Daniel 7:25 and the Sabbath (Part 2 of 2)
By Kelly McDonald, Jr.
As discussed in the first part of this series (click here to view part 1), the little horn of the fourth beast in Daniel chapter 7 best identifies with the pope/Roman Catholic Church. Remember that this little horn arose out of the fourth beast. Said another way, the Roman Empire contributed to the Roman Catholic Church becoming this little horn.
Think to Change the Laws and Times
The first way that the Roman Church became one with fourth beast of Daniel 7 was to accept pagan Roman celebrations. These celebrations were re-labeled with Christian meaning, but the date and type of celebration remained Roman. They also promoted these days in the place of God’s celebrations.
In Daniel 7:25, the little horn was prophesied to “…speak against the Most High and oppress his holy people and try to change the set times and the laws.”
One aspect of this verse that is often overlooked is that the little horn will “TRY to change the set times and the laws.” Some translations say that he will ‘think’ to change the set times and laws. He will try to affect these things, but he will not be successful. As reviewed in part one of this series, the Aramaic word translated as ‘law’ refers to the Law of God and the word translated as ‘set times’ refers to the mo’adim from Leviticus 23 (the first of which is the Sabbath).
Starting in the second century AD, the Bishops of Rome began to defect from the Ten Commandments and the appointed times. Below, I have a brief timeline of events showing where they gradually defected from truth.
150s AD – Quartodeciman Controversy – At this time, the bishops of Rome abandoned keeping Passover or Pascha in favor of a once-a-year service for the resurrection (CLICK HERE to learn more). They also started to develop their own liturgical Calendar, which led to an alternative Pentecost.
200s AD – By this time, the Church of Rome abandoned the Sabbath in favor of first day of the week services (they still did not keep Sunday as the Sabbath). The Quartodeciman Controversy contributed to this development.
305/306 AD – The Council of Elvira was the first which banned pictures on the walls of Christian buildings to prevent the worship of images (canon 36). This means that the practice occurred in some places.
330s AD – During this decade, Roman Church writers such as Eusebius started to argue that the Sabbath should be transferred from the seventh day to the first day of the week (Commentary on Psalms 92).
350s AD – By this time, the Roman Church adopted the observation of Jesus’ birth on December 25th, an ancient Roman day (click here to read more about December 25th).
400s AD – Augustine attests that many Christians worshiped images (On the Morals of the Catholic Church, 34). He attests that Jesus was conceived on March 25th (Letter 54) and that people celebrated John the Baptist’s birthday on June 24th (Sermon VIII: De Sancto Joanne Baptista, Sermon: On the Birth of the Lord).
By the fourth century, the Roman Church had developed a liturgical calendar with a focus that mirrored ancient Roman days of worship. Below, we have a list of ancient Roman days and then the corresponding Roman Catholic days.
Ancient Roman Days
December 25 – Originally the day of bruma or the winter solstice in ancient Rome. It was considered the beginning of the year for the sun and called the new sun or birth of the sun.
March 25 – This was the spring equinox. The mother of the gods was honored on this day and even the days around it. Her son was celebrated as resurrected.
June 24 – This was the summer solstice; the ancient festival of Fors Fortuna – the god of luck – was held on this day (Varro, 6.17). Feriae aestivae was honored starting at the summer solstice (Smith’s Dictionary: Feriae).
September 24 – Autumn Equinox – To my knowledge no observances occurred on this day.
Sunday – Starting with the reign of Constantine (321 AD), this became a rest day in honor of the sun.
Roman Church Celebrations:
December 25 – Christmas; at one time this was considered the first day of the liturgical year.
March 25 – Considered a possible date of Christ’s death. Later it became known as the conception of Mary by the Holy Spirit.
June 24 – The birthday of John the Baptist.
September 24 –To my knowledge, no early Christian celebrations were held on this day (but in later centuries it was).
Sunday – Starting in the 330s and onward, Roman Church writers promoted the idea that people should rest on the day because of the resurrection.
These new hybrid celebrations became the celebrations for the ‘Christian’ Roman Empire and its subsequent revivals. Special events, like the coronation of kings or gathering of nobles, were held on these Roman Church days for centuries. We may review this development in a future article.
Consider the following quotes from modern Roman Catholic writers:
John Gibbons, a Catholic Cardinal, wrote: “But you may read the Bible from Genesis to Revelation, and you will not find a single line authorizing the sanctification of Sunday. The Scriptures enforce the religious observance of Saturday, a day which we never sanctify” (Gibbons, pp 72-73).
Consider the 10 commandments of the Roman Catholic Church:”
“1. I am the Lord thy God, thou shalt not have strange gods before Me.
2. Thou shalt not take the name of the Lord thy God in vain.
3. Remember thou keep holy the Sabbath day.
4. Honor thy Father and thy mother.
5. Thou shalt not kill.
6. Thou shalt not commit adultery.
7. Thou shalt not steal.
8. Thou shalt not bear false witness against thy neighbor.
9. Thou shalt not covet thy neighbor’s wife.
10. Thou shalt not covet thy neighbor’s goods.”
(taken from Manual of Theology for the Laity by Geiermann , pp 308-309).
Notice that the commandment against idols and images was removed and the tenth commandment against coveting was expanded into two separate commandments. This is one way in which they changed the laws.
Merger of Roman Church and Roman Empire
Starting with the reign of Constantine, the Roman Church gradually interwove itself with the Roman Empire. Below, we have a summary of events pertaining to this development. Below, the acronym CT is used below to refer to the Codex Theodosianus, which is a code of Roman law from this period.
At some point in his reign, Constantine started paying the expenses of Roman Church Councils (Eusebius, Church History, 10.6). In 321, he issued a law which allowed to leave property to the Roman Church at death (CT: 16.2.4). In 326, he decreed that the Roman Church special privileges. All other Christian groups were not allowed these privileges and were bound to public service (CT: 16.5.1).
The same year, he limited the number of clergy in Christianity (CT: 16.2.6). It appears that the wealthy were prevented from serving in the clergy class; only the poor could serve in those positions (ibid). During his reign or that of his sons, the first tax exempt laws were enacted for clergy and their families (CT: 16.2.10 [320, 346, or 353 AD]).
During the reign of Theodosius (379-395), this merger was made more complete. Laws from his reign forward gave more power to the Roman Church and further codified its practices. First, the ‘Catholic’ Church was defined as only those Christians who followed the bishop of Rome (CT: 16.1.2 [380 AD]). The next year, Theodosius enacted a law which banned non-Roman Catholic groups from owning church buildings (CT: 16.1.3 [381 AD]). There were laws which codified the office of deaconess and its qualifications (CT: 16.2.27 [390 AD]).
After the reign of Theodosius, more laws regulated the ordination of clergy (for an example, see CT: 16.2.33 [398 AD]). An entire section of Roman law was devoted to punishments for groups deemed heretical by the Roman Church (book 16, title 5).
The Roman Catholic Church admits that one source of their canon law (meaning church law) is Roman law. According to the Catholic Encyclopedia 1911, article “canon law”:
“The civil law of different nations, and especially the Roman law, may be numbered among the accessory sources of canon law.” The article goes on to state that the Roman Church for centuries did not have any system of law for itself. “Later when the canonists of the twelfth century began to systemize the ecclesiastical law, they found themselves in presence, on the one hand, of a fragmentary canon law, and on the other hand of the complete methodical Roman code; they had recourse to the latter to supply what was wanting in the former, whence the maxim was adopted by the canonists and inserted in the Corpus Juris (of Justinian), that the Church acts according to Roman law when canon is silent.”
These Roman laws created the environment by which the Roman Church could operate as its own Kingdom within the Roman Empire. Their practices were defined and protected by Roman Law. With this merger, they also had goals which coincided with the empire, but they also maintained their own goals.
Another way that the Pope’s authority grew out of the Roman Empire is through the ancient title Pontifex Maximus.
The Title ‘Pontifex Maximus’
In ancient Rome, there was a college of priests. Each priest was called a pontiff; the chief priest was called Pontifex Maximus. They regulated divine law in ancient Rome. They had supreme authority of all matters of religion, including objects and people connected to public and private worship. They were also considered chief advisors to the king in religious matters. The Pontiffs were not subject to any court of law.
There were seven primary functions of the Pontiffs, but two of them were the regulation of the calendar and sacred law (Encyclopedia Britannica 11th edition: Pontifex; online Encyclopedia Britannica: Pontifex). These are two of the items mentioned in Daniel 7:25. This further reinforces the identification of the little horn as the papacy.
Roman Emperors held this title starting with Octavian Augustus (about 12 BC). This practice lasted until 380 AD when the Emperor Theodosius bestowed the title upon the Bishop of Rome. As reviewed, this is the same period that Roman Law began to shape and define the Roman Catholic Church as its own kingdom. We have an excerpt from this law below:
“…It is our will that all the peoples whom the government of our clemency rules shall follow
that religion which a pious belief from Peter to the present declares the holy Peter delivered to the Romans, and which it is evident the Pontiff Damascus…” (CT: 16.1.2; quoted from Ayers, pp 367-368]).
This law made the Roman Church the preferred religion of the Empire. It commanded people to follow the Roman Church; it made their belief system the chief religion of the empire. The bishop of Rome or pope at that time was Damascus. The title and functions of the Pontifex Maximus were transferred from the Roman Emperor to the bishop of Rome.
The little horn grows out of the beast
From Constantine’s time and for centuries into the future, the estates of the church increased greatly. As aforementioned, he allowed people to leave property to the Roman Church at death (CT: 16.2.4 [321 AD]). A document called the “Donation of Constantine”, now proved to be a forgery, was used by the Catholic Church for hundreds of years to justify their ownership of land. During the reign of Theodosius, all church buildings had to be given to the pro-Roman Church party (CT: 16.1.3 [381 AD]).
The pope became the single largest landowner in Italy. This allowed the Roman Church to gain influence over the populace by providing food, housing, and medical needs to others. Any ruler of Italy had to establish some degree of relationship with this leader. After the Western Roman Empire started to disintegrate between 476-534 AD, the Eastern Roman Empire became the main military protector for the Roman Church.
In the early 750s AD, the Lombards threatened Rome. Pope Stephen II appealed to the Eastern Roman Empire for help, but they did not respond. He then appealed to Pepin the Short, king of the Franks, for military assistance. In 754, Pepin agreed to rescue the city of Rome from the invaders and defeated the Lombards. He then donated land in Italy to the Roman Church, which is called the Donation of 754. In 756, Pepin defeated the Lombards again and donated more land to the Roman Church. This was called the Donation of 756.
The pope became the sole temporal and spiritual ruler of these lands in Italy. This explains why Pope Stephen II is called the first pope-king. Even though previous popes acted like kings in that they wielded authority over large amounts of land and people, it was formally recognized at that time. This occurred when the third Germanic tribe was overthrown (which we discussed in part 1 of this series).
From the eight century onwards, the Roman Church increased in political influence, which enabled them to direct political leaders to suppress those groups which did not agree with them, such as the Waldenses, Sabbatarians, Anabaptists, and Protestant groups. They used their authority to harass non-conformist groups.
From these few examples that the little horn is the papacy and it grew OUT OF the fourth beast, which is the Roman Empire. Their new calendar and laws were based upon the pagan Roman worship mixed with the Bible. They mixed themselves with the Roman Empire so that the Roman Church and Roman Empire became inseparable. Roman Law protected their spiritual practices and marginalized all others. The Bishop of Rome utilized the functions of the ancient pagan title Pontifex Maximus to try and change the times and laws of God.
The information in these articles helps us to better understand how the roots of the little horn from Daniel 7:25 were formed within the fourth beast of the Roman Empire. As time passed, this little horn emerged from the Roman Empire with its own authority – yet it was still connected to and part of the fourth beast.
We resist this little horn and the beast by observing the commandments of God. We will be rejected and hated for it. However, in Daniel 7 we learn that the persecuted saints inherit the Kingdom!
Kelly McDonald, Jr.
BSA President – www.biblesabbath.org
Augustine. Letter 54 to Januarius. Translated by J.G. Cunningham. Nicene and Post-Nicene Fathers, First Series, Vol. 1. Edited by Philip Schaff. New York, 1886, p 300. Latin: Migne, J.P. ed. Patrologiae Cursus Completus. Series Latina. Vol. 33. Paris: 1845. p 200. On the Morals of the Catholic Church, 34. Translated by Richard Stothert. From Nicene and Post-Nicene Fathers, First Series, Vol. 4. Edited by Philip Schaff. Buffalo, NY: The Christian Literature Publishing Company, 1887. pp 62. Sermon 190. Latin: Migne, Patrologiae Cursus Completus. Series Latina. Vol. 38. Paris: 1863, p 1008. Sermon VIII De Sancto Joanne Baptista. Section 3. Migne, Patrologiae Cursus Completus. Series Latina. Vol. 46. Paris, 1845, p 996. On the Birth of the Lord. English quoted from: Guéranger, p 11.
Catholic Encyclopedia 1911: canon law, States of the Church, Stephen II (some list him as the III).
Codex Theodosianus. English. Translated by Clyde Pharr. The Theodosian Code and Novels and the Sirmondian Constitutions. Princeton University, 1952.
Codex Theodosianus. English. 16.1.2. Quoted from: Ayer, Joseph Cullen. A Source Book For Ancient Church History. New York: Charles Scribner’s Sons, 1913. 367-368.
Council of Elvira. Hefele, Joseph. A History of the Councils of the Church from the
Original Documents. Translated by William R. Clark. Vol. 1. Edinburgh, 1871. p 151
Eusebius. Commentary on Psalms 92. Quoted from: Odom, Robert L. Sabbath and Sunday in Early Christianity. Washington, D.C.: Review and Herald Publishing Association, 1977. pp 292.
Encyclopedia Britannica 11th edition: Pontifex.
Encyclopedia Britannica online: Pontifex.
Geiermann, Peter. A Manual of Theology for the Laity. Benziger Brothers, 1906. pp 308-309.
Gibbons, James Cardinal. The Faith of Our Fathers. New York: P.J. Kenedy & Sons, 1917. pp 72-73.
Guéranger, Rev. Prosper. Translated by Rev. Dom Laurence Shepherd. The Liturgical Year. Vol. 2: Christmas. Third edition. 1904, Edmund Burke & Co: Dublin, pp 10-11.
Smith, William, Wayte, William, and Marindin, G.E. eds. A Dictionary of Greek and Roman Antiquities. 1890. Articles: Calendarium, Consuls, Hilaria, Feriae, Nundinae, Sacra, Saturnalia, Strenae. Vol 1: pp 336-346, 532-537, 836-839, 961-962. Vol 2: 251-252, 599-601, 578, 720.