(Part 2 of 2)
Superiority of Eighth Day
In the growing conflict between the Church and the Synagogue and between Sabbath-keepers the eighth day came to be dissociated from the Sabbath. Its rich symbology became widely used primarily as a polemic argument to prove the fulfillment, the substitution, and the supersedure of Judaism and of its Sabbath as well as the superiority of Christianity and of its Sunday. To accomplish this objective, the Old and the New Testament were searched for references (so called Testimonia) which would denigrate the Sabbath and provide some theological justification for the eighth day. Barnabas indicates that this process had already begun. He endeavors not only to find theological justifications for the eighth day, but also attempts to invalidate the observance of the Sabbath, by quoting, among other texts, Isaiah 1:13: "Further he says to them, ‘Your new moons and Sabbaths I cannot endure.’ You see what he means: it is not the present Sabbaths that are acceptable to me" (15:8).
What does the number eight
REPRESENT in the Bible?
Barnabas’ initial endeavor to exalt the superiority of the eighth day at the expense of the seventh is carried on by several Fathers who enriched this teaching with new testimonia and arguments. Justin Martyr (ca. A.D. 100 ca. 165), for instance, extrapolates from the Scriptures some new interesting "proofs" to show that "the eighth day possessed a certain mysterious import, which the seventh did not possess." (46) The eighth day of the circumcision, the eight persons saved from the flood and possibly the fifteen cubits (seven plus eight) of the flood waters which rose above all mountains are arbitrarily interpreted a prefiguration of and justification for the observance of the eighth day. On the other hand, we noticed that Justin reduces the seventh day to a trademark of Jewish infidelity. To prove such a thesis he contends that the Sabbath was not observed before Moses, that God Himself did not keep it and that several persons in the Old Testament, like the priests, legitimately broke it. (47)
These "proofs" became the standard repertory utilized in the controversy not only by the Fathers but even by Gnostic sects. Irenaeus (ca. A.D. 130-ca. 200) refers to a group of them, known as Marcosians, who defended the doctrine of the "ogdoad" (eighth) not only by arguing from the story of the flood and of the circumcision (already used by Justin)’, but also from the fact that David was the eighth son and that the fleshy part of man was allegedly created on the eighth day. "In a word," Irenaeus comments, "whatever they find in the Scriptures capable of being referred to the number eight, they declare to fulfill the mystery of the ogdoad." (48)
The Gnostics, in fact, who, as J. Daniélou points out, "were decided enemies of Judaism, were carried away by this theme [i.e. eighth day]," (49) since it enabled them to do away with the "Jewish" Sabbath. However, they substituted the Judaeo-Christian eschatological view of the eighth day as symbol of the eternal kingdom to come, with the view of the cosmological and spiritual world of rest and eternity found above this world of sevenness. They developed this interpretation by bringing together the Pythagorean notion of the seven spheres which were embraced by the eighth, immovable firmament, with the prestige attributed by Christians to the eighth day; (50) Thus, for the Gnostic, Sunday became the symbol of full and perfect life attainable here below by "spiritual" people. Theodotus illustrates this in a text reported by Clement of Alexandria (ca. A.D. 150-215): "The rest of the spiritual men takes place on the day of the Lord (kuriake) in the ogdoad which is called the day of the Lord (kuriake)" (51) Here the Lord’s day is identified with the ogdoad to designate the super-celestial kingdom inhabited by the soul of spiritual persons.
Did Christianity take its beliefs from first century GNOSTICISM?
This heretical Gnosis is reflected in Clement of Alexandria, one of the most liberal minds of Christian antiquity. In a comment on the passage of Ezekiel 44:27, "the priests are purified for seven days" and on the eighth sacrifices are offered, Clement in a neutral fashion summarizes the prevailing meanings attributed to the numbers seven and eight. The former, he explains, represents the seven ages of the world or the seven heavens or the present state of change and sin. The latter, on the other hand, symbolizes the supreme rest in the future world or the super-celestial kingdom or the state of changelessness and sinlessness. (52)
In spite of his syncretistic mind, Clement manifests a clear antagonism toward the number seven, symbol of the Sabbath. In fact, he regards it as "a motherless and childless number." The number eight, on the other hand, not only possessed prestigious qualities but, according to Clement, it is also the day the Lord has made which all men should celebrate. (53) Returning now to the mainstream of Christianity, we shall notice that the seventh and the eighth day are interpreted more eschatologically than cosmologically. Several other practical meanings are also devised out of the Scriptures and the natural world. The function of all these interpretations is obviously polemic, designed, as noted by F. A. Regan,
"to point out the superiority of the Lord’s day over the Sabbath, and the fulfillment of the seventh in this eighth." (54)
Irenaeus reproposes the millenarian scheme of Barnabas, interpreting the seventh day as the symbol of the judgment and world to come and the eighth as the eternal blessedness. (55) Like Justin, he also reduced the Sabbath to an existential meaning, namely, perseverance in the service of God during the whole life and abstention from evil. (56)
Origen (ca. A.D. 185-ca. 254) continues the Irenaeus tradition by limiting the Sabbath to a spiritual dimension, but differs from him in its eschatological interpretation. Contrary to the Western tradition which interpreted the seven days as the seven millennia of the history of this world, Origen, consistent with the Eastern tradition, views the number seven as the symbol of this present world and the eighth as symbol of the future world: "The number eight, which contains the power of the resurrection, is the figure of the world to come, just as the number seven is the symbol of this present world." (57) Though Origen approaches the controversy over the two days in a philosophical Gnostic fashion, his intention to denigrate the seventh day, and to exalt in its place the eighth, should not be missed. In the same Commentary on Psalm 118 he presents the seventh day as the sign of matter, of impurity and of uncircumcision, while to the eighth day he reserves the symbol of perfection, of spirituality and of purification by the new circumcision provided by Christ’s resurrection. (58)
Cyprian, Bishop of Carthage (d. A.D. 258), free from excessive allegorism or chiliastic speculations, views the eighth day as the "first and sovereign after the Sabbath—id est post sabbatum primus et dorninus"— fulfilling both Sabbath observance and the circumcision ritual. The eighth day "preceded in symbol—praecessit in imagine" the seven, therefore it represents the fulfillment of and the superiority over the Sabbath. (59)
In the Syriac Didascalia (ca. A.D. 250) the eighth day is curiously obtained by counting inclusively from Sabbath to Sabbath: "The Sabbath itself is counted even unto the Sabbath, and it becomes eight [days]; thus an ogdoad is [reached], which is more than the Sabbath, even the first of the week." (60) Inasmuch as by counting inclusively from Sabbath to Sabbath, the eighth day is still the Sabbath, one wonders how the author could legitimately apply this designation to Sunday. Perhaps he himself became aware of his irrationality, for when arguing for the superiority of Sunday over the Sabbath, he uses exclusively the symbology of the first day. He contends, in fact, that the first day was created before the seventh, that it represents the inauguration of creation, that it was shown to be prestigious by the law of the firstborn and that it was predicted that it would take the place of the seventh since it says. "The last shall be first and first last." To devaluate the Sabbath further the Didascalia too reiterates the traditional arguments that the patriarchs and righteous men before Moses did not keep the Sabbath and that God Himself is not idle on the Sabbath. He then concludes by stating more explicitly and emphatically than Barnabas that
"the Sabbath therefore is a type of the [final] rest, signifying the seventh thousand [years]. But the Lord our Saviour, when He was come, fulfilled the types and . . . destroyed that which cannot help." (61)
Hilary, Bishop of Poitiers (ca. A.D. 315-367), perhaps provides the classic example where the eighth day stands explicitly as the continuation and fulfillment of the Sabbath. He writes: "Although the name and the observance of the Sabbath had been established for the seventh day, we [Christians] celebrate the feast of the perfect Sabbath on the eighth day of the week, which is also the first." (62) Later he interprets the fifteen gradual Psalms as
"the continuation of the seventh day of the Old Testament and the eighth day of the Gospel, by which we rise to holy and spiritual things." (63)
Victorinus, Bishop of Pettau in Austria (d. ca. A.D. 304), in his short treatise On the Creation of the World, devotes special attention to the meaning of the seventh and eighth days. He explores and synthesizes all the possible uses of the number seven, but can find only that such a number bespeaks of the duration of this present world, of the consummation of the humanity of Christ and of the "seventh millenary of years, when Christ with His elect shall reign." The eighth day, on the contrary, which he finds announced in the title of "the sixth Psalm for the eighth day, . . . is indeed the eighth day of that future judgment, which will pass beyond the order of the seven-fold arrangement." It is on account of this inferiority that, according to Victorinus, the Sabbath was broken by Moses when he commanded "that circumcision should not pass over the eighth day," by Joshua, when on the Sabbath "he commanded the children of Israel to go round the walls of the city of Jericho," by Matthias, when "he slew the prefect of Antiochus," and finally by Christ and His disciples. (64)
What motivated this systematic devaluation of the Sabbath and the consequent enhancement of the eighth day by such bizarre and irrational arguments? Victorinus leaves us in no doubt that this was a calculated attempt to force the Christians away from any veneration of the Sabbath. This is indicated not only by the fantastic arguments which are devised for Sunday and against the Sabbath, but also by the specific injunction to fast on the Sabbath lest Christians
"should appear to observe any Sabbath with the Jews, which Christ Himself, the Lord of the Sabbath, says by His prophets that ‘His soul hateth.’" (65)
Ambrose, Bishop of Milan (ca. A.D. 339-397), reproposes several traditional interpretations of the symbol of the seventh and eighth days while at the same time adding his own practical arguments to the controversy. He claims, for instance, that "the Sabbath was symbol of the ancient economy based on the sanctification of the law," while the eighth day represents the new economy "sanctified by His [Christ’s] resurrection." (66) The Christian’s eighth day for Ambrose begins here on the earth below, since "the seventh age of the world has ended and the grace of the eighth which made man not of this world but of above, has been revealed." (67) However, the full rest of the eighth day, which "Jesus has purchased for His people through His resurrection," according to Ambrose, "is not to be found on earth but in heaven." (68)
In his Letter to Horontius Ambrose uses the analogy of the natural and supernatural birth to prove the superiority of the eighth day. A baby born at seven months will face hardship; but the child regenerated on the eighth day will inherit the kingdom of heaven. (69) Then Ambrose rather enigmatically says that in the seventh is found the "name" while in the eighth the "fruit" of the Holy Spirit. (70) Old Testament passages such as Ecclesiastes 11:2, "Give a portion to those seven, and also to those eight," and Psalm 118:24, "This is the day the Lord has made," as well as the rite of the circumcision, are again interpreted as predictions and prefigurations of the eighth day. (71) Like previous Fathers, Ambrose also believes that "God appointed beforehand another day . . . because the Jews refused through contempt the commands of their God." (72) He urges that Christians therefore leave behind the seventh day, the symbol of the seventh age of the world which has ended and that they enter into the grace of the eighth day: prefigured in the Old Testament, inaugurated by Christ’s resurrection, and representing the fulfillment and supplantation of the Sabbath. (73)
Jerome (ca. A.D. 342-420), like his contemporary Ambrose, sees in the seventh and eighth days the symbol of the passage from the Law to the Gospel: "The number seven having been fulfilled, we now climb to the Gospel through the eighth." (74) Therefore, for Jerome to observe the Sabbath is a sign of retrogression, because he explains (alluding to Ecclesiastes 11:2) that
"the Jews by believing in the Sabbath, gave the seventh part, but they did not give the eighth because they denied the resurrection of the Lord’s day." (75)
Augustine (A.D. 354-430) represents perhaps the maximum speculative effort of the Western Fathers to interpret the seventh and eighth days both eschatologically and mystically. Though his treatment of the subject is relatively free from polemic and captivates the reader by its profound spiritual insights, the Sabbath still retains a temporary and subordinate role which finds its fulfillment in the eighth day. Before the resurrection of Christ, the mystery of the eighth day, according to Augustine, "was not concealed from the holy Patriarchs, but it was locked up and hidden and taught only as the observance of the Sabbath." (76) Like his predecessors he sees in the baptismal symbols of the circumcision and the flood, prefigurations of the eighth day. He explicitly associates the eight persons saved from the flood with the eighth day, saying that they are
"the same thing which is signified in different ways by the difference of signs, as it might be by a diversity of words." (77)
Augustine’s teaching on the eighth day, as C. Folliet well argues, is inseparable from that of the Sabbath. (78) Following the Western millenarian tradition of Irenaeus, Hippolytus, Tertullian and Victorinus, (79) he interprets the creation-week as representing the seven ages of the history of this world, which are followed by the eighth day, the new eternal age. At first Augustine held to a clear distinction between the eschatological meaning of the seventh and the eighth day. He writes, for instance, "the eighth day signifies the new life at the end of the ages, the seventh the future rest of the saints on this earth." (80) Later, as a result of intense and mature reflection, Augustine rejected the prevailing material understanding of the seventh millennium as a time of carnal enjoyment of the saints on this earth and merged the rest of the seventh day with that of the eternal octave. (81)
The eighth day, however, for Augustine represents not only this historical continuation and culmination of the eschatological Sabbath, but also the mystical progress of the soul toward the internal world of peace. In this case the Sabbath which "Christians observe spiritually by abstaining from all servile work, that is to say, from all sin" symbolizes the spiritual "tranquility and serenity of a good conscience," while the eighth day stands for the greater eternal peace awaiting the saints. (82) Thus, for Augustine the eighth day epitomized the fulfillment of the Sabbath both as historical perspective and as interior reality.
Pope Gregory the Great (ca. A.D. 540-604), the last great Doctor of the ancient Latin Church, provides perhaps a final example of a speculative and practical effort to use the symbology of the eighth day to prove the superiority of Sunday over the Sabbath. The Pontiff denounces in no uncertain terms certain Sabbath keeping Christians who advocated abstention from work on the Sabbath. He wrote in a letter:
"It has been reported to me that certain men of a depraved spirit have sown among you the seeds of a perverted doctrine contrary to the holy faith, forbidding to perform any work on the Sabbath day. What shall I say of such men except that they are the preachers of the Antichrist? . .. This is why we accept in a spiritual way and observe spiritual what is written about the Sabbath. For the Sabbath means rest and we have the true Sabbath, the very Redeemer, our Lord Jesus Christ." (83)
To find support for the eighth day, Gregory refers to the traditional admonition of Ecclesiastes 11:2, "Give portion to seven and also to eight," interpreting it as a prefiguration of the day of Christ’s resurrection, "for He truly rose on the Lord’s day, which since it follows the seventh day Sabbath is found to be the eighth from creation." (84) For another Old Testament prediction foretelling the eighth day, the Pontiff turns to the seven sacrifices which Job offered on the eighth day after the feasting of his sons and daughters. He explains that "the story truly indicates that the blessed Job when offering sacrifices on the eighth day, was celebrating the mystery of the resurrection and served the Lord for the hope of the resurrection." (85)
Gregory also introduces a new and interesting eschatological interpretation of the seventh and eighth days by viewing the Christian life as a mirror of the life of Christ Himself: "What the wonderful Saviour experienced in Himself, truly signifies what happens in us, so that we, like Him, might experience sorrow in the sixth and rest in the seventh and glory in the eighth." The sixth day represents, therefore, the present life "characterized by sorrow and distressing torment." The Sabbath signifies man’s repose in the grave when "the soul freed from the body finds rest." The eighth day symbolizes "the bodily resurrection from death and the rejoicing at the glorious reunification of the soul with the flesh." Then Gregory concludes with a veiled allusion to the day of the Sun, stating that "the eighth day opens to us the vastness of eternity, through the light which follows after the seventh day." (86)
These testimonies reveal a continuity in the usage of the rich symbology of the eighth day. The chief purpose appears to have been primarily to demonstrate the fulfillment and continuation of the Sabbath through Sunday. We have noticed what a wide range of a posteriori arguments were devised from the Scriptures, from prevailing calendric speculation and from the natural world, to prove the superiority of the eighth day, Sunday, over the seventh day, Sabbath.
The detachment of the Eighth Day from Sunday
Beginning with the fourth century a new trend appears where the numeric symbolism of the eighth day is progressively detached from Sunday and is used less as a polemic argument and more as a pedagogical device. It is employed, on the one hand, to preserve among Christians eschatological expectation and thereby keep them from being captivated by material things. On the other hand, it is retained and used as a symbol of the resurrection per se, because as J. Daniélou has well observed, it permitted "to establish a link between the texts of the Old Testament where the number eight is found and the resurrection and to see, therefore, in these passages prophecies of the resurrection." (87) This new trend is particularly noticeable in the East. The three Cappadocian Fathers, for example, though they deal at length with the symbolism of the eighth day, seem to avoid applying its name and meaning to Sunday. (88) They prefer to devote their attention to the implications of the eschatological meaning of the eighth day for the present life.
Basil, Bishop of Caesarea (ca. A.D. 330-379), regards the eighth day, which, he says, is "outside the time of the seven days" as a figure of "the future life." (89) He prefers, however, to establish the meaning of the future world to come by the number "one" rather than "eighth." He does this by associating the "monad" of Greek thought with the Biblical "one–mia," which he derives from the original day of creation, arguing that the week by returning perpetually on itself (day one) has no beginning or end and therefore is a figure of eternity. (90) Because of this meaning, expressed by both the number "one" and "eight," according to Basil, "the Church teaches her children to recite their prayers standing on Sunday so that, by the continual reminder of eternal life, we may not neglect the means necessary to attain it." (91) This association of the meaning of the eighth with the practice of standing for prayer on Sunday represents a solitary reference. We shall see that it secured no following.
Gregory of Nazianzus (A.D. 329-389), a contemporary of Basil, employs the eighth day, which for him "refers to the life to come, not to encourage Sunday observance but rather to urge "doing good while yet here on earth." (92) This trend is even more pronounced in the other Cappadocian, Gregory of Nyssa (ca. A.D. 330-395), the younger brother of Basil. Though he wrote a treatise On the Ogdoad, as remarked by F. Regan, he does not make "a single reference to the Lord’s day." (93) As a philosopher he defines the octave in platonic terms as the future age which is not susceptible of "augmentation or diminution" and which does not "suffer either alteration or change." (94) As a mystic he views the ogdoad as "the future age toward which the internal life is turned." (95) In commenting on the eighth beatitude, he finds the meaning of the octave in the Old Testament rites of purification and circumcision, which he explains mystically as representing "the return to purity of man’s nature stained by sin,.., and the stripping off of the dead skins," symbol of the mortal and carnal life. (96) Gregory, therefore, finds in the meaning of the number "eight" not polemic arguments to urge the observance of Sunday in place of the Sabbath, but rather the symbol of the eternal and spiritual life which has already begun here below. His avoidance of any association between the number eight and Sunday observance is perhaps explained by his view (prevailing in the East) that Sabbath and Sunday were not antagonists but brothers:
"With which eyes do you look at the Lord’s day, you have dishonored the Sabbath? Do you perhaps ignore that the two days are brothers and that if you hurt one, you strike at the other?" (97)
The Cappadocians’ detachment of the eschatological meaning of the eighth day from the cultic observance of Sunday finds sanction in a surprising statement from John Chrysostom (ca. A.D. 347-407), Bishop of Constantinople. In his second Treatise on Compunction, he makes a startling statement:
"What is then the eighth day but that great and manifest day of the Lord which burns like straw and which makes the powers on high tremble? The Scripture calls it the eighth, indicating the change of state and the inauguration of the future life. Indeed, the present life is one week only, beginning on the first day, ending on the seventh and returning to the same unit again, going back to the same beginning and continuing to the same end. It is for this reason that no one calls the Lord’s day the eighth day but only first day. Indeed, the septenary cycle does not extend to the number eight. But when all these things come to an end and dissolve, then the course of the octave will arise." (98)
This statement of Chrysostom represents the culmination of the development of the eschatological interpretation of the eight day, which by reflex epitomizes to some extent the vicissitudes which accompanied the birth and development of Sunday observance. The very name "eighth day" and its inherent eschatological meaning, which at first Barnabas and afterwards several Fathers used to justify the validity and superiority of Sunday over the Sabbath, are now formally and explicitly repudiated since their raison d’être has ceased. (99) The eighth day is retained exclusively as symbol of the age to come and of the resurrection. The search for texts in the Old Testament containing the number eight or fifteen (seven plus eight) continues but now no longer to prove that "the eighth day possesses a more mysterious import which the seventh did not possess," (100) but rather that the resurrection event (whether it be the resurrection of Christ or the baptismal resurrection or the eschatological resurrection) was already prefigured and predicted by the prophets. (101)
Some significant conclusions regarding the origin of Sunday emerge from this brief survey of the use of the "eighth day" in early Christianity.
The fact that the typology of the eighth day first appears especially in the writings of anti-Judaic polemics, such as the Epistle of Barnabas and the Dialogue with Trypho, and that it was widely used as an apologetic device to prove the superiority of Sunday over the Sabbath, suggests, first of all, that Sunday worship arose as a controversial innovation and not as an undisputed apostolic institution. The polemic was apparently provoked by a Sabbath keeping minority (mostly Jewish-Christians) who refused to accept the new day of worship. This we found to be indicated by the very speculations on the eschatological superiority of the eighth day over the seventh, since these contentions had meaning only in a polemic with Jewish-Christians and Jews. In these circles where the Sabbath and the cosmic week played an important role, the opposition to the new day of worship was strong enough to cause the development of the apologetic arguments about the eighth day, in order to refute the claims of these sabbatarians.
The wide range of arguments drawn from apocalyptic literature, the Scriptures, philosophy and the natural world to prove the superiority of the eighth day over the seventh, presupposes also that the validity of Sunday observance was being constantly challenged by a significant segment of Sabbath keeping Christians. (102) In the controversy over the two days, however, the symbolism of the eighth day was found to provide an effective apologetic device, since it could justify Sunday on several grounds. As the eighth eschatological day, Sunday could be defended in Jewish and Jewish-Christian apocalyptic circles as the symbol of the new world, superior to the Sabbath which represented only the seventh terrestrial millennium. As the Gnostic ogdoad, Sunday could represent the rest of the spiritual beings in the super-celestial eternal world, found above the sevenness of this transitory world. As the Biblical number eight which the Fathers found in several references of the Old Testament (such as, the eighth day of the circumcision, the eight souls saved from the flood, the fifteen cubits—seven plus eight—of the flood waters above all mountains, the title of Psalms 6 and 11 "for the eighth day," the fifteen gradual Psalms—seven plus eight— , the saying "give a portion to seven or even to eight" of Ecclesiastes 11:2 and others), Sunday could be prestigiously traced back to the "prophecies" of the Old Testament. Invested with such "prophetic" authority, the eighth day could "legitimately" represent the fulfillment of the reign of the law allegedly typified by the Sabbath and the inauguration of the kingdom of grace supposedly exemplified by Sunday. Jerome expressed this view well, saying that "the number seven having been fulfilled, we now rise to the Gospel through the eight." (103)
It appears that the denomination "eighth day," coined very early by Christians, epitomizes to some extent the manner and the causes of the origin of Sunday. It suggests that Sunday worship arose possibly "as a prolongation of that of the Sabbath," (104) celebrated initially on Saturday evening. Later, due to the existing necessity for Christians to differentiate themselves from the Jews, the service was apparently transferred from Saturday evening to Sunday morning. (105) While we have been unable to document this transference, the fact that the introduction of Sunday worship provoked a controversy, we found to be well attested, especially by the polemic use of the symbolism of the eighth day which was developed out of apocalyptic, Gnostic and Biblical sources to prove the superiority of Sunday over the Sabbath. We also found an indirect evidence for the existence of a controversy over the two days in the fact that the name and the meaning of the eighth day were detached from Sunday and retained exclusively as a symbol of the resurrection of Christ, when the Sabbath - Sunday controversy subsided. (106)
This brief survey of the various early Christian motivations for Sunday observance suggests that the new day of worship was introduced in a climate of controversy and uncertainty. The very memory of the resurrection, which in time became the dominant reason for Sunday observance, we found, initially played only a secondary role. On the contrary, the great importance attached to the symbolism of both the first and the eighth days, is indicative of the polemic which accompanied the introduction of Sunday observance. It appears that because of the exigency which arose to separate from the Jews and their Sabbath, Gentile Christians adopted the venerable day of the Sun, since it provided an adequate time and symbolism to commemorate significant divine events which occurred on that day, such as the creation of light and the resurrection of the Sun of Justice. This innovation provoked a controversy with those who maintained the inviolability and superiority of the Sabbath. To silence such opposition, we found that the symbolism of the first and of the eighth day were introduced and widely used, since they provided valuable apologetic arguments to defend the validity and superiority of Sunday. As the first day, Sunday could allegedly claim superiority over the Sabbath, since it celebrated the anniversary of both the first and the second creation which was inaugurated by Christ’s resurrection. The seventh day, on the other hand, could only claim to commemorate the completion of creation. As the eighth day Sunday could claim to be the alleged continuation, fulfillment and supplantation of the Sabbath, both temporally and eschatologically.
In closing this survey of the theology of Sunday in early Christianity, we need to restate a question we raised at the beginning of this chapter, namely, Do the earliest theological justifications for Sunday observance reflect Biblical-apostolic teachings or rather a posteriori arguments solicited by prevailing circumstances? We need not take time to test the orthodoxy of the various arguments developed, for instance, out of the numeric symbolism of the first and of the eighth day, nor do we need to examine the often ridiculous testimonia drawn from the Old Testament to prove that the eighth day was more prestigious than the seventh. The very fact that Sunday-keepers have long ago rejected not only the initially popular designation "eighth day," but also the whole train of arguments based on items such as the creation of light, the new world, the eighth day of the circumcision, the eighth day of purification, the eight souls saved from the flood, Ecclesiastes 11:2, the title of Psalm 6 and others, represents an implicit admission that such arguments were not warranted by sound Biblical exegesis and theology.
What about the motive of the resurrection which in time became the dominant reason for Sunday observance? Should not this constitute a valid justification for worshiping on Sunday rather than on the Sabbath? To this question we shall address ourselves in our concluding chapter. By reviewing in retrospect the origin of Sunday we shall consider the implications of the early Christian theology of Sunday for the pressing problem of the present observance of Sunday.
(46) Justin, Dialogue 24, 1. Falls, Justin’s Writings, p. 183.
(47) Justin’s arguments against the Sabbath and in favor of Sunday are discussed above pp. 226f.
(48) Irenaeus, Adversus haereses 1, 18, 3, ANF 1, p. 343.
(49) J. Daniélou, Bible and Liturgy, p. 258; cf. Irenaeus, Adversus haereses 1,25,1.
(50) J. Daniélou, Bible and Liturgy, p. 258, comments: "They [i.e. the Gnostics] borrowed this vision from astrology, which had spread its notions throughout the Hellenistic world of the time and especially in neopythagoreanism. Basic to this idea was the contrast between the seven planetary spheres which are the domain of the cosinocratores, the archontes, who hold man under the tyranny of the heimarmene, and, beyond the heavexi above, that of the fixed stars, which is the place of incorruptibility and repose (Cumont, Les Religions orientales dans le paganisme romain, p. 162)." Daniélou then explains how the Gnostics "brought together the supreme dignity of the eighth day in Christianity with the pythagorean view of the planetary spheres. Thus they were led to the conception of the octave as meaning, not the kingdom to come of Judaeo-Christian eschatology, but the world on high, of which all creation is only the degradation" (ibid., p. 259). A significant example is provided by Irenaeus’ report of the Gnostic sect, known as Valentinians, who held that "He [the Demiurge] created also seven heavens, above which they say that he, the Demiurge, exists. And on this account they term him Hebdomas, and his mother Achamoth Ogdoads, preserving the number of the first-begotten and primary Ogdoad as the Pleroma" (Adversus haereses 1, 5, 2, ANE 1, p. 322). In this case the Ogdoad [i.e. Eighth] apparently represents the supreme God.
(51) Clement of Alexandria, Excerpta ex Theodoto 63, 1 SC 23, 185; cf. Origen, Contra Celsum 6, 22; especially Irenaeus, Adversus haereses 1, 5, 3, ANF I, p. 323.
(52) Clement of Alexandria, Stromateis 4, 25; 6, 16.
(53) Ibid., 6, 16, 138.
(54) F. A. Regan, Dies Dominica, p. 224; J. Daniélou (footnote 22), pp. 72, 74, explicitly points out that "the doctrine of the ogdoad as heavenly world and future world was developed to seek a justification for Sunday observance. Beginning with this reflection, a search was made for texts announcing the eighth day in the Old Testament ... It is an aspect of the anti-Jewish polemic designed to exalt Sunday in order to reject the Sabbath. ... Initially the opposition is between the Jewish day of worship and that of the Christians."
(55) J. Daniélou (footnote 22), p. 65, notes: "Irenaeus develops greatly the notion of the seven millennia and of the eighth day. We cite a text ‘And in the seventh day he will judge the earth. And on the eighth, which is the aeon to come, he will deliver some to eternal punishment and others to life. This is why the Psalms have spoken of the octave’ (5, 28, 3)."
(56) Irenaeus’ concept of the Sabbath is not homogeneous. In some instances he shares Jus tin’s view that the Sabbath and circumcision were given by God to the Jews "for their punishment ... for bondage" because "righteousness and love to God had passed into oblivion, and became extinct in Egypt" (Adversus haereses 4, 16, 3 and f, ANF I, pp. 481-482). Like in Justin so in Irenaeus, this view was encouraged by the conflict with Jews and Jewish-Christians. Irenaeus however was faced also with the reverse error of the Gnostic5 who depreciated the Sabbath to justify their view of the evil god of the Old Testament. To refute this Gnostic dualism, Irenaeus defends the positive function the Sabbath fulfills in helping the progressive development of humanity: "These things, then, were given for a sign; but the signs were not unsymbolical, that is, neither unmeaning nor to no purpose, inasmuch as they were given by a wise Artist. ... But the Sabbath taught that we should continue day by day in God’s service" (Adversus haereses 4,16,1, ANF I, p. 481). To this ecclesiastical meaning Irenaeus adds an eschatological sense to the Sabbath: "The times of the kingdom ... which is the true Sabbath of the righteous, in 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" (Adversus haereses 5, 33, 2, ANF I, p. 562; cf. ibid., 5, 30, 4; 4, 8, 2). Augustine, we shall notice (see below p. 294), at first accepted but later rejected this materialistic interpretation of the seventh millennium. Note that Irenaeus’ spiritualiza tion of the Sabbath (widely followed by the Fathers) does not represent a positive effort to enhance the Sabbath, but rather a subtle subterfuge to do away with the commandment while safeguarding at the same time the immutability of God.
(57) Origen, Selecta in Psalmos 118, 164, PG 12, 1624.
(58) Ibid., 118,1, PG 12, 1588; In Exodurn homiliae 7,5, GCS 29, 1920, Origen argues: "If then it is certain according to the Scriptures that God made the manna rain on the Lord’s Day and cease on the Sabbath, the Jews ought to understand that our Lord’s day was preferred to their Sabbath."
(59) Cyprian, Epistola 64, CSEL 3, 719; cf. Carthaginense Condiliurn sub Cvpriano tertium, PL 3, 1053.
(60) Syriac Didascalia 26, ed. Connolly, p. 236.
(61) Ibid., p. 238; see above footnote 18.
(62) Hilary, Tractatus super Psalmos 12, CSEL 22, 11.
(63) Ibid., CSEL 22, 14.
(64) Victorinus, On the Creation of the World, ANE VII, 342; Asterius of Amasa, Homilia 20, 8, PG 40, 444-449 defends the superiority of the eighth day by the fact that the number eight is not related to any time cycle. Furthermore he says: "Inasmuch as the first resurrection of the race after the flood happened to eight persons, the Lord has begun on the eighth day the resurrection of the dead."
(65) Victorinus, see footnote 64.
(66) Ambrose, Explanatio Psalmi 47, CSEL 64, 347; cf. Epistola 26, 8, PL 16, 1088: "Therefore the seventh day represents a mystery, the eighth the resurrection."
(67) Ambrose, ibid., 1140.
(68) Ambrose, ibid., 1139.
(69) Ambrose, ibid., 1137.
(70) Ambrose, ibid., 1137: "Great is the merit of the seventh day by virtue of the Holy Spirit. However the same spirit names the seventh day and consecrates the eighth. In that is the name, in this is the fruit."
(71) Ambrose, ibid., 1137-1138.
(72) Ambrose, ibid., 1139.
(73) Ambrose, ibid., 1140-1141.
(74) Jerome, Commentarius in Ecclesiastem 11,2, PL 23, 1157.
(75) Jerome, loc. cit.
(76) Augustine, Epistola 55, 23, CSEL 34, 194.
(77) Augustine, Sermo 94, Bibliteca Nova ed. May, p. 183.
(78) C. Folliet, "La Typologie du sabbat chez saint Augustine," Revue des êtudes Augustiniennes 2 (1956): 371-390.
(79) On Irenaeus see footnote 56; on Victorinus see above p. 291 footnote 64; Tertullian, Adversus Marcionem, 3, 24, and 4, 39 interprets the millennium as a literal period of one thousand years on the earth, in the city of the New Jerusalem rebuilt by God; Hippolytus, In Danielem commentarius 4, 23¬24 elaborates a scheme of seven ages, speculating on the actual date of Christ’s return.
(80) Augustine, Sermo 80, PL 38, 1197; in this sermon Augustine enumerates distinctly the five ages from Adam to Christ already passed. lIe then explains: "With the coming of the Lord begins the sixth age in which we are living. ... When the sixth day has passed, then rest will come ... and the saints completed, we shall return to that immortality and blessedness which the first man lost. And the octave shall accomplish the mysteries of God’s children." The basic difference between the eschatological seventh and eighth day, according to Augustine, is qualitative: "For it is one thing to rest in the Lord while still being in the midst of time—and this is what the seventh day Sabbath signifies— and another thing to rest endlessly beyond all time with the Artisan of time, as signified by the eighth day" (Sermo 94, Biblioteca Nova, ed. Mai, p. 184); in his Epistola 55, 23, CSEL 34, 194, Augustine represents the eighth day as a revelation of the resurrection: "Before the resurrection of the Lord, although this mystery of the octave which represents the resurrection was not concealed from the holy Patriarchs, filled as they were with the prophetic spirit, but was reserved, transmitted and hidden by the observance of the Sabbath."
(81) See Augustine, City of God 20, 7: "I also entertained this notion at one time. But in fact those people assert that those who have risen again will spend their rest in the most unrestrained material feasts, in which there will be so much to eat and drink that not only will those supplies keep within no bounds of moderation but will also exceed the limits even of credibility. But this can only be believed by materialists’ (trans. Henry Bettenson, ed. David Knowles, 1972, p. 907). Augustine did not repudiate totally the notion of the seventh millennium, but fused the rest of the seventh with that of the eternal octave: "The important thing is that the seventh will be our Sabbath, whose end will not be an evening, but the Lord’s Day, an eighth day, as it were, which is to last for ever" (City of God 22, 30, trans. Henry Bettenson, p. 1091).
(82) Augustine, In Johannis evangelium tractatus 20, 2, PL 35, 1556; cf. Enarratio in Psalmos 91,2, PL 37, 1172: "He whose conscience is good is tranquil; and this very tranquillity is the Sabbath of the heart."
(83) Gregory the Great, Epistola 13, 6, 1, PL 71, 1253.
(84) Gregory the Great, Moralium 35, 8, 17, PL 76, 759.
(85) Gregory the Great, Moralium 1, 8, 12, PL 75, 532.
(86) Gregory the Great, Homiliarurn in Ezechielern 2, 4, 2, PL 76, 973f.
(87) J. Daniélou (footnote 22) p. 87; cf. by the same author, Bible and Liturgy, p. 264.
(88) The fact that Sunday came to be viewed no longer as the continuation but rather as the replacement of the Sabbath—the new Sabbath— limited the possibility of applying to Sunday the eschatological symbolism of tht. eighth day, since the latter implies continuation rather than substitution. Eusebius expresses explicitly this concept of "transference" when he states: "All that had been prescribed for the Sabbath, we have transferred to the Lord’s day, since it is more authoritative, the one that dominates, the first and the one which has more value than the Sabbath" (Commentaria in Psalmos 91, PG 23, 1172).
(89) Basil, In Hexaemeron 2, 8, SC p. 177; cf. PG 29, 52B; De Spiritu Sancto 27, SC, pp. 236-237.
(90) Basil, In Hexaemeron 2, 8, SC, p. 180: "Why did he [Moses] not call this day the first, but one? ... The week itself constitutes one single day, revolving seven times upon itself. Here is a true circle, beginning and ending with itself. This is why the principle of time is called not the first day, but one day"; cf. De Spiritu Sancto 27, SC p. 236: "There was an evening and a morning, one day as though it returned regularly upon itself."
(91) Basil, De Spiritu Sancto 27, SC p. 237.
(92) Gregory of Nazianzus, Oratio 44, In novam Dominicarn, PA 36, 612.
(93) F. A. Regan, Dies Dominica, p. 240; J. Danièlou (footnote 22), pp. 80-81 acutely notes: "Basil’s effort to retain for Sunday its archaic name of the eighth day will have no following. What will remain will be the eschatological symbolism which was attached to it This is what we meet in Gregory of Nyssa, that is typical of this attitude. In his Hexaemeron, he makes no allusion to Sunday."
(94) Gregory of Nyssa, De octava, PG 44, 609 B-C.
(95) Gregory of Nyssa, In Psalmos 2, 8, PG 44, 504D-505A.
(96) Gregory of Nyssa, De beatitudinibus, Oratio 8 PG 44, 1292 A¬D.
(97) Gregory of Nyssa, Adversus eos qui castigationes aegre ferunt, PG 46, 309.
(98) John Chrysostom, De corn punctione 2, 4, PG 47, 415 (emphasis supplied).
(99) J. Danièlou, Bible and Liturgy, p. 275, acknowledges this development: "This text of Chrysostom marks the furthest point of the eschatological interpretation of the eighth day, since it formally denies this name to the Lord’s Day and reserves it for the age to come."
(100) Justin, Dialogue 24, 1.
(101) For texts, see J. Danièlou (footnote 22), pp. 87-88.
(102) The existence of Christian Sabbath-keepers in early Christianity has been largely discounted in recent studies. This creates the false impression that Sunday observance was unanimously and immediately adopted by all Christians. What is greatly needed to correct this view, is a comprehensive analysis of all the patristic references providing direct or indirect information on the survival of the practice of Sabbath keeping in early Christianity. It is the hope of the present author to undertake this study in the near future.
(103) Jerome, Commentarius in Ecclesiastem 11,2, PL 23, 1157.
(104) H. Riesenfeld (footnote 43) p. 213.
(105) See above footnote 43; Louis Duchesne, Origines du culte chrètien, 1920, p. 48: "Sunday initially was placed in juxtaposition with the Sabbath. As the gulf between the Church and the Synagogue widened, the Sabbath became less and less important until finally it was completely neglected."
(106) J. Danièlou (footnote 22), p. 89 notes this development: "The theme of the eighth ... is progressively detached from Sunday and loses its liturgical roots when Sunday is no longer in opposition to the Jewish seventh day."