A Straight Dope Classic from Cecil's Storehouse of Human Knowledge

Why do Christians worship on Sunday when the Bible says the Sabbath is on Saturday?

August 24, 1990

Dear Cecil:

Of the 27,000-plus so-called Christian religions, about 99% percent worship on Sunday. However, all Biblical indications are that the Sabbath or Lord's Day is the last day of the week — that is, Saturday. Isn't every priest, minister, and TV preacher helping us break a commandment by holding worship services on Sunday instead of Saturday? They use the excuse that the Resurrection occurred on the first day of the week, Sunday. Still, nowhere in the Bible does the Lord say, "Thou shalt change the Lord's Day from the last to the first day of the week."

Cecil replies:

One of the great things about founding a new religion, bro, is you get to do things any way you want. The Sabbath, which marks the last day of Genesis, on which God rested, is mainly a Jewish tradition. The Lord's Day, on the other hand, is strictly a Christian one.

Christians often call the Lord's Day the Sabbath, but don't get the wrong idea. Though Christians obviously borrowed a great deal from Judaism, they felt no obligation to worship on the same schedule that the Jews did. Admittedly at times it was expedient to do so. In the early days, when Christianity was considered a kind of postgraduate Judaism and most converts were Jews, it was customary to observe the Sabbath and the Lord's Day (Sunday) back to back. Not only was this convenient, it had a certain metaphorical significance: the Sabbath commemmorated the seventh day, the completion of material creation, while the Lord's Day, sometimes called "the eighth day," signified the start of the creation of God's kingdom on earth, the Church.

Dual Sat-Sun worship was uncommon outside Palestine and most Christians celebrated Sunday alone, Sunday having been the day of the Resurrection. As it happened, the Roman name "Sunday" (Latin dies solis) meshed with the Christian idea that Jesus was the new sun, the light of the world. The Lord's Day and Sunday have been linked ever since.

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