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Quotes About the Sabbath
Quotes about Sabbaths and Feasts from throughout Christian History.
Ignatius of Antioch, A.D. 110
"Live Apart from Him"
Take note that Ignatius equates observing the Sabbath with living apart from Christ. You can either be led by the Spirit or the Law, not both (Gal. 3:2-5).
If those who have been brought up in the ancient order of things [i.e., converted Jews] have come to the possession of a new hope, no longer observing the Sabbath but living in observance of the Lord's day, on which also our life has sprung up again by him and his death … how shall we [i.e., Gentile converts] be able to live apart from him, when even the prophets themselves—also his disciples— waited for him in the Spirit as their Teacher? (Letter to the Magnesians 9)
It is absurd to profess Christ and to Judaize. For Christianity did not believe into Judaism, but Judaism into Christianity. (Letter to the Magnesians 10)
Pseudo-Barnabas, A.D. 120 - 130
"He rested on the seventh day." This means that when his Son comes again, he shall destroy the wicked man, judge the ungodly, and change the sun, moon, and stars, and then he will truly rest on the seventh day.
In addition, he says, "You shall sanctify it with pure hands and a pure heart." If, therefore, anyone can now sanctify the day which God has sanctified except by being pure in heart in all things, then we are deceived. Behold, therefore, it is certain that we properly rest and sanctify it when we are able to work righteousness because we have received the promise and wickedness no longer exists because all things have been made new by the Lord. Then we shall be able to sanctify it because we are first sanctified ourselves.
Further, he says to them, "Your new moons and Sabbaths I cannot endure." You understand what he's saying. Your present Sabbaths are not acceptable to me, but the Sabbath I have made is. When I give rest to all things, I shall make a beginning of the eighth day; that is, a beginning of another world. Therefore we keep the eighth day with joyfulness, the day also on which Jesus rose from the dead. (Letter of Barnabas 15)
Letter to Diognetus, A.D. 80 - 200
But as to their meticulousness concerning foods, their superstition regarding the Sabbaths, their boasting about circumcision, and their fancies about fasting and the new moons--which are utterly ridiculous and unworthy of notice--I do not think you need to learn anything from me. For … to speak falsely of God, as if He forbad us to do what is good on the Sabbath days, how is not this impious? … And as to their observing months and days—as if waiting upon the stars and the moon—and their distributing according to their own tendencies the appointments of God and the vicissitudes of the seasons, some for festivities and others for mourning; who would deem this a part of divine worship and not much rather a manifestation of folly? (ch. 4)
Justin Martyr, c. A.D. 150
And on the day called Sunday, all who live in cities or in the country gather together in one place … Sunday is the day on which we all hold our common assembly because it is the first day on which God, having wrought a change in the darkness and matter, made the world. On the same day, Jesus Christ our Savior rose from the dead. (First Apology 67)
Is there any other matter, my friends, in which we [Christians] are blamed [by the Jews] than this: that we do not live according to the Law, are not circumcised in the flesh as your forefathers were, and do not observe Sabbaths as you do? (Dialogue with Trypho, a Jew 10)
[Trypho, the Jew, speaking] This is what are most at a loss about. You [Christians], professing yourselves to be godly and supposing yourselves better than others, are not separated from them. You do not alter your way of living from that of the nations in that you observe no festivals or Sabbaths and do not have the right of circumcision. (Dialogue with Trypho, a Jew 10)
The new law requires you to keep perpetual Sabbath, and you [Jews], because you are idle for one day, suppose you are godly, not understanding why this command was given to you. If you eat unleavened bread, you say the will of God has been fulfilled. The Lord our God does not take pleasure in such observances. If there is any perjured person or thief among you, let him cease to be so. If any adulterer, let him repent. Then he has kept the sweet and true Sabbaths of God. (Dialogue with Trypho, a Jew 12)
"This circumcision is not, however, necessary for all men, but for you alone, in order that, as I have already said, you may suffer these things which you now justly suffer. Nor do we receive that useless baptism of cisterns, for it has nothing to do with this baptism of life. Wherefore also God has announced that you have forsaken Him, the living fountain, and dug for yourselves broken cisterns which can hold no water. Even you, who are the circumcised according to the flesh, have need of our circumcision; but we, having the latter, do not require the former. For if it were necessary, as you suppose, God would not have made Adam uncircumcised, would not have had respect to the gifts of Abel when, being uncircumcised, he offered sacrifice and would not have been pleased with the uncircumcision of Enoch, who was not found, because God had translated him. Lot, being uncircumcised, was saved from Sodom, the angels themselves and the Lord sending him out. Noah was the beginning of our race; yet, uncircumcised, along with his children he went into the ark. Melchizedek, the priest of the Most High, was uncircumcised; to whom also Abraham the first who received circumcision after the flesh, gave tithes, and he blessed him: after whose order God declared, by the mouth of David, that He would establish the everlasting priest. Therefore to you alone this circumcision was necessary, in order that the people may be no people, and the nation no nation; as also Hosea, one of the twelve prophets, declares. Moreover, all those righteous men already mentioned, though they kept no Sabbaths, were pleasing to God; and after them Abraham with all his descendants until Moses, under whom your nation appeared unrighteous and ungrateful to God, making a calf in the wilderness: wherefore God, accommodating Himself to that nation, enjoined them also to offer sacrifices, as if to His name, in order that you might not serve idols. ... And you were commanded to keep Sabbaths, that you might retain the memorial of God. For His word makes this announcement, saying, 'That ye may know that I am God who redeemed you.'" (Dialogue with Trypho 19)
"Moreover, that God enjoined you to keep the Sabbath, and imposed on you other precepts for a sign ... because of your unrighteousness and that of your fathers, ... these words of his can prove to you. They are narrated by Ezekiel thus: ‘I am the Lord your God; walk in My statutes, and keep My judgments, and take no part in the customs of Egypt; and keep my Sabbaths holy; and they shall be a sign between me and you, that you may know that I am the Lord your God. In spite of this you rebelled against me and your children did not walk in my statutes nor keep My judgments to do them: which if a man do, he shall live in them. But they polluted My Sabbaths. ... I led them out before the eyes [of the heathen], and I lifted up my hand to them in the wilderness, that I would scatter them among the heathen, and disperse them through the countries; because they had not executed my judgments, but had despised my statutes, and polluted my Sabbaths ... Therefore I gave them ... statutes which were not good and judgments whereby they shall not live'" [Ezek. 20:19-26]. (Dialogue with Trypho, a Jew 21, brackets mine)
Theophilus, c. A.D. 170
The philosophers, writers, and poets … [spoke] concerning the seventh day, which all men acknowledge , but most do not know that what among the Hebrews is called the Sabbath is translated into Greek the "seventh." It is a name adopted by every nation, although they do not know the reason for the name. (To Autolycus III:12)
Irenaeus, A.D. 183 - 186
We learn from Scripture itself that God gave circumcision … as a sign. … Ezekiel the prophet says the same concerning the Sabbaths: "I gave them my Sabbaths to be a sign between me and them … " … These things, then, were given as a sign, but the signs were not lacking symbolism … since they were given by a wise Artist; the circumcision of the flesh typified that which was of the Spirit. … But the Sabbaths taught that we should continue day by day in God's service. … In addition, the Sabbath of God—that is, the kingdom—was indicated by created things. In this kingdom the man who has persevered in serving God shall, in a state of rest, partake of God's table. (Against Heresies IV:16:1)
And again He says, "Whosoever shall have left lands, or houses, or parents, or brethren, or children because of me, he shall receive in this world an hundred-fold, and in that to come he shall inherit eternal life." For what are the hundred-fold [rewards] in this word, the entertainments given to the poor, and the suppers for which a return is made? These are [to take place] in the times of the kingdom, that is, upon the seventh day, which has been sanctified, in which God rested from all the works which He created, which is the true Sabbath of the righteous, which they shall not be engaged in any earthly occupation; but shall have a table at hand prepared for them by God, supplying them with all sorts of dishes. (Against Heresies V:33:2)
And there will be no command to remain idle for one day of rest, to him who perpetually keeps sabbath, that is to say, who in the temple of God, which is man’s body, does service to God, and in every hour works righteousness. (Irenaeus. c. 185. In Armitage, R., D.D. (ed.). 1920. The Demonstration of the Apostolic Preaching. PDF. Christian Classics Ethereal Library. p. 91)
Clement of Alexandria, c. A.D. 190
Plato prophetically speaks of the Lord's day in the tenth book of the Republic, in these words: "And when seven days have passed to each of them in the meadow, on the eighth they are to set out and arrive in four days." (Miscellanies V:14; I include this quote because it implies the Lord's day is the eighth day, or Sunday, rather than Saturday or the Sabbath.)
He … according to the Gospel, keeps the Lord's day when he abandons an evil disposition and assumes that of the Gnostic [Clement believed that Christians were the true gnostics], glorifying the Lord's resurrection in himself. (Miscellanies VII:12)
Tertullian, c. A.D. 200
We count fasting or kneeling in worship on the Lord's day to be unlawful. (De Corona 3)
The Holy Spirit upbraids the Jews with their holy days. "Your Sabbaths, new moons, and feasts," says he, "my soul hates" [Is. 1:14]. We—to whom Sabbaths are strange, and the new moons and festivals are formerly beloved by God—frequent the Saturnalia, New Year's, and Midwinter's festivals and Matronilia. (On Idolatry 14; This is a complaint about Christians, who wouldn't celebrate Jewish holidays, attending pagan celebrations.)
Others … suppose that the sun is the God of the Christians because it is a well-known fact that we pray towards the east or because we make Sunday a day of festivity. (Ad Nationes 13)
We understand that God's law was before even Moses … subsequently reformed for the patriarchs [i.e., Israel's twelve sons] and so again for the Jews at definite periods. So we are not to give heed to Moses' Law as though it were the primitive Law, but as to a later, which at a definite time God set forth to the Gentiles, too, and—after repeatedly promising to do so through the prophets—has reformed for the better. …
Let us not annul the power God has to reform the Law's precepts in response to the circumstances of the time, with a view to men's salvation. To be specific, let him who contends that the Sabbath is still to be observed as a balm of salvation … teach us that in the past righteous men kept the Sabbath or practiced circumcision and were thus rendered friends of God.
… Since God originated Adam uncircumcised and inobservant of the Sabbath, therefore his offspring, Abel, was commended by [God] when he offered sacrifices both uncircumcised and inobservant of the Sabbath. … Noah also—uncircumcised and, yes, inobservant of the Sabbath—God freed from the deluge. Enoch, too, that most righteous man, while uncircumcised and inobservant of the Sabbath, [God] translated from this world. [Enoch] did not first taste death so that, being a candidate for eternal life, he might in our era show us that we may, without the burden of the Law of Moses, please God. (An Answer to the Jews 2)
The Jews say that from the beginning God sanctified the seventh day by resting on it from all the works which he had made. … From this we Christians understand that we even more ought to observe a Sabbath from all servile work always, and not only every seventh day, but through all time. And through this the question arises for us, what Sabbath did God want us to keep? For the Scriptures point to a Sabbath eternal and a Sabbath temporal. For Isaiah the prophet says, "Your Sabbaths my soul hates" [Is. 1:14] and in another place he says, "My Sabbaths you have profaned" [Ezek. 22:8]. From this we discern that the temporal Sabbath is human, and the eternal Sabbath is considered Divine.
Concerning this he predicts through Isaiah, "'And there shall be,' he says, 'month after month, day after day, and Sabbath after Sabbath, and all flesh shall come to adore in Jerusalem,' says the Lord" [Is. 66:23, LXX]. We understand this to have been fulfilled in the times of Christ when all flesh—that is, every nation—came to adore, in Jerusalem, God the Father through Jesus Christ his Son. … Thus, therefore, before this temporal Sabbath there was an eternal Sabbath foreshown and foretold. (An Answer to the Jews 4)
Hippolytus, c. AD 215
This quote is the first I've ever found saying that anything at all was done on the Jewish Sabbath day. This is clearly a reference to baptism on the 7th day of the week, as we can tell from the other days that are mentioned. This surely has to do with Passover weekend (Easter today), but it nonetheless refers to being baptized on the seventh-day Sabbath. Interesting!
Let those who are to be baptized be instructed that they bathe and wash on the fifth day of the week. If a woman is in the manner of women, let her be set apart and receive baptism another day.
Those who are to receive baptism shall fast on the Preparation of the Sabbath. On the Sabbath, those who are to receive baptism shall all gather together in one place chosen according to the will of the bishop. (Apostolic Tradition 20:5-7)
Origen, c. AD 230
To the perfect Christian, who is ever in his thoughts, words, and deeds serving his natural Lord, God the Word, all his days are the Lord's, and he is always keeping the Lord's Day. He also who is unceasingly preparing himself for the true life and abstaining from the pleasures of this life ... who is not indulging the lust of the flesh, but disciplining his body and bringing it into subjection [1 Cor. 9:27]—such a one is always keeping Preparation Day. Again, he who considers that "Christ our Passover was sacrificed for us" [1 Cor. 5:7], and that it is his duty to keep the feast by eating the flesh of the Word, never ceases to keep the paschal feast [i.e., Passover]. He is ever striving in all his thoughts, words, and deeds to pass over from the things of this life to God and is hastening towards the city of God. Finally, he who can truly say, "We are risen with Christ," and, "He has exalted us and made us to sit with him in the heavenly places in Christ" [Eph. 2:6] is always living in the season of Pentecost. And most of all, when going up to the upper chamber, like the apostles of Jesus, he gives himself to supplication and prayer, that he may become worthy of receiving the mighty win rushing from heaven, which is powerful to destroy sin and its fruits among men, and [become] worthy of having some share of the tongue of fire which God sends. (Against Celsus VIII:22)
Socrates Scholasticus (historian), c. 440
The aim of the apostles was not to appoint festival days, but to teach a righteous life and piety. (Ecclesiastical History V:12)
Pope Gregory the Great, d. 604
For this which is said by the prophet, "You shall bring in no burden through your gates on the Sabbath day" [Jer. 17:24], could be held to as long as it was lawful for the law to be observed according to the letter. But after that the grace of Almighty God, our Lord Jesus Christ had appeared, the commandments of the law which were spoken figuratively cannot be kept according to the letter. For if anyone says that the Sabbath is to be kept, he needs to say that carnal sacrifices are to be offered. He must also say that the commandment about the circumcision of the body is still to be retained. But let him hear the Apostle Paul saying in opposition to him, "If you become circumcised, Christ profits you nothing" [Gal. 5:2].
We therefore accept spiritually, and hold spiritually, this which is written about the Sabbath, for the Sabbath means rest. But we have the true Sabbath in our Redeemer himself, the Lord Jesus Christ. And whoever acknowledges the light of faith in him, if he draws the sins of lust through his eyes into his soul, he introduces burdens through the gates on the Sabbath day. We introduce, then, no burdens through the gates on the Sabbath day if we draw no weights of sin through the bodily senses into the soul. For we read that our Lord and Redeemer did many works on the Sabbath day, so that he reproved the Jews, saying, "Which of you does not loose his ox or his donkey on the Sabbath day and lead him away to water?" [Luke 13:15]. If, then, the very Truth in person commanded that the Sabbath should not be kept according to the letter, then whoever keeps the rest of the Sabbath according to the letter of the law, whom else does he contradict but the Truth himself? (Letter to the Roman Citizens)