In part 1 of How Keeping the Jewish Sabbath was Abolished in Christianity, I brought up the Lord’s Day thesis. In it, I said there were 3 thesis statements:
- Yeshua (Jesus) was resurrected on the day after Shabbat (The 1st day of the week or Sunday)
- Yeshua doesn’t reiterate this commandment (Argument from silence: argumentum e silentio).
- A passage in Acts 20:7 that states that they got together on the 1st day of the week (Sunday) to break bread.
In part 2 of How Keeping the Jewish Sabbath was Abolished in Christianity, we focused on Yeshua (Jesus) and Sha’ul (Paul) going to synagogue on Shabbat as was their custom. We also showed how Sha’ul was concerned with Shabbat ordinance which implied quite clearly that he kept Shabbat. We then went on to discuss Hebrews and some of the implications from that.
In neither of these 2 parts do we see the Sabbath (Shabbat) being abrogated – In fact, we see Shabbat being observed – even after Yeshua’s death. Today we deal with the main verse that is used to justify abrogation of Shabbat.
How Keeping the Jewish Sabbath was Abolished in Christianity:
Let’s explore the 3rd thesis statement from part one above. In the book of Acts (or 2nd Luke as it is affectionately known to some), we find the following:
Acts 20:7 (NASB)
7 On the first day of the week,
when we were gathered together to break bread,
Paul began talking to them,
intending to leave the next day,
and he prolonged his message until midnight.
How does this verse abolish the Sabbath? Simply put, it doesn’t. To be fair, let me give you the argument first. It goes something like this:
- They met on Sunday (the 1st day of the week)
- They gathered to break bread → communion → must be the day of worship
- Shabbat is not mentioned – where scripture is silent . . .(Which must mean that they don’t meet on Sabbath anymore?!?)
That is the gist of it. If you are thinking right now that you can kind of see the reasoning but that it seems kind of flimsy, I am right there with you because to get that Shabbat is ended from this verse requires some mental gymnastics. How so you might ask? Let’s start with the first line because this is the part of this verse that is used to support the Shabbat is abrogated argument:
On the first day of the week,
Okay, so they met on Sunday. Without a doubt they did. However, we don’t see the following:
- We don’t see from this that they “ONLY” met on Sunday – it is not there.
- We don’t see “ AS WAS THEIR CUSTOM” in the text here concerning Sunday like we did with Yeshua and Sha’ul in part 2 concerning Shabbat – it is not there
- We don’t see anything about Shabbat in this verse – Is the argument from silence valid here?
- Can we be sure from the 2nd sentence that they “only” gathered together to break bread on Sunday or does it simply state what they were doing when Paul began talking to them?
As I have shown from these 4 bullet points, it is eisegetical (reading your own understanding into the text) at best to say that this verse abrogates Shabbat. If you are still stuck on the “argument from silence,” then let’s go a little further down in context and see what the text says:
Acts 20:16 (CJB)
16 For Sha’ul had decided to bypass Ephesus on his voyage,
in order to avoid losing time in the province of Asia,
he was hurrying to get to Yerushalayim,
if possible in time
to celebrate Shavu‘ot (Pentecost).
It would seem that the text is not silent as some would lead us to believe. True, Shavu‘ot (Pentecost) is not a normal weekly Shabbat, but it is still a Shabbat. However, a simple question begs to be answered:
Why keep Shabbats that are festivals and not the holy Shabbat commanded in Exodus – the day that God set apart and separated for himself?
If you need another place that the text is not silent, we can go back earlier in Acts to see that they met together daily:
Acts 2:46 (CJB)
46 Continuing faithfully and with singleness of purpose
to meet in the Temple courts daily,
and breaking bread in their several homes,
they shared their food in joy and simplicity of heart,
Based on the eisegesis surrounding Acts 20 which implies that the day they meet is now the day of worship, you would then have to apply the same rule here. Only problem is, if you do that then EVERY day would be set aside as a day of rest/worship. However, this won’t work here like it seems to for some in Acts 20. It is contradicted by a command within the commandment to observe Shabbat that many seem to miss:
Exodus 20:9 (NASB)
9 “Six days you shall labor and do all your work,
6 days of work in this commandment. You shall labor, not rest. Shabbat is rest – cessation from work.
But it is more than cessation from work, it is honoring God – Honoring God in the way that HE prescribed – in the way He COMMANDED, not the way WE think it should be (Cain and Abel is a good example here):
Genesis 4:3-7 (CJB)
3 In the course of time Kayin (Cain) brought an offering to Adonai
from the produce of the soil;
4 and Hevel (Abel) too brought from the firstborn of his sheep,
including their fat.
Adonai accepted Hevel and his offering . . .
5 but did not accept Kayin and his offering.
Kayin was very angry, and his face fell.
6 Adonai said to Kayin, “Why are you angry? Why so downcast?
7 If you are doing what is good,
shouldn’t you hold your head high?
And if you don’t do what is good,
sin is crouching at the door —
it wants you, but you can rule over it.”
I have showed you some of the arguments and I have showed you some counter arguments. However, it seems clear based on on the evidence presented so far that Shabbat was not abrogated at, or because of, Yeshua’s death. It is clear that Sha’ul was a Jew that kept Shabbat as part of the Torah commandment. Since Sha’ul was Jewish and was born after Yeshua died, and since Yeshua’s talmidim (disciples) were also Jewish, it is easy to surmise that if Shabbat had been abrogated, at least a few would have objected to Sha’ul’s custom of observing Shabbat if it had been abrogated, wouldn’t it?
Since the name of this post is How Keeping the Jewish Sabbath was Abolished in Christianity: Part 3, When did it happen? The text would indicate that it had to happen sometime later. The first time period in the history of Christianity is Jewish because the 12 apostles were Jewish. Most of the followers were Jewish. The leaders were all Jewish. They kept Shabbat, they kept the festivals and they followed Yeshua. It is called the Apostolic Age. It is presented as a time span from the death of Yeshua (Jesus) to the death of the Apostle John around 115AD. To make this simple, we are talking the 1st and start of 2nd century. No where do we see that any of the apostles remain anything but Jews – albeit Jews that accept Yeshua as the prophesied Messiah – but Jews none the less.
So what happens? What happens that causes change – a change that causes the Lord’s commandment regarding Shabbat to be abandoned in favor of worship on the first day – Sunday? There are many different theories from many different camps.
A History Often Ignored
I am going to present some history – simultaneous history. As I am not an world renowned expert in church history, bear with me – I am going to keep it simple as I can and dates are approximate. I am going to present it simultaneously so you can see both sides: Jewish contrasted to Jewish followers of Yeshua (Jesus) and as it changes over time, Jewish contrasted to Gentile followers of Yeshua (Jesus).
Jewish Followers of Yeshua and
Gentile Followers of Yeshua (Christians)
66 Zealots lead 1st Jewish revolt against Rome
** Thought (do you think they wanted and expected help from Jewish Christians here? Did they get it?)
68 Romans destroy Essene settlement at Qumran
70 Titus defeats the Jews, destroys the temple at Jerusalem, and expels the Jews
70? Fiscus Judaicus ( Jewish Tax) implemented as punishment for revolt
73 The last stand of the Jews against the Roman 10th Legion at Masada
96 Gamaliel II excludes Saducees and Christians from synagogues (basically all non Pharisees)
110? Jews accept the “Writings” as sacred scripture
119 Roman Emperor Hadrian bans circumcision
120? Rabbi Tarfon – Advocates burning of Gospels
132 2nd Jewish Revolt led by Bar Kokhba who is called Messiah by Rabbi Akiva . . . 500,000 Jews killed including Bar Kokhba and Akiva – tons of destruction
136 Hadrian builds a pagan temple directly over the site of the 2nd temple and renames Jerusalem to Aelia Capotolina – Jews are forbidden to dwell there. Renames southern part Palaestina.
138 Anti Jewish laws repealed by Antoninus Pius
315 Code of Constantine – rights of non-Christians are limited: no owning Christian slaves – circumcising slaves – converting Christians to Judaism
339 Constantine forbids intermarriage with Jews
351 Jewish revolt against Constantius Gallus
|34 Yeshua (Jesus) is crucified
50 Council of Jerusalem (Acts – Gentiles can be admitted without full adherence to Mosaic law (circumcision for example)
62 Sha’ul is executed in Rome
62 Yeshua’s half brother Ya’akov (James) is executed by stoning as a result of Ananus ben Ananus assembling a Sanhedrin according to Josephus
64 Kefa (Peter) crucified by Rome
64 Nero sets fire to Rome – blames Christians
70 Pharisees expel Jewish followers of Yeshua from synagogues
90 Fiscus Judaicus applied to those who merely “lived like Jews”
93 Christians persecuted by Emperor Domitian
96 Fiscus Judaicus relaxed – only applies to practicing Jews
** (Thought: This could be where Christianity tried to break from its Jewish Roots a bit – not as a result of religious conviction, but as a result of trying to escape the burdening tax)
107 Simeon, who succeeded Ya’akov (James) is crucified
110 Ignatius calls the church katholikos (Catholic- ”universal”)
**Teaches that those who partake in Passover are partakers of those who killed Jesus
135 Telesphorus proclaims birth of Jesus a Christian holiday.
(Easter on Sunday was also something he instituted)
**God’s Covenant with Israel no longer valid – Gentiles have replace the Jews (Justin Martyr)
167 Earliest known “Jewish Decide” by bishop of Sardis
(means Jews are responsible for death of Jesus)
** Jews disinherited from grace of God (Irenaeus)
**Jews cause death of Christ – permanently rejected by God (Tertullian)
177 Persecution in Lyon of Christians by Marcus Aurelius
240 Origen writes that “the Jews have committed the most abominable of crimes” by conspiring against Christ (Messiah)
248 Cyprian says Jews have followed Idols and departed from the Lord
300 About ¼ of Roman empire is Christian. Aprox 15 million in empire out of 60 million.
303 Great Persecution – Emporer Diocletian rescinds legal rights of Christians demanding they sacrifice to their Gods.
306 Synod of Elvira bans intermarriage between Christians and Jews
312 Constantine converts to Christianity
313 Constantine ends the persecution of Christians (Edict of Milan)
321 Constantine declares Sunday state day of rest
325 Nicea Ecumenical Council – Easter calculation date separated from Jewish Passover, Jews murdered Jesus, Jews are not guided by sound reason – they are depraved. Conversation and fellowship with Jews is forbidden
363-364 Council of Laodicea – Synod Asia Minor
**Keeping Jewish Sabbath Outlawed
366 John Chrysostom writes 8 homilies against the Jews (Jews NOT Romans killed Jesus)
Some of these dates may be a little off. The point is to show you that there is a schism between Jews and Christians and the direction it was leading to. Whether it starts with Yeshua’s death or with the revolt in 70, one thing is sure:
“Both sides were angry at the other and distancing themselves, from each other,
in both fellowship and religious practice.”
The history gets uglier over time. However, the purpose of this piece is in its title: How Keeping the Jewish Sabbath was Abolished in Christianity. It would seem based on this small snapshot of history, that some feelings got hurt (on both sides) and that changes were the result of those hurt feelings.
So it comes back to a simple question –
- Is Sabbath abolished in the text?
- Is Sabbath abrogated as a result of the schism between the Jews and the Christians?
I have shown that there is lack of any definitive evidence in the text, and based upon this small snapshot of history, that the Jewish Christians were surpassed in numbers fairly quickly by the rapid influx of Gentile Christians into the church.
It would also seem that as Gentile leadership took over the church, there was a push to separate from all things Jewish – including the Jews within their own number. As Gentiles became the majority in the church, the Jewish roots of the church shriveled up and died.
Fiscus Judaicus seems to have contributed to this in the beginning. In the end, it seems to be nothing but a rebuilding of the barrier or partition wall that Yeshua tore down with his death – hate rekindled.
Sha’ul (Paul) gives an explanation in the text that turns into a warning most likely in response to a report or letter that he got from the Romans when he stated:
Romans 11:17-18 (CJB)
17 But if some of the branches were broken off,
and you — a wild olive — were grafted in among them
and have become equal sharers in the rich root of the olive tree,
18 then don’t boast as if you were better than the branches!
However, if you do boast,
remember that you are not supporting the root,
the root is supporting you.
It is important to reflect on what this means. As you saw in the history above, this was ignored because at least some thought they were better than the branches. The Jewish Rabbi and emissary to the Gentiles known as Sha’ul (Paul) must have suspected that this would happen, or saw that it was already happening, because he give us a chilling warning:
Romans 11:22 (CJB)
22 So take a good look at God’s kindness and his severity:
on the one hand, severity toward those who fell off;
but, on the other hand, God’s kindness toward you —
provided you maintain yourself in that kindness!
Otherwise, you too will be cut off!
The observance of Lord’s day by the early Jewish Christians is not disputed in this piece. They may well have gotten together every Sunday and worshiped together. What is in question, is how keeping the Torah commandment known in this piece as the Jewish Sabbath, was abolished. There is no convincing evidence that they didn’t do both. In fact, based upon the Jewish leadership of the church for the first 100 years, the evidence would seem to point to the possibility of this very thing happening.
The evidence also seems to point to a growing tension between Jews and Christian Jews over non-participation in the Jewish revolts against Rome. Even more than that, the Jewish Sabbath seems to be abrogated over time by the Christian church as it become Gentile dominated, as a direct result of anger, whether misplaced or not, directed at the Jews for Rome’s response to both Yeshua and to themselves.
The kindness Sha’ul warns the reader to maintain themselves in
towards the Jews,
would seem to be disregarded in almost every way
based upon some of the writings by the ante-Nicene fathers.
This lack of kindness culminates in the abolishment of Sabbath keeping by the synod of Laodicea. While this is not one of the 7 ecumenical councils, Nicea is and was. It is easy to surmise from the history presented that the sentiment of the Gentile church fathers that the church was anti-Jewish based upon their writings. Sabbath keeping was abolished as a result and replaced with Sunday worship.
It wasn’t religious – it was personal!
One of my best friends is a senior pastor at an average sized church. One of his favorite sayings is:
“Where does it say that in the text?
Based upon what we have studied in this 3 part series, do you believe that the Sabbath was abrogated by the text? If so, then my question to you would be: “Where does it say that in the text?”
Blessings to all of you!