This post is the start of an argument about the Hebrew Saturday sabbath over the Christian Sunday observance. Nicholas and Lou, two of the Internet’s more offensive anti-Catholics, attacked the Christian practice of Sunday observance. I have not saved here the website post from Nicholas that was the catalyst for this discussion. Lou is the visible point-man for the pseudo-SDA view in this debate.
First, I would like to make one important clarification: I do not believe God “changed” the Sabbath from Saturday to Sunday. I believe that the Saturday Sabbath has “passed away” and is not included in the NEW Covenant. Rather, we have the Lord’s Day, Sunday, on which we celebrate the resurrection of Jesus. (See Revelation 1:10)
So, you say that you don’t believe that God “changed” the Sabbath from Saturday to Sunday. But you believe that the *Saturday* Sabbath has “passed away.” That is a direct contradiction of the Lord Jesus’ words. For Jesus says:
“Think not that I am come to destroy the law, or the prophets: I am not come to destroy, but to fulfill. For verily I say unto you, till heaven and earth pass, one jot or one tittle shall in no wise pass from the law, till all be fulfilled” (Matthew 5:17-18).
For as long as the heavens and the earth remain, God’s law, including His Sabbath, will also remain. That means forever! The text in Revelation 1:10 is not a reference to Sunday, but to the Sabbath day, of which Jesus proclaimed He is “Lord.”
Father Joe responds:
I think what Cathy is trying to say is that there was no singularly recorded moment wherein God spoke from heaven, declaring that the Jewish Sabbath would be transferred to Sunday. She is correct in this sense, although Lou is not far from the truth when he argues that the Catholic Church moved the obligation, or at least the center of gravity, from Saturday to Sunday, the so-called “eighth day” in Patristic testimony. We must remember that Lou and his friend Nicholas are biblical fundamentalists (at least of a sort). Lou might ask for evidence of the Sunday Sabbath before 100 AD, but he really does not mean it, at least if the testimony is extra-biblical (outside the literal Scriptural testimony). He is quick to mimic the bad scholarship that would dismiss other ancient Christian documents as spurious. It is as if the Bible emerges from some nebulous vacuum, and not from a teaching Church or from a canon negotiated by bishops, albeit under the influence of the Holy Spirit. This is what makes debate with his likes so very difficult. He is the supreme interpreter of Holy Writ. The Church and all her traditions are as weeds to be burned. History and truth becomes subjective with any facts to the contrary ignored or twisted to fit a preconceived bigotry. As for the topic at hand, the evidence seems to indicate that the shift did not happen all at once. The first Christians were Jewish and maintained their synagogue participation on the Sabbath. However, as the Church added to her numbers many Gentile converts, the Hebrew customs and rituals decreased in value. The expulsion of the Christian Jews from the synagogue and the subsequent persecution would be the straw that broke the camel’s back. The Christians were also gathering on Sunday for the commemoration of the Lord’s Supper (tied to an agape or love-feast). Every Sunday was seen as a celebration of Christ’s resurrection. Cathy has all this quite right.
As for Revelation 1:10, this is part of a late document, between 90 and 120 AD. It is the last book of the New Testament to be written. Lou is very wrong in saying that “the Lord’s day” in this text refers to the Saturday “Jewish” Sabbath. The phrase “the Lord’s day” was a code word universally used by Christians to signify Sunday. Lou is guilty of bad scholarship here and ignorance of God’s Word. John writes: “I was in the Spirit on the Lord’s day, and I heard behind me a loud voice like a trumpet saying . . .” The trumpet imagery is borrowed from the Sinai theophany in Exodus and in other eschatological situations. The day that commemorated our Lord’s resurrection is tied in with his Second Coming and the Judgment. The Hebrew Sabbath, while important to the early Jewish Christians, did not have the devotional weight of the Christian Sunday because the resurrection of Jesus was seen as a new creative event, the proof of our redemption and hope for eternal life in Christ. John sees all time after the resurrection as End-Times. The victory is already won in Christ. We are merely awaiting the final consummation in the Lord.
Let us turn to the Scripture that Lou cites, Matthew 5:17-18. Again, he displays his ignorance of the Word of God and his troubled use of isolated passages as proof texts. He interprets these verses as evidence that the Hebrew Saturday Sabbath is a permanent affair. However, Christians have never understood this text in this way. The assertion “Till heaven and earth pass (away)” does not necessarily mean the end of the world. Rather, it means the PASSING AWAY of the world, as we knew it. Regarding the matter of the Sabbath, it is, as Cathy would have us understand, the transition from the Saturday to the Sunday holy day. Of course, the text is saying a great deal more. Jesus has come to fulfill the law and the prophets. The ancient law and traditions bind them “till heaven and earth pass away” and “until all is accomplished.” This occurs with the revelatory event of Christ’s paschal mystery, his passion, death and resurrection.
John’s Gospel makes this delineation clear from the mouth of Jesus on the Cross: “After this Jesus, knowing that all was now finished, said (to fulfill the scripture), ‘I thirst.’ A bowl full of vinegar stood there; so they put a sponge full of the vinegar on hyssop and held it to his mouth. When Jesus had received the vinegar, he said, ‘It is finished’; and he bowed his head and gave up his spirit” (John 19:28). The Gospel is addressed to those in the final age, the age foretold by Isaiah of “new heavens and a new earth” (Isaiah 65:17; 66:22). However, during Jesus’ public ministry, they are still living in the setting of the old law, anticipating what would come.