Sunday in the
THE word "Sunday" is
not found in the Bible, but the "first day" of the week is
mentioned just nine times. Let us examine these nine texts.
1. The first day of the week
originated as a work day. This world was created on a Sunday, so that,
wherever one goes, he is reminded of God's Sunday work. (Genesis 1:1-5.)
2. "In the end of the
Sabbath, as it began to dawn toward the first day of the week, came Mary
Magdalene." Matthew 28:1. Here we notice that Sunday is an ordinary
"week" day, not a holy day, and that the New Testament says
the Sabbath is over when the first day begins.
3. "When the Sabbath was
past, Mary Magdalene, and Mary the mother of James, and Salome, had
bought sweet spices, that they might come and anoint Him. And very early
in the morning the first day of the week, they came unto the sepulcher
at the rising of the sun. And they said among themselves, Who shall roll
us away the stone." Mark 16:1-3. Here again we see that Sunday is a
working day on which work was resumed.
4. (The fourth text we will
examine a little later.)
5. Christ was buffed on Friday,
"and that day was the preparation" for the Sabbath. After the
burial, His followers returned home "and prepared spices and
ointments; and rested the Sabbath day according to the commandment. Now
upon the first day of the week, very early in the morning, they came
unto the sepulcher, bringing the spices." Luke 23:54-56; 24:1. Here
three consecutive days are mentioned. They prepared the spices on
Friday, rested on the Sabbath, and early Sunday morning they went to
finish the work left over from Friday. So we see that Sunday is a
working day, which follows immediately after the Sabbath of the New
6. "The first day of the
week cometh Mary Magdalene early, when it was yet dark, unto the
supulcher." John 20:1. This is simply a repetition of the other
7. "Then the same day at
evening, being the first day of the week, when the doors were shut,
where the disciples were assembled for fear of the Jews," Jesus
appeared. John 20:19. "Here," says some one, "you see the
disciples were gathered to keep the new Sabbath in memory of the
resurrection." But the text does not say that they were gathered in
honor of the day, but "for fear of the Jews." Let us now
examine the fourth text.
4. "Now when Jesus was risen
early the first day of the week, He appeared first to Mary Magdalene
.... She went and told them that had been with Him, as they mourned and
wept. And they, when they had heard that He was alive, and had been seen
of her, believed not. After that He appeared" to the two who went
to Emmaus. They returned and told the rest: "neither believed they
them. Afterward He appeared unto the eleven as they sat at meat, and
upbraided them with their unbelief and hardness of heart, because they
believed not them which had seen Him after He was risen." Mark
This is the same meeting which is
recorded in John 20:19. We ask: How could they be gathered to celebrate
Sunday in honor of Christ's resurrection, when they did not believe He
had risen? No, the disciples were simply in their common living
quarters, and were having their evening meal when Jesus came, and they
gave Him some fish and honey that was left. (Mark 16:14; Luke 24:36-43.)
8. In Acts 20:7 we have the only
place in the New Testament where a religious meeting is said to be held
on the "first day of the week," and this was a farewell
meeting, when, of course, it was natural to celebrate the Lord's supper
in parting. (Vs. 7, 25.) Besides this, the believers gathered
"daily," "breaking bread" (Acts 2:46), so there was
nothing in the act to indicate that the day was holy. Then too, the
meeting at Troas was held on Saturday night. In the Bible reckoning,
every day begins and ends at sunset, because God began the work of
creation with the dark part and ended the day with the light part.
"The evening and the morning were the first day." Genesis
1:1-5. "From even unto even, shall ye celebrate your Sabbath."
Leviticus 23:32. "And at even, when the sun did set, they brought
unto Him all that were diseased." Mark 1:32. They would not bring
them until after the Sabbath; but "at even, when the sun did
set," the first working day of the week began.
Therefore the Sabbath began at
sunset Friday, and ended at sunset Saturday, and the first day of the
week began at sunset on our Saturday evening, and ended at sunset on our
Sunday evening. The only dark part of the first day, was therefore the
night that preceded it, as the night following it was part of the second
day. The meeting at Troas was held at night, for "there were many
lights in the upper chamber, where they were gathered together,"
and Paul "continued his speech until midnight." Being
"the first day of the week," it must have been our Saturday
night. (Acts 20:7, 8.) Having spent the Sabbath together, they simply
had a farewell meeting in the evening.
Professor McGarvey says:
"I conclude that the
brethren met on the night after the Jewish Sabbath which was still
observed as a day of rest by all of them who were Jews or Jewish
proselytes; and considering this the beginning of the first day of the
week, spent it in the manner above described. On Sunday morning Paul
and his companions resumed their journey"–Commentary on Acts,
under Acts 20:7
Conybeare and Howson write:
"It was the evening which
succeeded the Jewish Sabbath. · . . On the Sunday morning the vessel
was about to sail. The Christians of Troas were gathered together at
this solemn time .... The night was dark .... Many lamps were burning
in the room where the congregation was assembled"–"Life
and Epistles of the Apostle Paul," pp. 520, 521. New York.
If Sunday was their holy day, why
then would Paul stay with the brethren at Troas seven days, and leave
them on Sunday morning to walk eighteen and one-half miles that day,
"for so had he appointed." This was planning quite a work for
Sunday! (Acts 20:6, 13.)
9. "Upon the first day of
the week let every one of you lay by him in store." 1 Corinthians
16:2. This text says that every one should "lay by him in
store." The new Swedish and new Norwegian Bibles read, at
"home by himself." Weymouth's reads: "Let each of you put
on one side and store up at his home." Ballantine's translation
reads: "Let each of you lay up at home." And the Syriac has
it: "Let every one of you lay aside and preserve at home." So
the text proves the opposite of what is often claimed for it.
The apostle Paul was instructing
the believers to take time on Sunday to lay aside at home from the wages
received during the preceeding week, such an amount as they could afford
to give for the relief of their poor brethren at Jerusalem. If we always
remembered on Sunday to take something from our previous week's earnings
and lay it up at home, we would find a larger ready offering at hand,
when the call comes, than if we wait, and give what we happen to have on
hand. The fact that they should sit down and figure up their accounts to
see how "God hath prospered" them, and give accordingly, would
indicate that the day was not considered a holy day. Then, too, Sunday
is never given a sacred title in the New Testament.
The Lord's Day
Some claim that "the Lord's
day" of Revelation 1:10, refers to Sunday, but this text does not
say which day is meant, and Sunday is not called the Lord's day in any
other place in the New Testament. There is therefore no evidence that
Sunday is meant here. It is generally agreed that John wrote his Gospel
two years after he wrote Revelation. If the term "Lord's day"
had become the designation for Sunday, when John wrote Revelation, then
he would have used that name for it two years later when he wrote the
Gospel, but he simply calls it "the first day of the week."
John 20:1. The only day which the Lord has designated as His day, is the
seventh. (Exodus 20:10; Isaiah 58:13; Mark 2:28.)
Dr. Summerbell says:
"Many suppose that they must
denominate the first day of the week the 'Lord's day'; but we have no
certain Scripture for this. The phrase 'Lord's day,' occurs but once
in the Bible: 'I was in the spirit on the Lord's day,' and there
probably refers to the day of which Christ said: 'The Son of man is
Lord even of the Sabbath day,' as the whole book of Revelation has a
strong Jewish bearing"–"History of the Christian
Church," p. 152. Cincinnati:1873.
W. B. Taylor says:
"If a current day was
intended, the only day bearing this definition, in either the Old or
New Testaments, is Saturday, the seventh day of the week."–
"Obligation of the Sabbath," p. 296.
Dr. Peter Heylyn remarks:
"Take which you will, either
of the Fathers, or the Modernes, and we shall find no Lord's day
instituted by any Apostolic Mandate, no Sabbath set on foot by them
upon the first day of the weeke, as some would have it much lesse than
any such Ordinance should be hence collected, out of the words of the
apostle." –"History of the Sabbath," (original
spelling), Port 2, p. 27. London:1636.
Dr. William Smith, LL.D., after
carefully examining all the texts in the New Testament usually adduced
in favor of the first day, comes to this conclusion:
"Taken separately, perhaps,
and even all together, these passages seem scarcely adequate to prove
that the dedication of the first day of the week to the purposes above
mentioned was a matter of apostolic institution, or even of apostolic
practice." –A Dictionary of the Bible, art. "Lord's
Day," p. 356. Hartford: Burr and Hyde, 1871.
The learned Dr. John Kitto sums
up those texts in the following words:
"Thus far, then, we cannot
say that the evidence for any particular observance of this day
amounts to much; still less does it appear what purpose or object was
referred to. We find no mention of any commemoration, whether of the
resurrection or any other event in the Apostolic records"–Cyclopcedia
of Biblical Literature (2–vol. ed.), Vol. II, art. "Lord's
Day," p. 269. New York.
"'But,' say some, 'it was
changed from the seventh to the first day.' Where? when? and by whom?
No man can tell. No, it never was changed, nor could it be, unless
creation was to be gone through again for the reason assigned must be
changed before the observance, or respect to the reason, can be
changed!! It is all old wives' fables to talk of the change of the
Sabbath from the seventh to the first day. If it be changed, it was
that august personage changed it who changes times and laws ex offcio–I
think his name is DOCTOR ANTICHRIST."–Alexander Campbell, in
"The Christian Baptist," revised by D. S. Burnit, from the
Second Edition, with Mr. Campbell's last correction, page 44.
Cincinnati: D. S. Burnit, 1835.
A tract widely circulated against
those who keep the seventh day as the Sabbath has this to say in its
"If Christians are to keep
the Sabbath day, how do you account for the fact that the apostles
preached the gospel in Jerusalem, Samaria, to Cornelius the Gentile,
and to many others, without commanding a single individual to keep it?
Did they under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit fail to properly
instruct their converts?"
We answer: The Christians
everywhere were keeping the seventh-day Sabbath, and there was an
acknowledged law enforcing its observance. There was therefore no
occasion for giving any commandment on this point. (Luke 23:52-56;
16:17; Matthew 5:17-19; Romans 3:31.) And the apostles by their example
and teaching had educated both Jewish and Gentile believers to keep the
seventh-day Sabbath. (Acts 13 42-44; 18:1-4; 17:2; 16:12, 13; 1
Corinthians 7:19; Romans 7:12; 3:31.) What more could they have done in
But if a new day (Sunday) was to
be instituted among God's people, how can we account for the fact that
the apostles preached the gospel in Jerusalem, Samaria, to Cornelius the
Gentile, and to many others, without ever mentioning the institution of
Sunday in place of the Sabbath, or ever commanding any one to keep
Sunday, the first day of the week? If the day of rest was changed from
the seventh to the first day of the week, how call we account for the
fact that the New Testament is entirely silent about any such change,
and that the apostles wrote four Gospels, and twenty-one letters to
instruct the churches, besides the Acts and the Revelation, and never
instructed the Christians to keep Sunday, or even mentioned it with any
sacred title, but always as a "week" day; that is, a work day?
Did the apostles, under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, fail to
instruct their converts properly? (See Acts 20:26, 27.)
The new Christian institutions of
baptism and the Lord's supper are clearly taught in the New Testament.
We can point to the chapter and verse where they are commanded. Then why
should not so important an institution as a new Christian rest day be
mentioned? To this there can be but one answer: The silence of the New
Testament as to any change of the weekly rest day is an indisputable
evidence that no such change was made till after the New Testament canon
Sunday A Working Day
Dr. Francis White, Lord Bishop of
"In S. Hieromes days [420 A.
D.], and in the very place where he was residing, the devoutest
Christians did ordinary worke upon the Lord's day *11,
when the service of the Church was ended"–"Treatise of the
Sabbath- Day," p. 219. London:1636.
"The Catholic Church for
more than six hundred yeares after Christ, permitted labour, and gave
license to many Christian people, to worke upon the Lord's-day
[Sunday], at such houres, as they were not commanded to bee present at
the publike service, by the precept of the church"–Id., pp.
Bishop Jeremy Taylor says:
"St. Ignatius expressly
affirms:... 'The Christian is bound to labor, even upon that day.'...
And the primitive Christians did all manner of works upon the Lord's
day, even in the times of persecution when they are the strictest
observers of all the divine commandments, but in this they knew there
was none"–"Whole Works" of Jeremy Taylor, D. D. (R.
Heber, ed.), Vol. XII, Book 2, chap. 2, rule 6, par. 59, p. 426.
Dr. John Kitto, D. D., F. S. A.,
"Chrysostom (A. D. 360)
concludes one of his Homilies by dismissing his audience to their
respective ordinary occupations."–Cyclopaedia of Biblical
Literature, Vol. 2, art. "Lord's Day," p. 270.
Dr. Peter Heylyn quotes St.
Jerome as telling us that, when the services were ended on Sunday
morning, the holy women,
"after their returne from
thence,.., set themselves unto their tasks which was the making
garments for themselves or others a thing which questionlesse so good
a woman had not done, and much lesse ordered it to be done by others;
had it beene then accounted an unlawful Act. And finally S.
Chrysostome . . . confesseth,.., that after the dismission of the
Congregation, every man might apply himselfe to his lawfull businesse.
. . As for the time appointed to these publicke exercises, it seemes
not to be very long . . . an houre, or two at the
most."–"History of the Sabbath" (original spelling)
Part 2, chap. 3, par. 7, 8, pp. 79, 30. London:1636.
Dr. Heylyn says further that the
people in the country worked freely on Sunday, and that those "in
populous cities" "might lawfully apply themselves to their
severall businesses, the exercises being ended" in the church.
(Id., pp. 80, 81.) And of the Christians of the East he says:
"It was neere 900 yeares
from our Saviour's birth, if not quite so much, before restraint of
husbandry on this day, had beene first thought of in the East, and
probably being thus restrained, did finde no more obedience there,
then it had done before in the Western parts."–Id., chap. 5,
par. 6, p. 140. "The Sunday in the Eastern Churches had no great
prerogative above other dayes, especially above the Wednesday and the
Friday"–Id., chap. 3, par. 4, p. 73.
Some may wonder why these early
morning meetings were held on Sunday, when the Christians considered it
only a working day. We shall see that there was a natural cause for it,
when we learn that the heathen living around them were sun worshipers,
who met at their temples Sunday morning, and prostrated themselves
before the rising sun. Christians are a missionary people, and to win
their neighbors they held a meeting at the time when their neighbors
were used to worshiping their sun-god. And, as it takes a crowd to draw
a crowd, the church leaders requested their members to gather at this
early morning hour, after which all went to their respective places of
business. But this custom became a steppingstone toward eventually
adopting the heathen Sunday, as we soon shall see. Other influences also
led in the same direction.