THE PAGAN ROMANS AND GREEKS HAD NO WEEKLY DAY OF REST, OR FESTIVAL, OR WORSHIP.
Before you read this, you must read this from the Seventh-day Adventist theologian C. Mervyn Maxwell, Ph.D., professor of church history at Andrews University Theological Seminary, Berrien Springs, Michigan. He writes and confirms: “There is little evidence that the sun occupied the unique position attributed to it by some modern authors. When the Emperor Caracalla tried to impose sun worship in the early years of the third century, the Romans laughed at him. Although sun worship has always played a role in pagan religions, it wasn’t until the end of that century (3rd century) that the sun enjoyed real prominence among the Roman gods—and by that time many Christians, at least, had been observing Sunday for 150 years. In his Apology addressed to the Roman Government, the great Christian writer Tertullian specifically refuted the charge that Christians worshiped on Sunday in honor of the sun” (Source: Ministry Magazine, 1977).
One of the chief arguments which Seventh-Day Adventists make against Sunday worship is this: They say that the pagan nations, especially the Romans, regarded Sunday as a holiday, or festival day: a day of worship of their heathen gods, particularly the sun, on every Sunday, hence Sun-day.
When these pagans professed Christianity they gradually brought into the Church this pagan custom of a Sunday festival day. Then the apostate Roman Church adopted it from these heathens. So now we are keeping a pagan day, hateful to God. Their literature against Sunday-keeping is largely based on this theory as fundamental. Their “History of the Sabbath ” is saturated with this argument.
Their children and members believe it as firmly as they believe the Bible. Hence, they abominate Sunday worship and delight in showing contempt for it in every possible way. If they are wrong here the very bottom drops out of their anti-Sunday arguments.
Adventist Elder J. H. Waggoner says: “I only take it upon me to fully and clearly show that the Sunday has its origin as a day of regard and observance in paganism and the Papacy.” Scores of such statements are found in their works. By these assertions they frighten the common people into giving up Sunday, because they are not able to answer them. All such statements are absolutely untrue as the following evidence will abundantly prove.
I do not accuse the adventist brethren of any intent to deceive in this matter. Till nearly the last years I was with them, I myself taught the same thing. I did not mean to be untruthful, but, without personal investigation for myself, simply followed our older authors. I know that the other ministers did the same, and their ministers and writers do the same now. Their quotations on this subject in their recent publications easily prove that. It is not intentional dishonesty, but a lack of a candid investigation of historical facts as they really are.
“One of the outstanding features of modern life is the fact that specialized knowledge is always on tap for inquiring minds.“
Knowing that our great state and national institutions of learning maintain specialists in every line of knowledge, I decided to apply to them for information on this subject. These learned scholars would have no inducement to be one-sided or unfair.
These specialists have every possible means of information at hand and devote a lifetime of study to their particular branch of knowledge. It is their business to furnish to inquirers the results of their research. Hence I drew up a list of questions fully covering every possible phase of this subject, as will be seen. I carefully avoided giving any intimation of my views, or of the use I wished to make of their replies, so as not in any way to influence their answers.
The world-renowned British Museum is the highest authority to which I could refer, so I will give this first. I quote my letter to them with their answer to each question one after the other.
- Grand Rapids, Mich., Dec. 8, 1911
- British Museum, Department of History, London, England.
- Sir: I am commanded by the Assistant Keeper of Greek and Roman Antiquities to reply as follows to your questions on the ancient week:
- Q. 1. Did the pagan Romans and Greeks ever have any regular weekly day of rest from secular work?
- Ans. No.
- Q. 2. Did they have any regular weekly festival day?
- Ans. No.
- Q. 3. Did they have any regular weekly day when they assembled for pagan worship?
- Ans. No.
- Q. 4. Did they have any special day of the week when individuals went to the temples to pray or make offerings?
- Ans. No; both for Greeks and Romans the month was the unit and not the week. The Greek calendar varied in different states but the month was generally divided into three periods of ten days. The Romans reckoned from three fixed points in the month, the Kalend or first, the Nones fifth or seventh, the Ides thirteenth or fifteenth. These subdivisions in themselves had no religious significance. Also in the Roman calendars were nundinal, or market days, at periods of eight days, or, as the Romans reckoned time. On these days farm work, etc., stopped and citizens flocked into the town markets. To some extent this may be a regular stoppage of secular work.; but it had no religious significance, except that it was considered an evil omen when the nundinal coincided with other festival days, e. g., the: Nones. The nundinal period seems derived from a blundering reminiscence of a quarter of a lunar period, and there seems no connection with the later seven days’ week (see below).
- Q. 5. As Sunday was sacred to the Sun, Monday to the Moon, Saturday to Saturn, etc., were those supposed deities worshipped on their own particular days more than on any other days?
- Ans. No; the old worship of the gods was disappearing when the seven-day week came about. The significance of the deities’ names was astrological, not religious, e.g., if a person were born on Monday, the moon would influence his horoscope, but the moon was never an object of common worship.
- Q. 6. When was our week of seven days first introduced into the Roman calendar?
- Ans. There are traces in the literature of the late republic (first cent. B.C.) that the Romans used the week of seven days for astrological purposes, in connection with the many Eastern superstitions of the period. It was probably the third century, A.D. before the seven day week came into common use.
- Q.7. From whom did the Romans learn the week of seven days?
- Ans. From the Jews, alternately the Assyrians and Babylonians; the names were probably fixed by the Hellenistic Greeks.
- Q. 8. Did the pagan Greeks ever adopt in common life, or in their calendar, the week of seven days?
- Ans. No.
- Q. 9. Did Apollo, the Sun god, either among the Romans or Greeks, have any special day on which he was worshipped with prayers or offerings more than on any other day?
- Ans. There were certain set festivals at various temples; these were annual, not weekly.
- Q. 10. Did the pagan reverence for Sunday have anything to do in influencing Christians to select that day as their rest day?
- Ans. No; it can hardly be said that there was any special reverence forSunday in pagan times (see answer to No. 5).
- I am, sir,
- Your obedient servant,
- F. N. PRYCE.
You see this historian gives an unqualified NO to all the questions. Notice particularly that the names of the days of the week were all only astrological, not religious.
There was no religious sacredness attached to a day because it was named after some planet as Sun-day – Sun’s day – or Mon-day, Moon’s day, etc. The sun was not worshipped on Sunday, nor the moon on Monday, nor Saturn on Saturday, etc.
Also notice carefully that Apollo was not worshipped on Sunday or on any weekday. His festival days were annual, not weekly, as Adventists have taught. Then note that there was no special reverence for Sunday in pagan times. Here again Adventists are proved to be entirely wrong. This again destroys all their contention that Sunday sacredness originated with pagans. The proof is abundant that no such thing was ever known among the pagan Romans or Greeks. Hence, Sunday-keeping could not have originated with them.
Our next witness is from the Smithsonian Institute, Washington, D.C. This great institution of learning is supported by the United States Government. Here the highest qualified specialists in every line of knowledge are employed. Here they have access to every possible means of up-to-date information in the Library of Congress, etc. It will be seen that I addressed nearly the same questions to this learned body and that the answers are the same as from the British Museum:
- Smithsonian Institute, Washington, D.C. September 23, 1914
- REV. D. M. CANRIGHT, Grand Rapids, Mich.
- Dear Sir:
- I have referred your letter of September 14th to Dr. I. M. Casonawicz, Assistant Curator of Old World Archeology, who furnishes the following replies to your several inquiries:
- 1. Did the pagan Romans and Greeks ever have any regular weekly day of rest from secular work?
- Ans. No.
- 2. Did they ever have any weekly festival day?
- Ans. No.
- 3. Did they have any regular weekly day when they assembled for paganworship?
- Ans. No.
- 4. When was our calendar of the week first introduced among the Romans and Greeks?
- Ans. The division of the month into weeks was introduced into Rome from Egypt. The date is uncertain, but it was not earlier than the second century, A.D.
- 5. When was our calendar of the week first recognized in Roman law?
- Ans. The earliest Sunday legislation was enacted under Constantine I, 321 A.D. No legislation of earlier date on the division of the month is known.
- 6. As each day of the week was dedicated to some god, as Sunday to the Sun, Monday to the Moon, Saturday to Saturn, etc., was each of these supposed deities worshipped on one particular day more than any other day?
- Ans. No.
- 7. Did the pagan Romans have anyone special day in the week when individuals, if they chose, went to make prayers or offerings to their gods?
- Ans. No.
- 8. Did Apollo have any special day in the week or month more than any other day when he was worshipped with prayers or offerings?
- Ans. No.
- Very truly yours,
- R. RATHBORN, Assistant Sec. in charge of National Museum.
Here we have two of the most reliable witnesses in the world perfectly agreeing. If their testimony is worth anything, then Adventists must revise their theory that Sunday worship originated with pagans.
But here is another witness confirming the other two but giving the answer more in detail. Harvard University, Cambridge, Mass., is the oldest and best known university in America. I addressed the same questions there. George F. Moore, professor of Ancient Roman and Greek History, furnished me the following complete account of all the Roman and Greek festivals. It completely destroys all claim for any pagan sacredness ofSunday.
Professor Moore wrote me as follows:
- Divinity Ave., Cambridge, Mass., May 24, 1913
- Dear Sir:
- There are two seven-day weeks: the Jewish week, with a Sabbath on the seventh day; and the Astrological week, with days named after the sun, moon, and five planets, in our order determined by the theories of astrology, but without any day of rest. The combination of the two is Christian.
- The Astrological week first appears in Greek and Latin writings about the beginning of the Christian era. Its antecedents are unknown. It had no use in ordinary life. Abstinence from labor on the seventh day, or on one day in seven, is a distinctively Jewish institution. The edict of Constantine (321 A.D.) closing the courts on Sunday and prohibiting some kinds of labor on that day, is the first recognition of a seven-day week in Roman law. The ancient Romans had a market day every eight days, when the peasants came to town to market, but it was in no sense a day of rest. In the old Roman calendar there were many days when the courts were closed and other public and private business was not done. They had also many festivals on which the people left their ordinary occupation to take part in the celebrations, but these have no periodicity like that of the week.
- Very truly yours,
- GEORGE F. MOORE
In a second letter he says:
Dear Sir: In reply to your inquiries in your letter of November 23d, I would say:
- 1. The planetary week in which the days were named from their regents, Saturday, Sunday, etc., was an invention of the astrologers, probably in the second century, B.C., and has no relation to religion or influence upon it. Saturn, for example, was not worshipped on Saturday, nor Jupiter on Thursday. The festivals of the several gods were never weekly festivals, nor did they occur on days fixed by other divisions of the month, say the tenth day.
- Yours very truly,
- GEORGE F. MOORE
It will readily be seen that this is a valuable historical document covering in detail every phase of Roman and Greek festivals. A weekly Sunday festival was utterly unknown to either pagan nation.
No weekly worship or sacredness whatever attached to Sunday. Our Advent brethren, if candid, must abandon that theory.
The Romans, centuries after Christ, learned the week of seven days, partly from Egyptian astrology and partly from Christians and Jews. The “Standard Dictionary,” Article “Week,” says: “It was not, introduced into the Roman calendar till after the reign of Theodosius in the fourth century.”
The “Universal Dictionary of the English Language,” Article “Week,” says: “During the early centuries of their history the Greeks and Romans had not the institution of the week.”
Webster’s Dictionary, Article “Week,” says: “The week did not enter into the calendar of the Greeks, and was not introduced at Rome till after the reign of Theodosius.“
Constantine had been dead over forty years before Theodosius began to reign. So at the time when Constantine issued his Sunday law, A.D. 321, his pagan subjects did not use the week of seven days, hence, could not have, kept the first day of our week till taught it by Christians and required by Constantine’s law.
Prof. A. Rauschenbusch, of Rochester Theological Seminary, quotes Lotz thus: “It is a vain thing to attempt to prove that the Greeks and Romans had anything resembling the Sabbath. Such opinion is refuted even by this, that the Roman writers ridicule the Sabbath as something peculiar to the Jews. In proof he cites many passages from the Roman poets, and one from Tacitus. Seneca also condemned the Sabbath observance of the Jews as a waste of time by which a seventh part of life was lost.” (“Saturday or Sunday,” p. 83)
Herzog says: “No special religious celebration of anyone day of the week can be pointed out in anyone of the pagan religions” (Article “Sabbath”).
The early Christian Father, Tertullian, A.D. 200, bears a decisive testimony that the pagans had no weekly festival, did not keep the Lord’s Day with Christians. Reproving Christians for attending heathen feasts, he says: “Oh, truer fealty of the heathen to their own religion which taketh to itself no rite of the Christians. We are not afraid lest we be openly declared to be heathen! If thou must needs have some indulgence for the flesh too, thou hast it and thou hast not only as many days as they, but even more. For the heathen festival is on but one day in every year, thine upon every eighth day. Gather out the several solemn feasts of the heathen and set them out in order; they will not be able to make up a Pentecost.” (Ante-Nicene Lib.,” Vol. XI, pp. 162-163)
Notice that he says the heathen did not have a festival on the Lord’s Day, nor on Pentecost, and that the heathen festivals came only “once a year” not every week, like the Christian Day. He says that all their feast days, if gathered together, would not be as much as Pentecost. This is decisive, that the heathen did not have a weekly festival day, nor did they have a festival on the same day the Christians did; viz., on the Lord’s Day.
Johnson’s “New Universal Encyclopedia,” Article “Week,” says: “The Greeks divided the month into periods of ten days, and the Romans gathered the days into periods of eight days; with both, the first day of a period was market day, on which country people came to town and stirred up both business and public life. The period of seven days, the week proper, was introduced to the Romans and Greeks, partly by Christianity, partly by Egyptian astronomy.”
This demolishes the theory that keeping the first day of our Christian week came to Christians from the pagan Romans. Exactly the opposite is true. The Jew and Christians taught it to the pagan Romans.
Schaff, in his “Church History,” says: “The pagan Romans paid no more regard to the Christian Sunday than to the Jewish Sabbath.”
The “Encyclopedia Americana,” Article “Week,” says: “The Romans and Greeks each divided the months into periods, and were not acquainted with the week till a late period. The Romans had, however, for civil uses, as the arrangement of market days, a cycle of eight days, the ninth being the recurring one, instead of the eighth as with us.”
It is claimed by (now some) Adventists that Sunday, as a day of worship, came into the Church from pagan Rome. Hence, that is the only question to settle. The simple fact that Sunday was named from the sun, dedicated to the sun, or was sacred to the sun, does not furnish the slightest evidence that people ceased work on that day.
Every day in the week was named from some supposed deity and was sacred to that god. “The World’s Standard Dictionary” says: “Monday, the day sacred to the moon.” Did pagans worship the moon that day? Did they cease work that day? Saturday was Saturn’s day, sacred to Saturn. Did they rest that day? So of all the days of the week. If they rested every day named after some god, when would they work? Sunday was no more sacred than any other day and pagans reverenced none.
So plain is the evidence on this subject that some of the best read Adventists have admitted that pagans did not rest from work on Sunday. Thus Elder J. H. Waggoner says of Constantine’s Sunday law, A.D. 321: “Though the venerable day of the sun had long – very long – been venerated by them and their heathen ancestors, the idea of rest from worldly labor in his worship was entirely new.” (Replies to Elder Canright, p. 130)
Mark this confession, for it gives up the main pillar of their argument in their effort to prove that Sunday-keeping was taken from the pagans. The pagans never kept Sunday. It was a new idea to them when they were required to cease work that day! Where did they get that new idea? From the emperor who had just recently professed Christianity. He got it from his Christian brethren who had always kept it!
See the folly of arguing that the pagans taught Christians to keep Sunday, when the pagans themselves had never kept it.
Here we have witnesses from Seventh-Day Adventist Sabbath keepers themselves, confessing that the pagans had no weekly day of rest from common work. Of course, they could say nothing else, for all history says the same. So then this point is settled beyond denial.
But Adventists believe and teach it as a fact while all reliable evidence shows that it is all absolutely untrue.
The strong, clear, united historical quotations prove, beyond denial, that the pagan Romans never had any religious regard for Sunday, never had the week of seven days in common life, or in their calendar, or in their civil or religious laws. The very first deference they ever paid to Sunday was in obedience to the law of Constantine the first Christian emperor.
Because one day was named Sunday, sun’s day, and because the ancient Babylonians and others worshipped the sun, therefore Adventists always assume and assert that Sunday was specially devoted to the worship of the sun.
This ready assumption is entirely groundless. Each day of the week was named from some planet. So also the answers from the above quoted historians all agree that names of the days are purely astrological, not religious. Sun worship had no connection with Sunday whatever, no more than any other day.
Lord’s day originated from the Bible!
1 Century evidence
Jewish Sabbath no longer a Christian obligation:
Col. 2:16, 17 ”Therefore no one is to act as your judge in regard to food or drink or in respect to a festival or a new moon or a Sabbath day”
Christians can treat every day alike or consider some days sacred:
Rom. 14:5 One person esteems one day as better than another, while another esteems all days alike. Each one should be fully convinced in his own mind.
A.D. 53 – Weekly giving commanded on Sundays for all the churches of Galatia:
1 Corinthians 16:1-2 ‘Now concerning the collection for the saints, as I have given orders to the churches of Galatia, so you must do also: 2 On the first day of the week let each one of you lay something aside, storing up as he may prosper, that there be no collections when I come.
A.D. 60 – Christian met every day for worship, also gathered for communion on Sunday :
Acts 20:7 “And on the first day of the week, when we were gathered together to break bread”
Early Christians met on Sunday for worship, communion. Never on the Jewish Sabbath for it was abolished (see: Sabbath is ceremonial! Sunday is not a Christian Sabbath or a day of rest, or a holy day to be kept. No more holy days, but Christians met for assembly on the first day since the time of the apostles:
2nd to 3rd century evidence
AD 140 – Justin Martyr (Rome) wrote:
“Sunday is the day on which we all hold our common assembly … Jesus Christ on the same day rose from the dead” (Apology, I.67).
Ignatius (Antioch) wrote:
”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. (Ignatius, Epistle to the Magnesians, chp 9. Ante-Nicene Fathers , vol. 1, pg. 62-63.)
Early Christians understood Sunday as the Lord’ day. John wrote:
Revelation 1:10 ‘I was in the Spirit on the Lord’s Day’
AD 180 – Bardesanes, Edessa (Asia) wrote:
“On one day the first of the week, we assemble ourselves together.” Book of the Laws of Countries.
AD 194 – Clement of Alexandria (Egypt) wrote:
He does the commandment according to the Gospel and keeps the Lord’s day, whenever he puts away an evil mind . . . glorifying the Lord’s resurrection in himself. (Vii.xii.76.4)
AD 200 – Tertullian in Africa:
“We solemnize the day after Saturday in contradiction to those who call this day their Sabbath.” Apology, Chapter XVI. “We however, just as we have received, only on the day of the Lord’s resurrection, ought to guard not only against kneeling, but even posture and office of solicitude, deferring even our business.” On Prayer, Chapter XXIII.
The New Testament does not give a single example of Christians conducting their religious services on the Sabbath after the resurrection of Christ because Sabbath is abolished (See: No Sabbath in Acts).
For the first several centuries of the church’s existence, the written testimony is uniform that Christians met for worship on Sunday. Dr. Schaff says: “The universal and uncontradicted Sunday observance in the second century can only be explained by the fact that it had its root in apostolic practice.” History of the Christian church, Vol. I, page 478.
There have always been a few sabbatarians, but never the mainstream. They have always been fringe groups and considered heretical or cultic by the main church. Most of them were rooted in Judaism (Jewish converts to Christianity) and not gentile churches. The Ebiionites are an example. Then, Sabbatarians began to be resurrected in England in the time of the Reformation, over five hundred years ago. Yet, they (likes of the SDA’s, church of God) remain outside of mainstream today.
However, they have grown their numbers through the spread of false information (such as sunday is pagan, catholic church changed the Sabbath day in the 3rd century, Sabbath law is universal), conspiracy theories (sunday law etc), and a false understanding of the doctrine of law (see: Decalogue examined, Covenants).
Adapted: The Lord’s Day From Neither Catholics Nor Pagans by Dudley Marvin. Retrieved from: truthorfables.com
Thank you for this posting! I love the research that was done. But here is a video arguing from a different perspective, from a man who says we are not Christians if we worship on Saturday or Sunday! I say this is Judaizing. It’s not much of a compelling argument in light of Christ being our Sabbath. Would you please give your opinion on this short video? TIA~ And have a blessed day in the Lord, amen! \o/
Hi Sherry, I am neither against or for for lunar sabbath. The primary claim of lunar Sabbatarians is that the Jews kept the Sabbath according to the lunar calendar prior to the building of the second temple, and there appear to be some historical evidence for it. It is likely that the idea of a fixed calendar would have been unfathomable to the civilizations of the world back then. It appears that in these ancient times the concept of a week existed, but not that of a fixed week. Hence, a lunar base calendar would have helped the ancients to keep track of time. In any case, the Sabbath is a “shadow” whether one argues for a weekly 7th day or lunar based sabbath observances. Sabbat is a ritual law that is no longer a requirement for Christians. Christians have the liberty to observe such days in the new covenant. Check our Revelations commentary: https://reachingadventistschristiansandothers.com/revelation-commentary/
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