerless to save. A fear to omit the sabbath plainly shows that you fear the Law as still in force; and if the Law is needful, it is so as a whole, not in part, nor in one commandment only; and if as a whole, the righteousness which is by faith is little by little shut out. If thou keep the sabbath, why not also be circumcised? and if circumcised, why not also offer sacrifices? If the Law is to be observed, it must be observed as a whole, or not at all.”

John Chrysostom, Homilies on Galatians 2:17


The interpolater of Ignatius (4th Century):

“If any one fasts on the Lord’s Day or on the Sabbath, except on the paschal Sabbath only, he is a murderer of Christ.”

Pseudo–Ignatius, To the Philippians, ch. 13 (ANF, Vol. 1, p. 119).

Apollinaris Sidonius (430-489 AD):

Apollinaris Sidonius (430-489 AD) also agrees (Speaking Of King Theodoric Of The Goths):

“It is a fact that it was formerly the custom in the East to keep the Sabbath in the same manner as the Lord’s day and to hold sacred assemblies: while on the other hand, the people of the West, contending for the Lord’s day have neglected the celebration of the Sabbath.” (Apollinaris Sidonii, Epistolæ, lib. 1,2; Migne, 57).

Athanasius (~366 AD): 

According to Athanasius, chief Egyptian (Hellenistic, not Coptic) delegate at Nicea and the 20th Bishop of Alexandria, in his writings around 366 AD:

“On the Sabbath day we gathered together, not being infected with Judaism, for we do not lay hold of false sabbaths, but we come on the Sabbath to worship Jesus, the Lord of the Sabbath,”

Athanasius, Homilia de Semente, Sec. 1, in MPG, Vol. 28 Col. 144, Greek.

Timotheus (381-385 AD):

Timotheus, Bishop of Alexandria in 381-385 AD, speaks of the necessity of abstaining from sexual relations on “the Sabbath and the Lord’s Day [Sunday] . . . because on these days the spiritual sacrifice [the eucharist] is offered to the Lord.”

Responsa Canonica, Migne, op. cit., XXXIII, 1305

Epiphanius (380 AD):

Epiphanius of Salamis (Cyprus) also bears witness to the special place of the Sabbath alongside Sunday as a day of Christian gathering-see his “Exposition of the Faith” at the end of his Panarion (380 AD).

Sozomen (400-450 AD):

The fact remains though that, outside of Rome and Alexandria, the rest of the Christian world continued to observe the Sabbath as a memorial of creation. Of course, gradually, Sunday observance also became popular early on within many Christian churches as a celebration of the Resurrection of Jesus.  The mid-5th Century historian Sozomen reported,

“The people of Constantinople, and almost everywhere, assemble together on the Sabbath, as well as on the first day of the week, which custom is never observed at Rome or at Alexandria.”

Sozomen. The Ecclesiastical History of Sozomen. Comprising a History of the Church, from a.d. 323 to a.d. 425. Book VII, Chapter XIX. Translated from the Greek. Revised by Chester D. Hartranft, Hartford Theological Seminary, Under the editorial supervision of Philip Shaff, D.D., LL.D. and Henry Wace, D. D., Professor of Church History in the Union Theological Seminary, New York. Principal of King’s College, London. T&T Clark, Edinburgh, circa 1846

Socrates Scholasticus (380-440 AD):

The 5th-century historian Socrates Scholasticus of Constantinople noted:

“For although almost all churches throughout the world celebrate the sacred mysteries on the Sabbath of every week, yet the Christians of Alexandria and at Rome, on account of some ancient tradition, have ceased to do this.”

Apostolic Constitutions (375-380 AD):

Consider the testimony of the Apostolic Constitutions from the early Christian era:

The Apostolic Constitutions or Constitutions of the Holy Apostles (Latin: Constitutiones Apostolorum) is a Christian collection of eight treatises which belongs the Church Orders, a genre of early Christian literature, that offered authoritative “apostolic” prescriptions on moral conduct, liturgy and Church organization. The work can be dated from 375 to 380 AD. The provenance is usually regarded as Syria, probably Antioch.

Of the Apostolical Constitutions, Guericke’s Church History says:

“This is a collection of ecclesiastical statutes purporting to be the work of the apostolic age, but in reality formed gradually in the second, third, and fourth centuries, and is of much value in reference to the history of polity, and Christian archaeology generally.” – Ancient Church, p. 212.

Here are a few passages relevant to the Ten Commandments and the keeping of the Sabbath as holy:

“Have before thine eyes the fear of God, and always remember the ten commandments of God, – to love the one and only Lord God with all thy strength; to give no heed to idols, or any other beings, as being lifeless gods, or irrational beings or demons. Consider the manifold workmanship of God, which received its beginning through Christ. Thou shalt observe the Sabbath, on account of Him who ceased from his work of creation, but ceased not from his work of providence: it is a rest for meditation of the law, not for idleness of the hands…

O Lord Almighty, thou hast created the world by Christ, and hast appointed the Sabbath in memory thereof, because that on that day thou hast made us rest from our works, for the meditation upon thy laws…

Thou didst give them the law or decalogue, which was pronounced by thy voice and written with thy hand. Thou didst enjoin the observation of the Sabbath, not affording them an occasion of idleness, but an opportunity of piety, for their knowledge of thy power, and the prohibition of evils; having limited them as within an holy circuit for the sake of doctrine, for the rejoicing upon the seventh period…

On this account he permitted men every Sabbath to rest, that so no one might be willing to send one word out of his mouth in anger on the day of the Sabbath. For the Sabbath is the ceasing of the creation, the completion of the world, the inquiry after laws, and the grateful praise to God for the blessings he has bestowed upon men.

Testimony of the Apostolical Constitutions (375-380 AD), Book ii. sect. 4, par. 36.

Let the slaves work five days; but on the Sabbath day and the Lord’s day let them have leisure to go to church for instruction in piety. We have said that the Sabbath is on account of the creation, and the Lord’s day, of the resurrection.”

Testimony of the Apostolical Constitutions, Book viii. sect. 4

See also the review of JN Andrews: Link

Didascalia (300s AD):

Robert A. Kraft

The Greek form of the Didascalia tradition, which probably dates from the 4th century (probably from Syria), exhorts the people not to forsake the daily assemblies, especially the Sabbath and Sunday days of rejoicing.

Various other sources supplement this material by giving us a more precise picture of what was (or was not) involved in “Sabbath observance.” The 29th canon of the Synod of Laodicea (c. 380) argues against a “Judaistic” manner of keeping the Sabbath-i.e., in idleness: “For it is not necessary that Christians Judaize and have leisure on the Sabbath, but let them work on that day, and give precedence to the Lord’s Day – if indeed they are able to have leisure as Christians.”

But the same Synod prescribes that, “the Gospels along with other scriptures be read on the Sabbath” (Canon 16), and recognizes the special nature of the two days, Sabbath and Lord’s Day, during Lent (Canons 49, 51). A similar attitude is attested by the Christian editor (possibly from Antioch in Syria) who expanded the Ignatian Epistles at about the same time:

Therefore let us no longer observe the Sabbath in a judaistic way and rejoice in idleness. . . . But each of you should observe Sabbath in a spiritual way, rejoicing in study of laws. . . . And after keeping the Sabbath, let every lover of Christ celebrate the festival of the Lord’s Day – the resurrection day, the royal day, the most excellent of all days.

Pseudo-Ignatius, Epistle to the Magnesians, 9.3-4 (ed. Funk-Diekamp)

Finally, if we are allowed for the moment to treat the Apostolic Constitutions as somewhat of a unity representing 4th-century Hellenistic Egyptian Christianity, we will find that it not only refers to the Sabbath and Sunday festal gatherings which commemorate creation and resurrection respectively, and advocates rest from usual labors on these two days, but it also guards against leaving the impression that a person should be idle on the Sabbath – “for creature as for creator, Sabbath rest means study of the laws, not idleness of hands.”

The Apostolic Constitutions and related literature are also quite clear that one is not to fast on the Sabbath (the Jews also never fasted on the Sabbath, but viewed it as a day of celebration – a feast day), except at Passover/Easter time in memory of the Lord’s death and burial – an attitude which is widely attested by other contemporary witnesses such as Basil of Cappadocia, John Chrysostom of Antioch and even Augustine of Hippo.

Now, it is quite clear that Sabbath observance, along with Sunday observance, was a widespread practice among Coptic Christians at this time. But this practice was not limited to the Coptics. Both Hellenistic Egypt and the rest of the Hellenistic Christian East knew of and practiced the dual observance of Sabbath and Sunday in the 4th century.

See also: Kraft, Robert A.. “Some Notes on Sabbath Observance in Early Christianity.” Andrews University Seminary Studies (AUSS) 3.1 (1965): 18-33. (Link)

XXXVI. O Lord Almighty Thou hast created the world by Christ, and hast appointed the Sabbath in memory thereof, because that on that day Thou hast made us rest from our works, for the meditation upon Thy laws…Thou didst give them the law or decalogue, which was pronounced by Thy voice and written with Thy hand. Thou didst enjoin the observation of the Sabbath, not affording them an occasion of idleness, but an opportunity of piety, for their knowledge of Thy power, and the prohibition of evils; having limited them as within an holy circuit for the sake of doctrine, for the rejoicing upon the seventh period…On this account He permitted men every Sabbath to rest, that so no one might be willing to send one word out of his mouth in anger on the day of the Sabbath. For the Sabbath is the ceasing of the creation, the completion of the world, the inquiry after laws, and the grateful praise to God for the blessings He has bestowed upon men.

Apostolic Constitutions – Didascalia Apostolorum Book VII, Section II)

This is from the seventh book of the Apostolic Constitutions, the Didascalia, which contains seventeen Sabbath blessings in six prayers that are identical to the Jewish “Amidah of the Sabbath”. This is pre-rabbinic liturgy put together by Ezra the Scribe.


Eastern Orthodox Church:

Zeger-Bernard van Espen writes that, “Among the Greeks the Sabbath was kept exactly as the Lord’s day except so far as the cessation of work was concerned [since the Apostolic Constitutions allowed for ‘good works’ to be done on Sabbath].”

The Canons of the Synod of Laodicea, NPNF2 14:133, notes by van Espen

This difference between the Western and Eastern Church was over the original determination of the Eastern Church to follow the Apostolic Constitutions – which conflicted with the determination of the Western Church, during later centuries, to distance itself from anything remotely resembling Judaic practices.

Council of Trullo (692 AD):

In the Eastern churches, it was a general rule that there should be no fasting on Saturday and, specifically, that Saturday, as well as Sunday, should be exempt from fasting in the period before Easter. The Council in Trullo (692 AD) strongly reacted against the proposed changes of Rome (to include making the weekly Sabbath a day of fasting). The decisions of the Council of Trullo was confirmed in five canons, four directly, that the Sabbath (Saturday) remained a feast day for the Church. In Canon 55 issued by the Council of Trullo, a portion of the Apostolic Constitutions was referenced which said, “If any cleric shall be found to fast on a Sunday or Saturday (except on one occasion only [during the Easter Weekend]) he is to be deposed; and if he is a layman he shall be cut off.”
In this canon, the fathers of the Council in Trullo reacted against the noncanonical practice of fasting by the church in Rome on Saturdays and Sundays during Lent and throughout the year. At the end of the Apostolic Constitutions, “Ecclesiastical Canon” no. 64 states:

“If any one of the clergy be found to fast on the Lord’s day, or on the Sabbath-day, excepting one only [Easter weekend], let him be deprived; but if he be one of the laity, let him be suspended.”

On the basis of this statement, the Eastern church adopted, as a general rule, that there should be no fasting on Sabbath, and that Sabbath and Sunday should be excluded from the period of fasting before Lent. The one exception in the whole liturgical year was the Sabbath just before Easter.

In fact, there was only one Sabbath during the year when, according to the Council in Trullo (late 7th century), the faithful should fast: the “Great Sabbath of Lent”. The Apostolic Constitutions 7.23 describe this as the Sabbath of “our Lord’s burial, on which men ought to keep a fast, but not a festival. For inasmuch as the Creator was then under the earth, the sorrow for him is more forcible than the joy for the creation.” It is clear that for the Eastern churches the Sabbath day, as well as Sunday, had to be set apart not just as a special day of nonfasting, but also as a day of worship on which the faithful should experience both the joy of the creation and the resurrection of Jesus.

As an aside, the practice of fasting on Sabbath became a popular way to undermine Judaism.  The Church of Rome became the first champion of the Sabbath fast and soon became eager to impose it on other Christian communities. This is well attested by the historical references from Bishop Callistus (A.D. 217-222), Hippolytus (c. A.D. 170-236), Pope Sylvester (A.D. 314-335), Pope Innocent I (A.D. 401-417), Augustine (A.D. 354-430), and John Cassian (c. A.D. 360-435). The fast was designed not only to express sorrow for Christ’s death but also, as Pope Sylvester emphatically states, to show ‘contempt for the Jews’ (execratione Judaeorum) and for their Sabbath ‘feasting’ (destructiones ciborum).

Nicetas Stethatos (1000 – 1090 AD):

Around the same time another learned theologian from the East, Nicetas Stethatos, wrote a booklet Libellus Contra Latinos, in which he accused the Roman church of breaking the rules of the Constitutions of the Holy Apostles against fasting on the Sabbath, as well as of being disobedient to the Scriptures and the canons of other church councils, which had forbidden this practice.

Nicetas Stethatos, “Libellus Contra Latinos,” (PG 120:1011-1022).

Pope Leo IX (1002 – 1054 AD):

Pope Leo IX believed that he inherited absolute power over all Christian people and institutions from Peter himself. Pope Leo XI said that a donation of the Patriarch of Constantinople proved that “the Holy See possessed both an earthly and a heavenly imperiam, the royal priesthood”. He said that “only the apostolic successor to Peter possessed primacy in the Church.”

Migne, Patrologia Latina, vol. 143, pgs. 744-769.

However, the Eastern church primarily claims to be successors of Saint Andrew (the first Apostle) and of Saint John.

The Great Schism began with an open letter written by the Bishops Leo and Michael Ceralarius of the Eastern church, to Bishop John of Trani of the Western church in southern Italy. It was addressed, received and replied to several times by several Bishops. This letter as was written originally by Eastern aligned Bishops and Archbishops. In the last replies, they called the Pope “brother” rather than “most holy father” or “reverend Pope”. However the first letter was addressed, “to all the chief priests, and the priests of the Franks, and the monks, and the peoples, and to the most reverend Pope himself.”

The two biggest issues in the letter were in regard to the Sabbath not being a day of fasting, but a festal day, and regarding Rome’s use of unleavened bread for the Eucharist.

Pope Leo IX in his letter accused Constantinople of historically being the source of heresy. He claimed in emphatic terms that the Bishop of Rome held primacy even over the Constantinople. Of course, the Eastern Orthodox Church did not take very kindly to this. The response of Patriarch Michael of Constantinople, who took the title of “Ecumenical Patriarch”, was none too subtle in that he addressed Pope Leo as “brother” rather than “father.”

Eventually, Pope Leo IX decided, early in the year of 1054, to send a group of theologians to Constantinople to discuss further the contended issues. This group consisted of three papal legates: Cardinal Humbert; Frederic, deacon and chancellor of the Church of Rome; and Peter, archbishop of Amalfi. However, Cerularius refused to meet with Cardinal Humbert and kept him waiting with no audience for months. When they were eventually granted an audience, the papal legates discussed the disputed issues with the patriarch, the emperor, and publicly, with Nicetas Stethatos, in the presence of the emperor, his court, and other persons of high rank in affairs of state and church. Patriarch Michael Cerularius was offended by the letter brought to him by the legates and responded to the accusations concerning the Sabbath observance by saying: “For we are commanded also to honour the Sabbath equally with [Sunday] the Lord’s [day], and to keep [it] and not to work on it.”

Cerularius, “Letter I,” (PG 120:777, 778) – – Humbert, “Brevis et Succincta Commemoratio,” (PL 143:1001, 1002).

Again, the three main Schism letters from the “Patriarch of Constantinople”, Michael Cerularius and his representative Archbishop Leo of Achrida, were focused primarily on keeping the Sabbath holy, and not turning it into a day of fasting or of work. These included the decrees of earlier church councils that the Orthodox Church should not fast on Sabbaths which occur during Lent.

“[Christians are] commanded to honor the Sabbath . . . to keep [it] and not to work on it.”

Patriarch Michael Cerularius, 1054

There were several replies by the Pope Leo IX primarily reverting to slander against Constantinople and exerting primacy of Rome (which the east never fully recognized). He said he had a right to enforce the fasting on Sabbath across all the lands of Christendom (East and West). However, the Eastern (Orthodox) church maintained the same position in all of the replies. Before, during and after the breakup, the church affirmed that they cannot and will not relent on the Sabbath commandment, in order to appease Rome. Rome had long been trying to sneak in a breaking of the Sabbath in regards to keeping Lent (when it lands on the Sabbath). However, again the Eastern Church reiterated its claim since the first century, and in every century, the official doctrine to not fast on the Sabbath. (Link)

Excommunication of the Eastern Orthodox Church (1054 AD):

After these unsuccessful discussions and other attempts to bring the Eastern church into submission to the Church of Rome, there occurred one of the most dramatic and most devastating events in the history of Christianity. On July 16, 1054, the Sabbath day, when preparations had been made for the liturgy on that day, the three papal legates entered the Church of St. Sophia and laid the bull of excommunication on the altar and walked away, toward Rome, shaking the dust from their feet.

Patriarch Michael Cerularius, in turn, excommunicated the Cardinal and the Pope and subsequently removed the Pope’s name from the diptychs, starting the East-West Schism.

From that day on, the fracture between Constantinople and Rome has never been completely healed. The key problem being that the Eastern churches continued to observe the weekly Sabbath in a way that was much too similar to the way the Jews observed the weekly Sabbath…

Cardinal Humbert (1015-1061 AD):

In his work, Adversus Calumnis Graecorum (Against the Calumnies of the Greeks), Cardinal Humbert wrote (11th century):

“Therefore, in such observance of the Sabbath, where and in what way do we [Latins] have anything in common with the Jews? For they are idle and keep a holiday on the Sabbath, neither ploughing nor reaping, and by reason of custom do not work, but they hold a festivity and a dinner, and their menservants, maidservants, cattle, and beasts of burden rest. But we [Latins] observe none of these things, but we do every [sort of] work, as on the preceding five days, and we fast as we fast on the sixth day [Friday] next to it. However, you [Greeks], if you do not judaize, tell (us) why do you have something in common with the Jews with the similar observance of the Sabbath? They certainly observe the Sabbath, and you observe (it); they dine, and always break the fast, on the Sabbath. In their forty day period they break the fast every Sabbath except one, and you [Greeks] in your forty day period break the fast every Sabbath except one. They [the Jewish Christians] have a twofold reason for observing the Sabbath, obviously by reason of the precept of Moses, and because the disciples were saddened and heavy (of heart) on this (Sabbath) day on account of the death of the Lord, whom they did not believe to be about to be resurrected. Wherefore, because you observe Sabbath with the Jews and with us Sunday, [the] Lord’s day, you appear by such observance to imitate the sect of the Nazarenes, who in this manner accept the Christianity that they might not give up Judaism.”

Here we see that Cardinal Humbert argued, as late as the 11th century, that the Christians from the East continued to celebrate the Sabbath in a similar way as do the Jews and Nazarene Christians (“why you have something in common with the Jews in a similar observance of the Sabbath?”; “They certainly observe the Sabbath, and you observe [it]”). He also states that the Jews and by analogy the Christians from the East “are idle and keep a holiday on the Sabbath, neither ploughing nor reaping, and by the reason of custom do not work.” Further, he explains the theological reasons why the Jews and the Christians from the East observe the Sabbath: observing “the precept of Moses,” according to the revelation given to humanity through the prophet Moses in the Pentateuch and more specifically the Ten Commandments, and (2) the fasting of the Orthodox Church on only one Sabbath during the year—the day when Christ was in the tomb and “the disciples were saddened and heavy (of heart) . . . on account of the death of the Lord.” Cardinal Humbert concludes that since the Christians from the East “observe the Sabbath with the Jews” and the Lord’s Day (Sunday) with the Latin church, they must be designated as a sect, not fully in line with the teachings of the Western Churches – which, according to Humbert, defined full and complete Christianity at that time.

Michael Cerularius:

At least equally important, if not more so, is the response given by Patriarch Michael Cerularius, in which he states that Christians are “commanded also to honour the Sabbath equally with the [Sunday] the Lord’s [day], and to keep [it] and not to work on it.”

Consequently, Cerularius did not deny the accusations made by Humbert, but argued instead that Christians are “commanded,” by biblical revelation and the apostolic tradition, to honor, worship, and not work on the Sabbath – even as on Sunday.

6th-7th Century Scotland and Ireland:

“It seems to have been customary in the Celtic churches of early times, in Ireland as well as Scotland, to keep Saturday, the Jewish Sabbath, as a day of rest from labour. They obeyed the fourth commandment literally upon the seventh day of the week.”

Professor James C. Moffatt, D.D., Professor of Church History at Princeton, The Church in Scotland, p. 140.

Ironically St. Patrick himself evidently kept Saturday as a day of rest, (A.C. Flick, The Rise of Medieval Church, pp. 236-327).


The monks sent to England [in 596 A.D.] by Pope Gregory the Great soon came to see that the Celtic Church differed from theirs in many respects… Augustine himself [a Benedictine abbot] . . . held several conferences with the Christian Celts in order to accomplish the difficult task of their subjugation to Roman authority… The Celts permitted their priests to marry, the Romans forbade it. The Celts used a different mode of baptism from that of the Romans… The Celts held their own councils and enacted their own laws, independent of Rome. The Celts used a Latin Bible unlike the [Catholic] Vulgate, and kept Saturday as a day of rest.”

Alexander Clarence Flick, The Rise of The Mediaeval Church, 1959, pp. 236- 327 [Dr. Flick (1869-1942) was professor of European history in Syracuse University and author of an important historical work].

The Catholic historian Alphons Bellesheim (1839-1912) comments regarding the Sabbath in Scotland:

We seem to see here an allusion to the custom observed in the early monastic Church of Ireland, of keeping the day of rest on Saturday, or the Sabbath.

Bellesheim, History of the Catholic Church in Scotland, Vol. 1, p 86

In Scotland, until the tenth and eleventh century, it was asserted that:

“They worked on Sunday but kept Saturday in a Sabbatical manner … These things Margaret abolished.”

Andrew Lang, A History of Scotland from the Roman Occupation, Vol. I, p. 96; see also Celtic Scotland, Vol. 2, p. 350

The Scots were Sabbath-keepers up until Queen Margaret (reigned from 1503-1513), according to Turgot:

It was another custom of theirs to neglect the reverence due to the Lord’s day, by devoting themselves to every kind of worldly business upon it, just as they did upon other days. That this was contrary to the law, she (Queen Margaret) proved to them as well by reason as by authority. ‘Let us venerate the Lord’s day,’ said she, ‘because of the resurrection of our Lord, which happened on that day, and let us no longer do servile works upon it; bearing in mind that upon this day we were redeemed from the slavery of the devil. The blessed Pope Gregory affirms the same.’

Turgot, Life of Saint Margaret, p. 49


8th Century India, China, and Persia:

“Widespread and enduring was the observance of the seventh-day Sabbath among the believers of the Church of the East and the St. Thomas Christians of India, who never were connected with Rome. It also was maintained among those bodies which broke off from Rome after the Council of Chalcedon namely, the Abyssinians, the Jacobites, the Maronites, and Armenians.”

Philip Schaff-Herzog, The New Encyclopedia of Religious Knowledge, art. Nestorians; also Realencyclopaedie fur Protestantische Theologie und Kirche, art Nestorianer.

10th Century Kurdistan:

“The Nestorians eat no pork and keep the Sabbath. They believe in neither auricular confession nor purgatory.”

Philip Schaff-Herzog, The New Encyclopedia of Religious Knowledge, art. Nestorians.

11th Century Scotland:

“They held that Saturday was properly the Sabbath on which they abstained from work.”

Celtic Scotland, Vol. 2, p. 350.

12th Century Wales:

“There is much evidence that the Sabbath prevailed in Wales universally until A.D. 1115, when the first Roman bishop was seated at St. David’s. The old Welsh Sabbath-keeping churches did not even then altogether bow the knee to Rome, but fled to their hiding places.”

Lewis, Seventh Day Baptists in Europe and America, Vol. 1, p. 29.

16th Century Germany:

Andreas Rudolph Bodenstein von Karlstadt, better known as Andreas Karlstadt or Andreas Carlstadt or Karolostadt, was a German Christian theologian during the Protestant Reformation.

Carlstadt, a co-worker with Martin Luther in the Sixteenth Century German Reformation, accepted the Bible Sabbath as correct, and published his belief:

“When servants have worked six days, they should have the seventh day free. God says without distinction, ‘Remember that you observe the seventh day’ . . . Concerning Sunday it is known that men have instituted it . . . It is clear however, that you should celebrate the seventh day.”

Andres Carlstadt, Von dem Sabbat und gebotten feyertagen (Concerning the Sabbath and Commanded Holidays), 1524, chap. 4, pp. 23-24 [Karlstadt (1480-1541) joined Luther at Wittenberg in 1517, and later taught at Bazel from 1534 onward].

So, what did Luther say of Carlstadt’s Sabbath views?

“Indeed, if Carlstadt were to write further about the Sabbath, Sunday would have to give way, and the Sabbath, that is to say, Saturday, must be kept holy.”

Martin Luther, in his pamphlet, “Against the Celestial Prophets,” quoted in Life of Martin Luther in Pictures, page 147.

It seems at least a little bit rather strange, then, that Luther never did accept the Sabbath as his friend Carlstadt did.  In fact, it is because of Luther’s inconsistency regarding the Sabbath that his claim that Protestantism was based “on the Bible and the Bible only” or “sola scriptura” was successfully challenged during his famous 1519 debate with Dr. John Eck.  Dr. Eck was the most staunch defender of the catholic faith at the time. During the course of the debate, both men were coming down to their final appeals to the people. Martin Luther’s final argument was essentially that, “Dr. Eck doesn’t know a thing about Scripture and isn’t willing to listen to a thing about Scripture.“

Dr. Eck’s refutation of Luther’s accusation was so devastating that it rendered Luther speechless and ultimately caused him to lose the debate. What he said is a matter of historical record as follows:

“If you turn from the church to the Scriptures alone, then you must keep the Sabbath with the Jews, which has been kept since the beginning of the world.”

Dr. John Eck, Enchiridion, pp. 78-79

Martin Luther was accusing Dr. Eck of not knowing anything about Scripture. He was accusing the Catholic Church of going in the wrong direction by not following him in the reformation based on a clear biblical foundation for everything. But as Dr. Eck pointed out, Luther himself was not keeping the Sabbath. And if he really wanted to go by “sola scriptura“, then he needed to start keeping the Sabbath.

Needless to say, Martin Luther lost that debate… in no small part, I believe, because of Luther’s strong personal antisemitism.


So, a fairly clear picture emerges from the testimony of numerous historical sources regarding the practice of the early Christian churches.  It seems incontrovertible that the early Christians continued to keep the Sabbath as a very common practice in most areas all over Asia, Africa, and Europe for hundreds of years – and in some places, like Ethiopia, until modern times. It is also telling that over 100 languages refer to the 7th day as the “Sabbath” (Link). Clearly, the concept of the Sabbath became very widespread around the world and in many many cultures due to the influence of Christianity. There is simply no rational way to deny such facts of history by citing a few cases (primarily in Rome and Alexandria) where Christian leaders spoke out against Sabbath observance and gradually more and more in favor of Sunday observance alone as a day of worship.

See also the notes of Robert Kraft regarding Sabbath observance in the early Christian Church:  Link

Why Don’t All Christians Observe the Sabbath?

Of course, this begs the question as to why there are so few Sabbatarians now?  Why do most Christians around the entire world observe Sunday, rather than the Sabbath, as their day of worship? What happened to the original respect for Sabbath observance by Christians over the centuries?

The short story of Sabbath and the Early Church:

Sabbath first observed alongside Sunday:

For several hundred years the early Christian Church continued to observe the Sabbath day every seven days. Of course, very quickly Sunday observance also became popular, taking on the name “The Lord’s Day” in honor of the resurrection of Christ.  So, for a long time both days were observed as holy days by most Christians throughout the early Christian world.

Hadrian’s Anti-Jewish Laws suppress Sabbath observance:

However, the anti-Jewish decrees of Emperor Hadrian in the second century put additional pressure on Sabbath observance, thereby favoring Sunday observance – especially in the regions of Rome and Alexandria.

Constantine’s Sunday Law enhanced Sunday observance:

By the time Emperor Constantine came along in the fourth century, Christianity became the official state religion – which was a mixed blessing.  Sunday became the official day of rest for the state governemnt and Sabbath fasting was promoted by the Western Church.

It is interesting to note that even Constantine did not intend to reflect the Sabbath commandment of the Decalogue in his Sunday law, since he specifically exempted agricultural work from being limited by his Sunday law.  However, the laws that he did enact regarding Sunday as a day of rest still had an effect.

Now, there is no evidence that Constantine’s Sunday laws were ever specifically made the basis for Christian regulations of the day, but it seems clear that the leaders of the Christian Church at that time felt increaing pressure to support Constantine and justify his laws.  After all, Constantine had just handed the Church a great benefit of official status and many of the leaders of the Church felt obligated to be as cooperative as possible. So, Sunday worship was emphasized even further – along with references to the Sabbath commandment in the Old Testament now being applied to forms of Sunday observance.


Consider, for example, the work of early church historian Eusebius, who was also Constantine’s biographer and his keen admirer. In his commentary on Psalm 92, “The Sabbath Psalm,” Eusebius writes that Christians would fulfill on the Lord’s day all that in this Psalm was prescribed for the Sabbath – including worship of God early in the morning. He then adds that through the new covenant the Sabbath celebration was transferred to “the first day of light [Sunday].”

Migne, Patrologia Graeca, Vol. 23, Col. 1169.

“The day of his [Christ’s] light . . . was the day of his resurrection from the dead, which they say, as being the one and only truly holy day and the Lord’s day, is better than any number of days as we ordinarily understand them, and better than the days set apart by the Mosaic law for feasts, new moons, and Sabbaths, which the apostle [Paul] teaches are the shadow of days and not days in reality.”

Eusebius, Proof of the Gospel 4:16:186.

Ephraem Syrus:

Later in the fourth century Ephraem Syrus suggested that honor was due “to the Lord’s day, the firstborn of all days,” which had “taken away the right of the firstborn from the Sabbath.” Then he goes on to point out that the law prescribes that rest should be given to servants and animals. The reflection of the Old Testament Sabbath commandment is obvious.

S. Ephraem Syri, hymni et sermones, ed. by T. J. Lamy (1882), Vol. 1, pp. 542–544.

Long decline of Sabbath observance:

With his sort of Sabbath-style worship being placed more and more on Sunday, along with giving Sunday the title “The Lord’s Day”, it was inevitable that the Sabbath day itself (Saturday) would eventually take on lesser and lesser importance in the eyes of more and more Christians over the generations. And, the controversy that is evident in the literature of the fourth and fifth centuries between those who would debase the Sabbath and those who would honor it reflects this struggle – a struggle that would continue on for many more centuries…

Socrates and Sozomen:

As already mentioned, the fifth–century church historians Socrates Scholasticus and Sozomen provide a picture of Sabbath worship services alongside Sunday worship services as being the pattern throughout Christendom in their day, “except in Rome and Alexandria.”

It seems, then, that the “Christian Sabbath” of Sunday as a replacement for the Biblical Sabbath was mainly a development of the sixth century and later.  For the Eastern Orthodox Church this change took place even later – well beyond the 11th century.

Counsil of Laodicea (363–364 AD):

The earliest church council to officially deal with the Sabbath debates was a regional eastern conference in Laodicea about 364 AD. Although this council still manifested respect for the Sabbath, as well as for Sunday, in the “special lections” (Scripture readings) designated for those two days, it nonetheless stipulated the following in its Canon 29:

“Christians shall not Judaize and be idle on Saturday but shall work on that day; but the Lord’s day they shall especially honour, and, as being Christians, shall, if possible, do no work on that day. If, however, they are found Judaizing, they shall be shut out from Christ.”

Charles J. Hefele, A History of the Councils of the Church, trans. Henry N. Oxenham, Vol. 2 (Edinburgh, 1896), p. 316. Canon 16 (ibid., p. 310) refers to lections; and the fact that Saturday as well as Sunday had special consideration during Lent, as indicated in Canons 49 and 51 (ibid., p. 320), also reveals that regard for the Sabbath was not entirely lacking.

The regulation with regard to working on Sunday was rather moderate in that Christians should not work on that day if possible! However, more significant was the fact that this council reversed the original command of God and the practice of the earliest Christians with regard to the seventh–day Sabbath.

God had said, “Remember the sabbath day, to keep it holy. Six days you shall labor, and do all your work; but the seventh day is a sabbath to the Lord your God; in it you shall not do any work” (Exodus 20:8–10, RSV). In contrast, the Laodicean council said:

“Christians shall not Judaize and be idle on Saturday but shall work on that day.”

So, the command not to work on Sabbath was transferred, instead, to Sunday.

Of course, the smaller council of Laodicea was never universally accepted – especially among the Eastern Orthodox Church which still continued to observe the Sabbath as they always had. This small regional council of Laodicea was not even included as one of the Seven Ecumenical Councils. The local Laodecian council was held in a time of war with much political upheaval. However even within the text of the canons decided there, it also specifies and endorses Saturday Sabbath observance – indicating the very slow progressive loss of the Sabbath as a holy day in the minds of most Christians. Most Orthodox Churches do not even embrace five out of the seven ecumenical councils. So even if one of the big seven ecumenical councils disregarded Sabbath it would still be a moot point.

Even the Seventh Ecumenical Council (or Second council of Nicea), which also was strongly politically motivated, did not outright reject the Sabbath. It merely says that people keeping the Sabbath exclusively in the Jewish way should be shunned – while the Sabbath was still considered to be a Holy day.

Third Synod of Orleans (538 AD):

The Third Synod of Orleans, though deploring Jewish Sabbatarianism, forbade “field labours” so that “people may be able to come to church and worship” – on Sabbath!

Charles J. Hefele, A History of the Councils of the Church, trans. Henry N. Oxenham, Vol. 4 (Edinburgh, 1896), pp. 208, 209.

Second Synod of Macon (585 AD):

Half a century later, the Second Synod of Macon in 585 and the Council of Narbonne in 589 AD stipulated strict Sunday observance.

Charles J. Hefele, A History of the Councils of the Church, trans. Henry N. Oxenham, Vol. 4 (Edinburgh, 1896), pp. 407, 422.

King Guntram’s Decree (585 AD):

The ordinances of the former “were published by King Guntram in a decree of November 10, 585 AD, in which he enforced careful observance of the Sunday.”

Charles J. Hefele, A History of the Councils of the Church, trans. Henry N. Oxenham, Vol. 4 (Edinburgh, 1896), pp. 409.

Walter W. Hyde:

Finally, during the Carolingian Age, a great emphasis was placed on “The Lord’s Day” observance – ironically according to the “Sabbath commandment.” Walter W. Hyde, in his “Paganism to Christianity in the Roman Empire“, has well summed up several centuries of the history of Sabbath and Sunday up to Charlemagne:

“The emperors after Constantine made Sunday observance more stringent but in no case was their legislation based on the Old Testament… At the Third Synod of Aureliani (Orleans) in 538 rural work was forbidden but the restriction against preparing meals and similar work on Sunday was regarded as a superstition.

“After Justinian’s death in 565 various epistolae decretales were passed by the popes about Sunday. One of Gregory I (590–604) forbade men ‘to yoke oxen or to perform any other work, except for approved reasons,’ while another of Gregory II (715–731) said: ‘We decree that all Sundays be observed from vespers to vespers and that all unlawful work the abstained from.’ …

Charlemagne at Aquisgranum (Aachen) in 788 decreed that all ordinary labor on the lords day be forbidden, since it was against the Fourth Commandment, especially labor in the field or vineyard which Constantine had exempted.”

W. W. Hyde, Paganism to Christianity in the Roman Empire (Philadelphia, 1946, p. 261).

Clearly, God’s Sabbath commandment was never quite forgotten – just molded a bit over a few hundred years. And, eventually, after enough time had elapsed, Sunday came to be the Christian rest day as a substitute for the Sabbath day.

Seventh-day Sabbath remnants:

However, in some areas around the world the true seventh-day Sabbath was not entirely forgotten. This was true in scattered areas around Europe itself and elsewhere. For example, particularly in Ethiopia, groups of Christians could be found who kept both Saturday and Sunday as “Sabbaths,” not only in the early Christian centuries but down into modern times.

“A Further Note on the Sabbath in Coptic Sources,” AUSS Vol. 6 (1968), pp. 150–157. For the reference mentioning both Saturday and Sunday as being “named Sabbaths,” see p. 151. The source is Statute 66 in G. Horner, The Statutes of the Apostles (London, 1904 and 1915), pp. 211, 212. A number of sources deal with the Sabbath in later Ethiopian history.

The Ethiopians received the Eastern form of Christian doctrine in the fourth century. The Sabbath had not then been discarded as the day of rest, though the Sunday festival was observed. In the seventh century, the rise of the Saracen [Mohammedan] power cut Abyssinia [Ethiopia] off from the knowledge of the world.

Gibbon says: ‘Encompassed on all sides by the enemies of their religion, the Ethiopians slept near a thousand years, forgetful of the world, by whom they were forgotten’ (Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire, chap. 47, par. 37).

And when discovered by the Portuguese in the sixteenth century, they were found making the seventh day, as well as Sunday, a day of rest, not having known of its being set fully aside in the course of apostasy. Gibbon relates how the Jesuits never rested until they persuaded the Abyssinian king (A.D. 1604) to submit to the pope, and to prohibit Sabbath observance.

Bible Students Source Book, p. 895.

Sunday as the new Sabbath:

Nevertheless, for a good share of Christendom, the Sabbath had, by the sixth through eighth centuries, been changed to Sunday. For most Christians, God’s rest day of both Old Testament and New Testament times had, through a very gradual process, become a workday and had been supplanted by a substitute rest day – a substitute Sabbath if you will.

However, all Christians who consider the Bible itself as the God-given guide for their lives, rather than the decisions of human beings over hundreds of years of time, should ask themselves whether the worship day of Christ and His apostles (Sabbath, the seventh day of the week) should not still be observed today.

The Catholic Argument:

So, what reason do Catholics themselves give for observing Sunday rather than the Sabbath day?  They have a ready explanation.  They observe Sunday, rather than the Sabbath, based on the God-given authority of the Church.  In the sixteenth century, a papal council plainly declared:

“Let all Christians remember that the seventh day was consecrated by God, and hath been received and observed, not only by the Jews, but by all others who pretend to worship God; though we Christians have changed their Sabbath into the Lord’s Day.”

Thomas Morer (1651-1715), Kyriake hemera, Discourse in Six Dialogues, London: printed for Tho. Newborough, 1701, pages 281, 282

Subsequently, T. Enright, a Catholic Priest in Kansas City writing in the late 1800s argued:

“It was the holy Catholic Church that changed the day of rest from Saturday to Sunday, the 1st day of the week. And it not only compelled all to keep Sunday, but at the Council of Laodicea, AD 364, anathematized those who kept the Sabbath and urged all persons to labor on the 7th day under penalty of anathema.”

Clearly, the authority of the Church is considered to be greater than that of the Bible itself:

“The [Catholic] Church is above the Bible, and this transference of the Sabbath observance is proof of that fact.”

– Catholic Record (September 1, 1923)

Letter from C.F. Thomas, Chancellor of Cardinal Gibbons on October 28, 1895:

“Of course the Catholic Church claims that the change was her act…And the act is a mark of her ecclesiastical power and authority in religious matters.”

And again:

“The Church changed the observance of the Sabbath to Sunday by right of the divine, infallible authority given to her by her Founder, Jesus Christ. The Protestant claiming the Bible to be the only guide of faith, has no warrant for observing Sunday. In this matter, the Seventh-day Adventist is the only consistent Protestant.”

“The Question Box,” The Catholic Universe Bulletin (August 14, 1942): 4:

But since Saturday, not Sunday, is specified in the Bible, isn’t it curious that non-Catholics, who claim to take their religion directly from the Bible and not from the Church, observe Sunday instead of Saturday? Yes, of course, it is inconsistent; but this change was made about fifteen centuries before Protestantism was born, and by that time the custom was universally observed. They have continued the custom even though it rests upon the authority of the Catholic Church and not upon and explicit text in the Bible. That observance remains as a reminder of the Mother Church from which the non-Catholic sects broke away—like a boy running away from home but still carrying in his pocket a picture of his mother or a lock of her hair.

John A. O’Brien, The Faith of Millions: the Credentials of the Catholic Religion, Revised Edition (Our Sunday Visitor Publishing, 1974): 400-401:

In the Catholic Catechism of Christian Religion, in answer to a question as to the day to be observed in obedience to the fourth commandment, this statement is made:

“During the old law, Saturday was the day sanctified; but the church, instructed by Jesus Christ, and directed by the Spirit of God, has substituted Sunday for Saturday; so now we sanctify the first, not the seventh day. Sunday means, and now is, the day of the Lord.”

Catholic Catechism of the Christian Religion

Sunday – fulfillment of the Sabbath: Sunday is expressly distinguished from the Sabbath which it follows chronologically every week; for Christians its ceremonial observance replaces that of the Sabbath…

The Sabbath, which represented the completion of the first creation, has been replaced by Sunday which recalls the new creation, inaugurated by the Resurrection of Christ…

In respecting religious liberty and the common good of all, Christians should seek recognition of Sundays and the Church’s holy days as legal holidays.

The Catechism of the Catholic Church, Section 2 Article 3 (1994):

Q. Which is the Sabbath day?
A. Saturday is the Sabbath day.
Q. Why Do we observe Sunday instead of Saturday?
A. We observe Sunday instead of Saturday because the Catholic .      .. …..Church transferred the solemnity from Saturday to Sunday.

The Convert’s Catechism of Catholic Doctrine (1957): 50:

Question: Have you any other way of proving the Church has power to institute festivals of precept?

Answer: Had she not such power, she could not have done that in which all modern religionists agree with her, she could not have substituted the observance of Sunday the 1st day of the week, for the observance of Saturday the 7th day, a change for which there is no Scriptural authority.

Stephen Keenan, CatholicDoctrinal Catechism, 3rd Edition: 174:

Beyond this, the Catholic Church declares that:

“The observance of Sunday by the Protestants is an homage they pay, in spite of themselves, to the authority of the [Catholic] Church.”

Louis Gaston Segur, Plain Talk about the Protestantism of To-Day (London: Thomas Richardson and Son, 1874): 213:

“If Protestants would follow the Bible, they should worship God on the Sabbath day by God is Saturday. In keeping the Sunday, they are following a law of the Catholic Church.”

Chancellor Albert Smith for Cardinal of Baltimore Archdiocese, letter dated February 10, 1920:

The Orthodox Argument:

“In the tradition of our Church [Greek Orthodox], Saturday like Sunday is considered a festal day. Even during the Great Lent the rules of fasting are relaxed on Saturdays and Sundays”.

Father Alkivia dis Calivas, Professor Emeritus of Liturgics Holy Cross Greek Orthodox School of Theology in Brookline, MA. 2002-2003 Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of America.

“It would behoove Orthodox Christians to rekindle within themselves the zeal of the Christians of the first centuries and be truly dedicated to the Lord on the seventh day by going to church and taking holy Communion. By doing this, they will attract to themselves the blessing of the Lord, and their other activities will become more profitable.”

Bishop Alexander (Mileant), of The Holy Trinity Orthodox Mission, published July 4th 2005

“St. Constantine the Great, the first Christian emperor, honored the Church’s practice of celebrating the Lord’s Resurrection every Sunday by decreeing, in AD 321, that every Sunday would be a holy day. For Orthodox Christians, Saturday is still the Sabbath, the day on which the Church especially remembers the departed, since Christ rested in the tomb on Great and Holy Saturday.”

St. Sophia, Greek Orthodox Church in Bellingham Washington, from their statement of beliefs, last accessed 4/22/17 (Link)

“We still observe Saturday as the Sabbath. Saturday (except Holy Saturday) is never a fast day (although abstinence continues) and the Liturgy is always allowed to be celebrated. Saturday is the Sabbath, the day of rest remembering the day the Lord rested after Creation and the day the Lord rested in the tomb after the Crucifixion. Sunday is the Lord’s day, celebrating his Resurrection and we rest on this day as well as we would for any Holy Day. Under Christian Emperor’s we were afforded the ability to rest on both days. In secular society we often only get one and Sunday trumps Saturday, but Saturday does not cease being the Sabbath because of it…

Saturday is the Sabbath because it has always been so. If one can go to Liturgy and refrain from work on both Saturday and Sunday one should, but since the end of the Byzantine Empire this has not been possible. Sunday, Resurrection day, remains our primary day of worship because this is what was handed down to us from the Apostles.

Fr. Deacon Lance Weakland, Greek Byzantine Catholic Church, 2008 (Link)

In conclusion, Saturday is still the Sabbath. Like the Jews, we can still understand this Seventh Day to be as a day of participation in God’s rest after creation and the recognition of the goodness of all of God’s works. It is a day that should be spent quietly, with God, in the reading of Scripture and in prayer, or doing Christian works of mercy and love towards our neighbors.

We must see beyond the historical manipulation of Sunday into a “Christian Sabbath” and return to the fact that Sunday is truly the eschatological Lord’s Day, which manifests itself in the eucharistic Liturgy. It is a day that fills us with joy in knowing that when this cycle of time ends in this age, the new age will dawn, and it is then that we will find our ultimate rest in Jesus Christ in the “unending day” of His Kingdom.

Dr. Paul Meyendorff, Is Sunday the Orthodox Christian Sabbath?,
Liturgical Theology 342 – The Church Year and Its Hymnography, Fall 1999 (Link)

The Protestant Argument:

So, why then to almost all protestant churches continue to observe Sunday? – in apparent acquiescence to the authority of the Catholic Church?  It isn’t that protestant denominations are unaware of the apparent inconsistency in their practice of Sunday observance.  Consider a few of the following commentaries along these lines:


“And where are we told in the Scriptures that we are to keep the first day at all? We are commanded to keep the seventh; but we are nowhere commanded to keep the first day …. The reason why we keep the first day of the week holy instead of the seventh is for the same reason that we observe many other things, not because the Bible, but because the church has enjoined it.”

Isaac Williams, Plain Sermons on the Catechism, vol. 1, pp.334, 336.

“There is no word, no hint, in the New Testament about abstaining from work on Sunday …. into the rest of Sunday no divine law enters…. The observance of Ash Wednesday or Lent stands exactly on the same footing as the observance of Sunday.”

Canon Eyton, The Ten Commandments, pp. 52, 63, 65.

We have made the change from the seventh day to the first day, from Saturday to Sunday, on the authority of the one holy Catholic Church.”

Bishop Seymour, Why We Keep Sunday.


“There was and is a commandment to keep holy the Sabbath day, but that Sabbath day was not Sunday. It will be said, however, and with some show of triumph, that the Sabbath was transferred from the seventh to the first day of the week …. Where can the record of such a transaction be found? Not in the New Testament absolutely not…

To me it seems unaccountable that Jesus, during three years’ intercourse with His disciples, often conversing with them upon the Sabbath question . . . never alluded to any transference of the day; also, that during forty days of His resurrection life, no such thing was intimated…

Of course, I quite well know that Sunday did come into use in early Christian history . . . . But what a pity it comes branded with the mark of paganism, and christened with the name of the sun god, adopted and sanctioned by the papal apostasy, and bequeathed as a sacred legacy to Protestantism!”

Dr. Edward T. Hiscox, a paper read before a New York ministers’ conference, Nov. 13, 1893, reported in New York Examiner, Nov.16, 1893.


“It is quite clear that however rigidly or devotedly we may spend Sunday, we are not keeping the Sabbath. The Sabbath was founded on a specific Divine command. We can plead no such command for the obligation to observe Sunday …. There is not a single sentence in the New Testament to suggest that we incur any penalty by violating the supposed sanctity of Sunday.”

Dr. R. W. Dale, The Ten Commandments (New York: Eaton &Mains), p. 127-129.

“The Christian Sabbath [Sunday] is not in the Scriptures, and was not by the primitive Church called the Sabbath.”

Timothy Dwight, Theology: Explained and Defended (1823), Ser. 107, vol. 3, p. 258.

Disciples of Christ:

“‘But,’ say some, ‘it was changed from the seventh to the first day.’ Where? when? and by whom? No man can tell. No; it never was changed, nor could it be, unless creation was to be gone through again: for the reason assigned must be changed before the observance, or respect to the reason, can be changed! It is all old wives’ fables to talk of the change of the Sabbath from the seventh to the first day. If it be changed, it was that august personage changed it who changes times and laws ex officio – I think his name is Doctor Antichrist.’ “The first day of the week is commonly called the Sabbath. This is a mistake. The Sabbath of the Bible was the day just preceding the first day of the week. The first day of the week is never called the Sabbath anywhere in the entire Scriptures. It is also an error to talk about the change of the Sabbath from Saturday to Sunday. There is not in any place in the Bible any intimation of such a change.”

Alexander Campbell, First Day Observance, pp. 17, 19. and The Christian Baptist, Feb. 2, 1824,vol. 1. no. 7, p. 164


“We have seen how gradually the impression of the Jewish sabbath faded from the mind of the Christian Church, and how completely the newer thought underlying the observance of the first day took possession of the church. We have seen that the Christians of the first three centuries never confused one with the other, but for a time celebrated both.”

The Sunday Problem, a study book of the United Lutheran Church (1923), p. 36.

“They [Roman Catholics] refer to the Sabbath Day, as having been changed into the Lord’s Day, contrary to the Decalogue, 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!”

Augsburg Confession of Faith art. 28; written by Melanchthon, approved by Martin Luther, 1530; as published in The Book of Concord of the Evangelical Lutheran Church Henry Jacobs, ed. (1 91 1), p. 63.

“The festival of Sunday, like all other festivals, was always only a human ordinance, and it was far from the intentions of the apostles to establish a Divine command in this respect, far from them, and from the early apostolic Church, to transfer the laws of the Sabbath to Sunday.”

Dr. Augustus Neander, The History of the Christian Religion and Church Henry John Rose, tr. (1843), p. 186..

“But they err in teaching that Sunday has taken the place of the Old Testament Sabbath and therefore must be kept as the seventh day had to be kept by the children of Israel …. These churches err in their teaching, for Scripture has in no way ordained the first day of the week in place of the Sabbath. There is simply no law in the New Testament to that effect.”

John Theodore Mueller, Sabbath or Sunday, pp. 15, 16

“Take the matter of Sunday. There are indications in the New Testament as to how the church came to keep the first day of the week as its day of worship, but there is no passage telling Christians to keep that day, or to transfer the Jewish Sabbath to that day.”

Harris Franklin Rall, Christian Advocate, July 2, 1942, p.26.

“But, the moral law contained in the ten commandments, and enforced by the prophets, he [Christ] did not take away. It was not the design of his coming to revoke any part of this. This is a law which never can be broken …. Every part of this law must remain in force upon all mankind, and in all ages; as not depending either on time or place, or any other circumstances liable to change, but on the nature of God and the nature of man, and their unchangeable relation to each other.”

John Wesley, The Works of the Rev. John Wesley, A.M., John Emory, ed. (New York: Eaton & Mains), Sermon 25,vol. 1, p. 221.

Dwight L. Moody:

The 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?”

D. L. Moody, Weighed and Wanting (Fleming H. Revell Co.: New York), pp. 47, 48.


“The Sabbath is a part of the decalogue — the Ten Commandments. This alone forever settles the question as to the perpetuity of the institution . . . . Until, therefore, it can be shown that the whole moral law has been repealed, the Sabbath will stand . . . . The teaching of Christ confirms the perpetuity of the Sabbath.”

T. C. Blake, D.D., Theology Condensed, pp.474, 475.

Common arguments against Sabbath observance:

Colossians 2:

Perhaps the most common passage cited with regard to the lack of Sabbath observance by protestant Christians is Colossians 2:16-17.  For example, the anti-Sabbatarian writers of “Lying for God” quote this passage as one of their foundational Scriptures:

“Let no man therefore judge you in food, or in drink, or in respect of a holy day, or of the new moon, or of the sabbath days: Which are a shadow of things to come; but the body is of Christ.”

This passage is cited as proof that Jesus did away with the Law at the cross, to include the weekly Sabbath, as no longer binding for the Christian.  It is usually argued that Jesus fulfilled the shadowy Law so that the Christian need not live under the Law, but under grace.   After all, it was Paul himself who explained, “You are not under the law, but under grace.” (Romans 6:14). As an additional text to emphasize this point, especially regarding the Sabbath, Paul is cited again:

Romans 14:5 and “The New Covenant”

“One person considers one day more sacred than another; another considers every day alike. Each of them should be fully convinced in their own mind.” (Romans 14:5)

Therefore, it is argued by anti-Sabbatarians, the Sabbath is no longer an obligation for the Christian who lives by God’s grace and faith the victory of Christ on our behalf… according to the “New Covenant” of grace set up by Jesus at the time of His death and resurrection.

Of course, when challenged on this position, most will agree that it is still wrong to murder, steal, commit adultery, covet, etc…  In fact, most will agree that nine of the ten commandments of the Decalogue are still good for the Christian to continue to observe – only that under the New Covenant Jesus explained that even if you hate your brother your are guilty of murder or even if you lust after a married woman in your heart you are guilty of adultery (Matthew 5:28).  However, when honestly and carefully considered, none of these ideas are really “new”.  After all, the Ten Commandments themselves point out the underlying problem of internal motives. Paul himself explains that he would not have known the problem with his own motives if the Law had not pointed out the problem with coveting something that belongs to someone else:

What shall we say, then? Is the law sinful? Certainly not! Nevertheless, I would not have known what sin was had it not been for the law. For I would not have known what coveting really was if the law had not said, “You shall not covet.” – Romans 7:7

Even the concept of murder, mentioned in the Ten Commandments, implies pre-existing hate for one’s neighbor.  That is why Paul boils it all down, like Jesus did, as concludes:

The commandments, “You shall not commit adultery,” “You shall not murder,” “You shall not steal,” “You shall not covet,” and whatever other command there may be, are summed up in this one command: “Love your neighbor as yourself.” – Romans 13:9

Really, then, the “New Covenant” is simply a restatement of the “Old Covenant” since the Ten Commandments were simply a written expression of what true love for one’s neighbor would look like…

The real question then, for most people, ultimately, boils down to Sabbath observance alone – not any of the other commandments of the Decalogue…

Nine of the Ten Commandments still Binding:

So, why is the Sabbath the only commandment “nailed to the cross” while the rest of the nine commandments of the Decalogue remain intact?  Well, most who are presented with this question tend to argue that the “New Covenant” commandments presented by Jesus in the Sermon on the Mount (Matthew 5-7) and elsewhere during His lifetime, never mentions Sabbath observance as still binding, but does mention all of the other commandments within the Decalogue as being “written on the heart” (Jeremiah 31:33 and Romans 2:15,29).  In fact, some go so far as to argue that Jesus deliberately broke the Sabbath commandment in order to demonstrate its temporary nature.

Jesus broke the Sabbath to undermine its authority:

“The Gospel writers clearly stated that Jesus broke the Sabbath. Since Jesus did actually break the Sabbath, the heresy that the Ten Commandments equal God’s Law would make Him a sinner, which is an impossibility because Jesus was 100% God when He appeared to human beings in human form.”

Lying for God, 10th Ed., 2015, p. 102 (Link)

The problem with this argument is, of course, that Jesus Himself claimed that everything that He did was actually “lawful” for everyone to do according to God’s Law – and always had been lawful.  He explained that God had originally designed that the Sabbath commandment could be “broken” under certain conditions – such as the work of the priests in the temple who consistently “broke” the Sabbath commandment, but in a lawful manner:

Or haven’t you read in the Law that the priests on Sabbath duty in the temple desecrate the Sabbath and yet are innocent? – Matthew 12:5

Jesus also explained that it had also always been “lawful” to do good on the Sabbath when it came to relieving the suffering of human beings or even animals:

So Jesus asked the experts in the law and the Pharisees, “Is it lawful to heal on the Sabbath or not?” But they remained silent. – Luke 14:4

And He asked them, “Which is lawful on the Sabbath: to do good or to do evil, to save life or to destroy it?” But they were silent. – Mark 3:4 and Luke 6:9

Then he asked them, “If one of you has a child or an ox that falls into a well on the Sabbath day, will you not immediately pull it out?” – Luke 14:15

“You hypocrites!” the Lord replied, “Does not each of you on the Sabbath untie his ox or donkey from the stall and lead it to water? – Luke 13:15

Jesus concluded by pointing out the obvious:

How much more valuable is a person than a sheep! Therefore it is lawful to do good on the Sabbath. – Matthew 12:12

And, it wasn’t just Jesus saying this.  The teachers of the Law in Jesus’ day knew full well that this was, in fact, the case according to their own laws.  According to their own teachings, it had always been lawful to “break” the Sabbath commandment in situations where one could relieve the suffering man or beast.  According to the Jewish Encyclopedia, here are some lawful reasons for “breaking” the Sabbath:

The technical term for suspensions of the Sabbath is “doḥin et ha-Shabbat” (push aside or set back the Sabbath). For a higher duty, that of observing the Sabbath was held in abeyance. A priest might violate the Sabbath in the discharge of his sacerdotal work at the altar, or while performing the sacrificial rite, or any other function, assigned to him. For “en Shabbat ba-miḳdash” the Sabbath law is not applicable to the service in the Temple (Pes. 65a). Acts necessary for the Passover are not affected by the prohibitions (Pes. vi. 1, 2). The blowing of the shofar is permitted (R. H. iv. 1). A Levite may tie a broken string on his instrument while performing in the Temple (‘Er. x. 13). Circumcision also takes precedence of the Sabbath, though whatever preparations for this rite can be completed previously should not be left for the Sabbath (Shab. xviii. 3, xix. 1-3). But wheneverthere was danger to life, or where a Jewish woman was in the throes of childbirth, the Sabbath law was set aside (Shab. xviii. 3). In the case of one dangerously sick, whatever was ordered by a competent physician might be done regardless of the Sabbath; but it had to be done by pious and prominent Jews, not by non-Jews (“Yad,” l.c. ii. 1-3). It was forbidden to delay in such a case, for it was intended that man should live by the Law, and not die through it (Yoma 85a, b; Sanh. 74a; ‘Ab. Zarah 27b, 54a; Mek., Ki Tissa). Water might be heated and the lamps lighted. In accidents, too, every help might be extended…

It was permissible to take animals to water, provided they carried no load (“Shibbole ha-Leḳeṭ,” p. 74, where it is explained that covers necessary for the comfort of the animal are not considered a load). Water might be drawn into a trough so that an animal might go and drink of its own accord (‘Er. 20b). If an animal has fallen into a well, it is provided with food until Sabbath is over, if this is possible; but if it is not, covers, cushions, and mattresses are placed under it so that it may get out without further aid; the pain of the animal is sufficient excuse (“ẓa’ar ba’ale ḥayyim”) for this Sabbath violation…

In view of the spirit of philanthropy that, as Maimonides constantly asserts (“Yad,” l.c. ii. 3), underlies the Law, it is difficult to understand the controversies with Jesus attributed to the Pharisees in the New Testament.

Emil G. Hirsch, Joseph Jacobs, Executive Committee of the Editorial Board., Julius H. Greenstone, Sabbath, Jewish Encyclopedia, 1906  (Link)

Clearly then, it was because the Jews already knew that what Jesus was doing was in line with the Law that they refused to answer His questions regarding the requirements of Law and what it said when it came to acting, on the Sabbath, to help a person or animal who was in need.

At this point, of course, Jesus went on to explain that the Sabbath had originally been made, by Him, as a gift for all of mankind, not just for the Jews:


Then he said to them, “The Sabbath was made for man, not man for the Sabbath. – Mark 2:27


The term Jesus used here for “man” was “anthropos” in the original Greek. Clearly, this indicates the intended universal nature of the gift of the Sabbath for the benefit of all of mankind back in Eden – when Adam and Eve were still in their innocence.

Every day should be treated like a Sabbath:

At this point, a new argument is often forwarded:

“Honoring God results in making that day a delight [in reference to the Sabbath discussion of Isaiah 58:13-14]. Realistically, would not honoring God make every day a delight?

If we judge righteous judgment, looking to the heart and intent of heart, a Christian meets the requirements of Isaiah 58:13-14 cited above. A Christian seeks to honor God every waking moment. A Christian’s life focus is on serving God and dedication to God. A Christian’s actions or works are not geared to the self, but done in the furtherance of serving and honoring God. A Christian’s life is hidden in Christ. The “old man of sin” has been crucified; that old self that was self-serving and living a life devoid of God in their life. The Sabbath for the believer now transcends any one specific “day” of rest or cessation of labor that was previously in vain, eventually ending in death. This one enters into God’s rest He entered into on that seventh day of Creation through faith.

Lying for God, 10th Ed., 2015, p. 103-104 (Link)

In other words, God doesn’t really care about honoring one day over another, and never really did, because everyone should have been doing the will of God every day – not just on the Sabbath.  In this way the Sabbath was, and is, no more special or honorable than any other day of the week should be before God.

The problem with this argument is, of course, that Sabbath observance was intended as a special time entirely devoted to God, free of secular activities or individual pursuits for personal gain.  It simply doesn’t follow then that God never really intended to set aside a particular day of the week as unique or “holy” – a day devoted to spending “quality time” with Him.

But why observe a particular day of the week? – one particular day in seven?  It seems rather arbitrary since it appears to be independent of any external physical phenomenon (such as the rotations of the Sun or the moon).  Of course, that’s just the point.  Are we willing to do what God says without a need for any other reason?  Sabbath observance can, therefore, be viewed as a sign or symbol of our love for God – of our willingness to do whatever He says just because He said so.

But isn’t motive of primary importance to God?

A work is good or evil based on its own merits, and not according to what day it is performed. One looks to the intent of heart. One does not look to the day it was performed, which again is to judge according to appearance.

Lying for God, 10th Ed., 2015, p. 104 (Link)

While a person’s motive is indeed most important to God, and God does look upon the heart of a person (1 Samuel 16:7) once one has a conscious understanding of a command of God, one cannot disregard such a command while still maintaining the motive of love toward God.  An act may be otherwise innocent and even good in and of itself, but if it knowingly goes contrary to a direct command of God, it is evidence of a disrespectful unloving attitude toward God. Secular work to maintain one’s self and one’s family is not in and of itself a bad thing. In fact, it’s a good thing.  However, when God asks us to set aside even good things for a time or asks us to selectively do one thing, in particular, among several seemingly good options, it would be a bad thing to knowingly disregard God’s request.

A good example of this is the story of Cain and Abel where Cain thought it perfectly reasonable and good to bring the best produce of his garden to offer on the altar before God – and so it would seem if God had not specifically asked for a lamb to be sacrificed.  God rejected Cain’s offering because Cain knowingly acted contrary to God’s clear direction in this matter – despite the fact that Cain brought God the very best produce from his garden. (Genesis 4:3-7)

What’s wrong with bringing your very best to God?  Nothing – unless God has asked for something specific that you knowingly aren’t doing.

A similar thing happened to King Saul. God told Saul that he was to utterly destroy the Amalekites – even the animals. Yet, Saul disobeyed with the excuse that he had saved the best of the animals to sacrifice to God. That seems like a lovely motive, except that this action was in direct violation of a very clear command of God.  It was Samuel who explained the importance of careful obedience to the commands of God regardless of any rationalizations for why one might try to do something “better” than what God has actually requested of us:

“To obey is better than sacrifice, and to heed is better than the fat of rams.” (1 Samuel 15:22)

The same is true for the Christian today.  If someone is truly ignorant of a particular command or request on the part of God, and that person is honestly acting according to the very best knowledge and motivations that are currently available, then God accepts this person and their actions.  Jesus Himself pointed out that there is no “sin” where there is honest ignorance of the will of God.

Jesus said, “If you were blind, you would not be guilty of sin; but now that you claim you can see, your guilt remains.” – John 9:41

If I had not come and spoken to them, they would not be guilty of sin; but now they have no excuse for their sin. – John 15:22

However, when additional knowledge is gained, one cannot simply continue as one did before, but must modify one’s actions accordingly if one wishes to maintain pure motives before God.

This is true when it comes to a knowledge of the Sabbath.  There are many who honestly do not know what God has commanded regarding the Sabbath day.  There are those who honestly observe a different day as holy, and God accepts their honest sincerity before Him.  There are even those who have never even heard the name of God or of Jesus, yet they can be saved if they are living according to the best light and knowledge that they have available to them.

For it is not those who hear the law who are righteous in God’s sight, but it is those who obey the law who will be declared righteous. (Indeed, when Gentiles, who do not have the law, do by nature things required by the law, they are a law for themselves, even though they do not have the law. They show that the requirements of the law are written on their hearts, their consciences also bearing witness, and their thoughts sometimes accusing them and at other times even defending them.) This will take place on the day when God judges people’s secrets through Jesus Christ, as my gospel declares. – Romans 2:13-16

So, God does indeed value honest and sincere motives and love above everything else.  Again, however, such pure motives cannot exist within someone who has additional knowledge of God’s wishes that they simply aren’t willing to follow.

Sabbath given only to the Jews:

But, what about the argument that, according to ancient Jewish laws and customs, the Sabbath was only given to the Jews? – that no Gentile could observe the Sabbath on pain of death? As cited in the book, “Lying for God“, the Jewish Encyclopedia explains this perspective:

Jewish Perspective:

Resh Laish (d. 278) said, “A Gentile observing the Sabbath deserves death” (Sanh. 58b). This refers to a Gentile who accepted the seven laws of the Noachidæ, inasmuch as “the Sabbath is a sign between God and Israel alone,” and it was probably directed against the Christian Jews, who disregarded the Mosaic laws and yet at that time kept up the observance of the Jewish Sabbath…

In a remarkable apology for Christianity contained in his appendix to Seder Olam (pp. 32b-34b, Hamburg, 1752), gives it as his opinion that the original intention of Jesus, and especially of Paul, was to
convert only the Gentiles to the seven moral laws of Noah and to let the Jews follow the Mosaic law— which explains the apparent contradictions in the New Testament regarding the laws of Moses and the Sabbath.

Jewish Encyclopedia

The Book of Jubilees (a Jewish pseudepigraphal work of the second century BC) says that “the Creator of all things.., did not sanctify all peoples and nations to keep Sabbath thereon, but Israel alone”

“The Book of Jubilees,” in The Apocrypha and Pseudepigrapha of the Old Testament, ed. R.H. Charles, vol. 2, Pseudepigrapha [Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1913], p. 15

The Creator of all blessed it, but he did not sanctify any people or nations to keep the Sabbath thereon with the sole exception of Israel. He granted to them alone that they might eat and drink and keep the Sabbath thereon upon the earth’

Jubilees 2:31, James Charlesworth, ed., The Old Testament Pseudepigrapha, [New York: Doubleday, 1985], vol. 2, p. 58

Book of Jubilees and Mishneh Torah:

First off, the Book of Jubilees, written in the mid-second century by some unknown author, is not canonical and contains various discrepancies compared to the Bible. Beyond this, the Jubilees is not consistent regarding its testimony on Sabbath observance. Consider, for example, the following passage where Enoch is said to have kept the Sabbath – even before the Flood. And, according to the Jubilees, even the angels originally kept the Sabbath from the beginning of time – and were circumcised as well:

“[Enoch] recounted the weeks of the jubilees, and made known to them the days of the years, and set in order the months and recounted the Sabbaths of the years…”

Jubilees 4:18, in R. H. Charles’, Apocrypha and Pseudepigrapha of the Old Testament, Vol. II, p. 18. (Link)

“And all the angels of the presence, and all the angels of sanctification, these two great classes, He hath bidden us to keep the Sabbath with Him in heaven and on earth.

Jubilees 2:18 (Link)

“And every one that is born, the flesh of whose foreskin is not circumcised on the eighth day, belongs not to the children of the covenant which the Lord made with Abraham, but to the children of destruction; nor is there, moreover, any sign on him that he is the Lord’s, but (he is destined) to be destroyed and slain from the earth, and to be rooted out of the earth, for he has broken the covenant of the Lord our God. For all the angels of the presence and all the angels of sanctification have been so created from the day of their creation, and before the angels of the presence and the angels of sanctification He hath sanctified Israel, that they should be with Him and with His holy angels.”

Jubilees 15:26-27 (Link)

Interesting how the angels were created already circumcised – even though Jesus explained that the angels “do not marry nor are given in marriage” (Matthew 22:30).

However, the concept of the Sabbath being exclusive to the Jews is also found in the “Mishneh Torah” (written between 1170 and 1180 AD), and does seem to represent the understanding of many of the Jews during certain times in history.

The Mishneh Torah (Hebrew: מִשְׁנֵה תּוֹרָה‎‎, “Repetition of the Torah”), subtitled Sefer Yad ha-Hazaka (ספר יד החזקה “Book of the Strong Hand”), is a code of Jewish religious law (Halakha) authored by Maimonides (Rabbi Moshe ben Maimon, also known as “Rambam”), one of history’s foremost rabbis. So, while not exactly canonical, it would seem to reflect the thinking of Jews, at times, as follows:

A gentile who studies the Torah is obligated to die. They should only be involved in the study of their seven mitzvot.

Similarly, a gentile who rests, even on a weekday, observing that day as a Sabbath, is obligated to die. Needless to say, he is obligated for that punishment if he creates a festival for himself.

The general principle governing these matters is: They are not to be allowed to originate a new religion or create mitzvot for themselves based on their own decisions. They may either become righteous converts and accept all the mitzvot or retain their statutes without adding or detracting from them.

– Mishneh Torah, chapter 10 (Link)

This is indeed pretty harsh language against anyone thinking to observe Jewish laws and customs, including the Sabbath, without first becoming full converts to Judaism. In fact, Judaism holds that gentiles (goyim; “non-Jews,” literally “nations”) are not obligated to adhere to all the laws of the Torah (indeed, they are forbidden to fulfill some laws, such as the keeping of the Sabbath in the exact same manner as Israel). Rabbinic Judaism and its modern-day descendants actually discourage proselytization. The Noahide Laws (as listed below) are regarded as the way through which non-Jews can have a direct and meaningful relationship with God or at least comply with the minimal requisites of civilization and of divine law.

Seven Laws of Noah:

The Seven Laws of Noah:

  • Do not deny God.
  • Do not blaspheme God.
  • Do not murder.
  • Do not engage in incest, adultery, pederasty, or bestiality, as well as homosexual relations.
  • Do not steal.
  • Do not eat of a live animal.
  • Establish courts/legal system to ensure law and obedience.

New World Encyclopedia (Link)

The “Ten Commandments” of the Bible (though in some ways quite different) were, according to the Talmud, simply added in addition to these pre-existing Laws of Noah:

Ten Commandments Incorporate Laws of Noah:

“Surely it has been taught: The Israelites were given ten precepts at Marah, seven of which had already been accepted by the children of Noah, to which were added at Marah social laws, the Sabbath, and honouring one’s parents.”

Babylonian Talmud: Tractate Sanhedrin, Folio 56 (Link)

Samuel Bacchiocchi:

This might sound as though the additional laws mentioned in the Ten Commandments were not known before they were given to Moses.  However, this isn’t a correct understanding of Jewish beliefs.  There seems to be a bit of inconsistency, actually, in how the Jews viewed the Sabbath.  On the one hand, during times of severe persecution, they appeared to view the Sabbath in more exclusive terms. Yet, in relatively peaceful times, they tended to view the Sabbath in more universal terms. Samuel Bacchiocchi (Adventist author and theologian) explains:

The Jewish attempt to reduce the Sabbath from a creation ordinance established for mankind to a Mosaic ordinance given exclusively to Israel, was developed by Palestinian rabbis to preserve a Jewish identity, at a time when the Syrian king Antiochus Epiphanes implemented a program of radical Hellenization of the Jews through the prohibition of sacrifices and Sabbathkeeping (175 B.C.). The result was that many Jews fell away, “sacrificed to the gods and desecrated the Sabbath” (1 Macc. 1:43). Pious Jews resisted passionately against such Hellenization, preferring to be slaughtered rather than desecrating the Sabbath (1 Macc. 2 :32-38).

The need to preserve a Jewish identity at that critical time inspired an exclusivistic and nationalistic view of the Sabbath. Some Rabbis taught that the privilege of Sabbathkeeping was denied to the Gentiles and reserved exclusively to Israel. As stated in the book of Jubilees, “He [God] allowed no other people or peoples to keep the Sabbath on this day, except Israel only; to it alone he granted to eat and drink and keep the Sabbath on it” (2 :31).69…

It must be said, however, that such a view represents a late secondary development rather than an original tradition. This is borne out by the fact that even in Palestinian literature there are references to the creation origin of the Sabbath. For example, the Book of Jubilees (about 140-100 B.C.), while on the one hand it says that God allowed “Israel only” to keep the Sab-bath (Jub. 2:31), on the other holds that God “kept Sabbath on the seventh day and hallowed it for all ages, and appointed it as a sign for all His works” (Jub. 2:1).

In Hellenistic (Greek) Jewish literature the Sabbath is un-mistakably viewed as a creation ordinance designed for all people. For example, Philo, the famous Jewish philosopher, not only traces the origin of the Sabbath to creation, but also delights to call it “the birthday of the world.” Referring to the creation story, Philo explains: “We are told that the world was made in six days and that on the seventh God ceased from his works and began to contemplate what had been so well created, and therefore he bade those who should live as citizens under this world-order to follow God in this as in other matters.” Because the Sabbath exists from creation, Philo emphasizes that it is “the festival not of a single city or country but of the universe, and it alone strictly deserves to be called public, as belonging to all people.”

Bacchiocchi / Ratzlaff Sabbath Debate: Part 2 (Link)

The fact of the matter is that Bacchiocchi is right – as Isaiah, Philo, Jesus, and even the Talmud testify.

Isaiah, the Old Testament prophet, is fairly clear that non-Jews who wished to serve God and keep His Laws, including the Sabbath commandment, would be accepted by Him:

And foreigners who bind themselves to the LORD to serve him, to love the name of the LORD, and to worship him, all who keep the Sabbath without desecrating it and who hold fast to my covenant —  these I will bring to my holy mountain and give them joy in my house of prayer. Their burnt offerings and sacrifices will be accepted on my altar; for my house will be called a house of prayer for all nations.” (Isaiah 56:6-7)

Also, many Jews believe that the Sabbath was universal in nature, created for all of mankind.  Consider, for example, the thoughts of Philo along these lines…

Philo: Universal Sabbath was made for all of mankind:

Philo of Alexandria, living at the same time of Christ (20 BC – 60 AD), argued that the Sabbath was made for all of mankind as a “universal festival” – a time of holy celebration that isn’t limited to the Jews only since God created the Sabbath to be celebrated as “the birthday of the world”.

 Philo of Alexandria (Link, Link)

This echoes the words and sentiments of Jesus Himself who said that He had in fact personally made the Sabbath as a gift for all of humankind/anthropos (Mark 2:27).

Even according to the Talmud, the patriarchs who lived before Moses came on the scene knew of and obeyed the laws of the Torah – before they were written down by Moses.

Patriarchs before Moses kept the whole Torah: 

In the Talmud (Tractate Yoma 28b) it is written that Abraham kept the entire Torah. This includes both the “Written Law” (the five books of Moses) and the “Oral Law” (the explanations of how to carry out that Written Law).

The Medrash (Beraishis Rabba 95:3) tells us that Jacob studied the Torah just as his fathers had done – and that he sent Judah to Egypt to establish a House of Study before Jacob’s family arrived to settle there. Apparently, according to the Talmud anyway, Jacob had the Torah, in some form or another, as well.

The Medrash explains that Abraham knew the Torah on his own. But how could this be?  Who gave Abraham this information?  Rabbi Shlomo Ibn Aderes, the “Rashba” (Spain, 1235-1310) in his classic Responsa (Responsa #94) explained this idea:

The Torah is not merely a book. It is an abbreviation of the entire mass of spiritual wisdom. Because of our own inability to grasp these concepts in their totality, let alone to figure them out on our own, we were given the Torah at Sinai with 613 commandments instructing us to do, or abstain from, particular physical actions. Additionally, the Torah has practically infinite textual references to the concepts of spiritual wisdom. The Torah, as we were given it, is our key to these concepts. In our time we’ve seen the great discoveries that mankind has made in medicine, technology, the arts, and other areas of the physical world. Our forefathers, in their tremendous wisdom, were able to tap into the discoveries of the spiritual world. They didn’t need to be given the Torah to discover it; they discovered it on their own. (Link)

The “Medrash” or Midrash (Beraishis Rabba, 1:2) states,

“He [God] looked at the Torah and created the world.”

First of all, this means that the Torah preceded God’s creation of the world. This suggests that it is not merely a book – it is a body of wisdom. It also means that God used the Torah as a type of blueprint for the universe. We now can understand how the Patriarchs could tap into the knowledge of the Torah. With their intense level of consciousness they could see the principles of the Torah in the world around them; in the world that was built following the Torah’s blueprint.

Of course, this includes knowledge of an obedience to the command of God to keep holy the weekly Sabbath on the seventh day…

Breshith Rabbah:

In this line, the Breshith Rabbah (Genesis Rabbath) tells a story about the miracle of Sarah’s Sabbath lamp as follows:

In Sarah’s tent, a special miracle proclaimed that the Divine Presence dwelled therein: the lamp she lit every Friday evening, in honor of the divine day of rest, miraculously kept burning all week, until the next Friday eve. When Sarah died (1676 BCE), the miracle of her Shabbat lamp ceased. But on the day of Sarah’s passing, Rebecca was born. And when Rebecca was brought to Sarah’s tent as the destined wife of Sarah’s son, Isaac, the miracle of the lamp returned. Once again, the light of Shabbat filled the tent of the matriarch of Israel and radiated its holiness to the entire week. (Bereishit Rabbah 60)

Genesis Rabbah (Hebrew: בְְּרֵאשִׁית רַבָּה‎, B’reshith Rabbah) is a religious text from Judaism’s classical period, probably written between 300 and 500 CE with some later additions. It is a midrash comprising a collection of ancient rabbinical homiletical interpretations of the Book of Genesis (B’reshith in Hebrew).

At a minimum, then, it seems as though the Laws of God, to include the weekly Sabbath, were known and followed before the time of Moses (according to the understanding of the Jews).  But, were these Laws only give to the patriarchs? – and not the rest of the world?  Well, Sabbath observance, in particular, would have been seen, by the Patriarchs before the time of Moses, as a memorial of creation.  And, as a memorial of creation, established in Eden before the Fall of mankind, would have been originally intended for all of humankind for all eternity.


This is actually very much in line with the comment of Jesus Himself who said that He created the Sabbath as a gift for all of mankind (Mark 2:27) – not just the Jews.

Solomon Goldman:

This reasonable conclusion, that Adam kept the Sabbath before the Fall while still in his innocence in Eden, is held by many Jewish writers. Solomon Goldman (1893-1953) says:

“Both Philo and the Rabbis assumed that the first man emulated his Maker and rested on the Sabbath.”

Solomon Goldman, The Book of Human Destiny, Vol. 2, “In the Beginning,” p. 744.

It seems, then, that many of the Jews, especially the leaders, lost sight of their original purpose – which was to spread the knowledge of the one true God and His love (which is embedded in His Laws) to the entire world of peoples who had lost the knowledge of God over time. Instead of following this commission, the Jews became more and more exclusive in their thinking and proud of their privileged position in being given special knowledge of God and His Laws. They saw no need to share these gifts abroad – and ended up not recognizing the Lawgiver Himself when He came to this world to live among us as one of us.

Martin Luther:

Dr. Martin Luther, even though a Sunday (not a Sabbath) keeper, argued that the Sabbath was originally created for all of humankind in Eden, before the Fall.  Yet, ironically, he personally felt that the particular day of the week chosen for rest and religious contemplation no longer mattered for the Christian since “no one day was better than another” – as long as at least one day a week was set aside. He thought that since, by his day, Sunday had long been accepted as the common day of worship, that this practice should be maintained – “so that things may be done in an orderly fashion and no one creates disorder by unnecessary innovation.” Still, mysteriously given this perspective, Luther believed that the Sabbath had in fact originally been created by God at the very beginning of time for all of mankind to enjoy:

“God blessed the Sabbath and sanctified it to Himself. It is moreover to be remarked that God did this to no other creature. God did not sanctify to Himself the heaven nor the earth nor any other creature. But God did sanctify to Himself the seventh day. This was especially designed of God, to cause us to understand that the ‘seventh day’ is to be especially devoted to divine worship….

It follows therefore from this passage, that if Adam had stood in his innocence and had not fallen he would yet have observed the ‘seventh day’ as sanctified, holy and sacred…. Nay, even after the fall he held the ‘seventh day’ sacred; that is, he taught on that day his own family. This is testified by the offerings made by his two sons, Cain and Abel. The Sabbath therefore has, from the beginning of the world, been set apart for the worship of God…. For all these things are implied and signified in the expression ‘sanctified.’

Although therefore man lost the knowledge of God by sin, yet God willed that this command concerning the sanctifying of the Sabbath should remain. He willed that on the seventh day both the word should be preached, and also those other parts of His worship performed which He Himself instituted.”

Martin Luther, The Creation, A Commentary on Genesis,” Vol. I, pp. 138-140, (Originally published in 1554 – Link) translation by Professor J. N. Lenker, D. D., Minneapolis: 1901; and also “Copious Explanation of Genesis,” Vol. I, pp. 62, 68. Christiania: 1863. (Link)

Philip Melanchthon:

Philip Melanchthon, also a Sunday (not a Sabbath) keeper, said pretty much the same thing as Luther regarding the pre-existence, before Moses, of the entire Decalogue:

“The chief features of the moral laws have been brought together in one small table, which is called ‘The Decalogue.’ As these are the external rules of the Divine mind, they sounded at all times in the Church even before Moses, and will always remain and pertain to all nations.”

Philip Melanchthon, Loci Communes, 1521 AD

Johann Peter Lange:

Consider also the conclusions of Johann Peter Lange, a German Calvinist theologian (1802-1884):

“If we had no other passage than this of Genesis 2:3 there would be no difficulty in deducing from it a precept for the universal observance of a Sabbath, or the seventh day, to be devoted to God, as holy time, by all of that race for whom the earth and its nature were especially prepared. The first man must have known it. The words ‘He hallowed it,’ can have no meaning otherwise. They would be a blank unless in reference to some who were required to keep it holy.”

Johann Peter Lange, Commentary on the Holy Scriptures, D. D., Vol. I, pp. 196, 197. New York: 1884.


Ten Commandments equivalent to rest of the Mosaic Laws:

Israel viewed the Law of Moses as one integrated and inseparable body of 613 equally important “covenant” points of law. You break one of these 613 laws, and you have violated the covenant. The Decalogue was only a part of the Law of Moses, and it was strikingly incomplete.

Lying for God, 10th Ed., 2015, p. 109 (Link)

Of course, this isn’t true since the Ten Commandments were given a special status by God Himself since only the Decalogue was placed inside of the Ark of the Covenant right under the “Mercy Seat”.  All of the other Mosaic laws were placed in a compartment on the outside of the Ark “as a witness against you” (Deuteronomy 31:26).

In response to this point, I’ve heard all kinds of reasons why this might have been done while still keeping intact the notion that all of the Mosaic laws were considered “equal” to the Decalogue.  One person even suggested to me that perhaps the Ark of the Covenant had been made “too small” to hold all but ten of the laws of Moses…

The reality of the situation, however, is that the Decalogue was written by God’s own finger in stone as eternal unchangeable moral Laws – while the rest of the Mosaic laws were largely “ceremonial” foreshadowing the coming Messiah and the meaning of His life and death for the salvation of a lost world.

Circumcision tied to the Sabbath Commandment:

Another argument is occasionally made that the Mosaic law concerning circumcision was equal if not superior to the Sabbath commandment – since circumcision must take place on the 8th day after birth even if this day happened to be on the Sabbath day (thereby trumping the Sabbath commandment).  So, if circumcision is not required for the Christian (according to Acts 15), why then would the Sabbath be required?

“The biblical understanding of circumcision as taught in Scripture and Jewish rabbinical writings is close to absolute proof that Sabbath-keeping ended at the cross and was officially put to rest at the Council of Jerusalem.”

Lying for God, 10th Ed., 2015, p. 110 (Link)

There are several problems with this conclusion.  Fist off, the practice of circumcision started with Abraham due to his own efforts to help God out with human efforts by taking things into his own hands, so to speak. God then gave him the rite of circumcision in order to remind him, and his children after him, that God is not dependent upon human effort to accomplish His own purposes. Before this time, obviously, there simply was no Divine command regarding circumcision. Therefore, this “law” is not an eternal moral Law set for all times and all places.  That is why it wasn’t included in Decalogue or written with the finger of God in stone.  Also, although the observance of the other commandments of the Decalogue, including the Sabbath commandment, preceded Abraham, according to the Jews themselves, the practice of circumcision did not. This particular practice and law truly did begin with the father of the Israelite nation.

Beyond this, considering how much of an uproar the issue of circumcision by itself caused for the Jerusalem counsel (described in Acts 15), if the Sabbath issue had also been on the table, much would have been said of it as well. However, absolutely nothing was said of Sabbath observance. Why not? Because, obviously, it simply wasn’t an issue.  The non-Jewish Christian converts were already observing the weekly Sabbath without any problem. This is confirmed by the historical records noted above where Sabbath observance was widespread throughout the early Christian world – and remained so for many hundreds of years and in some places well over a thousand years and into modern times.

Isreal not to make friends with other nations:

The Israelites were a stubborn and stiff-necked people according to God’s own assessment. He knew the Hebrews would easily be corrupted by associating with the Heathen. The ordinances of the Sabbath, circumcision, and the Jewish dietary laws placed a high wall of social separation between Israel and the Gentiles. If people don’t eat together, they are less likely to become friends. Along similar lines, the ordinance of circumcision made it a very painful process for the head of a Gentile household to make a decision to join an Israelite community and to live as a proselyte. Contrast this with God’s expressed New Covenant purpose to tear down this barrier between Jews and Gentiles after the cross. St. Paul was God’s specially designated ambassador of the Gospel to the Gentiles according to Scripture…

The Sabbath was a ceremonial law designed to keep Israel and the Gentiles separate, and that barrier must come down if Jews and Gentiles are to be united in the Gospel.

Lying for God, 10th Ed., 2015, p. 113 (Link)

So, God created all of the burdensome laws as walls for Isreal, not to keep them safe and give them practical advantages when living in this world, but to keep everyone else out? – to make things very difficult for the Jews to make friends with the surrounding nations? To make their way of life as distasteful as possible for anyone to want to follow Jehovah?  Really?  That was the reason for the Sabbath and the Ten Commandments and the other Mosaic Laws? – like the dietary laws?  It couldn’t be that these laws were actually a blessing to the Israelites? that they had objective advantages compared to all the other nations around them as far as general health and longevity is concerned (in a day and age before the concept of germs and the benefits of hygiene was scientifically understood)?  It couldn’t be that the ceremonial laws regarding the coming of the Messiah were intended to lead to the mind to carefully contemplate what God Himself would have to sacrifice to accomplish His plan of salvation?  – to help to establish a closer relationship and love for Him?  Yet, all these advantages were really intended to be seen as very unattractive for the surrounding nations?

Come on now.  It couldn’t be that these laws were actually a blessing to the Israelites? that they had objective advantages compared to all the other nations around them as far as general health and longevity is concerned (in a day and age before the concept of germs and the benefits of hygiene was scientifically understood)?  It couldn’t be that the ceremonial laws regarding the coming of the Messiah were intended to lead to the mind to carefully contemplate what God Himself would have to sacrifice to accomplish His plan of salvation?  – to help to establish a closer relationship and love for Him?  It couldn’t be that a weekly day of rest has any practical advantage or that humans are actually tuned to a weekly circadian biological cycle. Yet, as it turns out, pretty much every living thing, to include humans beings, experiences a seven-day, or “circaseptan” biological cycle. (Link, Link)?

Yet, all these advantages were really intended to be seen as very unattractive for the surrounding nations?  I guess God simply didn’t understand what He was saying when He suggested that the Sabbath should be viewed as a “delightful” day (Isaiah 58:13)? After all, how could it be “delightful” if it was actually intended as a “wall” to keep the heathen away?

The Greeks have always hated Jewish laws and customs:

As we mentioned in another chapter, Bacchiocchi seemed to be unaware that the Greek hatred of the Sabbath, circumcision, and the Jewish Food Laws continues unabated until this day. His is an odd “Judeo-centric” view of the conflict found in the Book of Maccabees. Adventism has fewer than 1,000 members in Greece today, and Greece has the lowest rate of circumcision in the Western World (less than 2 percent). Had not the Apostles swiftly abandoned the Sabbath, Circumcision and the Jewish Food laws at the Council of Jerusalem, Christianity would have quickly shriveled into an obscure sect of Judaism localized around Jerusalem. Simply put, Adventism is a non-starter in Greece because of the Sabbath and its adoption of the Jewish Food laws. The Greeks hate those Jewish traditions just as passionately today as they did 2,000 years ago…

That NONE of the Ecumenical Councils discussed the Sabbath, or issued canons on the subject, strongly indicates that there simply was no controversy on the subject. It suggests, instead, that Christians had abandoned Sabbathkeeping immediately after the Resurrection, which is the avowed position of the 300 million member Eastern Orthodox Church. Adventist leadership has been aware of Eastern Christianity’s unequivocal-position on this issue since no later than 1915, and has never acknowledged that fact; let alone addressed the contention; let alone disputed the Eastern Church’s contention; let alone refuted it. They simply ignored it all.

Lying for God, 10th Ed., 2015, p. 114, 129-130 (Link)

Clearly, the author(s) of this argument haven’t done their homework since, as shown above, the split between the Eastern Orthodox Church and the Catholic Church was, in no small part, due to disagreements over Sabbath observance (Link). The Eastern Church had been observing the Sabbath “in the Jewish manner” for over 1000 years and the church leadership in Rome didn’t like that one little bit. Yet, the Eastern Orthodox Church leadership would not give up on the “apostolic traditions” that they inherited directly from the apostles of Christ. So, they refused to give up on their Sabbath observance… and the rest is history.

Even before the Christian era, the Greeks showed an actual fondness for Jewish laws and customs. Consider the commentary of Josephus along these lines. Josephus was a first-century Romano-Jewish scholar, historian and hagiographer, who was born in Jerusalem. Regarding the popularity of Jewish laws and customs, including the Sabbath, he wrote:

“We have already demonstrated that our laws have been such as have always inspired admiration and imitation into all other men; nay, the earliest Grecian philosophers, though in appearance they observed the laws of their own countries, yet did they, in their actions, and their philosophic doctrines, follow our legislator, and instructed men to live sparingly, and to have friendly communication one with another. Nay, further, the multitude of mankind itself have had a great inclination of a long time to follow our religious observances; for there is not any city of the Grecians, nor any of the barbarians, nor any nation whatsoever, whither our custom of resting on the seventh day hath not come, and by which our fasts and lighting up lamps, and many of our prohibitions as to our food, are not observed; they also endeavor to imitate our mutual concord with one another, and the charitable distribution of our goods, and our diligence in our trades, and our fortitude in undergoing the distresses we are in, on account of our laws; and, what is here matter of the greatest admiration, our law hath no bait of pleasure to allure men to it, but it prevails by its own force; and as God himself pervades all the world, so hath our law passed through all the world also.”

Flavius Josephus, Against Apion (English – Link)

In short, it is a clear historical fact that the Greeks did, in fact, continue to observe the Sabbath “in the Jewish manner” for over 1000 years after Christ – a popular practice that only dwindled subsequent to the split with Rome over the course of the succeeding centuries.

The Seventh-day Sabbath is ceremonial:

Jesus viewed both the Sabbath and circumcision to be ceremonial in nature. He did not condemn the Jews for breaking the Sabbath to circumcise a child on the 8th day following his birth according to the laws of Moses. The Weekly Sabbath is listed in Leviticus 23 as one of many ceremonial ordinances…

It should be clear, now, that the Adventist interpretation that only the “ceremonial” laws were nailed to the cross is not possible for a number of reasons. The Sabbath was a ceremonial law designed to keep Israel and the Gentiles separate, and that barrier must come down if Jews and Gentiles are to be united in the Gospel. The Old Testament, as well as Jewish traditional theology, views the TORAH as absolutely inseparable covenant. No Jewish Scholar recognized a distinction between the “moral” and “ceremonial” components of the Mosaic Law, nor did any of them recognize a distinction between the “Ten Commandments” and the rest of the 613 Mosaic Commandments.

Lying for God, 10th Ed., 2015, p. 104 (Link)

While the weekly Sabbath has an arbitrary component to it and while it is a ceremonial celebration of creation and liberation from slavery (to include slavery to sin), this does not mean that its inclusion in the Ten Commandments that were written by God’s own finger on stone means that it is on the same level as all of the other Mosaic laws that were placed outside fo the Ark of the Covenant in a separate box – nor does it mean that the Sabbath is temporary in nature. Also, just because circumcision could take place on the Sabbath doesn’t mean that if the requirement for circumcision goes away that the Sabbath command goes away along with it. These arguments simply don’t follow for several reasons.

First off, the Sabbath existed before circumcision existed (according to the Bible and the Talmud).  It was instituted by God during the creation week and declared to be “holy” at the very beginning of time (Genesis 2:3) – and observed by the patriarchs before Moses came along.  Circumcision, on the other hand, was given to Abraham to remind him of his failure in trying to fulfill God’s promises through human power. It wouldn’t have been required if Abraham hadn’t tried to take things into his own hands and simply sat back and trusted God to fulfill His own promises. However, once circumcision was put in place for Abraham and his offspring after him, there are practical medical reasons why circumcision should take place on the 8th day – and the Sabbath commandment always makes room for the practical needs of man and even of animals.  Again, this is because the Sabbath was made as a gift of rest for all of humankind from the very beginning of time (Mark 2:27).  It was never intended to be a burden or an ugly “wall of separation” between Jews and gentiles.  It was always intended to be something beautiful and attractive and delightful for all of humankind for all generations.

But what about the ceremonial and arbitrary aspects of the weekly Sabbath? – on the 7th day in particular?  Is God not allowed to make an arbitrary day of rest and assign it to a particular day just because He said so? – and insert it into His own moral Law written for all eternity in stone?  Also, just because God cites its origin in the creation week and its use as a reminder of delivery from slavery doesn’t mean that it is therefore somehow temporary.  Otherwise, He wouldn’t have included it with the other commandments that He wrote with His own finger in stone.

There is a reason why the laws dealing with the temple service are temporary – because they are in fact “shadows of things to come.” (Colossians 2:17).  These shadows were cast backward in time by something in the future – by Jesus Himself and His life and death on the cross.  The weekly Sabbath, in comparison, was not cast as a shadow by something in the future.  According to God Himself, the weekly Sabbath is a ceremonial reminder of past events – to include creation week and delivery from slavery.  There is, therefore, no reason for there ever to be an end to this particular shadow.  There was a beginning, but no end to it.

So, there is a very clear difference between the “shadows” that Paul is talking about in Colossians 2 that meet their reality in Jesus compared to the Sabbath commandment that never has an end – since it references past events. It is for this reason that the weekly Sabbath is included along with the other eternal moral Laws as part of the Ten Commandments written in stone – because all of them are permanent nature.

Creation week Sabbath as a “Prolepsis”:

An example of literary prolepsis would be something like, “I was a dead man as soon as the murderer walked into the room with an assault weapon.” In a prolepsis, the event is said to have taken place before it actually does.

Some scholars have proposed the idea that since Moses wrote about both the events of Creation and the Exodus, that in his mind, he was thinking about the events of the 7th day of Creation as a flash-forward to the giving of the Sabbath commandment at the time of the Exodus, and that his view of the whole story is why he worded things in such a way that could even tempt a few people to think they saw a Sabbath ordinance in the Creation story. While this concept, called prolepsis, makes a lot of sense, Sabbatarian apologists do not like it.

Lying for God, 10th Ed., 2015, p. 19 (Link)

So, since Genesis clearly states that the 7th-day was created as Holy day of rest by God before the Fall (Genesis 2:3), somehow that must not really be true, but only a prophetic statement as to when the Sabbath day would actually be created at the time of Moses? – even though God Himself wrote in stone that He did, in fact, create the Sabbath day in memorial of creation with added significance as a symbol of His releasing the Israelites from Egyptian slavery (and from slavery to sin)?  Again, one cannot have a real “prolepsis” here when God Himself clarifies that the origin of the Sabbath was at the time of creation and remains as a memorial to that event (Exodus 20:11). Just to add emphasis, Jesus reiterated this fact noting that the Sabbath was originally made for all of humankind (Mark 2:27).

The word “Sabbath” is not used in Genesis:

Some say that since the Seventh-day in the Genesis account is not explicitly called the Sabbath by Moses, that the Sabbath did not exist at that time. This fails to understand something very important in the Hebrew.

There is some debate as to whether the noun šabbāṯ (שָׁבּת) derives from the verb šaḇaṯ (שַׁבת) or vice versa (note that the verb šaḇaṯ (שַׁבת) means “to rest” and is used in Genesis to describe God “resting” on the 7th-day). Moses, however, clearly sees that the meaning of the Sabbath derives from the act of God’s resting on the Seventh day of creation. Therefore whether the noun or verb came first, in the mind of Moses, it is clear that the action precedes that name.

Those who say that the Seventh day of Creation was not the same as the Sabbath do so in ignorance of the deliberate association of the name of the day by the time of Moses to the original action of God. The Hebrew makes it clear that the Seventh day of Creation was the first Sabbath by the presence of the verb from which the name takes its meaning.

The Sabbath as a “Propitiation”:

The term “propitiation” is defined as the action of appeasing a god, spirit, or person. In Christianity, it is generally tied in with the atonement of Jesus through His life and ultimately His death on the cross.  The argument made by some, such as the authors of the book “Lying for God“, is that the Sabbath is specifically tied to this concept of atonement or “propitiation”:

The Greek word (sabbaton) is translated from the Hebrew word for “Sabbath.” The root meaning of the word, sabbaton, has a distinct connotation of propitiation. Propitiation is a concept foreign to the Garden of Eden prior to the Fall, and there is no mention of anything that could even be construed as a reference to the Sabbath between the account of the Fall and the Exodus. Therefore, the idea that there was a propitiating Sabbath ordinance prior to the Fall is theologically inappropriate.

It is also mentioned, in the Encyclopedia Biblica, that “the Hebrew Sabbathon conveys the idea of propitiation or appeasement of divine anger and [it] is…the opinion [of Professor Jastrow] that the Hebrew Sabbath (i.e. CREATION Sabbath) was originally a Sabbathon― i.e. a day of propitiation and appeasement; marked by atoning rites…it was celebrated at intervals of seven days, CORRESPONDING WITH CHANGES IN THE MOON’S PHASES, and was identical in character with the four days in each
month, i.e. 7th, 14th, 21st, and 28th! (The MacMillan Company, 1899. P. 4180).

The concept of propitiation is not compatible with a Creation setting for the Sabbath ordinance. Sin had not yet entered the world, and there was nothing God had to do in the way of propitiation for mankind at that time. Since the days of the Jewish Sabbath system obtain their sacredness from the animal sacrifices that are offered upon it—sacrifices which pointed forward to the death of the coming Messiah on the Cross, we have good reason not only to view the choice of sabbaton to represent it’s Hebrew equivalent as accurate and to tend to disqualify the Sabbath as a Creation ordinance on the basis of its propitiation connotations alone. Additionally, we have another reason to accept the Hebrew linguistics that indicate that the 7th day of Creation is best characterized as merely a separator placed between the days of God’s creative activity and His days of non-creative activity.

Lying for God, 10th Ed., 2015, p. 269-270 (Link)

The origins of the terms “sabbatical” and the “Sabbath” trace to the Greek word “sabbaton”. However, the Greek word “sabbaton” itself traces to the Hebrew word shabbāth, meaning “rest.” (Link).  The Hebrew word Shabbat may also mean meaning “cessation,” or “time of rest.”

There is, of course, the ancient Babylonian and Assyrian concepts of “evil days” that occurred within two months out of the year (discussed further below in the section on “The Lunar Sabbath“).  Within these two months (the 13th month of Elul II and the 8th month of Marcheshvan) the “evil days” fell on the 7th, 14th, 19th, 21st, and 28th days. These were considered to be very special days where no work was done – in honor of the moon god “Sin” (Link). These were considered to be unlucky days unless the gods were appeased, or “propitiated” by acts of devotion (Link). The name given to these days by the ancient Babylonians was šabbattū (šapattū).  The precise meaning of this expression is uncertain, but at least the concept of relaxation is implied by the limitation of various activities associated with these days.  It also seems to be known as “the day of calming [the god’s] heart.” (Link).

In short, the argument that the Sabbath was originally a day for appeasing the Gods is based on the notion that the Hebrew Sabbath was originally derived from the ancient Babylonians and Assyrians.  Certainly, most Jewish writers and even most protestant theologians do not accept this conclusion.  Consider, for example, the entry for “Sabbath” in “The New. International Dictionary of the Bible” which rejects any sort of Babylonian origin for Shabbat:

“Various attempts have been made by OT critics to find a Babylonian origin for the Jewish Sabbath. There is evidence that among the Babylonians certain things were to be avoided on the seventh, fourteenth, nineteenth, twenty-first, and twenty-eighth days of the month; but the nineteenth day breaks the sequence of sevens, and there is no question that the Hebrew Sabbath is much older than this Babylonian observance. Among the Hebrews, moreover, the Sabbath was associated with the idea of rest, worship, and divine favor, not certain taboos.

Steven Barabas, “Sabbath,” in NIDB, 876.

The Dictionary of the Old Testament Pentateuch is also highly pessimistic toward the seventh-day Sabbath originating from outside of the Biblical narrative and materials:

“Over the course of the twentieth century, scholars have made proposals regarding extrabiblical origins for the Israelite sabbath. For example, a number of scholars proposed an origin of the sabbath day in Mesopotamia. Such a theory often argues that the etymology of the Hebrew word šabbāt is found in the Akkadian word šapatu (or šabatu), which probably means ‘full moon’ or ‘the day of celebrating the full moon.’ In more recent years, G. Robinson has revived the theory that the Israelite sabbath was a relic of the Babylonian moon cult. He argues that only after the exile did the monthly festival become a weekly observance. But this is extremely unlikely. Hosea 2:11, a preexilic text, implies that sabbaths were weekly and sets them apart from the new moon festival. The Babylonian moon festival had set days in the month, a pattern that is not found in the OT or in weekly sabbath observance. Weekly sabbaths do not coincide regularly with a lunar cycle of twenty-nine days…Similar theories have also purported to find the sabbath origin in Assyrian calendars or in Arabian moon festivals. In the end, however, such theories remain speculative. There is no evidence that clearly connects these with the Israelite sabbath….

Finally, the number seven, it is argued, was significant in some ancient Near Eastern cultures, in particular, in Ugaritic texts and calendars…The original Canaanite seventh day was a taboo day, an evil day, and was associated with the pentecontad calendar in which the numbers seven and fifty were significant. However, despite [this] claim…[such a] thesis lacks supporting evidence for such an origin of the sabbath or for its alleged transformation from an evil or taboo day into a time of gladness.

The quest for an extrabiblical origin of the Israelite sabbath has failed thus far at least. All of these theories remain speculative; none is convincing. The origin of the Israelite sabbath must be found within the biblical record….”

P.A. Barker, “Sabbath, Sabbatical Year, Jubilee,” in T. Desmond Alexander and David W. Baker, eds., Dictionary of the Old Testament Pentateuch (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity, 2003), pp 698-699.

The standard liberal Bible encyclopedia of the 1990s and into the 2000s, the Anchor Bible Dictionary, while being careful to summarize the different theories of Sabbath origin for its entry, draws the conclusion as to how little reasonable support exists for an extra-Biblical or pagan Near Eastern origin, for Shabbat:

“In spite of the extensive efforts of more than a century of study into extra-Israelite sabbath origins, it is still shrouded in mystery. No hypothesis whether astrological, meological, sociological, etymological, or cultic commands the respect of a scholarly consensus. Each hypothesis or combination of hypotheses has insurmountable problems. The quest for the origin of the sabbath outside of the OT cannot be pronounced to have been successful. It is, therefore, not surprising that this quest has been pushed into the background of studies on the sabbath in recent years.”

Gerhard F. Hasel, “Sabbath,” in ABD, 5:851.

And, according to the Bible itself (and even sources like the Talmud, Midrash, Philo, Martin Luther, and many well-known biblical scholars – Link), the Sabbath was originally created in Eden and was to be observed as a day of celebration, rest, and joy in close communion with God and in remembrance of creation and Him as the Creator.

And again, Jesus Himself said that He personally created the Sabbath as a gift for all of humankind to enjoy (Mark 2:27).  This wasn’t a day originally created to “appease the Gods.”  Rather, it was God who created the day as a gift to mankind – as a blessing for us.

“‘Man’ (‘ādām), made in the imago Dei, ‘image of God,’ (Gen 1:26-28) is invited to follow the Exemplar in an imitatio Dei, participating in God’s rest by enjoying the divine gift of freedom from the labors of human existence and thus acknowledging God’s as his creator.”

Gerhard F. Hasel, “Sabbath,” in ABD, 5:851.

The Lunar Sabbath (The Sabbath is not Saturday):


The Lunar Sabbath Doctrine is a recent teaching that has become popular with many in the Hebraic-Roots movement. The Lunar Sabbath concept seeks to replace the repeating weekly seventh-day Sabbath with a floating Lunar-based Sabbath where the weekly cycle is reset each month and the Sabbath always occurs on the same day within the monthly cycle.  In short, one begins counting the days of the first week of the month after each new moon so that the first “Sabbath” day would land on the 8th day of the month with subsequent Sabbath days landing on the 15th, 22nd and 29th days of the month.

Of course, this means that these “Sabbath” days would be floating relative to our modern calendar. This is because the number of days in a lunar cycle is 29.5306 (or between 29 and 30 days per month). And, as it turns out, this number of days is not evenly divisible by 7.  So, after the Sabbath on the 29th day of the month, there will be a day or two left over between that Sabbath and the beginning of the next monthly cycle.  This means, of course, that between the last Sabbath and the first Sabbath of the month more than 7 days will go by.  These extra days are considered “non-days” – not part of any “week” that occurs within a given month.

Recent beginnings:

So, how did this Lunar Sabbath concept start? Well, it started with the record producer and audio engineer Jonathan David Brown who is credited with being the first lunar sabbath keeper in this century to begin the practice of determining the Sabbath starting with the day of the New Moon each month – rather than using the modern continuously repeating seven-day week. Brown published the book Keeping Yahweh’s Appointments in 1998, which explained his Lunar Sabbath ideas – which have since gained a fairly substantial following (Link). Brown passed away in 2016 of an apparent heart attack.

As an interesting and ironic aside, Brown was an anti-Semite who was convicted for his connection to a 1990 Synagogue shooting. In 1992, Brown was sentenced to a 27-month federal prison term and fined $10,000 for accessory after the fact to a conspiracy to violate civil rights under 18 U.S.C. 3 and 241 (Hate-Crimes), and for perjury under 18 U.S.C. 1623a.

Why the lunar model rather than the set weekly cycle?

Those who support the Lunar Sabbath idea argue that the weekly cycle was originally determined in ancient human history by a rough division of the four phases of the moon.  This is why The Universal Jewish Encyclopedia advanced a theory of Assyriologists like Friedrich Delitzsch (and of Marcello Craveri) that Shabbat originally arose from the lunar cycle in the Babylonian calendar containing four weeks ending in Sabbath, plus one or two additional unreckoned days per month (Link).

Of course, if one studies the lunar phases, one may wonder how ancient observers could derive a seven-day period by watching them? After all, between what is popularly called the “new moon” and the first quarter lunation, only about five days elapse on average.  So, in order to get a seven-day interval, one must count back to the true new moon according to modern calculations, rather than visualizations, of the new moon. Further, nearly as many eight-day groups appear as seven-day periods. And, the number of days between the last quarter moon in a monthly cycle and the next “new moon” there will be nine or even ten days. Also, isn’t always easy to recognize, precisely, each phase of the moon. The thin crescent and the full moon seem fairly obvious, most of the time, but first and last quarters are not as easily recognized.  How then could the ancient Assyrians/Sumerians/Babylonians have arrived at a seven-day week by watching the moon?

Well, there are various theories as to the actual origin of the seven-day week, with many suggesting that it was a combination of things – to include the even more ancient idea that the number 7 had mystical powers and was a symbol of perfection, favored by the gods.  After all, several of the most prominent constellations are made up of seven stars, so this may have contributed to the idea that this number was favored by the gods.

In any case, although there are no ancient Assyrian or Babylonian records that explicitly define the seven-day week as a quarter of a lunation, there are ancient records that show that the ancient Assyrians and Babylonians did regularly observe specific days of certain months of the year (the 13th month of Elul II and the 8th month of Marcheshvan) as being special days where no work was done – in honor of the moon god “Sin” (Link). The moon god was clearly one of the most important deities in the wider pantheon of Mesopotamia. “An association with fertility may come from the moon god’s connection to cattle, and also, perhaps, from the clear link to the menstrual cycle, roughly similar to the timing of the moon’s transformations.” (Link)

This is probably one of the reasons why God, the God of the Bible, designed that the weekly Sabbath should not coincide with the cycles of the moon or any other celestial body or natural phenomenon — so as to keep His true worshipers and His own Sabbath distinct from the idolatrous worship of the Sun, moon, or stars by the surrounding heathen nations.

In any case, since twelve lunar months are approximately eleven days shorter than the solar year, the Babylonian calendar was intercalated (or evened out) every two or three years by the addition of a 13th month – the month of Elul II. During these special months the  7th, 14th, 19th, 21st and 28th days were known as “evil days” that were unlucky days unless the gods were appeased by acts of devotion (Link). The prohibitions on these days included abstaining from chariot riding and the avoidance of eating meat by the King. On these days officials were prohibited from various activities.  The priests couldn’t change their clothes or cook with fire. Common men were forbidden to travel, couldn’t consult a prophet, doctors could not treat the sick and the sick could not take their medicines, and fasting was enforced – among many other prohibitions.

Now, obviously there are 7-day “weekly” divisions here between the 7th, 14th, 21st, and 28th days of these two months, but what about the 19th day?  Why is it included among the “evil days”.  Well, the 19th day falls on the 49th day as numbered from the beginning of the previous month – making it a “week of weeks”.

Some historians believe that the concept of seven-day weeks described in these ancient Assyrian and Babylonian texts initially arose, not according to cycles of the moon, but out of the concept that the number seven was sacred and favored by the gods.  After all, to the number seven special significance has been independently applied by many peoples and cultures that were widely separated from each other by either space or time.  And, from the earliest Babylonian records the number seven enjoyed a high degree of sanctity and reverence – thought to have been derived from the Sumerians and is found in written texts dating before 2200 BC (such as the Ebla Tablets).

Of course, other historians suggest that the ancient attraction to the number seven was originally derived from observing the Sun, moon, and five larger planets or from the seven stars of the Pleiades or from the seven stars found in several other prominent constellations. On the other hand, many historians argue that the 7-day week was simply a rough four-way division of the monthly cycle.

Which came first? 

The question is, then, which came first?  Did the concept of a seven-day week really begin with the ancient Sumerians who then passed the idea on to the Babylonians who then passed it on to the Jews?  Or, was it the other way around?  Was it, as the Bible claims, that the seven-day week started in Eden and was then maintained and modified and even lost by various cultures over time? – as groups of people dispersed around the world after the Flood and became isolated from each other?

Biorhythms and the origin of the 7-day week:

As it turns out, the very biology of life seems to support the claims of the Bible here. As previously mentioned, practically every living thing has within itself a biological clock that is “tuned” to a seven-day cycle or “biorhythm” known as a “circaseptan” rhythm. Secular scientists find it difficult to explain how such a seven-day cyclical pattern would arise or evolve in living things by any natural means.

“At first glance, it might seem that weekly rhythms developed in response to the seven day week imposed by human culture thousands of years ago. However, this theory doesn’t hold once you realize that plants, insects, and animals other than humans also have weekly cycles. . . . Biology, therefore, not culture, is probably at the source of our seven day week.”

Susan Perry and Jim Dawson, The Secrets Our Body Clocks Reveal, (New York: Rawson Associates, 1988), pp. 20-21

Campbell summarizes the findings of the world’s foremost authority on rhythms and the pioneer of the science of chronobiology:

“Franz Halberg proposes that body rhythms of about seven days, far from being passively driven by the social cycle of the calendar week, are innate, autonomous, and perhaps the reason why the calendar week arose in the first place… These circaseptan, or about weekly, rhythms are one of the major surprises turned up by modern chronobiology. Fifteen years ago, few scientists would have expected that seven day biological cycles would prove to be so widespread and so long established in the living world. They are of very ancient origin, appearing in primitive one-celled organisms, and are thought to be present even in bacteria, the simplest form of life now existing.”

Jeremy Campbell, Winston Churchill’s Afternoon Nap, (New York: Simon and Schuster, 1986), pp. 75-79.

What is especially interesting is that the circaseptan rhythm, among all the other circadian rhythms, appears to be the one rhythm by which all others are tuned or orchestrated.

“In Franz Halberg’s view, a central feature of biological time structure is the harmonic relationship that exists among the various component frequencies. A striking aspect of this relationship is that the components themselves appear to be harmonics or sub harmonics, multiples or submultiples, of seven…

Circaseptan and circasemiseptan rhythms are not arbitrary, even though they seem to lack counterpart rhythms in the external environment.”

Jeremy Campbell, Winston Churchill’s Afternoon Nap, (New York: Simon and Schuster, 1986), p. 30

And, from a more recent paper published in 2007 the author writes:

The endogenous nature of the about weekly (circaseptan) rhythms is shown by their occurrence in animals kept under laboratory conditions precluding circaseptan periodic input, their appearance as circaseptan reaction pattern after noxious stimuli, or introduction of an antigen, and in human subjects by the observation of their free running (rhythms that are not synchronized to environmental time cues) with a frequency different from the calendar week. It appear that our seven-day week, which is found in many ancient and modern civilizations including the three main monotheistic religions, may be an adaptation to an endogenous biologic rhythm rather than the rhythm being a societally impressed phenomenon.

Erhard Haus, Chronobiology in the Endocrine System, Advanced Drug Delivery Reviews, 59 (2007) 985-1014

Again, given the historical reliability of “higher” biblical critics compared to the fact that the Bible’s claims about history have proven true time and again, combined with the internal evidence for circaseptan rhythms within ourselves and many if not all living things, is it really such a stretch to imagine that the Bible might be right yet again regarding the Creation Week and the Sabbath rest? that they were both given to us by God from the very beginning of life on this planet?

Consider a situation where someone (the God of the Bible in this case) claimed to have created a given cyclical pattern of time specifically for our benefit (i.e., “The Sabbath was made for man, not man for the Sabbath – Mark 2:27). This is a testable claim. Given the truth of such a claim the implication is very direct and clear. Obviously, in such a situation one should actually expect to find some sort of biorhythm(s) that is tuned to this particular weekly pattern. One should also expect that if one did not follow God’s advice on following this pattern (given that God actually exists and is, in fact, our Maker), that one would be able to notice a physical difference in one’s general well being when in or out of line with God’s claimed ideal pattern for the weekly cycle. In other words, God has presented a testable hypothesis or claim to us that we can actually test in a scientific, potentially falsifiable, manner.  Perhaps there is a reason why Seventh-day Adventists are the longest-lived ethnically diverse group of “blue-zone” people in the world (Link)?

It’s like being told to use a particular fuel for your car for optimal performance – by the car’s designer. You can expect some sort of actual physical difference if you don’t use the particular type of fuel you were told to use by the car’s creator. (Link)

Consider what happens when biological rhythms are disrupted.  For example, how easy is it to travel to very different time zones very quickly in a jet?  Or, how easy is it to switch between day and night shifts at work?  Such rapid changes to biological rhythms are very disruptive to the body.  The same would be true given the “lunar Sabbath” model.  This model would clearly disrupt the body’s natural circaseptan (7-day) rhythm every single month.  Such a disruption in a natural biological rhythm would not be healthy – and therefore would have been outside of God’s original design for humanity.

Beyond this, the Bible itself is filled with references to the 7-day week – well before Moses came on the scene.  In Genesis 7:4, 7:10, 8:10-12 we see that Noah was acquainted with a seven-day week. In Genesis 29:27-28, we read that Jacob fulfilled a week for Rachel. Then, Jacob married Rachel one week after he had married Leah (Genesis 29:29-30). In Genesis 50:10, we find that Joseph mourned for his father Jacob seven days, that is, one week.Exodus 7:25 mentions a seven-day period in the time of Moses just before the Exodus. In Judges 14:10-18, we read that Samson’s marriage feast lasted for seven days, another reference to the week. In Job 2:13, we are told that Job’s three friends sat and grieved with him for seven days and seven nights.

So it is obvious that a seven-day week with the seventh-day Sabbath was familiar to the patriarchs – and even appears within our very DNA.  Going against this “natural” cycle simply goes against our original biological design and simply isn’t healthy or in any way good for humanity at large.

Joshua and Hezekiah got rid of the Lunar Sabbath:

According to some, such as the authors of the book Lying for God:

There is mathematical evidence from the Bible that between the time of Creation and the Great Flood, a solar year was equal to about 360 days.

Lying for God, pre-11th Edition, The Lunar Sabbath, p 40 (Link)

This would mean, of course, that if the lunar month was exactly 30 days long, once upon a time, that the year would be exactly equal to 12 months!  Wouldn’t that be nice?  So, what happened?  Why don’t things match up so nicely now?

Some theorists think they see evidence that the events surrounding Noah’s Flood altered that solar year a little… Then, there is the remarkable and abundant evidence that the sundial miracle of King Hezekiah caused the solar year to lengthen to approximately 365 days… Also, in Joshua 10 we have the story of how God prevented the sun from going down until a battle was won…

After the miracle of the sun dial retreating 10 degrees, the solar year mysteriously grew from about 360 days to about 365.25 days, and these same civilizations were forced to add more and more extra days to their lunar calendars to get them to sync with the expanded length of the solar year. These disruptive events recorded in the histories of ancient civilizations included these items:

Crazy weather patterns
Earthquakes and other natural catastrophes.

This is true of the calendars and histories of the Mayans in South America, the Chinese, and the civilizations of the Middle East. These facts are thoroughly documented by Velikovsky in his book, Collision of the Worlds.

The disruption of these world lunar calendars… strongly correlates with the facts that are gleaned through the study of the calendars, historical annals, and astronomical records of the major world civilizations of that age. Furthermore, there is a remarkable correlation between the records of these disruptive world events with the biblical record of the turning back of the sundial by 10 degrees as a sign requested by King Hezekiah…

Israel abandoned the exclusive use of the lunar-based weekly Sabbaths around the time of the building of the second temple in 586 BC… which would be within around two hundred years of the reign of Hezekiah.

Lying for God, pre-11th Edition, The Lunar Sabbath, p 40 (Link)

Interesting theory, but what is the basis for this theory?

This analysis comes from two different scientists, Velikovsky– who wrote in the early 1950’s– and Guy Cramer– a scientist who currently (as of 2015) researches the mathematical references of the Bible. The work of these two researchers appears to validate each other.

Lying for God, pre-11th Edition, The Lunar Sabbath, p 40 (Link)

Unfortunately, this isn’t the most solid basis upon which to build such a novel and fantastic proposal – however attractive and aesthetically pleasing it might otherwise appear to be.  “Velikovsky’s ideas have been almost entirely rejected by mainstream academia (often vociferously so) and his work is generally regarded as erroneous in all its detailed conclusions. Moreover, scholars view his unorthodox methodology (for example, using comparative mythology to derive scenarios in celestial mechanics) as an unacceptable way to arrive at conclusions… Velikovsky would rebuild the science of celestial mechanics to save the literal accuracy of ancient legends… Velikovsky’s bestselling, and as a consequence most criticized, book is Worlds in Collision… The fundamental criticism against this book from the astronomy community was that its celestial mechanics were physically impossible, requiring planetary orbits that do not conform with the laws of conservation of energy and conservation of angular momentum.” (Link)

Specifically, with regard to Velikovsky’s notion that the Earth suddenly gained 5 extra days in the year around 700 BC, consider some of the arguments made:

The Egyptian year was composed of 360 days before it became 365 by the addition of five days. The calendar of the Ebers Papyrus, a document of the New Kingdom, has a year of twelve months of thirty days each.

Velikovsky, p. 336

However, when reading the actual Sharpe translation (In 1870 Sharpe originally translated the tablet that Velikovsky based his argument on), it becomes quite clear that Velikovsky is not accurately presenting what the tablet actually says. The actual purpose of the decree was to implement the practice of leap year, not to add five days to the 360-day year, for that was already being done. Velikovsky, on the other hand, mistakenly claimed that this marked the institution of adding five days to the 360-day year – – but he could do this only by quoting the passage in question out of context. Using Velikovsky’s approach, one could just as well claim that Julius Caesar’s addition of leap year was required by some change in the actual length of the year during his lifetime or that the 1582 Gregorian calendar reform was necessitated by a change that then occurred. Instead, both of these calendar reforms, along with the one that Velikovsky references, were required by earlier calendars that had failed to properly account for the true length of the year. The same is true for Velikovsky’s arguments regarding the Persian calendar changes. The Persians already knew that the year was 365 days long and that they added the extra five days to bring their twelve 30-day months into conformity with the actual year, as did the Greeks and Egyptians (Link).

In short, using Velikovsky’s approach, one could just as well claim that Julius Caesar’s addition of leap year was required by some change in the actual length of the year during his lifetime or that the 1582 Gregorian calendar reform was necessitated by a change that then occurred. Instead, both of these calendar reforms, along with the one that Velikovsky references, were required by earlier calendars that had failed to properly account for the true length of the year. (Link).

Although less well known, I’m afraid that Guy Cramer would then “be guilty by association” (Link)… not to mention the problem that the actual arguments presented are almost entirely speculative and not supported by solid empirical evidence.  There is really no way to test them in a potentially falsifiable manner.  Again, the most rational answer is that extra days were added to the year on occasion to make up the differences between the calendars and the actual 365.25-day yearly cycle of the Earth around the Sun during the time of Hezekiah – and before.

Beyond this, such arguments paint God in a bad light – as though He cannot move the Earth so that a sundial goes back 10 degrees or top the relative motion of the Earth for a day or so without causing chaos around the world and changing the actual rotational speed of the Earth once He sets it going forward again.

This argument also paints Jesus Himself in a bad light since He went right along with the Jews of His day worshiping on a set weekly Sabbath that wasn’t based on the cycles of the moon and didn’t say a thing about it.  He didn’t say, “By the way, you’re all worshiping on the wrong Sabbath days.”  This makes Jesus appear to be either ignorant or dishonest about the Divine purpose and meaning of the Sabbath and the Sabbath commandment as part of the Decalogue.

And, finally, it doesn’t follow that a change in the number of days in a year from 360 to 365 or the number of days in a month from 29.5 to 30 would have a significant impact on how the weekly cycle itself was determined – whether it is or isn’t dependent upon the lunar cycle.  This is because a 30 day month is no more evenly divisible by 7 as compared to a 29.5 day month.

Passover and the Lunar Sabbath:

Adventists have long held that the year of Jesus’ crucifixion was 31 AD – primarily because of the 70 weeks prophecy of Daniel 9:24-27.  The seventieth week of Daniel’s prophecy was from 27 to 34 AD, and Christ died in the middle of the final prophetic week – which was the spring of 31 AD. There is further New Testament evidence that shows that AD 27 was the year of the baptism of Jesus – which makes 31 AD (after three and a half years of ministry) the correct year of the crucifixion.


Now, lunar Sabbatarians also believe that the date for the crucifixion was 31 AD (Link, Link).  However, for Adventists, this presents an apparent paradox:

  1. Jesus died on a Friday, the 6th day of the week
  2. Jesus died on Passover
  3. Jesus died in the year 31 AD

Yet, as it turns out, the Passover in the year 31 AD landed on a Wednesday, the fourth day of the week in the Gregorian calendar – according to astronomical calculations. According to the astronomical data that available to us on the phases of the new moon and full moon in the year AD 31, the full moon (Passover always occurred during a full moon) in April that year was on Wednesday – in the Gregorian calendar.

Yet, Adventists also believe that Jesus died on a Friday, not on a Wednesday – because of the abundant Biblical evidence for a Friday crucifixion.  In fact, the Biblical evidence for a Friday crucifixion is so strong that most Christian denominations hold that the crucifixion took place in the year 33 AD (when the Passover actually did take place on a Friday).

Yet, the lunar Sabbatarians do in fact argue for a Wednesday crucifixion based on the claim of Jesus that He would be in the belly of the Earth for “three days and three nights (Matthew 12:40). Of course, one cannot get three days and three nights from “Good Friday” to “Easter Sunday.” Friday and Saturday nights are two nights, and Saturday is one day. So, a Friday crucifixion would only provide one day and two nights. What about the other two days and one night? The conclusion seems clear that Friday cannot possibly be the day Jesus died.

The problem with this conclusion is in trying to use literal western thinking and applying it to the language Jesus was using – implying that there should be a “full 72 hours” between the crucifixion and the resurrection. But that is not the intent of Jesus’ language here. There are numerous passages where Jesus is quoted as claiming that He will be raised on the “third day” after His death (Matthew 16:21; 17:23; 20:19, Mark 9:31, etc…). It seems clear, then, that Jesus was resurrected on the third day after His death and burial (by Jewish reckoning); not after three literal 24 hour periods. If He rose after 72 hours, then all the above verses would read “on the fourth day” – by the Jewish reckoning of a day.

Now, those who advocate a Wednesday crucifixion must adhere to a Saturday afternoon resurrection, but the many verses (especially in Luke 24) contend that Jesus rose on the third day after His death which was, according to Mark (Mark 16:9) the “first day of the week” (i.e., what we now call “Sunday”).

So, Jesus had to have been raised back to life on Sunday – or what is now know as Easter Sunday. He could not have been raised on Sabbath afternoon before sundown (despite fairly common claims in the lunar Sabbatarian community to the contrary). Also, several places in the Gospels cite Jesus as dying on the “preparation day.” A preparation day was needed before the weekly Sabbath because no food could be prepared on the 7th-day Sabbath. However, food could be prepared on an annual feast sabbath – like the Passover. Also, nowhere in Jewish history does the latter appear as equal to the former in sanctity and dignity. All labor, except for servile labor, was lawful on the annual feast-day sabbaths, but not on the weekly Sabbath. The term “preparation” is never applied to any day preceding an annual feast day, but is applied by the Apostles of Christ, by Josephus, and by the Rabbis, to the day before the Sabbath. There seems, then, no good reason why any feast sabbath should have had its day of preparation; nor is there any good evidence in support of this claim.

To summarize, Sunday (or the 1st day of the week), as we have seen, actually began at sunset on Saturday evening, and by Jewish reckoning, any part of a day is counted as a day. So working backward:

– Sunday, was the third day, the day of the resurrection.
– Saturday (Sabbath) was the second day that Christ rested in the tomb.
– Friday (Preparation day) was the first day, the day of the crucifixion.

Jesus was crucified on Friday and died at 3 p.m. He rose from the dead somewhere between Saturday after sunset and sunrise on Sunday morning. There is absolutely no way to push the crucifixion back to Wednesday and still fit with the story found in scripture. A Wednesday crucifixion is clearly impossible.

Still, this leaves an apparent contradiction for the Adventist position since Passover was apparently on Wednesday, not on Friday, in the year 31 AD.  How can this conundrum be resolved?

Well, there is a difference between calculating the phases of the moon and actually visualizing them…

The phases of the moon can indeed be predicted very accurately with modern technology and computation for any given month of any year. Going back to the year 31 AD the astronomical new moon in April clearly occurred on the 10th of April, at 11:32 a.m.  However, this is the timing of the new moon “in conjunction.” A lunar conjunction is when the Earth, moon, and sun, in that order, are approximately in a straight line (Link). The biblical new moon, on the other hand, is the crescent new moon. So, the lunar Sabbatarians simply add one extra day to compensate for this to arrive at the first visible crescent to be viewed in the night sky on April 11th.

The key question here is, is the crescent new moon always visible one day after the conjunction?  And, the clear answer to that question is no – it’s not.  According to the United States Naval Observatory:

Although the date and time of each New Moon can be computed exactly (see, for example, Phases of the Moon in Data Services), the visibility of the lunar crescent as a function of the Moon’s “age” – the time counted from New Moon – depends upon many factors and cannot be predicted with certainty. In the first two days after New Moon, the young crescent Moon appears very low in the western sky after sunset, and must be viewed through bright twilight. It sets shortly after sunset…

The sighting of the lunar crescent within one day of New Moon is usually difficult. The crescent at this time is quite thin, has a low surface brightness, and can easily be lost in the twilight. Generally, the lunar crescent will become visible to suitably-located, experienced observers with good sky conditions about one day after New Moon. However, the time that the crescent actually becomes visible varies quite a bit from one month to another.

The United States Naval Observatory, Crescent Moon Visibility (Link)

And, according to Jewish reckoning of the New Moon, there were rules to follow. Declaring the new month by observation of the new moon, and the new year by the arrival of spring, could only be done by the Sanhedrin – according to various rules of observation. For example, if the crescent of the new moon was observed for just a minute or less before full dark and then disappears, it was considered too young to be a new moon. When this occasionally occurred, the declaration of the new moon was delayed until the following night.

The Karaite Jews say this about the sighting of the crescent moon:

The ancient Israelites would have been well aware of the Crescent New Moon. In ancient societies people worked from dawn to dusk and they would have noticed the Old Moon getting smaller and smaller in the morning sky. When the morning moon had disappeared the ancient Israelites would have anxiously awaited its reappearance 1.5-3.5 days later in the evening sky. Having disappeared for several days and then appearing anew in the early evening sky they would have called it the “New Moon” or “Hodesh” (from Hadash meaning “New”).

The Karaite Korner, The New Moon in the Hebrew Bible (Link)

So, it can take up to three and half days from the astronomical new moon conjunction before the crescent new moon can be visually verified! Why such a broad range? Because the speed of the moon varies due to the shape of its orbit. The United States Naval Observatory notes that sometimes even two days are too few to actually see the crescent new moon with the number of days before it becomes visible being dependent upon several factors. Also, the Karaite Jews tell us that conclusively visualizing the new moon could take up to three and a half days.

The Jewish month starts from the crescent new moon. The 14th day is the Passover (Leviticus 23:5). If the conjunction of the new moon in 31 AD was April 10th, then the addition of 3.5 days would bring us to April 14th.  And, adding 14 days brings us to April 27th – a Friday in the Gregorian calendar (Link).

So, there really is no necessary discrepancy here for the Adventist perspective of a Friday crucifixion in the year 31 AD – a position that is most consistent with all of the claims of the Bible concerning the timing of the crucifixion (prophetic as well as eyewitness claims).

Joshua and the Battle of Jericho:

The Battle of Jericho is described as requiring the Israelites to march around Jericho for seven days in a row (Joshua 6:3-4 and Hebrews 11:30).  The argument from the lunar Sabbatarians is that it would be inconceivable that God would have asked the Israelites to march on the Sabbath day around Jericho.  Therefore, the only way to avoid this problem would be to have a lunar Sabbath situation where there were more than seven days between “Sabbaths”… which would allow for the Battle of Jericho to take place over seven days without marching on a Sabbath day.


With a perpetual seven day cycle, one day of the seven would have to be a Sabbath. It would seem strange if the Lord would have Israel keep Sabbath for forty years…and then have them break it as soon as they entered Canaan to defeat Jericho…but the anomaly is solved by reference to the succession of Lunar weekly Sabbaths…

According to the Book of Jasher the Jericho campaign began on the first day of the second month Lyar (Jasher 88:14-18). This was a New Moon day.  So the Jericho victory was complete on the seventh day of the month, the day before the first lunar Sabbath of the month on day eight…

The Book of Jasher is mentioned twice in Holy Writ: Joshua 10:13 and 2 Samuel 1:17-19…

We feel so much better about the nature of God’s character as we see that the presence of those extra days between the 4th lunar week and the first sighting of the new Moon make it possible to accommodate the idea that acts of war are not acceptable work on the Sabbath.

Lying for God, pre-11th Edition, The Lunar Sabbath, p 24 (Link)

First off, the reference here to “The Book of Jasher” and its mention by the Bible is more than a bit misleading. Now, it may be true that the Hebrew title is usually translated Sefer haYashar or “Book of the Correct Record” – or, in the English translation, “The Book of Jasher” (following English tradition). However, this particular book is named after the “Book of Jasher” that is mentioned in the Bible. Although it is sometimes presented as the original “Book of Jasher” in the various translations (such as that of Moses Samuel in 1840), it is not accepted as such in rabbinical Judaism, nor does the original Hebrew text make such a claim. The study of Joseph Dan, professor of Kabbalah at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, in the preface to his 1986 critical edition of the 1625 text, concludes, from the Hebrew used and other indicators, that the work was in fact written in Naples in the early sixteenth century. (Link).

Consider also that the first-century Jewish historian Josephus claimed that Joshua’s marches around Jericho began on the first day of the feast of Passover, on the 15th of Abib – a lunar Sabbath (Link).

Consider also that Tertullian himself (160-220 AD), and no friend of Sabbath observance, argued that Joshua clearly fought Jericho over at least one Sabbath day:

Joshua the son of Nun, at the time that he was reducing the city Jericho by war, stated that he had received from God a precept to order the People that priests should carry the ark of the testament of God seven days, making the circuit of the city; and thus, when the seventh day’s circuit had been performed, the walls of the city would spontaneously fall. Which was so done; and when the space of the seventh day was finished, just as was predicted, down fell the walls of the city. Whence it is manifestly shown, that in the number of the seven days there intervened a sabbath-day. For seven days, whencesoever they may have commenced, must necessarily include within them a sabbath-day; on which day not only must the priests have worked, but the city must have been made a prey by the edge of the sword by all the people of Israel. Nor is it doubtful that they “wrought servile work,” when, in obedience to God’s precept, they drave the preys of war. For in the times of the Maccabees, too, they did bravely in fighting on the sabbaths, and routed their foreign foes, and recalled the law of their fathers to the primitive style of life by fighting on the sabbaths. Nor should I think it was any other law which they thus vindicated, than the one in which they remembered the existence of the prescript touching “the day of the sabbaths.” Whence it is manifest that the force of such precepts was temporary, and respected the necessity of present circumstances; and that it was not with a view to its observance in perpetuity that God formerly gave them such a law.

Tertullian, An Answer to the Jews, Chapter IV. “Of the Observance of the Sabbath,” Ante-Nicene Fathers, Vol. III, (Link)

Beyond this, the argument presented here from the lunar Sabbatarian perspective assumes that war, or military action of any kind, is always prohibited on the Sabbath. This simply isn’t the case.  Again, when called for, any “good or necessary” action that would be beneficial to mankind was considered “lawful” to do on the Sabbath. As a relevant example, consider that Sabbath observance did not prevent the chief priest Jehoiada from organizing a palace coup on the Sabbath in order to remove queen Athaliah from the throne and replace her with Joash, a rightful heir to the throne. Athaliah had murdered all the other heirs to the throne upon the death of Ahaziah and usurped the throne of Judah for herself. Jehoiada’s wife had rescued young Joash, and Jehoiada had kept him hidden for six years while Athaliah reigned as queen over Judah. The priest Jehoiada used the occasion of the transfer of the guard on the Sabbath to proclaim Joash as king

As a relevant example, consider that Sabbath observance did not prevent the chief priest Jehoiada from organizing a palace coup on the Sabbath in order to remove queen Athaliah from the throne and replace her with Joash, a rightful heir to the throne. Athaliah had murdered all the other heirs to the throne upon the death of Ahaziah and usurped the throne of Judah for herself. Jehoiada’s wife had rescued young Joash, and Jehoiada had kept him hidden for six years while Athaliah reigned as queen over Judah. The priest Jehoiada used the occasion of the transfer of the guard on the Sabbath to proclaim Joash as king because, at that time, he could arrange twice the normal guard on duty at the temple of Yahweh. On that day, a covenant was made, Joash was proclaimed king, Athaliah was put to death, the temple of Baal was torn down, idols were smashed, and Mattan, the priest of Baal, was killed.  (2 Kings 11; 2 Chronicles 22-23; R. Kittel, A History of the Hebrews Vol. II, Williams and Norgate, 1896, pp.286-287).

Also, the Sabbath did not prevent the Israelites from standing against the Philistines in Battle array as Goliath, the Philistine champion, challenged the armies of Isreal for forty days. (1 Samuel 17:16).

In this light, consider also that Jesus is “Lord of the Sabbath” (Mark 2:28).  So, whatever He commands someone to do on the Sabbath is “lawful’ – even if it would otherwise violate the Sabbath command. For example, the priests had to perform many functions on the Sabbath day, at the command of God, that were not lawful for the general population to perform. Jesus cited this example arguing, “Or have ye not read in the law, how that on the sabbath days the priests in the temple profane the Sabbath, and are blameless?” (Matthew 12:5).

So, if Jesus, the “Lord of the Sabbath”, provides an exception for a priest or anyone else to do something that would normally be a “violation” of the Sabbath, then they are “blameless” for doing what God Himself commanded them to do on the Sabbath. And even the Jews of Jesus day were fully aware of such exceptions regarding Sabbath observance.


Ignatius in his Epistle to the Magnesians (107 AD):

Of the fifteen Epistles to the Magnesians generally attributed to Ignatius of Antioch, eight of them are outright forgeries. But, that’s not all, of the remaining seven Epistles that Ignatius may have had a hand in writing, according to Eusebius, there are different versions – shorter and longer versions. And, now, it is generally accepted that the longer versions have been extensively corrupted and are clearly not reliable. Most historians question the credibility of the shorter versions as well as the longer versions – to include Lardner (Credibility of the Gospel History, 1743), Jortin (1751), Mosheim (1755), Griesbach (1768), Rosenmüller (1795), Neander (1826), and many others.

Now, the passage often quoted in the Epistle to the Magnesians is taken from the “longer form” of the text as follows:

“And after the observance of the Sabbath, let every friend of Christ keep the Lord’s day as a festival, the resurrection day, the queen and chief of all the days.”

Ignatius, Epistle to the Magnesians (longer form), chap 9

This particular passage, although popular, was not actually written by Ignatius, but was written about the time that the Apostolical Constitutions from 375 to 380 AD. What is interesting here, however, is that even though this passage was written over 200 years after Ignatius, it still cites the fact that the Sabbath was being observed. This forged passage serves to highlight the transition from Sabbath to Sunday observance within the Christian church over time. Sunday, or the “Lord’s Day” as it was later called, was more and more often observed as a fun day, a “festival” day, while the Sabbath was more and more often observed as a day of fasting – not fun at all. No wonder, then, that Sunday became the more popular day over the centuries.

Ignatius in his Epistle to the Trallians:

The Letter to the Trallians is controversial – none of the controversies being in favor of those who oppose Sabbath observance. The most common citation appears to be a mix of the longer and shorter versions taken from “Verse 9” of the letter.  The longer version is discounted by scholars as not authentic because it was modified and lengthened much later by someone else (Link). In other words, it’s a fake.  Even according to Wikipedia it isn’t a reliable quote (Link). Now, consider that the shorter version says nothing about “the Lord’s Day.” It reads as follows:

“If, then, those who had walked in ancient practices [the prophets of old] attained unto newness of hope, no longer observing Sabbath [like the Jews], but living according to the Lord’s life [observing the Sabbath like Jesus observed the Sabbath]…”

The subsequently modified longer version, the clearly faked version, does define the “Lords’ Day” as Sunday, but also recognizes that the Sabbath was being observed by early Christians:

“Let us therefore no longer keep the Sabbath after the Jewish manner… but let everyone 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 after the observance of the Sabbath, let every friend of Christ keep the Lord’s Day as a festival.”

More significant still is the context. As Kenneth A. Strand concisely and incisively remarks:

“Regardless of what the “Lord’s Life” or “Lord’s Day” may have meant either in Magnesia or in Antioch and regardless of whether or not Ignatius intended a cognate accusative, the context reveals that it is not the early Christians who are pictured as ‘no longer sabbatizing,’ but that it is the Old Testament prophets who are described . . . Surely Ignatius knew that the Old Testament prophets observed the seventh day of the week, not the first! The contrast here, then, is not between days as such, but between ways of life—between the Jewish ‘sabbatizing’ way of life and the newness of life symbolized for the Christian by Christ’s resurrection.”

The “sabbatizing” then which Ignatius condemns, in the context of the conduct of the prophets, could hardly be the repudiation of the Sabbath as a day, but rather, as R. B. Lewis, asserts, “the keeping of the Sabbath in a certain manner—Judaizing.” This, in fact, is the sense which is explicitly given to the text in the interpolated long recension:

“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 in a spiritual manner, rejoicing in the meditation on the law, not in the relaxation of the body, admiring the workmanship of God, and not eating things prepared the day before, nor using lukewarm drinks, nor walking within a prescribed space, nor finding delight in dancing and plaudits which have no sense in them.”

The fact that pseudo-Ignatius here urges Christians to stop “practicing Judaism” (Magnesians 8:1) or “living like the Jews” (10:3) and to follow the example of the prophets in not Judaizing on the Sabbath, implies that many Christians were still following traditional Jewish customs, especially in the matter of Sabbath keeping. If such were the case, it would hardly seem reasonable to presume that Christians in Asia had already radically abandoned the Sabbath and were observing solely Sunday. (Link)

Epistle of Barnabas (140-150 AD):

Since, therefore, the days are evil, and Satan possesses the power of this world, we ought to give heed to ourselves, and diligently inquire into the ordinances of the Lord. Fear and patience, then, are helpers of our faith; and long-suffering and continence are things which fight on our side. While these remain pure in what respects the Lord, Wisdom, Understanding, Science, and Knowledge rejoice along with them. For He hath revealed to us by all the prophets that He needs neither sacrifices, nor burnt-offerings, nor oblations, saying thus, “What is the multitude of your sacrifices unto Me, saith the Lord? I am full of burnt-offerings, and desire not the fat of lambs, and the blood of bulls and goats, not when ye come to appear before Me: for who hath required these things at your hands? Tread no more My courts, not though ye bring with you fine flour. Incense is a vain abomination unto Me, and your new moons and sabbaths I cannot endure.” He has therefore abolished these things, that the new law of our Lord Jesus Christ, which is without the yoke of necessity, might have a human oblation

The Epistle of Barnabas 1 Chapter II.

“And God made the works of his hands in six days, and finished on the seventh day, and rested on it, and sanctified it.” Observe, children, what “he finished in six days” means. It means this: that in six thousand years the Lord will bring everything to an end, for with him a day signifies a thousand years. And he himself bears me witness when he says, “Behold, the day of the Lord will be as a thousand years.” Therefore, children, in six days–that is, in six thousand years–everything will be brought to an end. “And he rested on the seventh day.” This means: when his son comes, he will destroy the time of the lawless one and will judge the ungodly and will change the sun and the moon and the stars, and then he will truly rest on the seventh day…

Further, He says to them, “Your new moons and your Sabbath I cannot endure.” Ye perceive how He speaks: Your present Sabbaths are not acceptable to Me, but that is which I have made, when, giving rest to all things, I shall make a beginning of the eighth day, that is, a beginning of another world. Wherefore, also, we keep the eighth day with joyfulness, the day also on which Jesus rose again from the dead. And when He had manifested Himself, He ascended into the heavens.

The Epistle of Barnabas Chapter XV (3-9)

This is the first historical reference to the observance of Sunday by a professed Christian-probably between 140 and 150 A.D.  However, scholars do not believe that the Apostle Barnabas wrote it nor was it written anywhere near the often claimed “74 AD.”

Joachim Neander (1650-1680):

Joachim Neander (a German Reformed Church teacher, theologian and hymn writer who lived from 1650 to 1680) said of the Epistle of Barnabas:

“It is impossible that we should acknowledge this epistle to belong to that Barnabas who was worthy to be the companion of the apostolic labors of St. Paul.”

Johann Mosheim (1693-1755):

Johann Lorenz von Mosheim (German Lutheran church historian who lived from 1693 to 1755) also speaks of the Epistle of Barnabas:

“As to what is suggested by some, of its having been written by that Barnabas who was the friend and companion of St. Paul, the futility of such a notion is easily to be made apparent from the letter itself; several of the opinions and interpretations of Scripture which it contains, having in them so little of either truth, dignity or force, as to render it impossible that they could ever have proceeded from the pen of a man divinely instructed.”

Eusebius of Caesarea (263-339 AD):

Even Eusebius, no fan of the Sabbath day, places the Epistle of Barnabas in the catalog of “spurious”, fictitious, books:

Among the spurious must be numbered both the books called “the Acts of Paul” and that called “Pastor,” and “the Revelation of Peter.” Besides these, the books called “the Epistle of Barnabas,” and what are called “‘the Institutions of the Apostles.”

Eusebius, The Order of the Gospels, Note D, p. 131 (Link)

In any case, “spurious” though he may be, it is no big surprise that the writer of Barnabas, writing well into the second century, endeavored to give the seventh day an allegorical interpretation (suggesting a Gnostic influence). After all, by that point in time, the pressure from Emperor Hadrian’s anti-Jewish laws were having their effect on Sabbath observance.

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41 thoughts on “Christians and the Sabbath

  1. I don’t know how many people will read this whole study on the Sabbath, but if we simply consider the main points of opposition that we will have to deal with, it would be helpful. In the end, the “day” aspect of the Sabbath will be the only point of controversy. The majority all believe that the “spirit of the Sabbath” is eternal and the day part is simply negotiable and equated to the ceremonial law in the old testament.

    Thus, the early church, instructed by Christ, moved “the day” to Sunday for the sake of unity and Christian evangelism. Also to distance the Christian community from Judaism and the ceremonial law. So they believe that Christ changed the day in the new testament era and the church only followed the leading of the Spirit who communicated the will of Jesus for the believing community. And thus, the mind of Christ who changed the day, is reflected by the church’s decision and action.

    This is important because when Satan impersonates Christ, he claims to have changed the day and those who communicate this truth are his agents who he has sent to tell everyone that it is the will of Christ to keep the Sunday holy. Now Satan comes to affirm this fact as he impersonates Christ and EGW tells us this the the overmastering delusion that is almost impossible to resist even for those who know the bible, and for those who don’t know the bible, they will easily be persuaded.

    So the Catholic church may admit they changed the day, but in response to what Christ has communicated to them by way of His Spirit and thus they are only fulfilling the will of Christ who was the one who really changed the day of worship. This, coupled with Satan’s affirmation that he is Christ, and he changed the day, we have a more definitive scenario to deal with than the RCC alone. We may say the RCC changed the day and this is true, but they affirm it was in response to the mind and will of Christ.


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  2. Thank-you for this in-depth study on the Sabbath! This needs to be published in a book! I keep the 7th day Sabbath as a holy day each week because God told me to in the 4th commandment.


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  3. It comes down to the question: Should we follow the commands of man (Sunday observance) or the command of God (keep the Sabbath)? Those who knowingly reject the commands of God do indeed commit treason against God by giving allegience to another authority, which is in fact idolatry, and, thus, place themselves under God’s judgment as unrepentance sinners facing divine judgment.

    Choose Jesus, the Lord of the Sabbath, and find delight in His day. As with Cain and Able, God accepts worship and obedience on His terms. At present God’s merciful grace covers ignorance, but this will not always be the case. The Holy Spirit desires to use Scripture to illuminate truth and banish ignorance. Within obedience to God’s commands are found great blessings to enhance our relationship to God and our happiness. After all, as in Eden, the Sabbath was designed to enhance one’s relationship with God.


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    • I enjoyed your book, Skip. “In granite or Ingrained?”
      The only objection was this. It seemed to me you constantly presented the old covenant as ipso facto legalism. If so, then we must accept the new covenant as ipso facto antinomianism.

      Just because people pervert a covenant does not equate to the false conclusions they may come to. So the old covenant is not legalism, nor the new covenant antinomianism. The old covenant and the new are one and the same. The old covenant is simply before Jesus came and they offered sacrifices to show faith in the coming Messiah. We do the opposite to show faith in Jesus by not offering sacrifices because He has already come. And this is the only difference between old and new covenant. They are both centered on “faith in Jesus”.

      The new covenant is not “new” any more than the “new” commandment of love is new. It is only “new” to those who did not and/or do not understand the covenant. “Obey and live, disobey and die” are always the covenant and for sinners, it is based on the forgiveness of sin by way of the atonement. Sin never changed the covenant. It only added the necessary factor of forgiveness or there would be no purpose to obey. Any future obedience would be useless without first being forgiven of past offenses.

      Sinless angels don’t need the factor of forgiveness. All they need to know is “obey and live, disobey and die” and as long as they continue in obedience, as Adam should have done, they can maintain a right relationship to God by way of Jesus His Son. All created being fellowship with God by way of Jesus. No one is equal to God the Father but His Son. So Jesus was first the mediator of creation, but now must also be the mediator of redemption for lost guilty sinners. Mediation is not an inovation, but a revelation. But was extended beyond the normal to make a way for sinners to be brought back to a right relationship with God like in the beginning. Thus, salvation is more akin to restoration than inovation.

      And this is what the Sabbath is all about and its true meaning and dynamic application. And this is what EGW means to “preach the Sabbath more fully.” The Sabbath is law and grace in its simplest meaning and application.


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  4. Such a lot of work expended on something irrelevant. The sabbath is a day. Sunday is a day. Observance of neither save us. Only Jesus does.

    Much too long, I couldn’t read it.

    Sean Pitman. The Lord is your Saviour, just as He is mine. Write about Him.


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    • Of course, Sabbath observance never saved anyone. Salvation is based on a personal relationship with Jesus and acceptance, by faith, of His life and death for us on the cross – and His resurrection. It is by grace only that we can be saved – not by anything that we have done or can ever do for ourselves. However, it is in gratitude for all that Jesus has done for us that we strive, in His power and grace, to keep His commandments – including the Sabbath. After all, His commandments are given for our own benefit and are meant to be a blessing to us. The Sabbath, in particular, was given to us a beautiful gift to be enjoyed. It is a mistaken view of the Sabbath to see it as a curse or a hindrance to one’s happiness. Just the opposite is true…


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  5. Wow! What a monumental work! What incredible effort must have been expended to compile all this information. You are to be commended for your effort. However, permit me to pose a few questions.

    1. You state that “Sabbath observance never saved anyone.” Doesn’t this put you at variance with EGW?, who, in Testimonies vol. I, p. 533, she states that “to knowingly transgress the holy commandment forbidding labor upon the seventh day is a crime in the sight of heaven which was of such magnitude under the Mosaic law as to require the death of the offender. But this was not all that the offender was to suffer, for God would not take a transgressor of His law to heaven. He must suffer the second death, which is the full and final penalty for the transgressor of the law of God.” She further states that “I saw that many professed Sabbathkeepers will come short of everlasting life.”

    In Spiritual Gifts vol III, p. 253, EGW clearly outlines how the Sabbath is to be kept: “The Lord iw no less particular now in regard to his Sabbath than when he gave the foregoing special directions to the children of Israel. He required them to bake that which they would bake, and seethe (that is, boil,) that while they would seethe on the sixth day, preparatory to the rest of the Sabbath. Those who neglect to prepare for the Sabbath on the sixth day, and who cook food upon the Sabbath, violate the fourth commandment, and are transgressors of God’s law. All who are really anxious to observe the Sabbath according to the commandment, will not cook any food upon the Sabbath. They will, in the fear of the God who gave his law from Sinai, deny themselves, and eat food prepared upon the sixth day, even if it is not as palatable. God forbade the children of Israel baking and boiling upon the Sabbath. That prohibition should be regarded by every Sabbath-keeper, as a solemn injunction from Jehovah to them. The Lord would guard his people from indulging in gluttony upon the Sabbath, which he has set apart for the sacred meditation and worship”

    I once read the above EGW quotation to a minister who had been on officer of the General Conference, and asked if he ever knew even one Adventist anywhere in the world who followed her admonition. His answer was, “Not a one. Not a one.” In that event, if EGW sets forth God’s requirements for Sabbathkeeping and nobody is following them, and she further claims that violators of this commandment will come short of everlasting life and will NOT go to heaven, would it seem that no Adventist will be in heaven? Do Adventists claim that she is a true prophetess but yet neglect to read her writings and refuse to follow her admonitions? Furthermore, does EGW not claim that the mark of the beast will revolve around a national Sunday law and around Sabbath/Sunday observance? Does not the book of Revelation teach that acceptance of the mark of the beast will forfeit one’s eternal life?

    2. Do you consider “keeping the Sabbath” to be the same as church attendance on Sabbath? Do you consider “Sunday keeping”‘ churches to be the same as churches which hold worship services on Sunday? A few days ago, I asked an SDA if he kept the Sabbath, and his response was that he attended church on Sabbath. This response indicated to me that he considered them the same. Your caption that “Jesus kept Sabbath” is followed by his custom of attending the local synagogue on the Sabbath day. Jesus, of course, was sent to the people of Israel, as was foretold by Old Testament prophets, including Daniel. His purpose in attending the synagogue was to teach them about their God and about who He was–the Messiah. The synagogue was where these people were to be found on the Sabbath day! However, did Jesus actually “keep the Sabbath” according to the commandment? John 5:18 actually states otherwise: “Therefore the Jews sought the more to kill him, because he not only had broken the Sabbath, but said also that God was his Father, making himself equal to God.”

    Likewise, if Paul went to the river to find women meeting for prayer, did he not go to teach them the gospel, as was his custom? He taught the Jews first, then went to the gentiles. Would an excursion to a riverside place of prayer signify his “keeping the Sabbath” or would it simply be an opportunity to share the good news of the gospel?

    3. Do you believe that the mark of the beast will revolve around a national Sunday law which mandates Sunday worship and prohibits Sabbath worship?

    4. If, as you say, Sabbath observance is not necessary for salvation, it would appear that you are in complete concordance with the words of Jesus, who, as He was explaining to Nicodemus in John 3:18, said, “He that believeth on him is not condemned: but he that believeth not is condemned already, because he hath not believed in the name of the only begotten Son of God.” Then, in order to further emphasize His point, in verse 36, He stated, “He that believeth on the Son hath everlasting life and he that believeth not the Son shall not see life; but the wrath of God abideth on him.”

    In other words, Jesus told Nicodemus in no uncertain terms that there would be two classes of people–those who believed in Him and would have eternal life, and those who will not believe in Him, who will not have eternal life. Jesus said nothing about the Sabbath as a necessity for salvation to Nicodemus. To my knowledge, He did not specify Sabbath observance as a necessary ingredient to eternal life on any other occasion either.

    So then, if according to Jesus and according to you, Sabbath observance is entirely optional, why are we to make such a big issue of this?


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    • Yes, I do believe that many honest and sincere people who are not Adventists and who have never observed the Sabbath will be saved.

      You see, honest ignorance of God wishes isn’t the same thing as open rebellion against God. God judges based on the heart – based on the motives of a person. If a person is acting in love according to the very best knowledge that he/she understands at the time, God accepts that and credits it to that person as righteousness.

      Beyond this, say that a person outwardly keeps the letter of the Law perfectly – but doesn’t have a personal relationship with God. Will such a person be saved? – simply because they kept the Sabbath Law perfectly? No. Paul is very clear on this. The Law cannot save a person. It is only by the grace of God that any one of us can be saved. It is not by our own efforts or our own works that we are saved. Rather, it is through the blood and sacrifice of Jesus, on our behalf as an unmerited gift, that we gain eternal life.

      So, the Christian keeps the Law, not in order to gain salvation, but in gratitude to the One who has already saved us and enables us to truly keep the Law – through His power working within our hearts…


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  6. I am completely befuddled. Perhaps you can help clear up my confusion. You said “Of course, Sabbath observance never saved ANYONE.” I understood that to mean that Sabbath observance never saved Adventists, non-Adventists, Sabbatarians, non-Sabbatarians, etc. In other words, Sabbath observance NEVER saved a single soul. Now you seem to be making allowances for one group but perhaps not another, depending on whether or not a soul is honest and perhaps dependent upon not having “the best knowledge”, etc. I hope you can understand why I am utterly confused and that you will help me understand this better.

    We are not talking about “open rebellion against God.” That has NEVER been part of my discussion, and I am not sure why this enters into this question.

    As far as “keeping the Law perfectly”, Paul clearly says this is not possible for mere mortals like us. Even if I could somehow keep the Law perfectly from here on out, there is too much in my past that would condemn me. All other mortals are in the same condition. Paul indeed made it very clear that the Law CANNOT save. Furthermore, he condemned the Judaizers in Galatians and Romans for trying to subjugate those early gentile Christians and place them back under the Law, central parts of which were circumcision and Sabbath observance, plus many, many more commandments, 613 in all! Paul called the Galatians “foolish” for falling for slavery after once having freedom.

    The most beautiful part of your response is that “It is only by the grace of God that any one of us can be saved. Rather, it is through the blood and sacrifice of Jesus on our behalf as an unmerited gift that we gain eternal life.” I can say a whole bunch of “amens” to that. I’m glad you put a period after that sentence. Please keep it there!

    EGW was very clear about the loss of eternal life for violators of Sabbath-keeping. She also claimed extra-Biblically that the mark of the beast revolves around Sabbath observance. Revelation is clear that those possessing the mark of the beast will forfeit eternal life. Do you have any Biblical support for the mark of the beast being a national Sunday law, or, for that matter, anything to do with Sabbath observance? Do you believe that a national Sunday law is in the future of this country and this world? If so, what will be your recommended approach? If not, should EGW’s writings be more carefully examined? If not, should the whole topic of Sabbath observance be more closely examined as well?

    Thank you in advance for your tremendous contribution and for helping to clear my confused state.


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    • Again, there is no loss of eternal life for ignorant violators of the Sabbath. Unless the violators are well aware that they are in fact violating an actual command of God, they can be saved if they are honestly seeking God and to do God’s will. God does not condemn anyone who is honestly not aware of this or that truth. After all, that wouldn’t be fair now would it? Only those who deliberately and persistently reject a known command of God will are not savable… since they are in open rebellion against something that they know is the truth.

      Otherwise, if it’s simply a matter of additional knowledge for someone who is otherwise honest and sincere, God can work with such a person. Such a person is savable and will be saved – even if they never heard of the Sabbath.


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    • The mark of the beast is any sin that can be committed. The only reason that Sunday vs. the Sabbath is identified as the “mark of the beast” is because it is related to religious liberty. No true believer would ever appeal to the civil government to enforce a 7th day Sabbath law on an unbeliever. If we can not persuade them by way of scripture, then we are aware that they will answer to God for how they responded to the bible.

      On the other hand, the children of Satan always respond to challenge by force and will call upon the civil government to enforce their agenda. But only when the issue becomes intense enough so that an either/or decision must be made. The first example is Cain killing Abel. Abel never would have killed his brother Cain because he would not conform to the way Abel understood the will of God. This principle has been repeated down through the history of mankind, and is finally culminated at the end of the world as the final test between good and evil. It just happens to be the Sabbath vs. Sunday because the early church changed the day of worship and eventually claimed it was the sign of their authority over the bible.

      It could have been any sin defined by the word of God, but it happens to be the Sabbath issue. So any sin is the “mark of the beast” and it is always man’s authority vs. God. And this is why no one has “the mark of the beast” at the present time in the present conflict on the issue of Sabbath observance. Only when it is related to religious liberty that is taken away and Sunday is enforced as a religious ordinance by the civil government.

      None the less, there will be no Sunday keepers in heaven, anymore than there will be any liars in heaven. The redeemed are 7 days ascending to the sea of glass and one of those days must necessarily be the Sabbath. There will not be a soul raised in the first resurrection who will not joyfully and willingly accept instruction on the meaning and value of the Sabbath as God has stated in His word and affirmed to them before they get to heaven.

      And yes, we are “saved” by obedience to the law of God. No one can escape the wrath of God and be saved from the penalty of the law which is death, unless they respond to the gospel just as the bible states for the sinner to respond. If you think you can be saved without responding as the bible enjoins, you are far outside what the bible teaches. So, just because we can not merit heaven, or pay for our own sins as Rome claims, does not mean we play no part in our own salvation by the way we respond to the word of God. The covenant of “obey and live” has not been negated in any way or any level by some new covenant that negates the law of God as the condition of eternal life.

      The fact that we “come short” does not negate the covenant. Jesus makes up the difference where we “come short” and His forgiveness and merit is added to our obedience and thus we have a fitness for heaven. The SDA church has adopted a lot of apostate Protestant theology that is foreign to all the confessions of faith in the historic Protestant movement. The phrase “faith alone” was formulated in opposition the Rome who claimed the believer’s response merited the favor of God. But “faith alone” simply meant the the merits of Christ alone earned our salvation and redemption. The human factor was never negated in the salvation process and was sometimes called “instrumental” as our faith unites us to Christ as a moral mandate coupled with repentance and obedience to the will of God. So our response does not “merit heaven” but is, none the less, a moral mandate for salvation. This reality is not taught in the SDA church as it should be, and the confusion will only continue until this issue is clearly defined and articulated.


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      • The church’s position on salvation is quite clear. Our part to play in our own salvation is to simply accept the gift that God has provided – to simply accept what the life and death of Jesus has purchased for us and respond in love to God for who He is and what He has done. Of course, true love for God will cause the Christian to actually want to do God’s will – and God will supply the Power to succeed. However, nowhere are we told that our actions are what save us. That’s never been true.

        No one is going to say, “But I kept the Sabbath and so I deserve to be in heaven.” No one who walks through the gates of Heaven is even going to think such thoughts. We keep the Sabbath because of what Jesus has done for us, because of the salvation that has already been purchased for us and freely given to us. We do not keep the Sabbath, or any of the other Divine Laws, in order to earn merits with God. Our only merit with God is and ever will be the life and death of Jesus on our behalf…

        Beyond this, God isn’t going to exclude anyone who honestly did not know about the Sabbath. There will be many in heaven who never heard about the Sabbath. There will even be those there who never heard about Jesus or about the Father or who may not even have understood about the existence of God. God takes people where they are and looks at the heart of a person to see if they are being honest and living according to the limited truth that they actually understand at the time.

        Those whom Christ commends in the judgment may have known little of theology, but they have cherished His principles. Through the influence of the divine Spirit they have been a blessing to those about them. Even among the heathen are those who have cherished the spirit of kindness; before the words of life had fallen upon their ears, they have befriended the missionaries, even ministering to them at the peril of their own lives. Among the heathen are those who worship God ignorantly, those to whom the light is never brought by human instrumentality, yet they will not perish. Though ignorant of the written law of God, they have heard His voice speaking to them in nature, and have done the things that the law required. Their works are evidence that the Holy Spirit has touched their hearts, and they are recognized as the children of God.

        Ellen White, Desire of Ages, p. 638


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  7. In reading these comments I note that the expected issue has indeed come up, though very succinctly, almost perfunctorily, in a way fittingly so, symbolically so. Why so much fuss, research, detail over a silly little thing like the 7th day Sabbath?

    Those of us who still adhere to the founding SDA doctrine of the crucial importance of the Sabbath, as proclaimed even by the name of our denomination, increasing in importance as the End approaches, becoming virtually a yes-no signal to the world of crucial obedience to God’s seemingly arbitrary command at pain of perhaps our own lives, to those of us who still hold to that, Sean’s detail and research is utterly exciting. We are supremely thankful, hardly bored.

    Speaking for myself, I don’t believe I’ve been treated to such a scholarly, well-researched comprehensive history of the observance Sabbath and the timeline and persons active in the emergence of Sunday as a replacement. This is pure history, necessary history. Our historians seem otherwise occupied, mostly with what I see as silly little diversions, analogous to how some see the Sabbath. Somebody had to get back to basics, and Sean did.

    Now we know the cast of characters. Their thinking, reasoning, the philosophic conceits and declamations, the swirling, complex winds of thought that swept the 7th day out and brought the 1st in, and the new storm of “emergent thought” currently in action to enhance and ensure that switch, for the moment rendering neither day a sign of obedience but merely a nice, even God-given, necessary day off from the increasingly stressful week, an oasis in the radioactive ruins, yet another blessing like the shade of spreading maple trees, while Jesus without imposing any commandment saves us without ado, are not the focus of Sean’s monograph, as I read it. These deviations and thrusts of philosophy behind the transition and how the competing holy days are now regarded, indeed must be considered in order to make sense of how crucial is obedience to the 7th day command. But it was at least as crucial that the history of the 7th and the 1st day be put down first.

    We now have that. Thanks, Sean.


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  8. I dislike admitting that my confusion is expanding exponentially. You initially claimed that Sabbath observance never saved anyone, but now are saying that ignorant violators will not lose eternal life, thus implying that non-ignorant violators of the Sabbath will lose eternal life. What is an ignorant violator of the Sabbath? What is a non-ignorant violator of the Sabbath? You say that “Only those who deliberately and persistently reject a known command of God are not savable….since they are in open rebellion against something that they know is the truth.” So, the vast majority of Christians today have heard of Seventh-day Adventists and thus know about the Sabbath, yet refuse to join SDA’s in Sabbath observance, or rather pretense thereof. Does this mean they are no longer ignorant? Does it mean they are in open rebellion against God and against something they “know is truth”?

    How do you define a “violator of the Sabbath”? How do you define an “ignorant violator of the Sabbath”? Is a “violator of the Sabbath” 1. One who breaks any one of the Sinaitic commands regarding Sabbath observance? 2. Is it one who fails to attend church services on Sabbath? 3. Does it include one who pretends to keep the Sabbath in one way or another but is not truly following the Sinaitic laws? Is an “ignorant violator of the Sabbath” one who perhaps chooses to remain ignorant? Are these then going to be acceptable to God? Is willful ignorance going to give some a “free pass”?

    God’s Sinaitic Sabbath commandment was extensive and specific. There were rules about what could be done and what could NOT be done on this sacred day. Failure to follow these rules resulted in the death penalty, as is recorded in Numbers 15:32-36, where a man was caught merely gathering sticks on the Sabbath. He was brought to Moses, and Moses consulted with God, the author of the commandment. God’s response was to take him outside the camp and be stoned to death. He died. This is why the Jews were so angry with Jesus for breaking the Sabbath. He made Himself equal to God, because only God could alter His own commandment. Thus, if those commandments have NOT been altered, as EGW clearly states, and if no SDA today observes those commandments as they were originally given, it would seem as if every single SDA is in violation of the Sabbath. Are they in “ignorance”? They certainly ALL do much more than gathering sticks on the Sabbath. I have seen Conference officials traveling needlessly on Sabbath for their own purposes, and in far greater distances than a “Sabbath days journey”. You have doubtlessly seen church leaders who do not give any thought to Sabbath violations. Furthermore, Sabbath observance differs greatly amongst supposed “Sabbath keepers”. I know a family who swims regularly on Sabbath in their pool but yet refuses to engage in musical performances for secular reasons. Furthermore, Sabbath observance varies greatly amongst SDA’s in different parts of the world. Are SDA’s creating their own “standards” for Sabbath observance? Are these different from those originally laid down by the Creator God on Mount Sinai? These are not superfluous questions, because if God mandates something, the ONLY proper response is to follow the command to the letter of the law. Full obedience should be the only response, and NOTHING short of it. After all, if, as you seem to be now suggesting, eternal life might be at stake for some groups, this is a huge question.

    Permit me to look at certain individuals who knew about the Sabbath but yet rejected the need for observing it today. Martin Luther was such a person. Would you call him ignorant? Would you consider him to be in open rebellion against God? What is his eternal destiny for failing to follow a command he was not ignorant of?

    What about William Miller? He was most definitely aware of the Sabbath question, yet refused to observe the Sabbath or make any pretense thereof. As a matter of fact, it is my understanding that he did not highly regard his Sabbatarian followers. Was he ignorant? Was he in open rebellion against God? Will he lose eternal life because of failure to observe the Sabbath, or make any pretense thereof? Well, he certainly was in rebellion against God in his early life, as he himself clearly stated. He became a Deist, Freemason, and a mystic.

    What about Miles Grant, a prominent Millerite who rejected both the Sabbath and EGW, even though he was well aware of both. He ardently maintained that Sabbath observance is not now required. As a matter of fact, he debated Dudley Marvin Canright on the Sabbath question in the 1800’s in Napa, California. Ellen White was there, and declared Canright the victor in that debate. Canright had been a keen promoter of Sabbath observance, had written books on the subject, and had persuaded many to adopt it. I suspect that during this debate, Canright heard arguments that carried weight, and that after serious study, compelled him to abandon Sabbath observance, leave the Adventist church, and subsequently pastor a Baptist church in Grand Rapids, Michigan.

    So, what will be the eternal destiny of Miles Grant and D. M. Canright? They certainly knew about the Sabbath commandment. Canright had taught it extensively, but then changed his mind. He quite obviously remained devoted to God and pastored a Baptist church. Do you consider him to be ignorant? Do you consider him to be in open rebellion against God?

    If I had lived at anytime between Mt. Sinai and the crucifixion, I would have kept the Sabbath meticulously. This was God’s command, and the only appropriate response could be full obedience. However, what happened at the cross? Did God somehow modify His commandment and relax it, as no SDA today is following the original commandment? Did He nullify the law? Did He nullify all 613 Sinaitic commandments? Was this a contract between God and humanity, or was it a contract with only the Israelites?

    If this is a salvation issue, as you are now implying, these are essential questions to be considered, and not trivial at all, yet I am obtaining such few responses to my questions that it is almost presumptive of me to ask more. And, I do have many, many more questions about this important subject to which you have obviously devoted a lot of time and effort. You should be respected for that effort.


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    • Someone who is ignorant of the requirements of God regarding the Sabbath may be very well aware of the existence of the Sabbath. Your examples of William Miller and Martin Luther are clearly in this category. Yet, both were God-fearing men and both will be saved. How is this possible since both rejected one of the Ten Commandments? Because, they clearly were honestly ignorant as to the binding nature of the Sabbath day in modern times and for all peoples.

      The problem, you see, is that only God can evaluate the heart of a person. Only God can truly and accurately judge the moral position of a person because of this. We humans simply cannot accurately judge what a person really does or does not understand. Only God knows this so only God can judge…


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    • Nothing at the cross took place that altered the covenant “obey and live, disobey and die.” But this covenant is worthless if a person is already under the condemnation of sin and death. We have already “disobeyed in Adam” and are thus condemned. None the less, God has provided an atonement for sin and if we accept this provision for salvation and return to loyalty to God and His authority, we can be saved.

      So, in the end, if we are lost, it is not Adam’s fault, even though it was his fault that we are initially lost and condemned. We can individually choose the redemption and atonement of Christ, or, we can choose to remain lost. “Whosoever will may come” is the invitation to lost sinners. But Jesus said, “They won’t come to me that they might have life.”

      People are accountable for knowledge of the will of God and only if that knowledge is not available are the forgiven for sins of ignorance. Sins of ignorance become sins of rebellion if and when the sinner rejects truth presented, or ignores the opportunity to “seek and ye shall find.”

      But we are on probation and the time factor is an element that we must take into account, thus we never try to make a final evaluation on anyone and this is what it means to “judge not, that ye be not judged.”
      None the less, we can see if a person is walking in the will of God by their present actions and are duty bound to point out sin for their good. As well as to the cross for forgiveness of past ignorance.

      Jesus said to the religious leaders of His day, “If ye were blind, you would have no sin (that could not be pardoned). But now you say ‘we see’ therefore your sin remains (unpardonable.)

      This applies to all of us and we need to be aware of the outcome that happened to them will also happen to us. It’s really not that complicated, is it?


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      • I generally agree, except that I don’t think we are guilty for Adam’s sin (aka: the Catholic doctrine of “original sin”) and I don’t think errors due to true ignorance can be rightly classified as “sin”. The concept of sin is based on a deliberate rebellion against that which is fully known to be right and true. Errors can be made because of ignorance, but these kinds of errors are not due to a rebellious or sinful state. For example, an angel may accidently step on the foot of the angel behind him during choir practice in Heaven and say, “Pardon me! I didn’t see you there…). such an error is due to honest ignorance and is not deliberate or “sinful” or the result of hate or selfishness against one’s neighbor.

        It is for this reason that Jesus said, “If you were blind, you would have no sin.” There is no parenthetical implication here that such errors are “sins that could be forgiven” as you claim. Jesus simply said that such errors of ignorance are not inherently sinful – period. In other words, not all errors are the result of hate or selfishness or sin.


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        • “. The concept of sin is based on a deliberate rebellion against that which is fully known to be right and true.”

          This is a superficial definition of sin, Sean. “Sin is transgression of the law.” Period. God defines law and sin and our ignorance of truth does not alter the bible definition of sin.

          We are born liars and the lies we tell are simply the proof and fruit of this fact. A man with a sinful heart is a sinful man. And “the heart is deceitful above all things and desperately wicked.” But we are not only morally depraved because of Adam’s sin, we are legally “cut off” and/or divorced from God and not members of His family.

          We are not born “in Christ” and thus we must be “born again” into Christ as a legal right to heaven, and morally transformed for a fitness for heaven. The doctrine of original sin is biblical. Just because the RCC perverts this doctrine and baptizes babies is no reason to reject the doctrine itself. The reason they baptize babies is valid. But the method is not. The RCC perverts many if not all bible truths, but this is no reason to reject the truth itself. They corrupt the Trinity, but that is no reason to reject the basic doctrine of the Trinity just as the fact they pervert the doctrine of original sin is no reason to reject the doctrine of original sin.

          Some SDA’s reject the doctrine of the Investigative judgment because some theologians pervert the meaning and application of this bible truth. Their misunderstanding and misapplication of the doctrine is no reason to reject the doctrine itself.

          Some liberals claim because of original sin, we can not obey the law. If they affirmed that we can not obey the law unless we are “born again” they would be correct. But sad to say, some claim the “born again” experience is not adequate for total victory over our sinful nature. This conclusion is bogus. Wesley said, “Sin remains, but does not reign.” That is, we still have a sinful nature, but the new nature can fully dominate and have the victory over the old nature. So, Paul says in reference to this, “I die daily.” Moral perfection is possible but it is not sinless perfection.

          This issue must be clearly understood and explained to avoid a false understanding of the saints during the time of trouble. Paul affirms, “For as often as you eat this bread and drink this cup, you do show the Lord’s death until He comes.” The communion service is relevant until the coming of Jesus. No sinless angel or sinless saint would participate in the communion service. This service ends at the second coming.

          EGW affirms, “In ourselves we are sinners, but in Christ we are righteous.” This enigma is not resolved in this life. Christians are citizens of two overlapping ages and we belong to both. We begin the life of the age to come in the now. But it is not fully consummated until Jesus comes. Thus we suffer the sin affliction that intensifies the life of a believer and cause pain and suffering even when we are victorious. No one gets beyond this experience in this life.


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        • The biblical definition of sin is the transgression of the Royal Law – the Law of Love toward God and toward one’s fellow man (James 2:8). It is only in this way that it can accurately be said that, “whoever loves others has fulfilled the law” (Romans 13:8). This means, of course, that sin is based on motive – on any motive that is opposed to the Royal Law of Love.

          And, if sin is based on motive (which is the only reason why God alone can accurately judge the moral status of a person), this means that actions, by themselves, are amoral – not in and of themselves “sinful”. It is all based on why a person did this or that action. This is also the reason why animals or robots cannot be accused of “sinning” – even if their actions are “bad”.

          Again, this is because sin is a conscious rebellion against the Law of Love. If Adam and Eve had not been told that they could not eat from on particular tree, then it would not have been sinful of them to eat from any and all trees in the garden. It is only because they were told not to eat from one particular tree that it became sinful, or contrary to the Law of Love, for them to go ahead and eat from the “forbidden tree.”

          The same is true of the Sabbath commandment. If God had never told anyone about the 7th-day Sabbath, no one would have been guilty of sin for not observing it. It is only when God makes a person aware of the Sabbath that it then becomes contrary to the Law of Love, or sinful, to fail to observe it. Until this point, there simply is no sin for the one who does not clearly know God’s wishes regarding the Sabbath.

          It’s identical to the situation in the garden of Eden with the Forbidden Tree. There simply is no fundamental difference here. Both situations have their basis in an arbitrary command of God. And, if a person is truly blind to such a command, they would “not be guilty of sin” – according to Jesus Himself (John 9:41).

          Jesus isn’t saying here that only sins of ignorance can be forgiven – as you suggest. After all, Jesus came to die specifically for deliberate rebellion against the Royal Law – to include the deliberate actions of Adam and Eve against a known command of God. Therefore, it is quite clear that God’s forgiveness and Jesus’ blood is not limited to “sins of ignorance” as you suggest. Rather, Jesus would not need to have come and died to save us from sin if there had never been a deliberate rebellion against the Royal Law of Love amongst the human family…

          Of course, I’ve been through all of this before with you and I fail to see the benefit of rehashing it all again.


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  9. Please forgive me for my increasingly confused state. First, we are told that Sabbath observance never saved ANYONE. Then, we’re told that those ignorant of the Sabbath command can be saved, but presumably the non-ignorant not be saved. Then, of the 4 men well-versed on the Sabbath issue (1. A Lutheran reformer–Luther himself. 2. A Millerite–William Miller himself 3. A Millerite follower–Miles Grant 4. Another Millerite follower–D. M. Canright) and two are declared “savable” (Luther and Miller), while there is deathly silence on the eternal destiny of the Millerite followers.

    How does Luther obtain an “ignorance label” when he is fully aware of the Decalogue and the Sabbath commandment. He said, “For God will not give revelation to everyone; He will not promulgate a new Decalogue, but He had bound us to this commandment which resounded from heaven.” He further added, “This is the proper celebration of the Sabbath, to rest from our work and be full of God’s works.” In view of Luther’s extensive knowledge of Scripture and specifically the Decalogue and the Sabbath commandment, and in spite of his affirmation of it, he still did not observe it. Yet, he somehow merits the ignorance label so that he can become “savable”? How so? As for William Miller, he also knew about the Sabbath, as a certain segment of his followers observed the Sabbath. EGW lays the blame for that on his “friends”, who persuaded him otherwise. Thus, because his friends unfairly influenced him, he also gets the badge of “ignorant” and thus becomes “savable” as well?

    If Luther and Miller, with their extensive knowledge of the Sabbath issue, are “savable” due to ignorance and the adverse influence of friends, why the silence on the destiny of Miller’s followers, Miles Grant and D. M. Canright? Why can’t they be “savable” as well? What differentiates Luther and Miller from Grant and Canright? As I have told you, I have already decided to follow God and His commandments regardless of the consequences or the cost. Eternal life is far too precious to pass up. One day we’re here, and the next day we’re gone. Whatever we accomplish here on this planet pales in comparison to the free gift of eternal life. However, I’m not getting any response as to what constitutes Sabbath observance that is acceptable to God. You’re not directing me to what constitutes fulfilling the requirements of the Sabbath command and what constitutes violation of the commandment. It is of critical importance to all of God’s followers to understand His requirements, and then to obediently follow them. don’t you think?

    Are you not imparting this information to me so that I will remain in “ignorance” and be able to play the “ignorant card”? Do you yourself not know the answer to this question?

    You certainly must be able to tell me what differentiates the ignorance of Luther and Miller versus the ignorance of Grant and Canright. PLEASE, PLEASE, can’t you tell me why two of them are “savable” and why the other two might not be?

    I must confess to you that I am not comfortable with the “ignorance card”, as God does not seem to have functioned this way in the past. He told Adam and Eve to not come near a certain tree in the garden, and to NOT eat the fruit of it lest they die. They disobeyed. They were not kept in ignorance. Neither were the antediluvians kept in ignorance, as they heard the message of impending destruction of the world and had every opportunity to escape by entering the wide open doors of the Ark. The Israelites were given specific instructions regarding the 613 commandments and sacrifices and were not kept in ignorance. Christians today have the same opportunity of accepting or rejecting eternal life via belief and trust in Jesus as Savior. For the life of me, I don’t understand why everybody doesn’t accept that free gift.

    A final reason why I question whether the “ignorance card” will work is found in I Kings chapter 13, where a man of God was given specific instructions, which he dutifully followed until he ran into a fellow claiming to be a prophet and having a different message. Sadly, the man of God listened to the prophet and his punishment was to be killed by a lion. I likewise question whether being misled by friends will work as an excuse with God, as this poor chap was actually misled by a prophet and his punishment was swift. That argument didn’t work with Adam, who blamed his disobedience on his own wife. It didn’t work there either. It would seem to me that if God went to great lengths to offer me eternal life, the least I can do is to do some serious investigation into His expectations of me, and to no longer be ignorant. That is precisely what I’m trying to do, and with all your knowledge of the Sabbath as exemplified by your outstanding effort in formulating this extensive material, I’m not getting answers.

    I would greatly appreciate answers to the above questions, along with perhaps one more request. Abraham Heschel was Jewish rabbi who wrote a book entitled The Sabbath. He has been quoted various times in the pages of the Adventist Review and I once heard an SDA preacher lift an entire sermon from his book. Do you have any thoughts on his eternal destiny? In regard to Luther and Miller, you stated that “they were both God-fearing men and will be saved”. Why would that not also apply to Grant and Canright? And then, here is Heschel who does indeed advocate for Sabbath observance.


    Ken Christman


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    • Again, as I’ve already mentioned, only God knows the heart of a person. Only God knows if someone is honestly ignorant or not. I’m not able to judge such things and neither are you. You can only know if you are being honest with the truth that you know and understand. You cannot determine this for anyone else with perfect accuracy. The same is true for me. I know deep down if I am being honest with God with respect to the truth that I’ve been given to know and understand. Obviously, God does not expect me to live according to truths that I do not know or correctly understand.

      If William Miller or Martin Luther or Grant or Canright were honestly confused about this or that truth, God knows and God will save them as long as they were honestly trying to remain in a relationship with God and follow His will.

      You ask how in the world could those like Miller and Luther have been honestly confused? – given everything that they seemed to know? I don’t know. It’s a mystery to me how someone like Luther, in particular, could have written so much about the origin and sanctity of the Sabbath and yet not applied it to himself. I find that very odd. Yet, we have been told that Luther was, in fact, honest, sincere, and Godly – and that he will be saved. The same is true for Miller and I hope it is true for Canright, Grant, and many many others. If so, that’s wonderful! I’m really happy that God is able to understand honest confusion and take this into account. I’m very glad that He is able to read the hearts of men. I certainly would get it wrong since I cannot perfectly and accurately read the heart of another person beyond myself – and sometimes I wonder if I even understand myself very well. I think God knows me much better than I know myself.

      Again, I advise you to leave the moral judgment and evaluation of others, beyond yourself, in God’s hands. Our job is simply to present the gospel message to others. After this point, we must leave the work of conversion and moral judgment in God’s hands alone…


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  10. At the beginning, back in the early church, the first several centuries of it, the rationale for the switch from the 7th to the 1st day was that Christ Himself had tacitly done that by being resurrected on the 1st day, surely a cosmically crucial event worthy of the most sacred ceremonialization. This was offered as self-evident and overwhelming, and duly validated by the very vicar of Christ, as documented by Sean, if only distantly but discernibly scriptural or unscriptural.

    Now about 2 millennia later the reasoning is really quite different, startlingly different. It turns out that God never actually gave a specific day that needed formal switching, or has lost interest in one, but being consummately compassionate was all along mainly yearning to give us rest. Promises of rest, often presented metaphorically as “Sabbath rest,” are abundant in both the Old and New Testament, more abundant than clear declarations of a switch of day, and precious, increasingly precious as the world becomes increasingly stressful. And the same Jesus who was so grieved by the Pharisaical obsession with ritually detailed 7th-day slavery is infinitely more concerned with this gift of rest, plus the bonus of the possibility of undivided communion with Him or at least a lovely choral Te Deum echoing in a magnificent cathedral or Worship Complex, than the specific day. Notable advocates of this lovely picture of “the Sabbath rest” that come to mind are Abraham Heschel, noted Jewish thinker, plus sundry emergent evangelical thought leaders, and, most cogently, recent popes, once the ex cathedra thunder from Sinai, now the global vicar of gentle nonjudgmental Jesus. Or so it is presented.

    As I understand foundational Adventist prophecy, to which I still adhere, this summer of rest and the promotion thereof will prove only as a preparatory, transitional device, temporary. Circumstances, terrible ones, will require a categorical, unequivocal, no pussyfooting or evasive obeisance to the re-emergent and re-inaugurated Commander of the Universe and savior of humanity, a rerun of the yes-or-no arguably arbitrary conditions laid down by the very same God, or virtually the same, at the beginning, in the Garden of Eden, in the form of the Tree of Good and Evil – a “silly thing” like that. The 7th day, yes or no.


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  11. Epistemological thoughts from from the agnostic peanut gallery:

    If Adam and Eve did not keep an accurate calendar from the start of creation, how do we know Saturday is the 7th day of the week or Sunday the 1st? If this is indeed subject to human culture – empirical ignorance of the actual 7th day – then might all Christian denominations be celebrating the prescribed day symbolically? Would this type of well meaning ignorance be forgivable in God’s eyes?

    Hypothetical: Let’s postulate that chronologically Sunday is the actual 7th day of the week, not Saturday. Who commits the greater sin: those who in error keep the Sabbath on Saturday, the actual 6th day of the week; or those who treat Sunday, which they think if the 1st day but is the actual 7th day fo the week?

    Perhaps you will allow me to digress and analogize in criminal legal theory a bit to speculate on the topic of ignorance of divine law. In common law countries, like the US, ignorance of the law is no defence. This is especially true of minor offences, such as traffic tickets where one is strictly liable if the offence is committed, regardless of one’s state of knowledge. However, for more serious criminal offences, mens rea ( a guilty mind ) is required for conviction. So, by analogy do you think in God’s eyes observance of, or lack thereof, of the Sabbath is a strict liability offence (relatively minor but not requiring knowledge of right and wrong ) or a criminal, immoral offence ( more serious but requiring guilty knowledge?) And what should the respective punishment be depending on the categorization?

    I ‘rest’ my cultural case.


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    • In God’s government, it seems, honest ignorance is a valid excuse. Those who are honestly ignorant are judged to be “not guilty” of “sin”. Even if they are in error, their honest ignorance means that they have not violated the Royal Law of Love – which is the basis of all morality.

      As far as knowing which day of the week was the original Sabbath, it appears to have been passed down from generation to generation. Also, if anyone would have known for sure which day it was, it would have been Jesus. And, we know for sure which day He thought was the Sabbath…


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  12. Well, Sean, a person could truly be “sinless” by your superficial definition. Of course, it is based on the human factor’s definition of sin and not God’s definition of sin. So as long as a person decides something is not sin, then it is not sin…..period. And of course, there is no such thing as “sins of ignorance” since according to your definition, if a person is ignorant of any command of God, then it is not a sin. In which case, neither is there any need for forgiveness. But if forgiveness is a factor on any level, then it is obviously sin or there would be no need to forgive.

    You are simply wrong, Sean. And all your “fancy foot work” to get around the reality will not make you right.


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    • This is not a matter of a personal definition of sin here. A person knows, via their God-given conscience, when they have or have not acted in selfless love toward their neighbor. If you haven’t acted out of love, you have sinned, and the Holy Spirit will speak to your consciences about this reality. On the other hand, if you have acted out of love, then you haven’t sinned – even if mistakes were made. You may have made honest mistakes while acting in love, but you haven’t sinned if everything you’ve done was done with sincere love. You have in fact “fulfilled the law” (Romans 13:8) since love is the fulfillment of the law (Romans 13:10). It’s as simple as that according to the Bible’s definition. There really is no “fancy footwork”. It’s very simple and very straightforward.

      The real problem, of course, is that we are all naturally selfish and unloving. We, of ourselves, cannot truly love our neighbors as ourselves. It is only through the grace of God that we can be given such a Divine ability. And, through His power, we can actually truly love our neighbors and stop sinning against them – even though we might continue to make honest mistakes.

      Such mistakes are not “sinful” since such mistakes, as previously explained, no doubt occur in heaven on a regular basis. Are you telling me that angels never make honest mistakes? Do you really believe that? I don’t. Sinless angels must often make mistakes of ignorance – because, well, they are ignorant on some level. Yet, these mistakes are not “sinful” since there was no selfishness or malice involved. And, when we all get to heaven one day, we also will continue to make mistakes of ignorance – because we will never be omniscient. Mistakes are therefore always bound to happen. Yet, such honest mistakes are not and will never be “sinful” nor did such honest mistakes demand the blood of Christ. Jesus had to die, not for honest mistakes, but because the Law of Love was deliberately broken. That’s why He had to die to redeem us.

      But, of course, we’ve been over this at least a dozen times…


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      • “The real problem, of course, is that we are all naturally selfish and unloving.”

        This is true and this is why we are sinners. You refer to the sinless angels as making mistakes and in this I agree. But as you also point out, they have no sinful nature. They are not “naturally selfish and unloving” like we are. Neither are they legally separated from God and “cut off” as Adam did to the human family.

        You refer to sin as solely a “moral issue” and ignore the legal implications that are a part of how God has defined sin in the bible. The sinless angels have never rebelled against the system of government God has ordained for fellowship with created beings.

        If we evaluated and considered a “sinless angel” outside of a legal relationship with the Father through Jesus, they would also be “sinful in themselves.” Thus, you don’t have to “do” anything to be a sinner, all you have to “be” is separated from Christ.

        All of Adam’s children are “created in a state of sin” outside Christ. We are legally “cut off” and this makes us sinners even if we have not acted one way or the other in reference to what God commands. But the human family is not only “cut off” which puts us in a “state of sin” we are also morally depraved which puts us in an “attitude of sin”.

        You can’t cure sin by dealing with the attitude alone. This is the moral implications of sin. But you must also deal with the legal aspects of sin and be “born again” into Christ or you remain in a state of sin, no matter if you “keep the law” or not. But the fact is, you can not cure the attitude of sin if the state of sin is denied. The Jews tried to deal with sin outside Christ but they had no legal basis for fellowship with God. They appealed to Abraham as there legal right, but Jesus exposed this idea as false and stated, No man cometh to the Father but by Me.”

        If we accept Christ, and are “spiritually” married to Christ then our sins of ignorance are also forgiven by way of the atonement. Sins of ignorance are still sin. But they are forgiven by way of the atonement. Your whole theory is sins of ignorance is not sin, therefore, need no forgiveness. So you define sin in a shallow concept that negates any need for forgiveness if we are ignorant. This is not only false, but totally destructive to build a proper biblical relationship with God by way of a legal right to the family by being “in Christ.”

        Sin has legal and moral implications and both must be corrected or sin is not properly dealt with by way of a bible definition. The sinless angels were created “in Christ” and thus they may make honest mistakes that would be sins of rebellion if they were not “in Christ”. Adam and Eve were created “in Christ” but rejected this relationship and tried to be “sinless in themselves” as Satan suggested. So they were legally cut off and morally depraved.

        The point is this, you can’t fix one aspect of sin without fixing the other. What is illegal is also immoral, and what is immoral is also illegal. EGW was hopeful this would be clearly defined in 1888 and the SDA movement could move forward with a clear biblical understanding of sin and atonement. It was not cleared up then, and has not been cleared up from that time to the present day. Thus we have two sides in conflict with each other, and neither side right as each holds their own false understanding of the kingdom of God.

        Small wonder Jesus said, “Straight is the gate and narrow is the way and few there be that find it.” Not because it is beyond comprehension, but because sinful man will always wrest scripture and try to make it fit his own convoluted idea of what it means, and how it should be applied and in doing so, bungles his way into oblivion refusing instruction to correct his errors. So what else is new? As Solomon said, “There is nothing new under the sun.” and “The curse causeless shall not come.”

        Thanks for letting me post. This is my last comment for now.


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        • So, you argue that sinless angels can actually make mistakes without sinning? Yet, if we make honest mistakes we are sinning? I’m sorry, but I just don’t follow you here. You appear to be presenting a conflicting argument. You say that “sins of ignorance are still sin”. Yet, at the same time, you just said that sinless angels can make the very same types of mistakes due to ignorance. How can you rationally hold to both positions?

          It seems quite clear to me that “sins of ignorance” are not really “sinful” if sinless angels can make the very same mistakes without being accused of sinning. Yet, you argue: “The sinless angels were created ‘in Christ’ and thus they may make honest mistakes that would be sins of rebellion if they were not ‘in Christ’”. Of course, this makes no rational sense to me. Sin is sin regardless of if one was originally created “in Christ” or not. Adam was created “in Christ” too, perfect and sinless in his original state. Yet, despite being “in Christ” Adam fell into sin. How did this happen? Because of ignorance on his part? No, because he deliberately broke the Law of Love. That’s what sin is. It’s not some accidental mistake due to honest ignorance. Adam fell into sin, from a perfect state, because he deliberately chose to act contrary to the Royal Law of Love. And, the rest is history. The same thing is true of Lucifer and the angels that fell with him. They didn’t fall into sin because of honest ignorance. They did so quite deliberately… fully aware that they were breaking the Law of Love.

          You say that I ignore the “legal implications” of sin that are outside of the “moral issues” involved. You argue that “you don’t have to do anything to be a sinner.” But, that’s not how the Bible defines sin. There is no sin outside of morality or moral responsibility. Sin is defined, in the Bible, as “transgression against the Law” (1 John 3:4) – against the Royal Law of Love (James 2:8). Therefore, in order to “sin” you must think or do something that goes against the Royal Law of Love. You can’t simply be a vegetable and be accused of “sin”. That’s why a robot cannot be accused of sin – because a robot has no freedom of will and therefore cannot choose between right and wrong.

          You see, sin implies that there is a free will choice to be made. Without freedom of will, there can be no sin – no moral responsibility. It is only because we humans have been given freedom of will, freedom to understand and to actually choose between right and wrong, that we are moral beings and can be morally responsible for sin – for our own sins. Otherwise, if I happened to always love my neighbor as myself, no one could accuse me of sin – not even God. It is just that being able to actually truly love our neighbors has never been achieved outside of Divine power. It’s theoretically possible to be truly loving and sinless on one’s own. However, it’s just never happened is all…

          It has nothing to do with being “legally cut off.” It has to do with being unloving. If you happened to be loving, you would not be sinful – period. No law or legal argument in the universe could change that.

          You cay that “you can’t cure sin by dealing with attitude alone”, but that’s mistaken. That’s the only way to cure sin – by dealing with the selfish unloving attitude of a person. If a person can gain a truly loving attitude, that person gains freedom from sin. It doesn’t matter how this attitude change is gained. As soon as it is gained, a person gains freedom from sin – period.

          Of course, so far, only one method of fixing a selfish unloving attitude has actually worked – and that is through Divine power.

          Now, remember, forgiveness of previous transgressions against the Royal Law of Love is a different matter. Such forgiveness can only be achieved through death. And, that is why Jesus had to come and die, in our place, in order for God to be legally able to offer us forgiveness of our own individual sins against the Royal Law of Love.


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  13. From your statement “I advise you to leave the moral judgment and evaluation of others, other than yourself, in God’s hands”, you seem to have terribly misconstrued what I have been trying to say all along. For the record, let me say that I stand firmly with Jesus and Paul, who taught no condemnation, or judgment, upon those who do not observe the Sabbath. I strongly reject the notion that Sabbath violators will not inherit eternal life. Rather, Ellen White is the one who condemns violators to eternal damnation. I was trying to commend you for your position that “Sabbath observance never saved ANYONE” as being consistent with the teachings of both Paul and Jesus. But then, for some reason, you reversed your position and opened the door to condemnation of some groups but not others.

    Presumably, your backtracking was compelled by a greater need to be consistent with the teachings of EGW, who also taught that Sabbath observance MUST be just like the original commandment was give on Mt. Sinai. Since nobody, including Adventists, keep the Sabbath in such a manner today, the direct implication of such a doctrine is that EVERYBODY on earth, including 19 million SDA’s, will all be labeled Sabbath violators and thus forfeit eternal life. That means that the first resurrection will be empty, and we already know from the words of Jesus and Paul that such will not be the case. While your own condemnation of certain groups somewhat reconciled your initial position with EGW, you refuse to agree with her on what constitutes Sabbath violation.

    To make matters even worse, Ellen White labels the mark of the beast as a national Sunday law promoting Sunday worship and prohibiting Sabbath worship. This is, of course, not taught by Jesus, Paul, or any other Biblical author. Since we know from Revelation that any who bear the mark of the beast will forfeit eternal life, if EGW is correct on this matter and also correct in the manner in which God expects Sabbathkeeping in this age, we would have additional confirmation that the first resurrection will be empty. If, on the other hand, this non-Biblical doctrine of the mark of the beast is incorrect, you could see 19 million plus SDA’ s possibly extending their right hands to accept a mark of the beast, rationalizing that EGW’s mark of the beast would occur in the future. Such a deception would mean the loss of eternal life to all SDA’s deceived into receiving the mark of the beast due to a prophet’s deception. Please read the story of the man of God who was killed by a lion because he listened to the words of a prophet instead of adhering to God’s mandate. For some reason, you also refrained from labeling the mark of the beast as a Sabbath/Sunday matter. Thus, while you might be consistent with EGW’s labeling of Sabbath violators as forfeiting eternal life, you do not seem consistent with her prescription for Sabbath observance.

    Since you consistently refuse to respond to important queries into the matter of Sabbath observance, I will offer my own observations entitled Biblical Facts on the Sabbath. Hopefully, you will be in agreement. If not, you will certainly point out any errors.

    In the beginning, God created all life on this planet in 6 literal days, with his crowning effort being the creation of man in His own image. Roughly 6,000 years later, two extremely brilliant but also extremely stupid scientists, James Watson and Francis Crick, finally identified the structure of DNA as the double helix. As you well know, there are base pairs interconnecting this structure (A-T and C-G) and the order of these base pairs must be precise in order for the human organism to function properly. When these base pairs become disordered, mutations occur, and mutations are always detrimental to the organism if there is any change at all. Some mutations might not do any harm, but if there is any functional change it will be harmful rather than beneficial. In other words, the human organism never improves with mutations. Any change will bring disease and possibly death. These base pair organizations are necessary for cellular function as they direct proper cellular functions, production of necessary enzymes etc. How many base pairs are there in the human body? About 5 Billion! And, they must all function correctly from the very beginning. Otherwise, you don’t have a functioning body which depends on all the proper cellular functions necessary to maintain life. You don’t see an improvement in the human organism, but only deterioration over time. Such a process could not have occurred by an evolving of a primitive organism over time, but must have had all 5 billion base pairs begin their function simultaneously.

    While Watson and Crick won Nobel prizes for their important discovery, they both remained hardened atheists, refusing to believe in an all-powerful God who created this amazing structure by breathing life into a lump of clay, instantly creating a perfect specimen with perfect DNA that would have lasted for an eternity. That is a very, very powerful God, and one who should be loved an respected. Watson and Crick were very stupid in not accepting the only rational alternative to their amazing discovery. I do not have enough faith to accept their conclusions that all this DNA just evolved by some sort of accident, gradually getting better and better.

    Well, God created all life on the planet is 6 days and rested the seventh day. He hardly needed to rest, as His creation was literally spoken into existence, and, in the case of man, breathed into existence. There is NO Biblical record of God mandating Sabbath observance in the Garden of Eden, even though He Himself rested. I would strongly urge you to reject any extra-Biblical account of such a mandate. God gave these perfect creatures full dominion over His entire creation with only one mandate, which was to not go near a certain tree and to certainly NOT partake of its fruit. Failure to obey that single mandate resulted in their expulsion from the garden, accompanied by a loss of their perfect DNA which immediately began to deteriorate, ultimately resulting in death.

    Several generations later, Adam and Eve’s descendants became so wicked that this very powerful God simply had to destroy nearly all life on the planet and start all over. He gave EVERYBODY a choice, just like He did for Adam and Eve. They could either accept the open invitation to enter the ark and be saved, or stay outside and be lost. All except 8 accepted the open invitation. After that, God found it necessary to shorten life spans, which might have been accomplished by simply turning up the mutation rate. That would be a very simple task for an all-powerful God who created 5 billion base pairs perfectly arranged out of a lump of clay which immediately functioned perfectly after inflation.

    A few generations afterwards, mankind started misbehaving again, but God found a willing conduit in whom He could trust with His promises–Abraham. He was the recipient of a promise that his descendants would be numerous, would be God’s chosen people, and through his lineage, the promised Messiah would come. The contract God made with Abraham was marked by a ritual known as circumcision, but there is no record of any Sabbath requirement. God made known to Abraham that the cost of the sin problem was very, very high. just like sacrificing Abraham’s own son, the very one through whom the promised Messiah would someday come. Abraham was ready to obey, but fortunately did not have to complete the sacrifice.

    Many years later, those descendants were being expected to continue the ritual of circumcision as a sign of the contract between God and Abraham. For some reason, Moses failed to circumcise his own two children, and God was about to extinguish their lives until they were rushed into that meaningful sign of the promise. The first Biblical record of God’s mandating Sabbath observance occurred on Mt. Sinai, and this time, it was a contract between God and all of Abraham’s descendants. It was NOT a contract with any other people. If other people wanted to follow this powerful God, they must join Abraham’s descendants, be circumcised, and follow ALL 613 commandments, along with all sacrifices, which forecasted the coming of the Messiah, who would complete the requirements of this covenant.

    While God always kept His part of the contract, His chosen people repeatedly fractured their part by ignoring the Sabbath commandment, falling into idolatry, and generally ignoring their responsibilities. This all powerful God ultimately allowed them to be conquered by a pagan Babylonian king who became the recipient of a dream that his own sorcerers could not help him with. God, however, via Daniel, not only told the King what he dreamed, but also what it meant, with a constellation of future events that was so perfect that centuries later, a pagan philosopher Porphyry decided that nobody could have known the future so perfectly, and thus, the book of Daniel could not have been written by Daniel! Over time, various mystics wrongly interpreted Daniel, but a correct interpretation of this book is so amazing as to compel anybody to believe in this all powerful God.

    Ultimately, the Messiah came to dwell amongst His chosen people and become the ultimate sacrifice in order to fulfill the requirements of the Sinaitic covenant and to replace it with a new one. He appeared on time, just as predicted, and fulfilled all the predicted events prophesied by God’s prophets centuries previously. He worked miracles and made it clear that He was the Son of God, or God Himself. He broke the Sabbath, while also going to synagogues on Sabbath in order to teach all who would listen. His teaching was clear. He taught two resurrections, one leading to eternal joy and happiness, while the other one to eternal destruction. He taught that there would only be two classes of people–those who believed and relied on Him as their Savior, and those who refused to do so. He taught that not one jot or one tittle of the Law (Sinaitic Covenant) would be changed until all was fulfilled. He gave them all a choice, and finally allowed Himself to be offered as the perfect lamb in order to fulfill the requirements of this Law. Just prior to His final breath, He uttered those words “It is finished”. In other words, IT IS FULFILLED. At that point, the Old Covenant was replaced with the New Covenant. All 613 of the mandates were met by perfect obedience via the only one who was qualified to fulfill them. Jesus became the Mediator of the New Covenant, converting an impossible contract into one which required only a recognition that we, with our imperfect DNA, are utterly incapable of fulfilling the requirements of that Law. It was replaced with accepting Jesus as the only One who could save us. God caused the veil between the Temple’s Holy and Most Holy Place to be torn from top to bottom, indicating that He no longer resided there, that the Old Covenant was voided and fulfilled, and that from then on, everybody on earth could approach Him directly through His Son. They would no longer go through His chosen people, Abraham’s descendants. They had a choice. Either follow and accept the Mediator, Jesus, and have eternal life, or reject Him and suffer the 2nd resurrection.

    Jesus even told a parable of the wedding feast, where the invite guests (Jewish people) refused to attend. So, the invitation went to all the poor. Then, the Master sent His servants to the highways and byways, inviting EVERYBODY to the special feast. Many came, but there was one poor chap who somehow got there with his own garments on, rather than accept the free and spotless wedding garment. He was thrown out into darkness. The implications are clear and serious. We cannot get in by our own efforts, which are never going to be perfect. We cannot get in by observing the requirements of an Old Covenant without keeping that Old Covenant PERFECTLY. Since none of us can keep that Old Covenant perfectly, we are doomed to start with.

    A few years later, Paul came around, and the early Christian church decided that the only thing that mattered was following Jesus and His commandments, which were to love God with all your hearts, to love your neighbor as yourself, and to follow Jesus’ teachings. All 9 Decalogue commandments were reiterated by Paul and Jesus with the exception of the Sabbath commandment. The early church actually agreed that there were only 3 requirements to be met by Gentile Christians: 1. Do not commit fornication. 2. Do not eat blood or meats that were strangled. 3. Do not eat food sacrificed to idols. That was it. Circumcision and Sabbath observance, so important to God at one time, were replaced by a new and better covenant. now open to anybody who wants it. Circumcision and Sabbathkeeping now will not help at all. As a matter of fact, by trying to keep that Old Covenant as a means to obtaining eternal life would be tantamount to trying to merit something that is impossible for us to attain with our damaged DNA. It would be tantamount to trying to get into the wedding feast via our own soiled garments. It will not work. I will never understand why everybody does not exchange that Old and imperfect Covenant with a New Covenant that is so simple to follow.

    The Scriptures teach only two resurrections. The first one is marked by no3%% judgment at all. They are those who fell asleep believing that Jesus died a substitutional death and are covered by His perfection The second death is for everybody else, including scoffers, unbelievers, and those believing they don’t need a Savior and can do it all on their own. They will be brought back to life after the Millenium in order to be judged out of the Book of the Law. None will have a good outcome. They will all fall short. There is a 0.0000% chance of a favorable outcome. Sadly, at that point using the ignorance card will be a very dicey proposition. While there would be nothing to lose for those staring hell in the face, I don’t see it being successful. The sin problem will finally be disposed of as the Devil is thrown into the lake of fire, along with all his followers. That evil Devil, or Dragon, Deceiver, will be Destroyed–the one who was directly responsible for all those other D’s–Deterioration, Disease, Disobedience, Devastation, and Death, will be gone forever. The DNA of those in the first resurrection was restored to its original and perfect state, and they will worship and trust their Creator forever.

    Final thoughts. I share with you the above Biblical account, not to win any arguments, but rather, in the hope that you will consider the Bible, and the Bible alone as the gold standard. I would earnestly pray that you not just take my word for anything, but check it all out for yourself. Read both sides of all positions. Keep an open mind and search for truth, wherever it might lead. Sure, read Abraham Heschel’s book on the Sabbath. Remember, he was a mystical Kaballistical Jewish rabbi who observed the Sabbath in a very mystical way, with Friday evening services welcoming the Sabbath as a living entity and departing the following Sabbath in the same manner. If you don’t know what the Kaballah is, look it up and ask yourself if there is any part of the Kaballah which would be acceptable to the Creator God. For some reason, SDA’s like to quote Heschel. I even heard an SDA minister lift an entire sermon entitled Grace Palace from Heschel’s book on the Sabbath. Well, there is nothing about grace in Heschel’s book. It is all about the Law. Furthermore, Heschel did not accept Jesus as Savior. Regardless of how many Sabbaths he observed, do you think he stands a chance at being in the first resurrection? While I did not see you referencing Heschel, you did reference another follower of the Kaballah–Joseph Dan. Does it matter what Jonathan David Brown believes about the Sabbath, Lunar Sabbaths, Klu Klux Klan, etc.?

    Read J. N. Andrews’ book on the Sabbath, then investigate the Mill Yard church in London, recalling that Andrews searched them out when he went as first SDA missionary to Europe. Read D. M. Canright, while also reading F.D. Nichol’s response to Canright in “Ellen G. White and Her Critics” Also read what a subsequent Baptist Grand Rapids pastor, Norman Douty, wrote about Canright. Read Ellen White herself. Then read the New Testament, especially the words of Jesus and Paul. Compare them. May God richly bless you as you study His word. I firmly accept the simple promises of Jesus that all I must do to be saved is to accept Him as my Savior, and I will not trade that promise for anything in the world


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    • You seem to reject the concept of Sabbath observance as a command of God for the Christian. You appear to be arguing that Sabbath observance did not begin in Eden, but at the time of Moses? – and was therefore not originally created for all of mankind, but just for the Jews? You conclude, then, that Christians are exempt from the Sabbath commandment found within the Decalogue? – written by the finger of God in stone? – while all of the other nine Commandments remain binding for the Christian? Somehow, the only Commandment that started out with the word “Remember” was singled out to be forgotten?

      I’m sorry, but I just don’t see that conclusion to be supported by the weight of biblical evidence (and neither did the disciples of Jesus or the early Christian Church who continued to observe the Sabbath day as holy). As pointed out several times already, Jesus Himself said that He originally created the Sabbath for all of mankind (anthropos) – not just for the Jews (Mark 2:27). Jesus also pointed out that the Jews of His day were not keeping the Sabbath as He originally intended for it to be kept – as a day created for the benefit and joy of mankind. He Himself demonstrated the true way that we are to “keep” the Sabbath day holy.

      As far as your other arguments against the Sabbath, as being the only commandment of the Decalogue to somehow be “done away with” in the “New Covenant”, I’ve covered these common arguments of yours fairly extensively in my article above – after carefully reading many many arguments on both sides of this issue, .

      Now, this has nothing to do with the writings of Mrs. White. The Bible itself points out that if someone knows what is right, but doesn’t do it, that person is in a state of deliberate rebellion against God – in a state of deliberate sin. So, if a person knows the truth of the Sabbath, and then deliberately rejects that truth despite knowing God’s will, that person cannot be saved. This is a biblical position.

      Regarding the time of the end, Ellen White is simply saying that the issue of Sabbath observance will come to a head just before the final days of Earth’s history. The issue will be presented in such clear terms that everyone will know God’s true position regarding the Sabbath. I’m not sure how this will be accomplished, to be honest with you. Mrs. White doesn’t say exactly what additional evidence will be presented to remove all honest doubts from all minds. However, if this does take place and everyone does, in fact, have a clear understanding of God’s will regarding Sabbath observance, anyone who knowingly rejects God’s will once it is fully known, cannot be saved. They will, at that point, most certainly take upon themselves, “the mark of the beast” – which is, of course, a full submission to the side of an open and active rebellion against the known will of God.

      Again, this is all based on the prophecies of the Bible itself. The final conflict between good and evil will be over the commandments of God – regarding “times and laws”. One of the chief signs of God’s position and authority as the Creator, is the Sabbath – the symbol and memorial of God’s creative and redemptive power. It is no wonder, then, that Satan will try to counter the Sabbath – as he has tried to do throughout history.


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  14. Sean Pitman: It seems quite clear to me that “sins of ignorance” are not really “sinful” if sinless angels can make the very same mistakes without being accused of sinning. Yet, you argue: “The sinless angels were created ‘in Christ’ and thus they may make honest mistakes that would be sins of rebellion if they were not ‘in Christ’”. Of course, this makes no rational sense to me.

    Sean, the “sinless angels” have no “sinful nature” to deal with like we do. And the sinful nature is not gone when we are converted. Here is what you fail to deal with. A born again believer is still a member of this present evil age and still a child of fallen Adam. When we accept Christ, we are now, also a member of the kingdom of God and begin to live the life of the age to come in the present, that is actually not set in place until the second coming.

    Thus, the unfallen angels do not live in two over lapping ages like we do and are not members of both kingdoms. So we must continue to define ourselves in the context of the children of sinful Adam but “by faith” we are now also members of the kingdom of God. Here was the spiritual enlightenment of Luther who said, “We are sinful and righteous at one and the same time.” As pertaining to this would we are always sinners, but by faith we are “counted righteous” by faith in Christ. You can not escape the dual citizenship and we are always sinful by nature as pertaining to the flesh, but sinless in Christ by virtue of faith and the atonement.

    This paradox is not resolved in this world or this life. So the “new man” wrestles against the “old man” in our Christian experience. The sinless angels do not have an “old man” to deal with. They do not have to “die daily” to their identity in Adam. And the believer looks forward to the second coming when we too are free from this affliction and conflict between the flesh and the spirit.

    But the sinless angels are sinless because they are “in Christ” by creation and they have no sinful nature, nor do they have a fallen identity like we do that we received from Adam. Simply put, we would have to be equal to God to be inherently sinless. So Satan said to Eve, “Ye shall be as God” or, “equal to God” so you need no mediator on any level, nor anyone to tell you what to do. Spiritualism always defines man as “equal to God” and we already know how the Pope claims He is equal to God and infallible. This is the obvious spirit of the “antichrist” who puts Christ out of the picture as having no relevance in a relationship to the Father.

    The law of intercession is not solely because of sin. It is necessitated by a creature/Creator relationship. Sin created the necessity for a “special” application of intercession. So the cross is far more a “revelation” than an “inovation”. The intercession because of sin can eventually come to a close as sin is clearly defined and understood. But the intercession between Creator and creature is an eternal principle and reality.

    The devil has used this to create on going confusion and until sin is clearly defined in all its aspects, there is no possibility for the enigma to be resolved. So original sin is simply advocated on and on as many won’t even believe there is such a thing. You can’t cure what you refuse to define and claim it is non-existent.
    But it should be obvious that “sins of ignorance” could not be called sin on any level if sin is not part of the phrase. Just like the “sinful nature” that many claim is not sin but only human weakness. But the word “sinful” obviously means “full of sin” and there is no getting around this reality.


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    • Again, your entire definition of sin appears to be wrapped up in the notion of “original sin”. Therefore, you define pretty much everything we fallen humans do, even honest mistakes, as “sinful”. You evidently forget, or at least do not understand, the relevance of being a free moral agent.

      In short, we wouldn’t be morally responsible if we had no knowledge of right and wrong and the freedom to choose between right and wrong. Both of these elements must first exist before sin can exist.

      Again, this is the reason why robots and animals cannot sin. Honest mistakes, even by fallen human beings, are not “sinful” – according to Jesus Himself. The term “sins of ignorance” is a misnomer when it comes to honest mistakes. The proper term should be “honest mistakes”, not “sins of ignorance.” Otherwise, you’d have holy angels in heaven performing “sins of ignorance” – which is nonsensical.

      That is why sin is defined as a deliberate rebellion against the Royal Law of Love. And, even if holy angels deliberately go against this Law, they will fall into sin – as Lucifer and the other fallen angels did. The same is true for us as well. We must consciously choose, as free moral agents, to sin against the Law of Love. Otherwise, there is no sin. Period.

      In any case, we’ve been around this topic endlessly before… and it doesn’t seem like we’re getting any closer to an agreement this time.


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  15. Gentlemen

    I have read all of your comments with great interest.

    Dr. Pitman deserves great credit for setting out the history of the Sabbath and the decisions made by theologians and politicians down through the centuries as to the practice thereof. Edifying and a great service to the Adventist church as well as the secular alike.

    I have provided a link below regarding the origin of the legal concept of mens rea ( no crime without guilty intent) below. If you have a chance to read it you will note that there is a reference to a partial biblical origin of the concept (Christ’s Sermon on the Mount). Why do I mention this? Because, respectfully, I think it has an equivalency, and goes to the heart, of the discussion between Bill and Sean about moral culpability for biblical sin. Originally the law punished all regardless of intent based on the actual commission of the offence. However this was deemed unjust and eventually criminal law ( commission of moral offences, equivalent to biblical sin) evolved so one had to have intent to commit the offence to be guilty. This is very similar to Sean’s comments about a deliberate rebellion against the Royal Law of Love, versus a strict liability approach based on original sin that humans, as free moral agents, have no control over.

    So, why you might ask, would an old, secular, reprobate, sinner like me have any interest in this debate between well intentioned, erudite Adventists? Because Mankind’s morality, no matter how one might view its source, is critical to the well being of humans no matter what their cultural, political or religious beliefs.

    Thank you friends.


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    3. Did Jesus point out that the Jews of His day were not keeping the Sabbath as He originally intended for it to be kept? NO, OF COURSE HE DID NOT. YOU DO NOT EVEN QUOTE WHERE JESUS SAID THIS. RATHER, JESUS CLEARLY BROKE THE SABBATH, AS STATED CLEARLY IN JOHN 5:18.








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    • I’m not sure why all the capital lettering? but anyway… I appreciate your thoughts. Obviously, however, I just don’t agree.

      Jesus could have said that the Sabbath was made for the Jews, but He didn’t do that. He specifically said that the Sabbath was made for “anthropos” (mankind), and followed up by explaining that He had personally created the day Himself and was the Lord of the Sabbath (Mark 2:27-28). Even Martin Luther wrote that the Sabbath had originally been created in Eden for Adam and Eve and that they taught their own children to observe the Sabbath – and that the Sabbath would have continued for eternity in this world if Adam and Eve had not fallen into sin. The Talmud also says the same thing regarding Sabbath observance before the time of Moses – as do many other well-known theologians (all detailed in my article above).

      Jesus also personally kept the Sabbath His entire life as God originally intended it to be kept. Even in death, He honored the Sabbath – as did His disciples. It is explained that they all rested on the Sabbath in “obedience to the commandment.” (Luke 23:56). Clearly then, no one believed that the Sabbath commandment had been “done away with” at the cross. And, as explained in detail in my article, when Jesus “broke” the Sabbath He wasn’t breaking the Law regarding Sabbath observance. The Jews themselves were well aware that the Sabbath law could be lawfully broken in certain situations – to include the relief of the suffering of man or beast. Jesus Himself pointed out that everything that He did on the Sabbath was in fact “lawful” according to God and even the Jews themselves (Matthew 12:12). Please read more about this in the article above…

      And, after Jesus was raised and went back to heaven, his followers continued to maintain the “custom” of worshiping on Sabbath – including Paul. It was his custom to worship on the Sabbath day. Yes, the Apostles were teaching people about Jesus, but they did this customarily on the Sabbath in particular with both Jews and gentiles. There simply is no mention in the Bible of the Apostles teaching that people should no longer observe one of the Ten Commandments. On the contrary, the entire moral Law was still held in high esteem and taught to the people as binding for the Christian. This is reflected in the fact that the early Christian Church continued to keep the Sabbath for many hundreds of years throughout the majority of Christendom.

      As far as “The Beast” “thinking to change times and laws”:
      How has the papacy tried to change God’s laws? In three different ways: In her catechisms she has (1) omitted the second commandment against veneration of images, and (2) shortened the fourth (Sabbath) commandment from 94 words to just eight. The Sabbath commandment (Exodus 20:8-11) clearly specifies Sabbath as the seventh day of the week. As changed by the papacy, the commandment reads: “Remember that thou keep holy the Sabbath day.” Written thus, it can refer to any day. And, finally, she (3) divided the tenth commandment into two commandments. How has the papacy attempted to change God’s times? In two ways: (1) She has changed the time of the Sabbath from the seventh day to the first day. (2) She has also changed God’s “timing” for the beginning and closing hours of the Sabbath. Instead of counting the Sabbath day from sundown Friday night to sundown Saturday night as God mandates (Leviticus 23:32), she adopted the pagan Roman custom of counting the day from midnight Saturday night to midnight Sunday night. God predicted these “changes” would be attempted by the beast, or Antichrist.

      “You will tell me that Saturday was the Jewish Sabbath, but that the Christian Sabbath has been changed to Sunday. Changed! but by whom? Who has authority to change an express commandment of Almighty God? When God has spoken and said, Thou shalt keep holy the seventh day, who shall dare to say, Nay, thou mayest work and do all manner of worldly business on the seventh day but thou shalt keep holy the first day in its stead? This is a most important question, which I know not how you can answer. You are a Protestant, and you profess to go by the Bible and the Bible only and yet in so important a matter as the observance of one day in seven as a holy day, you go against the plain letter of the Bible, and put another day in the place of that day which the Bible has commanded.

      The command to keep holy the seventh day is one of the ten commandments you believe that the other nine are still binding who gave you authority to tamper with the fourth? If you are consistent with your own principles, if you really follow the Bible and the Bible only, you ought to be able to produce some portion of the New Testament in which this fourth commandment is expressly altered.”

      Library of Christian Doctrine: Why Don’t You Keep Holy the Sabbath-Day? (London: Burns and Oates, Ltd.), pp. 3, 4.

      Now, as far as salvation is concerned, the Bible is quite clear that if a person knows and understands the will of God on a certain matter, yet rejects what God has made clear to that person and consistently resists the Holy Spirit, that person is in a state of deliberate rebellion against God. Such a person who continues in such a state of deliberate rebellion cannot be saved. I’m really not sure why you or anyone else would suggest otherwise? Remember, it’s not me who judges you. I don’t know what you honestly know and understand regarding the Sabbath. For all I know you are most likely honestly confused on this issue. And, if you are honestly confused, if you are not deliberately rebelling against something that you know is the truth or the desire of God, then you are in a saving relationship with God.


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  17. To Wes I confess.

    Always observing, though not necessarily commenting.

    Dr. Pitman’s exegesis on matters a sundry on this site are manna for the secular palate as well. What is appalling is the internecine venom with which he is attacked. But he handles it like a trooper and continues to espouse the Royal Law of Love. Admirable.

    Regarding faith and the interpretation of scriptures it is very telling when individuals want to be absolutely right. To do so would be to understand the mystery of the ‘mind’ of a creator, force, First Cause, whatever dude. Humans use faith to give meaning to their existence as they cannot bear to be inconsequential. Legalism begets authoritarianism to control the collection plate. Then charismatics, most often men, EGW being a rare exception, schism off in a new direction and set themselves up as the new authority. Wes, who is indeed right when it comes to interpreting matters of faith? Something to ponder every seven days 🙂


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  18. Sadly, we remain in utter confusion and darkness, much like the runaway prophet Jonah in the belly of the whale. Jonah refuses to come forth and share with us his special knowledge on the Sabbath truth. We still do not know what the “Sabbath truth” is, and we still do not know how to “keep the Sabbath” or why Jonah does not confirm that the Sabbath is to be kept just like God commanded on Mt. Sinai and as Ellen White directed it should be kept. Jonah and all other Sabbatarians ignore those commands and the people are eager and waiting to hear what change took place that no longer applies to these commandments. We also do not hear why Martin Luther, who understood the Sabbath and the Decalogue, yet ignored “keeping the Sabbath”, is destined to be saved, while Paul, who also understood and ignored the keeping of the Sabbath by teaching that Christians should not be judged on the Sabbath commandment, has an eternal destiny that is in jeopardy for being in “open rebellion against God”. We do not understand the difference. We also do not know who told Jonah “We’re told that Martin Luther will be saved”, as God is the only judge. Did God share something with Jonah that he is not relaying to everybody else, or did he get that information from another prophet or prophetess? Without proper definitions and explanations, how can God’s people know the truth and how to avoid being in “open rebellion against God”?

    Worse yet, you continue to distort and deform the Holy Scriptures. You continue to claim that Mark 2:27, 28 teaches that the Sabbath was made for “all mankind”, which is not at all true. Hopefully, the SDA Bible Commentary will dissuade you of that fallacy, as right after the Decalogue was given, it is clear that it was given only to the Israelites. In vol. I, page 608, we find the following: “Moses pacified the people with the calm assurance that they need have no fear. It was God’s purpose to impress indelibly upon their minds a concept of His majesty and power, as a restraint from sinning. The ISRAELITES were still dull in their comprehension of God, and consequently needed the discipline of fear until such a time as they were ready to be guided by the tender voice of love.” It is clear from the above that only the Israelites were being spoken to. The Egyptians were not there, neither were the Canaanites or any other pagans. The Sabbath commandment, however, did include the servants and strangers within the Jewish gates, as the Jews were not to expect others under their control to violate the Sabbath commandment.

    What Jesus was really trying to teach was in verse 28 where He clearly declares Himself Lord of the Sabbath, thus equal with God, and thus able to change the Sabbath.

    Nowhere does the Talmud teach that Sabbath observance began in the Garden of Eden, or at least I cannot find it. If it is there, I beg you to point it out, but you probably will not. The Torah is silent on the same issue. The Talmud does mention the Seven Laws of Noah, but these have nothing to do with Sabbath observance beginning in the Garden of Eden. The Medrash, however, claims that Abraham kept the Torah (Law), and thus probably the Sabbath. It claims that this occurred prior to the giving of the Law on Mt. Sinai, as Abraham somehow had access to this “body of wisdom”. The Medrash constitutes embellishments of the Torah, written roughly between 200 and 1200 AD by numerous rabbis. This was during a time AFTER the coming of Jesus, and certainly is of no value at all, as it in no way could constitute Scripture.

    You continue to claim that “Jesus personally kept the Sabbath” in spite of John 5:18 clearly saying that He broke the Sabbath. You claim that the disciples kept the Sabbath in spite of Luke 6 describing how the disciples broke the Sabbath by plucking ears of corn. Jesus’ response was again in verse 5, “The Son of Man is Lord also of the Sabbath”, indicating He was equal to God and able to change the Sabbath commandment. Thus, the Holy Scriptures clearly state that Jesus broke the Sabbath and allowed His disciples to do the same because He was Lord of the Sabbath and much greater than the Sabbath.

    The women who were to prepare Jesus’ body for burial did NOT understand why Jesus died, just like those disciples on the road to Emmaus on Sunday. Yes, they kept the Sabbath as per the commandment. It did indeed take some time for the early Christians to understand that Jesus kept the Law for them and released them from its obligations.

    Contrary to your assertion, the early Christians and disciples met on Sunday and observed communion. You claimed that Paul’s custom was to “worship on Sabbath”. No, he only went to the synagogue to reach the Jews. He taught very clearly in Colossians 2:16 that we are no longer to keep the Sabbath or be judged about Sabbath keeping. Your claim that “There simply is no mention in the Bible of the Apostles teaching that people should no longer observe one of the Ten Commandments” is thus entirely false.

    As for the Roman Catholic Church claiming to have changed Sabbath observance to Sunday observance, the reality is this: The Roman Catholic Church claims apostolic succession. In other words, it claims to have its origin with Peter, then down through the early patristics (church fathers) and on down to the popes, etc. While this is an extravagant claim, they thus trace the fact that the early Christians met on Sunday to be a change that was made by the Early Christians! Well, the truth of the matter is that the early Christians did indeed meet on Sunday, but there is no record of them “keeping Sunday” as a holy day by transferring the 4th commandment to “Sunday keeping” The fact that they “met and had communion on Sunday” does not indicate they “kept it” as the Jews kept the Sabbath. There is NO Biblical command for this, there is no evidence that such occurred in the early church. Furthermore, I am not aware of any Christians even today who observe Sunday in that fashion. They could meet on any day of the week, but that would not constitute keeping such a day holy.

    Now then, since you are utterly silent on how God-fearing Christians today can and should “keep the Sabbath truth” in order to avoid being in rebellion against God, I shall share with you some Biblical facts about the 2 resurrections. I trust and hope that you are not like the Sadducees, who did not believe in the resurrection. There are only 2 resurrections. The first one is NOT marked by any judgment whatsoever. Jesus promised in John 3 that whoever believes in Him will NOT be condemned (judged). This is emphasized by I Thessalonians chapter 4 which refers to saints being raised from the grave WITHOUT any judgment, and those alive will be caught up with them. This is further confirmed in Revelation 20:6 “Blessed and holy is he that hath part in the first resurrection: on such the second death hath no power, but they shall be priests of God and of Christ, and shall reign with him a thousand years.” They bypass judgment by believing in Jesus as their Savior and by accepting the wedding garment that is freely given. They are NOT using their own garment. Jesus is the ONLY one who can serve as the spotless lamb.

    The 2nd resurrection, on the other hand, is marked by a judgment, and a description of those marked for the 2nd judgment is given in Revelation 20:13-15 “And the sea gave up the dead which were in it: and death and hell delivered up the dead which were in them; and they were JUDGED EVERY MAN ACCORDING TO THEIR WORKS. And death and hell were cast into the lake of fire. This is the second death. And whosoever was not found written in the book of life was cast into the lake of fire.” Thus, this second death is permanent, and nobody going through this judgment will escape. These are those who did not accept the invitation to the wedding feast and did not accept Jesus’ wedding garment. Remember the poor chap who tried to get in without the wedding garment? He was cast out into darkness and where there is gnashing of teeth. Those who pretend to keep the Sabbath but are indeed violating any small aspect of it will not be perfect and will not be acceptable, and will be judged by their own works.

    So, there are two choices: 1. Accept Jesus’ perfection to cover us in our sinful condition. 2. Try to be “perfect” on our own and keep the Decalogue on our own, including the Sabbath and all 613 commandments. This is impossible, as Paul and others have repeatedly pointed out. Those who wrongly believe they can earn their own salvation will end up in judgment and be condemned to the lake of fire. I shudder to think of the words of Ellen White, where she describes mere mortals as “co-workers” with Jesus in our salvation. Absolutely not. I am a mere mortal and utterly without hope except for trusting in Jesus, who was the spotless Lamb who died IN MY PLACE. Ellen White also taught that we must be perfect, just like the Pelagian Heresy which taught that Jesus came to show us how to live a sinless life rather than to die in our place! Well, we cannot live a sinless life, even though Ellen White clearly said that there would be a period of time before Jesus returns where He will no longer be serving as our High Priest, and we MUST BE SINLESS!! What? She further taught that we should NEVER say that we are saved! What? Jesus clearly promised our salvation solely by believing in Him, yet countless SDA’s are unsure of their salvation because they don’t know if they are perfect enough! Of course they’re not perfect enough, and they NEVER NEVER will be. Anybody and everybody with the slightest imperfection will be destined to go through judgment.

    So, in the final analysis, you were on the right track by initially claiming that keeping the Sabbath never saved anybody. I was so happy to hear that and commended you for it. Yet, you completely reversed yourself, and now nobody knows where you really are because you will not say. Actually, you were a little bit wrong, because between Mt. Sinai and Jesus’ death there were a lot of people saved by keeping the Sabbath. It carried the death penalty, remember? If I had lived during that time period, I would have kept the Sabbath to the exactness that God required, and would have lived, as He promised. On the other hand, had I violated it, it would have voided eternal life and possibly temporal life as well.

    Jesus and Paul confirmed all other 9 commandments in one form or another, but NOT the Sabbath commandment, as Jesus is Lord of the Sabbath. He clearly said that not one jot or tittle of the Law would be changed until all was fulfilled, thus indicating that there would be a change! When He uttered those words on the cross, “IT IS FINISHED”, He kept the Law for us, and we are released from its impossible requirement simply because we accept Him as Son of God, Redeemer, the Spotless Lamb who fulfilled God’s requirement of perfectionism. This is something we could never do on our own. It is a free gift, and, quite frankly, I do not understand why everybody does not avail themselves of this free gift.

    Does the Law still stand? How do you think those going through the judgment are going to be judged? We know they are going to be judged by their works, but what are the Law Books to be used in judging those poor souls? I cannot believe that there is any other body of Law that God will use other than the Torah. If you have any other idea, please share it. So, that entire body of Law, including the Decalogue, must be what God intends to use to judge all those after the millennium. Those who accepted Christ’s perfection, however, will escape that judgment as they will have reigned with Christ 1,000 years and the 2nd death has no power over them. Sadly, this group will NOT include those who are “co-workers” for their own salvation, or those who are trying to get in with their own garments by “keeping the Sabbath”, or pretending to do so. Remember, those who are trying to get through on their merits must be ABSOLUTELY PERFECT. No exceptions.

    There are many, many people who have pretended to be perfect . Adam Weisshaupt, the founder of the Illuminati, claimed his group to be “Perfectibilists”. John Humphrey Noyes, the founder of a Utopian Society known as the Oneida Community, claimed the title of “Perfectionists” for himself and his followers. They shared everything, including spouses! Oh, yes, then there were the Albigenses (synonymous with the Cathars), who claimed that after receiving the consolamentum, they became “parfaits”, or perfect ones! These were dualists who actually claimed that Satan created the world. Amazingly, Ellen White mentioned them twice in her landmark book The Great Controversy, actually claimed they were true Christians!! I would challenge you to study them and let me know what part of their beliefs was truly Christian. It would seem that denying that God created the world as is clearly stated in Genesis would IMMEDIATELY disqualify them. Nevertheless, Ellen White herself clearly taught perfectionism, and I can guarantee you that if I should awaken and find myself in that judgment, I know I am not perfect and will never pass, and my most expedient course of action should be to lay down and accept the punishment. I know, however, that I will not be in that category, because I fully trust in Jesus for having covered my imperfection, do not and have never been in open rebellion against God, and will forever trust in Him and the mercy He has shown me in offering me a way out of my hopeless condition.

    So, my prayer for you and all Adventists is that you also will do what you must do to avoid that judgment


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    • The Sabbath, as always, is intended by God to be a special day devoted to spending time with and thinking about Him – and doing the works of God which include relieving the suffering of fellow human beings and even animals. That’s what it means to “keep” the Sabbath day holy to God as a day of rest from one’s own secular activities and a way to recharge one’s spiritual batteries.

      As far as your repeated argument that the Sabbath was only made for the Jews, I’ve already covered this in some detail. As already mentioned, not even Martin Luther believed that – arguing that the Sabbath was in fact made in Eden in memorial of creation as cited in the 4th commandment itself and as expressed by Jesus when He said that the Sabbath had been made for mankind (anthropos). Your argument that Jesus was in fact trying to “change the Sabbath” simply isn’t true. As Jesus carefully explained, everything that He did on the Sabbath had always been “lawful” for everyone to do on the Sabbath – according to Jewish law. As “Lord of the Sabbath” Jesus was simply stating that He had personally created the day to be a blessing for everyone – not the curse and burden that the Jews of His day had made of it.

      As far as the Talmud, it teaches that Abraham kept the entire Torah before it was given to the Jewish People at Sinai. The Midrash says that Isaac kept the laws of shchitah (kosher slaughtering), and Jacob kept the laws of Shabbat – before the giving of Torah at Sinai. In other words, everyone was keeping the Torah before Moses came along.

      The “Talmud” itself was written after Christ. The older compilation is called the Jerusalem Talmud or the Talmud Yerushalmi. It was compiled in the 4th century CE in Galilee. The Babylonian Talmud was compiled about the year 500 CE, although it continued to be edited later. The word “Talmud”, when used without qualification, usually refers to the Babylonian Talmud. While the editors of Jerusalem Talmud and Babylonian Talmud each mention the other community, most scholars believe these documents were written independently. Now, it is the Talmud, not just the Medrash, that argues that Abraham kept the entire Torah:

      Yoma 28b Rab said: Our father Abraham kept the whole Torah, as it is said: Because that Abraham hearkened to My voice [kept My charge, My commandments, My statutes, and My laws]. R. Shimi b. Hiyya said to Rab: Say, perhaps, that this refers to the seven laws? — Surely there was also that of circumcision! Then say that it refers to the seven laws and circumcision [and not to the whole Torah]? — If that were so, why does Scripture say: ‘My commandments and My laws’?

      Raba or R. Ashi said: Abraham, our father, kept even the law concerning the ‘erub of the dishes,’ as it is said: ‘My Torahs’: one being the written Torah, the other the oral Torah.

      Of course, you argue that the Medrash “is of no value at all” – which would seem to be the case for the Talmud as well? Yet, the value of the Talmud (and the Medrash) is in understanding the view of the Jews themselves regarding the origin of the Torah. Philo also, who lived during the time of Jesus, wrote that the Sabbath was created for all of mankind, not just the Jews, in memorial of creation. Clearly, then, this was the common understanding of the Jews themselves – even during the time of Christ.

      Yet, you keep arguing that Jesus “broke the Sabbath” in an effort to change it. Of course Jesus broke the Sabbath – but not in an effort to change it. He broke it “lawfully” – as I’ve explained in some detail. He broke the Sabbath as anyone else could break it – lawfully. It is and always has been “lawful” to do good on the Sabbath – to save life and relieve suffering rather than to kill or allow suffering to continue on the Sabbath day. That’s always been a valid reason, before God, to “break” the Sabbath. Jesus explained this in detail if you care to read what He actually said. This does not therefore mean that the Sabbath can be “lawfully” broken for any reason whatsoever. It can only “lawfully” be broken for very specific reasons…

      You also continue to cite the argument that, “Jesus kept the law to release us from its obligations” and that this concept took a while for the early Christian Church to understand. Of course, what you really mean to say is that Jesus only released us from just one of the obligations of the moral law – just one. The only law you have a problem with in the Decalogue is the Sabbath – the only one that says to “remember.” You cite Colossians 2:16 in support of this conclusion of yours – without addressing the counterarguments I’ve presented regarding Colossians 2:26 (that Paul is speaking about ceremonial Sabbaths and ceremonial observations of the Sabbath). Paul was by no means trying to set aside any of the Ten Commandments – much less the weekly Sabbath Commandment.

      You claim that the early Christians met on Sunday and observed communion, but this was a rarity for the early church recorded in the Bible. The vast majority of worship services mentioned in Acts took place on Sabbath as always. On one occasion when a Sunday service is recorded (Acts 20:7), this event took place on Saturday night and lasted late into the night because Paul had to leave town the next morning (Sunday morning). This was the last time many would get to personally see and hear Paul. So, of course there was a late evening meeting after the Sabbath. The rest of the time, of course, it was Paul’s regular “custom” to worship with fellow believers (both Jews as well as gentiles) on the Sabbath. And, as I’ve clearly shown in my article above, Sabbath observance, along with eventual Sunday observance, continued on for most of the early Christian Church for hundreds and hundreds of years. That would not have happened if the Apostles of Jesus had taught their followers that the Sabbath commandment of the Decalogue was no longer binding…

      As far as Sunday observance, of course I agree with you that there is absolutely no biblical mandate in this regard. However, it is a historical fact that the Catholic Church did in fact create such a mandate on their own – outside of any biblical mandate.

      As far as your argument of a resurrection “without any judgement”, you can’t be a “saint” without some kind of judgement being made in your favor – since judgement “begins with the house of God” (1 Peter 4:17). Of course, no one will be negatively judged, or “condemned” who claims Jesus as their savior and takes on the robe of Christ’s righteousness. Anyone who does this receives a positive judgment and will be saved. Of course, those who reject Jesus and who refuse to obey His commands and who will accept the grace offered to them by God, will be negatively judged and will experience the deeds of their own hands back upon their own heads – followed by the second eternal death.

      Remember now that I’m not suggesting that one keeps any of the commandments of the Decalogue in order to earn one’s own salvation. Salvation is a gift of God that is entirely undeserved and that cannot be earned. It is a free gift that must simply be accepted in order for salvation to be realized. Keeping the Sabbath never saved anyone – as I’ve previously mentioned. Never committing adultery doesn’t save anyone either – or avoiding murder. The Law cannot save you. Only Jesus can save you. However, once you realize that you are saved and that God does love you and wants the best for you, the grateful Christian will naturally want to keep God’s Laws and Commandments – and will receive Divine Power to actually do so. Keeping the Law is only “impossible” by human effort – and that includes all of the Ten Commandments (not just the Sabbath). It simply isn’t possible to actually keep the Royal Law through human effort alone. One cannot self-generate true disinterested love for one’s neighbor. That’s simply beyond human capabilities. However, it is not by any means impossible to keep the Royal Law, along with all of the Ten Commandments, through Divine Power – as Jesus kept the Law. This Power is offered as a free gift to us if we will only accept it.

      The fact is that we are “co-workers” with Jesus in our own salvation – despite your argument to the contrary. Our job, as free moral agents, is to simply accept what Jesus did for us and open the door when we hear Him knocking on listen to that “still small voice” speaking to us. Jesus already did the heavy lifting. Yet, we have a part to play in our own salvation. We can either accept or reject the gift that is freely offered to us – and that is our part to play. Of course, in accepting the gift of salvation, the honest Christian will in fact strive to keep all of the commandments of God through His grace and Power.

      As far as “perfection” is concerned, it wasn’t Ellen White, it was Jesus who said, “Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect” (Matthew 5:48). Jesus wouldn’t have said this if it wasn’t possible for us to be “perfect” (for where we are in our walk with God) if it was in fact “impossible” like you seem to be suggesting. It is only impossible, you see, with our own independent efforts. However, if we let God into our lives, we no longer have to live in sin. It’s a promise and a gift of God that He will Himself give us the ability to break free from our rebellion against the Royal Law and enable us to actually love our neighbors as ourselves and to actually keep all of the commandments of God.

      As far as your claims regarding the teachings of Mrs. White on perfection and salvation, you are simply misreading Mrs. White here. While she recognized the fact that a free moral agent is always free to reject a gift that was once accepted (she didn’t believe in the doctrine of “once saved always saved”), she did teach that the Christian is able to have a “present assurance” of salvation. In this line, she specifically said that we should never say, “I don’t know whether I shall be saved or not.”

      No one can make himself better, but we are to come to Jesus as we are, earnestly desiring to be cleansed from every spot and stain of sin, and receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. We are not to doubt his mercy, and say, ‘I do not know whether I shall be saved or not.’ By living faith we must lay hold of his promise, for he has said, ‘Though your sins be as scarlet, they shall be as white as snow, though they be red like crimson, they shall be as wool’ (ST, April 4, 1892, par. 3).

      “The message from God to me for you is ‘Him that cometh unto me, I will in no wise cast out’ (John 6:37). If you have nothing else to plead before God but this one promise from your Lord and Saviour, you have the assurance that you will never, never be turned away. It may seem to you that you are hanging upon a single promise, but appropriate that one promise and it will open to you the whole treasure house of the riches of the grace of Christ. Cling to that promise and you are safe. ‘Him that cometh unto me I will in no wise cast out.’ Present this assurance to Jesus, and you are as safe as though inside the city of God” (10MR 175.1).

      Look not to self, but to Christ. He who healed the sick and cast out demons when He walked among men is the same mighty Redeemer today. Faith comes by the word of God. Then grasp His promise, ‘Him that cometh to Me I will in no wise cast out.’ John 6:37. Cast yourself at His feet with the cry, ‘Lord, I believe; help Thou mine unbelief.’ You can never perish while you do this–never” (DA 429.1).

      Note that it is a present assurance that is open to the Christian. As long as you depend on Him in active faith, you have the assurance of His acceptance. For virtually the same promise based on John 6:37, but addressed to everyone in general.

      Your claim that there were those saved by keeping the letter of the Law “between Sinai and Jesus’ death” is also mistaken. Those people could only receive eternal life as we can receive it – through the unmerited grace of God alone which was made possible by the promise of the sacrifice of Jesus on their behalf. Without the fulfilment of that promise, without the actual cross of Christ, no one could have been saved – period. Everyone’s salvation is and was always dependent upon what Jesus did for everyone on that cross. No one will end up in heaven and say, “I earned this myself because I kept the Law.” No one has ever kept the Law without God’s help… which is how Jesus Himself kept the Law.


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