ANTI-JUDAISM AND SUNDAY #10
Some consideration ought to be given at this point to the
possible reasons why Barnabas uses the denomination "eighth day "
to designate Sunday. An analysis of the contemporary Jewish and
Christian apocalyptic literature 308 reveals first of all the
existence at that time of a lively interest in
chiliastic-eschatological speculations based on the seven-day
creation-week, sometimes called "cosmic week." The duration of
the world was commonly subdivided into seven periods (or
millennia) of which the seventh usually represented paradise
restored on this earth, and this was followed by the future age,
which in a way was the eighth day, since it followed the Sabbath.
This eschatological motivation of the eighth day - symbol of the
New World - offered to those Christians who were trying to break
away from the Jewish Sabbath a valid justification both for the
choice and for the observance of the day which followed the
Sabbath, namely the "eighth day." The fact that the
eschatological motivation for the observance of the eighth day,
introduced first by Barnabas, was successively reproposed and
reelaborated by Justin, Irenaeus, Jerome, Hilarius, Victorinus of
Pettau, Basil, Gregory of Nazianzus, Gregory of Nyssa,
Chrysostom, Ambrose, Augustine and others, 309 indicates that
Barnabas is the exponent of a widespread and well-accepted
Danielou suggests also two practical reasons - worth
considering - for the designation of Sunday as "eighth day."
First, he holds, Sunday was called "eighth day" because the
Judeo-Christians, who celebrated the Sabbath, the seventh day, as
the rest of the Jews, after the Sabbath, prolonged the Jewish
liturgy with the specifically Christian eucharistic cult....
Therefore it was natural that they should consider it as eighth
day, even though in the calender it continued to be the first
The implication is that Sunday was designated "eighth day"
since its worship constituted initially not a substitution but an
308 The Jewish and Christian eschatological interpretation of the
cosmic week are discussed in chapter 4, section 4, "Rest as
'peace and tranquillity'" and in chapter 7, section 3, "The
Eighth Day"; see also P. Prigont, "Les Testimonia dans le
Christianisme primitif." "L'Epitre de Barnabe" I-XVI et ses
sources (Paris. Librairie Lecoffre, 1961), pp.69f;
Rordorf, "Sunday," p.48; Mosna, "Storia della domenica," p.169.
309 The texts of these Fathers are cited and examined in chapter
7 of the dissertation, pp,497-504.
310 Danielou, "Le Dimanche," p.69.
addition to that of the Sabbath. Secondly, Danielou points out
that Sunday was denominated "eighth day" because such a name
expressed "the feeling which the Christians had to succeed to
Judaism, of which the Sabbath was the symbol." 311 The latter
observation of Danielou is substantiated by numerous references
of the Fathers where the eighth day is presented as the symbol of
the fulfillment and replacement of the Sabbath or of the transi-
tion from the Law to the Gospel. "I Jerome, for example, sees in
the number eight the symbol of the Gospel dispensation which
replaced the Jewish economy typified by the number seven. He
writes " after the fulfillment of the number seven, we rise
through the eighth to the Gospel." 313
The polemic nature of the name "eighth day" and the fact
that it first appeared in the anti-Judaic Epistle of Barnabas,
seems to indicate that anti-Judaic motivations played a key role
in leading many Christians to search for a new day of worship to
evidence their separation from Judaism. It would seem then that
in the growing conflict between Church and Synagogue, the "eighth
day" was early chosen and so denominated by many Christians, not
only because it epitomized the eschatological Christian hope of a
New World, but above all because it best expressed their
distinction from Judaism and the sense of fulfillment and
supersedure of the Sabbath as well as the superiority of Sunday.
Barnabas, therefore, by his efforts to invalidate the
Sabbath and by introducing and justifying the eighth day as the
continuation and replacement of the seventh, reveals that strong
anti-Judaic feelings were primarily responsible for the adoption
of Sunday as a new day of worship. However, as noticed above, the
paradoxical argumentations of the writer and his failure to
distinguish clearly between the seventh and the eighth
eschatological period, would seem to indicate that a distinct
separation between Judaism and Christianity as well as between
Sabbath and Sunday observance had not yet taken place. 314
311 Loc. cit.
312 See chapter 7, section entitled "Prolongation, Fulfillment
and Supersedure of the Sabbath," pp.504-514.
313 Jerome, "In Eccl.," 11, 2, PL 23, 1157.
314 The strong anti-Judaic feelings present in the Christian
community of Alexandria led in time, however, to the total
abandonment of the Sabbath, denying to it all liturgical value.
This is confirmed by the historians Socrates and Sozomen, who
affirm that in Alexandria and Rome, unlike the rest of
Christendom, no religious assemblies were held on the Sabbath,
nor was the Eucharist celebrated on such a day (see Socrates,
Hist. Eccl. 5, 22, PG 67, 636; Sozomen, Hist. Eccl. 7, 19, PG 67,
Philosopher and Christian martyr, 315 of Greek culture and
extraction, 316 Justin Mart offers to us the first extensive
treatment of the Sabbayj and the first detailed description of
Sunday worship. The importance of his testimony derives, above
all, from the fact that the author, a trained and professing
philosopher, 317 treats the problem of the Jewish Sabbath, as
Regan observes, "not completely free from some trace of polemical
preoccupation, nevertheless Justin does strive for a perceptive
and balanced approach to his topic." 318 Besides, he lived and
directed a school in Rome under the reign of Antoninus Pius (A.
D. 138161) 319 and therefore in his "I Apology" and in his
"Dialogue with Tryho," both written possibly in Rome between 148
and 161, 320 he allows us aglimpse of how the problem of the
315 Tertullian is the first to denominate him "pholosophus et
martyr" (Adversus Valentinianus 5).
316 In the first chapter of "I Apologia," Justin introduces
himself as "Justin, the son of Priscus and grandson of Bacchius,
of the city of Flavia Neapolis in Syria-Palestine" (Falls,
Justin's Writings, p.33).
317 Eusebius, "Hist. Eccl." 4, 11, 8, writes: "In their time
[i.e., Pope Anicetus] Justin was at the height of his fame; in
the garb of philosopher he served as ambassador of the word of
God and contended in his writings for the faith" (Lake, "Eusebius
318 Regan, "Dies Dominica," p.26.
319 Eusebius, "Hist. Eccl." 4, 12, 1 states: "The same Justin
laboured powerfully against the Gentiles, and addressed other
arguments, affording a defense for our faith, to the Emperor
Antoninus, called Pius, and to the Senate of the Romans, for he
was living in Rome" (Lake, "Eusebius History," p.331).
320 Quasten, "Patrology," 1: 199, with reference to the two
Apologies, writes: "Both works are addressed to the emperor
Antoninus Pius. It seems that St. Justin composed them between
the years 148-161, because he remarks (Apology I, 46): 'Christ
was born one hundred and fifty years ago under Quirinus.' The
place of composition was Rome." Concerning the Dialogue, Quasten
observes: "The Dialogue must have been composed after the
Apologies, because there is a reference to the first Apology in
chapter 120" (ibid., p.202). Even though Eusebius (Hilt. Eccl.
4,18,6) indicates Ephesus as the place where the conversation was
held, probably at the time of the Barkokeba revolt, mentioned in
chapters 1 and 9 of the Dialogue, it is evident that the Dialogue
does not report the exact disputation held about 20 years before.
It would seem reasonable to assume that Justin makes of an actual
disputation, which he held, merely the framework of his Dialogue,
which, however, he writes in the light of his situation in Rome
at that time. The fact that he writes the Dialogue in Rome and
not in Ephesus, twenty years after its occurrence, is indicative
of the necessity which Justin felt to take up his pen to defend
Christianity from Jewish accusations in Rome.
Sunday wras felt in the capital city. We shall examine in his
writings his attitude towards the Sabbath as well as his
justification for Sunday observance in order to ascertain the
movivations for the origin of Sunday.
The attitude of Justin toward the Jewish Sabbath is
conditioned, both by his concept of the significance of the
Mosaic Law, and by his feeling toward the Jews - the latter
having possibly colored the former. While Barnabas, of Jewish
extraction, with his allegorical method attempted to empty such
Jewish institutions as the Sabbath and circumcision of all
temporal and historical value, attributing to them only a
spiritual or eschatological significance, Justin, on the
contrary, of Gentile origin, ignored the significance and the
moral and corporal value of the Mosaic lrgislation, and consi-
dered, as James Parkes states: "the law to be an unimportant
portion of the Scriptures, a temporary addition to a book
otherwise universal and eternal, added because of the special
wickedness of the Jews." 321. To Trypho Justin says in fact:
We, too, would observe your circumcision of the flesh, your
Sabbath days, and in a word, all your festivals, if we were
not aware of the reason why they were imposed upon you,
namely, because of your sins and your hardness of heart. 322
While Paul recognizes the educative value of the ceremonial
law, Justin considers it as Rordorf notes, "in a negative manner
as the punishment for the sins of Israel." 323. Justin confirms
this thesis repeatedly. After having argued, for instance, that
the holy men before Moses 324 did not observe either the Sabbath
or the circumcision, he concludes: "Therefore, we must conclude
that God, who is immutable, ordered these and similar things to
be done only because of sinful men." 325. The Sabbath then, acc-
ording to Justin, is an ordinance from Moses, of temporary
nature, enjoined to the Jews on account of their unfaithfulness
for a time, precisely until the coming of Christ. Danielou comm-
ents on Justin's reasoning, saying:
321 Parkes, "The Conflict," p.101; cf. Dialogue. 19 and 22.
322 "Dialogue" 18, 2, Falls, "Justin's Writings," p.175.
323 Rordorf, "Sabbat," p.37, fn. 1.
324 In chapter 19 of the "Dialogue" Justin cites specifically
Adam, Abel, Noah, Lot and Melchisedek. In chapter 46 he submits a
list of names which is rather different.
325 "Dialogue" 23, 2, Falls, "Justin's Writings," p.182; cf. also
"Dialogue" 47, 2; 21, 7.
We can see from the foregoing that God could suppress the
Sabbath without contradicting Himself in any way, since He
was led to institute it only because He was forced to do so
by the wickedness of the Jewish people, and in consequence
He had the desire to make it disappear as soon as He had
accomplished His purpose of education. 326
The acceptance of this thesis is indispensable for Justin,
in order to safeguard the immutability and the coherence of God:
If we do not accept this conclusion, then we shall fall into
absurd ideas, as the nonsense either that our God is not the
same God who existed in the days of Henoch and all the
others, who were not circumcised in the flesh, and did not
observe the Sabbaths and other rites, since Moses only
imposed them later; or that God does not wish each
succeeding generation of mankind always to perform the same
acts of righteousness. Either supposition is ridiculous and
preposterous. Therefore we must conclude that God, who is
immutable, ordered these and similar things to be done only
because of sinful men. 327
Justin espouses an extreme thesis which the Christian
Church has never accepted. To say for instance that God
commandded the circumcision and the Sabbath on account of the
wickedness of the Jews "as a distinguishing mark, to set them off
from other nations and from us Christians" so that the Jews only
"might suffer affliction," 328 makes God guilty, to say the
least, of discrinatory practices. It would imply also that God
gave ordinances which had the sole negative purpose of singling,
out the Jews for punishment. Undoubtedly such a negative concept
of the Mosaic law was the outgrowth of his hostile feelings
towards the Jews. Unfortunately it is with this frame of mind
that Justin argues for the repudiation of the Sabbath, hoping to
invalidate a fundamental Jewish institution. His basic arguments
could be synthesized as follows:
1. Since "before Moses there was no need of Sabbaths and
festivals, they are not needed now, when in accordance with the
will of God, Jesus Christ, His Son, has been born of the Virgin
Mary, a descendant of Abraham." 329 The Sabbath therefore is
326 Danielou, "The Bible and the Liturgy," p.234.
327 "Dialogue" 23,1,2, Falls, "Justin's Writings," p.182.
328 "Dialogue" 16, 1 and 21, 1, Falls, "Justin's Writings," pp.
172,"Dialog" 23, 3, Falls, "Justin's Writings," p.182.
regarded by Justin as a temporary ordinance, deriving from Moses,
enjoined on the Jews because of their unfaithfulness, and it was
to last until the coming of Christ.
2. God did not intend that the Sabbath should be kept, since "the
elements are not idle and they do not observe the Sabbath," 330
and He Himself "does not stop controlling the movement of the
universe on that day, but He continues directing it then as He
does on all other days." 331 Justin adds other examples of
Sabbath breaking, such as the one of the chief priests who "were
commanded by God to offer sacrifices on the Sabbath, as well as
on other days." 332
3. In the new dispensation Christians are to observe a perpetual
Sabbath not by idling during one day but by abstaining themselves
continually from sin:
The New Law demands that you observe a perpetual Sabbath,
whereas you consider yourselves pious when you refrain from
work on one day of the week, and in doing so you don't
understand the real meaning of that precept. You also claim
to have done the will of God when you eat unleavened bread,
but such practices afford no pleasures to the Lord our God.
If there be a perjurer or thief among you, let him mend his
ways; if there be an adulterer, let him repent; in this way
he will have kept a true and peaceful Sabbath. 333
4. The Sabbath and circumcision are not to be observed since they
are the signs of the unfaithfulness of the Jews, imposed on them
by God to distinguish and separate them from other nations:
The custom of circumcising the flesh, handed down from
Abraham, was given to you as a distinguishing mark, to set,
you off from other nations and from us Christians. The
purpose of this was that you and only you might suffer the
afflictions that are now justly yours; that only your land
be desolated, and your cities ruined by fire, that the
fruits of your land be eaten by strangers before your very
eyes; that not one of you be permitted to enter your city of
Jerusalem. Your circumcision of the flesh is the only mark
by which you can certainly be distinguished from other men.
330 Loc. cit.
331 "Dialogue" 29, 3, Falls, "Justin's Writings," p.191.
332 Loc. cit.
333 "Dialogue" 12, 3, Falls, "Justin's Writings," p.166.
As I stated before, it was by reason of your sins and the
sins of your father that, among other precepts, God imposed
upon you the observance of the Sabbath as a mark. 334
It is ossible that the intense anti-Judaic hostilities
present in Rome, as we have noticed, could could have influenced
Justin to strike at such institutions as the Sabbath and
circumcision which were the national pride o the Jews, and make
of them the mark of the divine reprobation of the Jewish race.
We notice in fact that even though Justin seeks apparently to
dialogue dispassionately and sincerely with Trypho, 335 his
superficial description and (A LONG FOOTNOTE HERE - Keith Hunt)
334 "Dialogue" 16, 1 and 21, 1, Falls, "Justin's Writings" pp.
172,178. The mention of circumcision and the Sabbath by Justin,
as distinguishing marks designed to prohibit the Jews "to enter
your city of Jerusalem" (Dialogue 16), seems to be an implicit
reference to Hadrian's decree which forbade every Jew from
entering the city; cf. "Dialogue" 19, 2-6; 21, 1; 27, 2; 45, 3;
92,4; in chapter 92 of the Dialogue the reference to Hadrian's
edict appears even more explicit. In fact Justin plainly states
that the circumcision and the Sabbath were given because "God in
His foreknowledge was aware that the people [i.e., the Jews]
would deserve to be expelled from Jerusalem and never be allowed
to enter there" (Falls, "Justin's Writings," p.294); Pierre
Prigent similarly comments that, according to Justin, the
circumcision and the Sabbath were given to Abraham and to Moses
because "God foresaw that Israel would deserve to be expelled
from Jerusalem and not to be allowed to dwell there" (Justin et
l'Ancien Testament [Paris: Librairie Lecoffre,] 1964), p.265; of.
also ibid., p.251).
335 Someone could argue that some of the friendly overtures of
Justin toward the Jews are indicative not of tension, but of
friendly relations which existed between the Jews and the
Christians. Does not Justin entertain the possibility (which,
however, as he admits, other Christians rejected) that the
converted Jews who kept on observing the Mosaic Law could be
saved, as long as they did not persuade Gentiles to do the same?
(Dialogue 47). Does not Justin call the Jews "brethren" (ibid.,
96) and promise "remission of sins" to those who repented?
(ibid., 94). Does not Justin say that in spite of the fact that
the Jews curse the Christians and force them to deny Christ, yet
"we [i.e., the Christians] pray for you that you might experience
the mercy of Christ"? (ibid., 96). While, on the one hand, it
cannot be denied that Justin prayed for and appealed to the Jews
as individuals to repent and accept Christ, on the other hand, it
must be recognized that Justin's concern for the salvation of the
sincere Jews did not change their status as a people from enemies
to friends. In fact in the very next sentence of chapter 96 of
the Dialogue, Justin explains the reason for the Christian's
attitude: "For He [i.e., Christ] instructed us to pray even for
our enemies." There is no doubt as to the Jews' being the
Christians' enemies. Justin explains, however, that the hostile
attitude of the Jews toward the Christians is none else than the
continuation of their historical opposition to and rejection of
God's truth and messengers. In chapter 133, for instance, after
having reiterated the traditional rebellious negative attitude of
the Jews toward the prophets, he states: "Indeed, your hand is
still lifted to do evil, because, although you have slain Christ,
you do not repent; on the contrary, you hate and (whenever you
have the power) kill us ... and you cease not to curse Him and
those who belong to Him, though we pray for you and for all men,
as we were instructed by Christ our Lord. For He taught us to
pray even for our enemies, and to love those that hate us, and to
bless those that curse us" (Falls, "Justin's Writings," pp.
354-355). While Christians, then prayed for the conversion of the
Jews they recognized at the same time as Justin says that the
Jews did not repent and that as a people they were "a useless
disobedient and faithless nation" (Dialogue. 130). "The Jews,"
Justin affirms elsewhere "are a ruthless, stupid, blind, and lame
people, children in whom there is no faith" (ibid .,27). Such a
negative evaluation of the Jews and of Judaism reflects the
existence of an acute conflict both between Jews and Christians
and between Jews and Empire. We noticed, in fact how Justin
interprets the Sabbath and circumcision as the marks of
unfaithfulness imposed by God on the Jews so that they only might
suffer punishment and be "expelled from Jerusalem and never he
allowed to enter there" (ibid., 92; see above previous footnote).
It might be worth noticing also that Justin's appeals to the the
Jews in the context of a systematic condemnation of their beliefs
and practices, is similar to Celsus' appeal to the Christians to
participate in the public life and pray for the Emperor, in the
context of the most systematic and vehement demolition of the
fundamental truths of Christianity. Could it be that Justin and
Celsus (both professional philosophers) used sensible appeals to
make their attacks appear more reasonable? (For Celsus' work, see
Origen, "Contra Celsum," trans. and ed. H. Chadwick [Cambridge
University Press, 1953].
evaluation of Judaism, together with vehement attacks on the
Jews, reveals the profound animosity and hatred he nourished
toward them. He does not hesitate in fact to make them
responsible for the defamatory campaign launched against the
You have spared no effort in disseminating in every land
bitter, dark, and unjust accusations against the only
guiltless and just light sent to men by God.... The other
nations have not treated Christ and us, His followers, as
unjustly as have you Jews, who indeed, are the very
instigators of that evil opinion they have of the Just One
and of us, His disciples.... You are to blame not only for
your own wickedness, but also for that of all others. 336
336 "Dialogue" 17, Falls, "Justin's Writings," pp.174,173; the
fact that the Jewish authorities actively engaged in publicizing
calumnies against the Christians is substantiated (1) by Justin's
threefold repetition of the accusation (cf. Dialogue 108 and
117); (2) by the similar reproach made by Origen (Contra Celsum
6,27; cf. ibid., 4,32); (3) by Eusebius' testimony who claimed
that he found "in the writing of the former days that the Jewish
authorities in Jerusalem sent round apostles to the Jews
everywhere announcing the emergence of a new heresy hostile to
God, and that these apostles, armed with written authority,
confuted the Christians everywhere" (In Isaiam 18, 1, Pa 24,
213A); (4) by the debate between the Jew and the Christian
preserved by Celsus, which perhaps contains the most complete
catalogue of the typical accusations hurled by the Jews at the
Christians at that time. For further discussion of the role of
the Jews in the persecution of the Christians, see W. H. Frond.
"Martyrdom and Persecution in the Early Church" (Oxford: Basil
Blackwell, 1965), pp.178-204, and above p.18f.
Justin reminds Trypho, besides, of the curse that was daily
being pronounced by the Jews against the Christians in the syna-
To the utmost of your power you dishonor and curse in your
synagogues all those who believe in Christ.... In your
synagogues you curse all those who through them have become
Christians, and the Gentiles put into effect your curse by
killing all those who merely admit that they are Christians.
The Jewish hostilities toward the Christians seem to have
assumed different forms and to have known intense degrees of
manifestations at certain times. Justin says for instance: "You
do all in your power to force us to deny Christ." 338
This provoked an understandable resistance and resentment on the
part of the Christians. "We resist you and prefer to endure
death, confident that God will give us all the blessings which He
promised us through Christ." 339
This profound resentment against the Jews, particularly felt
in Rome, led Christians like Justin to strike at a Jewish
institution like the Sabbath, which represented their national
pride, and turn it, as Regan writes, into "a mark to single them
out for punishment they so well deserved for their infidelities."
This deeply felt animosity would seem to provide sufficient
337 "Dialogue" 16 and 96, Falls, "Justin's Writings," pp.172,
299; the fact that Justin refers at various times to the curse
that was daily pronounced against the Christians (see, chapters
47; 93; 133) daily in the synagogues, suggests that the practice
was well known and widespread at that time. Epiphanius ("Adversus
Haereses" 1, 9) and Jerome ("In Isaiam" 52, 5) confirm the
existence of the practice at their time; see also above pp.
338 "Dialogue" 96, Falls, "Justin's Writings," p.299; it is worth
noting that, according to Justin, the Jewish proselytes in
comparison with the ethnic Jews preserved a double portion of
hatred for the Christians. He writes "The proselytes ...
blaspheme His name twice as much as you [i.e., Jews] do and they,
too, strive to torture and kill us who believe in Him, for they
endeavor to follow your example in everything" (Dialogue 122,
Falls, "Justin's Writings," p.337).
339 "Dialogue" 96. Falls "Justin's Writings," p.299.
340 Regan, "Dies Dominica," p.26; cf. "Dialogue" 19, 2-4; 21,1;
27,2; 45,3; 92,4.
to create the necessity not only of abandoning the Sabbath, but
also of adopting a new day of worship to make evident their clear
separation from the Jews.
It is worth noticing on this point that Justin in his
expoisition of Christian worship to the Emperor Antoninus Pius (I
Apologia 67), and "in his intent, to unmask the prejudices and
the incomprehension of the pagan world," 341 as well as to
emphasize the clear separation existing between Christians and
Jews three times underlines the fact that the assembly of the
Christians takes place "on the day of the Sun":
On the day which is called Sunday we have a common assembly
of all who live in the cities or in the outlying districts,
and the memoirs of the Apostles or the writings of the
Prophets are read, as long as there is time.
Sunday, indeed, is the day on which we all hold our common
assembly because it is the first day on which God,
transforming the darkness and [prime] matter, created the
world; and our Saviour Jesus Christ arose from the dead on
the same day. For they crucified Him on the day before that
of Saturn, and on the day after, which is Sunday, He
appeared to His Apostles and disciples, and taught them the
things which we have passed on to you also for
In the light of what has been perceived about the resentment
of Justin toward the Jews and of his notion of the Sabbath as the
mark of an unfaithful people, it is plausible to supposese that
he purposely and repeatedly emphasized that the Christians gather
for their worship "on the day of the Sun" in order to make the
Emperor understand that the Christians were not Jewish rebels but
obedient citizens. Besides, if we admit the possibility, as it
will be shown in the next chapter, that the pagans had already
at that time some veneration for the day of the sun then it is
easy to assume that Justin refers explicitly and frequently to
the day of the sun, in order to draw the Christians, in the mind
of the Emperor, nearer to the customs of the Roman society than
to those of the Jews.
Before attempting to draw further conclusions, let us
consider now the three main reasons advanced by Justin to justify
341 Mosna, "Storia della domenica," p.108.
342 Justin, "I Apologia" 67, 3-7, Falls, "Justin's Writings," pp.
106,107. (Italics mine.)
To be continued