Saturday Not Sunday

March 20, 2015

Every week, Jody Hirsh, the JCC's Judaic Education Director, provides a Judaic message that is featured at the top of the JCC's weekly email newsletter. Below is the Shabbat message for Friday, March 20, 2015.

Saturday Not Sunday

Throughout history, the Jews have celebrated the Sabbath from Friday night until Saturday night following the Biblical account: “And God blessed the Seventh Day and sanctified it, because on it He rested from all His work which God, creating, had made.”  Saturday, the last day of the week, is the Jewish Sabbath. In Christianity, however, the Sabbath is mostly observed on Sunday, the first day of the week. Didn’t Christianity somehow grow out of its parent religion Judaism? Why do we have different Sabbaths?

The early Christians saw themselves as Jews, and likewise observed the Sabbath on Saturdays. It was not until the time of the Emperor Constantine the Great in the Fourth Century that the Christian world moved the observance of the Sabbath to Sunday. While still a pagan and a sun worshipper, the Emperor designated Sunday (the day of the Sun) as the day of rest:

On the venerable day of the Sun let the magistrates and people residing in cities rest, and let all workshops be closed. In the country however persons engaged in agriculture may freely and lawfully continue their pursuits because it often happens that another day is not suitable for gain-sowing or vine planting; lest by neglecting the proper moment for such operations the bounty of heaven should be lost.

When Constantine converted to Christianity and made his religion the official religion of the Roman Empire, he kept Sunday as the day of rest. Later on, the Church Council of Laodicea, in 364 made Sunday the official Christian Sabbath, ruling that, “Christians shall not Judaize and be idle on Saturday, but shall work on that day.” The Sabbath, in the Christian world, was changed to Sunday in order to differentiate it from the Jewish Sabbath.

Shabbat Shalom