THE SABBATH AND ANTI-JUDAISM #7
Concerning the first question it would seem highly probable
that the weekly Sabbath fast arose in Rome as an outgrowth or
extension of the annual paschal Sabbath fast, since we noticed,
192 (1) that the latter was an integral part of the Easter-Sunday
celebration - strongly advocated by the Church of Rome - and (2)
that the weekly Sabbath fast was known in Rome possibly already
early in the second century.
With regard to the second question as to whether the paschal
Sabbath fast expressed not only the sorrow for Christ's death but
also a Christian contempt for its authors, namely the Jews, we
find explicit statements to that effect. In a document of the
first half of the third century, 193 known as the Didascalia
Apostolorum, the unknown author deals at length in chapter 21
with the question of the paschal fast. He prescribes a partial
fast "with bread and salt and water only" from Monday to
Thursday, "but on the Friday and on the Sabbath," he says,
"fast wholly and taste nothing." 194 The reason for the fast is
stated repeatedly "It is on account of the disobedience of our
brethren [i.e., the Jews] that you are to fast." 195 During the
Sabbath fast the Christians were to keep a vigil "praying and
interceding for the destruction of the People [i.e., the Jews],
because they erred and confessed not our Saviour." 196 The writer
Fast then on the Friday, because thereon the People killed
themselves in crucifying our Saviour; and on the Sabbath also
because it is the sleep of our Lord; for it is a day which ought
especially to be kept with fasting; even as blessed Moses also,
the prophet of all [things touching] this matter, commanded. For
because he knew by the Holy Spirit and it was commanded
192 See above pp.63-69.
193 Concerning the date of composition of the Didascalia, see,
Quasten, Patrology 2:147 ; cf. R. Hugh Connolly, Didascalia
Apostolorum (Oxford Clarendon Press, 1929), pp. lxxxvii-xci.
(Hereafter cited as Connolly, Didascalia Apostolorum.)
194 Connolly, Didascalia Apostolorum 21, p.189.
195 Ibid., p. 184 ; cf. also pp. 180-181, 189, 190, 192; the
Apostolic Constitutions, 5,15 similarly state, referring to the
paschal Sabbath fast: "Ye ought therefore to bewail over them,
because when the Lord came they did not believe on Him " (ANF 7
:445); Epiphanius also affirms: "In fact the very apostles
establish: When they [i.e., the Jews] feast, we should mourn for
them with fasting, because in that feast they fastened Christ on
the Cross" (Adverms Haereses 70,11, PG 42, 359-360.
196 Connolly, Didascalia Apostolorum 21, p.189.
him by the Almighty God, who knew what the People were to do to
his Son and His beloved Jesus Christ. 191
The author proceeds then to show how God, in view of the
evil the Jews would do to Christ, laid upon them the Sabbath as a
perpetual "mourning for their destruction." 198 In the Apostolic
Constitutions, a later ecclesiastical constitution (dated ca.
A.D. 375) based largely on the Didascalia, in a similar vein the
Christians are enjoined "to fast the day of the preparation and
the Sabbath-day entirely" because "in these days ... He was taken
from us by the Jews, falsely so named and fastened to the cross"
199 While fasting, according to the same document, the Christians
are "to bewail over them [the Jews] because when the Lord came
they did not believe on Him, but rejected His doctrine, judging
themselves unworthy of salvation." 200
In the light of these indications it would seem that some
Christians at least understood the paschal Sabbath fast to be not
only an occasion to mourn the death and burial of Christ but also
atime to remember and condemn the crime committed by the Jews.
This leads us to the third question we raised above
regarding a possible causal relationship between the introduction
of the weekly Sabbath fast and the abandonment by some Christians
of the observance of the Sabbath. Thus far we have estabished
that the weekly Sabbath fast seems to have originated in Rome as
an extension of the annual paschal Sabbath fast, which seemingly
expressed not only the Christian's sorrow for Christ's death but
also contempt for its authors namely the Jews. Since we have also
noticed that the Jews honored the Sabbath especially
197 Ibid., p.190.
198 Loc. cit.; Rordorf points out that "in the Didascalia the
institution of the Sabbath is interpreted as a 'preventive
punishment' of the Jewish people" (Sabbat, p.40); Justin, as we
shall see (see below p.104) regards the Sabbath in a similar
199 Apostolic Constitutions 5,18, ANF 7, 447.
200 Ibid., 5,15, p.445; Cotton recognizes the anti-Judaic
motivations for the Sabbath fast. He writes: "We may well assume
that anti-Jewish considerations, so prominent in Victorinus, were
by no means absent as a factor in hastening the observance of the
Sabbath fast" (Sabbath, p.67); similarly Righetti comments:
"One notices in some churches in the East, as well as in Rome and
Spain, a strong tendency to emphasize the Sabbath with a fast,
probably because of a certain anti-Semitism, as Victorinus of
Pettau in Stiria (d. ca. A.D.300) leaves us to suppose"
(Righetti, Storia Liturgica, 2:38); see also the texts and
comments that follow.
by feasting and rejoicing on that day, the extension of the
annual paschal Sabbath fast to the weekly Sabbath may well
represent the attempt of some Christians to abandon and
substitute not only the annual Jewish Passover, but even the
weekly Jewish Sabbath. We shall briefly refer to some Patristic
testimonies which seem to substantiate the validity of this
Augustine, in his "Epistle to Casulanus," already cited,
reports the charges of a Roman "nameless Metropolitan " who said
who on the seventh day of the week refresh themselves soberly and
moderately with food ... that they prefer Jewish rites to those
of the Church, and are sons of the bondwoman; that they are
governed not by the righteous law of God, but by their own good
pleasure, consulting their own appetites instead of submitting to
salutary restraint; also that they are carnal and savour of
death, and other such charges, which if he had uttered against
even one servant of God, who would listen to hire, who would not
be bound to turn away from him ? 201
Even though Augustine dismissed as groundless these charges
which this anonymous Roman prelate had launched through a
treatise (which was sent to Augustine for refutation by
Casulanus), the fact that he (i.e., Augustine) refuted his
arguments at length would seem to indicate that there were
Christians like Casulanus who were concerned and confused by the
insistence of the Church of Rome on the Sabbath fast, and who
were seeking guidance on the matter.
It is interesting to notice that Augustine was baffled by
the insistence of this Roman Metropolitan who made "only the
seventh day's repast" the sign of being carnal, even if one
fasted instead "for five successive days of the week." 202
The charges that the Christians who ate their meals on the
Sabbath "are sons of the bondwoman" and that " hey prefer Jewish
rites to those of the Church" are indicative of the unusual
effort put forth by the Church of Rome to break away from any
veneration of the Sabbath, regarded as a Jewish institution.
The polemic work "Against the Calumnies" of the Greek 203 of
201 Augustine, Epistle to Casulanus 36, par 4 NPNF 1st Series
202 Ibid., par. 8, p.267
203 The treatise, entitled in Latin Adversus Graecorum Calumnias,
was composed in the form of a debate about the year 1054 by
Cardinal Humbert. The Cardinal had been sent by Pope Leo IX early
in 1054 as papal nuncios to Constantinople to endeavor to bring
back the Greeks into conformity with religious practices of the
Roman (Latin) church.
Cardinal Humbert of Rome, provides additional evidence in this
regard. The Cardinal argues that the Latins in no way resemble
the Jews in their observance of the Sabbath, since on that day
they "do all sorts of work, even as in the preceding five days
and fast [on the Sabbath]..." 204 He proceeds then to show to
the Greeks that they are the ones who judaize since they, observe
the Sabbath in the identical manner of the Jews. While the
document per se, due to it late date (ca. A.D 1054), carries
little weight in a studt of the Sabbth fast in Rome in the early
centuries, the lengthy quotation„ from "the most blessed Pope
Sylveater" (A.D. 314-335), which Cardinal Humbert cites to
dissuade the Greeks from the observance of the Sabbath, provides
significant insights into the motivations, for the enforcement of
the Sabbath fast in Rome. Pope Sylyester states:
If every Sunday is to be observed joyfully by the Christians on
account of the resurrection, then every Sabbath on account of the
burial is to be regarded in execration of the Jews (exsecratione
Judaeorum). In fact all the disciples of the Lord had a
lamentation on the Sabbath, bewailing the buried Lord, and
gladness prevailed for the exulting Jews. But sadness reigned for
the fasting apostles. In like manner we are sad with the saddened
by the burial of the Lord, if we want to rejoice with them in the
day of the Lord's resurrection. In fact it is not proper to
observe, because of Jewish customs, the consumption of food
(destructiones ciborum) and the ceremonies of the Jews. 205
In this statement Pope Sylvester contrasts the different
"theological meanings and manners of observance which existed
The mission however did not succeed. The treatise was composed as
a further attempt to dissuade the Greeks from holding on to
curtain divergent religious practices such as the veneration of
the Sabbath. The significance of the document for our study is
twofold : (1) it substantiates the existing divergent attitude
toward the Sabbath between the East and the West; (2) it quotes
the earlier testimony of Pope Sylvester (ca. A.D. 314-335) which
offers additional insights into the motivations for the Sabbath
204 S.R. E.Humbert, Adversus Graecorum calumnias 6, PL 143, 936.
205 Ibid., PL.143, 93f; The authenticity of the document seems
confirmed (1) by the fact that other known documents, such as the
famous decretal of Innocent I (see above p.68), are accurately
quoted (PL 143, 93f); (2) by the fact that Popes like Hadrian I
(Epist.70, ad Egilam Episcopum, PL 98, 335) and Nicolas I (Epist.
152, Ad Hinc-marum, PL 119, 115f) refer to Sylvester's statement
to defend the Roman Sabbath fast.
Sunday and Sabbath. The former, in fact, was to be observed as a
joyful day in memory of the resurrection while the latter was to
be regarded as a day of mourning on account of the burial of
Jesus. It is worth noticing however that Christians were enjoined
to mourn and abstain from food on the Sabbath, not only to
remember Christ's burial and the bewailing disciples, but also to
show contempt for the Jews (exsecratione Judaeorum). It is
clearly stated in fact that it is "because of Jewish custom -
more Judaico -" that meals and ceremonies are prohibited on the
Sabbath. The fast of the Sabbath appears then to have been
ordered on one hand to urge the Christians to renounce the Jewish
Sabbath and on the other hand, to provide greater honor and
recognition to Sunday. "We are sad" (on the Sabbath), Pope
Sylvester writes, "to rejoice in the day of the Lord's
resurrection." 206 The same motivations for the Sabbath fast are
emphatically presented by Victorinus; bishop of Pettau (c. ca.
A.D. 304). He writes:
On the seventh day, He rested from all His works. On this day we
are accustomed to fast rigorously so that on the Lord's day we
may go forth to our bread with giving thanks. We must fast even
on Friday in order that we might not appear to observe the
Sabbath with the Jews, of which the Lord of the Sabbath himself,
the Christ, says by His prophets that His soul hateth. ... 207
Even though Victorinus does not write directly from Rome.
208 since he was bishop of Pettau in present-day Austria, his
206 Loc. cit.
207 Victorinus of Pettau, De Fabrics mundi 5, CSEL 49, 5; in the
Didascalia Apostolorum 21 the Christians are similarly advised to
fast on "Friday and the Sabbath" because of what the Jews did to
Christ, but to "eat and make good cheer, and rejoice and be glad
[on Sunday], because that the earnest of our resurrection,
Christ, is risen" (Connolly, p.190); Canon 29 of the Council of
Laodicea (Mansi 2:570) ordered "that Christians should not
Judaize and should not be idle on the Sabbath, but should work on
that day; they should, however, particularly reverence the Lord's
day and, if possible, not work on it, because they were
Christians." In all of these texts the order to fast or to work
on the Sabbath seems to be designed on the one hand to depreciate
the Sabbath and on the other hand to enhance the prestige and the
solemnity of Sunday.
208 Even though both Regan (Dies Dominica, p.64) and Cotton
(Sabbath, p. 6) attribute the statement of Victorinus to the
Roman custom, there does not seem to exist valid indications that
justify such a connection. Nevertheless Victorinus' testimony is
of great value for the West.
mony well reflects the attitude toward the Sabbath of certain
Western Christian communities, which we have found exemplified
particularly in the Roman sources. Two reasons are explicitly
given by Victorinus as a justificatiion for the Sabbath fast.
First, the fast of the Sabbath predisposed the Christians to
enter into the observance of Sunday more eagerly and gratefully.
In other words the depreciation of the Sabbath was designed to
give greater honor and value to Sunday. Secondly, by fasting on
the Sabbath Christians were to show their radical break from the
Jewish Sabbath. It is worth noticing that even the Friday fast is
prescribed for the very same reasons. We may wonder in what way
the Friday fast was contributing to avoiding any semblance of
Jewish Sabbath observance. The answer seems to be found in the
fact that the extension of the fast over two days made the fast
of the second day particularly severe. Duchesne notes: "The
Sabbath fast was the most severe as no food could have been eaten
since the Thursday night" 209 It would seem then that the Friday
fast, by intensifying the feeling of hunger on the Sabbath was
designed to achieve two objectives. On one hand, it heightened
the sense of distinction from Judaism or, to use Pope Sylvester's
stronger words, "the execration of the Jews" 210 On the other
hand, as Rordorf points out, "after two days of abstinence, the
festival on the Sunday following could be celebrated all the more
A strict Sabbath fast would naturally preclude also the
celebration of the Eucharist, since the partaking of the "Lord's
Body" would be regarded as breaking the fast. Disagreement
existed, however, on this matter. Tertullian, for instance,
speaking of the two fasting days (stationer, i.e., Wednesday and
Friday), tells us that in North Africa many thought that their
fast would be "dissolved by the reception of the Lord's Body,"
212 and for this reason they absented themselves from the
religious services on those days. Tertullian himself opposed such
view, believing rather that the reception of the Eucharist made
the fast more solemn. To reconcile the keeping of the fast with
the partaking of the Eucharist, Tertullian suggested to those who
were troubled in their conscience, to take the "Lord's Body "
home and to eat
209 Duchesne, Worship, p.233; this, however was true only for the
annual paschal fast. The weekly Sabbath or station fasts lasted
usually until 3 p.m.
210 S.R.E. Humbert, Adversus Qraeeorum calumnias 6, PI. 143, 936.
211 Rordorf, Sunday, p.143.
212 Tertullian, On Prayer 19. ANF 3:68f.
it after the completion of the fast. 213 In Rome, however, we
know for certain that Saturday was not only a day of fasting, but
also a day in which no liturgical celebration was allowed. Pope
Innocent I, in his famous letter to Decentius already quoted,
which was later incorporated into the Canon Law, established that
"as the tradition of the Church maintains, in these two days
[Friday and Saturday] one should not absolutely (penitus)
celebrate the sacraments." 211 Pop Innocent I's decretal is
confirmed by the testimony of two contemporary historians,
Sozomen 215 (ca. A.D. 440) and Socrates (ca. A.D. 439). The
For although almost all churches throughout the world celebrate
the sacred mysteries on the sabbath of every week, yet the
Christians of Alexandria and at Rome, on account of some ancient
tradition, have ceased to do this. 216
Socrates does not explain why in Rome and Alexandria there
were no Eucharistic celebrations on the Sabbath. He states
however that the custom went back to "an ancient tradition."
This would allow us to suppose that the proscription of the
celebration of the Mass and the injunction of fasting, due to
their close nexus, may have originated contemporaneously,
possibly early in the second century as part of the effort to
break away from Jewish rites, which we have discussed above.
217 Sozomen's description of the customs prevailing in his day
is strikingly similar to the one of Socrates, but he speaks only
of religious assemblies, without reference to any Eucharistic
celebration. He confirms however that while "the people of
Constantinople, and almost everywhere, assemble together on the
Sabbath, as well as on the first day of the week," such "custom
is never observed at Rome or at Alexandria." 218
In the light of these cumulative evidences, it appears that
the Church of Rome played a key role in early Christianity in
emptying the Sabbath of every cultic significance 219 and in
213 Loc. cit.
214 Innocent I, Epist. 25, 4, 7, Ad Decentium, PL 20, 555; the
letter is passed into the Corpus Juris, c. 13, d. 3, de
215 Sozomen, Hist. Eccl. 7, 19, PG 67, 14ff.
216 Socrates, Eccles. History 5, 22, NPNF 2nd Series, 2:132.
217 See above pp.72-74 and below pp.86f.
218 Sozomen, Eccles. History 7, 19, NPNF 2nd Series, 2:390.
219 Mosna aptly comments: "In the weekly liturgical celebrations.
Rome differentiated herself from all the Eastern communities as
well as from many in the West, drawing nearer somewhat to the
usages of Alexandria.
urging the adoption and exclusive observance of Sunday. The
proscription of the celebration of the Mass and the injunction to
fast on the Sabbath, while on one hand it was apparently designed
to devaluate the Sabbath by making it a non-liturgical day, on
the other hand it urged and enhanced the observance of Sunday.
A question arises at this point: Why did the Church of Rome
assume such an intransigent attitude toward Jewish institutions
like the quartodeciman Passover and the Sabbath, urging Christ-
ians to renounce and replace them with new dates and meanings?
The answer to this question seems to be found in that complex of
social, religious and political tensions which, as we have
endeavored to analyze earlier in our study, existed among
Christianity, Judaism and the Empire, and which were particularly
felt in the imperial city. We noticed, 220 in fact, that the
following factors were in and were experienced by the Church of
Rome in a special way: (1) the Church was composed there
primarily of converted Gentiles; (2) Christians experienced in
the city an earlier differentiation from the Jews than elsewhere
in the Empire; (3) the Jews were particularly unpopular in Rome
due to their exclusive customs and constant rebellions; (4)
anti-Judaic fiscal measures were passed at this time by the
imperial authorities which indirectly urged the Christians to
clearly differentiate themselves from the Jews to avoid a
taxation they (the Christians) would regard as unjust; (5)
Hadrian's prohibition of the practice of Judaism in general, and
of the circumcision and Sabbath in particular, similarly
encouraged a break from those typical Jewish customs, especially
on the part of those Christians who were living under the
immediate attention of the Emperor; (6) social and theological
conflicts were particularly acute in Rome, as evidenced
First of all, Friday and Saturday were non-liturgical as far as
the celebration of the Eucharist is concerned. Already concerning
Alexandria, the testimony of Socrates has been reported. While in
all the Churches of the Christian World it was customary to
celebrate the Eucharist on the Sabbath, the Alexandrians and the
Romans, on account of an ancient tradition, refused to do so;
this information is confirmed by Sozomon. Further on, while in
all the Churches of the Orient, at Milan and in Africa because of
the veneration for the Sabbath day one would not fast, at Rome
and in Spain on the contrary such a day was consecrated to
fasting" (Storia della domenica, p.330). Mosna suggests that Rome
influenced the disappearance of the veneration of the Sabbath:
"Perhaps in this the example of Rome (which never had any special
cult on the Sabbath) must have acted and been influential"
220 The social, political and religious situation of the Church
of Rome is treated above pp.53-61.
by Justin's polemic Dialogue with Trypho, composed in the city by
the middle of the second century. 221 In addition to these
factors, which were present in their totality only in Rome, it is
worth considering the influence which Marcion's anti-Judaic and
anti-Sabbath attitude might have exerted in the Church of Rome.
Rordorf recognizes the possible influence of Marcion in the
introduction of the Sabbath fasting. He writes: "Another factor
which may perhaps have influenced the Church at large; may have
been Marcion's habit of fasting on Saturday in order to
demonstrate his hatred against the God of the Jews." 222 In
fact, according to Epiphanius (ca. A.D.374-377), Marcion ordered:
the fast on Saturday justifying it in this way: "Because it is
the rest of the God of the Jews," he says, "who has created the
world and has rested on the seventh day; we fast in that day in
order not to accomplish on that day what was ordained by the God
of the Jews." 223
It is worth remembering that it was in Rome itself that
Marcion established himself toward A.D. 137-139, exercising an
enormous influence on the local Christian community. It is a fact
that even after his expulsion from the Church (ca. A.D. 144) he
had a large following in Rome. Be founded a separate church in
Rome which irradiated its influence "in length and in width with
a surprising rapidity, in a special way in the East as far as
Persia, and Armenia, thus surpassing in extension and importance
all other gnostic groups." 224 It could be objected however that,
since Marcion's dualistic theological teachings were condemned
and since he himself was excommunicated by the Church of Rome, he
could hardly have influenced the Christians in Rome or elsewhere
by his Sabbath fast teachings which were motivated by his strong
contempt for the Jewish God of the Old Testament. To answer this
objection, we ought to consider the extent of the influence of
It is a fact that Marcion's dualistic and anti-Judaic
teachings spread far and wide, attracting especially those who
leaned against the Jews. Justin testifies that "Marcion, a man of
221 Justin's writings and his attitude toward the Jews as well as
toward the Sabbath will be analyzed below; see pp.101f.
222 Rordorf, Sunday, p.144.
223 Epiphanius, Adversus haereses 42, 3, 4, GCS 31, 98.
224 K.Bihlmeyer and H.Tuechle, Storia delta Chiesa, 4 vols.
(Brescia Morcelliana, 1969), 1:186.
is even at this day alive, ... by the aid of devils, has caused
many of every nation to speak blasphemies." 225, Tertullian, for
example, in North Africa, found it necessary to defend the
Christians from the influence of Marcion's teachings by producing
his longest treatise, Against Marcion, which he admits to have
revised in three successive editions. 226 Concerning the Sabbath,
Tertullian argues against Marcion that
even if as being not the Christ of the Jews, He (i.e., Christ of
the N.T.) displayed a hatred against the Jews' most solemn day,
He was only professedly following the Creator, as being His
Christ, in this very hatred of the Sabbath; for He exclaims by
the mouth of Isaiah: "Your new moons and your Sabbaths my soul
The thrust of Tertullian's lengthy and elaborate arguments,
presented particularly in books 1, 2, 4, 5 of Against Marcion, is
to show, contrary to what Marcion taught, that the type of
Sabbath keeping originally intended by the God of the Old
Testament is identical to Christ's teachings regarding it. 228
There is therefore no contradiction but harmony between the
teachings of the O.T. and of the N.T. regarding Sabbath-keeping,
in as much as they both derive from the same God who was the God
of both dispensations. While Tertullian as a Montanist totally
rejected Marcion's teachings regarding the Sabbath fast, it is
worth asking if perchance some Catholic Christians in North
Africa were affected by them. In chapter 14 of the treatise On
Fasting we have already noticed 229 that Tertullian chides the
Catholic Christians, saying "You sometimes continue your station
even over the Sabbath, - a day never to be kept as fast except at
the Passover season, according to a reason elsewhere given." 230
Is it possible, we may ask, that these Christians who extended
their Friday fast over to the Sabbath day were, indirectly
perhaps, influenced by Marcion's teachings? Tertullian suggests
such a possibility in the following chapter of the same treatise,
where he refers to:
225 Justin, I Apology 26, ANF 1: 171.
226 See, Tertullian, Against Marcion 1, 1, ANF 3: 271.
227 Ibid., 4, 12, p.362.
228 For an analysis of Tertullian'e arguments against Marcion,
see Strand, Essays on the Sabbath, pp.31-38.
229 See above p.69.
230 ANF 4: 112.
the heretics who would enjoin perpetual abstinence to the extent
of destroying and despising the works of the Creator; such as I
may find in the person of a Marcion, a Tatian, or a Jupiter, the
Pythagorean heretic of today. 231
It is interesting to notice that Tertullian in his effort to
defend the Montanists (to whom he then belonged) from the
apparent accusations of adding or prolonging the fasting days,
not only attacked the Catholics (i.e., the accusers) for fasting
on the Sabbath (a day in which the Montanists never fasted) 232
but he also cites the example of Marcion as being one of the
heretics who advocated "perpetual abstinence to the extent of
destroying and despising the works of the Creator." 233 While it
must be admitted that the statement does not mention specifically
the Sabbath fast but a "perpetual fasting," the fact that
Tertullian cited Marcion as an example, who we know emphasized
especially the Sabbath fast, would load us to suppose that
Marcion exerted a considerable influence in North Africa on the
fasting question, and that possibly he may have influenced
indirectly those Christians (whom Tertullian rebukes) who were
practicing the Sabbath fast.
If the influence of Marcion was felt in a distant Christian
community such as that of North Africa, we may wonder to what
extent his anti-Judaic and anti-Sabbath teachings affected the
Christians in Rome, since there was his headquarters. Justin, who
labeled Marcion as an offspring of the devil, testifies that even
then (ca. A.D.150) he was teaching in the city and that "many
have believed (him) as if he alone knew the truth." 234 The
influence of Marcion was apparently so strongly felt in Rome even
half a century later as to call for a refutation of his teachings
by Hippolytus. While the latter's treatise Against Marcion is
unfortunately lost, 235 we noticed earlier that in his Commentary
on Daniel, Hippolytus condemns those who ordered "fasting on the
Sabbath." 236 Was Hippolytus' condemnation of the Sabbath fast
231 Tertullian, On Fasting 15, ANF 4: 112; (italics mine);
concerning Tatian, Irenaeus informs us that he was initially a
disciple of Justin Martyr, but that later he accepted certain
Marcionite views (Against Heresies 1, 28, ANF 1:353).
232 See above p.81, fn. 5.
233 See above fn.1.
234 Justin, I Apology 58, ANF 1: 182.
235 Eusebius (Hist. Eccl. 6, 22) and Jerome (De Viris illustribus
61) mention the treatise Against Marcion which Hippolytus wrote,
but which unfortunately has not come down to us.
236 See above p.65.
directed exclusively against the Marcionites? Since we noticed
that the Liber Pontificalis reports the contemporary decretal of
Pope Callystus which enjoined a seasonal Sabbath fast, 237 it
would seem then that the custom was not exclusive of the
Marcionites, but had been adopted by Catholics (particularly in
Rome) as well. This does not exclude the possible influence of
Marcion on the Church of Rome on this particular question of
Sabbath fasting. Considering, in fact, the acute social and
theological tension which, we noticed, existed in Rome at that
time between Jews and Christians, it would not be at all
surprising if Marcion's anti-Judaic and anti-Sabbath teachings
were favorably received by many Christians there. By this we do
not mean to attribute to Marcion the exclusive responsibility for
the introduction of the Sabbath fast. In fact, if our previous
conclusion is correct that the weekly Sabbath fast arose as an
extension of the annual paschal Sabbath fast (in conjunction with
or soon after the introduction of the Easter-Sunday), 238 then
probably it was already practiced by some at least in Rome prior
to the arrival of Marcion. However, this does not preclude the
possibility that Marcion's anti-Sabbath teachings might have
added strength to a custom perhaps only recently introduced and
therefore not yet accepted by the majority of the Christians.
In this regard it is worth remembering that Justin, a
contemporary of Marcion in Rome, while, on one hand, he
repudiated as "ridiculous and preposterous" 239 the notion that
the Sabbath of the Old Testament was given by a different God, on
the other hand he did not hesitate to designate the Sabbath as a
mark of unfaithfulness of the Jews, imposed on them by God to
distinguish and separate them from other nations. 240 The
existence in Rome of such a strong anti-Sabbath attitude
undoubtedly offered a favorable ground to Marcion's Sabbath fast
It would seem, therefore, that the Sabbath fast, which was
strongly advocated by the Church of Rome, not only reveals the
tension which existed in Rome between Jews and Christians, but
it is also indicative of the drastic measures taken by the Roman
ecclesiastical authorities to force a radical break with Judaism
and to lead the Christians to worship exclusively on Sunday. In
the East, however, where Jewish institutions constituted, as
237 See above pp.65-66.
238 See above pp.67-69.
239 Justin, Dialogue with Trypho 23, 1.
240 See below pp.103f., for Justin's concept of the Sabbath.
rightly points out, 241 "a perennial attraction ... for the
Christians" probably due to the constant influx of converts from
the synagogue, not only was, Sabbath fasting prohibited, but
special reverence was shown to the Sabbath (as well as to Sunday)
by conducting regular religious services.
In the light of the cumulative evidences which have been
examined, it would seem likely to suppose that in Rome the
devaluation of the Sabbath on the part of the Christian
community, mostly of pagan extraction, took place in the first
half of the second century. This would be part of that process of
differentiation from Judaism which became necessary for the
various reasons considered, as for instance: the unpopularity of
the Jews in Rome, the anti-Judaic fiscal measures, the awakening
Jewish nationalism and the constant Jewish rebellions, the
prohibition of the practice of Judaism by Hadrian (which included
Sabbath observance), the influence of Marcion, and the derogatary
campaign of the Jews against the Christians. If it was in Rome
that the break with Judaism occurred earlier and more radically
than elsewhere with the abandoning of the Sabbath observance it
is plausible to assume that it was there also and for the same
motivations and at the same time that Sunday was introduced as
the new day of worship by the majority of the Christians. The
Easter-controversy would seem to furnish some further indications
to support this thesis.
241 A.P.Hayman, ed., and trans., The Disputation of Sergius the
Stylite Against a Jew, Corpus Scriptorium Christianorum
Orientalium, vol. 339 (Louvain : Secretariat du Corpus SCO,
1973), p.75; it is interesting to notice the rationale adopted by
those Syrian Christians who, for instance, "gave oil and
unleavened bread to the synagogue" (22: 12). Sergius quotes them
as saying: "If Christianity is good, behold, I am baptized as a
Christian. But if Judaism is also, behold, I will associate
partly with Judaism that I might hold on to the Sabbath" (22, 15
p.77). Hayman offers a significant comment to this text: "It is
possible to cite; evidence proving that the Disputation of
Sergius the Stylite is witnessing here to a situation endemic in
Syria from the first to the thirteenth century A.D). From the
warning of the Didascalia in the third century to the canons of
the Jacobite church in the thirteenth, the Christian authorities
strove to counteract the perennial attraction of Jewish
observances for Christiarns. Not only in Syria, but, throughout
the Orient, and occasionally in the West, the Church was
perpetually confronted with the problem of Judaising Christians
as Marcel Simon's comprehensive study of the phenomenon has
demonstrated. The Church's anti-Jewish polemic was motivated, not
by any abstract theological considerations, but by a very real
threat to its position" (ibid., p.75). See below p.118, fn.
377-378 for patristic references to Sabbath keeping in the East.
To be continued