Monday, March 1, 2010

Constantine vs the Sabbath

"But there are those who insist the seventh-day Sabbath is still binding. Failure to keep it, they claim, is SIN - and the punishment is DEATH for eternity! Now that's a pretty serious claim!"
-Herbert Armstrong, "Which Day is the Christian Sabbath?", 1972, p. 7.

It is a serious claim! And it should be responded to. Therefore, I would humbly ask you to give some of your time in reading my take on how Armstrongism, and really Sabbatarianism in general, treats Emperor Constantine. This is a post about accusation, judgment, and condemnation presented as a post about the history of the Sabbath vs. the Lord's Day and what part Constantine had to play in that. Frankly, I'm tired of reading the same old nonsense about Constantine, and I felt it had to be answered.

In this post I hope to demonstrate two things: 1) Constantine is not responsible for "changing the Sabbath to Sunday", 2) Condemnation and judgment are not things Christians should get involved in. Don't run away yet! I think you'll find this post useful for dispelling false notions.

PERSONAL ATTACK-TICS

Either Constantine was or wasn't a Christian. There are only two options here. For decades, Sabbatarians like Herbert Armstrong have tried to assassinate the character of Emperor Flavius Valerius Aurelius Constantinus Augustus (aka Constantine I, or Constantine the Great) as a prelude to blaming him for exchanging seventh-day Sabbath worship for Sunday worship. Somehow, they feel that emphasizing that Constantine is considered the first Christian Emperor, and then painting him as a pagan, has some bearing on whether or not the seventh-day Sabbath is in force upon Gentile Christians.

Most people do not know what a Logical Fallacy is. Everyone who studies theology should! They are common tactics used in arguing a point, but in fact they invalidate the argument. There are plenty of reasons why the Sabbatarian argument against Constantine is invalid, and must be rejected.

Let's just start by pointing out the blatant Poisoning of the Well (they show only unfavorable information about Constantine in hopes that this information will bias you against Sunday worship), as well as the Ad Hominem attack (Constantine was once a pagan, so he can't be right), it's an Appeal to Ridicule (what could an unconverted pagan like Constantine know about the Sabbath; he can't be right), and a Personal Attack (Constantine had his wife killed; he can't be right), it's also a Straw Man (Constantine only wanted to excuse his paganism, do you want us all to be pagans too), it's also a False Dilemma (keep the weekly Sabbath, or you will be a pagan like Constantine), as well as a Red Herring (this is about the weekly Sabbath, not Constantine; Constantine's behavior has no real bearing on whether or not the weekly Sabbath is still mandated).

It may seem completely ridiculous at first, but this is something that must be dealt with. These arguments are invalid. Yet it would appear the entire case against Constantine rests on such as these.

For sake of argument, let's just say Constantine was probably a horrible Christian as far as we know. Lot wasn't top of the pile either, Rahab was a harlot, Samson was a rebel, David had a man killed after he slept with his wife, Paul was a murderer, and Peter forcefully denied Christ. Not to mention each and every one of us have sinned and fallen short (we should be comparing ourselves to Christ, not Constantine.) But does our lack of perfection change God's perfection? No (ROM. 3: 3-4).
Does our sin determine whether or not Saturday is the Sabbath or Sunday is the Lord's Day? No. It is a staple argument of Sabbatarians that the weekly Sabbath was from creation (even though it is not). So, concentrating on that one claim, that the weekly Sabbath was from creation, what sin un-does that argument? What sin changes the weekly Sabbath? No sin can. Right? So why concentrate on Constantine's sins, then?

Let's approach this from the opposite angle - what sin established the weekly Sabbath? No sin did. Right? So why concentrate on Constantine's sins? What do they have to do with anything? So what if every man, woman and child is a sinner, what does that add to or take from the weekly Sabbath? Nothing. Right? So why do we even mention it? Did Saul's murders change Christ's sacrifice? No. Did it disqualify Paul from speaking about Christ's goodness or others' sins? No. So what does Constantine's sins have anything to do with the Sabbath? If Constantine was the only other human in history besides Christ that lived without a single sin, would that affect the Sabbath? No.

Pointing out Constantine's personal failures - manifold as they were - is pure character assassination! It does nothing for or against the facts.
Is character assassination Christian? No! So, if Constantine was such a bad Christian that he had nothing to say about the weekly Sabbath, what more can character assassins possibly have to say about it?
Chew on that a little.

Of course, I address the un-Christian practices of Constantine and how that affects truth. I do not address whether or not Constantine actually had authority to proclaim Sunday as a Sabbath. In fact Constantine had no such authority before God to add to or take away from God's word. But he did have civil authority to declare a day of rest in his empire, I suppose.

AUTHORS OF CONFUSION

Let us move on to something else. I would like to continue by pointing out the confusion in the stories told by the various Sabbatarian groups.

Character assassination is supposed to sour you to Constantine and make the evidence against Sunday seem weightier. This sort of specious manipulation of history is thick in Armstrongism particularly. Have you read "True History of the True Church?" or "Another True History?" Please do!
The character assassination is how they get their foot in the door. After this, there seems to be two main tactics used over and over and over again: fabricating information from thin air, and leaving important information out. I would like to deal with these, as well as the confusion that results.

-INFORMATION FABRICATED

Some people aren’t above character assassination, logical fallacy, and misinformation; why not also engage in fabricating information from thin air and passing it on as truth?
Take this quote for example:
"Few realize, today, but the Sabbath vs. Sunday controversy raged during the first three centuries of the Christian era. Violence and bloodshed mounted. Millions were tortured and put to death over this question."
-Herbert Armstrong, "Which Day is the Christian Sabbath?", 1972, p. 7.
The Church of the Great God rehashes and rewords the quote this way:
"Few people realize that the Sabbath vs. Sunday controversy raged during the first three centuries of the Christian era, and millions were tortured and put to death over this question under the Emperor Constantine."
-"Sabbath: God's Gift to Mankind", http://sabbath.org/
Those, my friends, are false statements. They’re made up!

Establishing an actual number of how many Christians were killed in the first three centuries is probably not possible. Wikipedia estimates 3,000; others estimate 100,000. At any rate, Constantine didn't persecute millions. The Great Persecution under Diocletian was the worst Roman persecution by far – even worse than that of Nero. Galarius and Constantine ended that.
"Constantine, on taking the imperial office in 306, restored Christians to full legal equality and returned property that had been confiscated during the persecution."
-Wikipedia, "Persecution of Early Christians in the Roman Empire", accessed 2-26-2010

"In May 305 Diocletian retired from office and was replaced by Galerius who continued to effect the suppression of the Church. However, in the West, Constantine had been appointed Augustus and his provinces knew freedom from persecution. Galerius did not relent in his hatred of the church until, lying on his death bed, he issued an Edict of Toleration on April 30th 311 to try and gain favour and prayer from the Christians. Galerius died shortly after and his lands were divided between Maximian and Licinius. The toleration granted by Galerius was to be short-lived for Maximian was to allow persecution at the discretion of local councils.
Constantine, continuing to grow in influence and power, defeated Maxentius who had seized power in Rome in 306. This victory took place at the Milvian Bridge on October 27th 312 CE, a victory which Constantine claimed had been given to him through divine assistance. From then on he was to be sympathetic towards Christianity. Afterwards, Constantine and Licinius met at Milan and signed the "Edict of Milan". This was a policy which granted freedom of worship to Christians and to those of other religions. Also, all property belonging to the Church, including that of individual Christians, was to be restored."
-Adrian Russell, "Roman Persecution of the Early Church", earlychurch.org.uk, 1992
There was now religious freedom in Rome. Constantine outlawed crucifixion in favor of hanging, he restored property to Christians, he freed Christian slaves, he allowed the Christian bishops to decide their own policy (he then enforced their policy in an effort to maintain peace and unity), and many other such benevolent things.
There were not millions of Christians to put to death in the first three centuries. If any large number were put to death it certainly was not over the "Sabbath vs. Sunday controversy," but rather it was over the Roman attitude of distrust over new religions, and they saw Christianity as a superstition and a threat to the unity of society.

If there was a Sabbath vs. Sunday controversy at all it was not primarily between Christian and Christian, but between Christian and Jew! There were a small number of Christians who observed a seventh-day Sabbath, sure, I'm not denying that. Most of these were converts from Judaism. There were Christians who observed the Lord's Day on Sunday rather than the seventh-day as well. Most of these were Gentile converts. Then, there were those who did both. ...And those who did neither.
I don't know where Herbert Armstrong gets his material, but as I've proven in the past multiple times, it wasn't from history books. Then his followers take their information from him, how can they help but reach a false conclusion?

(ROM. 14: 5-6) 5 One person esteems one day above another; another esteems every day alike. Let each be fully convinced in his own mind. 6 He who observes the day, observes it to the Lord; and he who does not observe the day, to the Lord he does not observe it.

-INFORMATION LEFT OUT

Some are more than willing to cherry-pick their information, leaving out any bits that work against them, and rushing headlong to a false conclusion. They depend upon our ignorance of facts (who has time to study religious history??) and we tend to give them the benefit of the doubt that no person would be so blatantly deceptive ...but they are.

One often-used example is found in a decree issued by Constantine in the year 321 A.D.
Constantine decreed:
"On the venerable day of the Sun let the magistrates and people residing in cities rest, and let all workshops be closed..."
-Codex Justinianus lib. 3, tit. 12, 3; trans. in Philip Schaff, History of the Christian Church, Vol. 3, p. 380, note 1
Mr. Richard Rives emphasizes this approach:
"In the year 321, Constantine issues a decree stating all judges and city people and craftsmen shall rest upon the venerable day of the sun, the day that the Invincible Sun was worshipped. Thus the establishment of Sunday, the sacred day of pagan sun-worship, as the day of rest."
-Richard Reeves, "Pagan Christianity?" video, time marker 01:16 through 01:36, 2-23-2010.
With barely a rest for breath, Mr. Rives continues:
"Shortly after he made his Sunday proclaimation, Constantine ordered his wife and eldest son murdered, and had a bronze statue of himself set atop a tall collumn as Apollo, the Sun God. This is the man known as the first Christian Emperor."
-Richard Reeves, "Pagan Christianity?" video, time marker 01:36 through 01:54, 2-23-2010.
That is a typical claim. But is it true?
The facts are that Constantine's second wife brought false charges against Constantine's son of his first wife, and manipulated Constantine into ordering his son’s execution. Upon learning the truth from his own mother, Constantine had his second wife executed - and rightfully so.
So we can see the missing details change the story quite a bit. The character assassination is quite unfair. But what would you say if I told you half of the quote from Constantine's edict is missing? Here is the rest of the edict:

"...but let those who are situated in the country, freely and at full liberty attend to the business of agriculture; because it often happens that no other day is so fit for sowing corn and planting vines; lest, the critical moment let slip, men should lose the commodities granted by Heaven."
-Codex Justinianus lib. 3, tit. 12, 3; trans. in Philip Schaff, History of the Christian Church, Vol. 3, p. 380, note 1

So this was not a day of complete rest. It was not in all reality a changing of Saturday to Sunday, as we very well know agriculture was prohibited on the Sabbath (MAT. 12: 1-2).
Notice how nothing even resembling the phrase "Sabbath" appears in the edict. But that doesn't stop people like Mr. Rives from telling half the story and then bashing Constantine in hopes you won't search for the truth on your own! How could Mr. Rives be so familiar with this edict and not have known about the second half of the statement? Can I conclude anything other than this vital information was left out on purpose?

-CALENDAR POTPOURRI

So, as we’ve seen, some, like Richard Rives, claim Constantine changed the Sabbath to Sunday in 321 A.D. Still others claim he changed the Sabbath at the Council of Nicea in 325 A.D. Which is it?
If these people so vigorously claim that they have the truth - God’s truth - then they should all tell the same story. If they have access to such very plain truth, they should all tell the same truth. Wouldn’t you think? They do not. Why not?

And they claim we are the ignorant ones!

But these aren't the only claims about the timing of this change "from Sabbath to Sunday".
I stumbled across one independent group who say this:
"...the Sabbath to Sunday change occurred and actually began as far back as 2000 years B.C."
http://www.whochangedthesabbath.com/
They also say this:
"It was changed to Sunday and made law in the council of Laodicea (A.D. 363-364)..."
http://www.whochangedthesabbath.com/
So now there are even more dates!

The statement, "as far back as 2000 years B.C." is a reference to the thoroughly debunked nonsense of Alexander Hyslop and his "Nimrod founded the Catholic Church" garbage. I am unaware of any Armstrongist group that does not perpetuate Hyslop's fantastical inanity to this very day.
For an example, see Fred Coulter's Christian Biblical Church of God, in their article "Sunday - Christian or Pagan". You only need go so far as the third paragraph; they even close with this information. Talk about something being "in fact, false, counterfeit — a blatant lie!"
I don't know how many times I have recommended the book "The Babylon Connection" by Ralph Woodrow. I will go right on recommending it. It is invaluable to defend against these kinds of deceptions. If you haven't read it - please do yourself the favor!

The statement, "it was changed to Sunday and made law in ... (A.D. 363-364)" is false!

Sunday observance was made law, yes, but the Sabbath wasn't "changed to Sunday" then. This has been more than adequately proved not only on this blog, but on a great number of other websites. All one need do is look. Read the Didache for example. Or read Justin Martyr. I will post some quotes for you in a bit. But we don't need to go to ancient sources to demonstrate this, let's go to other Sabbatarian sources.

Seventh Day Adventist author and teacher, Leo Schreven, (pulling material from SDA historian Samuelle Bacchiocchi) says the seventh-day Sabbath was changed to Sunday under Hadrian:
"Sundaykeeping was introduced into the Christian Church rather innocently, and its first advocates never dreamed that it would take the place of the seventh-day Sabbath of God. Sundaykeeping had its origin in Rome during the reign of the Emperor Hadrian in the second century. Hadrian persecuted the Jews in Rome incessantly. In an attempt to separate themselves from the Jews and avoid being persecuted with them, these early Roman Christians began keeping Sunday in addition to the Sabbath."
-Leo Anthony Schreven, "Now That's Clear (Prophetic Truth Made Simple)", p. 97, 1994
Please note that Hadrian (117-138 A.D.) pre-dated Constantine (274-337) by quite a bit and pre-dated the Council of Laodicea (363-364) by even more. Immediately we recognize that Constantine is absolved because the issue predates him. Does that stop the invective against him, however? No. There is little agreement among Sabbatarian groups except that they all condemn Constantine.

And once again we have a completely bogus statement regarding history.

"Its first advocates never dreamed that it would take the place of the seventh-day Sabbath," is a false statement built on a false premise. I have demonstrated this elsewhere and will demonstrate that again right now if you will kindly bear with me, valued reader.

So, from the authors of confusion we have had these “true” dates listed: 2,000 B.C., 117-138 A.D., 321 A.D., 325 A.D., 363-364 A.D.
Will the real “true” date please stand up!

The reality is precisely what I told you before – these people cannot get their stories straight. If they are telling us this life-alteringly important “truth” supposedly from God, why can’t they get their stories straight? The only thing they appear to agree upon is 1) the Sabbath was changed to Sunday [which it wasn’t], and 2) Constantine is a horrible Christ-hating monster [which he wasn’t]. Is there any doubt that “authors of confusion” is an appropriate title?

LORD’S DAY IN HISTORY

Now that we've seen the character assassination, manipulation of information, and holistic disagreements among Sabbath-keepers as to who is responsible for altering the Sabbath and when, let's begin to look at some historical examples of Sunday observance. Let's see what the first advocates believed and held.

If Sunday observance started with Constantine then we should see nothing about it before the 320's A.D. If we do see something before Constantine then we should do the responsible thing and stop blaming Constantine. What do we see?
"...on a fixed day they used to meet before dawn and recite a hymn among themselves to Christ..."
-Pliny, letter to Trajan, (112 A.D.)
Pliny the Younger, who reported to Emperor Trajan (53-117 A.D.) even before Hadrian's day, tells us that the majority of Christians met on certain day before dawn and held a worship service. “Before dawn” gives us a big clue, but Pliny doesn't say on which day that pre-dawn meeting occurred. We need to look elsewhere.
"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. For He was crucified on the day before that of Saturn (Saturday); and on the day after that of Saturn, which is the day of the Sun, having appeared to His apostles and disciples, He taught them these things, which we have submitted to you also for your consideration."
-Justin Martyr, "First Apology", chapter 67 (130-165 A.D.)
Justin tells us the day was Sunday.
But someone might say to me that Justin wrote several decades later (is two or three decades "several"?). We can go farther back than Justin if you'd like.
"If, therefore, those who were brought up in the ancient order of things [Jews] have come to the possession of a new hope, no longer observing the Sabbath, but living in the observance of the Lord's Day, on which also our life has sprung up again by Him..."
-Ignatius, Epistle to the Magnesians, chapter 9 (50-98 or 117 AD; disciple of John)
"Its first advocates never dreamed that it would take the place of the seventh-day Sabbath" my eye!

Ignatius tells us the meeting was on Sunday, and that it is called the "Lord's Day." Not only did Ignatius' epistle come at most 5 years after Pliny's letter, but Ignatius, being the Apostle John's disciple, would have greater authority in his words. Especially when his words match those of his teacher:

(REV. 1: 10) I was in the Spirit on the Lord's day

These two statements translated "Lord's day" are precisely the same Greek words. The Apostle John and his student Ignatius speak the exact same way. Naturally!
There's a Wikipedia article on this that I would like to take a sample from for you to review:
"'Lord's Day' is the English translation of the ancient Greek kyriake hemera, a term that first appears in Christian literature in the latter half of the first century. Within a few decades, however, the term kyriake hemera became ubiquitous in Christianity, so that hemera was ellided. Thus, when a Christian writer referred to the kyriake, his readers understood that Sunday was meant. The first appearance of the term kyriake hemera is in the New Testament, in the Book of Revelation, which was written in the latter decades of the first century. In Rev. 1:10, the author writes, 'I was in the Spirit on the Lord's Day.' Most Christian commentators interpret Rev. 1:10 as a reference to Sunday, but some argue that because Revelation contains numerous eschatological visions, kyriake hemera in this passage should be taken as a reference to the end of the world or Judgment Day, which Old Testament prophets often called the Day of the Lord. However, in the Septuagint, the Greek translation of the Old Testament, as well as in the original Greek texts of the New Testament, the eschatological judgment day is called hemera tou kyriou, never kyriake hemera. It is possible that when Christians began to call Sunday 'the Lord's Day,' they opted for kyriake hemera because hemera tou kyriou already had acquired its own connotation or meaning due to the Septuagint rendering."
-Wikipedia, "Lord's Day", accessed 2-24-2010, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lord's_Day.
"Lord's Day" referred to Sunday 2,000 years ago. Still does! Let us continue on to another, even more ancient document than Ignatius' Epistle to the Magnesians.
"But every Lord's day gather yourselves together, and break bread, and give thanksgiving"
-Didache, chapter 14 (50-120 A.D.)
The Didache is said to be the oldest known attempt to summarize the beliefs of the Gentile church at that time. Look at the date. It is possible, but not definite, that the Didache was written during the lives of the Apostles.
Regardless of the exact date, the Lord's Day (again using the same Greek phrase “kyriake hemera”), Sunday, is what they believed and observed from Apostolic times. Clearly Pliny the Younger was referring to Sunday and not Saturday.

Clearly, we have seen evidence for Sunday observance from the very earliest years. Constantine, therefore, stands absolved of all accusations against him.
But we’re not done yet!

AN EIGHTH DAY

Sunday is not a Biblically cursed day. Those who believe Pentecost is always on a Sunday also believe Christ ascended into Heaven again on this day. He appeared to ten of the Apostles on Sunday, then again to eleven Apostles on Sunday. Most of Jesus’ post-resurrection appearances were on Sunday.
But I want to point out that there is a correlation between the ancient writers in that they observe Sunday, called it the Lord's Day, and understood it, not as the first day of the week, but as the eighth day; a new day. I also want to point out that they all agree Christ was raised to life on this day.
"The command of circumcision, again, bidding [them] always circumcise the children on the eighth day, was a type of the true circumcision, by which we are circumcised from deceit and iniquity through Him who rose from the dead on the first day after the Sabbath, [namely through] our Lord Jesus Christ. For the first day after the Sabbath, remaining the first of all the days, is called, however, the eighth, according to the number of all the days of the cycle, and [yet] remains the first."
-Justin Martyr, "Dialogue With Trypho", chapter 41 (130-165 A.D.)
(Barnabas 15: 8-9) 8 Finally He saith to them; Your new moons and your Sabbaths I cannot away with. Ye see what is His meaning ; it is not your present Sabbaths that are acceptable [unto Me], but the Sabbath which I have made, in the which, when I have set all things at rest, I will make the beginning of the eighth day which is the beginning of another world. 9 Wherefore also we keep the eighth day for rejoicing, in the which also Jesus rose from the dead, and having been manifested ascended into the heavens.
-Epistle of Barnabas, author unknown, chapter 15 verses 8-9, (80-120 A.D.)
Eighth Day? You mean, like the Last Great Day is the eighth day? Chew on that a bit.

SEVENTH DAY OBSERVANCE

Adventists like Herbert Armstrong and such a myriad of their students like Richard Rives and Leo Schreven paint a picture that the seventh-day Sabbath was kept so universally that it was unnecessary to mention it in the New Testament. I find that laughable, since observance of days is clearly dealt with in the New Testament - they just don't like what Paul says. Then they take verses, like the ones where Paul enters the Synagogue to preach to the Jews, to support their Sabbath claims. Of course they ignore all verses that would show Paul preaching to the Jews whenever and wherever he found them gathered, including at the river (ACT. 16: 13), until they rejected him and he left them to preach to the Gentiles (ACT. 13: 46; 18: 6; 26: 20; 28: 28). And they ignore verses like Acts 19: 9 that show Paul preaching every day of the week, and Acts 20: 7 where Paul preached on Sunday. They also claim that only several decades after the Apostles was anything changed in regards to Sunday worship. According to the Didache, Ignatius, and his teacher the Apostle John - as I showed you earlier - that isn't so either.

How do they overcome the historical record? Why, they paint all of the "early church fathers" as heretics and order you to stay far away from what they write, of course. How many times have I heard “the heretic Irenaeus” or “Justin was a philosopher.” They don’t just falsely accuse Constantine, they falsely accuse all of the early church fathers!

Modern Sabbatarians invented a "falling away" right after Paul's death involving a switch from "true Christianity" to paganism, focusing on a switch from Saturday to Sunday and also Passover to Easter. This is precisely what Herbert Armstrong and Herman Hoeh and A. N. Dugger and C. O. Dodd write in books like "The True History of the True Church." Follow that link and read that post if you have not yet done so. You'll see the lies for yourself I promise you that!

These ancient Christians that I have quoted were no heretics! They were devout and honestly reported what they believed. One thing that is abundantly clear is that each of the ancient writers disavowed legalism. Each of them completely disagree with the likes of Herbert W Armstrong.

Let's continue on and see for ourselves whether or not the early Christians were universally observing a seventh-day Sabbath.
“But again [the Jews'] scruples concerning meats, and their superstition relating to the Sabbath and the vanity of their circumcision and the dissimulation of their fasting and new moons, I do [not] suppose you need to learn from me, are ridiculous and unworthy of any consideration.”
-Mathetes, "Epistle to Diognetus", chapter 4, verse 1, (written some time between 150 and 200 AD)
“For if even unto this day we live after the manner of Judaism, we avow that we have not received grace”
-Ignatius, Epistle to the Magnesians, chapter 8 (50-98 or 117 AD; disciple of John)
"Is there any other matter, my friends, in which we are blamed, than this, that we live not after the law, and are not circumcised in the flesh as your forefathers were, and do not observe sabbaths as you do?"
-Justin Martyr, "Dialogue With Trypho", chapter 10 (130-165 A.D.)
"The new law requires you to keep perpetual sabbath, and you, because you are idle for one day, suppose you are pious, not discerning why this has been commanded you: and if you eat unleavened bread, you say the will of God has been fulfilled. The Lord our God does not take pleasure in such observances: if there is any perjured person or a thief among you, let him cease to be so; if any adulterer, let him repent; then he has kept the sweet and true sabbaths of God."
-Justin Martyr, "Dialogue With Trypho", chapter 12 (130-165 A.D.)
"For we too would observe the fleshly circumcision, and the Sabbaths, and in short all the feasts, if we did not know for what reason they were enjoined you,--namely, on account of your transgressions and the hardness of your hearts."
-Justin Martyr, "Dialogue With Trypho", chapter 18 (130-165 A.D.)
How much more proof can a person possibly need? How much more evidence will it take for people to realize they’ve been taught an error? How can we continue to berate Constantine when we can so easily see such overwhelming proof that Sabbath observance was not universally practiced in the New Covenant church??

(ROM. 14: 4) Who are you to judge another’s servant? To his own master he stands or falls. Indeed, he will be made to stand, for God is able to make him stand.

Did some in the east practice a seventh-day Sabbath? Yes. A few in the east did. But that doesn't mean the Gentiles who did not practice it were heretics converting to an ancient pagan system. To which ancient pagan system did they supposedly convert? According to our best historical authorities, there was no pagan system dedicated to worship on Sunday, as the Roman empire simply didn't operate that way to begin with.
I quote D. M. Canright, from his letter of inquiry to F. N. Pryce of the British Museum, Department of History, London, England.
"Q. 4. Did they have any special day of the week when individuals went to the temples to pray or make offerings?
 
Ans. No; both for Greeks and Romans the month was the unit and not the week. The Greek calendar varied in different states but the month was generally divided into three periods of ten days. The Romans reckoned from three fixed points in the month, the Kalend or first, the Nones fifth or seventh, the Ides thirteenth or fifteenth. These subdivisions in themselves had no religious significance. Also in the Roman calendars were nundinal, or market days, at periods of eight days, or, as the Romans reckoned time. On these days farm work, etc., stopped and citizens flocked into the town markets. To some extent this may be a regular stoppage of secular work.; but it had no religious significance, except that it was considered an evil omen when the nundinal coincided with other festival days, e. g., the: Nones.  The nundinal period seems derived from a blundering reminiscence of a quarter of a lunar period, and there seems no connection with the later seven days' week (see below).  
Q. 5. As Sunday was sacred to the Sun, Monday to the Moon, Saturday to Saturn, etc., were those supposed deities worshipped on their own particular days more than on any other days? 
Ans. No; the old worship of the gods was disappearing when the seven-day week came about.  The significance of the deities' names was astrological, not religious, e.g., if a person were born on Monday, the moon would influence his horoscope, but the moon was never an object of common worship." 
-D. M. Canright, "The Lord's Day From NeitherCatholics nor Pagans", 1915, in section "THE PAGAN ROMANS AND GREEKS HAD NO WEEKLY DAY OF REST, OR FESTIVAL, OR WORSHIP"
So, as we can see, there was no pagan Sunday observance to which these people could have converted! More invented history. More empty claims.

There were many Jewish converts who were zealous for the law (ACTS 21: 20). Christians all! Some of these Jewish converts were attempting to teach the Gentile converts that they must become Jews in order to be Christians (ACT. 15: 1-5).
The Jerusalem Council considered the problem, and in the end sided with Paul and Barnabas in rejecting the idea, laying only a few restrictions on the Gentiles (ACT. 15: 19-20, 28-29; ACT. 21: 25). These things are most likely not from the Old Covenant law, as we were taught, but are in line with what are called the Noachide Law. The points were selected specifically to address practices equated with idol worship which the Gentiles were escaping. They were not primers to bring more law in later.

Paul, throughout his epistles, speaks with incredible strength against Christians turning back to the Old Covenant law (GAL. 3: 1-3; GAL. 5: 1-5) as he continued to be hampered by zealous adherents of the legalism (ACT. 15: 24: GAL. 1: 7; GAL. 5: 12).

None of this deters these modern "teachers of the law". Instead of just accepting grace and taking the gospel at face value, they reason their way around it with scary language and clever little observations. It is common among Adventists to remark how the "Sun-day" is the "sacred day of pagan sun-worship." What does that prove? Shall we not also remark how "Satur-day" was named after Saturn? Most historians will tell you that the days of the week were named after celestial bodies because of astrology, not religious worship. As it turns out, Sunday was not a day set aside for pagan Sun worship at all. Why doesn't that surprise me? And why don't I think anything we’ve read here will stop these ones from continuing to perpetuate their lie?

CONCLUSION

We have seen a gross display of questionable integrity.
Constantine cannot defend himself here, so he becomes an easy scapegoat for people with an agenda. They viciously and unfairly attack his character in hopes that we will be biased against the man and made sympathetic to their attack against Sunday observance. Important information is purposefully left out of their reports, while new information is conjured from thin air. More is ignored than included. It’s no surprise they have come to a wrong conclusion. But it was the conclusion they wanted to reach from the start.
How can people who claim to be bringing God’s truth use such dishonest tactics? The only important truth they reveal is the truth of their own nature. Their complete inability to get their own stories straight only adds fuel to this fire. God is not the author of this confusion.

In conclusion of this whole matter, I hope I have shown these two things: 1) Constantine is not responsible for "changing the Sabbath to Sunday", 2) Condemnation and judgment are not things Christians should get involved in.

(GAL. 6: 1-4) 1 Brethren, if a man is overtaken in any trespass, you who are spiritual restore such a one in a spirit of gentleness, considering yourself lest you also be tempted. 2 Bear one another’s burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ. 3 For if anyone thinks himself to be something, when he is nothing, he deceives himself. 4 But let each one examine his own work, and then he will have rejoicing in himself alone, and not in another.

If we are to love our enemies and pray for those who hate us, how much more are we to love those who honestly look to Jesus Christ for salvation, but disagree with us in a handful of areas? The New Covenant law is love! I'm not saying, "Why can't we all just get along? Let's all be Unitarian." I'm just saying, "love your neighbor as yourself." Love, and you have fulfilled the whole law (ROM. 13: 8-10; GAL. 5: 14; JAS. 2: 8). Sabbatarians, stop the character assassination! Sunday-keepers, do not put a stumbling block in front of Jesus' servant! I pray God helps you in this; giving you a discerning heart and a humble spirit.

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It is important that you understand; Everything on this blog is based on the current understanding of each author. Never take anyone's word for it, always prove it for yourself, it is your responsibility. You cannot ride someone else's coattail into the Kingdom.
Acts 17:11
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12 comments:

Luc said...

thanks xHWA, a lot of time and research went into distilling out these facts for us.

"What Constantine did was legally enforce a new weekly day of rest in ignorance of the Gospel. He didn't replace Saturday - he erred in taking the focus from Christ" amen.

I am constantly amazed at the pastors of big churches with huge followings that continually pound on the point that they must obey the Ten Commandments. They are opening the door to the legalist cults themselves.

Just off the top of my head,pastor Raul Reis (of Calvary Chapel)is one that, although I really like and respect him, and don't question his dedication to Jesus Christ, I have heard him repeatedly speak of the Mosaic commandments as being the eternal law of God; And it is this erroneous belief,'that keeping Sunday is keeping the sabbath command', that sets the trap for so many people who are drawn into legalism.

Just these two verses alone should alert people, who are trying to ascertain what God expects of them, to the problem with the idea that sabbath keeping ( in the physical sense) is fulfilling the wishes of God.

1.Duet 4:13 He declared to you his covenant, the Ten Commandments, which he commanded you to follow and then wrote them on two stone tablets. And 2.Heb 8:13 By calling this covenant "new," he has made the first one obsolete; and what is obsolete and aging will soon disappear.

You speak the truth here. "What a mess Constantine created!"

"We are not commanded to keep Saturday or Sunday, meanwhile Sunday is not the Sabbath in any way shape or form" Exactly, and many high powered Christian evangelists don't seem to know this.

This is one more leap forward in adding to peoples understanding, if they will only comprehend this.

When I wrote Grandad and the Old Testament Law, it was a first attempt to point out the nature of the sabbath trap which stems from this mistake. Keep chipping away at it xHWA.

gregchaos said...

Constantine converted on his deathbed, and his choice of Christianity as the official religion of Roman Empire might have had something to do with promoting suffering in this life as a sure ticket to heaven in the next, whilst advising the oppressed to love their enemy and turn the other cheek.

xHWA said...

He was baptized on his deathbed. Here's the thing, though, gregchaos...
Constantine didn't make Christianity the official religion of the Roman Empire. He made it an equal religion in the empire. Many religions were practiced in the empire equally.

It wasn't until years after Constantine's death, under Emperor Theodosius I, that Christianity became the official religion of the empire.

xHWA said...

"I am constantly amazed at the pastors of big churches with huge followings that continually pound on the point that they must obey the Ten Commandments." -Luc

I completely agree, Luc.
Ray Comfort and Kurt Cameron are examples I can think of. Like you say, I really like and respect them, and don't question their dedication to Christ.
But they have to explain how they can say 'the 10 Commandments must be kept', while not ignoring the 4th Commandment, and then they must explain how Sunday has replaced Saturday as the Sabbath - and they cannot. No one can do all these things. And it leads to precisely what you said:

"And it is this erroneous belief,'that keeping Sunday is keeping the sabbath command', that sets the trap for so many people who are drawn into legalism."

I couldn't agree more. Amen.

xHWA said...

I read the article you linked to, Luc. That's impressive stuff. Thanks for that link.

lprice09 said...

Why not just obey what the Bible says? It's clear cut. It seems like we try to justify and twist things for our convenience. God wants love, and we demonstrate that by pleasing Him. Doing His will- not ours.

Luc said...

The bible is more complicated than just picking up the bible and reading that God told Israel to do something and saying: "This is what God wants me to do, I should do it."Israel alone entered into the covenant at Sinai.

God told Ezekiel to lie on the temple steps and enact a siege against Jerusalem, we don't do this because we aren't Ezekiel. We do, however , learn from the messages God servants demonstrated.

We learn from Israel and the law about what sin is and that a human being is completely incapable of changing human nature. The Law leads us to Jesus (Gal 3:24) who is able to create a righteous nature (II Peter 1:3-4).

If you chase after your keeping of law instead of Jesus, you might as well be trying to do what God told Ezekiel to do.

Gods purpose is to create a child of God with holy righteous character who is motivated to do what is right out of love, not a laundry list of do's and dont's.

April 2, 2010 10:50 AM

xHWA said...

I was never happy with the flow of this post. I think the information is invaluable, but it was hard to read. I also got off-topic towards the end. I wasn't happy.

Today I rewrote it almost completely. The order is different. Some things were removed. I hope this makes the post more readable and therefore more useful to people.

Jim said...

Are you saying followers of Jesus should not obey the 10 Commandments, or they have no role in a christian's life? Jesus in the sermon on the mount went far beyond the letter of the moral law, he insisit his followers should keep the commandments according to the spirit of the Law. Jesus said the night before His death "if you love me keep my commandments". He said it four times so I guess He meant it. John states if we say we know Jesus and don't keep His commandments we are liars. God's commandment show us how to love God and man. Will any follower ofd Jesus keep the commandments perfectly, of course not as John also points out in 1 John. Commandment keeping to earn salvation is legalism. Commandment keeping to plesae God and show Him how much one loves His way of living is what God wants and we should willingly submit to it.

xHWA said...

Jim, welcome.

Please read the FAQ. It will give you our views for most of your questions.

Overall, I would say that you assume the word "commandment(s)" in the New Testament always means "Ten Commandments". We have given our views on why we believe that is completely improper.
Mainly, there is no support for the idea. The New Testament explains what "commandment(s)" means without assuming it means "Ten Commandments".

Give us the opportunity to explain that, then you will more easily understand our position on the rest.

I would love to give you a more in-depth response here, but we've got an entire blog explaining our response. I ask you to read what we've written.

Thanks for stopping by. God's blessings.

Anonymous said...

Didn't Constantine create a Church called Thea Sophia?

xHWA said...

Constantine had a basilica built in Constantinople called the Hagia Sophia (which is Greek for "Holy Wisdom").