Churchy Term of the Week – Sabbath

It’s a long definition, so here it goes…

The seventh day of the Jewish week, our Saturday. It was marked by a total prohibition of work (Ex 23: 12). In Christian liturgical usage, Holy Saturday is called the Great or Holy Sabbath, the day when Christ rested in the tomb. Early Christians rejected the celebration of the Jewish Sabbath and the restrictions on activity associated with it in the OT. It was considered as part of the ceremonial law which was abolished in Christ. Instead they kept the Lord’s Day, the first day of the week, the day of the Resurrection, as their day of worship. Seventh Day Adventists and a few other Christian groups continue to worship on the sabbath. Sabbatarians are those Christians, usually Scottish or English Calvinists, who apply the OT prohibitions against work to Sunday, deeming it the Christian sabbath. This was a point of conflict between Anglicans and Puritans in the seventeenth century. The “blue laws” in many localities forbidding various activities on Sunday are inherited from Puritan sabbath-keeping. Some Christian groups also forbid various forms of recreation on Sunday in order to keep the sabbath.


Adapted from Don S. Armentrout’s An Episcopal Dictionary of the Church: A User-Friendly Reference for Episcopalians Church Publishing Inc., 2000.

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