Sabbath to Sunday?
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The Bible or Tradition?

Exactly Which Pope Made The Change
From Sabbath To Sunday Rest?

I saw that the Sabbath commandment was not nailed to the cross. If it was, the other nine commandments were; and we are at liberty to break them all, as well as to break the fourth. 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 [Daniel 7:25]. -- Ellen White, Early Writings, page 32, paragraph 3

The above quote has been the subject of a challenge to Adventists on the internet recently. Here are excerpts from Catholic pages that have suggested the above statement about a Pope to be error:

The Seventh-day Adventist hierarchy, knowing that since White claimed she received this information in a vision from God, and knowing that God could not have provided false information, tried for years to produce proof of a name and date of a Pope that had mandated the change of the Sabbath day. Unfortunately since what ever date that they provide to "prove"  when the Sabbath was "changed," it can be shown that communities worshipped regularly on Sunday prior to this date--all the way up to Apostolic Times.  Further, no documentation has been found to document that a Pope changed the Sabbath as is specified in this prophesy of Ellen White since the teaching does come from Apostolic Times.

Source: Ellen White, F.P. (False Prophet), by Eric Hall, previously on Mario Derksen's Catholic Insight web site. See also CINApol Archives for Eric's article as posted on 4 Feb 1999.

Contrary to the claims of Eric Hall, Adventists have published the documented facts on the Pope in question for at least the last forty years. The proof follows.

Ellen White would have defined the term "the pope" differently to Catholics - she would likely have meant someone other than the Apostle Peter, someone who lived much later in Christian history. She should name him, and she does not. See also the Catholic Insight web page Ellen White, F.P. (False Prophet) [now deleted] to see how Ellen White prophesied falsely on this matter of the imaginary 4th century change to Sunday.

It is interesting that the SDA Church cannot put a name on the Pope that made the change.

That IS interesting :-> Certainly it shows that they are prepared to make claims, but can't give details when the claims are questioned by informed questioners.

Source: Constantine, the Papacy, and the real origins of Sunday from Stephen Korsman's Seventh-day Adventism A Catholic + biblical perspective web site.

The following information amply demonstrates that a pope did indeed declare a change from Saturday Sabbath rest to the keeping of Sunday as the weekly day of rest:

Pope Sylvester I (314-335 A.D.)
Decrees the Transfer of Sabbath Rest to Sunday:

Rabanus Maurus (776-856), abbot of Fulda and later archbishop of Mainz, Germany, was rated one of the greatest theologians of his age and probably the most cultured man of his time, and exceptionally learned in patristics. Besides, he was a zealous defender of the papacy and its teachings. In one of his works, he says,

Pope Sylvester instructed the clergy to keep the feriae. And, indeed, from an old custom he called the first day [of the week] the "Lord's [day]," on which the light was made in the beginning and also the resurrection of Christ is celebrated.6

Rabanus Maurus does not mean to say that Sylvester was the first man who referred to the days of the week as feriae or who first started the observance of Sunday among Christians. He means that, according to the testimony of Roman Catholic writers, Sylvester confirmed those practices and made them official insofar as his church was concerned. Hence Rabanus says elsewhere in his writings:

Pope Sylvester first among the Romans ordered that the names of the days [of the week], which they previously called after the name of their gods, that is, [the day] of the Sun, [the day] of the Moon, [the day] of Mars, [the day] of Mercury, [the day] of Jupiter, [the day] of Venus, [the day] of Saturn, they should call feriae thereafter, that is the first feria, the second feria, the third feria, the fourth feria, the fifth feria, the sixth feria, because that in the beginning of Genesis it is written that God said concerning each day: on the first, "Let there be light:; on the second, "Let there be a firmament"; on the third, "Let the earth bring forth verdure"; etc. But he [Sylvester] ordered [them] to call the Sabbath by the ancient term of the law, [to call] the first feria the "Lord's day," because on it the Lord rose [from the dead], Moreover, the same pope decreed that the rest of the Sabbath should be transferred rather to the Lord's day [Sunday], in order that on that day we should rest from worldly works for the praise of God.7

Note particularly, he says that "the same pope [Sylvester I] decreed that the rest of the Sabbath should be transferred rather to the Lord's day [Sunday]."8 According to this statement, he was the first bishop to introduce the idea that the divinely appointed rest of the Sabbath day should be transferred to the first day of the week. This is significant, especially in view of the fact that it was during Sylvester's pontificate that the emperor of Rome [Constantine] issued the first civil laws compelling men to rest from secular labor on Sunday, and that Eusebius, bishop of  Caesarea, was the first theologian on record to present arguments, allegedly from the Scriptures, that Christ did transfer the rest of the Sabbath day to Sunday.

6 Rabanus Maurus, Liber de Computo (A book Concerning Computation), Chap. XXVII ("Concerning Festivals"), as translated by the writer from the Latin text in Migne's Patrologia Latina, Vol. CVII, col. 682.

7 ------------, De Clericorum Institutione (Concerning the Instruction of the Clergymen), Book II, Chap. XLVI, as translated by the writer from the Latin text in Migne's Patrologia Latina, Vol. CVII, col. 361.

8 The wording in the Latin text reads: "Statuit autem idem papa ut otium Sabbati magis in diem Dominicam transferretur, ut ea die a terrenis operibus ad laudandum Deum vacaremus."

Source: Sabbath and Sunday in Early Christianity, by Robert L. Odom, 1977 by the Review and Herald Publishing Association (An Adventist publishing house), pages 247-248.


1765. Week, Names of Days, Decreed Changed by Pope Sylvester (314335) From Name of Gods

Source: Rabanus Maurus, De Clericorum Institutione (On the Institution of the Clergy), bk. 2, chap. 46, in MPL, Vol. 107, col. 361. Trans. from the Latin by Frank H. Yost. Used by permission of Mrs. Frank H. Yost.

Sylvester the pope first among the Romans ordered that the names of the days, which before they called according to the names of their own gods, that is (the day) of the sun, of the moon, of Mars, of Mercury, of Venus, of Saturn, they should call feria (day of celebration), that is, first feria, second feria, third feria, fourth feria, fifth feria, sixth feria, because in the beginning of Genesis it is written that God had said for each day: first, "Let there be light"; second, "Let there be the firmament"; third, "Let the earth produce living plants", etc. But the Sabbath he commanded they call by the ancient name of the law, and the first feria the Lords day, because the Lord rose on that day. Moreover the same pope ordered that the rest (otium) of the Sabbath would better be transferred to the Lords day, so that we should leave that day free of worldly works in order to praise God.

Source: Bible Student's Source Book (Seventh-day Adventist Bible Commentary, Volume 9), edited by Don F. Neufeld and Julia Neuffer, published and 1962 by the Review and Herald Publishing Association (An Adventist publishing house), Library of Congress Catalogue Card Number 62-9139, entry #1765, page 1078.

Now the above quotes are, as noted, from Migne's Patrologia Latina (MPL), a well known scholarly compilation of the writings of Latin Fathers, a work of 221 volumes, which can be searched online to confirm the Latin sentence quoted in footnote 8 above, in which Rabanus Maurus attributes the change to Sunday rest to Pope Sylvester I. Patrologia Latina was first published from 1844 to 1855, so it is evident that long standing historical proof does in fact exist, and that Ellen White (1827-1915) was likely aware of the information in Patrologia Latina, though she apparently never cited it in her writings.

Interestingly enough, it is even boasted on a Roman Catholic web site that Pope Sylvester I made the change! The following screen capture is from the Daily Catholic web site page for SUNDAY, volume 11, no. 278, December 31, 2000:

So while some Roman Catholics were suggesting on the internet that Adventists simply could not prove that a Pope made a change to Sunday, other Roman Catholics were openly proclaiming that Pope Sylvester I had done the deed!

Now I think this is very curious. Surely neither Odom's Sabbath and Sunday in Early Christianity or the Adventist's Bible Student's Source Book are the source of information for the Daily Catholic web site, so there must be Catholic source information that credits Pope Sylvester I for decreeing a change to Sunday rest. Perhaps it can be found in a Roman Catholic breviary, since in their liturgical calendar the Latin Church memorializes Pope Sylvester I on December 31st, or perhaps it can be found in a biography or a book on lives of the Saints, which may ultimately lead back to Patrologia Latina and Rabanus Maurus.

It should also be noted that Pope Sylvester did not invent Sunday worship, and neither did Emperor Constantine, and Adventists do not make that claim. But, it is evident to everyone that a change did happen to keeping Sunday instead of the Saturday Sabbath. Adventists have been well aware that celebrating the resurrection on Sundays predates the 4th century, though there is no biblical proof that the Apostles ever sanctioned a change of the Sabbath to Sunday or practiced it themselves.

The Bible is our only guide- not men.