How the Sabbath was Changed to Sunday
By V.J. Berry
The first recorded Sabbath is found in Genesis 2:1-3 – “Thus the heavens and the earth were completed in their entire vast array. 2 By the seventh day God had finished the work he had been doing; so on the seventh day he rested from all his work. 3 Then God blessed the seventh day and made it holy, because on it he rested from all the work of creating that he had done” (NIV). This was to be a day of rest for both mankind and animals and it was set aside as holy to allow people to rest their bodies and have time to worship and concentrate on God. The seventh day (Sabbath) starts at sundown on Friday and concludes at Saturday/s sunset and this command is part of the Jewish law (Zondervan, 2009, p.806). The Christian Sabbath begins at midnight Saturday and ends at midnight Sunday. In this essay, Following is the history of the Sabbath and how it was never authorized by God to be changed to Sunday (Webb, 2008). [This is a matter of history, not an attack or judgment on the Roman Catholic Church (RCC)].
There is a misconception about the Sabbath being for Jews only. The first Sabbath came about by God’s directive following the sixth day of Creation. Jesus said in Mark 2:27 that the Sabbath was made for Man. No ethnic group is mentioned. Adam and Eve were not Jews and it was nearly 3,000 years from the Creation before “Jews” appeared on the scene (Coulter, 2013). Another factor about the Creation is that Jesus was there. “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. 2 He was with God in the beginning. 3 Through him all things were made; without him nothing was made that has been made“(John 1: 1-3). Jesus declares Himself “Lord of the Sabbath” (Mark 2: 27-28): “Then he said to them, the Sabbath was made for man, not man for the Sabbath. 28 So the Son of Man is Lord even of the Sabbath.” Paul declared “There remains Sabbath keeping for the people of God” (1 Peter 2: 10: “ Once you were not a people, but now you are the people of God; once you had not received mercy, but now you have received mercy.”
Returning to the Old Testament, we see that Abraham was pleasing to God because he obeyed God in all things and James in the New Testament calls him “the Friend of God” (James 2:23). In Exodus 16, we see that the Sabbath is being observed before the Ten Commandments were given to Moses that included the fourth commandment regarding the Sabbath. The people were instructed to gather manna as needed for each of five days, but on the sixth day, they were to collect enough for that day and the next day which would be the Sabbath. This shows that Sabbath was still being observed since Creation (Coulter, 2013).
The Sabbath law also reminded the Israelites that God was the Creator and provider of all they had and by setting this day aside for a special purpose, it gave them as humans a sense of holiness and a sense of agelessness in worshiping their Creator (Ex. 20:8-11); Hill & Walton, 2009, p.138). However, by the time of Jesus, the legalism of Judaism had concealed the humanitarian and practical benefits of the Sabbath or outright removed them (Matt. 12: 1-4; Mark 7: 1-13; Hill & Walton, p. 138). The Jews had forgotten or ignored that the Sabbath was made for Man and did not (or would not) understand that spiritual work that included acts of healing and aiding the poor on the Sabbath glorified God as good works on the Sabbath (Coulter, 2013). Coulter (2014) says the “Sabbath is a day of blessing as it was in the beginning and a day of redemption and salvation.”
Jesus observed the Sabbath as was the custom and an example of this is in Luke 4:16 which records his appearance at the Nazareth synagogue where He read from the Scriptures and He journeyed to Capernaum where He taught on the Sabbath (Luke 4:31-32). Jesus taught many times on the Sabbath. At Creation, He had made the Sabbath a blessing for all mankind and Jesus used it for teaching, preaching, healing, and exorcising demons, all for ridding people of sin (Coulter, 2013). The last command of Jesus before He ascended into Heaven was to tell his apostles to “teach and do only those things they had learned from Him.” There was neither a mention of changing the Sabbath to Sunday, nor did the apostle teach it (Coulter, 2013). In summary of the apostles, as an examples: when Paul was teaching in Greece, he found that the Gentiles were already observing the Sabbath. He also taught Gentiles to keep the Sabbath. In Philippi (Macedonia), Luke said they went to a river on the Sabbath and taught there (Acts 16:12-13).
It was about 300 years following the era of the apostles that the Emperor Constantine (as a Roman Catholic}instituted Sunday (first day of the week) as the Christian Sabbath, separating them from the traditional Sabbath ordered by God . The Roman Catholic Church boldly announced that it moved the Sabbath to Sunday by its own authority to commemorate the Resurrection of Jesus. Following are quoted questions and answers from the Roman Catholic doctrinal and catechism documents.
Question: Which is the Sabbath day?
Answer: Saturday is the Sabbath day.
Question: Why do we worship on Sunday instead of Saturday?
Answer: We observe Sunday instead of Saturday because the Catholic Church, in the Council of Laodicea (A.D. 336), transferred the solemnity from Saturday to Sunday.
Question: Have you a way of proving that the Church [Roman Catholic] has the power to institute festivals of precept?
Answer: Had she no such power, she should not have done that in which all modern religion agree with her – she could not have substituted the observance of Sunday, the first day of week,, for the observance of Saturday, the seventh day, a change for which there is no Scriptural authority (Doctrine et al., 1927, pp. 50, 147
Following are two quotes found in Coulter (2013): “The Scriptures nowhere call the first day of the week the Sabbath . . . There is no Scriptural authority for so doing, nor of course any Scriptural obligation” (The Baptist Watchman, n.d.) and “The observation of the first instead of the seventh day rests on the testimony of the church and the church alone” (Hobort Church News [Episcopalian], 1894). There are some Protestant churches that observe Saturday as the Sabbath such as Seventh Day Adventists and some Baptists and others. It has been suggested by various church denominations such as the Seventh Day Adventist that the Protestant churches apparently were so accustomed to worshipping on Sunday, that when the separation from the Roman Catholic Church occurred during the Reformation, they did not return to God’s Sabbath, so they carry the baggage imposed by the Roman Catholic Church, unaware or not. ). [Because the Protestant Church made no objection to changing the Sabbath day, the RCC believed they had additional authority for the change].
From the Encyclopedia Britannica under the article, Sunday. Notice: “It was Constantine who first made a law for the proper observance of Sunday and who appointed that it should be regularly celebrated throughout the Roman Empire.” When Constantine pressed his pagan hordes into the church, they were observing the day of the sun for their adoration of the sun god. It was their special holy day. In order to make it more convenient for them to make the change to the new religion, Constantine accepted their day of worship, Sunday, instead of the Christian Sabbath which had been observed by Jesus and His disciples (Crews, 2003).
God blessed the seventh day following His Creation. This is the day that He chose for us to rest and not to worry about laboring but to worship Him. This is a scared time to fellowship with our Creator. God did not change or authorize a change from the seventh day to the first day of the week, replacing His ordained Sabbath. The Roman Catholic Church in concert with Constantine made the change on its own authority. Many Protestant churches carried this custom into their doctrines, perhaps not realizing their error.
Hill, A.E. & Walton, J.H. (2009). A survey of the Old Testament. Grand Rapids, MI:
Life Application Study Bible (NIV). (2005). Carol Stream, IL: Tyndale House Publishers.
Zondervan Handbook to the Bible (4th ed.). (2009). Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan.
Coulter, F.R. (2013). Which day is the true Christian Sabbath–the true Lord’s Day: The seventh-
day of the week, or the first day of the week? Retrieved from
Doctrinal Catechism, (1927).
The Convert’s Catechism of Catholic Doctrine. (1927).
Doctrinal Catechism and The Convert’s Catechism of Catholic Doctrine. (1927 ed
Sabbath Truth (2003). How the Sabbath was changed. Joe Crews Radio Sermon Library.
Webb, A. (2008). When does the Christian Sabbath begin and end? Retrieved from