4th edition



In this chapter
Pages 281-311

Seeking the missing link
Were martyrs of Pliny’s time tested whether they kept the Lord’s day,
As Justin Edwards affirms
Domville’s telling refutation
The correct time and question
Ignatius’s spurious epistles still more interpolated
Justin Martyr’s designation of the first day changed
Theophilus of Antioch, or of Alexandria?
Pseudo-Ignatius remodelled for a testimony of Irenaeus
The unqualified statement of Dionysius
The indefinite title of Melito’s treatise
The first day of the week in the Bible in post apostolic age
“Almost immediately” means at least a century
“Probable insinuations in Scripture”
A forged chain of tradition

The meager writings of the “obscure and mysterious transition period between the end of the first century and the middle of the second,” 1 fail to furnish in their originals, questionable though they even appear, the missing evidences whereby Sunday observance could be traced to apostolic time. They likewise utterly fail to supply reliable testimony that soon after the apostolic time Sunday was observed under the significant title “the Lord’s day.”


Feeling his lack keenly, certain doctors of divinity and first-day writers of less renown, try to supply the lack by fabrications. Intermingling statements of a much later date with the vague inferences of these few earlier documents, or interpreting their sayings in the language or light of later interpolations, they make these fabrications seem quite plausible, apt to deceive even the wary.

Pliny’s epistle mentions a stated day of worship, but does not in any way specify the day. Being a historical document of the immediate post apostolic age, its testimony would carry some weight. How this lack has been supplied, Justin Edwards, D.D.. demonstrates. After raising the question, “Which was this stated day?” he, without giving any reference whatever, incorporates the following into his answer:--

"Hence the fact that their persecutors, when they wished to know whether men were Christians, were accustomed to put to them this question, viz., `Dominicum servasti?' -`Hast thou kept the Lord's day?' If they had they were Christians. This was the badge of their Christianity, in distinction from Jews and pagans. And if they said they had, and would not recant, they must be put to death. And what, when they continued steadfast, was their answer? `Christianus sum; intermittere non possum;'-` I am a Christian; I cannot omit it.' It is a badge of my religion, and the man who assumes it must of course keep the Lord's day, because it is the will of his Lord; and should he abandon it, he would be an apostate from his religion." 2


J.J. Gurney, who published his history of Sunday fourteen years before Edwards’ “Sabbath Manual” was issued, uses the same argument, giving as reference, “Acts of the Martyrs“, in Bishop Andrew’s “On the Ten Commandments” page 264. 3
Bishop Andrews first brought this forward in his speech in the Court of Star Chamber against Thraske (1618). The latter, who observed the seventh day as the Sabbath of the Lord, was accused, before that arbitrary tribunal, of maintaining the heretical opinion that Christians were still bound to observe the seventh day. The Bishop died in 1626. His speech against Thraske was not published until 1629; it was, therefore, as well as his “Catechism on the Ten Commandments,” from which Gurney must have quoted, a posthumous publication. The following is his own statement (page 264)

“A thing so notorious, so well known even to the heathen themselves, as it was (in ‘The Acts of the Martyrs’) ever a usual question of theirs (even of course) in their examining, What? “dominium servasti?’ (Hold you to Sunday?), and their answer known; they all aver it, ‘Christianus sum, intermittere non possum’ (I am a Christian, I can not intermit it); not the Lord’s day, in any wise. These are examples enough,”

The story was first produced, therefore, for the purpose of confounding an observer of the Sabbath when on trial by his enemies for keeping that day.

Sir Wm. Domville, a very able anti-Sabbatarian writer, took pains carefully to trace the matter, making use of the Acta primo rum Maryrum sincera et selecta, by Ruinart, who lived 1657-1709.


Sir Wm. Domville thus traces out the matter:

"The bishop, as we have seen, refers to the Acta of the martyrs as justifying his assertion respecting the question, Dominicum servasti? but he does not cite a single instance from them in which that question was put. We are left therefore to hunt out the instances for ourselves, wherever, if anywhere, they are to be found. The most complete collection of the memoirs and legends still extant, relative to the lives and sufferings of the Christian martyrs, is that by Ruinart, entitled, `Acta primorum Martyrum sincera et selecta.' I have carefully consulted that work, and I take upon myself to affirm that among the questions there stated to have been put to the martyrs in and before the time of Pliny, and for nearly two hundred years afterwards, the question, Dominicum servasti? does not once occur; nor any equivalent question." 4

Domville found that neither the question, “dominium servasti? nor anything similar to it, was mentioned until two hundred years after the time of Pliny.

The martyrdom referred to is that of Saturninus, Dativ, and others of Abitina, in Africa, which is said to have occurred at the time of the Diocletian persecution. Ruinart designates 304 A.D. as the proper date. Here the expressions celebrare Dominicum and agere Dominicum. frequently occur, but in no instance is the verb servare used in reference to Dominicum. From this “it is very clear” Bishop Andrews had not “his author at hand, and that, in trusting to his memory, he coined a phrase of his own.”


Not only was the time of this martydom two hundred years after the age of Pliny, but even two hundred years later the question was not concerning the Lord’s day, but with reference to the Lord’s supper. Domville also proves this from Ruinart’s own statement, and from the Benedictine editions of St. Augustine’s works, and from Gesner’s Latin Thesaurus, published in 1749. These, in quoting Tertullian, Cyprain, Augustine, and Hilary, refer to the Lord’s supper.

Domville himself says, concerning the meaning of Dominicum;--

"The narrative of the martyrdom of Saturninus being the only one which has the appearance of supporting the assertion of Bishop Andrews that, `Hold you the Lord's day?' was the usual question to the martyrs, what if I should prove that even this narrative affords no support to that assertion? Yet nothing is more easy than this proof; for Bishop Andrews has quite mistaken the meaning of the word Dominicum in translating it `the Lord's day.' It had no such meaning. It was a barbarous word in use among some of the ecclesiastical writers in, and subsequent to, the fourth century, to express sometimes a church, and at other times the Lord's supper, but NEVER the Lord's day. 5

Then, after having reproved Mr. Gurney for his unfounded assertion, he stigmatizes this deceptive and favorite first-day argument as --

"One of those daring misstatements of facts so frequent in theological writings, and which, from the confident tone so generally assumed by the writers on such occasions, are usually received without examination, and allowed, in consequence, to pass current for truth." 6

That this did not stop the fraudulent and deceptive use of this statement is seen from the following note by Cox, some sixteen years later:--

“As Bishop Andrews’ argument from ‘Dominicum servasti?’ continues to be frequently reproduced by writers on the Sabbath, I have copied this searching exposure of it [by Domville], in the hope of fostering a more conscientious and scholar like mode of conducting the controversy than that which unhappily prevails.” 7

After Domville had thus exposed the character of these fraudulent quotations, James Gilfillan published an exhaustive volume about Sunday in 1861, which was extensively circulated. Although it appears from his own quotations on pages 10, 142, and 143, that the author had read Domville’s exposures, yet he makes the following statement:--

"From the days of the apostles downwards for many years, the followers of Christ had no enemies more fierce and unrelenting than that people [the Jews], who cursed them in the synagogue, sent out emissaries into all countries to calumniate their Master and them, and were abettors wherever they could, of the martyrdom of men, such as Polycarp, of whom the world was not worthy. Among the reasons of this deadly enmity was the change of the Sabbatic day. The Romans, though they had no objection on this score, punished the Christians for the faithful observance of their day of rest, one of the testing questions put to the martyrs being, Dominicum servasti?- Have you kept the Lord's day? - Baron. An. Eccles., A.D. 303, Num.35, etc." 8

Gilfillan, having reproduced the question about “Dominicum sevasti?” assigns as his authority the annalist Baronius. Other first-day writers repeated the story with the revised date. We find, for example, this assertion in the published sermons of Bishop Daniel Wilson, of Calcutta. 9 And the same was transferred from the bishop’s sermons into a French work. 10

But that Domville was correct when he originally referred to Ruinart, is demonstrated by the fact that a noted German Catholic writer quotes this very account in Ruinart not only to prove early Sunday observance, but also in behalf of a Sunday law, and even of the mass. This author, A.G. Binterim, D.D., a knight of the papal order of the Golden Spur, in his elaborate work on the Antiquities of the Christian Catholic Church (a standard authority among Catholics), makes the following statement:--

“The writings of these two ancient Fathers [Ignatius and Justin] plainly show that they looked upon the observance of Sunday, not as something arbitrary, but as something commanded by a law which the martyrs Saturinus, Dativ, etc., still more plainly state. They refer to an old law which commands the observance of Sunday. (Securi Dominicum celebravimus, quia non potest intermitti Dominicum…..Saturninus ait: intermitti Dominicum non potest. Lex sic jubet. -- Asta de Saturnini, etc. Ruinart N Tertullian, Libr, de Fuga Cap, ultim,’)
“To attend the holy mass was a principal duty and the main part of Sunday observance from the earliest times, as we have shown from the testimonies of Justin and the above mentioned acts of the martyrs Saturninus, Dativ, etc., and of the bishop of Herecleae.” 11

The full array of facts is before us, and they conclusively show that the martyrdom in question is that of Saturninus, Dativ, and their fellow sufferers in Northern Africa. We find these things recorded in the most noted “Acta sanctorum” of J. Bollandus; 12 In Baronius: 13 and in Ruinart. 14 Bollandus places the martyrdom about A.D. 200. The context is everywhere the same-- they were arrested while celebrating the Lord’s sacrament according to custom. 15 The charge was that they had celebrated the Lord’s supper and the collecta. 16

The following are some of the most important questions put to them by the proconsul;--

Dativ was asked whether he had celebrated the collectam; and he replied that he was a Christian, and had done this. 17
Victoria said, “I have not only been in the collecta, but I have celebrated the Dominicum with the brethren, because I am a Christian,” 18

Saturninus answered, “We have celebrated the Dominicum, because the Dominicum can not be neglected,” 19 Upon being questioned again, he replied, “The Dominicum can not be disregarded; the law so commands.” 20

To Felix the proconsul said that he did not wish to know whether he was Christian, but whether he participated in the collecta. His answer was: “As if one could be a Christian without the Dominicum (or as if the Dominicum can be celebrated without the Christian)” 21
“We have observed the collecta most sacredly; we have always convened in the Dominicum for reading the Lord’s Word.” 22 After him, the younger Felix declared the Dominicum to be the hope and safety of the Christians and when tortured as the others, he exclaimed, “I have celebrated the Dominicum with a devoted heart, and with my brethren I have made the collecta because I am a Christian,: 23
When the proconsul asked the younger Saturninus whether he had conducted the Dominicum, he replied that he had, because Christ was his Savior. 24

This is the substance of this famous examination, and it can be easily seen what use is made of the words Dominicum and collecta. The important question is, Do Bollandus, Ruinart, and Baronius ever translate these words Lord’s day?--
Never. On the contrary, all three carefully show the right sense of these words by plain definitions. In his notes, Bollandus says, “Surius renders, ‘The sacraments of the Lord, the sacrifice of the mass.’” 25
He also adduces a passage from the works of Cyprain in confirmation of this. In another note (nota a) he remarks, “Collecta or collectio is the assembly and meeting of the Christians for prayer.” Ruinnart observes that “Dominicum signifies the holy mysteries.” 26 In confirmation of this, he appeals to Tertullian and Cyprain. Baronius explains this term seven times, expressly stating that Dominicum could only refer to that divine service which the Catholics call the mass. 27

We might add that the German translator of Ruinart translates Dominicum as Lord’s supper, and collecta, as assembly. 28

Of course at that early age, the divine service of the martyrs, and their celebration of the Lord’s supper, were far different from that pompous ceremony now known as the mass in the Catholic Church.

Gilfillan had read these explanations of Baronius, still he dares to quote him as saying that these martyrs were tested by the question, “Have you kept the Lord’s day?” (Dominicum servasti?) He should have known that he was writing a direct falsehood and all who knowingly repeat this fraud, are without excuse.

The correctness of Sir Domvilles’ refutation and the error of Binterim is thus ably set forth by Prof. Th. Zahn, D.D., in his “History of the Sunday”.

“The Acta Saturnini, Dativi, etc., from the time of Diocletian are a touching testimony (Ruinart, pp. 409-419, ed. 1) It is perhaps not superfluous to correct incidentally a misunderstanding of Interim (Denkw. V. I, 127, not) He fancied a reference to an old ecclesiastical law concerning Sunday observance in the exclamation of the old presbyter Saturnin: Intermitti Dominicum non potest, lex sic jubet; and afterward once more: Lex sic docet (p. 414 Ruinart). The neuter dominium never signifies Sunday, but the Lord’s supper. (Convivium dominium, Tertull. Ad uxor. 11,4) Thus all the way through these acts, for example, chapter 7 p. 412; et in collecta fui et dominium cum fratribus celebravi; compare this with Tertull. De Fuga 14 or August, collat, c. Donat, coll, teretii diei sec. 32. In the acta Saturn, chap. 2, p. 410, we find in addition to dominium the synonymous cariant, dominica sacramenta. Thus the word is undoubtedly also to be understood in Cypr. de opere et elemis., chap. 15; epist. 63, 16; Pseudocypr. De spectat, 5. Whether dominium ever, except in translations from the Greek donates the church building, I cannot tell.

“But the law, to which these martyrs appealed when they were tortured, is no particular precept, be it of God and Christ, or be it of the church, but as the one giving the account once himself express (chap. 11. P. 415), the law written in the heart by the Spirit of the living God. The Lector Emeritus (chap. 11, p. 414) replies to the question of the proconsul, why he had allowed other Christians to assemble in his house: ‘Because they were my brethren and I could not keep them away,’ But you must keep them away,’ “I could not, because we can not be without the Lord’s supper’ When tortured, he repeats his sentence, ‘I could not but receive my brethren,’’ 29

We have clearly traced and exposed the efforts of first-day authors to produce some evidence to prove that the term Lord’s day was used soon after the apostle John used it in Revelation, as well as their attempts to demonstrate from questionable tradition that the Lord’s day of the Bible was the first day of the week. The Protestant authors simply are following in the wake of Catholicism, which not only attempts thus to establish Sunday observance from tradition, but also tries to substantiate the doctrine by a traditional law, and in connection with it, the claim that the major part of the celebration of Sunday was the celebration of the mass. Domville, Cox, and others deserve credit in the eyes of every honest seeker after truth for having traced out and exposed these wily efforts to make Pliny’s “stated day” the first link in a chain of evidence to identify the Lord’s day of the Bible with that of later tradition, and with the day erroneously designated by that term in our own times.


Justin Edwards demonstrates how the second link of this chain has been forged. After assuming that when John the revelatory spoke of the Lord’s day, all Christians knew that it was the day of the resurrection, on which they were to meet, he continues:

Hence Ignatius, bishop of Antioch, A.D. 101 only about half a dozen years after the death of the apostle, speaks of the Lord’s day familiarly and without explanation, as if everybody understood it. And he gives this title to the first day of the week exactly after the manner of the apostle himself. ‘Let us (Christians) no more Sabbatize,’ he says, --that is, keep the seventh day, as the Jews did--’but let us keep the Lord’s day,’ ‘Let everyone that loves Christ keep holy the Lord’s Day, the queen of days, the resurrection day, the highest of all days.’” 30

As usual, Justin Edwards saves himself the trouble of giving the reference. Had he done so, his deception would have been evident, viz., that the above statements which, seemingly, fit together so nicely, are fabricated in this manner: First, he suppresses the phrase in the shorter version of the epistle to the Magnesians, “living according to the Lord’s life;” secondly, he substitutes for it, from the enlarged and still worse interpolated version manufactured probably in the fourth century, the term, “celebrate the Lord’s day;” and, finally to strengthen it, he joins the rest of the statement from the enlarged version to his own interpolated shorter version.

Dr. Edwards, we are sorry to say, is not the only one who has done this kind of work. A number of writers are guilty of this sort of deception, and among them must be included Archbishop Wake, in his translation of the Fathers, which is thus ably reviewed by Cox:--

“There is, however, in the original no word or phrase which corresponds to the phrase ‘the Lord’s day,’ or to the word ‘ keeping:’ the literal translation is, ‘No longer observing Sabbaths, but living according to the Lord’s life, [Greek phrase] in which also our life is sprung up’. Indeed, the archbishop admits, in a note, that this translation would be correct; while his own is by many thought inconsistent, not only with the expressions in the original, but with the whole scope of the passage. (See Domville, I, 241-251; and Powell in Kitto’s Cyclop,II, 270, first edition.)

“To such an extent have the epistles of Ignatius been corrupted by interpolation (see Chevallier, Introd. 43-54). That even those considered genuine (among which is the one above quoted) were suspected by Lardner and Beausobre to have been tampered with (Domville, vol. I, 241), and have recently been pronounced by Mr. Cureton (with whom Lipsius agrees) to have been copiously interpolated for the same dogmatically purposes which prompted to the forgery of four of the seven, and by the same forging hand. (Cureton’s Corpus Ignatianum, London, 1849; and Lipsius in Jour, of the Historico-Theological Society of Germany for 1856). But not to insist upon this, it is more important to mention that a passage still frequently quoted in popular treatises from one of the epistles as genuine, has for two centuries past been rejected by every scholar as spurious. The words are:
Let us therefore no longer observe Sabbaths after the manner of the Jews: and rejoice in days of idleness; for "he that does not work, let him not eat." For say the [holy] oracles, "In the sweat of thy face shalt thou eat thy bread." But let every one of you keep the Sabbath after a spiritual manner, rejoicing in meditation on the law, not in relaxation of the body, admiring the workmanship of God, and not eating things prepared the day before, nor using lukewarm drinks, and walking within a prescribed space, nor finding delight in dancing and plaudits which have no sense in them. And after the observance of the Sabbath, let every lover of Christ keep the Lord's Day as a festival, the resurrection-day, the queen and chief of all the days [of the week].
[See Epistle of Ignatius to the Magnesia’s] 31

It is sad enough that writings of such men as Ignatius, and others of the post apostolic period, have been thus shamefully interpolated for “dogmatically purposes,” -- in this instance manifestly to smuggle in Sunday as the Lord’s day. But is it not still more wicked to interpolate, and to misquote their compositions, with the avowed purpose of making null and void the direct commands of the divine Word of God? That there was not only one instance of this, and that interpolation has been frequently perpetrated, Cox plainly shows, giving instances such as that of the above-mentioned Bishop Wilson, and others. How long this has been going on, and how early it was reproved, is seen fro the correspondence between Dr. Priestley and E. Evanson, near the end of the eighteenth century. Dr. Priestley had, in his Theological Repository, published at Birmingham in 1786 and 1788, given this very quotation from Ignatius, as “keeping the Lord’s day”. In consequence of this, Mr. Evanson wrote to him as follows:

But pray, good sir, by what rules of construction do you translate [the Greek phrase] as ‘keeping’. The only meaning of those two Greek words that I am acquainted with is ‘living according to’. And if the word [Greek word] be allowed to be part of the original sentence, the phrase ‘living according to the Lord’s life,’ viz., the spiritual life he now lives in heaven, is perfectly intelligible, and much of the same kind with what we meet with in several places of the canonical epistles, particularly in that to the Colossians, chapter 3. But if the phrase ‘living according to the Lord’s day’ has any meaning at all, it is entirely beyond my comprehension.” 32
Much more might be said to show up the improper use of the writings of Ignatius; but the reader will readily concede that enough has been brought forward to show that this second link in the chain to connect the Lord’s day of John with the Sunday Lord’s day of tradition, will not hold.


The third link of this chain is supplied in the Dictionary of the Holy Bible (published by the American Tract Society in 1886, and compiled by W.W. Rand) by a quotation from Justin Martyrs A.D. 140. On page 489 it makes him call Sunday the Lord’s day by quoting him as follows:--

“Justin Martyr, in the second century, observes that ‘on the Lord’s day all Christians in the city or country meet together, because that is the day of our Lord’s resurrection.”’
Here are his actual words correctly quoted:
“And on the day called Sunday, all who live in cities or in the country gather together to one place, and the memoirs of the apostles, or the writings of the prophets, are read, as long as time permits,….” 33 (see Justin Martyr

Justin speaks of the day called Sunday. But that he may be made to help establish its title to the name of LORD’S DAY, his words are deliberately changed.

Justin (whom we shall consider later on) uses, in addition to the word Sunday, the term eighth day. He employs throughout, as J.A, Hessey correctly remarks, “the heathen designations for the seventh and the first days of the week” 34

As the heathen designation of the first day of the week has been fraudulently transformed into the significant title of Lord’s day, is it not just as probable that the day itself to which these terms are applied, has been changed in like manner? So turns out that this third link is simply another fraud.


The fourth link of this chain is thus set forth by Justin Edwards:--

Theophilus, bishop ofAntioch, about A.D. 162, says ‘Both custom and reason challenge from us that we should honor the Lord’s day, seeing on that day it was that our Lord Jesus completed his resurrection from the dead.’” 35

Dr. Edwards shrewdly neglects to tell us where this passage is to be found in the works of Bishop Theophilus of Antioch; and the same is true of Gilfillan, who makes use of the same quotation. 36 But no such statement as the above occurs anywhere in the writings of that church Father. The same passage is adduced by W. Cave in his “Primitive Christianity,” in favor of Sunday observance, but he attributes it correctly to Theophilus, Bishop of Alexandria, A.D. 385-412. In order that we may get the import of this garbled statement, we will give it in full, As the church festival of Theophany was to fall on a Sunday, Theophilus issued the following decree:--

“Both custom and reason challenge from us that we honor and keep holy the Lord’s day, seeing on that day it was that our Lord Jesus completed his resurrection from the dead. Therefore, in the Holy Scriptures It is called a s well the first (day), because it is the beginning of our life, as also the eighth (day), because it has excelled the Sabbath observance of the Jews. But as it happens that this Sunday would be a fast-day, on account of the holy Theophany, we decree that we eat a few dates, to thus avoid following the heretics, who do not honor the resurrection of our Lord Jesus Christ, and at the same time we give the fast-day its due by waiting until the evening meeting, which, God willing, shall take place. We assemble ourselves therefore at the ninth hour.” 37

If the quotation is given entire, what a different face it puts upon the whole matter! We can see from it that in the latter part of the fourth century (the decree was issued in 398 A.D.) Sunday and the movable festivals clash. But the eating of a few dates recommended by the decree of the bishop, solves the difficulty! But even at that late date, the best authority that could be adduced in favor of the celebration of the Lord’s day was “custom and reason.”


The fifth link of the chain is introduced by Dr. Edwards’s Sabbath Manual” (page 114) in these words:--

“Hence Irenaeus, bishop of Lyons, a disciple of Polycarp, who had been the companion of the apostles, A.D. 167 [it should be A.D. 178], says that the Lord’s day was the Christian Sabbath. His words are, ’On the Lord’s day every one of us Christians keeps the Sabbath, meditating on the law, and rejoicing in the works of God.’”

Dr. Edwards introduces this witness in a manner to give the utmost weight of authority to his words, by connecting Irenaeus, through Polycarp, with the apostles; but, as seems customary to him, Dr. Edwards gives no reference. Mr. Gurney makes exactly the same statemnt, and has as his authority in a note, “quoted by Dwight, Theology, vol. 4, p. 26.” Dr. Dwight was president of Yale College, and had the misfortune to be afflicted with a disorder in his eyes from the early age of twenty-three, “a calamity,” says his biographer, “by which he was deprived of the capacity for reading and study.” 38

He wrote his Theology in 1818, and there were no less than six reprints of it in London. He gives no reference whatever as to where this passage occurs.

Cox says that innumerable writers, Bishop Wilson among them, have borrowed this statement from him. Sir Wm., Domville, after having carefully searched all the extant works of Ireaeus (another statement ascribed to him we shall consider in chapter 15), said that he could find no such passage, nor anything resembling it. As to where he did find it, Cox states thus:--

“But he discovered, in the writings falsely ascribed to Ignatius, expressions so closely resembling those given by Dr. Dwight, as to leave no doubt of the source from which the quotation was erroneously made. Paley also (Mor. Philos, book 5, chap. 8) cites, as from Irenaeus, a similar passage which Sir William shows to be evidently derived from the pseudo-Ignatius (Domville, vol. I 127-132) 39

Dr. Dwight
“On the Lord’s day everyone of us Christians keeps the Sabbath,
. . . . .
meditating in the law (or Scriptures), and rejoicing in the works of God.” 40
But let every one of
. . . .
keep the Sabbath after a spiritual manner, rejoicing in meditation of the law, and admiring the works of God.” 41

That we may get the full intent of this quotation, we will let the pseudo-Ignatius finish the passage: “After the observance of the Sabbath, let every friend of Christ keep the Lord’s day as a festival.”

In the above passage, pseudo-Ignatius speaks of the spiritual observance of the seventh-day Sabbath; but Dwight, Edwards, and all their followers, distort pseudo-Ignatius by applying this to their Lord’s day. Every scholar, according to Cox, has, for centuries, rejected this passage from pseudo-Ignatius as interpolated for dogmatically purposes. And what shall we say of men who, knowing all this, have, for dogmatically purposes, wrested the interpolated passage from its real meaning, and then presented it to the world a s a quotation from the church Father Irenaeus? We can but declare it to be an inexcusable fraud. Does this not equal any interpolation that was ever committed upon the writings fo the so-called church Fathers? Does it not show to us the utter unreliability of human tradition, although it may be manufactured by doctors of divinity living in the nineteenth century, and appear as genuine even in standard religious works?


As the sixth link in this famous chain, we quote the following from Schaff’s Church History:--

“The Didache calls the first day ‘the Lord’s day of the Lord’ (chapter 14. [greek phrase], pleonastic. The adjective in Rev. 1:10.) 42

As to the claim put forth above and based on chapter 14 of the Didache concerning the “first day“, we would say that the only reference made to any week-day whatever, is to be found in chapter 8, verse 1:--

“Let not your fasts be with the hypocrites, for they fast on the second and fifth day of the week, but ye shall fast on the fourth day, and the preparation day,” 43

This is the regular Bible method of naming the days of the week, and the Greek term translated “preparation day” here, is the word used for Friday in the Gospels (see Luke 23:54, etc.) The resurrection of Christ is not so much as mentioned in chapter 14. Instead of finding the two Greek words translated “Lord’s day” in Rev. 1:10, we find here the expression, “according to the Lord’s of the Lord.” In commenting on the Didache, chapter 14, Schaff says, “This chapter interrupts the connection, and should precede chapter 9.” 44 Why did he say so? His reason is easily found, because it is so in the enlarged version, forming the seventh book of the Apostolic Constitutions. Here we find all that is said in chapter 8:1 on fasting, in chapter 23. But we here have some additional facts, viz., to either fast the entire five days or on the fourth day and the day of the preparation. On the fourth day they should fast as t he day of Christ’s betrayal; on the sixth day, because of Christ’s crucifixion. Then it continues:--

“But keep the Sabbath, the Lord’s day festival; because the former is the memorial of the creation, and the latter of the resurrection,” 45

The passage on which Schaff bases his rendering is, according to his note on page 108, The Apost. Const. Vii:30, where we have the very thing lacking in the Didache, 14:1:--
“On the day of the resurrection of the Lord, that is, the Lord’s day, assemble yourselves together, without fail giving thanks to God.”

We will let Schaff himself tell us something about these Apostolic Constitutions:--

“It is, in form, a literary fiction, professing to be a bequest of all the apostles, handed down through the Roman Bishop Clement, or dictated to him.” “It contains, in eight books, a collection of moral exhortations, church laws and usages, and liturgical formularies, which had gradually arisen in the various churches….These were first orally transmitted; then committed to writing in different versions, like the creeds; and finally brought, by some unknown hand, into their present form. The first six books which have a strongly Jewish-Christian tone, were composed, with the exception of some later interpolations, at the end of the third century, in Syria. The seventh book is an expansion of the Didache. . . .The second Trullan council of 692 rejected it for its heretical interpolations,” 46

Let the reader judge how fair it is to complete an unfinished phrase of the second century from a questionable document of the fourth century, and then purport this to be a doctrine of the second century. There is, however, a statement in the Did ache (chap. 4:13) to which we wish to refer in closing, because it furnishes a correct standard by which to test its own statements, and the teachings of those who may quote it. It is based on Matt. 5:17-19, and reads:--

“Thou shalt not forsake the commandments of the Lord, but thou shalt keep what thou hast received, neither adding to nor taking away therefrom.”

If these instructions were followed concerning the ten commandments, it would obviate all these fraudulent efforts, restore the true Sabbath, and supply the missing link-- a plain “Thus saith the Lord,”

Ere we close this investigation, we may be allowed to dispose of two other church Fathers quoted by Dr. Edwards or his associates in their efforts to erect this first-day structure. The first witness adduced is Dionysius, bishop of Corinth (A.D. 170), whose original letter to Soter, bishop of Rome, has perished, and all that remains of it is a short extract preserved in Eusebius, who renders it thus.--

“Today we have passed the Lord’s holy day, in which we have read your epistle; in reading which we shall always have our minds stored with admonition, as we shall, also from that written to us before by Clement” 47

Instead of having Dionysius’s own words, we have this expression as it was quoted by a church historian of the fourth century; and even at that, there is nothing in his statement which would identify the Lord’s day with the first day of the week. He in no wise connects it with, nor does he even mention, the resurrection. He does not say “the Lord’s day,” but “the Lord’s holy day.” Nor is it proper to translate the word “kept,” as Hessey renders it, but it should be “passed,” as given above. And Edwards’s statement in his “Sabbath Manual” (page 114) that this epistle of the bishop of Rome should be read in the church at Corinth, “while they kept holy the Lord’s day”, is a direct interpolation and addition, not to be found in the original at all.

While the first part of the statement has been quoted in support of the Sunday Lord’s day, although it in no wise specifies the day, we will now give the remainder of the passage in question, for the benefit of those attempting to bring forward such perverted evidence.

“As the brethren,” says, he, “desired me to write epistles, I wrote them, and these the apostles of the devil have filled with tares, exchanging some things, and adding others, for whom there is a woe reserved. It is not, therefore, matter of wonder, if some have also attempted to adulterate the sacred writings of the Lord, since they have attempted the same in other works that are not to be compared with these.” 48


Gilfillan names the second of these two church Fathers:--

“In A.D. 170, the Lord’s day is known at Sardis, for Melito, bishop of the church there, writes a book on the subject, and Eusebius, who supplies the information, and who attests the character of the weekly holy day in his own time, must be considered as intimating the identity of the sacred season in Sardis and Caesarea.” 49

But the sum total is, Eusebius simply gives the titles of various works written by Melito, among which are two works on the Passover, [Greek phrase] “and the Discourse about something belonging to the Lord,” 50
This is all we know about it. Cox remarks that it is “a treatise ‘on the Lord’s day,’ if this be the meaning” of the title. So, we have nothing of the book but the title, and even that is indefinite. But there is one thing that we do know about this bishop-- that he was among the chief supporters of celebrating Easter according to the Jewish practise, which, as Schaff says, “was afterward condemned as schismatic and heretical. This may be a reason why his writings fell into oblivion.” 51 This gives us positive evidence that he did not believe in celebrating Easter on Sunday, and was therefore declared a heretic by those who wanted to enforce this change.


The epistles of the so-called Apostolic Fathers and the letter of Pliny are the only sources yielding us historical material for the doctrinal knowledge of the immediate post apostolic age. It is the link that connects the latter part of the first century with the middle of the second. In the Bible there is no record whatever of the institution of another day in the place of the seventh-day Sabbath by either Christ or his apostles. Could this be found, it is self-evident that all such arguments as we have just been considering would not be advanced. The Bible makes clear and definite statements about the first day of the week. Here are all the instances in which the inspired writers mention the day.

Moses, B.C. 1490: “The evening and the morning were the first day.” Gen. 1:5
Matthew, A.D. 41: “In the end of the Sabbath, as it began to dawn toward the first day of the seek.” Matt. 28:1
Paul, A.D. 57 “Upon the first day of the week let everyone lay in store, as God has prospered him, that there be no collections when I come.” 1 Cor. 16:2
Luke, A.D. 60: “Now upon the first day of the week, very early in the morning, they came to the sepulcher” Luke 24:1
Luke, A.D. 63 “And upon the first day of the week when the disciples came together to break bread” Acts 20:7
Mark, A.D. 64: “And very early in the morning of the first day of the week” Mark 16:2. “Now when Jesus was risen early the first day of the week: vs. 9.

After the resurrection of Christ, and before John’s vision, A.D. 96, the day is six times mentioned by inspired men, and every time as plain “first day of the week”. That was, up to this time, its familiar and only name: inspiration knows no other.

But in the year 96, John says, “I was in the spirit on the Lord’s day. Rev. 1:10. Now it is evident that this must be a day which the Lord had set apart for himself, and which he claimed as his. This was all true of the seventh day, but was it in any respect true of the first day. He could not, therefore, call the first day by this name, for it was not such.

But if the Spirit of God designed at this point to create a new institution, and to call a certain day the Lord’s which before had never been claimed by him, it was necessary that he should specify that new day. He did not define the term which proves that he was not giving a scared name to some new institution, but was speaking of a well known, divinely appointed day.

After John’s return from Patmos, he wrote his Gospel, and in that gospel he twice had occasion to mention the first day of the week. Let us see whether he adheres to the manner of the other sacred writers, or whether, when we know he means the first day, he give to it a sacred name.

John, A.D. 97: “The first day of the week cometh Mary Magdalene early,” John 29:1.
“Then that same day at evening, being the first day of the week.” John 29:19

These texts complete the Bible record of the first day of the week. They furnish conclusive evidence that John did not receive new light in vision at Patmos, bidding him call the first day of the week the Lord’s day; and when taken with all the instances preceding, they constitute a complete demonstration that the first day was not familiarly known as the Lord’s day in John’s time, nor indeed known at all by that name.

That the Bible texts quoted in favor of Sunday (such as Acts 20:7; 1 Cor. 16:1, 2; Rev. 1:10, etc.) are not adequate proof, and that, therefore, the evidence must be sought in the records of tradition, is thus set forth by J.A.Hessey in Smith’s Bible Dictionary:--


“Taken separately, perhaps, and even all together, these passages seem scarcely adequate to prove that the dedication of the first day of the week to the purposes above mentioned was a matter of apostolic institution, or even of apostolic practise. But it may be observed that it is at any rate an extraordinary coincidence that almost immediately we emerge from Scripture, we find the same day (Lord’s day) mentioned in a similar manner, and directly associated with the Lord’s resurrection; that it is an extraordinary fact that we never find its dedication questioned or agued about, but accepted as something equally apostolic with confirmation, with infant baptism, with ordination, or at least spoken of in the same way. And a s to direct support from Holy Scripture, it is noticeable that those other ordinances which are usually considered Scriptural, and in support of which Scripture is usually cited, are dependent, so far as mere quotation is concern, upon fewer texts than the Lord’s day is. Stating the case at the very lowest, the Lord’s day has at least ‘probable insinuations in Scripture,’* and so is superior to any other holy day, whether of hebdomadal celebration, as Friday in memory of the crucifixion, or of annual celebration of Easter day in memory of the resurrection itself.”
*This phrase is employed by Bishop Sanderson. 52


As we emerged from Scripture, have we found “almost immediately” the first day of the week “mentioned in a similar manner [that is, under the title, Lord’s day], and directly associated with the Lord’s resurrection”? There is not a single instance where we have found the first day under the title “Lord’s day” “directly associated with the Lord’s resurrection” in all the church Father’ until near the close of the second century.

But what have we found?--
After John’s time the day is next mentioned in the so-called epistle of Barnabas, written probably as early as A.D. 140 and is there called “the eighth day,” Then it is spoken of by Justin Martyr in his Apology, A.D. 140, once as “the day on which we all hold our common assembly;” once as “the first day on which God…made the world;” once as “the same day [on which Christ] rose from the dead, once as “the day after that of Saturn;” and three times as “Sunday,” or “the day of the sun.” Again he refers to it in his dialogue with Trypho, A.D. 155, in which he twice calls it the “eighth day;” once “the first of all the days;” once as “the first” “of all the days of the [weekly] cycle;” and twice “the first day after the Sabbath.”

These are all the passages in which the first day of the week is mentioned until near the close of the second century. The variety of names by which the day is referred to during this time is remarkable, but it is NEVER called the Lord’s day, nor is it ever designated by ANY SACRED NAME.


On the other hand, what efforts have been made by noted first-day writers to manufacture evidence for the use of the term Lord’s day almost immediately after John’s time? In the case of Pliny, they pervert the question put to the martyrs at the beginning of the fourth century, and assign it to the second.
As to Ignatius, they have interpolated his statement of the second century with a quotation taken from the pseudo-Ignatius of the fourth century. The heathen designations of the first day of the week occurring in Justin Martyr, they have fraudulently changed into the significant title of the Lord’s day. Into the mouth of Theophilus of Antioch they have placed the opening words of an Episcopal decree of an Alexandrian bishop of the fourth century. They have honoured Irenaeus with this same statement of the pseudo-Ignatius of the fourth century-- remodelled in order to hide its identity.

The obscure phrase “Lord’s of the Lord,” found in the Didache, and in no way associated with the first day of the week, or with the resurrection, they have interpreted in the light of a spurious compilation of the fourth century.

From Eusebius’s church history (written in the fourth century), they have quoted the doubtful title of a treatise by Melito, and the isolated phrase “Lord’s holy day” occurring in Dionysius, to prove that the term Lord’s day was employed by them to designate the first day of the week. These fraudulent productions cover the entire interim between John’s use of the Lord’s day in A.D. 96, and the time of Irenaeus A.D. 178.

In view of these perversions, we would inquire, What remains now of J.A. Hessey’s “extraordinary coincidence” of the use of the words Lord’s day for the first day of the week, “almost immediately after we emerged from Scripture”?

Here we desire to state an “extraordinary fact:” While the most able first-day writers have to admit that the Scriptures contain only “probable insinuations” as to the dedication of Sunday to its new office, with its accompanying title of Lord’s day, they are unable to produce a single treatise, or even as much a phrase, from the early church Fathers proving that Christ or the apostles instituted Sunday in honor of the resurrection and conferred upon it the name of Lord’s day, and thus make good their insinuations from scripture by the testimony of early tradition. They have to fabricate a chain of evidence to create even plausible proofs to substantiate their assertion.

That Sunday is “equally apostolic” with such church practises as infant baptism, confirmation etc., we are ready to admit; but to make the list complete, he should have added the sign of the cross, fast-days, meritorious works, and the claims of the papal hierarchy.

All that first-day authors have been able to bring forward up to A.D. 178 in support of their claim that Sunday is a divine institution, and, as such, entitled to the honoured title of Lord’s day, are the “probable insinuations in Scripture,” and the forged chain of evidence from apostolic tradition. The Missing chain that they so earnestly seek for, by which they would connect the human Sunday institution with the Biblical record, has proved to be a chain of sand. Sunday still stands forth in its true character as a man-made festival, like all other popular holidays, and its origin must be accounted for solely on this basis.

1. Schaff, second century, vol. 2 sec. 161, p 634 Return>

2. Sabbath Manual, p. 120.Return>

3. History of the Sabbath” Norwich, 1830, p. 87Return>

4. Domville’s “The Sabbath” London, 1849, p. 260
Examination of the Six Texts, pp. 258-261. Return>

5. Note by Domville. "Dominicum is not, as may at first be supposed, an adjective, of which diem [day] is the understood substantive. It is itself a substantive, neuter as appears from the passage, `Quia non potest intermitti Dominicum; in the narrative respecting Saturninus. The Latin adjective Dominicus, when intended to refer to the Lord's day, is never, I believe, used without its substantive dies [day] being expressed. In all the narratives contained in Ruinart's Acta Martyrum, I find but two instances of mention being made of the Lord's day, and in both these instances the substantive dies [day] is expressed." Return>

6. “The Sabbath,” pp. 272, 273Return>

7. Cox. Vol. 1, p. 304Return>

8. Gilfillan, “The Sabbath” Edinburgh, 1861, p.7Return>

9. Divine Authority of the Lord’s Day” Asserted, London, 1830Return>

10. “Le Dimanche,” par. L.V. Mellet, Laus., p. 109Return>

11. Die vorzuglichsten Denkwurdigkeiten der Christl. Kath. Kirche. B. 5 Th, 1, pp 127, 139, Mainz, 1838. Return>

12. “Acta Sanctorum: Antwerpen, 1658, Gebr, tom, 2. Pp. 513-519Return>

13. Annales Eccl, Lucae, 1738, Tom, III. Pp. 248-352Return>

14. Acta sincera, Amsterdam 1713, p.382Return>

15. Ibique celebrantes ex more Dominica sacramenta -- Baronius, Tom, III. P. 348 Return>

16. Qui contra interdictum Imperatorum et Caesarum, collectam et Dominicum celebrassent, --Ruinart, sec. 5. Baronius, Lat. Collectam Dominicam, An. 303. No. XXXIX.Return>

17. Utrm collectam fecisset. Qui cum se christianum, et in collecta fuisse profiteered. --Id.Return>

18. Nam et in collecta fui, et. Dominicum cum fratribus celebravi, quia Christiana sum, -- Id., No, 43, p. 344Return>

19. Dominicum celebravimus. Proconsul ait: Quare? Respondit: Quia non potest intermitti Dominicum. --Id., No.46, p. 350 Return>

20. Intermitti Dominicum non potest, ait, Lex sic jubet. --Id.Return>

21. Non quaero an Christianus sis sed an collectam feceris…Qusi Christianus sine Dominico esse possit. Id., No. 51, p. 351. Return>

22. Collectam, inquit, religiousissime celebravimus; ad scripturas Dominicas legendas in Dominicum convenimus semper. --Id., Return>

23. Post quem junior Felix, spem slutemque Christianorum Dominicum esse proclaiming…Ego, inquit, devota menta celebravi Dominicum, collectam cum fratribus feci, quia Christianus sum, --Id., No. 53 Return>

24. Utrum egeris Dominicum, Cui respondit Saturninus: Egi Dominicum; quia Salvator est Christus. --Id., p. 352 Return>

25. Bolland., Febr, tom. 2, p. 516, nota c. Return>

26. Rulnart on Sec. 5. Nota 20 Return>

27. Baronius, No. LXXXIV. P. 359 Return>

28. Leidengeschichten der Martyrer, Klagenfurt, 1895. Th 2, p. 32 Return>

29. Geshichte des Sonntags, Hannover, 1878 pp. 75-76 Return>

30. “Sabbath Manual,” page 113 Return>

31. Cox, vol. I, pp. 119,120 Return>

32. Quoted by Cox, vol. 2, p. 299 Return>

33. Justin Martyr’s “First Apology,” chap. 67 Return>

34. Sunday, p. 43 Return>

35. “Sabbath Manual,” p. 114 Return>

36. “The Sabbath,” p. 374 Return>

37. “Edicti Theophili apud Th, Balsamon, canon apostolorum, councillor, Paris 1620, p. 1067 Return>

38. Cox. Vol. I, p. 328 Return>

39. Id., p. 121 Return>

40. Quoted b Cox, vol. 1 p. 329 Return>

41. Interpolated Epistle in Magn., c.9 quoted by Cox, vol. I p. 330 Return>

40 42. Shaff, History of the Christian Church, second period, Vol. 2 page 202 Return>

43. “Oldest Church Manual,” pp. 187,188 Return>

44. Id., p. 208 Return>

45. Id., p. 277 Return>

46. Shaff, History of the Christian Church, second period p. 185-186 Return>

47. Eusebius, “Ecclesiastical History,” b.4, chap. 23 Return>

48. Eusebius, “Ecclesiastical History,” b.4, chap. 23 Return>

49. “The Sabbath” p. 374 Return>

50. Eusebius, “Ecclesiastical History,” graec. Stephanus, Paris , 1544, p. 42. Return>

51. Second period, par. 177, p. 736 Return>

52. Boston, 1863, vol. 2 p. 136, article, “Lord’s Day”. Return>

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