Sabbath Keeping in 400 AD
Arianism was a belief system that developed in the early 300s AD by a man named Arius. It was spread throughout the Roman world and even into the areas beyond it. Arius and his followers were known for practicing a lifestyle considered by many to be Jewish. Below, we have some quotes from two early Church historians – Sozomen and Socrates. They record the Sabbath-keeping practices of the Arians
Approximately 430 AD
“Likewise some meet both upon the Sabbath and upon the day after the Sabbath, as at Constantinople, and among almost all others. At Rome and Alexandria they do not. Among the Egyptians, likewise, in many cities and villages, there is also a sacred custom among all of meeting on the evening of the Sabbath, when the sacred mysteries are partaken of” (Sozomen, Church History, bk 7, ch 19).
Approximately 440 AD
“The Arians, as we have said, held their meetings without the city. As often therefore as the festal days occurred — I mean Saturday and Lord’s day—in each week, on which assemblies are usually held in the churches, they congregated within the city gates about the public squares, and sang responsive verses adapted to the Arian heresy. This they did during the greater part of the night : and again in the morning, chanting the same songs which they called responsive, they paraded through the midst of the city, and so passed out of the gates to go to their places of assembly.” (Socrates, Church History bk 6, ch 8)
“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 Thebais, 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…” (ibid, bk 5, ch 22)
We can see that these Arians kept the Sabbath, but many of them met on the first day of the week as well. There could be various explanations of this. The first quote from Socrates above indicates that they celebrated the Sabbath so strongly that their celebration spilled over into the first day of the week. Also, remember that Constantine set the precedent years before to force all Roman citizens to rest on the first day of the week (it had been reinforced in 381 by Theodosius I). An entire generation grew up resting on Sabbath to honor the commandments of God and then the first day of the week out of social custom.
God’s plan in the Bible is to work six days and rest on the seventh. One thing we do learn from these historical examples is that most Christians honored the Sabbath. Rome and Alexandria were the exceptions.
Kelly McDonald, Jr.