Lord's Day


Lord's Day

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Lord's Day is a Christian name for Sunday, the day of communal worship. It is observed by most Christians as the weekly memorial of the resurrection of Jesus Christ, who is said in the four canonical Gospels of the New Testament to have been witnessed alive from the dead early on the first day of the week. (A minority of Christians hold that Lord's Day refers to Saturday, the day of the Jewish Sabbath.)

According to some sources, some professed Christians held corporate worship on Sunday in the 1st century. 2nd century writers such as Justin Martyr attest to the widespread practice of Sunday worship, and by 361 AD it had become a mandated weekly occurrence. During the Middle Ages, Sunday worship became associated with Sabbatarian (rest) practices. Some Protestants today (particularly those theologically descended from the Puritans) regard Sunday as Christian Sabbath, a practice known as first-day Sabbatarianism.

Sunday was also known in patristic writings as the eighth day, according to the old "Nundinal Cycle"

Textual tradition

Ambiguous references

"Lord's Day" is the English translation of the koine Greek kyriake hemera, a term that appears in Revelation 1:10 near the end of the first century. The adjective kyriake often elided its noun, as in the neuter kyriakon for "Lord's [assembly]", the predecessor of the word "church"; the noun was to be supplied by context.

The author of Rev. 1:10, the apostle John, ("I was in the Spirit on the Lord's Day") uses kyriake hemera in a way apparently familiar to his readers. First-day Sabbatarians hold that this means he was worshipping on Sunday, resurrection day (cf. Ac. 20:7, 1 Cor. 16:2). Seventh-day Sabbatarians hold that this means he was brought by the Spirit into an eschatological vision of the Day of the Lord (cf. Is. 58:13–14, Mt. 12:8, etc.), interpreted as a seventh (Sabbatical) millennium. Both parties accordingly use this verse to lay claim to the name "Lord's Day" for their Sabbath.

The next ambiguous appearance of kyriake is in the The Teaching of the Twelve Apostles or Didache, a document dated to the end of the 1st century or the beginning of the second. Didache 14:1a (AD 70-120?) is translated by Roberts as, "But every Lord's day gather yourselves together, and break bread, and give thanksgiving";[1] the first clause in Greek, "κατά κυριακήν δέ κυρίου", literally means "On the Lord's of the Lord",[2] a unique and unexplained double possessive, and translators supply the elided noun (e.g., "day", "commandment" (from the immediately prior verse 13:7), or "doctrine").[3] This is the first of two extrabiblical Christian uses of "κυριακήν" where it does not clearly refer to Sunday.[4] Breaking bread may refer to Christian fellowship, agape feasts, or Eucharist (cf. Ac. 2:42, 20:7). Didache 14 was apparently understood by the writers of the Didascalia and Apostolic Constitutions as a reference to Sunday worship.

Around 110 AD, St. Ignatius of Antioch used kyriake in a passage of his letter to the Magnesians. Ambiguity arises due to textual variants. The only extant Greek manuscript of the letter, the Codex Mediceo-Laurentianus, reads, "If, then, those who had walked in ancient practices attained unto newness of hope, no longer observing Sabbath, but living according to the Lord’s life ..." (kata kyriaken zoen zontes). A medieval Latin translation indicates an original textual reading of kata kyriaken zontes: "no longer observing Sabbath, but living according to the Lord's [Day]".

(The expanded Pseudo-Ignatian version of Magnesians, from the middle of the third century, rewrites this passage to make "Lord's Day" a clear reference to Sunday. Pseudo-Ignatius saw believers "no longer observing the [Jewish] Sabbath, but living in the observance of the Lord’s Day", and amplified this point as follows: "Let us therefore no longer keep the Sabbath after the Jewish manner, and rejoice in days of idleness .... But let every one of you keep the Sabbath after a spiritual manner, rejoicing in meditation on the law, not in relaxation of the body, admiring the workmanship of God, and not eating things prepared the day before, nor using lukewarm drinks, and walking within a prescribed space, nor finding delight in dancing and plaudits which have no sense in them. And after the observance of the Sabbath, let every friend of Christ keep the Lord’s Day as a festival, the resurrection-day, the queen and chief of all the days."[5] This is typical[citation needed] of early church fathers who saw weekly observance of seventh-day Sabbath followed the next day by Lord's Day assembly.)

Undisputed references

The first undisputed reference to Lord's Day is in the apocryphal Gospel of Peter, probably written about the middle of the 2nd century or perhaps the first half of that century. The Gospel of Peter 35 and 50 use kyriake as the name for the first day of the week, the day of Jesus' resurrection. That the author referred to Lord's Day in an apocryphal gospel purportedly written by St. Peter indicates that the term kyriake was very widespread and had been in use for some time.

Around 170 AD, Dionysius, Bishop of Corinth, wrote to the Roman Church, "Today we have kept the Lord's holy day (kyriake hagia hemera), on which we have read your letter." In the latter half of the 2nd century, the apocryphal Acts of Peter identify Dies Domini (Latin for "Lord's Day") as "the next day after the Sabbath," i.e., Sunday. From the same period of time, the Acts of Paul present St. Paul praying "on the Sabbath as the Lord's Day (kyriake) drew near." The Lord's day is also referred to in the Acts of John as "on the seventh day, it being the Lord's day, he said to them: now it is time for me also to partake of food."[6]

Early church

The Cenacle on Mount Zion, claimed to be the location of the Last Supper and Pentecost. Bargil Pixner[7] claims the original Church of the Apostles is located under the current structure.

A widespread early Christian tradition was to meet for worship on the first day of the week (Sunday); Sunday thus came to be known as Lord's Day. Early observance of Sunday is attested in patristic writings of the early second century.[8] These writers include Pseudo-Barnabas (AD 100), Ignatius of Antioch (107), Justin Martyr (145), Bardaisan (154), Irenaeus (178), Tertullian (180), Cyprian (200), Victorinus of Petovio (280), and Eusebius of Caesarea (324) [Note: dates are traditional and approximate]. These early Christians believed that the resurrection and ascension of Christ signals the renewal of creation, making the day on which God accomplished it a day analogous to the first day of creation when God made the light. Some of these writers referred to Sunday as the "eighth day".

The Didache (AD 70-120?) uses the term κυριακήν (kyriaken), which literally means "the Lord's," with the word ἡμέρα hemera ("day") being ellided. In extrabiblical Christian literature, κυριακήν always refers to Sunday[9] except for two early instances where textual readings have given rise to questions of proper translation. The use of κυριακήν in the Didache is one of those instances. The Greek expression normally translated as "On the Lord's day" in the Didache is κατά κυριακήν δέ κυρίου (Holmes M. The Apostolic Fathers - Greek Texts and English Translations), which literally would be rendered in English as "On the Lord's [day] of the Lord". Consequently, Didache 14 has often been translated as "On the Lord's own day, gather yourselves together and break bread and give thanks,"[10] apparently a reference to the weekly Sunday Eucharist (cf. Acts 2:42; 20:7). Some who dispute this translation argue that it should be translated "according to the Lord's commandment gather yourselves together to break bread...".[citation needed]

St. Ignatius of Antioch repudiated Sabbath-keeping as a Judaizing error, stating that Christians now celebrate Lord's Day, the day of the resurrection.

We have seen how former adherents of the ancient customs have since attained to a new hope; so that they have given up keeping the sabbath, and now order their lives by the Lord's Day instead (the day when life first dawned for us, thanks to Him and His death.)
—Ignatius, To the Magnesians, chapter 9[11]

The Epistle of Barnabas (70-150) uses Isaiah 1:13 to suggest that the "eighth day" marks the resurrection, and as such denotes the completion of God's work of saving mankind from sin. Although there is dispute over whether this is a correct interpretation of Isaiah, it is a good indication that Sunday observance was a common practice in Christianity at that time.

He also tells them, I have no patience with your new moons and sabbaths. You can see what he is saying there: 'It is not these sabbaths of the present age that I find acceptable, but the one of my own appointment: the one that, after I have set all things at rest, is to usher in the Eighth Day, the commencement of a new world.' (And we too rejoice in celebrating the Eighth Day; because that was when Jesus rose from the dead, and showed Himself again, and ascended into heaven.)

Justin Martyr (mid 2nd century) wrote in his apologies about the cessation of Sabbath observance and the celebration of the first (or eighth) day of the week (not as a day of rest, but as a day for gathering to worship). He argued that Sabbath was not kept before Moses, and was only instituted as a sign to Israel and a temporary measure because of Israel's sinfulness.[12] Curiously he also draws a parallel between the Israelite practice of circumcision on the eighth day, and the resurrection of Jesus on the same day.[13]

"But the Gentiles, who have believed on Him, and have repented of the sins which they have committed, they shall receive the inheritance along with the patriarchs and the prophets, and the just men who are descended from Jacob, even although they neither keep the Sabbath, nor are circumcised, nor observe the feasts."
—Justin Martyr, Dialogue with Trypho, 26
"And on the day called Sunday, all who live in cities or in the country gather together to one place, and the memoirs of the apostles or the writings of the prophets are read, as long as time permits; then, when the reader has ceased, the president verbally instructs, and exhorts to the imitation of these good things. Then we all rise together and pray, and, as we before said, when our prayer is ended, bread and wine and water are brought, and the president in like manner offers prayers and thanksgivings, according to his ability, and the people assent, saying Amen; and there is a distribution to each, and a participation of that over which thanks have been given, and to those who are absent a portion is sent by the deacons. And they who are well to do, and willing, give what each thinks fit; and what is collected is deposited with the president, who succours the orphans and widows and those who, through sickness or any other cause, are in want, and those who are in bonds and the strangers sojourning among us, and in a word takes care of all who are in need. But Sunday is the day on which we all hold our common assembly, because it is the first day on which God, having wrought a change in the darkness and matter, made the world; and Jesus Christ our Saviour on the same day rose from the dead."
—Justin Martyr, First Apology, 67

Tertullian (early 3rd century), writing against Christians who participated in pagan festivals (Saturnalia and New-year), defends the Christian celebration of Sunday against the accusation of sun-worship, and also states that Jewish Sabbath is no longer kept.

By us, to whom Sabbaths are strange, and the new moons and festivals formerly beloved by God, the Saturnalia and New-year's and Midwinter's festivals and Matronalia are frequented--presents come and go--New-year's gifts--games join their noise--banquets join their din! Oh better fidelity of the nations to their own sect, which claims no solemnity of the Christians for itself! Not the Lord's day, not Pentecost, even it they had known them, would they have shared with us; for they would fear lest they should seem to be Christians. We are not apprehensive lest we seem to be heathens! If any indulgence is to be granted to the flesh, you have it. I will not say your own days, but more too; for to the heathens each festive day occurs but once annually: you have a festive day every eighth day.
—Tertullian, On Idolatry, 14
Others, with greater regard to good manners, it must be confessed, suppose that the sun is the god of the Christians, because it is a well-known fact that we pray towards the east, or because we make Sunday a day of festivity.
—Tertullian, Ad Nationes, 1:13

Cyprian, a 3rd century church father, linked the "eighth day" with the term "Lord's Day" in a letter concerning baptism.

'For in respect of the observance of the eighth day of the Jewish circumcision of the flesh, a sacrament was given beforehand in shadow and in usage; but when Christ came, it was fulfilled in truth. For because the eighth day, that is, the first day after the Sabbath, was to be that on which the Lord should rise again, and should quicken us, and give us circumcision of the spirit, the eighth day, that is the first day after the Sabbath, and the Lord's Day, went before in the figure; which figure ceased when by and by the truth came and spiritual circumcision was given to us
—Cyprian, Letter LVIII

Origins of Sunday worship

Though the above evidence demonstrates that Sunday was widely observed as a day of worship throughout the Christian church by the early 2nd century, the origin of Sunday worship is a debated point.

Bauckham argues that Sunday worship must have originated in Palestine in the mid-1st century, in the period of the Acts of the Apostles, no later than the Gentile mission. This is because the practice had become universal by the early 2nd century with no hint of controversy in the writings that have survived from the early church. It would have been virtually impossible for a novel practice such as Sunday worship to be agreed upon universally, with no debate, had it been introduced after the Christian church had spread throughout the known world.[8] Bauckham observes that there is no record of any early Christian group which did not observe Sunday, with the exception of a single extreme group of Ebionites mentioned by Eusebius of Caesarea.

Some scholars, such as R. Beckwith and W. Stott (1978), W. Rordorf (1962) and Paul King Jewett (1971) have argued that Christian Sunday worship traces back even further, to the resurrection appearances of Jesus recorded in the Gospel narratives.

Seventh-day Adventist scholar Samuele Bacchiocchi has argued that Sunday worship was introduced in Rome in the 2nd century, and was enforced throughout the Christian church as a substitution for Sabbath worship.[14] Bauckham responds to Bacchiocchi's theory by arguing, firstly, that there is no evidence that Sunday was observed as substitute Sabbath in the early centuries of the church and in fact there is evidence of early Christians who simultaneously observed both Sabbath rest (on Saturday) and Sunday worship. Secondly, Bauckham argues that in the 2nd century the church of Rome lacked the jurisdictional authority to impose a universal change of Sabbath observance from the seventh day to the first, leaving no trace of disagreement or resistance; the prolonged controversy over the date of Easter (see Quartodecimanism; the debate over Easter raged for over a century until it was in theory resolved at the First Council of Nicea, though the date still varies between East and West, see Easter controversy) is a case in point.[15]

Edict of Constantine

On 3 March 321, Constantine I decreed that Sunday (dies Solis) will be observed as the Roman day of rest [CJ3.12.2]:

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 suitable for grain-sowing or vine planting; lest by neglecting the proper moment for such operations the bounty of heaven should be lost.[16]

Constantine's decree was most likely modeled on pagan sun worship, though it is probable that he also intended to benefit the church, which already met for worship on Sunday.[15] Some[who?] theorize that, because the practice favored the Christian day of worship, it also helped the church to avoid implicit association with the Jews. Eusebius, in Life of Constantine, claims Constantine stated: "Let us then have nothing in common with the detestable Jewish crowd; for we have received from our Saviour a different way."[17]

Middle ages

Augustine of Hippo followed the early patristic writers in spiritualizing the meaning of the Sabbath commandment, referring it to eschatological rest rather than observance of a literal day. However, the practice of Sunday rest increased in prominence throughout the early Middle Ages. Thomas Aquinas taught that the decalogue is an expression of natural law which binds all men, and therefore the Sabbath commandment is a moral requirement along with the other nine. Thus Sunday rest and Sabbath became increasingly associated.[18]

Modern church

Protestantism

The reformers Martin Luther and John Calvin repudiated the idea that Christians are bound to obey the Mosaic law, including the fourth commandment of the decalogue concerning Sabbath, although they followed Aquinas' concept of natural law. They viewed Sunday rest as a civic institution established by human authority, which provided an occasion for bodily rest and public worship.[19]

Nevertheless, Sunday Sabbatarianism became prevalent amongst both the continental and English Protestants over the following century. A new rigorism was brought into the observance of Lord's Day among the 17th-century Puritans of England and Scotland, in reaction to the laxity with which Sunday observance was customarily kept. Sabbath ordinances were appealed to, with the idea that only the word of God can bind men's consciences in whether or how they will take a break from work, or to impose an obligation to meet at a particular time. Their influential reasoning spread to other denominations also, and it is primarily through their influence that "Sabbath" has become the colloquial equivalent of "Lord's Day" or "Sunday". The most mature expression of this influence survives in the Westminster Confession of Faith (1646), Chapter 21, "Of Religious Worship, and the Sabbath Day". Section 7-8 reads:

7. As it is the law of nature, that, in general, a due proportion of time be set apart for the worship of God; so, in his Word, by a positive, moral, and perpetual commandment binding all men in all ages, he hath particularly appointed one day in seven, for a Sabbath, to be kept holy unto him: which, from the beginning of the world to the resurrection of Christ, was the last day of the week; and, from the resurrection of Christ, was changed into the first day of the week, which, in Scripture, is called the Lord’s day, and is to be continued to the end of the world, as the Christian Sabbath.
8. This Sabbath is then kept holy unto the Lord, when men, after a due preparing of their hearts, and ordering of their common affairs beforehand, do not only observe a holy rest, all the day, from their own works, words, and thoughts about their worldly employments and recreations, but also are taken up, the whole time, in the public and private exercises of his worship, and in the duties of necessity and mercy.

Though Sabbatarian practice declined in the 18th century, the evangelical awakening in the 19th century led to a greater concern for strict Sunday observance. The founding of the Lord's Day Observance Society in 1831 was influenced by the teaching of Daniel Wilson.[19]

Roman Catholicism

In 1998 Pope John Paul II wrote an apostolic letter Dies Domini, "on keeping the Lord's day holy". He encourages Catholics to remember the importance of keeping Sunday holy, urging that it not lose its meaning by being blended with a frivolous "weekend" mentality.

Eastern Christianity

The Eastern Orthodox church distinguishes between "Sabbath" (Saturday) and "Lord's Day" (Sunday), and both continue to play a special role for the faithful. Many parishes and monasteries will serve the Divine Liturgy on both Saturday morning and Sunday morning. The church never allows strict fasting on any Saturday (except Holy Saturday) or Sunday, and the fasting rules on those Saturdays and Sundays which fall during one of the fasting seasons (such as Great Lent, Apostles' Fast, etc.) are always relaxed to some degree. During Great Lent, when the celebration of the Liturgy is forbidden on weekdays, there is always Liturgy on Saturday as well as Sunday. The church also has a special cycle of Bible readings (Epistle and Gospel) for Saturdays and Sundays which is different from the cycle of readings allotted to weekdays. However, Lord's Day, being a celebration of the Resurrection, is clearly given more emphasis. For instance, in the Russian Orthodox Church Sunday is always observed with an All-Night Vigil on Saturday night, and in all of the Orthodox Churches it is amplified with special hymns which are chanted only on Sunday. If a feast day falls on a Sunday it is always combined with the hymns for Sunday (unless it is a Great Feast of the Lord). Saturday is celebrated as a sort of leave-taking for the previous Sunday, on which several of the hymns from the previous Sunday are repeated.

In part, the reason Orthodox Christians continue to celebrate Saturday as Sabbath is because of its role in the history of salvation: it was on a Saturday that Jesus "rested" in the tomb after his work on the cross. For this reason also, Saturday is a day for general commemoration of the departed, and special requiem hymns are often chanted on this day.

The Ethiopian Orthodox church (part of the Oriental Orthodox communion, having about 40 million members) observes both Saturday and Sunday as holy, but places extra emphasis on Sunday.

See also

References

  1. ^ "14:1". Didache. Roberts, trans. Early Christian Writings. http://www.earlychristianwritings.com/text/didache-roberts.html. 
  2. ^ Holmes, M. The Apostolic Fathers: Greek Texts and English Translations. 
  3. ^ Strand, Kenneth A. (1982). The Sabbath in Scripture and History. Washington, D.C.: Review and Herald Publishing Association. pp. 347–8.  In Morgan, Kevin (2002). Sabbath Rest. TEACH Services. pp. 37–8. 
  4. ^ Archer, Gleason. An Encyclopedia of Bible Difficulties. 
  5. ^ St. Ignatius. Epistle to the Magnesians. 9. http://www.ccel.org/ccel/schaff/anf01.v.iii.ix.html. 
  6. ^ Roberts, Alexander (1873). Ante-Nicene Christian Library: Apocryphal Gospels, Acts, and Revelations. 16. Edinburgh: T. & T. Clark. p. 446. http://books.google.com/books?id=N4FPAAAAYAAJ&pg=PA446#v=onepage&q&f=false. 
  7. ^ Bargil Pixner, The Church of the Apostles found on Mount Zion, Biblical Archaeology Review 16.3 May/June 1990 [1]
  8. ^ a b R. J. Bauckham (1982), D. A. Carson, ed., "The Lord's day", From Sabbath to Lord's Day (Zondervan): 221–250 
  9. ^ Gleason Archer, An Encyclopedia of Bible Difficulties
  10. ^ "The Didache, chapter 14". Early Christian Writings. http://www.earlychristianwritings.com/text/didache-roberts.html. 
  11. ^ "The Epistle of Ignatius to the Magnesians, chapter 9". Early Christian Writings. http://www.earlychristianwritings.com/text/ignatius-magnesians-roberts.html. 
  12. ^ Dialogue with Trypho, chapter 21, chapter 23
  13. ^ Dialogue with Trypho, chapter 41
  14. ^ S. Bacchiocchi, From Sabbath to Sunday 
  15. ^ a b R. J. Bauckham (1982), D. A. Carson, ed., "Sabbath and Sunday in the Post-Apostolic church", From Sabbath to Lord's Day (Zondervan): 252–298 
  16. ^ Given the 7th day of March, Crispus and Constantine being consuls each of them for the second time. Codex Justinianus, lib. 3, tit. 12, 3; translated by Philip Schaff, History of the Christian Church, Vol. 3 (1902), p. 380, note.
  17. ^ http://www.newadvent.org/fathers/25023.htm Book III chapter 18
  18. ^ R. J. Bauckham (1982), D. A. Carson, ed., "Sabbath and Sunday in the medieval church in the west", From Sabbath to Lord's Day (Zondervan): 299–310 
  19. ^ a b R. J. Bauckham (1982), D. A. Carson, ed., "Sabbath and Sunday in the Protestant tradition", From Sabbath to Lord's Day (Zondervan): 311–342 

Further reading

  • From Sabbath to Lord's Day: A Biblical, Historical and Theological Investigation, D.A. Carson, editor (Grand Rapids, Mich.: Zondervan, 1982).
  • The Study of Liturgy, Cheslyn Jones, Geoffrey Wainwright, Edward Yarnold, SJ, and Paul Bradshaw, editors (New York, N.Y.:Oxford University Press, 1992), pp. 456–458.

External links


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