“In the spirit on the Lord's day”
Some New Testament Texts: Acts 20:7; 1 Corinthians 16:1f.; Revelation 1:10; Luke 24:1-35; John 20:1-29; Hebrews 10:25.
The Day of Christian Assembly
VI.1DIDACHE: Having earlier confessed your sins so that your sacrifice may be pure, come together each Lord’s day of the Lord, break bread, and give thanks. (14.1)
2IGNATIUS: If therefore those who lived according to the old practices came to the new hope, no longer observing the Sabbath but living according to the Lord’s day, in which also our life arose through him and his death (which some deny), through which mystery we received faith, and on account of which we suffer in order that we may be found disciples of Jesus Christ our only teacher, how shall we be able to live apart from him for whom even the prophets were looking as their teacher since they were his disciples in the spirit? (Magnesians 9)
3BARNABAS: Moreover God says to the Jews, “Your new moons and Sabbaths I cannot endure.” You see how he says, “The present Sabbaths are not acceptable to me, but the Sabbath which I have made in which, when I have rested from all things, I will make the beginning of the eighth day which is the beginning of another world.” Wherefore, we [Christians] keep the eighth day for joy, on which also Jesus arose from the dead and when he appeared ascended into heaven. (15.8-9)
4JUSTIN: We are always together with one another. And for all the things with which we are supplied we bless the Maker of all through his Son Jesus Christ and through his Holy Spirit. And on the day called Sunday there is a gathering together in the same place of all who live in a city or a rural district. [There follows an account of a Christian worship service, which is quoted in VII.2.] We all make our assembly in common on the day of the Sun, since it is the first day, on which God changed the darkness and matter and made the world, and Jesus Christ our Savior arose from the dead on the same day. For they crucified him on the day before Saturn’s day, and on the day after (which is the day of the Sun) he appeared to his apostles and taught his disciples these things. (Apology I, 67.1-3, 7)
5There is no other thing for which you blame us, my friends, is there than this? That we do not live according to the Law, nor are we circumcised in the flesh as your forefathers, nor do we observe the Sabbath as you do. (Dialogue with Trypho 10.1. In verse 3 the Jew Trypho acknowledges that Christians “do not keep the Sabbath.”)
6The commandment of circumcision, requiring them always to circumcise the children on the eighth day, was a type of the true circumcision by which we are circumcised from error and evil through the resurrection from the dead on the first day of the week of Jesus Christ our Lord. For the first day of the week, although it is the first of all days, yet according to the number of the days in a cycle is called the eighth (while still remaining the first). (Dialogue 41.4)
7EPISTLE OF THE APOSTLES: I [Christ] have come into being on the eighth day which is the day of the Lord. (18)1
8GOSPEL OF PETER: Early in the morning when the Sabbath dawned, a multitude from Jerusalem and the surrounding country came to see the sealed sepulchre. In the night in which the Lord’s day dawned, while the soldiers in pairs for each watch were keeping guard, a great voice came from heaven. [There follows an account of the resurrection.] Early in the morning of the Lord’s day Mary Magdalene, a disciple of the Lord . . . came to the sepulchre. (9.34-35; 12.50-51) [Cf. Selection VII. 7.]
9ACTS OF PETER: Paul had often contended with the Jewish teachers and had confuted them, saying, “It is Christ on whom your fathers laid hands. He abolished their sabbath and fasts and festivals and circumcision.” (1.1)2 [Cf. chap. 7; 29; 30; and the fragment in Schneemelcher, New Testament Apocrypha, Revised Edition, Vol. II (1992), p. 285, “On the first day of the week, which is the Lord’s day.”]
10CLEMENT OF ALEXANDRIA: Plato prophetically speaks of the Lord’s day in the tenth book of the Republic, in these words: “And when seven days have passed to each of them in the meadow, on the eighth they must go on.” (Miscellanies 184.108.40.206)
11[In commenting on each of the Ten Commandments and their Christian meaning:] The seventh day is proclaimed a day of rest, preparing by abstention from evil for the Primal day, our true rest. (Ibid. 220.127.116.11)
12He does the commandment according to the Gospel and keeps the Lord’s day, whenever he puts away an evil mind . . . glorifying the Lord’s resurrection in himself. (Ibid. 18.104.22.168)
13TERTULLIAN: Others . . . suppose that the sun is the god of the Christians, because it is well-known that. . . we regard Sunday as a day of joy. (To the Nations 1.13)3
14To us Sabbaths are foreign. (On Idolatry 14-6)4
15Let him who contends that the Sabbath is still to be observed as a balm of salvation, and circumcision on the eighth day because of the threat of death, teach us that in earliest times righteous men kept the Sabbath or practised circumcision, and so were made friends of God. . . . It follows, accordingly, that, inasmuch as the abolition of carnal circumcision and of the old law is demonstrated as having been consummated in its own times, so also the observance of the Sabbath is demonstrated to have been temporary. (An Answer to the Jews 2.10; 4.1)
16BARDESANES: Wherever we are, we are all called after the one name of Christ–Christians. On one day, the first of the week, we assemble ourselves together. . . .(On Fate)5
17EUSEBIUS: [The Ebionites] were accustomed to observe the Sabbath and other Jewish customs but on the Lord’s days to celebrate the same practices as we in remembrance of the resurrection of the Savior. (Church History 3.27.5)
Exhortations to Assemble Together
18DIDACHE: You shall seek daily the faces of the saints in order that you may rest content with their words. You shall not make a schism, but you shall make peace between those who are fighting. (4.2-3)
19You shall come together more frequently and seek the things beneficial for your souls. (16.2)
20BARNABAS: You are not to retire by yourself and live alone as if you were already righteous, but you are to come together in one place and seek the common good. (4.10)
21Remember the day of judgment night and day, and you are to seek daily the faces of the saints, either laboring through word and going about to exhort and taking care to save your soul by word or working with your hands for the ransom of your sins. (19.10)6
22IGNATIUS: Let no one be deceived: Unless one is within the place of sacrifice he is deprived of the bread of God. For if the prayer of one or two has such great strength, how much more the prayer of the bishop with the whole church? Therefore, he who does not come to the assembly is already puffed up and has passed judgment on himself. (Ephesians 5.2)
23Give diligence therefore to come together more frequently for thanksgiving and glory to God, for when you are frequently together in one place, the powers of Satan are destroyed and his destructiveness is nullified by the concord of your faith. (Ibid. 13)
24Let assemblies be held more frequently; seek all by name. (Polycarp 4.2)
25SECOND CLEMENT: Let us not seem merely to believe and give attention now while we are being admonished by the elders, but also when we have gone home let us remember the commandments of the Lord and not be drawn away by worldly desires. Rather let us come together more frequently and try to make progress in the commandments of the Lord in order that we may all be of the same mind and may be gathered together unto life. (17.3)
26HIPPOLYTUS: And let every faithful man and woman when they arise from sleep at dawn before they undertake any work wash their hands and pray to God, and so let them go to their work. But if there should be an instruction in the word let each one prefer to go thither, considering that it is God whom he hears speaking by the mouth of him who instructs. For having prayed with the Church he will be able to avoid all the evils of that day. The God-fearing man should consider it a great loss if he does not go to the place in which they give instruction, and especially if he knows how to read. If there is a teacher there, let none of you be late in arriving at the assembly at the place where they give instruction. Then indeed it shall be given to him who speaks to utter things which are profitable to all, and thou shalt be profited by the things which the Holy Spirit will give to thee by him who instructs and so thy faith will be established by what thou hearest. And further he shall tell thee there what thou oughtest to do in thine own house. And therefore let each one be careful to go to the assembly to the place where the Holy Spirit abounds. And if there is a day on which there is no instruction let each one at home take a holy book and read it sufficiently what seems profitable. (Apostolic Tradition 35)7
The Day of Christian Assembly
The evidence for the early Christians’ day of assembly is clear and unmistakable. They did not observe the seventh day, the Sabbath, as the Jews, but they assembled on the first day of the week, the day of the resurrection of Christ. A rest day and a day for the worship assembly of the whole congregation were united in Judaism and in much modern Christian practice, but the two are distinct matters and were distinct in the early church. Christians kept no day as a rest day, neither Saturday nor Sunday, until the civil legislation of Constantine in the fourth century made Sunday a legal holiday for many occupations. An exception was furnished by certain Jewish Christians who continued to keep the law and so had Saturday as a rest day and Sunday as their day of Christian worship (VI.17 and below). Christians had to work, and their meetings were before dawn or at night when they could get together (VII.1). The time of evening meetings would have been determined by whether Jewish time reckoning (which began the day at sunset) or Roman (which began it at midnight) was being followed. Regardless, the day for the common assembly of the church was still the first day of the week. The Lord’s supper was not celebrated on Saturday in earliest times, and only later did liturgical practice reach back to Saturday with special preparatory services. The references are numerous, unanimous, and unambiguous. Those that pertain to the second century are given above in approximate chronological order.
The term Sunday, or “day of the Sun,” was the pagan designation, and it appears in the writings of the Christian apologists who were addressing pagan audiences (VI.4, 13). The phrase “first day of the week” (literally “first of the Sabbaths”–the first day between the Sabbaths) was a Jewish expression based on the practice of designating the days of the week by their number leading up to the sixth (the Preparation) and the seventh (the Sabbath). This was the common terminology of the New Testament and of early Christian writers from a Semitic background (as the Syrian Bardesanes, VI.16, or Justin in addressing a Jew, VI.6). “Lord’s day” and “eighth day” were distinctive Christian names and will be discussed further.
Lord’s day is used by Christians with reference to the day of Christ’s resurrection, and the term is consciously distinguished from the Sabbath day (VI.2, 8, 17).8 The Sabbath is never referred to as kuriakē, “Lord’s,” or “lordly.” It became common to omit the word “day” after kuriakē, leaving the adjective alone with the noun to be understood. (Revelation 1:10 reflects the earliest usage in giving the full phrase.) Thus in modern Greek the word for Sunday or the first day of the week is kuriakē. This usage was well established at an early date, for in Christian Latin the word for Sunday was dominica, the exact translation of the Greek, “Lord’s.” The word for Sunday in modern Romance languages is derived from this usage–domenica (Italian), domingo (Spanish), and dimanche (French).
Early Christian sources repeatedly connect the first day of the week with the resurrection (VI.2, 3, 4, 8, 17). It is clear that it was this decisive event in salvation history which made that day the “Lord’s day.” The resurrection of Christ and his meeting with his disciples on this day provided the basis for Christians to assemble on the first day of the week. At that time the risen Christ was preeminently present with his followers. This connection with the resurrection may have some relevance to the partaking of the Lord’s supper at dawn (Ch. VII).
The Didache (VI.1) contains a curious double expression “Lord’s day of the Lord.” The adjective kuriakē is used with the noun “day” understood according to the usage described above. It is a descriptive adjective meaning “pertaining to, belonging to the Lord.” Then comes the noun “Lord,” in the genitive case, which is used for possession. It is the word appearing in the biblical phrase “day of the Lord,” which especially refers to the Lord’s visitation at the end of time and is a distinct expression from the term for the first day of the week. Various explanations for the double expression may be offered ranging from confusion in the transmission of the text,9 to the author’s attempt to distinguish the Christian usage from pagan usage of kuriakē for things associated with the emperor (“imperial”),10 to a reference to Easter,11 to an effort to give an eschatological reference to the day of worship. If we are to keep the text as it is, perhaps the simplest explanation is to see the phrase as a counterpart to the Old Testament and Jewish phrase, “the Sabbath of the Lord” (cf. Leviticus 23:38), meaning the Sabbath is the Lord’s.11a Kuriakē would already have been for the author the name of a particular day of the week. It belongs to the Lord (Christ now and not God), as well as bearing his name. It is “the Lord’s Sunday,” or, “the Lordly day of the Lord.”
The passage from Ignatius (VI.2) contains a textual problem. The text we have followed employs kuriakē without a noun, whereas other manuscripts contain the noun “life” after the adjective, giving the reading “living according to the Lord’s life.” The latter possibly is original. Christian sources consistently contrast the Sabbath with the Lord’s day and that contrast may have been made more explicit by scribes who dropped the word “life.” The contrast, however, is still in the passage, and the reading we have followed is correct for the import of the passage. The Christians’ life comes from the resurrection of Christ, and there is a clear allusion to this in the language of “arising.” Jewish converts now lived according to the resurrection and not according to the Sabbath. Ignatius was opposing Judaizing influences and implies the Sabbath-Lord’s day contrast even if that is not what he explicitly said. The anti-Judaic literature of the early church everywhere distinguishes Christian and Jewish practice (VI.3, 5, 15).12
Since the Lord’s day was the day of the resurrection, Christian sources often identify it as a day of joy (VI.3, 13).13 This was a pervasive note in contrast to the Sabbath. The rabbis stressed joy in connection with the Sabbath, but the Jewish customs for the Sabbath seemed somber to outside observers.
The designation of the Lord’s day as the eighth day (VI.3, 6, 7, 10) derives from the Jewish custom of numbering the days of the week. Justin Martyr explains that the eighth day is the same as the first day (VI.6), and he and Barnabas (VI.3) identify this day as the day of the resurrection (cf. VI.7). The resurrection and meetings of Jesus with his disciples were on the eighth day in contrast to the seventh (John 20:1, 19, 26). The Christians wanted to avoid the idea that the Sabbath was the climax of the week, so they continued the count.
Jewish apocalyptic literature seems to provide the basis for the Christian adoption of the eighth day terminology. On the basis that a day with the Lord is as a thousand years (Psalm 90:4; 2 Peter 3:8), according to one scheme the world will last for six thousand years (according to the six days of creation) and be followed by the Messianic age. Christian premillennialists took this over in the form of six thousand years for life as it is now, followed by the millennial reign of Christ on earth, and then followed by the heavenly world (which would be an eighth age).14 Another scheme in apocalyptic literature, however, made seven thousand years stand for the complete time of this age, with the number eight as the end of the world.15 Nonmillennialists could see the seventh age as the whole Christian age, to be followed by the eighth as the world to come. This may be in the background of those authors who interpret the Sabbath commandment as meaning that Christians always keep Sabbath (every day) in abstaining from evil and devoting every day to God.16 Barnabas may have a 6-1-1 sequence in mind (in the rest of his chapter on the Sabbath), but he seems to blend two schemes with the symbolism at one time of seven and at another of eight as referring to the new world.16a At any rate, in Christian usage the number eight served as a symbol of regeneration, new creation, and the world to come. The resurrection day of Christ which inaugurated these things was appropriately the eighth day.
God had created the world in six days, rested on the seventh, and on the eighth had continued his work with a new creation. Thus much could be made of the eight saved in the ark of Noah (cf. the context of III.7) and circumcision on the eighth day (VI.6). Baptisteries later were commonly in the shape of an octagon because of this symbolism of resurrection and a new beginning associated with the number eight.17 Some of the number speculations by Greek philosophers may have had their influence too (cf. VI.10), but it seems that when one wanted to stress the new creation for pagans the language of the first day served (VI.4). The world to come would be the Christians’ true rest, as Hebrews 4 had already indicated (VI.3).
The Sabbath was related to both the creation and the deliverance of Israel from Egypt by the Old Testament (Exodus 20: 8ff.; Deuteronomy 5:12ff.). Justin (VI.4) similarly connects the first day of the week with both creation and redemption. It was the beginning of God’s creative activity and the beginning of the new creation through the resurrection of Christ. In keeping with this thought Christians made much of Christ as the Sun, the true light of men. In other respects Justin sums up the central Christian affirmations about Sunday.
The New Testament apocryphal literature is almost worthless for information about New Testament times, but it is quite valuable as evidence for the beliefs and practices of the authors who wrote and those for whom they wrote. As such we find it confirming the linguistic usage of the second-century church–eighth day as the Lord’s day (VI.7), the Lord’s day as the day of the resurrection (VI.8), the first day of the week as the Lord’s day (VI.9), Sunday as the day of meeting (VII.7), and the Christian rejection of the Sabbath (VI.9).
The Christian authors at the turn of the second to the third century summarize the points which we have found in writers from the early and middle of the century, giving a consistent witness spanning the whole century and all parts of the Christian world. Clement of Alexandria’s comments are incidental while discussing other things. They are all the more valuable because of the allusiveness, for this shows what was taken for granted. The eighth day is the Lord’s day (VI.10), the Lord’s day is the day of the resurrection and is best kept abstaining from evil (VI.12), and the Sabbath is interpreted allegorically as an anticipation of the new creation, the true first day (VI.11). Clement’s reference to Plato (VI.10) is part of a collection of Greek testimonies to Christian doctrines and practices. Of course Plato had no such idea as the Lord’s day in mind; Clement has simply picked up the number eight as symbolically important. Clement’s effort to give a Christian interpretation to the Old Testament Sabbath command (VI.11) becomes complicated, but his praise of the first day in the context leaves no doubt of the important day for Christians, in spite of his extended discussion of the seven-day cycle. He plays on the fact that the letter used for the numeral six in Greek had dropped out of the alphabet, so that if one counted the letters in actual use the numeral eight was the seventh letter, thus giving a basis for applying the command about the seventh day to the first day.17a There was, however, no thought by Clement of Christians keeping Sunday as a literal rest day. He spiritualizes the meaning of keeping the Lord’s day (VI.12) in the same manner as he gives in the same chapter a spiritual interpretation of prayer and fasting. Clement does not reject outward observances, but he constantly points to the moral and spiritual meaning. The true way to remember the Lord’s resurrection is by living the life of the new age, abstaining from evil.
Eusebius’ description (VI.17) of those Jewish Christians known as Ebionites, who added a belief in Jesus as the Messiah and certain Christian features to their basically Jewish religious life, offers an explanation for some of the alleged evidence for Christian observance of the Sabbath.18 There were some who continued to follow the law, but these were not Gentiles and this was not the prevailing Christian pattern of life.
Exhortations to Assemble Together
In addition to the regular first day of the week meeting for common worship (Chapter VII gives a description), Christians met together at other times. The encouragements to meet together “in one place” (e.g. VI.20, 23) show the recognition by early Christians of the social dimension of their faith and the need to be together frequently.18a It is impossible to determine how many of these statements apply to the Lord’s day assembly, but most seem to have in mind other assemblies as well (VI.24), it being taken for granted that one would be in the assembly on Sunday if possible. In spite of the threat of persecution Christians did not give up their corporate assemblies.
Part of the concern was with the danger posed by schismatic assemblies which did not hold to the one faith (VI.18, 22, 23), part was with the danger of the spiritual pride or simply negligence in doing the Lord’s will which would result from absence (VI.20, 25). Quite striking, however, is the way nearly all of these statements occur in contexts referring to the end time. The universal church found only partial expression in the present through the gatherings of limited numbers of believers in one place, but when the Lord came again there would be a true assembly of the whole church (see VIII.3). The assemblies now were with a view toward this eschatological gathering together. According to some sources, not only had the Lord appeared on the first day of the week, but he had ascended on this day too (VI.3).19 This found expression later in the idea that the Lord would return on a first day of the week.20 In this naive speculation may be found a yet profound thought which unites the concerns expressed in both sets of quotations given in this chapter.
Where Christians Met
Separate structures built by Christians specifically as meeting places belong primarily outside our chronological limits.20a The first references to church buildings are sometimes found in Clement of Alexandria, but there seems no reason to take ekklēsia in other than its common meaning of assembly without any reference to a building, although the passage clearly implies a recognized building where the assembly occurred.21 Having a better claim, if the sources are reliable, are the Chronicle of Arbela (compiled about 550 but based here on a second-century record) which reports that bishop Isaac (123-136) was responsible for building a church and the Chronicle of Edessa which says that a building of the Christians was destroyed in a flood in 202, both of which are Syriac sources.22 There is no way of knowing whether these buildings differed in any way from domestic structures. Architecturally speaking, before the Constantinian peace virtually all church buildings that are known were houses or commercial buildings modified for church use.
Outdoor meetings were known (VII.1). More commonly a wealthy Christian made a room in his house available for Christian meetings.23 This room or a complex of rooms then might be reserved for Christian use (this was the case with the fourth-century Roman villa at Lullingstone in Kent). At the next stage a house would be acquired and remodeled as a church building (this stage is represented by the third-century Christian building at Dura Europos, the earliest identified Christian meeting house). Then house complexes would come into Christian possession. Not until the age of Constantine do we find specially constructed buildings, at first simple halls and then the Constantinian basilicas. Any space where an assembly was permitted was a possible site for Christian gatherings.
Carson, D.A., ed. From Sabbath to Lord’s Day. Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1982.
Ferguson, Everett. “Sabbath: Saturday or Sunday? A Review Article.” Restoration Quarterly. Vol. 23:4 (1980), pp. 172-181. [Review of Samuele Bacchiocchi, From Sabbath to Sunday: A Historical Investigation of the Rise of Sunday Observance in Early Christianity (Rome: Pontifical Gregorian University Press, 1977) and Roger T. Beckwith and Wilfrid Stott, This is the Day: The Biblical Doctrine of the Christian Sunday (Greenwood, SC: Attic Press, 1978).]
Rordorf, Willy. Sunday. Philadelphia: Westminster, 1968.
__________. Sabbat und Sonntag in der alien Kirche. Traditio Christiana II. Zurich: Theologischer, 1972. [Original Greek and Latin texts with German translation; there is also a French edition–Sabbat et dimanche (Neuchâtel: Delachaux & Niestlé).]
White, L. Michael. The Social Origins of Christian Architecture. 2 vols. Valley Forge: Trinity Press International, 1997.
1 Translation from the Coptic text in New Testament Apocrypha, Volume One, edited by Edgar Hennecke and Wilhelm Schneemelcher. English translation edited by R. McL. Wilson. Published in the U.S.A. by the Westminster Press, 1963. Copyright © 1959, J.C.B. Mohr (Paul Siebeck), Tübingen. English translation © 1963, Lutterworth Press. Used by permission. “I came into being” in the revised edition, ed. Wilhelm Schneemelcher (Louisville: Westminster/John Knox, 1991), Vol. I, p. 259. Cf. Clement of Alexandria, Excerpts from Theodotus 63 for Lord’s day=ogdoad.
2 Ibid., Vol. II (©1966), pp. 279f.; revised edition, Vol. II (1992), p. 288.
3 Cf. his Apology 16, “If we devote the day of the sun to rejoicing, it is for a far different reason than worship of the sun.”
4 He proceeds to indicate that Christians have a festive day every eighth day.
5 This dialogue, also known as Book of the Laws of Divers Countries, was put in literary form by Bardesanes’ disciple Philip. The translation is that of B. P. Pratten printed in Ante-Nicene Fathers (American Reprint edition; Grand Rapids: Wm. B. Eerdmans, 1951; Peabody: Hendrickson, 1994), Vol. VIII, p. 733.
6 The reader will notice the similarities of VI. 18 to 21 and 19 to 20. The former pair derive from a common “Two Ways” tradition of instruction which was probably Jewish before being adapted by Christian authors, and the latter pair from an eschatological exhortation which may have been part of the same tradition. To VI.20 compare Hermas, Similitudes 9.26.3=103.3.
7 Translation from Gregory Dix, The Treatise on the Apostolic Tradition of St. Hippolytus of Rome (Reissued with Corrections; London: S.P.C.K., 1968).
8 Cf. Acts of Paul 7, “And Paul cried out to God on the Sabbath as the Lord’s day approached." Tertullian, Fasting 15 lists them as two different days of the week.
9 J. P. Audet, La Didache (Paris, 1958), pp. 72-73, 460. P. 46 omits kuriakē with the Georgian version and on the basis of his conjecture that it was missing from the text used by the compiler of Apostolic Constitutions 7.30.1 (“Come together without fail on the day of the resurrection of the Lord, we say the Lord’s day [kuriakē]"). The awkwardness may not be the compiler’s but something he was trying to explain. Since “day of the Lord” had a special eschatological meaning not likely to lend itself to use for the day of worship in the early period, one might think that it is more likely that we should omit the phrase “of the Lord” as an interpolation occurring after its specific meaning was not so clear and after kuriakē became simply a name for a day in the week. One must then reckon with the changes in the external witnesses.
10 S. Vernon McCasland, “The Origin of the Lord’s Day,” Journal of Biblical Literature, Vol. 49 (1930), 65-82, suggests kuriakē had a use in Mithraism as the designation for Sunday; the Didache had to use the double expression because there was a kuriakē other than that of the Lord.
11 C. W. Dugmore, “Lord’s Day and Easter,” Neotestamentica et Patristica, Supplements to Novum Testamentum VI (Leiden: Brill, 1962), pp. 272-81, says the Didache's phrase would mean “the Sunday of the Lord,” that is Easter, and he suggests “Lord’s day” primarily meant the annual rather than the weekly day. Origin, Against Celsus 8.22, appears to use the term “Lord’s day” for Easter. On the other hand, the weekly pattern seems so deeply ingrained in the early church that the weekly usage should be regarded as primary.
11a Barnabas 15.1 provides a contemporary use of “Sabbath of the Lord.” Cf. C.H. Turner, Studies in Early Church History (Oxford, 1912), p. 8 and W. Telfer, “The Didache and the Apostolic Synod of Antioch,” Journal of Theological Studies, Vol. 40 (1939), p. 141. Kurt Niederwimmer, The Didache: A Commentary, Hermeneia (Minneapolis: Fortress, 1998), pp. 194-195, approves of this possibility.
12 Christian writers frequently reproach Jews for keeping the Sabbath: Aristides, Apology 14 (Syriac text); Epistle to Diognetus 4-5. They argued that the Sabbath was not kept before Moses and therefore was not part of the permanent will of God: Tertullian, An Answer to the Jews 2-4; Justin, Dialogue with Trypho 19.2; 21.1 and frequently; Irenaeus, Against Heresies 4.16.2.
13 Hence, on Sunday one was not to fast, kneel for prayer at worship, or engage in an activity which caused anxiety-Tertullian, On the Crown 3; On Prayer 23 (which should be translated, “We ought to avoid every appearance and duty which causes anxiety” on the day of the Lord’s resurrection).
14 Justin, Dialogue with Trypho 81.4; Irenaeus, Against Heresies 5.28.3.
15 Second Enoch 33:2.
16 Cf. VI. 11, 12; Justin, Dialogue with Trypho 12.3; Irenaeus, Proof of the Apostolic Preaching 96. The Coptic Gospel of Thomas 27 (Nag Hammadi Codex II, 38, 19-20), “If you keep not the Sabbath as Sabbath you will not see the Father,” is to be understood of such a spiritual Sabbath observance, for the same saying interprets fasting as a “fast from the world.” A. Guillaumont, et al, The Gospel According to Thomas (Leiden: E.J. Brill, 1959), p. 19. The saying is also in Greek–P. Oxyr. 1.2. In the same vein the second-century Gnostic Ptolemy in his Letter to Flora 3 (Epiphanius, Against Heresies 33.5) understands the Sabbath law as typical or allegorical of keeping away from evil deeds. Cf. Justin, Dial. 12.3; Clement of Alexandria, Misc. 3.99.4; Tertullian, Against the Jews 4.
16a Everett Ferguson, “Was Barnabas a Chiliast? An Example of Hellenistic Number Symbolism in Barnabas and Clement of Alexandria,” in David Balch, et al., eds., Greeks, Romans, and Christians: Essays in Honor of Abraham J. Malherbe (Minneapolis: Fortress, 1990), pp. 157167.
17 F. J. Dölger, “Zur Symbolik des altchristlichen Taufhauses,” Antike und Christentum, Vol. 4 (1934), pp. 153-189. Cf. J. G. Davies, The Architectural Setting of Baptism (London: Barrie and Rockliff, 1962), p. 16.
17a Clement’s introduction of the number 8 contrasts with Philo’s praise of 7, although Clement otherwise borrows much from Philo’s arithmology–On the Creation of the World 89-128; Allegorical Laws 1.2-20. Cf. what the Jewish author Aristobulus does with these numbers–Martin Hengel, Judaism and Hellenism (Philadelphia: Fortress, 1974), p. 166.
18 Cf. Origen, Homilies on Leviticus 5.8. Justin, Dialogue with Trypho 47.2 allows fellowship with Jewish Christians who keep the Sabbath provided they do not impose their custom on others. Irenaeus, Against Heresies 1.26.2, in describing the practices of the Ebionites, does not specifically mention their keeping the Sabbath but such would be implicit in what he does say. The late apocryphal Passion of the Holy Apostles Peter and Paul 2 allows that the Sabbath was not abolished for Jews.
C. W. Dugmore, The Influence of the Synagogue upon the Divine Office (Westminster: Faith Press, 1966), pp. 29-36, argues from the slender evidence and from presumption for a continued special regard for the Sabbath as well as the first day by orthodox Christians in the early centuries. This I do not find extending to “Sabbath-keeping,” except in regard to the aforementioned Jewish Christians. Robert A. Kraft, “Some Notes on Sabbath Observance in Early Christianity,” Andrews University Seminary Studies, Vol. 3 (1965), pp. 18-33, argues that some Christian communities in the second century kept the Sabbath, but the evidence is weak.
18a Everett Ferguson, ‘“When You Come Together’: Epi To Auto in Early Christian Literature,” Restoration Quarterly, Vol. 16 (1973), pp. 202-208. To the passages studied there, add Acts of Justin 3.1 (Rec. B); Origen, On Prayer 31.5.
19 The ascension appears to be put on the day of the resurrection in Gospel of Peter 13.56.
20 Origen, Commentary on John 10.35(20) calls the general resurrection “the great Lord’s day.”
20a Cf. the Acts of Paul and other apocrypha for meetings in homes, hired halls, etc.
21 Instructor 22.214.171.124 and Miscellanies 126.96.36.199. Even in Miscellanies 188.8.131.52, “I do not now call the place but . . . the elect the church,” the context is that of the church as a spiritual temple so may not imply the use of “church” for a building. Misc. 5.6 is more likely a reference to a building. “The church in the house of Onesiphorus” in Acts of Paul and Thecla 7 is again the people. Pseudo-Clement, Recognitions 10.71 is more likely a reference to a house as a church. Origen, Against Celsus 6.77, uses ekklēsia for a building.
22 J. G. Davies, The Origin and Development of Early Christian Church Architecture (New York: Philosophical Library, 1953), p. 14. Davies appears a bit optimistic in finding references to buildings.
23 Acts of Justin 2 mentions private property as a site of a Christian meeting in Rome. L. Michael White, The Social Origins of Christian Architecture (Valley Forge: Trinity Press International, 1997), Vol. 2, pp. 33-257 presents a comprehensive survey of the literary and archaeological evidence for Christian meeting places until the time of Constantine.