Which day is the first day of the week ?
More and more countries and organizations are caving in and making Monday the de facto first day of the week. Iím told that the calendars in France have the days arranged on the page so that the first day is Monday. Here in Atlanta the cards that you buy to ride the subway for a week used to start on Sunday; now they start on Monday. Part of this is due to peopleís resentment at having the all-important weekend split between weeks.
There isnít really a conflict between Christian and Jewish thinking as to the numbering of the days of the week; the conflict concerns what day will be called the Sabbath. In strict Jewish observance, the Sabbath begins at sundown on Friday and runs until sundown on Saturday. Loosely, Saturday was the Sabbath observed for centuries by Jews and Christians, because most of the "daytime" of the Sabbath was on Saturday.
When Constantine became Roman Emperor in the 4th century A.D., the Christians were becoming powerful. Constantine announced his "conversion" to Christianity, and even went so far as to decree that Christianity would be the official religion of the Roman Empire. But Constantine was a master politician; he was really no more a Christian than Saddam Hussein, but he saw the handwriting on the wall. He knew that there were still powerful pagan interests in the Empire, and he saw ways to reconcile pagan and Christian camps. By now the Christians were bishop-besotted and didnít care about the thrust of Jesusí teaching; they just wanted power. The pagans wanted respect for their customs.
Constantine lent his support to making the birth of Jesus December 25; this was a sacred pagan ceremonial date, the "re-birth of the Sun." (There isnít an ounce of evidence that Jesus was born on December 25; most scholars opt for late spring or early summer.)
More substantially, Constantine colluded in making the first day of the week the Christian Sabbath; Christians reasoned that it made sense to honor the day on which Christ rose from the dead, the most important occurrence in human history. Pagans, however, were delighted because the new Christian Sabbath was Sun-day, Dies Solis, the day sacred to Sol Invictus, their chief god. There isnít a whit of Biblical support for making Sunday the Sabbath but you have to sit on a Christian and twist his arm to make him admit that!
So strong now is this association that many Christians believe that Sunday is the last day of the week, and hence properly and righteously the Sabbath. There are relatively small Christian groups Seventh Day Adventists most notably that still insist on keeping the Sabbath on Saturday, but they havenít got much secular power.
The signs on the street in my neighborhood say, "NO PARKING Except on Sunday" (there is a church nearby) a probably illegal violation of church and state separation, and in favor of the misinformed Sunday Sabbath-ers. Some tiny religious groups teach that there will be a terrible punishment for pandering to the pagans and celebrating the Sabbath on Sunday; they even go so far to say that Armageddon will be triggered by Sunday worship, and that the Anti-Christ can be identified by his sponsorship of Sunday Sabbath. Certainly the Catholic Church has been cozy with Sunday Sabbath for over 1500 years; its lack of Biblical support was no obstacle to a Church that forbade the reading of the Bible by the laity in any case.
Iím not a Jew; I am a Christian but the Sabbath day issue is not violently important to me. However I hate to see dishonesty and ignorance in something that is important to millions of people.
Rigorous and Relevant Technical Publications, Software and Toys
Copyright (c) 1998-2000 Inwit Publishing, Inc.
All Rights Reserved