When is Sabbath?
Sabbath: Saturday or Sunday?
Many people ask why Christians and Jewish people have different days for Sabbath, and if there is a “right” day to take a Sabbath; so when is Sabbath? The early Church grew quickly into a Gentile majority. After the Jewish people were devastated by the Romans in AD 70 and then fully expelled in AD 135, the Church of believers lost its connection to the Jewish fathers of the church. This started a process over a few hundred years of the Church building more and more walls between them and the Jewish community and Jewish tradition.
SEPARATION OF THE “SABBATH” AND “THE LORD’S DAY”
The Gentile leaders of the Church separated the “Sabbath” (Shabbat – which is Saturday) from “The Lord’s Day” (Sunday). Because of Jesus’ resurrection taking place on a Sunday, Gentiles widely held this as The Lord’s Day. Thus, the Church began a celebratory day of remembering this on Sundays. It was, at first, separate from the idea of a Sabbath – which was a very Jewish tradition (since God gave the Sabbath to the Jewish people. But, in reality, He gave it to ALL of us in Genesis 2).
At the same time, there were a lot of heretical movements taking place in early Christianity. Marcionism, Gnosticism, etc. The church fathers (majority Gentiles from Greek backgrounds now) were weary of the division these wrong theologies were creating. A casualty of this heightened protectionism in Christian theology and life was a complete divorce from the Jewish foundations of Christianity.
EASTER AND THE SABBATH
In the 300’s, there were two councils that set forth Sunday being the “sabbath” day for the Christian (Gentile) Church – Nicea (325 AD) and Laodicea (364 AD). Though the councils did not specifically decree that Sunday was the “new” sabbath day, they made the decision that Passover should no longer be tied to the Biblical date of the 14th of Nissan (Hebrew calendar). This means that Easter became a new, separate date for Gentile Christians; therefore, spilled over into the weekly sabbath day.
The Council of Laodicea wrote: “Christians shall not Judaize and be idle on Saturday but shall work on that day; but the Lord’s day they shall especially honor, and, as being Christians, shall if possible, do no work on that day. If, however, they are found Judaizing, that shall be shut out from Christ.”
So, you can see, there was growing hostility to believers in Jesus practicing any form of Jewish connection to their faith. This lasted for centuries, but we’ve turned that tide a lot in the past 100 years.
Here’s the bottom line for Christians today. Saturday is still THE Jewish & Biblical Shabbat. My family and I choose to honor Shabbat/Sabbath from Friday at sundown to Saturday at sundown. We go to church on Saturday evening or Sunday AM. The reality is, 90% (or more!) of Christians do not take ONE FULL DAY of rest today. God is less concerned about your day of rest (Shabbat = rest in Hebrew) being on a Monday, Wednesday, or Sunday and more concerned that you take ONE DAY per week.
For free resources on how to take a Sabbath every week, check out Keeping the Sabbath in Your Home or the teaching from Pastor Robert Morris called Take the Day Off. To purchase Pastor Robert’s book and study guide for Take the Day Off, click here.
Also, check out our extensive Jewish Ministry Resources that exist to proclaim God’s love to the Jewish community and connect Christians to Israel and the Jewish roots of the Christian faith.
Related article: A Heart for Israel
Director, Gateway Center for Israel
Pastor, Church & Jewish Relations, Gateway Church
After a successful career as an entrepreneur in the finance sector, Nic earned a Master’s Degree in Nonprofit Management and Leadership from The Hebrew University of Jerusalem in 2015. He then led the Messianic Jewish Bible Institute (MJBI) until it merged with Gateway Church to create the Gateway Center for Israel in 2019. Nic and his wife, Tabatha, have three children and live in Dallas/Fort Worth.