Augustine’s Sabbath Confessions
by Kelly McDonald, Jr.
Augustine, a Catholic apologist, lived from 354-430 AD. While he was an apologist in the Catholic Church, his letters contain some confessions about the Sabbath. Two letters in particular reveal that most Christian communities in the Mediterranean world actually honored the seventh-day Sabbath.
396 AD – From Augustine to Casulanus
“This question I would wish to see him investigate, and resolve in such a manner as would not involve him in the guilt of openly speaking against the whole Church diffused throughout the world, with the exception of the Roman Christians, and hitherto a few of the Western communities. Is it, I ask, to be endured among the entire Eastern Christian communities, and many of those in the West, that this man should say of so many and so eminent servants of Christ, who on the seventh day of the week refresh themselves soberly and moderately with food, that they are in the flesh, and cannot please God; and that of them it is written, “Let the wicked depart from me, I will not know their way; and that they make their belly their god”, that they prefer Jewish rites to those of the Church, and are sons of the bondwoman; that they are governed not by the righteous law of God, but by their own good pleasure, consulting their own appetites instead of submitting to salutary restraint; also that they are carnal, and savour of death, and other such charges, which if he had uttered against even one servant of God, who would listen to him, who would not be bound to turn away from him?” (Augustine, Letter 36, Chapter 2, Sec. 4)
405 AD – From Augustine to Jerome
“For if we say that it is wrong to fast on the seventh day, we shall condemn not only the Church of Rome, but also many other churches, both neighbouring and more remote, in which the same custom continues to be observed. If, on the other hand, we pronounce it wrong not to fast on the seventh day, how great is our presumption in censuring so many churches in the East, and by far the greater part of the Christian world!” (Aug, Letter 82, 2, 14)
In the 100s and 200s AD, the Roman Catholic Church began to fast on the Sabbath to desecrate the day. They wanted to go contrary to the practice of the seventh day as an enjoyable day. Augustine reminds us that most Christians in the Mediterranean world still rested on the seventh-day and ate festive foods. They refused to fast on the seventh day because it was to be the most enjoyable day of the week.
Kelly McDonald Jr. is president of the BSA. You can visit his website here: kellymcdonaldjr.org