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see SabbathSabbath
[Heb.,=repose], in Judaism, last day of the week (Saturday), observed as a rest day for the twenty-five hours commencing with sundown on Friday. In the biblical account of creation (Gen. 1) the seventh day is set as a Sabbath to mark God's rest after his work.
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; weekweek,
period of time shorter than the month, commonly seven days. The ancient Egyptians used a 10-day period, as did the French under the short-lived French Revolutionary calendar.
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The Lord's Day

Christians gather for communal worship on Sunday. The first Christians adopted this practice as a means of commemorating the Resurrection, which took place on a Sunday. Early Christian worship services centered around a communal meal. This communal meal eventually evolved into a ritual known as the Eucharist, a ritual still at the heart of the Sunday worship service in a number of Christian denominations. The Eucharist reminds Christians both of Jesus' sacrificial death on Good Friday and of his resurrection on Easter Sunday. Thus, for many Christians, Sunday services throughout the year echo the themes celebrated during the yearly Easter festival.


The first Christians, most of whom were Jewish by birth, observed the Jewish Sabbath on Saturdays and met for communal Christian worship on Sunday. The Sabbath is an ancient institution dating back to the foundations of Judaism. The word Sabbath means "to stop" or "that which stops." Genesis, the first book of the Bible, tells how God created the world in six days and rested on the seventh. The Jews patterned their calendar around this story, inventing the seven-day week, which eventually became an important unit of time throughout the Western world. Just as God rested on the seventh day, so did the ancient Jews. This day of rest also reminded the Hebrews that God rescued them from a life of hard labor as slaves in Egypt (see also Passover). Jewish laws forbade all kinds of work and travel on Saturday, the Sabbath day. Breaking these laws was a serious offense against God. The earliest known Sabbath observances consisted mainly of refraining from anything that might be considered work. This break in normal work routines created a good opportunity for prayer and worship, obligations that were later added to the Sabbath. All four biblical accounts of Jesus' resurrection agree that it occurred on the day after the Jewish Sabbath, that is, on the first day of the Jewish week. This remarkable event so astounded the first Christians, however, that it shattered their view of the endlessly repeating cycle of the seven-day week. They began to view the day of the Resurrection as the eighth day of the week, because on that day God had added something utterly new to his Creation by raising Jesus from the dead. This symbolic eighth day of the week, in fact, coincided with the first day of the Jewish week. The early Christians found this overlap between the Jewish first day and the Christian eighth day extremely meaningful. In their eyes the first day of the Jewish week represented the beginning of the world and the creation of light, as told in the first chapter of the book of Genesis. The eighth day of the Christian week represented the beginning of a new kind of light and a new kind of creation, namely, the new relationship between God and humanity made possible through the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ. The association between the Resurrection and the eighth day convinced the early Christians to schedule their weekly worship services on Sunday rather than Saturday. They referred to their day of worship as the Lord's Day.

Scholars of Christianity trace the custom of Sunday worship back to the first century. They find hints of the practice in Christian scripture dating to that era (John 20:19, Acts 20:7, 1 Corinthians 16:2). At that time Christians from Jewish backgrounds continued to observe the Sabbath every Saturday. They also met for communal worship on Sundays. Justin Martyr penned the following description of these early Sunday worship services around the year 150:

And on the day called Sunday there is an assembly in one place of all who live in cities or in the country, and the memoirs of the apostles or the writings of the prophets are read as long as time permits: then, when the reader has ceased, the president gives his exhortation to the imitation of these good things. Then we all stand up together and offer prayers and, as we before said, when our prayer is ended, bread is brought and wine and water, and the president in like manner sends up prayers, and thanksgivings according to his ability and the congregation assents saying the Amen. And the participation of the things over which thanks have been given is to each one, and to those who are absent a portion is sent by the hands of the deacons. And they who are well-to-do, and willing, give each one as he wills, according to his discretion, and what is collected is deposited with the president, and he himself succours the orphans and widows and those who are in want through sickness or other cause, and those who are in bonds, and the strangers who are sojourning: and in a word he takes care of all who are in need. And we all have our common meeting on Sunday because it is the First Day, on which God, having changed darkness and matter made the world, and Jesus Christ our Saviour on the same day rose from the dead. (Hodgkins, 18-19)

As more non-Jews joined the Christian movement debate arose over whether or not they should practice Jewish religious customs, like observing the Sabbath. Most Christian authorities believed that they were not required to do so. These authorities reasoned that Jesus'life, sacrificial death, and resurrection had given Christians a new way of relating to God, one that dissolved many of the old obligations of the Jewish religion. Eventually, non-Jewish Christians outnumbered Jewish Christians and the Christian observance of the Saturday Sabbath faded, replaced by Sunday worship services.

During the fourth and fifth centuries Christianity became the dominant religion of the Roman Empire. This newfound political power inspired new legislation. From the fourth century onwards, both religious and political authorities began to restrict people from working on Sunday. Yet apart from this restriction, the old, Jewish Sabbath customs were not revived, nor did Christians come to view Sunday as the Sabbath.

During the sixteenth century a western European religious reform movement called the Reformation gave birth to Protestant Christianity. In England and Scotland Protestants veered away from the Christian consensus concerning the old Sabbath customs. They began to insist that Christians not only refrain from all ordinary chores and activities, but also behave piously on Sunday, which they began to call the Sabbath. The Puritans brought these beliefs to colonial America, where they gave rise to the so-called "blue laws." The blue laws forbade people to work on Sundays, as well as restricting a host of activities deemed unsuitable for the Sabbath by these conservative Protestant Christians. In mid-nineteenth century America another Protestant group, the recently formed Seventh-day Adventists, began to observe the Saturday Sabbath, a practice which they believe to be more in keeping with biblical teachings.

Further Reading

Blackburn, Bonnie, and Leofranc Holford-Strevens. The Oxford Companion to the Year. Oxford, England: Oxford University Press, 1999. Bradshaw, Paul F. The Search for the Origins of Christian Worship. New York: Oxford University Press, 1992. Coble, Ann. "Lord's Day" and "Sabbath." In David Noel Freedman, ed. Eerdmans Dictionary of the Bible. Grand Rapids, MI: William B. Eerdmans Publishing, 2000. Collins, Adela Yabro. "Lord's Day." In Paul J. Achtemeier, ed. The Harper- Collins Bible Dictionary. New York: HarperCollins, 1996. Hodgkins, William. Sunday - Christian and Social Significance. London, England: Independent Press, 1960. North, R. "Sabbath." In New Catholic Encyclopedia. Volume 12. New York: McGraw-Hill, 1967. "Sabbatarianism." In E. A. Livingstone, ed. The Oxford Dictionary of the Chris- tian Church. Third edition. Oxford, England: Oxford University Press, 1997. "Sabbath." In E. A. Livingstone, ed. The Oxford Dictionary of the Christian Church. Third edition. Oxford, England: Oxford University Press, 1997. Swartly, Willard M. "Sabbath." In Everett Ferguson, ed. Encyclopedia of Early Christianity. Volume 2. New York: Garland, 1997. Talley, Thomas J. "Christian Worship." In Mircea Eliade, ed. The Encyclopedia of Religion. Volume 15. New York: Macmillan, 1987.
Encyclopedia of Easter, Carnival, and Lent, 1st ed. © Omnigraphics, Inc. 2002


the first day of the week and the Christian day of worship
Collins Discovery Encyclopedia, 1st edition © HarperCollins Publishers 2005
References in classic literature ?
I lay abed and read and rested from my journey's fatigues the remainder of that Sunday, but I sent my agent to represent me at the afternoon service, for I never allow anything to interfere with my habit of attending church twice every Sunday.
"If religion was good for anything," said Jones, "it would prevent your religious people from making us work on Sundays, as you know many of them do, and that's why I say religion is nothing but a sham; why, if it was not for the church and chapel-goers it would be hardly worth while our coming out on a Sunday.
"I have a letter somewhere," said Lady Muriel, "from an old friend, describing the way in which Sunday was kept in her younger days.
"I run away from Sunday School -- and went fishing with the Cottons -- and I told ever so many whoppers to Mrs.
And now I hope you won't mind my just asking why you haven't been out riding the last two Sundays?"
Afterwards he found that the vague feeling of alarm had spread to the clients of the underground railway, and that the Sunday excursionists began to return from all over the South-Western "lung"--Barnes, Wimbledon, Richmond Park, Kew, and so forth--at unnaturally early hours; but not a soul had anything more than vague hearsay to tell of.
"I don't believe they're fit to read on Sundays," exclaimed Felicity.
Curtis Hartman forgot his sermon on that Sunday morning.
He resolved that when Sunday came he would pull himself together and answer Ruth's letter.
Paul Ford's sermon the next Sunday was a veritable bugle-call to the best that was in every man and woman and child that heard it; and its text was one of Pollyanna's shining eight hundred:
"Now, let me advise you to get a Sunday suit: there's Tookey, he's a poor creatur, but he's got my tailoring business, and some o' my money in it, and he shall make a suit at a low price, and give you trust, and then you can come to church, and be a bit neighbourly.
And on Sunday morning, when Seth went away to chapel at Treddleston, the dangerous opportunity came.