How Sunday became Christianity’s Sabbath


How Sunday became Christianity’s Sabbath

Because Christ had resurrected from the dead on the first day of the week, Sunday had always accorded special attention since the Church’s early days. The first Christians recognized this as a holy day.

Many Jewish believers in Christ continued to follow the Sabbath and attend services at the synagogues but also celebrated the Eucharist on the Lord’s Day, the eighth day, which is also the first day of the new creation in Christ.

Sunday is the … “Easter which returns week by week, celebrating Christ’s victory over sin and death, the fulfillment in him of the first creation and the dawn of ‘the new creation.’” [1]

As the Church began to grow in the Diaspora (the dispersion of Christians) and encompass Gentile followers, the Jewish Sabbath became less important to them. At the Council of Jerusalem (Acts 15: 19, 20) the Holy Spirit and the Apostles confirmed several Jewish practices as unnecessary for Gentile Christians. Although they did not make a declaration on the Sabbath, there was a natural transition for the Christian Sabbath to be held on the day of the Lord’s resurrection.[2]

The first Christians held the Mass with the Eucharist (Holy Communion) in private homes in Israel and then in homes in Gentile territory. In Rome, they often held the Mass hidden in the catacombs, since they were persecuted for their faith.

It was not until Emperor Constantine (r. 306-337) and Co-emperor Licinius Licinianus issued the Edict of Milan in 313, which legalized Christianity throughout the Roman Empire, that Christians were able to openly celebrate the Eucharist.

In 321, Sundays became an official day free from mandatory work making it a day of rest—a sabbath. This day of rest was welcomed by both the Christians and the followers of the sun god, Sol Invictus. On that day markets were banned and public offices were closed, except for the purpose of freeing slaves.[3] The Sabbath was meant to bring about a universal equality, as all were to receive a day of rest, whether slave or free (cf. Ex. 20:10).[4] This Jewish law was being fulfilled even in pagan and Christian law.

Eventually the attractiveness of Christianity replaced the cult of the sun god, Sol Invictus,[5] as Christ was the true Sun, the Light of the World, in whom the Christians now followed (Cf. Acts 13:47). “It is the day which recalls … the world’s first day and looks forward in active hope to ‘the last day,’ when Christ will come in glory …and all things will be made new.[6]



[1] Dies Domini. Apostolic Letter of Pope John Paul II. 31 May, 1998, accessed 5 June, 2016. Available from Internet, Par. 1.

[2] Sherman,” Reclaimed by Sabbath Rest,” 40.

[3] Carson, Don A. From Sabbath to Lord’s Day. Wipf & Stock Publishers/Zondervan. pp. 252–98. ISBN 9781579103071

[4] Benedict XVI, In the Beginning, Kindle location 309.

[5] Lumen Fidei, Pope Francis. 29 June 2013, accessed 3 November, 2013. Available from Internet, LF 1.

[6] Dies Domini, DD 1.