The Real Historical Record
There is no evidence of Sunday Church Observance in early Church history. It appears that this tradition began in Rome after Justin Martyr equated the First Day of the Week to Sunday, in his First Apology.
The practice of early Churches was documented in the fifth Century Church History of Socrates and the sixth Century Church History of Sozomen.
Socrates Scholasticus, in his fifth Century Church History, said that nearly ALL churches in the world observed communion on the Sabbath day, “yet the Christians of Alexandria and at Rome, on account of some ancient tradition, have ceased to do this.”1 Even the Churches of Alexandria and Rome originally observed communion on the Sabbath day. Sozomen made similar remarks in his sixth Century Church history.
Their record of Church history was subject to the scrutiny of the Church. It was read by the bishops and elders of the whole Christian world, who undoubtedly had a better knowledge of the events of the past than we do today. There is no reason to pretend that we, in the twenty first century, have a more accurate view history than these early historians. And indeed, we will see that their account is fully supported by the record of history.
Let us see exactly why Rome and Alexandria had a different custom than the rest of the world.
The Saturday Night Celebration in Egypt
The Egyptians remembered the resurrection of Jesus in their Saturday Evening celebration, described in the Epistle of Barnabas.
The Epistle of Barnabas is believed to have been written in about 100 A.D., by a revered teacher from Alexandria.2 It was included in the New Testament in the Codex Sinaiticus, an Alexandrian text.
The Epistle of Barnabas said the seventh Day of the week signified the end of the time, when the Lawless one would be destroyed. And it called the Eighth day, a “new beginning.”
“I will make the beginning of the eighth day which is the beginning of another world. 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 15:7-8
The beginning of the Eighth day was “the beginning of another world,” because God began His creation at sundown on Saturday, and that is when Jesus rose from the dead.
The Egyptians desire to commemorate this on Saturday night, seemed to have the support of the New Testament. The Church came together to break bread on Saturday night in Acts 20:7. And in 1 Corinthians 16, Paul instructed the believers to set aside their offerings on the first day of the week.
But, in fact, the early Church met daily to break bread, and the setting aside of offerings on the first day of the week was a practice from the Old Testament.
So why did Rome observe communion on Sunday?
Sunday in Justin Martyr’s First Apology
It seems that an “ancient tradition” of Sunday communion began in Rome after Justin Martyr told that Emperor that ALL Christians in cities and in the country, observed the Lord’s supper on Sunday.
In 150 A.D., Justin Martyr was living in Rome, and wrote his First Apology to the Emperor, saying,
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.
First Apology, Chapter 67
But NONE of Justin’s statements were true. ALL Churches did not meet on Sunday for communion. Jesus did not rise on Sunday. And God did not begin creation on Sunday. These were ALL events of Saturday.
It seems that Justin Martyr equated the Jewish first day of the week to the Roman day of Sunday for the Emperor’s sake. And, he was probably also influenced by his hatred of Saturday rest, which he claimed was not necessary.
In the same Apology, Justin Martyr also told the Emperor that the Spirit of Prophecy was a third person, who was born on the waters in Genesis 1:2.
But this also was not true. The Targum explained that the Holy Spirit in the Old Testament was the Word, and the Spirit of God on the waters in Genesis 1:2 was “the breath of the Spirit of life,” described in Genesis 6:3, 7:22, and Psalms 33:6, and Job 34:14-15.
The Image and Mark of the Beast
Both the image, and mark of the beast had their beginning in Justin Martyr’s First Apology to the Roman Emperor.
By 229 A.D., Origen of Alexandria said that Justin Martyr’s teaching of three persons was the official doctrine of the Church, and proposed that Sunday should be a day of rest.
In his Commentaries on John, Origen writes,
We believe, however, that there are three persons: the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit; and we believe none to be unbegotten except the Father. We admit, as more pious and true, that all things were produced through the Word, and that the Holy Spirit is the most excellent and the first in order of all that was produced by the Father through Christ 3
And in his Homilies, Origen says,
On Sunday none of the actions of the world should be done. If then, you abstain from all the works of this world and keep yourselves free for spiritual things, go to church, listen to the readings and divine homilies, meditate on heavenly things.4
In 321 A.D., Sunday was declared as a day of rest by Emperor Constantine.
In 325 A.D., Pope Sylvester officially named it “the Lord’s Day.”
In 338 A.D., Eusebius, the court bishop of Constantine, said that all the activities of the Sabbath, were now “transferred” to “the Lord’s Day.”
And in 381 A.D., the doctrine of the three person God was formalized by the Council of Constantinople.