Catholic Church Changed the Sabbath?

Adventists and certain Sabbatarians claim that the Sabbath was changed to Sunday by the Catholic Church, and Constantine during the 3rd century. This is utterly false both Biblically and historically, as the practice of meeting on the first day started with the apostles, and continued with the early church in the 1st, 2nd centuries, and it continues till today given the commands, and example of the apostles, and early Christians.
Adventist misquote certain recent century Catholic and Protestant quotes : Catholic & Protestant Confessions as proof that the Catholic Church changed it. But in this Adventist ignore, fail to state, another claim which all these same Catholic authorities always make just as strongly, namely, that their Holy Catholic Church extends back to, and began with, the apostles, who started this practice of meeting on Sunday.
What about these Catholic and Protestant ‘Sabbath was changed’ quotes? 
Firstly, none of those quotes, whether from first or 20th century has any bearing on the Sabbath issue, because the New Testament has settled that the weekly ritual ceremonial Sabbath is a shadow, and is not binding on Christians. Christians can treat every day alike, or consider some days sacred (like the seventh day if you may). However, there is no command or obligation for Christians to observe the seventh day, or Sunday or any day  as a holy day or day of rest for that matter in the new testament (neither in Genesis).
Neither is there an example of Gentile Christians observing the Sabbath anywhere in the New Testament. Of course Jewish converts to Christianity observed not only the Sabbath days, feast days, circumcision laws, purification laws and other laws of the law of Moses, as the Jerusalem church shows in Acts (obviously for valid reasons as they took time to transition out of that old system), until God revealed through the apostles that they are shadows and are no longer binding.
Sabbath was purely a Jewish ritual law, and  none of the Sabbtarians today observe the God commanded Sabbath laws which require not worship or church attendance, but ceasing from labor on the seventh day (Ex. 20:9-10), no travelling (Ex 16:29-30) , no cooking (Ex. 16:23) , no buying (Neh 13:15-17), not working others (Ex. 20:9-10) in any way, among other things. Based on these specific Sabbaths commands, most Sabbatarians are Sabbath breakers.

Secondly, no where in Scripture is it stated that the Sabbath was changed from the 7th day to the 1st day.

If someone (CATHOLIC OR PROTESTANT) say that Sabbath was changed to 1st day from 7th, it is utterly false! Sunday is not a Christian Sabbath or a day of rest, or a holy day to be kept. It was a day Christians gathered to celebrate the resurrection of Christ, for communion (Acts 20:7), and give offerings (1 Corinthians 16:1-2), and they did not view it as the Jewish Sabbath, for they believed that it was abolished (Col. 2:16).
Justin Martyr, an early christian apologist, who was born 70 years after Christ 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).

The belief that the Sabbath was transferred to Sunday is an old error (puritans believed this Sunday Sabbath error, and some protestants still do; but we we disagree with).

The reformers, Calvin and Luther, were careful to state that the Sabbath was not binding on Christians as expressed in the new covenant, but they saw merit in taking a day for rest and worship. It was not until the English Reformation that the Decalogue Sabbath began being promoted. The chief proponents of this were the Puritans. They began to teach that the Sabbath (although they called Sunday the Sabbath) was not abolished, and they instituted strict rules according to the Old Testament regulations. This, of course, affected the other religious English groups, such as the Methodists and the Baptists. Many of these groups came to America, and New England became known for strict Sabbath (Sunday) observance.


We believe what Jesus and the apostles taught was that the ritual Sabbath was a shadow that was fulfilled in Christ (not transferred to another day). These quotes by protestants do nothing to disprove or negate the teaching of the apostles that the ritual Sabbath was abolished!

In fact, this is exactly what some of these protestants that SDA’s fondly quote were also saying, ‘Sunday is not another Sabbath nor a day of rest nor a holy day‘, and neither were they promoting that the Jewish Sabbath should be observed and yet Adventists misquote these statements by ripping them out of their context, propagating that these authors supported the Jewish Sabbath day.

Take for example the quote SDA quote by the following protestant:

Alexander Campbell, The Christian Baptist, Feb. 2, 1824,vol. 1. no. 7, p. 164. “‘But,’ say some, ‘it was changed from the seventh to the first day.’ Where? when? and by whom? No man can tell”
Absolutely true! The Sabbath was abolished, not changed to Sunday! Campbell taught that the Sabbath was abolished like most other protestant writers!
The first day of the week is commonly called the Sabbath. This is a mistake. The Sabbath of the Bible was the day just preceding the first day of the week. The first day of the week is never called the Sabbath anywhere in the entire Scriptures. It is also an error to talk about the change of the Sabbath from Saturday to Sunday. There is not in any place in the Bible any intimation of such a change.” (Alexander Campbell, First Day Observance, pp. 17, 19)

”Under the new constitution all disciples live if they knew it; and if you go back to Moses for a Sabbath, you may go back to him for a new moon, a holy day or what you please. And indeed we are, and must be confessed to be, either under the old constitution or the new. We cannot be under both. We cannot live under the English and American constitution at the same time. If I were to go to Moses for a “Seventh Day Sabbath,” I should not blush to take from him an eighth day circumcision or an annual passover. The Christian Baptist, Vol. 3 No. 1, August 1, 1825, pp. 177-178:

”He that keeps the Sabbath of the Jews is a debtor, to do the whole law (torah). The Sabbath could not be changed from the seventh day to the first day, for the reasons given for its observance; nor can the first day of the week be changed into a Jewish or Patriarchal Sabbath, for the reasons which consecrated it to the Lord. (Millennial Harbinger of 1837, p. 279)

So, the protestant quotes that SDA’s quote means nothing. They are misquoted!  Most of these protestants understood that the Bible teaches that Sabbath is a ritual law fulfilled at the cross, no more binding, and Sunday is not the Sabbath, but Sunday is a day for Christian common assembly.
What about the Catholic quotes?
Adventists assume and argue on the assumption that the “Catholic Church” began to be formed about three hundred years after Christ.  However, if the popes or Catholic Church, or Constantine did change the Sabbath (ex: 3rd century), the change could not have been made before that late date (ex:1st & 2nd century).  
Adventists find, and gladly quote, a large number of Catholic catechisms, Catholic priests, and Catholic challenges to Protestants, all boasting that the Holy Catholic Church changed the Sabbath.  Adventists say that this settles the question. 

But in this Adventist ignore, fail to state, another claim which all these same Catholic authorities always make just as strongly, namely, that their Holy Catholic Church extends back to, and began with, the apostles, and that the change was made by them.  If Adventists accept one claim of the Catholics, then, to be fair, they should accept both.  But this would overthrow their argument.

We wish Adventists might see error and stupidity in presenting all these statements trying to prove their case and tell the whole truth! 

We will begin with the very highest authority, in the Catholic Church – the Council of Trent. “The Catechism of the Council of Trent,” published by order of Pius IV, contains the creed of the Church.  Every member has to swear to this creed when he joins the Church, hence it is authoritative.  It devotes eight pages to the Sabbath question.  It says:

The Sabbath was kept holy from the time of the liberation of the people of Israel from the bondage of Pharaoh; the obligation was to cease with the abrogation of the Jewish worship, of which it formed a part; and it therefore was no longer obligatory after the death of Christ. The apostles therefore resolved to consecrate the first day of the week to the divine worship, and called it ‘the Lord’s Day’; St.  John, in the Apocalypse, makes mention of ‘the Lord’s Day’; and the apostle commands collection to be made ‘on the first day of the week,’ that is, according to the interpretation of St.  Chrysostom, on the Lord’s Day;” (pages 264, 265).

Notice that this creed says the apostles consecrated the day; it was was called the Lord’s Day.  The Scriptures are quoted to prove all this.  This is the creed of the Roman Church.

Any Catholic priest or writer teaching differently contradicts the sacred creed of his own Church and violates his oath to believe and teach it. Only a misinformed, uneducated group of men, could misquote such statements!

The following is a decisive witness to the position of the Catholic Church as to when they say the day was changed and who changed it.  It is a comment on Acts 20:7, in the Catholic Bible itself.  Observe how they place the change:

”And on the first day of the week.’ Here St.  Chrysostom, with many other interpreters of the Scripture, explain that the Christians, even at this time, must have changed the Sabbath into the first day of the week (the Lord’s Day), as all Christians now keep it: This change was undoubtedly made by the authority of the Church: hence the exercise of the power which Christ had given to her; for He is Lord of the Sabbath.”

In 1913 Monsignor John Bunyan was the special representative of the Pope in America.  Next to the Pope, he was then the highest official authority of that Church in the United States, and what he says is authoritative.  “Why Sunday is the First Day” was the title of an article he furnished the Washington Times, October 11, 1913.  He says:

“In the New Law the time for the fulfillment of this [Sabbath] obligation was changed by the apostles from the Sabbath, or the seventh day of the week, to Sunday, or the first day of the week, primarily to commemorate the resurrection of Jesus Christ, who, early in the morning on the first day of the week, arose, glorious and triumphant, from the dead.  Hence it is that in Scripture, the first, day of the week is called the ‘Lord’s Day’ (Rev 1:10).  It was also on this same day of the week that the Holy Ghost came down upon the apostles, and that the faith and law of Christ was for the first time solemnly published to the world by them.”

On this the Advent Review and Herald, October 23, 1913, says:

“As we read this article we should not forget that we are reading the deliberate declaration of the highest official in America of that Church which claims to reach back to Apostolic days.”

Here, then, by the highest authority deliberately stated, is the teaching of the Roman Catholic Church as to who changed the Sabbath and the time when it was done.  It was done by the apostles, in the time of the apostles.  All Seventh-Day Adventists certainly know this, for it was published by the editor in their official organ, The Advent Review.  Now will they cease teaching that the Catholic Church claims to have changed the Sabbath several hundred years after Christ without Apostolic authority?  PLEASE NOTE the question here is not whether the apostles really did make the change, and all their claims about the sanctity of sunday or if Sunday is the Sabbath, but what does the Catholic Church claim about it, and when they say they did it?  The papal delegate has settled that.

Cardinal Gibbons comes next in authority. Here is the answer:

Baltimore, Md.,July 1896

Dear Sir: In reply to your favor of the 20th inst., to his Eminence the Cardinal, I beg to say:

First.  The Catholic Church dates back to the day when our Lord made St.  Peter the visible head of the Church, and when St.  Peter established, first at Antioch, then at Rome, the seat of his residence and jurisdiction.

In these days and those immediately following, we find traces of the beginning of the custom of the Sunday observance.  You may refer to the Christian writers of that period.  (Confer Ignatius ad Magnes, 9; Justin Martyr, 1, Apol.  59; Tertul., Apol.  16.) All these writers speak of the Sunday as the Lord’s Day; no other more distinct trace has been preserved, and the mention which occurs in the following centuries rests on the fact of a previous custom more or less general.

After the Cardinal, the next highest dignitary in America is Archbishop Ireland.  In answer to our question as to when the Catholic Church changed the Sabbath, this high prelate answered as follows:

St.  Paul, March 1914

My dear Sir:

In answer to your question I would state that the Jewish Sabbath was simply a positive precept in the Mosaic law and lapsed with that law.  The apostles and early Christians instituted the Sunday as a day of special prayer in honor of the great mysteries of the Christian religion, the resurrection and the coming of the Holy Spirit, both occurring on the first day of the week.

Very sincerely, JOHN IRELAND.

That is clear, positive, and directly to the point.  Here is another high Catholic authority, “The Catholic Encyclopedia on Doctrine,” Article, “Sunday”:

“Sunday was the first day of the week according to the Jewish method of reckoning time, but for the Christians it began to take the place of the Jewish Sabbath in apostolic times as the day set apart for the public solemn worship of God” (Acts 20:7; 1 Cor.  16:2; Rev.  1:10).

The same Encyclopedia, Article, “Sabbath,” says:

St.  Paul enumerates the Sabbath among the Jewish observances which are not obligatory on Christians (Col.  2:16; Gal.  4:9-10; Rom.  14:5).  The Gentile converts held their religious meetings on Sunday (Acts 20:7; 1 Cor.  16:2), and with the disappearance of the Jewish Church, with the Christian Churches the day was exclusively observed as the” Lord’s Day.”

Notice that Catholics quote the same texts as Protestants do to indicate the change.  They trace its origin to the New Testament and thus claim Scripture authority for it.  It will be seen that all these high Catholic authorities agree in locating the change in the days of the apostles and by the apostles.

The following is from “The Catholic Dictionary, the Universal Christian Educator, Containing Doctrine of the Church,” by Rev.  Wm.  A.  Addis and Thomas Arnold, A.M., both of the Royal University of Ireland.  Endorsed by Cardinal Manning and Cardinal McClosky.  There could be no better Catholic authority.  Now read, Article, “Sunday”:

The precept of observing the Sabbath was completely abrogated in the Christian Church.  In commemoration of Christ’s resurrection, the Church observes Sunday.  The observance does not rest on any positive law, of which there is no trace.  Sunday is of merely ecclesiastical institution, dating however from the time of the apostles.  Such is the opinion of St.  Thomas.  The Scripture given above (Acts 20:7; 1 Cor.  16:2; Rev.  1:10) shows that the observance of Sunday had begun in the apostolic age; but even were Scripture silent, tradition would put the point beyond doubt.”

I quote all these to show only one point; viz., the time when Catholics claim the change was made by the Church.  They all say it was made by the apostles.  No other date is given or suggested.

Now read the written testimony of two Catholic priests:


“Having lived for years among the Seventh-Day Adventists, I am familiar with their claims that the Pope of Rome changed the Sabbath from the seventh to the first day of the week.  Such assertions are wholly unfounded.  Catholics claim no such thing; but maintain that the apostles themselves established the observance of Sunday and that we received it by tradition from them. The councils and Popes afterwards simply confirmed the keeping of the day as received from the apostles.” JOHN MEILER, Rector of St.  John’s Church, Healdsburg, Cal.

A leading Catholic priest of Grand Rapids, Mich., who readily signed it, as will be seen below:

“The Catholic doctrine of the change of the Sabbath is this:

The apostles, by instruction from Jesus Christ, changed the Sabbath from Saturday to Sunday to commemorate the resurrection of Christ and the descent of the Holy Ghost, both of which occurred on Sunday.  The change was made by the apostles themselves, and hence by divine authority, at the very beginning of the Church.  There are references to this change in Acts 20:7; 1 Cor.  16:1, 2; Rev.  1:10, etc.  Yet these texts do not state positively such a change; hence Catholics go to the statements of the early Christian Fathers, where this change by the apostles is confirmed and put beyond doubt.

Catholics also rely upon the tradition of the Church which says that the change was made by the apostles.  Catholics never teach that the change of the day was made by the Church two or three hundred years after Christ.  Such a statement would be contrary to all the facts of history and the traditions of the Church.

Even SDA top scholar Samuel Bachiochi proved that Ellen White is a false prophet and her denominations claim that Pope changed the Sabbath was false: I differ from Ellen White, for example, on the origin of Sunday. She teaches that in the first centuries all Christians observed the Sabbath and it was largely through the efforts of Constantine that Sundaykeeping was adopted by many Christians in the fourth century. My research shows otherwise. ( “Free Catholic Mailing List” on 8 Feb 1997)

Not just history, and the new testament, and even SDA scholars admit that all SDA claims about WHEN AND WHO DID THE CHANGE are wrong, and not to be trusted!

Here’s more:

“The Holy Catholic Church began with the apostles.  St.  Peter was the first Pope.  Hence, when they say that the Church changed the Sabbath, they mean that it was done by the Church in the days of the apostles.  Neither the Church nor the Pope, two or three hundred years after the apostles, had anything whatever to do with changing the Sabbath, for the change had been made ages before.  Catholics do not call the first day of the week the Sabbath, for that was Saturday; but they call it Sunday, or the Lord’s Day.  This above statement by Rev.  D.  M.  Canright is true and pure Catholic doctrine.” Rev.  James C.  Pulcher, Pastor of St.  James’ Church, Grand Rapids, Mich.

See how all these Catholic authorities agree.  Now come to the catechisms which Adventists are so fond of quoting.  This is from a ” Systematic Study of the Catholic Religion.” It is the one used by all students in the Catholic High School in Grand Rapids, Mich.  On page 294 I read, “The Church from the time of the apostles has changed the Sabbath into the Lord’s Day.” In the Advent book, “Who Changed the Sabbath?” page 9, the following is quoted from the “Catholic Christian Instructed.”

“Quest.  What are the days which the Church commands to be kept holy?

“Ans.  The Sunday, or our Lord’s Day, which we observe by apostolic tradition instead of the Sabbath.”

You see this catechism refers the change of the Sabbath back to the apostles the same as all other Catholic writers do.  The Church did this in the time of the apostles, Here follows another from the same catechism:

“Quest.  What warrant have you for keeping the Sunday, preferable to the ancient Sabbath, which was the Saturday?

” Ans.  We have for it the authority of the Catholic Church, and apostolic tradition.”

Here we are again referred right back to the apostles as before.

“A Full Course of Instruction in Explanation of the Catechism,” by Rev.  J.  Perry, edited and adapted to the present wants of Colleges, Academies, and Private Families, by a priest of the Mission.  It is endorsed by the Archbishop of St.  Louis, Mo.  Notice that this is the authority studied in families, high schools, colleges, and academies.  Is there any better witness?  Now read: “Third [Sabbath] commandment.  Its obligation transferred from Saturday to Sunday.”

“What day of the week is the seventh day or Sabbath Day?” “It is Saturday.” “Then why do we not keep Saturday holy?” ” Because the Church in the apostles’ time transferred the obligation from the seventh to the first day of the week.” “Why was this done?” “In honor of Jesus Christ, and therefore the first day of the week is called the Lord’s Day (Rev.  1:10).  It was on the first day of the week (or Sunday) that Christ rose from the dead; that He commissioned His apostles to teach all nations; that He empowered them to forgive sins; that He sent down upon them the Holy Ghost; it was on this day that the apostles began to preach the doctrines of Christ and to establish the Christian religion “(pages 168-169).

But do not the catechism and Catholic writers, when controverting Protestants, assert that the “Holy Catholic Church” changed the day?  Certainly, but they also claim that the Catholic Church began with the apostles who changed the day.  Do not Adventists know this?  Yes.  Why, then, do they not tell the whole facts in the case? Let them answer.

Consider the high Catholic authorities quoted on this subject – the Council of Trent; the papal delegate, Cardinal Gibbons; Archbishop Ireland; the Catholic Encyclopedia; the Catholic Dictionary; written statements of priests; and the teachings of the catechism.  All agree that the change in the day was made by the apostles.  Beyond dispute, this establishes the doctrine of the Catholic Church on the origin of the Lord’s Day.  Not a single Catholic authority can be quoted teaching that the change of the Sabbath was made by the Popes or by the Papacy centuries later. 

That is purely an invention of Seventh-Day Adventists.  Here, then, is the testimony of the millions of Roman Catholics, all agreeing that the observance of Sunday as the Lord’s Day originated with the apostles.  Now if Adventists quote the Catholics, then let them abide by their testimony.

Now read “Rome’s Challenge,” “Father Enright’s Challenge,” and a lot of other Catholic “challenges,” which Adventists gleefully gather up and endorse and peddle the world over as unanswerable. 

Read them very carefully and notice particularly that not one of these Catholic “challenges” ever locates the time when the “Catholic Church” made the change.  In all these “Challenges” they adroitly leave this point out, and presume on the ignorance of the general public, which supposes that the Catholic Church began centuries after Christ.  Then Adventists take advantage of this popular idea of the Catholic Church and locate the change about 300 years after Christ.  Such deception is unworthy of Christian teachers.

The position of Protestants on the abolition of the Sabbath is so well known that no proof need be given.  All hold that apostles came together on first day.   Catholics claim just the same as Protestants do that the change of the day was made in the time of the apostles and by the apostles and quote Acts 20:7; 1 Cor.  16:2; Rev.  1:10 to prove it just as Protestants do.  The only difference is that Roman Catholics claim that their Church goes back to the apostles, begins with them and includes them.  Hence, when the apostles changed the day it was done by the “Holy Catholic Church.”

That is the whole of it.  This is exactly what all Protestants teach, except that they deny that the apostles were Roman Catholics.  Adventists deny it too.  So as to when, why, where, and by whom the day was changed Catholics agree exactly with Protestants, and contradict what Adventists quote them to prove.  Reader, remember this, and that Adventist bugbear will frighten you no more.

Hastings’ “Dictionary of the Bible,” Article “Lord’s Day,” says, “When Jesus uttered the cry, ‘It is finished,’ the Mosaic dispensation virtually passed away.  His Resurrection, Ascension, and Outpouring of the Holy Spirit were successive affirmations of the great fact, and the destruction of the temple made it plain to all but the blindest.  But in the meantime nothing is more striking than the tender way in which the apostles and Christians of Jewish birth were weaned from the old religion.  The dead leaves of Judaism fell off gradually.  They were not rudely torn off by man.  The new facts, the new dogmas, the new ordinances first established themselves, and then, little by little, the incompatibility of the old and the new was realized which necessarily issued in the casting off of the old as apostles instructed these through divine inspiration.

“The old things of Judaism were made new in Christianity.  This, however, was not accomplished by a deliberate substitution of one ordinance for another; but first the old ordinances were simply antiquated, and their experience matured under the influence of the Holy Spirit, proved that the positive institutions of the new religion more than fulfilled those of the old.” “Jesus enunciated the great truths of the Gospel, and left them to germinate and bear fruit through their own inherent power”.

Adventists are very good at accumulating out of context quotes to uphold their view that the Sabbath was always the day Christians observed until the Catholic Church changed the day. 

Scripture shows that there is no Sabbath in Genesis, the Jewish Sabbath is a ritual done away, and Christians can treat every day alike. The only recorded times Paul went to the synagogue was when he was preaching to the Jews upon his arrival in any town. He preached on Sabbath until they threw him out; he did not go to the synagogue to worship because He was keeping the day holy. Rather, he was doing it to fulfill the Lord’s commission and his own commitment to preach to the Jews first and also to the Greeks.  

The Biblical record show that apostles met on the first day, and also the writings of the early Christians, church fathers, historians show that the first and second century Christians came together on the first (or sometimes called the eighth) day. So what nonsense it is to claim that a change happened in 3rd century when the change had happened already!

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 and not gentile churches. Then, Sabbatarians began to be resurrected England in the time of the Reformation, over five hundred years ago. Yet, they remain outside mainstream till today. 

Adapted: Catholics and the Change of the Sabbath by Dudley Marvin. Retrieved from:

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Catholic Church Changed the Sabbath?


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