Did Constantine Change the Sabbath?

Did Constantine Change the Sabbath?

By Kelly McDonald, Jr.

Among the commonly held beliefs in the Sabbath community is that the Roman Emperor Constantine changed the Sabbath or prohibited its observance. Those who hold this view typically claim that it occurred at the Council of Nicaea in 325 AD or laws enacted in 321.

Before we delve into this subject, it is important to understand how historical research is done.

When we undertake a scholarly review of a subject, it is best to start with the primary source material available to us. A primary source is a person or object that records historical facts about the time period being examined. If someone writes a book or article and claims “Constantine changed the Sabbath” then that claim is only valid if it is supported by primary source evidence.

From primary sources, we are able to draw a degree of certainty about events that happened in a specific time period. In general, the more primary sources we have, the greater degree of certainty that can be reached (but new evidence can always update our perspective). When it comes to Constantine and the Sabbath, the primary sources are broken down into three categories: 1) the laws of the time period, 2) preserved writings about the council of Nicea, and 3) contemporary writers who recorded Constantine’s reign.

Laws issued during the reign of Constantine are chiefly contained in two codes of Roman Law. The first is called the Codex Theodosianus, and it was issued by Theodosius II in 438. The second is the Codex Justinianus, which was issued by Justinian in the 530s. These are compilations of Roman laws categorized by subject matter. English versions of them are available (I have access to both). Among the laws issued by Constantine, none prohibit the Sabbath.

The Council of Nicaea is the second primary source usually cited in regards to this subject. To view the proceedings of this council in Latin (with some notes in Greek), one would view volume 2 of Sacrorum conciliorum nova et amplissima collection edited by Joannes Dominicus Mansi (1759). It is listed under the title “Sanctum Concilium Nicaenum Primum Generale” starting on page 635. To review details from this council in English, read A history of the Christian Councils from the Original Documents by Charles Joseph Hefele (translated into English by William R Clark, second edition from 1883). The historical background starts on page 231, but the canons or church rulings (with commentary) are found on pages 375-435. Not a single canon from Niacea referenced the Sabbath.

A third source for Constantine’s reign are the historians who lived in his time period.  Eusebius wrote a brief history about Constantine’s life and reign called The Life of Constantine. Another man named Lactantius, who was the personal tutor for Constantine’s son Crispus, also recorded some events. Neither primary sources alludes to Constantine banning or curbing Sabbath observance. New evidence from Eusebius’ writings now show that Constantine protected Sabbath observance (see the link at the bottom of this article).

Setting the Record Straight

Let’s set the record straight. Firstly, no one can change the Sabbath. Think about that assertion for a moment. The Sabbath has been and ALWAYS will be Friday sunset to Saturday sunset. No one can change that eternal truth. Secondly, primary sources from the time period indicate that Constantine did not attempt to ban or forbid Sabbath observance. New evidence shows that he protected it! How did confusion arise concerning this subject? There’s misunderstanding about it because Constantine took actions that indirectly affected the Sabbath. Let’s explore this further.

On March 7 321 AD, he approved the “day of the sun” as a rest day for the empire. Translated into English, the first part of this law reads: “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…” (CJ.3.12.2: Imperator Constantinus; English translation by Ayer).

In the Latin manuscript, the phrase translated as “venerable day of the sun” is venerabilis dies solis. Constantine’s decree was based upon his admiration for the celestial body we call the sun. This law appears to only apply to those in urban areas. People in the country were not bound by it. Notice that no worship is mentioned in the law. The decree did not mention God or Jesus Christ. In fact, the day after this Sun-day law, he enacted a law which allowed soothsayers to enter buildings where lightning had struck (CT: 16.10.1). This decree upheld an ancient Roman custom to pacify the ‘gods’.

On July 3 of the same year, he issued a second law which freed slaves from labor on Sunday and suspended certain legal proceedings. The language is reminiscent of protections granted to other ancient pagan celebrations. Sometime after these Sun-day laws, he ruled that the marketplaces were to be open when the special Roman market days (called nundinae) occurred on Sundays (Dessau, no. 704).

These two Sun-day laws mirror the ancient title Pontifex Maximus, which Constantine held at that time. To learn more about this subject, CLICK HERE.

What about the Council of Nicaea? He attended the gathering, but about a month into its proceedings. During it, he had a letter composed that Christians should not keep Passover like the Jewish people. Instead, he conveyed that people should follow the custom of the Roman Church, who celebrated Passover on Sunday after the 14th of Nissan (Eusebius, Life of Constantine, 3.17-18; Theodoret, Church History, 1.9). The Roman Church used this yearly gathering on Sunday as the reasoning to push Sunday gatherings every week.

This letter from Constantine had no force of law behind it. There’s no law from his reign that mentions this subject. Despite this decree, significant numbers of Christians still honored Passover with the Jewish people (see John Chrysostom’s work Eight Homilies Against the Jews).

Lastly, the historian Eusebius wrote that Constantine required all his troops to pray on Sunday (which he called the ‘Lord’s Day’ – Life of Const., 4.18-19). We have no corroborating evidence to verify this claim by the writer. Constantine continued to honor others gods decades into his reign and he was not baptized until just before his death (to learn about Constantine’s veneration for the sun, click here). Moreover, Eusebius was an ardent opponent of the Sabbath (see Odom, Sabbath and Sunday in Early Christianity, 292).

Constantine’s Sun-day laws created a government-mandated imitation day of rest beside the true Sabbath, which was still being observed. An entire generation of Christians (in urban areas) grew up honoring the seventh-day Sabbath because of the Bible but also resting on Sunday because it was civil law. In other words, people were socialized to rest on Sunday.

Another important development during his reign was the interweaving of the Roman Empire with the Roman Catholic Church. These events opened the door for more stringent Sunday laws with supposed Christian significance starting with the reign of Theodosius I from 379 to 395 (Click here to read more about these Sunday laws).

Despite these influences, most Christians continued to honor the Sabbath into the 400s AD (Click here to read primary sources on this subject).

We can safely conclude that Constantine did not change the Sabbath or attempt to ban or curb its observance. Some of his decrees and political activity indirectly impacted the Sabbath over a long period of time. He laid the foundation for later Emperors to enact Sunday laws supported by the Roman Church.  As the Roman Church became more influential in the political realm in the Dark Ages and Middle Ages, they pressured temporal authorities to enforce Sunday rest. Thus, Constantine influenced the Sabbath indirectly in ways that developed over centuries and in some ways has lasted down to our modern times.

UPDATE: 4-28-2020 – New Evidence shows that Constantine protected Sabbath observance – Click here to read this article. 

Kelly McDonald, Jr
BSA President, www.biblesabbath.org

Ayer, Joseph Cullen. A Source Book For Ancient Church History. New York: Charles Scribner’s Sons, 1913. pp 284-285.

Codex Justinian, Latin. Edited by Paulus Krueger. Corpus Iuris Civilis. Codex Iustinianus. Vol 2. Berlin, 1892. p 127.

Codex Theodosianus. Translated by Clyde Pharr. The Theodosian Code and Novels and the Sirmondian Constitutions. Princeton University, 1952. pp 44.

Dessau, Hermann, ed. Inscriptiones Latinae. vol. 1. no. 704. Berlin, 1892. p 158.

Eusebius. The Life of Constantine, 3.17-18, 4.18-19. Translated by Ernest Cushing Richardson. Nicene and Post Nicene Fathers, vol. 1. Second series. Edited by Philip Schaff and Henry Wace. New York: The Christian Literature Company, 1890. pp 524-525, 543-545.

Hefele, Charles Joseph. A history of the Christian Councils from the Original Documents. Translated and edited by William R Clark. Vol. 1, 2nd ed. Edinburgh, 1883. pp 231, 375-435.

Mansi Joannes Dominicus. Sacrorum Conciliorum Nova et Amplissima collection, vol. 2. New Edition. Florence, 1759. pp 635-692.

Odom, Robert L. Sabbath and Sunday in Early Christianity. Washington, D.C.: Review Herald Publishing Association, 1977. pp 291-292.

Theodoret. Church History, 1.8-9. Jackson, Rev. Blomfield. Trans. Schaff, Philip and Wace, Henry. Nicene and Post-Nicene Fathers. Second Series. Vol 3. New York: The Christian Literature Company, 1892.  pp 47-48.

Seven Factors that Influenced the Sabbath in the Early Church (Part 4 of 4)

Seven Factors that Influenced the Sabbath in the Early Church (Part 4 of 4)

by Kelly McDonald, Jr.

The last factor that influenced the Sabbath was the relationship between Roman Emperors and Roman Bishops. Beginning with the time of Constantine, the Roman Church became intertwined with the Roman Empire. Constantine de facto made the Roman Church an institution of the state. Roman Emperors starting with Constantine codified Roman Church practices as law and even tried to influence them.

In 321 AD, Constantine  ruled that people could leave property to the Roman Church upon death (CT: 16.2.4). In 326 AD, he passed a law that granted the Roman Church special privileges. All other Christian groups were not allowed these privileges and were bound to public service (CT: 16.5.1). He regulated the number of clergy in Christianity (CT: 16.2.6 [326 AD]). Secular judges were even required to enforce the decisions of Christian Bishops (CS: 1 [333 AD]).

In 379, Theodosius became the Eastern Roman Emperor. After hearing the perspectives of different Christian groups, he sided with the Roman Church. All houses of prayer were given over to the Roman Church. The next year he passed a law, which forced all peoples under his rule to follow the Roman Catholic religion. We have an excerpt from this decree below:

“To the residents of Constantinople: 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 and Peter, bishop of Alexandria, a man of apostolic sanctity, follow; that is, that according to the apostolic discipline and evangelical doctrine we believe in the deity of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit of equal majesty in a holy trinity. Those who follow this law we command shall be comprised under the name of Catholic Christians; but others, indeed, we require, as insane and raving, to bear the infamy of heretical teaching; their gatherings shall not receive the name of churches; they are to be smitten first with the divine punishment and after that by the vengeance of our indignation, which has divine approval” (CT: 16.1.2).

His laws relating to religion were sometimes fanatical. People were not even allowed to discuss religious matters in public (CT: 16.4.1 [388 AD]). Non-Roman Catholic groups were forbidden from owning churches or meeting together to have services.

The Imperial relationship with the Roman Church would pave the way for celebrations of the Roman Church, including Sunday, to be enshrined as enforced law. The first Sunday law in history with any mention of the Lord was issued in 386 AD by Theodosius (CT: 2.8.18).

From 386 to 469, there were seven laws enacted that specifically regulated some aspect of Sunday rest or worship. Sunday became cemented as the day of rest in the Roman Empire. This would last for centuries into the future and even transfer to other European monarchies that used Roman law (such as the Frankish people under Charlemagne).

How did this last factor effect the Sabbath? The institution of Sunday as a government-mandated day of rest set up a false Sabbath beside the true one. People began to view Sunday as legitimized due to civil law. “If its good enough for everyone else, then its good enough for me.” This popularized Sun-day in a way not experienced before this time.

The bottom line: these laws distracted people from God’s agenda – for humans to rest on the seventh day of the week. Other Roman Catholic Celebrations such as the nativity of Jesus (later called Christmas) also became popularized (for Christmas, see: CT 15.5.5 [425 AD]) became established law.

In conclusion, the Sabbath was attacked and slandered for centuries through these seven factors: 1) Persecution of Christians, 2) Destruction of Jerusalem (twice), 3) Quartodeciman Controversy, 4) Anti-Semitism, 5) Syncretism, 6) Allegorizing Scripture, 7) The relationship between the Roman Empire and the Roman Catholic Church.

As you ponder these details, consider that some of these same factors are used in arguments today to denigrate the seventh-day Sabbath. But now you know their origin. We will give some examples.

Example #1 – The Quartodeciman Controversy still affects the Sabbath. People often use the argument that the resurrection occurred on Sunday morning to justify changing the Sabbath to Sunday. This argument was never used by the first Apostles. It wasn’t used by anyone until over 100 years after Christ was on earth.

Example #2 – Anti-Semitism still influences people’s view of the Sabbath. When you mention the seventh-day Sabbath, many will say “That’s just for the Jews”; “You mean the Jewish Sabbath?”; or “We do not live like Jewish people”. Yet not a single time in the Bible is the Sabbath ever called Jewish; it is called the Sabbath of the Lord our God (see Exodus 20:8-11 as an example). Jesus said the Sabbath was for man, not Jews. People who use these arguments may not be anti-Semitic; but they are using an anti-Semitic argument.

Example #3 – Allegorizing the Scriptures. Some today still allegorize when discussing the Sabbath. For instance, some people say “Jesus is my Sabbath” or “Rest is not a day, it is salvation in Christ” – yet none of these arguments are found in the Bible.

Consider this!

Despite these seven factors, most Christians still honored the Sabbath into the 400s AD. This completely negates the argument that the Sabbath was changed by the early Church!

We will look at one writer who lived in the late 300s/early 400s AD. His name is Socrates Scholasticus; He wrote a tremendous work on Christian history.

“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)

Pay close attention to the words of this historian. He recorded that Rome and Alexandria were the two cities that ceased to honor the Sabbath; this means at one time they did it! He also noted that they did not stop honoring the Sabbath because of any scripture, but because of a tradition. Jesus warned us about the traditions of man that contradict the commandments of God (Matthew 15:1-20).

Despite these seven factors, most Christians continued to honor the Sabbath. If you missed the first three parts of this series, I have included them below:

Click here for part 1

Click here for part 2

Click here for part 3

Kelly McDonald, Jr.

BSA President – www.biblesabbath.org

Seven Factors that Influenced the Sabbath in the Early Church (Part 3 of 4)

Seven Factors that Influenced the Sabbath in the Early Church (Part 3 of 4)

by Kelly McDonald, Jr.

In the midst of the previous four factors, a fifth significant development occurred: syncretism. Syncretism is the mixing of other religious practices with the pure practice of the Holy Bible.

As some early Christians sought to avoid practices that appeared Jewish and even avoid persecution, they embraced practices from other religions. The quote from Pliny the Younger in part 1 of this series confirmed the beginning of this trend. (CLICK HERE to read part 1 of this series.)

The veneration of the Sun and Sun-day were among the practices borrowed from other religions. The practice of praying towards the sun as it rose and set increased in popularity from the late second century onward. Sun-day was also adopted. Platonism, gnosticism, and other philosophies were melded with Christianity and formed the basis for these strange practices.

One of the writers of this period was Clement of Alexandria (180s AD). Among his other questionable statements, he believed that we should pray with our faces towards the east to face the rising sun (ibid, 7:7). Lastly, he believed that the sun was created as an object of worship. “And he gave the sun, and the moon, and the stars to be worshipped…” (ibid, 6:14).

He was an avowed gnostic and claimed that the true gnostic does not honor specific days (ibid, 6:15, 7:7). He proposed that philosophy was given to the Greeks to guide them towards righteousness (ibid, 1:5).

In his writings, we find the first legitimate reference to Sunday being called the Lord’s Day, which does not have scriptural evidence. His justification for this view comes from Plato and the number eight (Stromata, 5, 14). Plato was a heathen philosopher. Why would anyone use his writings to justify any Christian practice?

As the Old Testament was being devalued as the background source to the New Testament, these Gnostic writers found other sources that they could use as a derivative of Christian practice. Philosophy was one belief system syncretized with the New Testament to fill this void. An attraction to the sun, which was popular in the Roman Empire, was part of this trend.

Tertullian lived in Carthage in the late 190s/early 200s AD. He was an avowed enemy of Marcionites, but he still advocated Sunday.  We have some of his quotes below.

“Others with a greater show of reason take us for worshippers of the sun… This suspicion took its rise from hence, because it was observed that Christians prayed with their faces towards the east [towards the sun] but if we, like them[the pagans], celebrate Sunday as a festival and day of rejoicing, it is for a reason vastly distant from that of worshipping the sun; for we solemnize the day after Saturday in contradistinction to those who call this day their Sabbath, and devote it to ease and eating, deviating from the old Jewish customs, which they are now very ignorant of” (Apology, Chapter 16; emphasis mine throughout).

Tertullian admitted that the Sunday celebration was conducted “like them” – meaning like the pagans. He also acknowledged that there were Christians that still called Saturday the Sabbath.

“Others, with greater regard to good manners, it must be confessed, suppose that the sun is the god of the Christians, because it is a well-known fact that we pray towards the east or because we make Sunday a day of festivity. What then? Do you do less than this?…It is you [the pagans], at all events, who have even admitted the sun into the calendar of the week; and you have selected its day, in preference to the preceding day…For the Jewish feasts are the Sabbath and “the Purification”…all which institutions and practices are of course foreign from your [pagan] gods” (Against the Nations, 1:13).

In his work, Against the Nations (also called To the Nations), Tertullian addressed pagan worshipers. Once again, he admitted that some Christians made Sunday a festivity in the same way as the pagans. He then confessed that the practices of the Sabbath and festivals by the Jewish people are foreign to other gods. They are holy celebrations not shared by other religions. He had to defend the syncretism he practiced.

Tertullian was the first person (to my knowledge) who defended Christianity against accusations of sun worship. In the New Testament, Christians never had to shield themselves against such allegations. Syncretism caused this to change –the outside world was confused by the Sunday festivity.

Tertullian also confessed that Sunday worship was a tradition with no Scriptural authority. This is consistent with modern Catholic writers such as Cardinal James Gibbons and John Laux. CLICK HERE to read their quotes. 

“We count fasting or kneeling in worship on the Lord’s day to be unlawful…. If, for these and other such rules, you insist upon having positive Scripture injunction, you will find none. Tradition will be held forth to you as the originator of them” (De Corona, chapters 3 and 4).

As we read these primary source accounts, syncretism had a huge impact on the early Church. Some wanted to retain pagan practices, such as adoration of the sun and its rising, but still hold Christian principles. We are instructed in the Bible not to pray to the sun or adore its rising (see Deut. 4:19, Ezekiel 8:14-17). Also, the phrase “Lord’s Day” became gradually attached to the first day of the week.

This influenced the Sabbath in that an alternative day, without Scriptural support, found its way into the Christian community. This was yet another attempt to divert people from observance of the one and only True Sabbath.

The next factor that influenced the Sabbath was the allegorizing of Scripture. You may not be familiar with this concept, but allegorizing is a unique method of interpreting the Bible. It does not fully consider the literal meaning of verses. Instead, numbers and details in the Bible are treated as symbols. They are then reapplied in a way that is subjective to the interpreter. As a result, those who use this method usually come to conclusions that negate the literal meaning of the Bible.

Among the first writers to allegorize the Bible was Justin the Martyr. We discussed him in part 2 of this series (CLICK HERE TO read part 2). He especially used allegory as it related to the Sabbath and the resurrection. We have two excerpts below:

“For righteous Noah, along with the other mortals at the deluge, i.e., with his own wife, his three sons and their wives, being eight in number, were a symbol of the eighth day, wherein Christ appeared when He rose from the dead, forever the first in power” (Dialogue with Trypho, chapter 138).

“The Lord our God does not take pleasure in such observances: if there is any perjured person or a thief among you, let him cease to be so; if any adulterer, let him repent; then he has kept the sweet and true Sabbaths of God…” (ibid, chapter 12).

In the first quote, he allegorized the number eight from the story of Noah and used this number as a reason to transfer the Sabbath to the first day of the week (which he calls the eighth day of the week). In another chapter of the same work, he does the same thing with circumcision (see chapter 41).

His allegorical attack on the Sabbath has obvious problems with the literal meaning of the Scriptures. First, God never described the week as having eight days. Secondly, Jesus did not resurrect on Sunday. Third, no Bible writer ever connected circumcision or Noah to the Sabbath.

In the second quote above, Justin portrayed a sinless life as the true way to honor the Sabbath. Again, this is a problematic interpretation. The Sabbath is the weekly day of rest – keeping other commandments cannot replace its absolute requirements. If someone abstains from stealing, then they have done well and honored that specific commandment. However, if the same person works on Sabbath then he/she has violated the fourth commandment. If we use Justin’s logic, we could justify breaking any commandment we want.

Two other authors that contributed greatly to allegorizing the Scriptures were Clement of Alexandria and his pupil Origen. We mentioned Clement earlier in this article as a proponent of syncretism. He studied at the Alexandrian school of theology, which taught the allegorical method. At times, he and Origen decried honoring any specific day as special.

“Whence not in a specified place, or selected temple, or at certain festivals and on appointed days, but during his whole life, the Gnostic in every place, even if he be alone by himself, and wherever he has any of those who have exercised the like faith, honours God, that is, acknowledges his gratitude for the knowledge of the way to live” (Clement, Stromata, 7, 7).

“If it be objected to us on this subject that we ourselves are accustomed to observe certain days, as for example the Lord’s day, the Preparation, the Passover, or Pentecost, I have to answer, that to the perfect Christian, who is ever in his thoughts, words, and deeds serving his natural Lord, God the Word, all his days are the Lord’s, and he is always keeping the Lord’s day. He also who is unceasingly preparing himself for the true life, and abstaining from the pleasures of this life which lead astray so many — who is not indulging the lust of the flesh, but keeping under his body, and bringing it into subjection,— such a one is always keeping Preparation-day” (Origen, Against Celsus, 8:22)

Origen allegorized away any day with special significance and ranked them all the same. He thus contradicted the example of Christ and the early Apostles, who clearly made distinctions between days that were holy and those that were not.

Allegorizing Scriptures would contribute to misunderstanding the Sabbath for centuries to come. A substantial number of Christians were influenced by the Alexandrian school of Theology. This form of interpreting the Scriptures has existed in some form down to the present. People use similar explanations of the bible toda

We will finish this series next week!

Kelly McDonald, Jr.

BSA President – www.biblesabbath.org

Seven Factors that Influenced the Sabbath in the Early Church (Part 2 of 4)

Seven Factors that Influenced the Sabbath in the Early Church (Part 2 of 4)

by Kelly McDonald, Jr.

The immediate consequence of the second destruction of Jerusalem was confusion as to when Passover should be celebrated. This is the third factor that had an influence on the Sabbath in the Early Church. It is also called the Quartodeciman Controversy.

In the 370s AD, Epiphanius wrote that that the quarrel about Passover started during the reign of Hadrian (Panarion, 70). Up to this time, there was no confusion about it. Most Christians celebrated Passover on the fourteenth of Nissan, as Jesus himself celebrated it in this manner.

In approximately 155 AD, a controversy about Passover caused a stir within the Christian world. Anicetus was the Bishop of Rome at that time; he refused to keep Passover. Polycarp, who was taught and trained by the first Apostles, was still alive. He celebrated Passover on the fourteenth of Nissan. He visited Rome to persuade Anicetus to stick with the Apostolic practice. The early church historian Eusebius wrote about this visit.

“At this time, while Anicetus was at the head of the church of Rome, Irenæus relates that Polycarp, who was still alive, was at Rome, and that he had a conference with Anicetus on a question concerning the day of the paschal feast…” (Eusebius, Church History, bk 4, 14:1- 7).

“For neither could Anicetus persuade Polycarp not to observe what he had always observed with John the disciple of our Lord, and the other apostles with whom he had associated; neither could Polycarp persuade Anicetus to observe it…” (ibid, bk 5, 24:16-17).

The meeting between the two leaders came to a standstill. Polycarp held to the practice of Passover as he received it from the early Apostles. Anicetus decided not to celebrate Passover. At that point in history, the Roman Church celebrated Passover on the Sunday after the 14th of Nissan. They claimed that this practice was necessary because they believed the resurrection of Jesus occurred on Sunday. This is the first time such a controversy arose; the issue would persist for hundreds of years.

How did the Quartodeciman controversy affect the Sabbath? From the position of an annual Sunday celebration to honor the resurrection, the Roman Church drifted towards the view that every Sunday should be celebrated by Christians in the place of the seventh-day Sabbath. The resurrection became their justification for this practice – even though such a justification is not found in the New Testament.

Sunday replacing Passover or the Sabbath cannot be an apostolic teaching because the earliest Apostles met on the Sabbath and still taught about the resurrection. The resurrection never influenced when the Sabbath was honored. Polycarp, who was taught by the first Apostles, was never persuaded to follow the practice of Rome.

The fourth factor that influenced the Sabbath in the early Church was anti-Semitism. It was tightly bound up with the previous factors we have reviewed.

By the reign of Hadrian, anti-Semitism was rooted in Roman culture. Some Roman writers called the Jewish people a cursed race. They were accused of following mere superstitions; sometimes attacks were made against them that specifically targeted the seventh-day Sabbath (For a few examples, see Jewish Encyclopedia 1905 article: Seneca, Lucius Annaeus; Tacitus, Histories, book 5:4-5; Quintilian Institutio Oratia, bk 3, sec 7:21).

Unfortunately, anti-Semitism infiltrated Christianity. During Hadrian’s reign, a man named Aristides made a defense of the Christian faith to the Emperor. His goal was to somehow curtail the regional persecutions of Christians still taking place. In his speech called The Apology, he claimed that there were four classes of men: barbarians, Greeks, Jews, and Christians. Moreover, he claimed that Christians were the highest of the four classes and had the most truth. He said that the Jewish people worshiped angels and derived their practices from them. Among the practices he derided was the Sabbath. We have a quote from his work below:

“Nevertheless they too erred from true knowledge. And in their imagination they conceive that it is God they serve; whereas by their mode of observance it is to the angels and not to God that their service is rendered:— as when they celebrate Sabbaths…” (The Apology, Section 14).

To my knowledge, this is the first historical reference of a Christian attempting to separate himself from the practices held in common with Jewish people. But it was the beginning of others who would follow with similar arguments.

Just after the reign of Hadrian and the war he waged with the Jewish people, several anti-Semitic teachers spread heresy in the Christian world. Marcion is considered the most influential of them; he began teaching around 144 AD. He taught that the God of the Old Testament was a separate God from that of the New Testament.

According to Irenaeus, a contemporary of the time, this heretical teacher flourished under the Roman Bishop Anicetus; this is the same Anicetus from the Quartodeciman controversy (Irenaeus. Adversus Haereses. Book III, Chapter 4, Verse 3).

Marcion convinced many people to believe in his heresy (Justin, First Apology, Chapter 26). He had a special hatred for the seventh-day Sabbath. He is cited as teaching the following: “Since that day is the rest of the God of the Jews, who made the world and rested the seventh day, we therefore fast on that day, that we may not do anything in compliance with the God of the Jews” (Epiphinaus, Panarion, Sec. 42).

He advocated fasting on the Sabbath to dishonor the “God of the Jews.” Marcion was declared a heretic by the Roman Church, but they later adopted some of his teachings in one way or another. For instance, fasting on the Sabbath became a normal practice for the Roman Church by the fifth century (Augustine – Letters 36, 82).

Justin the Martyr was another anti-Semitic writer of this period (150s-160s AD). He wrte that the Sabbath was given to the Jewish people due to their transgressions and hardness of hearts (Dialogue with Trypho, Chapter 18). However, Christ said that the Sabbath was given for all mankind, not just the Jewish people (Mark 2:27-28). It was also first given in Genesis, which was long before the Israelites became a nation. Justin claimed that Christians who observed practices such as the Sabbath would “probably be saved” (ibid, 47).

The anti-Semitism that penetrated Christianity during the second century increased over time; it specifically targeted the Sabbath. Pro-Roman writers thought they could denigrate the Sabbath by labeling it a Jewish institution.

In the late 300s AD, Augustine called people who honored the Sabbath “sons of the bondwoman” (letter 36, chapter 2). Around 600 AD, Pope Gregory called Sabbath observers the preachers of the anti-Christ (Registrum Epistolarum, Book 13, Letter 1). 

This demeaning position towards the Sabbath observance was designed to divert people from it and influenced people to turn away from it. Such slander against the seventh day arose at the same time that the culture shunned Jewish people.

We will continue this series next week.

Kelly McDonald, Jr.
BSA President – www.biblesabbath.org


Seven Factors that Influenced the Sabbath in the Early Church (Part 1 of 4)

Seven Factors that Influenced the Sabbath in the Early Church (Part 1 of 4)

by Kelly McDonald, Jr.

Today we will begin a four-part series on the history of the Sabbath in Early Christianity. This series will help you understand the different factors that affected the Sabbath in the first few centuries of Christianity.

We know that Christ and His disciples honored the Sabbath (see Luke 4:16 and Acts 13:13-46 for some examples). Did the second generation of disciples continue to honor the Sabbath?

There are at least seven factors or development that I have identified as having influenced people’s view of the seventh day Sabbath. While these items are certainly interrelated, they can also be viewed individually. I have listed them below:

  • Persecution of Christians
  • Destruction of Jerusalem (twice)
  • Quartodeciman Controversy
  • Anti-Semitism
  • Syncretism
  • Allegorizing Scripture
  • The Roman Church’s Relationship to Roman Emperors

The first factor was persecution. From 64 AD to 324 AD, there were as many persecutions of Christians initiated by Roman Emperors or their magistrates. These persecutions hunted down the faithful. They had their property confiscated; they were tortured and even killed. Many Christian leaders were targeted in these attacks.

The first Roman persecution was directed by the Emperor Nero in 64 AD. He desired to build a new city called Neronia (obviously named after himself). Before he could start this project, he had to destroy part of the old city of Rome. Perhaps not coincidentally, a massive fire destroyed part of the old city. Some sources say that he purposefully set fire to the city to make room for his new project. The Roman people demanded that the implementer of this crime be revealed. In their minds, someone had to pay the price.

To divert the people’s suspicion from himself, Nero blamed Christians. Believers were tortured in awful ways. Tacitus, a pagan Roman historian who lived near this event, tells us about their awful treatment:

“…Consequently, to get rid of the report (that he started the fire), Nero fastened the guilt and inflicted the most exquisite tortures on a class hated for their abominations, called Christians by the populace. Christus, from whom the name had its origin, suffered the extreme penalty during the reign of Tiberius at the hands of one of our procurators, Pontius Pilate…  Accordingly, an arrest was first made of all who pleaded guilty; then, upon their information, an immense multitude was convicted… Mockery of every sort was added to their deaths.  Covered with the skins of beasts, they were torn by dogs and perished, or were nailed to crosses, or were doomed by the flames and burnt, to serve as a nightly illumination, when daylight had expired…. Nero offered his gardens for the spectacle, and was exhibiting a show in the circus, while he mingled with the people in the dress of a charioteer or stood aloft on a car.  Hence, even for criminals who deserved extreme and exemplary punishment, there arose a feeling of compassion; for it was not it seemed, for the public good, but to glut one man’s cruelty, that they were being destroyed” (Tacitus, The Annals, 15:44).

This account by Tacitus is among the first historical accounts outside of the Bible that reference Christ and Christianity. Great harm was done to believers, but they pressed on to the high calling of the faith.

As these persecutions continued, two classes of people began to emerge in Christianity. The first class was composed of loyal and faithful believers who held firmly to the faith no matter the threat presented to them. The second class publicly professed Christ, but denied Him when threatened with punishment. This second class even sacrificed to the pagan gods of Rome.

One eyewitness of this development was Pliny the Younger. He was a magistrate during the reign of the Roman Emperor Trajan, who ruled from 98-117 AD. This is one of the Emperors that allowed Christians to be persecuted. A quote from him is found below:

“…An anonymous information was laid before me containing a charge against several persons, who upon examination denied they were Christians, or had ever been so. They repeated after me an invocation to the gods, and offered religious rites with wine and incense before your statue (which for that purpose I had ordered to be brought, together with those of the gods), and even reviled [cursing] the name of Christ: whereas there is no forcing, it is said, those who are really Christians into any of these compliances: I thought it proper, therefore, to discharge them…Some among those who were accused by a witness in person at first confessed themselves Christians, but immediately after denied it; the rest owned indeed that they had been of that number formerly, but had now (some above three, others more, and a few above twenty years ago) renounced that error. They all worshipped your statue and the images of the gods, uttering imprecations at the same time against the name of Christ…They affirmed the whole of their guilt, or their error, was, that they met on a stated (fixed) day before it was light, and addressed a form of prayer to Christ…I forbade the meeting of any assemblies…. For it appears to be a matter highly deserving your consideration, more especially as great numbers must be involved in the danger of these prosecutions…In fact, this contagious superstition is not confined to the cities only, but has spread its infection among the neighbouring villages and country. Nevertheless, it still seems possible to restrain its progress. The temples, at least, which were once almost deserted, begin now to be frequented; and the sacred rites, after a long intermission, are again revived…From all this it is easy to conjecture what numbers might be reclaimed if a general pardon were granted to those who shall repent of their error…” (Letter 97; emphasis mine throughout)

While these believers were not specifically targeted for keeping the Sabbath because the vast majority, if not all Christians at that time kept the Sabbath. The historical reference above reveals that Christians were observed to meet on a stated or fixed day; this would have been the Sabbath. Christian assemblies were forbidden by Pliny.

How did the persecutions affect the Sabbath? First of all, some of the strongest leaders and believers were martyred. Secondly, these persecutions led to compromise among believers. Some people denounced their profession of faith in Christ when confronted. Pliny noted that the pagan temples were almost empty, but the persecutions caused them to be full again. In other words, some who had attended Christian fellowship later turned back to pagan worship.

This development had long-term consequences and was was repeated in subsequent persecutions, such as the Decian (250 AD) and Diocletian (303 AD). The willingness to compromise among believers allowed other religious practices to enter the larger Christian community.

A second influence on the Sabbath in early Church history was the destruction of Jerusalem, which occurred twice.

In 70 AD, the Romans destroyed Jerusalem. The city was ransacked, and the Second Temple was destroyed. This was a tragedy for the Jewish people and it scattered some Christians. About forty years before, Jesus warned the early believers to flee to the mountains when the city was surrounded by armies (Luke 21:20-21).

Historical accounts tell us that the early believers fled to Pella and were protected. Epiphanaus and Jerome are two ancient writers that describe this. Of them, Epiphanaus wrote that the remnant of these early Christians still honored the Sabbath (Panarion, Sec. 29).

While many may be familiar with the devastating events of 70 AD, they are usually not familiar with the destruction that occurred less than 70 years later.

A controversy arose during the reign of the Roman Emperor Hadrian (sometimes called Adrian), who ruled from 117-138 AD. According to the Roman historian Cassius Dio, Hadrian attempted to build a temple dedicated to Jupiter on top of the ruins of the Second Temple (Book 69, sections 12-14). The Temple was and is the holiest site to Judaism. This action by Hadrian caused a major war with the Jewish people. As many as 585,000 Jewish people may have died in the fighting alone.

Amid this conflict, Hadrian banned the celebration of the Sabbath and any other practice that appeared to be Jewish. After the Romans won, all the Jewish people were banned from Jerusalem. This caused many Christians (who were Jewish by natural birth) to be removed from the city.

During the time leading up to Hadrian’s reign, the bishops in Jerusalem had a pure knowledge of the faith. Once Jerusalem had been destroyed, things changed. Eusebius, a Christian historian from the fourth century, wrote: “…until the siege of the Jews, which took place under Adrian, there were fifteen bishops in succession there, all of whom are said to have been of Hebrew descent, and to have received the knowledge of Christ in purity, so that they were approved by those who were able to judge of such matters…”  (Eus, History, bk 4, 5:2, [NPNF: 176]).

The first Gentile Bishop became nominated to the position not on the basis of agreement, but only because all Jewish inhabitants had been driven out. This enabled more Gentile-oriented practice to enter into the Christian community.

Why did this event cause problems as it relates to the Sabbath? The books of Acts guides us towards the answer.

In the book of Acts, we learn that Jerusalem was the primary center of Christianity. In fact, this book mentions the city third-most of all books in the Bible. Within the city of Jerusalem, important matters were addressed. Councils were held, ministers reported to the Apostles, and ministers were sent out to help others. For some examples of this, see: Acts 1:4-8, 11:1-2, 11:19-22, 11:26-27, 12:24-25, 13:13, 15:2, 16:4, and Gal. 2:1-2.

When Jerusalem was destroyed the second time, the headquarters of Christianity was now in question. Other cities competed to be the successor of apostolic authority and doctrine. These cities included, but are not limited to: Rome, Alexandria, Carthage, and later Constantinople. This included their practices, which did not always reflect the purity of the original faith once delivered to the saints. This resulted in fragmentation in practice and doctrine.

During this time, heresies began to infiltrate Christianity. Hegessipus, who wrote about 150 AD, stated that the church was a virgin until the reign of Trajan [98-117 AD] (Fragments, ANF: 764). Clement of Alexandria, who wrote about 180 AD, asserted that heresies arose in the time of Hadrian (Stromata, bk 7, chp 17). Sulpicius Severus (400 AD) said that until the reign of Hadrian most Christians believed in Christ while obeying the Law of God (Sacred History, bk 2, ch. 31).

What we can deduce is that during this general time period – the reigns of Trajan through Hadrian – Christianity began to change, but not for the better.

We will continue this series next week.

Kelly McDonald, Jr.
BSA President – www.biblesabbath.org


The Councils of Estinnes and Friuli

The Councils of Estinnes and Friuli

by Kelly McDonald, Jr.

In last month’s blog on Sabbath history, we looked at the Roman Church councils from 506 to 796 AD. Many of these councils imposed Sunday observance and sometimes discouraged Sabbath observance. Fellowship with Jewish people was banned by several of them as a way to keep Christians from being influenced by some Biblical practices (such as the Sabbath).

Of the councils during this period, two of them especially targeted Sabbath keeping: Estinnes and Friuli. In today’s blog, we will review these councils.

Estinnes (743) – This council is also called Liftinae, Liptina, Liptinese, Lestinna, Lestinnes, and other names. It was held in the heart of Frankish territory in what we would currently call Belgium. It was attended by both Frankish nobility and clergy in the Catholic Church.

This council was the completion of an earlier council in 742 where the Frankish nobility formally submitted to Rome. Estinnes established the order of the Frankish church. Among its canons, Sunday rest was enforced. It also condemned those Christians who were still honoring the seventh-day Sabbath. In its rebuke of them, it evoked the council of Laodicea (Mansi, 12:378, Landon, vol 1:343). We reviewed the Council of Laodicea in an earlier article. CLICK HERE to read that article.

Friuli (796) – (Also called Friaul) Friuli is in northeastern Italy. It had been in Arian control for hundreds of years. In other articles, we reviewed the Sabbath keeping tendencies among Arian believers (We have three articles on this subject; click HERE for article 1;  CLICK HERE for article 2; Click HERE FOR article 3).

In the 770s, Charlemagne finally subdued the Lombards in Italy. In the 790s, Charlemagne sought to conquer the Avars who inhabited Eastern Europe. He entrusted this task to his son Pepin and the Margrave of Friuli, named Eric. They eventually defeated the Avars in 796. This same year they held the Council of Friuli. In this council, Christians were forced to keep Sunday. It condemned the peasants and Jewish people that still kept the seventh-day Sabbath (Landon, vol 1:285; Mansi, 13:873).

These two councils are significant. They demonstrate that even in the heartland of Roman Catholicism, Sabbatarians still existed. These people were marked and persecuted for their practices.

Were these believers in Belgium and Italy the remnants of the old Arian system? We cannot be for certain, as we do not know much more about them. One thing is certain – Sabbatarianism did not die out in Europe. Other groups were carrying the torch of truth once delivered to the saints.

Kelly McDonald, JR.  BSA President


Roman Church Councils Between 506-796

Roman Church Councils Between 506-796

by Kelly McDonald, Jr.

Between the 200s and 400s AD, the Western Roman Empire was overrun by a number of Germanic tribes. They eventually settled within the confines of the Western Roman Empire. There were 10 main tribes by the 400s AD, and 8 of them converted to a form of Christianity called Arianism (which we have reviewed in previous articles). This form of Christianity had Sabbath-keeping tendencies.

As time passed, these Arian tribes were either conquered by the sword or through Catholic conversion. From 506 to 796, there were at least 22 pro-Roman Church councils that enforced Sunday keeping, condemned the seventh-day Sabbath, and/or restricted communication between Christian and Jewish people.

Among the councils of this time period, at least eight ban interactions between Christians and Jews in varying degrees. Three of them in particular ban Christians from participating in meals, festivals or banquets with Jewish people – which is likely a reference to the Sabbath and annual festivals of Leviticus 23 (Agatha or Agde [506 AD], Epaone [517], Macon [581]). Jewish people were expelled from Spain unless they converted to Catholicism (Toledo [638]).

At least 16 of these 22 Councils gave varying kinds of instruction about Sunday worship. 12 of these 16 councils either governed appropriate behaviors for Sunday (such as resting from work) or forced Sunday church attendance. Some of the penalties for working on Sunday were fierce. One could be excommunicated from fellowship for violating them.

The council of Narbonne in 589 imposed fines on people who worked on Sunday. Even worse, the council of Dingolvinga (also called Dengolfel) in 772 demanded that repeated Sunday violators be sold into slavery (Mansi, 12:851-856, lists this council is listed as Concilium Bavaricum). In some of these councils, the true Sabbath was denigrated. At least four of them condemned Sabbath keeping directly or indirectly (Agde in 506; Toledo in 589; Estinnes in 743; Friuli in 796).

These councils help us understand a few things. First of all, we learn that Sabbath keeping did not instantly die out during a previous time period. Secondly, the repetition of Sunday laws helps us understand that Sunday-keeping was not an established, entrenched custom hundreds of years after Christ. Lastly, the repetition of these laws indicates that Sunday worship did not easily take hold in these areas. They had to threaten people with severe punishment to force them to keep Sunday. Among these Arian Germanic tribes, Sunday keeping had to constantly be reinforced.

Some of these councils were held at a time that coincided with significant events in Gothic Arian history. Let’s look at an example.

In the 480s AD, Clovis I became the King of the Franks. In 496, he converted to Catholicism. By 506, he conquered most of the Visigoth holdings in southwestern France. About this same time, the council of Agatha (or Agde) was held. In it, people were banned from participating in the “meals of the Jews”. Fasting on the Sabbath during Lent was upheld. Those who did not celebrate Christmas, Easter, and Pentecost were not considered true Catholics. It also forced people to attend church every Sunday and to stay for the entire service or face punishment. Jewish people were forbidden from being baptized until they had proven themselves over an eight-month period (Landon, vol 1:12, Hefele, Vol. 4, 76-86).

This Roman Catholic Church Council promoted Sunday at a time that coincided with the conquest of former Arian domains. Any remnants of Sabbatarianism were suppressed; Sunday was enforced by threat of punishment. Furthermore, the repetition of pro-Sunday councils over an almost 300 year period is a reminder of the difficulty the Roman Church had in enforcing Sunday worship.

We will look at two specific Church Councils in our next blog on Sabbath history.

Kelly McDonald, Jr

BSA President, www.biblesabbath.org

Sunday Laws in the Later Roman Empire

Sunday Laws in the Later Roman Empire

By Kelly McDonald, Jr.

In the fourth and fifth centuries a series of Sunday laws were enacted in the Roman Empire. Whether that was the intent of these laws or not is unknown, but we can know that these laws were used by the Roman Church to point people away from the True Sabbath.

As we have reviewed in previous articles, the first national Sunday law in history was passed by Constantine in 321 AD. Keep in mind that this law did not apply universally to all people in the Roman Empire. Farmers were exempted from it. After researching a little further, we find that Constantine relaxed this Sunday law for special Roman market days (Orelli, Inscriptionum Latinarum, p 140).

The second detail about this special law is that it had no connection to Jesus Christ, Christianity, or the Holy Bible. Constantine was a sun worshiper and his law to honor the sun was simply behavior consistent to this belief system. To learn more about this 321 AD decree, read here: https://sabbathsentinel.org/2016/10/13/constantine-march-321-ad/

One important development that did occur during the reign of Constantine is the interweaving of the Roman Empire and the Roman Church (which we also refer to as the Roman Catholic Church). Constantine used the Roman Church to bring more subjects into obedience to the state. He de facto made the Roman Church an institution of the state. He and other Roman Emperors codified Roman Church practices into Roman law; they even went so far as to regulated some practices. We have some examples below.

In 326 AD, he passed a law that granted the Roman Church special privileges. All other Christian groups were not allowed these privileges and were bound to public service (CT: 16.5.1). He regulated the number of clergy in Christianity (CT: 16.2.6 [326 AD]). Secular judges were even required to enforce the decisions of Christian Bishops (CS: 1 [333 AD]).

In 379 AD, Theodosius became the Eastern Roman Emperor. After hearing the perspectives of different Christian groups, he sided with the Roman Church. All houses of prayer were taken away from other Christian groups and given over to them. In 380 AD, he passed a law forcing that all peoples under his rule follow the Roman Catholic religion.

In 386, Theodosius instituted a Sunday law which was different than those enacted by Constantine. He was the first Emperor to implement a Sunday law and attach Christian meaning to it. Theodosius’ relationship with the Roman Church would pave the way for celebrations of the Roman Church, including Sunday, to be enshrined as established Roman law.

From 386 to 469, there were seven laws enacted that specifically regulated some aspect of Sunday rest or worship (386 by Gratian, Valentinian, and Theodosius; 389 by Valentinian, Theodosius, and Arcadius; 392 by same rulers; 399 by Arcadius and Honorius; 409 by Emperors Honorius and Theodosius II; 425 by Theodosius II and Valentinian III [see CT title 2, section 8 for these laws]; 469 by Emperor Leo I [Codex Justinius: 3.12.10]).

During these years of the later Roman Empire, Sunday was cemented as the day of rest in the Roman Empire. This affirmed the position of the Roman Church as the preferred religion of the Empire. It diverted people away from the True Sabbath, which is Friday sunset to Saturday sunset.

The laws passed from 386 to 469 would have a significant impact in the Eastern Empire and other parts of Europe for centuries to come (in some ways down to our present time).

Side note:

As a side note, I think it is worth mentioning that the Sabbath was sometimes protected under Roman law. There was one particular law passed to this effect (CT: 2.8.26; either 412 or 409 AD). Jewish people were protected from being disturbed by business, public service, or courts on the Sabbath and Annual Holy Days. However, this law is not repeated. We are not completely sure if this same protection was granted to Christians who held these same practices in common with the Jewish people. However, history records a large number of Sabbatarians in the Roman Empire during this time. Many later kingdoms of Europe did not take a benevolent view towards Jewish people.

Kelly McDonald, Jr. BSA President




Sabbath Keepers In Government (Part 2 of 2)

Sabbath Keepers In Government (Part 2 of 2)

By Bill Lussenheide


Sabbath Observers Who Have Held Political Office

Many believers of the seventh day Sabbath have held political office. Here is a short list of recent office holders who are associated with the Seventh Day Adventist Church…

– Sir Patrick Allen – Governor-General of Jamaica (2009—)

– Roscoe Bartlett – 6th district representative from Maryland

– Percival Austin Bramble Former – Chief Minister of Montserrat British West Indies (1970–1978)

– William Henry Bramble First – Chief Minister of Montserrat British West Indies

– Sir James Carlisle – Governor General of Antigua and Barbuda (1993–2007)

– Nelson Castro – New York State Assemblyman, 86th District, 2008-Present

– Sheila Jackson Lee – U.S. Representative, 18th congressional district of Texas (Houston)

– Sherman McNichols – Chief Magistrate, Trinidad and Tobago.

– Floyd Morris – Jamaican senator and minister of state

– Sam Ongeri – Kenyan Minister for Education

– Desley Scott – Australian politician

– John F. Street – Mayor of the City of Philadelphia (2000–2008)

– Marianne Thieme – A Parliamentary leader in the Dutch House of Representatives

– Jorge Talbot Zavala – Ecuadorian Representative and Secretary of the Camara de Diputados, Quito, Ecuador, 1950-1955.

The Seventh Day Baptists, besides the historic service of Samuel Ward mentioned above, also can lay claim to the service of Jennings Randolph.  Born in Salem WV, in 1902, and a descendant of colonist William Randolph, both his grandfather and father were mayors of Salem. His family line can claim many famous relatives including Robert E. Lee.

Jennings Randolph served in Congress for six consecutive terms from 1933 to 1947. At his death in 1998, he was the last surviving House member from the infamous “100 days” of the first Franklin Roosevelt administration. His legislation includes a bill, which advocated for and provided jobs for the blind, the creation of the Civil Air Patrol, and a bill proposing the creation of a “Department of Peace” after the conclusion of World War II.

In 2016, Seventh Day Adventist Ben Carson was a candidate for the US Presidency, and for a short period of time led the polls and received significant votes in many State Primaries.

The Churches of God from the Armstrong heritage have historically been adverse to service in political office. In spite of this, there have been a few who have served as Alderman, City Council Members, and a couple who have served as Mayors.

In 2010, this article’s author, Bill Lussenheide, a long time Church of God member from those traditions, was a candidate for US Congress in the 45th District of California.  He received the highest percentage vote for a third party candidate for any office in the nation for the Constitution Party, while serving on the Executive Committee Board of that party nationwide. His platform was one of Pro-Life, Pro-Traditional marriage, Faith/Family and Freedom.  Lussenheide has also served twice as a Presidential Elector for the United States electoral college. Lussenheide is the first candidate for major office from his religious heritage.

From The Church of God 7th Day, in a statement received from Calvin Burrell, editor of the church’s magazine, The Bible Advocate and the President of the North American ministerial counsel wrote “I’m happy to assure you that 99% of us in CoG7 have no scruples against public service, including running for and holding elective office.  In fact, we recommend it!”

Sabbath Keeping Ministerial Influence In The United States Senate 

The Chaplain of the United States Senate opens each session of the United States Senate with a prayer, and provides and coordinates religious programs and pastoral care support for Senators, their staffs, and their families. The Chaplain is appointed by a majority vote of the members of the Senate on a resolution nominating an individual for the position. This position was created on the advice of Benjamin Franklin and has existed since 1789.

Chaplain Barry C. Black, a Seventh Day Adventist, is the current Chaplain of the Senate. Prior to his appointment, Black served as Chief Chaplain for the United States Navy, and also served as a Rear Admiral. As Rear Admiral, his personal decorations included the Navy Distinguished Service Medal, the Legion of Merit Medal, Defense Meritorious Service Medal (two medals), Meritorious Service Medals (two awards), Navy and Marine Corps Commendation Medals (two awards), and numerous unit awards, campaign, and service medals.

The Sabbath In The Supreme Court  

There are minimally 14 depictions of the 10 commandments to be found in the Supreme Court building. Several are depicted as in hand with Moses, and others as just the tablets alone. Minimally, it can be stated that the Fourth Commandment is also to be found in the Judicial Branch of government of the United States in the Supreme Court!


Sabbath keepers can take proper pride in the fact that throughout our history they have served with character, integrity and faith at many levels of government. They have contributed in civic duty to their communities and nations. In the saga of America we also see the hand of commandment keeping, Sabbath observing Christians contributing to its rich history.


Bill Lussenheide has been a first generation Sabbath keeper for 42 years. He and his wife Terri reside in Menifee, CA.