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"Ellen White Was Wrong About Who Changed the Sabbath"
Charge B: "Adventists Have Refuted Their Prophet"
Continuing with Dirk Anderson:
Bates had a difficult task on his hands to try and convince people
that the Mark of the Beast was no longer allegiance to the teachings
of Rome as a whole, but only one teaching-Sunday-worship. . . . Bates turned to the
young prophetess Ellen White who saw the following in vision:
I saw that God had not changed the Sabbath, for He never
changes. But the pope had changed it from the seventh
to the first day of the week; for he was to change times and
laws. (Early Writings, p. 32) . . .
Unfortunately for Ellen White, the theory that the Pope changed
the day of worship was later refuted by one of their own scholars,
Dr. Samuele Bacchiocchi in his ground-breaking book, From
Sabbath to Sunday. In the 1970's, Bacchiocchi was the first
and only non-Catholic to ever be allowed to study at the Catholic
Pontifical Gregorian University in Rome. . . . his research
showed that the change from Sabbath to Sunday worship occurred
far earlier in history than had been previously admitted by Adventists.
In fact, the change happened long before the papacy was established
in power. These findings cast considerable doubt on whether Sunday
worship could be considered allegiance to the papacy since the
practice was well established throughout Christianity centuries
before the first Pope arose.
On February 8, 1997, Dr. Bacchiocchi, wrote in an E-mail
message to the "Free Catholic Mailing List" firstname.lastname@example.org:
I differ from Ellen White, for example, on the origin of Sunday.
She teaches that in the first centuries all Christians observed
the Sabbath and it was largely through the efforts of Constantine
that Sundaykeeping was adopted by many Christians in the fourth
century. My research shows otherwise. If you read my essay HOW
DID SUNDAYKEEPING BEGIN? which summarizes my dissertation, you
will notice that I place the origin of Sundaykeeping by the time
of the Emperor Hadrian, in A.D. 135.
Emperor Hadrian, A.D. 135 was nearly half a millennium removed
from the first pope who began serving in A.D. 606.—bold in the original.
Thus Dirk maintains that the Sabbath was changed to Sunday long before Constantine's time, that
the first pope didn't come along until 606 AD, and that therefore
Ellen White's attributing of the change to the popes and Constantine is wrong.
Most folks of any and all persuasions would disagree with Dirk's assertion that the first
pope began serving in 606 AD.
We aren't quite sure that Adventists have really refuted their prophet on this point.
While Dirk and Bacchiocchi seem to be talking about conducting worship services on Sunday, Ellen White is talking
about resting on Sunday as if it were the Sabbath of the the fourth commandment. Thus, to compare the statements
of Bacchiocchi and Dirk with those of Ellen White is like comparing apples to oranges.
That Bacchiocchi must have been referring to Sunday worship rather than Sunday rest
can be seen from the following quotes from his book, From Sabbath to Sunday. Notice how Bacchiocchi
agrees with Rordorf's position, which he cites:
4. W. Rordorf, Sunday. The History of the Day of Rest and Worship
in the Earliest Centuries of the Christian Church, 1968 (hereafter cited as
Sunday), p. 296, holds that "right down to the fourth century the idea of rest
played absolutely no part in the Christian Sunday." Since in Rordorf's opinion
Sunday rest was not an original or indispensable component of Sunday
worship but an imperial imposition (p. 168), . . . .—p. 12.
In fact, the complete application of the Sabbath
commandment of a bodily rest to Sunday was not accomplished before the
fifth and sixth centuries.—p. 314.
What we and Dirk must find in order to refute Ellen White's position is evidence that
Sunday was considered a day of rest prior to at the very least Constantine's time. Has
anyone found such evidence? If not, then Ellen White's position has not yet been refuted
as to when the change she was referring to occurred.
There are basically three different possible attitudes regarding the Sabbath of the fourth commandment:
- Saturday, the seventh day of the week, is the Sabbath for today.
- There is no Sabbath for today.
- Sunday, the first day of the week, is the Sabbath for today.
Only option three constitutes the type of change Ellen White, Joseph Bates, Peter Chamberlen, and Thomas Tillam
believed occurred. Does Dirk or anyone else have any evidence whatsoever that Sunday was considered
a Christian day of rest instead of Saturday prior to at least Constantine's time?
If such evidence exists, it wouldn't only be Ellen White that would be proven wrong. Consider the following:
It was Constantine the Great who first made a law for the proper
observance of Sunday; . . .
Before him, and even in his time, they observed the Jewish Sabbath,
as well as Sunday; both to satisfy the law of Moses, and to imitate
the apostles who used to meet together on the first day. By
Constantine's law, promulgated in 321, it was decreed that for
the future the Sunday should be kept as a day of rest in all
cities and towns; but he allowed the country people to follow
their work.—"Sunday," Encyclopedia Britannica, 1842 ed.; as quoted in
J. N. Andrews, History of the Sabbath, p. 342.
The first day of the week, which was the ordinary and stated
time for the public assemblies of the Christians, was in consequence
of a peculiar law enacted by Constantine, observed with greater
solemnity than it had formerly been.—Mosheim, Ecclesiastical History, c. iv, part ii,
ch. iv, sect. 5; as quoted in J. N. Andrews, History of the Sabbath, p. 343.
These two authorities when put together seem to deny that Christians rested on Sunday prior to
Constantine's Sunday law. As Andrews summarizes the situation, "This law gave to the Sunday festival, for the
first time, something of a Sabbatic character."—p. 356.
Of course, encyclopedias and historians aren't always right. Thus we should endeavor to find some indication that
Christians did indeed rest on Sunday instead of the Sabbath prior to 321 AD. But, having perused
early Christian writings quite extensively, we honestly have no idea where to look. We are unable
to find any such evidence.
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