FROM SABBATH TO SUNDAY
by Samuele Bacchiocchi PhD
Reflexes of Sun-Worship on Christianity
Christians resented and denied the accusation of being Sun-
worshipers (and even suffered horrible martyrdoms rather than
offer a pinch of incense on the imperial altars), yet as
Jacquetta Hawkes well puts it, "with the malicious irony so often
apparent in history, even while they fought heroically on one
front, their position was inflitrated from another." 57
For instance, while on the one hand, Tertullian strongly
refuted the pagan charge that the Christians were Sun-worsgipers,
58 on the other hand he chides the Christians at length for
celebrating pagan festivals within their own communities. 59
That Christians were not immune to the popular veneration of the
Sun and astrological practices is attested by the frequent
condemnation of these by the Fathers. 60
57 Jacquetta Hawkes, "Man and the Sun," 1462, p.199.
58 Tertullian strongly rejected the pagan accusation that the
Christians' rejoicing on Sunday was motivated by the worship of
the Sun (see Apology 16, 1 and "Ad Nationes" 1, 13,1-5, ANF III,
p.31 and p.122). Similarly Origen regarded Celsus' likening of
Christianity to pagan mystery religions, Mithraism included, as
absurd and unworthy of either refutation or repetition (see
"Against Celsus" 1,9 and 6,22, ANF IV, p.399-400 p.583).
59 Tertullian, "On Idolatry" 14 ANF III, p.70: "How ... wicked to
celebrate them [i.e., pagan festivals] among brethren! ... The
Saturnalia and New-year and Midwinter's festivals and Matonalia
are frequented - presents come and go - New-year's gifts-games
join their noise-banquets join their din! Oh, better fidelity of
the nations to their own sect, which claims no solemnity of the
Christians for itself!"
60 Jack Lindsay, "Origin of Astrology," 1972, provides in chapter
20 "Pagan and Christians" (pp.373-400) a valuable and concise
survey of the influence of astrological beliefs on early
Christianity. Origen complains that many Christians believed that
nothing could happen unless it had been decreed by the stars
("Philocalia," 23). H. Dumaine and De Rossi point out that the
names of the planetary week used in Christian funerary
inscriptions reflect the prevailing superstition, according to
which the day mentioned belonged to the protecting star
("Dimanche" DACL IV, 872-875; cf. E. Schurer (fn. 20), pp.
35-39). The Fathers protested against such beliefs. Philaster,
Bishop of Brescia (d. ca. A.D.397) condemns as heresy the
prevailing belief that "the name of the days of the Sun, of the
Moon ... had been established by God at the creation of the world
... The pagans, that is, the Greeks have set up such names and
with the names also the notion that mankind depends from the
seven stars" (Liber de haeresibus 113, PL 12, 1257). In a
document attributed to Priscillian (ca. A.D.340-385) anathema is
pronounced against those Christians who "in their sacred
ceremonies, venerate and acknowledge as gods the Sun, Moon ...
and all the heavenly host, which are detestable idols worthy of
the Gehenna" ("Tractatus undecim," CSEL 18, p.14); cf. Martin of
Braga, "De correctione rusticorum" ed. C.W.Barlow, 1950, p.189;
Augustin, "In Psalmos" 61, 23, CCL 39, p.792.
Three significant reflexes of Sun-worship in the Christian
liturgy can be seen in the theme of Christ-the-Sun, in the
orientation toward the east and in the date of Christmas. These
we shall briefly examine, since they shed some light on the
possible causal relationship between Sun-worship and the origin
of Sunday observance.
In numerous pagan pictorial representations which have come
down to us, the Sun or Mithra is portrayed as a man with a disk
at the back of his head. 61 It is a known fact that this image
of the Sun was used in early Christian art and literature to
represent Christ, the true "Sun of righteousness."
In the earliest known Christian mosaic (dated ca. A.D.240)
found in the Vatican necropolis below the altar of St.Peter (in
the small mausoleum M. or the Iulii), Christ is portrayed as the
Sun (Helios) ascending on the quadriga chariot with a flying
cloak and a nimbus behind his head from which irradiate seven
rays in the form of a T (allusion to the cross?). 62
Thousands of hours have been devoted to drawing the sun-disk
with the equal-armed cross behind the head of Christ and (from
the fifth century) the heads of other important persons.
The motif of the Sun was used not only by Christian artists
to portray Christ but also by Christian teachers to proclaim Him
to the pagan masses who were well acquainted with the rich
Sun-symbology. Numerous Fathers abstractedd and reinterpreted the
pagan symbols and beliefs about the Sun and used them
apologetically to teach the Christian message 63
Does not the fact that Christ was early associated in iconography
and in literature (if not in actual worship) with the "Sol
invictus" - Invincible Sun, suggest the possibility that even the
day of the Sun could readily have been adopted for worshiping
Christ, the "Sol iustittae" -- the Sun of Justice? It would
require only a short step to worship Christ-the-Sun, on the day
specifically dedicated to the Sun.
61 A number of examples can be seen in F.Cumont, "Textes et
monuments" 11, p.202, no. 29; p.210, no. 38; p.241, no. 73; p.
290, no. 145; p.311, no. 169; p.350, no. 248; p.434, no. 379.
62 See E. Kirschbaum, "The Tomb of St. Peter and St. Paul," 1959,
pp. 35f.; P.Testini, "Archaelogia Cristiana," 1959, p.167. The
mosaic came to light during the recent excavations (1953-1957)
under the altar of St.Peter's basilica; cf. an artistic
reproduction of Christ portrayed as "Sol Invictus" in F.Cumont
(fn. 61), I, p.123, table no. 6.
63 Justin, "Dialogue" 121, ANF 1, p.109 contrasts the devotion
of Sun-worshipers with that of the Christians, who on account of
the word of Christ who "is more blazing and bright than the might
of the sun ... have suffered and still suffer, all kinds of
torments rather than deny their faith in Him." In a document
attributed to Melito, Bishop of Sardis (d. ca. A.D.190) a
striking parallelism is established between Christ and the sun:
"But if the sun with the stars and the moon wash in the ocean,
why should not Christ also wash in the Jordan? The king of the
heavens and the leader of creation, the sun of the east who both
appeared to the dead in Hades and to the living in the world, and
this only Sun rose from Heaven" ("On Baptism," ed. J.B.Pitra,
"Analecta Sacra Spicilegio Solesmensi," 1884, 2,5). Clement of
Alexandria (ca. A.D.150-215) elaborates diffusely on the symbol
of Christ as true Light and true Sun and applies to Christ a
common pagan designation for a heavenly god "The Greek is
given--the one who looks down on all." Clement skillfully urges
the pagans to abandon their rites of divination and be initiated
instead into Christ the true Sun and Light (see Protrepticus II,
114, 1, GCS 1,80,16; Stromateis 7, 3, 21, 6, GCS 3,15,28;
Paedagogus 3, 8, 44, 1, GCS 1, 262,7). Origen (ca. A.D.185-254)
manifests the same predilection for the denomination "Sun of
Justice": "Christ is the Sun of Justice; if the moon is united,
which is the Church, it will be filled by His light" ("In Numeros
homilia" 23, 5, GCS 7,217,24; cf. "In Leviticum homilia" 9, GCS
6, 438, 19). Cyprian (d. A.D.258) Bishop of Carthage exhorts
believers "to pray at sunrise to commemorate the resurrection ...
and to pray at the setting of the sun ... for the advent of
Christ" ("De oratione" 35, CSEL 3, 292). Ambrose (A.D.339-397),
Bishop of Milan, to counteract the widespread Sun-cult,
frequently contrasts Christ "lumen verum et Sol iustitiae - true
light and Sun of justice" with the "Sol iniquitatis - Sun of
iniquity" ("In Psalmos" 118, "sermo" 19,6 CSEL 62, 425,4f). A.J.
Vermeulen, "The Semantic Development of Gloria in Early Christian
Latin," 1956, p.170, comments that Christians did not adopt an
exclusive apologetic attitude, but "they took a much easier view
of certain pagan customs, conventions and images and saw no
objection, after ridding them of their pagan content, to adapting
them to Christian thought." J. Danielou, "Bible and Liturgy," p.
299, offers a similar observation. Eusebius of Alexandria (ca.
A.D.500) writes: "I know many who worship and pray to the Sun.
For at the time the sun is rising they pray and say, 'Have mercy
upon us,' and not only sun-worshipers and heretics do this, but
also Christians, departing from the faith, mingle with heretics"
(PG 86, 453). That the problem assumed alarming proportions is
indicated by the vigorous attack of Pope Leo the Great (d. A.D.
461) against the veneration of the Sun by many Christians
("Sermon" 27, "In Nativitate Domini," PL 54, 218). F.J.Dolger,
"Sol Salutis." "Gebet and Gesang in christlichen Altertum. Mit
besonderer Riicksicht auf die Ostung in Gebet and Liturgie,"
1925, provides especially in chapters 20 and 21 an extensive
documentation of the influence of Sun-worship on the Christian
The Christian adoption of the East in place of Jerusalem as
the new orientation for prayer provides an additional significant
indication of the influenece of the Sun cult on early Christian
worship. The Jews (as indicated by Daniel's custom and by
Solomon's prayer at the dedication of the temple) 64 considered
praying toward Jerusalem to be an obligation which determined the
very validity of their prayers. That primitive Christians
continued to adhere to such a practice is evidenced by the
Judaeo-Christian sect of the Ebionites who, as reported by
Irenaeus, "prayed toward Jerusalem as if it were the house of
The Fathers advance several reasons for the adoption of the
eastward position for prayer. Clement of Alexandria ca. A.D.
150-215) explains that "prayers are offered while looking toward
sunrise in the East" because the Orient represents the birth of
light that "dispels the darkness of the night" and because of the
orientation of "the ancient temples." 66 For Origen (ca. A.D.
185-254) the East symbolizes the soul that looks to the source of
light. 67 Others urged Christians to pray looking toward the
East to remind themselves of God's paradise and/or of Christ's
Christians who had previously venerated the Sun, facing the
necessity of dissociating themselves from the Jews, apparently
not only abandoned Jerusalem as the orientation for prayer, but
also reverted, unconsciously perhaps, to the direc-
64 Dan. 6:11; 2 Chron. 6:34f; cf. "Jewish Encyclopedia" 1907,
65 Irenaeus, "Adversus haereses" 1, 26, ANF I, p.352.
66 Clement of Alexandria, "Stromateis" 7, 7, 43, GCS 3,32.
67 Origen, "De oratione" 32, GCS 2, 400, 23.
68 "Apostolic Constitutions" 2, 57, 2 and 14, specific
instructions are given to ensure that both the church building
and the congregation face the orient. Moreover believers are
urged to "pray to God eastward, who ascended to the heaven of
heavens to the east; remembering also the ancient situation of
paradise in the east..." (ANF VII, p.42); cf. "Didascalia"
2,57,3; Hippolytus, "De Antichristo" 59, GCS 1,2,39-40; Cyril,
Bishop of Jerusalem (A.D.315-386) instructed his baptismal
candidates to face first the West, the devil's domain, and facing
that direction, they were to say: "I renounce you Satan" and then
after "severing all ancient bonds with hell, the Paradise of God,
which is planted in the East is open to you" ("Catechesibus" 1,
9, "Monumenta eucharistica," ed. J. Quasten, 2,79). An early
Christian Syrian author tells us: "The Apostles therefore
established that you should pray toward the east, because 'as the
lightning which lighteneth from the east is seen even to the
west, so shall the coming of the Son of Man be,' that by this we
may know and understand that He will appear suddenly from the
east" ("Didascalie d'Addai" 2, 1, see F.Dolger (fn. 5) p.72, n.
3); cf. also Basil, "De Spiritu Sancto" 27, 64, PG 32, 189;
Gregory of Nyssa, "De oratione Domini" 5, PG 44, 1184; Augustine,
"De sermone Domini in morte" 2, 5,18, PL 34, 1277.
tion of sunrise, reinterpreting its meaning in the light of the
Christian message. One wonders, was the change of direction for
prayer from the Jewish temple to sunrise interrelated also with
the change of the worship day from the "Jewish" Sabbath to the
day of the Sun? While prayer per se is not a weekly (at least it
ought not to be) but a daily religious practice, could not the
daily praying toward the Sun have encouraged Christians to
worship also weekly on the day of the Sun? Moreover, could not
the fact that Christ and His resurrection were associated with
the rising sun have easily predisposed Christians to worship the
rising "Sun of Justice" on the day of the Sun?)
Cultured and well-meaning pagans, according to Tertullian,
correlated the Christian praying toward the East with their
Sunday observance,. presenting both customs as one basic evidence
of Christians' Sun-worship. Tertullian denied the charge,
attributing to the pagans the very same customs. Note, however,
that both the accusers and the refuter interrelate the two
customs, presenting them as one basic indication of Sun-worship.
This close nexus between the two customs, admitted even by
the pagans, suggests the possibility that Christians could well
have adopted them contemporaneously because of the same factors
discussed above. This is the conclusion which also F.A. Regan
reaches after an extensive analysis of patristic references
dealing with the orientation towards the East. He writes:
A suitable, single example of the pagan influence may be had
from an investigation of the Christian custom of turning
toward the East, the land of the rising sun, while offering
their prayers.... For in the transition from the observance
of the Sabbath to the celebration of the Lord's day, the
primitive Christians not only substituted the first day of
the week for the seventh, but they went even further and
changed the traditional Jewish practice of facing toward
Jerusalem during their daily period of prayer. 70
The strong attraction exerted by the solar cults on the
Christians suggests the possibility therefore that these
influenced not only the adoption of the eastward direction for
daily prayers but also of the day of the Sun for weekly worship.
69 See above fn. 48.
70 F.A.Regan, "Dies Dominica," p.196,
The date of Christmas
The adoption of the 25th of December for
for the celebration of Christmas is perhaps the most ex-
plicit example of Sun-worship's influence on the Christian
liturgical calendar. It is a known fact that the pagan feast of
the "dies natalis Solis Invicti" - the birthday of the Invincible
Sun, was held on that date. 71
Do Christian sources openly admit the borrowing of the date
of such a pagan festivity? Obviously not. 72
To admit borrowing a pagan festival, even after due
reinterpretation of its meaning, would be tantamount to an open
betrayal of the faith. This the Fathers were anxious to
71 In the Philocalian calendar (A.D.354) the 25th of December is
designated as "N[atalis] Invicti - The birthday of the invincible
one" (CIL I, part 2, p.236); Julian the Apostate, a nephew of
Constantine and a devotee of Mithra, says regarding this pagan
festival: "Before the beginning of the year, at the end of the
month which is called after Saturn [December], we celebrate in
honor of Helios [the Sun] the most splendid games, and we
dedicate the festival to the Invincible Sun.... That festival may
the ruling gods grant me to praise and to celebrate with
sacrifice! And above all the others may Helios [the Sun] himself,
the king of all, grant me this" (Julian, "The Orations of Julian,
Hymn to King Helios" 155, LCL p.429); Franz Cumont, "Astrology
and Religion Among Greeks and Romans," 1960, p.89: "A very
general observance required that on the 25th of December the
birth of the 'new Sun' should be celebrated, when after the
winter solstice the days began to lengthen and the 'invincible'
star triumphed again over darkness"; for texts on the Mithraic
celebration of Dec.25th see CIL I, p.140; Gordon J.Laing,
"Survivals of Roman Religion," 1931, pp.58-65, argues
persuasively that many of the customs of the ancient Roman
Saturnalia (Dec.17-23) were transferred to the Christmas season.
G. Brumer, "Jahrbuch fur Liturgiewissenschaft," 1935, p.178f and
K. Prumm, "Stimmen der Zeit," 1939, p.215, date the festival of
December 25 back to the Emperor Aurelian (A.D.270-275), whose
fondness for the worship of the Sun is well known. The hypothesis
rests on Augustine's censure of the Donatists (PL 38, 1033) for
failing to observe January 6th. This, however, hardly implies
that Christians celebrated Christ's birthday on December 25th
already at that time.
72 An exception is the comment of an unknown Syrian writer who
wrote in the margin of the "Expositio in Evangelia of
Bar-salibaeus" (d. A.D.1171) as follows: "Therefore the reason
why the aforesaid solemnity was transferred by the Fathers from
the 6th of January to the 25th of December, they explain to have
been as follows: It was a solemn rite among the pagans to
celebrate the festival of the rising of the sun on this very day,
December 25th: Furthermore, to augment the solemnity of the day,
they were accustomed to kindle fires, to which rites they were
accustomed to invite and admit even Christian people. When
therefore the Teachers observed that Christians were inclined to
this custom, they contrived a council and established on this day
the festival of the true Rising" (J.S.Assemanus, "Bibliotheca
orientalis" 2, 164, trans. by P.Cotton, "From Sabbath to Sunday,"
avoid. Augustine and Leo the Great, for instance, strongly
reprimanded those Christians who at Christmas worshiped the
Sun rather than the birth of Christ. 73 Therefore, it is well to
keep in mind that in the investigation of the influence of the
Sun-cults on the Christian liturgy, the most we can hope to find
are not direct but indirect indications. This warning applies not
only for the date of Christmas but for that of Sunday as well.
Few scholars maintain that the date of the 25th of December
was derived from astronomical-allegorical observations. It was
the opinion of some Fathers that both the conception and passion
of Christ occurred at the time of the vernal equinox on the 25th
of March. 74
Reckoning from that to that date the nine months of
pregnancy of Mary, the date of the birth of Christ was computed
be the 25th of December. O.Cullmann rightly observes however that
these computations "can scarcely have given the initiative." 75
They seem to represent rather an "a po-
73 Augustine, "Sermo in Nativitate Domini" 7, PL 38, 1007 and
1032, enjoins Christians to worship at Christmas not the sun
but its Creator; Leo the Great rebukes those Christians who at
Christimas celebrate the birth of the sun rather than that of
74 L.Duchesne, "Christian Worship: Us Origin and Evolution,"
1919, pp.260f., presents this hypotthesis as a possibility.
M. Righetti; "Manuale di Storia Liturgica," 1955, 11, pp.68-69,
explains that the date of March 25th "though historically
unfounded, was based on astronomical-allegorical considerations,
namely that on the day of the vernal equinox the world was
created:" According to this theory, on the same date of March 25
creation began and, Christ, as Augustine says, was
"conceived and crucified" - ("De trinitate" 4, 5, PL 42, 894);
cf. Hippolytus, "In Danielem commentarius" 4, 23; for a similar
75 0.Cullmann, "The Early Church," 1956, p.29. Cullmann maintains
that two factors contributed "to the separation of the festival
of Christ's birth from Epiphany, and to the transference of the
former to December 25th," namely, "the dogmatic development of
christology at the beginning of the fourth century" and the
influence of the pagan festival held in honor of the Sun-god on
December 25. Theologically, Cullmann argues, it became necessary,
after the condemnation at the Council of Nicaea of the doctrine
that God the Son did not become incarnate at his birth, to
dissociate the festival of the birth from that of the Epiphany.
Both festivals were celebrated, especially in the East, on
January 5th-6th (as birth-baptism), and this must have been
objectionable, since the birth of Christ commemorated under the
common theme of "Epiphany = appearing," could easily be
misinterpreted heretically. This theological explanation, though
very ingenious, hardly justifies the adoption of December 25,
especially in the West. In fact, to be able to speak of
separation of the two festivities, it is necessary to prove first
of all that in Rome, Christians had previously celebrated
Christmas on January 6, a fact that we have not found.
steriori" rationale advanced to justify an already existing date
and practice. To the majority of scholars, as stated by J.A.
Jungman, "It has become progressively clear that the real
reason for the choice of the 25th of December was the pagan feast
of the "dies natalis Solis Invicti" which was celebrated in those
days with great splendor." 76
Gaston H. Halsberghe in his recent monograph "The Cult
of Sol Invictus," already cited, similarity concludes:
The authors whom we consulted on this point are unammous in
admitting the influence of the pagan celebration held in
honor of Deus Sol Invictus on the 25th of December, the
"Natalis Invicti," on the Christian celebration of
Christmas. This influence is held to be responsible for the
shifting to the 25th of December of the birth of Christ,
which had until then been held on the day of the Epiphany,
the 6th of January. The celebration of the birth of the
Sun god, which was accompanied by a profusion of light and
torches and the decoration of branches and small trees, had
captivated the followers of the cult to such a degree that
even after they had been converted to Christianity they
continued to celebrate the feast of the birth of the Sun
Let us note that the Church of Rome (as in the case of
Easter-Sunday so in the question of the celebration of Christ-
76 Joseph A. Jungmann, "The Early Liturgy to the Time of Gregory
the Great," 1962, p.147; L. Duchesne (fn. 74), p.26, also
recognizes this as a more plausible explanation: "A better
explanation is that based on the festival of 'Natalis Invicti,'
which appears in the pagan calendar of the Philocalian collection
under the 25th of December ... One is inclined to believe that
the Roman Catholic Church made the choice of the 25th of December
in order to enter into rivalry with Mitbraism"; John Ferguson,
"The Religions of the Roman Empire," 1970, p.239, defends the
same view; cf. Franz Cumont (fn. 71), p.89 and (fn. 51), I, p.
342: "It appears certain that the commemoration of the nativity
was placed on December 25, because on the winter solstice was
celebrated the rebirth of the invincible god. By adopting this
date ... the ecclesiastical authorities purified somehow some
pagan customs which they could not suppress."
77 Gaston H. Halsberghe (fn. 6), p.174; O.Cullmann (fn.
75), p.35, explicitly states: "The choice of the dates
themselves, both January 6th and December 25th was determined by
the fact that both these days were pagan festivals whose meaning
provided a starting point for the specifically Christian
conception of Christmas"; the same view is emphatically expressed
by B.Botte, "Les Origines de la Noel et de l'Epiphanie," 1932,
p.14; cf. C.Mohrmann, 'Epiphania,' "Revue des Sciences
Philosophiques" (1937): 672.
mas) pioneered and promoted the adoption of the new date. In
fact the first explicit indication that on the 25th of December
Christians celebrated Christ's birthday is found in a Roman
document known as "Chronograph of 354" (a calendar attributed
to Fuzious Dionysius Philocalus), were it says: "VIII Kal. Jan.
natus Christus in Betleem Judaeae--On the eighth calends of
January [i.e., December 25th] Jesus was born in Bethlehem of
That the Church of Rome introduced and championed this
new date, is accepted by most scholars. For instance, Mario
Righetti, a renowned Catholic liturgist, writes:
After the peace the Church of Rome, to facilitate the
acceptance of the faith by the pagan masses, found it
convenient to institute the 25th of December as the feast of
the temporal birth of Christ, to divert them from the pagan
feast, celebrated on the same day in honor of the
"Invincible Sun" Mithras, the conqueror of darkness. 79
In the Orient, however, the birth and the baptism of Jesus
were celebrated respectively on January 5 and 6. B.Botte, a
Belgian Benedictine scholar, in a significant study concludes
that this date also evoloved from an original pagan feast, named
"Epiphany," which commemorated the birth and growth of light. 80
It was not an easy task for the Church of Rome to get the
Eastern churches to accept the new date of December 25th, since
many of them "firmly adhered to the practice of observing the
festival of Christ's birth in its old form as an Ppiphany
festival on January 5th-6th." 81
It would take us beyond our immediate scope to trace the
process of adoption by the various Christian communities of the
Roman Christmas date. It will be sufficient to notice that the
adoption of the date of December 25th for the celebration
78 T.Mommsen, "Chronography of Philocalus of the Year" 354, 1850,
p.631; L.Duchesne, "Bulletin critique," 1890, p.41, has
established that the calendar goes back to 336, because the
"Depositio martyrum" is preceded in the Philocalian by the
"Depositium episcoporum" of Rome, which lists Sylvester (d. A.D.
335) as the last pope.
79 M.Righetti (fn. 74), 11, p.67; this view is widely held: see
L.Duchesne above fn. 76; O.Cullmann (fn. 75), p.30: "The Roman
Church intentionally opposed to this pagan nature cult its own
festival of light, the festival of the birth of Christ."
80 B.Botte (fn. 41), pp.14f; see above fn. 75.
81 O.Cullmann (fn. 75), p.32; for a concise account of the
diffusion of and opposition to the Roman Christmas, see M.
Righetti (fn. 74), II, pp.70f.
of Christ's birth provides an additional example not only of the
influence of the Sun-cult, but also of the primacy exerted by
Rome in promoting liturgical innovations.
The three examples we have briefly considered
(Christ-the-Sun, the eastward oriientation, and the Christmas
date} evidence sufficiently the influence of Sun-cult on
Christian thought and liturgy. J.A.Jungmann summarizes it well
when he writes that: "Christianity absorbed and made its own what
could be salvaged from pagan antiquity, not destroying it but
converting it, Christianizing what could be turned to good." 82
These conclusions justify a more direct investigation of the
influence of the pagan veneration of the day of the Sun on the
Christian adoption of the very same day.
The Day of the Sun and the origin of Sunday
The association between the Christian Sunday and the pagan
veneration of the day of the Sun is not explicit before the time
of Eusebius (ca. A.D.260-340. Though Christ is often referred to
by earlier Fathers as "True Light" and "Sun of Justice," 83 no
deliberate attempt was made prior to Eusebius to justify Sunday
observance by means of the symbology of the day of the Sun. On
the other hand Eusebius several times refers explicitly to the
motifs of the light, of the sun and of the day of the Sun, to
explain the substitution of the Christian Sunday for the Jewish
Sabbath. For example, in his "Commentary on Psalm 91" he writes:
The Logos has transferred by the New Alliance the
celebration of the Sabbath to the rising of the light. He
has given us a type of the true rest in the saving day of
the Lord, the first day of light ... In this day of light,
first day and true day of the sun, when we gather after the
interval of six days, we celebrate the holy and spiritual
Sabbaths.... All things whatsoever that were prescribed for
the Sabbath, we have transferred them to the Lord's day, as
being more authoritative and more highly regarded and first
in rank, and more honorable than the Jewish Sabbath. In
fact, it is on this day of the creation of the world that
God said: "Let there be light and there was light." It is
also on this day that the Sun of Justice has risen for our
82 Joseph A. Jungmann (fn. 76), p.151.
83 See above fn. 63.
84 Eusebius, "Cominentaria in Psalmos 91," PG 23, 1169-1172; cf.
below fn. 112.
To be continued