Constantine’s Decree – March 7, 321 AD
by Kelly McDonald, Jr.
In March 321 AD, Constantine approved the “day of the sun” as a day of rest for the Western Roman Empire (at this time, he did not control the Eastern Empire). This was not to honor God or Jesus Christ, but to honor the sun god. It was a civil day of rest. Below I have provided an English translation from the Codex Justinianus (which was issued in 529 AD).
“All judges, city dwellers, skill workers, and the offices of all should honor the venerable day of the sun and rest. However, those placed in the country freely serve the fields of culture, because it often happens that no other better on corn grains or vineyard transplant recommended that lost an important opportunity to benefit from the heavenly provision granted.” (Codex Justinian 3.12.2: Imperator Constantinus)
In the Latin, the phrase translated as “venerable day of the sun” is venerabili die solis. Constantine’s decision was based upon honoring and esteeming the celestial body we call the sun. The Mithras cult was a favorite for Roman Emperors, especially Constantine. He minted coins as late as 317 honoring Mithras (Encyclopedia Britannica “Mithras”, Cath. Encycl. “Constantine the Great”). Notice in Constantine’s decree that farmers were not allowed this day off of work.
The God of the Holy Bible commanded Sabbath (Friday sunset to Saturday sunset) off for all people, regardless of their occupation. This command extends even to farmers in their busiest seasons (Ex. 34:21).
While Constantine’s decree did not change the Sabbath, it created a false, civil day of rest beside the true day of rest. It also did not force any sort of worship on the subjects of the Empire. He issued another one in July of the same year that allowed slaves to have the day off from work.
The Catholic Encyclopedia states:“…many of the emperors yielded to the delusion that they could unite all their subjects in the adoration of the one sun-god who combined in himself the Father-God of the Christians and the much-worshipped Mithras; thus the empire could be founded anew on unity of religion. Even Constantine, as will be shown farther on, for a time cherished this mistaken belief…. Many other actions of his also have the appearance of half-measures, as if he-himself had wavered and had always held in reality to some form of syncretistic religion…” (Article: Constantine the Great)
Constantine took other measures to impose a state-controlled religion, but this is one example of how people began to change God’s sacred timing.
For more commentary on Constantine and the effects of this March 7, 321 law, please read the following link: https://sabbathsentinel.org/2019/04/08/did-constantine-influence-the-sabbath/
Kelly is President of the Bible Sabbath Association (BSA) www.biblesabbath.org