In common Christian thinking, passages such as Acts 20:7,1 Cor 16:2, and Rev 1:10 demonstrate that early believers in Jesus assembled for joint worship on Sundays. However, if we examine these texts closely, we will see that claims about the New Testament origins of Sunday worship are exaggerated.

Revelation 1:10 mentions that the writer was “caught up” and experienced his astonishing visions on the “Lord’s Day” (τῇ κυριακῇ ἡμέρᾳ). It is not clear that this phrase meant Sunday, and even if it did, this verse describes John’s unique experience, rather than Christian worship. It is true that 1 Cor 16:1-2 describes the collection of money for Jerusalem on Sundays: “Now concerning the collection for the saints, as I directed the churches of Galatia, so do you also. On the first day of every week, each one of you is to put aside and save, as he may prosper, so that no collections be made when I come.” Paul directed his disciples to collect funds on Sundays but there is no indication this was done during regular worship as a Sunday offering would be taken up today. As most traditional Jews, Paul would be reluctant to handle money on the Sabbath. So his instruction may be merely practical from his perspective.

While the above verses do not describe communal Sunday gatherings, Acts 20:7-8 does depict a meeting of Christ-followers on a Sunday: “On the first day of the week, when we were gathered together to break bread, Paul began talking to them, intending to leave the next day, and he prolonged his message until midnight. There were many lamps in the upper room where we were gathered together.” In order to interpret these verses, one must know that the inhabitants of the Roman Empire did not follow the seven-day week cycle. They had no weekends or even regularly-scheduled days off (besides the cultic holidays). The notion of a “day of rest” and the seven-day cycle was called σάββατον (sabbaton) or שׁבת (shabbat) was introduced to Romans by Jews and early Christians. 

For Romans, a day began at sunrise; but for Jews, a new day already started at the sunset (Gen 1:5). Since the “week” and the “first day” are Jewish temporal references, the “first day” mentioned in Acts 20:7-8 was Saturday evening, just after sunset, which explains the need for lamps (v.8). Beyond that, the “breaking of bread” (κλάσαι ἄρτον) does not describe the Eucharist, but rather the kind of normal, communal meal that we encounter in the Gospels (cf. Matt 14:19; 15:36; 26:26; Mk 6:41; Lk 22:19; 24:30, 35).

It makes sense that the early Christ-followers met on various days of the week (including Sunday). However, the New Testament never asserts that the followers of Yeshua abandoned the traditional observance of the Sabbath or treated Sunday as their preferred alternative.

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94 COMMENTS

  1. I believe that the early believers kept Shabbat. Then, it was only after the sun had set on Saturday evening would the meeting at the synagogue close that ordinary matters begin with discussions about money and provision for the community. Hence, the first day of the week had already started and the believers had taken offerings or distributed alms. At least, that is what I have been taught. I am wondering about why the scriptures mention Yeshua rising on the first day but not that it was the First Fruits? This surely is more important?
    • The authors are not always aware of what their readers know and what they do not know. They certainly cannot be sure of readers from another culture separated by thousands of years. They assume that the reader knows such things because in their world everyone does.

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    • Hello Alexandra - I would say that the scripture do not say that Messiah rose on first day. Mark 16:2, Luke 24:1, John 20:1, Matthew 28:1, John 20:19 all speak of people going to the tomb or seeing him, not when he rose.

      Mark 16:9 is often translated to indicate that he rose on first day, but the original text is not definitive and we see some translators rendering it differently, e.g. “Early on the first day of the week, after He had risen, . . .” (HCSB). It's all the same event, though, so consistency points to Shabbat resurrection.

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    • Bible never said yeshua arise on sunday : Mk 16.2 ? Luc 24.6 the tomb was empty .Yes Yeshua was cruxified on wednesday because thursday was the first day of unleaved bread and the first and the seventh day were annual sabbath as for every Eternal feasts : ex Lev16.29
    • David, I rarely intend for my articles to tell people what to do. That is not my place. My job is to interpret, but local communities of faith must apply what they learn. In my opinion, any day is appropriate as long as it does not displace Shabbat (which is not officially mandated as a worship day).
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  2. The Sabbath or Shabbat is clearly the Seventh Day. God made it clear that the 7th day was Holy to Him and should be kept as Holy by those who worship Him. However one can also worship HIm on other days as well.
  3. Very interesting! Thanks for sharing your knowledge.
    Lends credence to Romans 14, and why we shouldn't wrestle over days of the week & what to eat.
    Let Adonai who sees, knows & understands all--determine the condition of our hearts.

    Shalom,
    Cj
    JBUS Radio
    www.2faithfulbeachbums.com
    www.twofaithfulbeachbums.com
  4. Prof. Pinchas Shir; I appreciate very much the spirit with which you have answered this sometimes challenging topic. I need to do that more myself.
  5. THE ALMIGHTY Sanctified the Sabbath in Eden and Exodus 20. In Malachi, HE reiterated “I change not “Loved the article! Daniel spoke of a lawless one who would change time and law!Rambling , l know. YESHUA rose on the Sabbath! Love and Shalom.
  6. In genesis God completed His work on the Sabbath so work could be done on the Sabbath like taking care of animals. We do not celebrate dead works but rejoice in the New Covenant. We celebrate grace not works and the transition from works to grace started in the early church in the Book of Acts. So Christians do not celebrate deliverance from slavery in Egypt in the Passover but give thanks for deliverance from sin and hope of eternal life in the Eucharist,or as we say the Breaking of Bread or Communion Service. Forget the works of the law.
    • Sorry, I do not celebrate dead work either. The New Covenant is promised to the nation of Israel in Jer 31 and we embrace it with gladness. Other nations can embrace it together with us... God does not change!
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    • Amos Feeding animals was lawful as Jesus is not cruel. We should celebrate the Passover no Eucharist or Communion as Jesus Himself commanded. And works are a symbol that we love our Father and Jesus. True they do not save us James2: quoting some commandments o law no sin.
  7. Early Christains called Sunday The Lord's Day and worshipped on it remembering His resurrection. Search will find them. Justyn Martyr was one
    • Did you read my statement? I am not speaking about post-apostolic, era, but NT specifically. My claim is very specific and clear. I have read Justin Martyr too. :)
  8. I worship on sundays not on any other reasons'
    but just our Lord Jesus Christ rose on that day . I belive it is the day of victory....
    'what do you say ?
    GOD BLESS .
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    • Nev and Isikeli Taukeinikoro re sunday resurrection You choice as it is free will. However the bible clearly shows Jesus rose before sunset on the Sabbath as many others have testified, Mark16:9. There is no comma in Greek and the context is when the women arrived not the resurrection..
  9. Rom 14:8 one man considers one day more sacred, another considers everyday alike. Each one should consider everyday alike.... it really is not the day that is to be prioritized it must be our hearts intention that matters most to God. That’s my opinion.
    • Dear Louis, the context of Rom 14 does not address the sacredness of days as being proper or improper. That is not what it is about. If you read carefully, it is about judging people about things like that. So you cannot use this teaching to say - "all days are alike". Paul does not say that. Paul said - "do not judge people based on how they observe days".

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