Lord's Day in
Christianity is generally Sunday, the principal day
of communal worship. It is observed by most Christians as the weekly
memorial of the resurrection of Jesus Christ, who is said in the
canonical Gospels to have been witnessed alive from the dead early on
the first day of the week. The phrase appears in Rev. 1:10.
According to some sources, Christians held corporate worship on Sunday
in the 1st century. The earliest Biblical example of Christians
meeting together on a
Sunday for the purpose of "breaking bread" and
preaching is cited in the New Testament book The Acts of the Apostles
chapter 20 and verse 7 (Acts 20:7). 2nd-century writers such as Justin
Martyr attest to the widespread practice of
Sunday worship (First
Apology, chapter 67), and by 361 AD it had become a mandated weekly
occurrence. During the Middle Ages,
Sunday worship became associated
with Sabbatarian (rest) practices. Some Protestants today
(particularly those theologically descended from the Puritans) regard
Sunday as Christian Sabbath, a practice known as first-day
Sabbatarianism. (Some Christian groups hold that the term "Lord's Day"
can only properly refer to seventh-day Sabbath or Saturday.)
Sunday was also known in patristic writings as the eighth day.
1 Biblical use
2 Textual tradition
2.1 Ambiguous references
2.2 Undisputed references
3 Early church
3.1 Origins of
3.2 Edict of Constantine
4 Middle Ages
5 Modern church
5.2 Jehovah's Witnesses
5.3 Roman Catholicism
5.4 Eastern Christianity
6 See also
8 Further reading
9 External links
The phrase the "Lord's Day" appears only once in the
Revelation 1:10 which was written near the end of the first century.
It is the English translation of the koine Greek kyriake hemera. The
adjective kyriake ("Lord's") often elided its noun, as in the neuter
kyriakon for "Lord's [assembly]", the predecessor of the word
"church"; the noun was to be supplied by context.
In Rev. 1:10, the apostle John, used kyriake hemera ("I was in the
Spirit on the Lord's Day") in a way apparently familiar to his
readers. Observers of first-day worship hold that this means he was
worshiping on Sunday, resurrection day. Seventh-day Sabbatarians hold
that since Jesus said he was "Lord of the Sabbath" and that Isaiah
called the Sabbath the "Lord's Holy Day" then the
Lord's Day is the
Seventh-day Sabbath (i.e. Saturday). Both parties accordingly use this
verse to lay claim to the name "Lord's Day" for their day of worship.
The term "Lord's" appears in The Teaching of the Twelve Apostles or
Didache, a document dated between 70 and 120.
Didache 14:1a is
translated by Roberts as, "But every Lord's day gather yourselves
together, and break bread, and give thanksgiving"; another
translation begins, "On the Lord's own day". The first clause in
Greek, "κατά κυριακήν δέ κυρίου", literally means
"On the Lord's of the Lord", a unique and unexplained double
possessive, and translators supply the elided noun, e.g., "day"
(ἡμέρα hemera), "commandment" (from the immediately prior verse
13:7), or "doctrine". This is one of two early extrabiblical
Christian uses of "κυριακήν" where it does not clearly refer
Sunday because textual readings have given rise to questions of
proper translation. Breaking bread (daily or weekly) may refer to
Christian fellowship, agape feasts, or
Eucharist (cf. Acts 2:42,
Didache 14 was apparently understood by the writers of the
Apostolic Constitutions as a reference to Sunday
Around 110 AD, St.
Ignatius of Antioch
Ignatius of Antioch used "Lord's" in a passage of
his letter to the Magnesians. Ambiguity arises due to textual
variants. The only extant Greek manuscript of the letter, the Codex
Mediceo-Laurentianus, reads, "If, then, those who had walked in
ancient practices attained unto newness of hope, no longer observing
Sabbath, but living according to the Lord's life ..." (kata kyriaken
zoen zontes). A medieval Latin translation indicates an alternate
textual reading of kata kyriaken zontes, informing Roberts's
translation, "no longer observing the Sabbath, but living in the
observance of the Lord's [Day]".
The expanded Pseudo-Ignatian version of Magnesians, from the middle of
the third century, rewrites this passage to make "Lord's Day" a clear
reference to Sunday, as
Resurrection Day. Pseudo-Ignatius adds a
repudiation of legalistic Sabbath as a Judaizing error: "Let us
therefore no longer keep the Sabbath after the Jewish manner, and
rejoice in days of idleness .... But let every one of you keep the
Sabbath after a spiritual manner, rejoicing in meditation on the law,
not in relaxation of the body, admiring the workmanship of God, and
not eating things prepared the day before, nor using lukewarm drinks,
and walking within a prescribed space, nor finding delight in dancing
and plaudits which have no sense in them. And after the observance of
the Sabbath, let every friend of Christ keep the Lord’s Day as a
festival, the resurrection-day, the queen and chief of all the
days." Other early church fathers similarly saw weekly observance
of seventh-day Sabbath sometimes followed the next day by Lord's Day
The first undisputed reference to
Lord's Day is in the apocryphal
Gospel of Peter
Gospel of Peter (verse 34,35 and 50), probably written about the
middle of the 2nd century or perhaps the first half of that century.
Gospel of Peter
Gospel of Peter 35 and 50 use kyriake as the name for the first
day of the week, the day of Jesus' resurrection. That the author
Lord's Day in an apocryphal gospel purportedly written by
St. Peter indicates that the term kyriake was very widespread and had
been in use for some time.
Around 170 AD, Dionysius, Bishop of Corinth, wrote to the Roman
Church, "Today we have kept the Lord's holy day (kyriake hagia
hemera), on which we have read your letter." In the latter half of the
2nd century, the apocryphal
Acts of Peter
Acts of Peter identify
Dies Domini (Latin
for "Lord's Day") as "the next day after the Sabbath," i.e., Sunday.
From the same period of time, the
Acts of Paul
Acts of Paul present St. Paul
praying "on the Sabbath as the
Lord's Day (kyriake) drew near."
However, the Lord's day is identified with the Sabbath in the Acts of
John as "on the seventh day, it being the Lord's day, he said to them:
now it is time for me also to partake of food."
See also: Early Christianity
Cenacle on Mount Zion, claimed to be the location of the Last
Supper and Pentecost. Bargil Pixner claims the original Church of
the Apostles is located under the current structure.
In the first centuries, Sunday, being made a festival in honor of
Christ's resurrection, received attention as a day of religious
services and recreation, but seventh-day Sabbath rest (based on the
Jewish Shabbat, because the earliest Christians were all Jews) was
still observed by "almost all churches". Often first-day
Sunday morning or
Saturday night) was practiced alongside
observance of seventh-day Sabbath rest and was a widespread
Christian tradition by the 2nd century, attested in patristic writings
of the 2nd century; over time,
Sunday thus came to be known as
Lord's Day. These early Christians believed that the resurrection and
ascension of Christ signals the renewal of creation, making the day on
which God accomplished it a day analogous to the first day of creation
when God made the light. Some of these writers referred to
the "eighth day".
The 1st-century or 2nd-century
Epistle of Barnabas
Epistle of Barnabas or
Pseudo-Barnabas on Is. 1:13 stated "Sabbaths of the present age" were
abolished in favor of one millennial seventh-day Sabbath that ushers
in the "eighth day" and commencement of a new world. Accordingly, the
eighth-day assembly (
Saturday night or
Sunday morning) marks both the
resurrection and the new creation. Thus first-day observance was a
common regional practice at that time.
By the mid-2nd century,
Justin Martyr wrote in his apologies about the
cessation of Sabbath observance and the celebration of the first (or
eighth) day of the week (not as a day of rest, but as a day for
gathering to worship): "We all gather on the day of the sun" (τῇ
τοῦ ῾Ηλίου λεγομένη ἡμέρᾳ, recalling both
the creation of light and the resurrection). He argued that
Sabbath was not kept before Moses, and was only instituted as a sign
to Israel and a temporary measure because of Israel's sinfulness,
no longer needed after Christ came without sin. Curiously he also
draws a parallel between the Israelite practice of circumcision on the
eighth day, and the resurrection of Jesus on the "eighth day".
But the Gentiles, who have believed on Him, and have repented of the
sins which they have committed, they shall receive the inheritance
along with the patriarchs and the prophets, and the just men who are
descended from Jacob, even although they neither keep the Sabbath, nor
are circumcised, nor observe the feasts.
And on the day called Sunday, all who live in cities or in the country
gather together to one place, and the memoirs of the apostles or the
writings of the prophets are read, as long as time permits; then, when
the reader has ceased, the president verbally instructs, and exhorts
to the imitation of these good things. Then we all rise together and
pray, and, as we before said, when our prayer is ended, bread and wine
and water are brought, and the president in like manner offers prayers
and thanksgivings, according to his ability, and the people assent,
saying Amen; and there is a distribution to each, and a participation
of that over which thanks have been given, and to those who are absent
a portion is sent by the deacons. And they who are well to do, and
willing, give what each thinks fit; and what is collected is deposited
with the president, who succours the orphans and widows and those who,
through sickness or any other cause, are in want, and those who are in
bonds and the strangers sojourning among us, and in a word takes care
of all who are in need. 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.
Tertullian (early 3rd century), writing against Christians who
participated in pagan festivals (Saturnalia and New-year), defended
the Christian festivity of
Lord's Day amidst the accusation of
sun-worship, acknowledging that "to [us] Sabbaths are strange" and
Cyprian, a 3rd-century church father, linked the "eighth day" with the
term "Lord's Day" in a letter concerning baptism.
'For in respect of the observance of the eighth day of the Jewish
circumcision of the flesh, a sacrament was given beforehand in shadow
and in usage; but when Christ came, it was fulfilled in truth. For
because the eighth day, that is, the first day after the Sabbath, was
to be that on which the Lord should rise again, and should quicken us,
and give us circumcision of the spirit, the eighth day, that is the
first day after the Sabbath, and the Lord's Day, went before in the
figure; which figure ceased when by and by the truth came and
spiritual circumcision was given to us
— Cyprian, Letter LVIII
Sunday was widely observed as a day of Christian worship by the
2nd century, the origin of
Sunday worship remains a debated point,
with at least three scholarly positions being taken.
Bauckham has argued that
Sunday worship must have originated in
Palestine in the mid-1st century, in the period of the Acts of the
Apostles, no later than the Gentile mission, regarding the practice as
universal by the early 2nd century with no hint of controversy (unlike
e.g. the related
Quartodeciman controversy). In the 2nd century
the church of
Rome lacked jurisdictional authority to impose a novel
universal change of Sabbath rest from the seventh day to the first, or
to obtain universal
Sunday worship had it been introduced after the
Christian church had spread throughout the known world. Bauckham
states that there is no record of any early Christian group which did
not observe Sunday, with the exception of a single extreme group of
Ebionites mentioned by Eusebius of Caesarea; and that there is no
Sunday was observed as substitute Sabbath worship in the
Some Protestant scholars have argued that Christian
traces back even further, to the resurrection appearances of Jesus
recorded in the
Gospel narratives where Jesus would appear to his
disciples on the first day of the week.
Seventh-day Adventist scholar
Samuele Bacchiocchi has argued that
Sunday worship unconnected to Sabbath was introduced in
Rome in the
2nd century, and was later enforced throughout the Christian church as
a substitution for Sabbath worship. There is evidence of early
Christians simultaneously observing both seventh-day Sabbath rest and
Sunday worship, and
Socrates Scholasticus states that 4th-century
Rome had ceased to worship on Sabbath, while
Alexandria held its love
feasts or Eucharists on the first day, substituting it for Sabbath as
kept in other churches.
Edict of Constantine
On 3 March 321,
Constantine I decreed that
Sunday (dies Solis) will be
observed as the Roman day of rest [CJ3.12.2]:
On the venerable day of the Sun let the magistrates and people
residing in cities rest, and let all workshops be closed. In the
country however persons engaged in agriculture may freely and lawfully
continue their pursuits because it often happens that another day is
not suitable for grain-sowing or vine planting; lest by neglecting the
proper moment for such operations the bounty of heaven should be
Constantine's decree was most likely modeled on pagan sun worship,
though it is probable that he also intended to benefit the church,
which already met for worship on Sunday.
In the 4th century,
Socrates Scholasticus stated that the Christians
Rome partook of the "mysteries" (the love feast or
Eucharist) on the first day of the week (
Saturday evening), though
they also held worship meetings on Sabbath like almost all other
churches. By the 5th century,
Sozomen stated that most churches,
such as at Constantinople, met both on Sabbath and first day (Saturday
evening), but that
Alexandria met only on the first day
Saturday evening) and no longer on Sabbath.
Augustine of Hippo
Augustine of Hippo followed the early patristic writers in
spiritualizing the meaning of the Sabbath commandment, referring it to
eschatological rest rather than observance of a literal day. However,
the practice of
Sunday rest increased in prominence throughout the
early Middle Ages.
Thomas Aquinas taught that the decalogue is an
expression of natural law which binds all men, and therefore the
Sabbath commandment is a moral requirement along with the other nine.
Sunday rest and Sabbath became increasingly associated.
Following Aquinas' decree, Christian Europeans could now spend less
time denouncing the Judaistic method of observing the Sabbath, instead
establishing rules for what one "should" and "should not" do on the
Sabbath. For example, while the Medieval Church forbade most forms of
work on the Sabbath, it allowed "necessary works", and priests would
allow their peasants to perform the needed agricultural work in the
Martin Luther and
John Calvin repudiated the idea that
Christians are bound to obey the Mosaic law, including the fourth
commandment of the decalogue concerning Sabbath, although they
followed Aquinas' concept of natural law. They viewed
Sunday rest as a
civic institution established by human authority, which provided an
occasion for bodily rest and public worship.
Sunday Sabbatarianism became prevalent amongst both the
continental and English Protestants over the following century. A new
rigorism was brought into the observance of
Lord's Day among the
Puritans of England and Scotland, in reaction to the
laxity with which
Sunday observance was customarily kept. Sabbath
ordinances were appealed to, with the idea that only the word of God
can bind men's consciences in whether or how they will take a break
from work, or to impose an obligation to meet at a particular time.
Their influential reasoning spread to other denominations also, and it
is primarily through their influence that "Sabbath" has become the
colloquial equivalent of "Lord's Day" or "Sunday". The most mature
expression of this influence survives in the Westminster Confession of
Faith (1646), Chapter 21, "Of Religious Worship, and the Sabbath Day".
Section 7-8 reads:
7. As it is the law of nature, that, in general, a due proportion of
time be set apart for the worship of God; so, in his Word, by a
positive, moral, and perpetual commandment binding all men in all
ages, he hath particularly appointed one day in seven, for a Sabbath,
to be kept holy unto him: which, from the beginning of the world to
the resurrection of Christ, was the last day of the week; and, from
the resurrection of Christ, was changed into the first day of the
week, which, in Scripture, is called the Lord’s day, and is to be
continued to the end of the world, as the Christian Sabbath.
8. This Sabbath is then kept holy unto the Lord, when men, after a due
preparing of their hearts, and ordering of their common affairs
beforehand, do not only observe a holy rest, all the day, from their
own works, words, and thoughts about their worldly employments and
recreations, but also are taken up, the whole time, in the public and
private exercises of his worship, and in the duties of necessity and
Though Sabbatarian practice declined in the 18th century, the
evangelical awakening in the 19th century led to a greater concern for
Sunday observance. The founding of the
Lord's Day Observance
Society in 1831 was influenced by the teaching of Daniel Wilson.
Jehovah's Witnesses believe that Lord's day begun in 1914, that was
the year marked by 1st world war and has direct connection with the
prophecy in Revelation (Rev 12:7). The prophecy is about the war in
heaven and the ouster of Devil from heaven. Lord's day is not a single
day consisting of 24 hours, but a period of time that started in 1914
which will last for sometime that includes Christ's Thousand year
The Second Vatican Council, in the
Apostolic Constitution Sacrosanctum
Concilium, asserted that "the Lord's day is the original feast day"
and the "foundation and kernel of the whole liturgical year." The
apostolic letter of
Pope John Paul II
Pope John Paul II entitled
Dies Domini charged
Catholics to remember the importance of keeping
Sunday holy and not to
confuse the holiness of the
Lord's Day celebration with the common
notion of the weekend as a time of simple rest and relaxation.
Eastern Orthodox Church
Eastern Orthodox Church distinguishes between "Sabbath" (Saturday)
and "Lord's Day" (Sunday), and both continue to play a special role
for the faithful. Many parishes and monasteries will serve the Divine
Liturgy on both
Saturday morning and
Sunday morning. The church never
allows strict fasting on any
Saturday (except Holy Saturday) or
Sunday, and the fasting rules on those Saturdays and Sundays which
fall during one of the fasting seasons (such as Great Lent, Apostles'
Fast, etc.) are always relaxed to some degree. During Great Lent, when
the celebration of the Liturgy is forbidden on weekdays, there is
always Liturgy on
Saturday as well as Sunday. The church also has a
special cycle of
Bible readings (
Epistle and Gospel) for Saturdays and
Sundays which is different from the cycle of readings allotted to
weekdays. However, Lord's Day, being a celebration of the
Resurrection, is clearly given more emphasis. For instance, in the
Russian Orthodox Church
Russian Orthodox Church
Sunday is always observed with an All-Night
Saturday night, and in all of the Orthodox Churches it is
amplified with special hymns which are chanted only on Sunday. If a
feast day falls on a
Sunday it is always combined with the hymns for
Sunday (unless it is a
Great Feast of the Lord).
celebrated as a sort of leave-taking for the previous Sunday, on which
several of the hymns from the previous
Sunday are repeated.
In part, the reason Orthodox Christians continue to celebrate Saturday
as Sabbath is because of its role in the history of salvation: it was
Saturday that Jesus "rested" in the tomb after his work on the
cross. For this reason also,
Saturday is a day for general
commemoration of the departed, and special requiem hymns are often
chanted on this day.
Ethiopian Orthodox church (part of the Oriental Orthodox
communion, having about 40 million members) observes both
Sunday as holy, but places extra emphasis on Sunday.
Lord's Day Observance Society
Sabbath in Christianity
^ Roger T. Beckwith (2001). Calendar and Chronology, Jewish and
Christian: Biblical, Intertestamental and
Patristic Studies. BRILL.
pp. 47–. ISBN 0-391-04123-1.
^ Mt. 12:8
^ Is. 58:13–14
^ "14:1". Didache. Roberts, trans. Early Christian Writings.
^ Holmes, M. The Apostolic Fathers: Greek Texts and English
^ a b Archer, Gleason L. An Encyclopedia of
Bible Difficulties (PDF).
^ Strand, Kenneth A. (1982). The Sabbath in Scripture and History.
Washington, D.C.: Review and Herald Publishing Association.
pp. 347–8. In Morgan, Kevin (2002). Sabbath Rest. TEACH
Services. pp. 37–8.
^ Ignatius of Antioch. "
Epistle to the Magnesians, Shorter Version".
9. Roberts, trans. Early Christian Writings.
^ Ignatius of Antioch. "
Epistle to the Magnesians, Longer Version". 9.
Christian Classics Ethereal Library.
^ a b c Socrates Scholasticus. "Church History, Book V". For although
almost all churches throughout the world celebrate the sacred
mysteries on the sabbath of every week, yet the Christians of
Alexandria and at Rome, on account of some ancient tradition, have
ceased to do this. The Egyptians in the neighborhood of Alexandria,
and the inhabitants of Thebaïs, hold their religious assemblies on
the sabbath, but do not participate of the mysteries in the manner
usual among Christians in general: for after having eaten and
satisfied themselves with food of all kinds, in the evening making
their offerings they partake of the mysteries.
^ a b c Sozomen. "Ecclesiastical History, Book VII". Assemblies are
not held in all churches on the same time or manner. The people of
Constantinople, and almost everywhere, assemble together on the
Sabbath, as well as on the first day of the week, which custom is
never observed at
Rome or at Alexandria. There are several cities and
villages in Egypt where, contrary to the usage established elsewhere,
the people meet together on Sabbath evenings, and, although they have
dined previously, partake of the mysteries.
Gospel of Peter
Gospel of Peter Translated by Raymond Brown
^ Roberts, Alexander (1873). Ante-Nicene Christian Library: Apocryphal
Gospels, Acts, and Revelations. 16. Edinburgh: T. & T. Clark.
^ Bargil Pixner, The Church of the Apostles found on Mount Zion,
Biblical Archaeology Review
Biblical Archaeology Review 16.3 May/June 1990 
^ a b c d e Bauckham, R.J. (1982). "Sabbath and
Sunday in the
Post-Apostolic Church". In Carson, Don A. From Sabbath to Lord's Day.
Wipf & Stock Publishers/Zondervan. pp. 252–98.
^ a b Bauckham, R.J. (1982). "The Lord's Day". In Carson, Don A. From
Sabbath to Lord's Day. Wipf & Stock Publishers/Zondervan.
pp. 221–50. ISBN 9781579103071.
Bardaisan (c. 154),
Cyprian (c. 200), and Victorinus of Pettau
^ Robertson, A.T. Redating the New Testament.
^ Barnabas. "
Epistle of Barnabas". 2, 15. Roberts, trans. 'And your
new moons and sabbaths I cannot endure.' He has therefore abolished
these things .... Ye perceive how He speaks: Your present Sabbaths are
not acceptable to Me, but that is which I have made, [namely this,]
when, giving rest to all things, I shall make a beginning of the
eighth day, that is, a beginning of another world. Wherefore, also, we
keep the eighth day with joyfulness, the day also on which Jesus rose
again from the dead. And when He had manifested Himself, He ascended
into the heavens.
^ a b Justin Martyr. "First Apology". 67.
^ Justin Martyr. "Dialogue with Trypho". 21.
^ Justin Martyr. "Dialogue with Trypho". 23.
^ Justin Martyr. "Dialogue with Trypho". 41.
^ Justin Martyr. "Dialogue with Trypho". 26.
^ Tertullian. "On Idolatry". 14. By us, to whom Sabbaths are strange,
and the new moons and festivals formerly beloved by God, the
Saturnalia and New-year's and Midwinter's festivals and Matronalia are
frequented--presents come and go--New-year's gifts--games join their
noise--banquets join their din! Oh better fidelity of the nations to
their own sect, which claims no solemnity of the Christians for
itself! Not the Lord's day, not Pentecost, even it they had known
them, would they have shared with us; for they would fear lest they
should seem to be Christians. We are not apprehensive lest we seem to
be heathens! If any indulgence is to be granted to the flesh, you have
it. I will not say your own days, but more too; for to the heathens
each festive day occurs but once annually: you have a festive day
every eighth day.
^ Tertullian. "Ad Nationes". 1:13. Others, with greater regard to good
manners, it must be confessed, suppose that the sun is the god of the
Christians, because it is a well-known fact that we pray towards the
east, or because we make
Sunday a day of festivity.
^ Cyprian. "Letter LVIII".
^ Beckwith, R.T.; Stott, W. (1978). This Is the Day. London: Marshall,
Morgan & Scott.
^ Jewett, Paul King (1971). The Lord's Day. Grand Rapids:
^ Bacchiocchi, Samuele (1977). From Sabbath to Sunday. Pontifical
Gregorian University Press; Biblical Perspectives.
^ Given the 7th day of March, Crispus and Constantine being consuls
each of them for the second time. Codex Justinianus, lib. 3, tit. 12,
3; translated by Philip Schaff, History of the Christian Church, Vol.
3 (1902), p. 380, note.
^ R. J. Bauckham (1982), D. A. Carson, ed., "Sabbath and
Sunday in the
medieval church in the west", From Sabbath to Lord's Day, Zondervan:
^ Harline, Craig (2007). Sunday: A History of the First Day from
Babylonia to the Super Bowl. New York, NY: Doubleday.
pp. 28–31. ISBN 978-0-385-51039-4.
^ a b R. J. Bauckham (1982), D. A. Carson, ed., "Sabbath and
the Protestant tradition", From Sabbath to Lord's Day, Zondervan:
^ Pope Paul VI. Sacrosanctum Concilium. December 4, 1963.
^ John Paul II. Encyclical Letter. Dies Domini. July 5, 1998.
From Sabbath to Lord's Day: A Biblical, Historical and Theological
Investigation, D.A. Carson, editor (Grand Rapids, Mich.: Zondervan,
The Study of Liturgy, Cheslyn Jones, Geoffrey Wainwright, Edward
Yarnold, SJ, and Paul Bradshaw, editors (New York, N.Y.:Oxford
University Press, 1992), pp. 456–458.
Dies Domini, Pope John Paul II, On Keeping the
Lord's Day Holy
Sunday in Early Christianity, Part 3: Irenaeus, and "the