The Sabbath dilemma

There is no mistaking the Sabbath of the Jews. At the end of the week, the seventh day, Saturday. Jews rest that day. The word means rest. God rested that day after creating the world over the previous six days. Keep it holy, their holy books command. Refrain from labor for one thing. It’s special.

The Christians have a holier day. Sunday. The day Christ rose from the dead. They have long called it the Lord’s day. For many of them, it marks them Christian. Says they aren’t Jews. But they inherited the Jewish holy books and their rule of keeping the Sabbath holy. What to do?

The Council of Laodicea (held sometime between 340 and 380) showed the tension. Don’t be Jewish …

Christians must not judaize by resting on the Sabbath, but must work on that day, rather honoring the Lord’s Day [Sunday]; and, if they can, resting then as Christians. But if any shall be found to be judaizers, let them be anathema from Christ.

But then their Sabbath is still special …

The Gospels are to be read on the Sabbath, with the other Scriptures.

and this …

During Lent the Bread must not be offered except on the Sabbath Day and on the Lord’s Day only.

Should you fast on the Sabbath? Yes said Rome. Christ was in the grave that day. On the next, he rose. No said Milan. And they feasted in the east, celebrating the day God rested, his creation over. When a young Augustine asked his bishop Ambrose what to do, he was told …

When I am at Rome, I fast on a Saturday; when I am at Milan, I do not. Follow the custom of the Church where you are.

A by-the-way. This later became When in Rome, do as the Romans do.

Then there was the state. In the east, they had long had a seven day week and rested on Sunday, the day of the Sun. In 321, Constantine spread the practice empire-wide …

On the venerable day of the Sun let the magistrates and people residing in cities rest, and let all workshops be closed.

But that’s a by-the-way for the Christians. It didn’t help or hinder the Sabbath dilemma. They were used to ignoring civil law.

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