SUNDAY, or the LORD'S DAY (ft TOV i^Xiou fii^pa, dies solis; -fl KvpLaK-?i fifjtepa, dies dominica, dies dominicus 1 ), in the Christian world, the first day of the week, celebrated in memory of the resurrection of Christ, as the principal day for public worship. An additional reason for the sanctity of the day may have been found in its association with Pentecost or Whitsun. 2 There is no evidence that in the earliest years of Christianity there was any formal observance of Sunday as a day of rest or any general cessation of work. But it seems to have from the first been set apart for worship. Thus according to Acts xx. 7, the disciples in Troas met weekly on the first day of the week for exhortation and the breaking of bread; i Cor. xvi. 2 implies at least some observance of the day; and the solemn commemorative character it had very early acquired is strikingly indicated by an incidental expression of the writer of the Apocalypse (i. 10), who for the first time gives it that name (" the Lord's Day ") by which it is almost invariably referred to by all writers of the century immediately succeeding apostolic times.* Indications of the manner of its observance during this period are not wanting. Teaching of the Apostles (c. 14)
1 The Teutonic and Scandinavian nations adopt the former designation (Sunday, Sonntag, Sondag, etc.), the Latin nations the latter (dimanche, domcnica, domingo, etc.).
J From an expression in the Epistle of Barnabas (c. 15), it would almost seem as if the Ascension also was believed by some to have taken place on a Sunday.
1 In the Epistle of Barnabas already referred to (c. 15) it is called " <.!,*> ; n v.tv, A " " \\r e keep the eighth day with joyfulness, the ' the eighth day ' day also in which Jesus rose again Martyr, Dial. c. Tryph. c. 138.
from the dead." Cf. Justin contains the precept; " And on the Lord's day of the Lord (xard mipuiK^v tcvplov) come together and break bread and give thanks after confessing your transgressions, that your sacrifice may be pure." Ignatius (Ad Magn. c. 9) speaks of those whom he addresses as " no longer Sabbatizing, but living in the observance of the Lord's day (wird Kvpuucfiv fwirts) on which also our life sprang up again." 4 Eusebius (H.E. iv. 23) has preserved a letter of Dionysius of Corinth (A.D. 175) to Soter, bishop of Rome, in which he says: " To-day we have passed the Lord's holy day, in which we have read your epistle ", and the same historian (H.E. iv. 26) mentions that Melito of Sardis (A.D. 170) had written a treatise on the Lord's day. Pliny's letter to Trajan in which he speaks of the meetings of the Christians " on a stated day " need only be alluded to. The first writer who mentions the name of Sunday as applicable to the Lord's day is Justin Martyr; this designation of the first day of the week, which is of heathen origin (see SABBATH), had come into general use in the Roman world shortly before Justin wrote. He describes (Apol. i. 67) how "on the day called Sunday " town and country Christians alike gathered together in one place for instruction and prayer and charitable offerings and the distribution of bread and wine; they thus meet together on that day, he says, because it is the first day in which God made the world, and because Jesus Christ on the same day rose from the dead.
As long as the Jewish Christian element continued to have any influence in the Church, a tendency to observe Sabbath as well as Sunday naturally persisted. Eusebius (H.E. iii. 27) mentions that the Ebionites continued to keep both days, and there is abundant evidence from Tertullian onwards that so far as public worship and abstention from fasting are concerned the practice was widely spread among the Gentile churches. Thus we learn from Socrates (H.E. vi. c. 8) that in his time public worship was held in the churches of Constantinople on both days; the Apostolic Canons (can. 66 ) sternly prohibit fasting on Sunday or Saturday (except Holy Saturday) ; and the injunction of the Apostolic Constitutions (v. 20; cf. ii. 59, vii. 23) is to " hold your solemn assemblies and rejoice every Sabbath day (excepting one), and every Lord's day." Thus the earliest observance of the day was confined to congregational worship, either in the early morning or late evening. The social condition of the early Christians naturally forbade any general suspension of work. Irenaeus (c. 140-202) is the first of the early fathers to refer to a tendency to make Sunday a day of rest in his mention that harvesting was forbidden by the Church on the day. Tertullian, writing in 202, says " On the Lord's day we ought abstain from all habit and labour of anxiety, putting off even our business." But the whole matter was placed on a new footing when the civil power, by the constitution of Constantine mentioned below, began to legislate as to the Sunday rest. The fourth commandment, holding as it does a conspicuous place in the decalogue, the precepts of which could not for the most part be regarded as of merely transitory obligation, and never of course escaped the attention of the fathers of the Church; but, remembering the liberty given in the Pauline writings " in respect of a feast day or a new moon or a Sabbath " (Col. ii. 16; cf. Rom. xiv. 5, Gal. iv. 10, n), they usually explained the " Sabbath day " of the commandment as meaning the new era that had been introduced by the advent of Christ, and interpreted the rest enjoined as meaning cessation from sin. But when a series of imperial decrees had enjoined with increasing stringency an abstinence from labour on Sunday, it was inevitable that the Christian conscience should be roused on the subject of the Sabbath rest also, and in many minds the tendency would be such as finds expression in the Apostolic Constitutions (viii. 33): "Let the slaves work five days; but on the Sabbath day and the Lord's day let them have 4 The longer recension runs: " But let every one of you keep the Sabbath after a spiritual manner . . . And after the observance of the Sabbath let every friend of Christ keep the Lord's day as a festival, the resurrection day, the queen and chief of all the days. The writer finds a reference to the Lord's day in the titles to Ps. vi. and xii., which are " set to the eighth."
leisure to go to church for instruction in piety." There is evidence of the same tendency in the opposite canon (29) of the council of Laodicea (363), which forbids Christians from Judaizing and resting on the Sabbath day, and actually enjoins them to work on that day, preferring the Lord's day and so far as possible resting as Christians. About this time accordingly we find traces of a disposition in Christian thinkers to distinguish between a temporary and a permanent element in the Sabbath day precept; thus Chrysostom (loth homily on Genesis) discerns the fundamental principle of that precept to be that we should dedicate one whole day in the circle of the week and set it apart for exercise in spiritual things. The view that the Christian Lord's day or Sunday is but the Christian Sabbath transferred from the seventh to the first day of the week does not find categorical expression till a much later period, Alcuin being apparently the first to allege of the Jewish Sabbath that " ejus observationem mos Christianus ad diem dominicam competentius transtulit " (cf. DECALOGUE).
Note - this article incorporates content from Encyclopaedia Britannica, Eleventh Edition, (1910-1911)