Lord's Day, The

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The only explicit mention of the Lord's Day in the New Testament occurs in Rv 1.10: "I was in the spirit on the Lord's day ν τ[symbol omitted] κυριακ[symbol omitted] μέρ." From this single reference alone, it would be impossible to conclude that the early Christians celebrated the first day of the week, Sunday, as their special day of devotion and rest. However, there are several indications in the New Testament, which, taken in conjunction with other early Christian writings, provide strong cumulative evidence to that effect.

First, there is the clear emphasis in all the Gospels (Mt 28.1; Mk 16.2; Lk 24.1; Jn 20.1, 19) on the fact that the resurrection of christ took place on the first day of the week. (The quasi-technical expression used by all, μία σαββάτων "number one of the Sabbath," i.e., the week, is explained by most authors as a double Hebraism.) Then, St. Luke in Acts 20.7 connects the first day of the week (μία τ[symbol omitted]ν σαββάτων) with the "breaking of bread" (κλάσαι ρτον), i.e., the celebration of the Eucharist, as appears evident from Acts 2.42, 46; 1 Cor 10.16. Finally, St. Paul indicates the first day of each week (κατ μίαν σαββάτον) in his directive for the alms collection in 1 Cor 16.2.

These New Testament allusions, however inconclusive by themselves, find clarification and confirmation from early Christian writings. In the Didache, for example, it is said:

On the Lord's own day, assemble in common to break bread and offer thanks; but first confess your sins, so that your sacrifice may be pure. However, no one quarrelling with his brother may join your meeting until they are reconciled; your sacrifice must not be defiled. For here we have the saying of the Lord: In every place and time offer me a pure sacrifice; for I am a mighty king, says the Lord; and my name spreads terror among the nations (ch. 14).

See also the references in the Epistle of Barnabas (15.8, 9), St. Ignatius of Antioch (Magn. 9), and St. Justin (1 Apol. 67). These writings provide ample evidence that the Jewish sabbath was early replaced by the Christian Sunday, the Lord's Day, in honor of the Resurrection of Christ. Exactly how this came about is not clear, but Acts 20.7 indicates that the observance of Sunday may have begun at sundown on Saturday evening as an addition to the Jewish Sabbath, whose observance was eventually discontinued, perhaps upon the destruction of Jerusalem.

For the New Testament Christians, the expression "the Lord's Day" probably suggested a wealth of meanings largely overlooked today: (1) the glorious Resurrection that established Jesus of Nazareth as lord and Christ (Ps 2.7; Acts 2.36; Phil 2.11); (2) the revelation of Christ as identified with Yahweh, God of Israel and Lord of the earth (Jos 3.11; Rom 1.4); (3) the "day of the lord," a day of judgment and salvation, death and resurrection (Jl 3.45; Acts 2.20); (4) the unique and universal Lordship of Christ (1 Cor 8.6) as opposed to the "many lords" (1 Cor 8.5) of the pagans; (5) His fullness (πλ ήρωμα), His headship over His body, the Church, and His lordship over the world to come (Col 1.1520; Eph 1.2023). The Lord's Day was, for the early Christian, not simply a day of devotion and rest, but one of renewed commitment and consecration to Christ, Our Lord.

See Also: sunday.

Bibliography: w. foerster, g. kittel Theologisches Wörterbuch zum Neuen Testament (Stuttgart 1935) 3:109596. Encyclopedic Dictionary of the Bible, tr. and adap. by l. hartman (New York 1963) 236263. h. riesenfeld, "Sabbat et Jour du Seigneur," N.T. Essays: Studies in Memory of T. W. Manson, ed. a.j. b. higgins (Manchester, Eng. 1959) 210217. w. rordorf, Der Sonntag: Geschichte des Ruheund Gottesdiensttages im ältesten Christentum (Abhandlungen zur Theologie des Alten und Neuen Testaments 43; Zurich 1962).

[w. f. dicharry]