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The Saturday Sabbath

Why did the Church stop celebrating the Sabbath on a Saturday?

Biblically, there is nothing explicitly that suggests that God has done away with the Sabbath, so the function remains the same, even if the form may change. What do I mean by that? As we said earlier, the function of the Sabbath is to provide a time of rest:

By the seventh day God had finished the work he had been doing; so on the seventh day he rested from all his work. Then 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 2:2-3)

Even Christians, whether Jew or Gentile, are reminded of the function of the Sabbath:

There remains, then, a Sabbath-rest for the people of God; for anyone who enters God’s rest also rests from their works, just as God did from his. Let us, therefore, make every effort to enter that rest, so that no one will perish by following their example of disobedience. (Hebrews 4:9-11)

The function remains the same, but what about the form? This is where there is contention. For Christians there seem to be three possibilities:

  1. The Sabbath rest is for an arbitrary day, given that in the Genesis Creation account, there is no way of knowing whether the First day of Creation was actually a Sunday, by our reckoning and, consequently, whether the Sabbath is on a Saturday, by our reckoning. As God has yet to make His covenants with Abraham and Moses, it is more important to dwell on the function, the day of rest, rather than wondering what actual day is being referred to.
  2. The Sabbath rest is for the seventh day of the week, as described within the Ten Commandments. As the Ten Commandments are part of God’s covenant with Moses, we can assume that the actual day, the seventh day of the week had been fixed into the Hebrew calendar (though, of course, it wouldn’t have been called Saturday, as the pagan god Saturn hadn’t yet been invented!)
  3. Rather than speaking of a single 24 hour period, the “Sabbath rest” is the experience of living in the light of the Gospel, in God’s Kingdom.

Rather than critiquing each, we should move forwards in the light of the recommended attitude of Romans 14:

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. Whoever regards one day as special does so to the Lord …You, then, why do you judge your brother or sister? Or why do you treat them with contempt? For we will all stand before God’s judgment seat. It is written: “‘As surely as I live,’ says the Lord, ‘every knee will bow before me; every tongue will acknowledge God.’” So then, each of us will give an account of ourselves to God. Therefore let us stop passing judgment on one another. Instead, make up your mind not to put any stumbling block or obstacle in the way of a brother or sister.  (verses 5-6, 10-13)

Let’s not judge each other, yet, also, let us not forget that God commands us to rest, however we may interpret this. In the light of this let us return to the first question posed earlier:

Why did the Church stop celebrating the Saturday Sabbath as a day of rest?

The answer is given by the official proclamation of Emperor Constantine, the man who created the concept of Christendom, with Christianity as the official religion of the Roman Empire. Here’s his first proclamation regarding the change of Sabbath, in AD 321:

On the venerable Day of the Sun let the magistrates and people residing in cities rest, and let all workshops be closed.”

This was made a lot more official in AD 364, with the proclamation (Canon 29) of the Council of Laodicea:

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.

What do we conclude from this? Firstly, that the instigation of the change of the “Sabbath” was political and borne out of the “Christian” anti-Semitism that was endemic to “Christendom” (For more on this, read my book Outcast Nation).

Secondly, that the initial intention was to emulate the mechanism of the Sabbath through enforcement. If this is no different to what the Jewish people are urged to do on a Sabbath, then we are simply moving the Sabbath from Saturday to Sunday. I would suggest that there is something different going on here, culminating in an artificial construct, not prompted by Scripture, but rather by man.

The Church of Constantine was one born out of political expediency. After all, if Christianity was going to be the official religion of the Roman Empire, then it would effectively be the tool of the Roman Empire, in order to be able to rule the people effectively. And what better way was there to unify the Empire than to give them a set of ideas to believe in? The trouble is that Christianity itself wasn’t unified, so his first task was to firm up a unified set of beliefs and then give firm instructions how these beliefs should be followed. All this was done at the council of Nicaea and out of this came the newly constructed churches and cathedrals (that we explored in an earlier chapter), with a prescribed day, the Sunday – the existing pagan day for communal worship – to practice their “Christianity”.

This is an extract from the book, Shalom, available for £10 at https://www.sppublishing.com/shalom-239-p.asp

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