Has the Sabbath Morphed into Sunday?

01 May

Who Changed the SabbathMost Christians today worship on Sunday, and many of these worshipers call Sunday the Christian Sabbath. Yet, I have not found a single Scripture to support this idea. Am I saying that Christians should return to worshiping on the 7th day rather than Sunday? No—even though the reason we turned to Sunday had more to do with anti-Semitism than the truth, it is done. We do, however, need to be honest about what occurred, admit what we’ve done and move on. We are not under the Law but under Christ.

One cannot pick out portions of the Law one thinks agreeable and say: “this is binding, but the rest are not.” We have no authority to pick and choose what is binding in God’s word. Only God has that authority, and he has shown that gentiles are not under the Law. Paul says that we are a law unto ourselves (Romans 2:14), that is, we already have laws of our own—against stealing, lying, murder etc. What is not covered by the laws of our lands is covered in the principle that we are to love God with all our being and love one another as ourselves.

So, what about the Sunday/Saturday thing? What does God’s word tell us and why do most Christians worship on Sunday? In Acts 20:6-12 we find Paul at the culmination of his 3rd missionary journey, and he has organized an offering from the gentile churches in Asia Minor and Europe for the poor at Jerusalem. He intended to be in Jerusalem by Passover, but a plot against his life in Corinth changed his plan (Acts 20:3). Instead of Paul sailing from Chenchrea, the Corinthian seaport on the Aegean, he sent the disciples by sea to Troas, while he and at least eight others traveled by land through Achaea and Macedonia to Philippi, where Paul and company celebrated the Days of Unleavened Bread.

In Acts 20:6 Luke tells us that Paul set sail AFTER the Days of Unleavened Bread and in 5 days came to Troas and hooked up with the other brethren he sent by sea that were waiting for him. The troublesome phrase is “where we abode for seven days”. This doesn’t make sense for two reasons. First, Paul would have liked to be in Jerusalem by Passover but couldn’t, so why would he delay bringing the needed supplies to the poor at Jerusalem for another 7 days? Secondly, verse-7 begins with “And upon the first day of the week…” This is clearly wrong and gives the reader a wrong sense of the context of the meeting at Troas.

Luke gives us a sense of urgency, which is all but hidden by the assumptions of Sunday worship in the translation. The phrase: “And upon the first day of the week…” is wrong. First of all, day is supplied by the translators, and is NOT in the Greek. Secondly, the word translated week can also be translated “Sabbath”, which is preferred if the context supports it. Finally, this same Greek word is in the plural NOT in the singular. If one would literally translate the phrase, one could see it belongs to the Jewish method of counting toward Pentecost (cp. Acts 20: 16).[1]

Therefore, verse-7 literally translated would be: “And upon the first of the Sabbaths (weeks)…” But, what does this mean? In Leviticus 23 we discover a list of all the annual Holy Days, including the weekly Sabbath, that Israel was to observe in their seasons. The Jews were to count 7 Sabbaths, or weeks to Pentecost (Leviticus 23:15-16). The count began on the day following the weekly Sabbath falling between Passover (the 14th) and the 2nd Holy Day of the Days of Unleavened Bread (the 21st of the 1st month). By adding one more day to the calculation made it 50 days to the Feast of Weeks or Pentecost. Since the first day of the count is ALWAYS a Sunday, the phrase “seven Sabbaths shall be complete” can be translated “weeks” or “Sabbaths” without losing its meaning.

Acts 20:7 literally translated is “and upon the first of the Sabbaths… (weeks).” By sticking with a literal rendering, Luke’s sense of urgency isn’t lost in the translation. The plural in the Greek supports the context (v.16) of counting toward Pentecost. However, what about the troublesome phrase in verse-6: “…where we abode seven days”? If this is correct, it contradicts Luke’s sense of urgency to be in Jerusalem by Pentecost, and my point thus far is moot.

Luke says in Acts 20:6 that they left Philippi’s seaport AFTER the Days of Unleavened Bread—i.e. after the 21st of the first month or on the 22nd. He arrived in Troas five days later or on the 26th of the first month and broke bread with the disciples on the first of the (seven) Sabbaths or the 27th of the month. This scenario can be true without any contradiction **only** if the Passover began on a Sunday that year. The weekly Sabbath between the 14th and the 21st would have been observed on the 20th, making the 21st a Sunday, the 1st day counting toward Pentecost. Five days of travel to Friday or the 6th day of the 50 days before Pentecost. The next day would have been the 27th, a Saturday, when they broke bread on the “first of the (seven) Sabbaths…” This means that the troublesome phrase in verse-6 “…where we abode seven days” ought to be understood as Paul tarried until the end of the first seven days of the 50 day period at Troas. He stayed there only two days at the most, depending upon what time Friday he arrived and what time on Sunday he left.

So, why do we celebrate Sunday? By the beginning of the 2nd century CE Christians celebrated both Saturday (the Sabbath) and Sunday (in honor of Jesus’ resurrection), but when Constantine legalized Christianity in the 4th century CE, he outlawed meeting for worship on the 7th day, partially due to his being anti-Semitic (approved by some Christian leaders of the day), but mostly because he worshiped the sun god. I don’t believe he was a Christian! However, Sunday as a day of worship is not wrong in itself—we are not under the Law, but using Acts 20:7 to support our doing so is wrong and hides the truth of Luke’s message.

[1] Paul in Acts 20:16 “hastens” to get to Jerusalem for Pentecost, for he has a lot to do besides getting the offering to the poor. The word Luke uses is speudo (G4692); compare this verse with how Luke uses the word elsewhere in Luke 2:16; 19:5-6 and Acts 22:18. This argues against Paul spending 7 days in Troas for no apparent reason.


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2 responses to “Has the Sabbath Morphed into Sunday?

  1. prettytalkative angel51

    May 25, 2013 at 20:42

    Great Point!

    • Eddie

      May 25, 2013 at 21:31

      Thank you for your encouragement. Lord bless.


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