This is the 6th post in a series, for the previous post please click HERE.
One of the things that SDA teach is that all early Christians kept the Sabbath. I was taught that the Seventh-Day Sabbath was kept by all Christians until the Pope made Constantine officially change the Sabbath. Ellen White even plainly asserts that it was the Pope who “changed the the sabbath”.
“But the Pope had changed it [Sabbath] from the seventh to the first day of the week; for he was to change times and laws.” – Ellen White, 1847, A Word to the Little Flock
The arguments that SDA offer to back this up are the following:
- SDA assert that all early Christians kept the Sabbath.
- SDA will quote the Sunday law that Constantine made shortly after the council of Nicea.
- SDA will usually show you a letter that the Roman Catholic church put out owning up to being the ones who changed the Sabbath.
- SDA will teach you about the Waldenses who kept the Sabbath well into the reformation when they were all wiped out by the Pope.
The last point there always convicted me more than the others. The reason that the Waldenses mattered to me so much for my beliefs on the historic Sabbath truth was a point of logic. Since I learned from the “Keepers of the Flame” series growing up that they were an untouched remnant of the early Christian faith, then the fact that they were also Sabbath keepers must mean that we all should be.
After learning what the Bible really said as demonstrated in my previous posts, I still wanted to conduct some more research. Because if the above bullets are actually true as the SDA teach then that would have seemed conflicting to me, so I had to explore it.
Did early Christians really keep the Sabbath?
The answer to this one is yes and no. There were early Church Fathers who did keep the Saturday Sabbath. They were however in the minority, and historians report that Sabbath keeping among Christians died out completely as early as 70 – 120 AD. For those who don’t know, Constantine’s law and the council of Nicea didn’t happen until after 325 AD. That means that one cannot assert that Constantine “changed the Sabbath” as his laws post date the end of Sabbath keeping altogether.
Below are some Quotes from Early Church fathers to help establish my above points, there are many more such references in our history if you want to find them:
The Epistle of Barnabas, 70-120 AD: Wherefore we Christians keep the eighth day for joy, on which also Jesus arose from the dead and when he appeared ascended into heaven. – The Epistle of Barnabas, section 15, 100 AD, Ante-Nicene Fathers , vol. 1, pg. 147
Justin Martyr, 150 AD: But Sunday is the day on which we hold our common assembly, because it is the first day of the week and Jesus our saviour on the same day rose from the dead. – First apology of Justin, Ch 68
Ignatius of Antioch, 107 AD: let every friend of Christ keep the Lord’s Day as a festival, the resurrection-day, the queen and chief of all the days of the week. – Epistle to the Magnesians, chp 9. Ante-Nicene Fathers , vol. 1, pg. 62-63.
which of course proves that John was not referring to Saturday when he said the following:
“I was in the Spirit on the Lord’s day, and I heard behind me a loud voice like a trumpet” Rev 1:10 ESV
Did the Waldenses keep the Sabbath?
The answer to this one is a flat out no. The assertion that they did is simply a lie, and I don’t have a problem saying that as it turns out that SDA’s have been corrected on this many times but don’t seem to care.
The truth of the Waldenses is actually better than fiction and I recommend anyone to look into it. Yes they were persecuted for their faith. They were not however wiped out and you can even visit them today if you want to.
For a website dedicated to their history please click HERE.
For a letter written by an actual living Waldensian stating that they never kept the “Sabbath truth” please click HERE.
Did the Pope Change the Sabbath?
Based simply on the fact that the supremacy of Rome, and the office of the Pope did not come about until many years after Constantine was dead should put this one to rest. However, the SDA do have that letter from the Roman Catholics confidently asserting that they did in fact change the Sabbath and that they have the authority to do things like this as often as they like.
Please don’t forget though that Roman Catholics also teach that Peter was the first Pope, so anything he did they actually claim credit for. The Roman Catholic doctrine of apostolic succession is a key component to their belief that they changed the Sabbath because anything the apostles did, the Roman Catholic church did. It is not intellectually honest for SDA to deny apostolic succession and then by the same token embrace the teachings that follow from it to bolster an unrelated point.
If you want more reading on this I recommend:
He was an early SDA preacher who actually knew EGW personally. His book is only a buck on kindle and well worth the read.
To be clear, I don’t believe that anyone changed the Sabbath. It was simply fulfilled on the cross, a careful exegesis of Hebrews chapters 1-4 teaches that Jesus Christ is our Sabbath rest now.