In order to understand how and why Sunday keeping came into the Christian church back in the early centuries, we need to understand the tremendous influence of pagan Mithraism in the first few centuries after the time of Christ—and how Christian leaders decided to adopt the customs of paganism in order to win the battle against it.
The Arabians appear to have worshiped it directly without using any statue or symbol (Job 31:26-27). Abraham was called out of all this when he went to the promised land. Ra was the Sun god of Egypt; and On (Heliopolis, which means “city of the sun” in Greek) was the center of Egyptian Sun worship (see the He-brew of Jer 43:13).
“Sun worship was the earliest idolatry.”—A.R. Fausset, Bible Dictionary, page 666.
Entering Canaan under Joshua, the Hebrews again encountered Sun worship. Baal of the Phoenicians, Molech or Milcom of the Ammonites, Hadad of the Syr-ians, and later the Persian Mitras or Mithra. Shemesh was an especially important Sun god in the Middle East. Later, in Egypt, Aton was the name of the god of the Sun Disk. The temple at Baalbek was dedicated to Sun worship.
By associating with Sun worshipers, the Israelites frequently practiced it themselves (Lev 26:30, Isa 17:8). King Manasseh practiced direct Sun worship (2 Kgs 21:3, 5). Josiah destroyed the chariots that were dedicated to the Sun and worship processions (2 Kgs 23:5, 11-12). Sun altars and incense were burned on the housetops for the sun (Zeph 1:5). And Ezekiel beheld the “greatest abomination”: direct Sun worship at the entry way to the temple of the true God. This was done by facing east-ward to the rising sun (Eze 8:16-17).
MITHRA AND THE DAY OF THE SUN—All during those earlier centuries, there was no particular day that was used for heathen worship of the Sun god. But then, about the time of Christ, or a little before, the various days of the week were dedicated to specific pagan celes-tial gods—dies Solis—the day of the Sun, dies Lunae— the day of the Moon, and so on.
The true sacred day of God is the memorial of Creation—the true Sabbath—the seventh-day—Saturday the only weekly Sabbath given in the Bible. But, in marked contrast, the sacred day of paganism was the memorial of the Sun god—the first day of the week. This day was called “the Venerable Day of the Sun.
Sundaykeeping never occurred in the Old or New Testaments, nor was it commanded. In the time of Christ and the Apostles, the official religion of the Ro-man government did not have a sacred day, but gradu-ally Sundaykeeping began to become common among the non-Christian people of the empire. The planetary week, each day named after a differ-ent planet in the sky, played a very important part in the worship of the sun.
By the time of Christ, Sun worship was most powerfully represented in Mithraism. Now, Mithra (also called Mithras) was originally an ancient god of Iran, and for centuries had been worshiped as the god of strength and war by the descendants of the Per-sians. But, by the first century A.D., Mithra had been transformed, oddly enough, into the leading Sun god—and foremost pagan god of any kind—through-out the Western civilized world. The Romans often called him by a new name, Sol Invictus, “the Invincible Sun.
Gradually, the worship of the Invincible Sun became even more popular and widespread among the Roman Empire. Then, about 200 years after the last book of the Bible had been penned, Emperor Aurelian (A.D. 270-275) whose mother was a priestess of the Sun, made this solar cult the official religion of the empire. His bi-ographer, Flavius Vopiscus, says that the priests of the Temple of the Sun at Rome were called pontiffs. They were priests of their dying-rising Saviour, Mithra, and vicegerents in religious matters next to him.
According to historical records, by this time (the middle of the second century) non converted Christians in Alexandria and Rome, in order to be better accepted by their pagan neighbors, began keeping Sunday. “Lord Mithra” was a favorite name given him by his pagan wor-shipers; and they called his day “the Lord’s Day.” The Christians in Alexandria and Rome, anxious to also copycat this aspect of paganism, began calling Sunday “the Lord’s Day,” claiming that Sunday was the day mentioned in Revelation 1:10, even though it was obvious that this verse said nothing about Sunday.
In reality, when he spoke of the “Lord’s day” in Revelation 1:10, the Apostle John meant that he saw Christ on the Bible Sabbath; (Saturday) for Christ had earlier said that He was “Lord of the Sabbath” (Saturday) (Matt 12:8, Mark 2:28). The terms, “Lord’s day” and “day of the Lord,” were repeatedly used in the Bible in describing the seventh-day Sabbath (Saturday). It is the day unto the Lord (Ex 16:23, 25; 31:15; 35:2). It is the day of the Lord (Ex 20:10, Deut 5:14, Lev 23:3). It is the Lord’s holy day (Isa 58:13). It is the day blessed and hallowed by the Lord (Gen 2:3). God had called it “My holy day” (Isa 58:13).
Sun worship continued to be the official religion of the empire until Constantine I defeated Licinius in 323, after which it was replaced by Romanized Christianity. In every historical incident that the present writer can locate, the only Christian leaders advocating Sundaykeeping prior to A.D. 400—were the Christian philosophers at Alexandria and the Christian bishops in the city of Rome.
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