Monday, January 22, 2007

The Lord's Supper and Saturday night? Let's Think

Lord’s Supper on Saturday night?
Acts 20:7
Acts 20:6-7
6 And we sailed from Philippi after the days of Unleavened Bread, and came to them at Troas within five days; and there we stayed seven days.
7 And on the first day of the week, when we were gathered together to break bread, Paul began talking to them, intending to depart the next day, and he prolonged his message until midnight.
8 And there were many lamps in the upper room where we were gathered together.
9 And there was a certain young man named Eutychus sitting on the window sill, sinking into a deep sleep; and as Paul kept on talking, he was overcome by sleep and fell down from the third floor, and was picked up dead.
10 But Paul went down and fell upon him and after embracing him, he said, "Do not be troubled, for his life is in him."
And when he had gone back up, and had broken the bread and eaten, he talked with them a long while, until daybreak, and so departed.
12 And they took away the boy alive, and were greatly comforted.

“Upon the first day of the week”
En de th mia twn sabbatwn

“On the first day of the week” (KJV, ASV, RSV, NASB, NRSV, ESV, NIV, McCord, CEV, NKJV, ISV, NCV, NLT, Weymouth, )
“On Sunday” (GWT, IE, Living Bible)
“Saturday night” (NEB, TEV)

Why did the church meet on the first day of the week?
Jesus was resurrected (Mark 16:1,2; Luke 24:1,7,13,20-22; John 20:1,19)
Pentecost always came then (Lev. 23:15,16).
(a) the Holy Spirit came upon the apostles;
(b) the first preaching of the gospel in fulfillment of Isa. 2:2-4
(c) the beginning of the church (Acts 11:15).
The church gave its contribution (1 Cor. 16:1-2)

The Jewish day was from sunset to sunset.
The Way Nations Reckoned Time
n Babylonians: sunrise to sunrise
n Umbrians: noon to noon
n Romans: midnight to midnight
n Athenians: sunset to sunset
n Jews: sunset to sunset

The statement that at Troas the travelers and their fellow-Christians dwelling in that port met together for the breaking of the bread "upon the first day of the week" is the earliest unambiguous evidence we have for the Christian practice of gathering for worship on that day. The breaking of the bread probably denotes a fellowship meal in the course of which the Eucharist was celebrated (cf. 2:42).[1]
[1] F.F. Bruce, The Book of Acts in the New International Commentary on the New Testament Series, p. 408.

Acts 20:7-11 describes a meeting on the evening of the first day of the week, but whether this was Saturday night or Sunday night is uncertain, because it is disputed whether the method of time reckoning was Jewish (Saturday night) or Greek or Roman (Sunday night). Thereafter, Christian sources give uniform testimony to meetings on Sunday (Did. 14; Justin 1 Apol. 67; Bardesanes, On Fate). Apart from Acts 2:46, which is ambiguous, there is no evidence in early Christian literature for a daily Lord's supper, or indeed for its observance on any day other than Sunday.[2]
[2] Everett Ferguson, "Sunday," in Encyclopedia of Early Christianity, p. 874).

A.T. Robertson on Acts 20:7
“They probably met on our Saturday evening, the beginning of the first day at sunset. So these Christians began the day (Sunday) with worship. But, since this is a Gentile community, it is quite possible that Luke means our Sunday evening as the time when this meeting occurs, and the language in John 20:19 “it being evening on that day the first day of the week” naturally means the evening following the day, not the evening preceding the day.”
Word Pictures in the New Testament, III:339.

This is the clearest verse in the New Testament which indicates that Sunday was the normal meeting day of the apostolic church. Paul stayed in Troas for seven days (v. 6) and the church met on the first day of the week. Luke’s method of counting days here was not Jewish, which measures from sundown to sundown, but Roman, which counted from midnight to midnight. This can be stated dogmatically because “daylight” (v. 11) was the next day (v. 7).
Probably the church met at night because most people had to work during the day. Because Paul was leaving them, possibly for the final time, he prolonged his discourse until midnight.[1] [1]Walvoord, J. F., R. B. Zuck, & Dallas Theological Seminary. The Bible Knowledge Commentary : An Exposition of the Scriptures. Wheaton, IL: Victor Books, 1983-c1985. Ac 20:7.

On Sunday evening, not Saturday evening; Luke is not using the Jewish reckoning from sunset to sunset but the Roman reckoning from midnight to midnight; although it was apparently after sunset that they met, "break of day" (vs. 11) was "on the morrow" (vs. 7).[1]
[1]F. F. Bruce, The Book of Acts, p. 408, fn 25.

“since Troas was a Gentile community, it is quite probable that Sunday evening is meant. This becomes almost certain when the expression used here is compared with its use in John 20:19, where the “first day of the week” cannot possibly refer to Saturday evening, but must refer to Sunday evening”
Henry Waterman, Zondervan Pictorial Bible Encyclopedia of the Bible, Vol. 3, p. 965.

Thus this passage [Acts 20:7] provides a connecting link between the first meeting of Jesus with his disciples on the evening of the resurrection day (John 20:19-23; Luke 24:36-43) and the established custom of the church of the 2nd and 3rd centuries of assembling together for worship on the first day of the week.”
Henry Waterman, Zondervan Pictorial Bible Encyclopedia of the Bible, Vol. 3, p. 965.

“It is significant that the meeting of Jesus with the disciples on the first Lord’s day, the meeting of Paul with the disciples at Troas, and the meeting of the disciples in succeeding generations, each took place on Sunday evening; each was observed by the breaking of bread; and each was characterized by a discourse on the holy Scripture.”
Henry Waterman, Zondervan Pictorial Bible Encyclopedia of the Bible, Vol. 3, p. 965.

Dr. Willy Rordorf of Neuchatel University in Switzerland:
After years of study, Rordorf concluded that for early Christians, there was no “day of the Lord” without the Lord’s Supper, nor was there ever the observance of the Lord’s Supper on any other day except on the day of the Lord. He said, “We have no right to call Sunday the ‘Lord’s Day,’ if the Lord’s Supper is lacking.”
Willy Rordorf, Sunday, (Westminster Press, 1968), 306.

“There is nothing more certain than that the division of time which made the day begin at six pm was not continued in New Testament times, and especially among the Gentile nations.
Matt. 28:1 Now after the Sabbath, as it began to dawn toward the first day of the week, Mary Magdalene
Mark 16:1-2 And when the Sabbath was over…2 And very early on the first day of the week, they came to the tomb when the sun had risen.

Christians had their regular meeting, particularly to partake of the Eucharist, on the first day of the week. The likely origin of this practice was the meeting of Jesus with his disciples on the day of the resurrection and the following Sunday, as noted in John 20:1, 19, 26). The Greek adjective "the Lord's" (kuriakos) occurs in the New Testament for the Lord's day (Rev. 1:10) and the Lord's Supper (1 Cor. 11:20) and had its principal usage in Christianity in reference to Sunday.
Everett Ferguson

The phrase “the Lord’s Day” occurs only once in the New Testament, in Revelation 1:10 , where John declared, “I was in the Spirit on the Lord’s Day.” In Asia Minor, where the churches to which John wrote were situated, the pagans celebrated the first day of each month as the Emperor’s Day. Some scholars also believe that a day of the week was also called by this name.
When the early Christians called the first day of the week the Lord’s Day, this was a direct challenge to the emperor worship to which John refers so often in the Book of Revelation. Such a bold and fearless testimony by the early Christians proclaimed that the Lord’s Day belonged to the Lord Jesus Christ and not the emperor Caesar.[1]
[1]Youngblood, R. F., F. F. Bruce, R. K. Harrison, & Thomas Nelson Publishers. Nelson's New Illustrated Bible Dictionary. Nashville: T. Nelson, 1995.

A designation for Sunday, the first day of the week, used only once in the New Testament (Rev. 1:10). The Greek word for “Lord’s,” however, is precisely the same as that used in the term for “Lord’s Supper” (1 Cor. 11:20). In fact, the Didache, an early Christian manual for worship and instruction, links the two terms together, indicating that the Lord’s Supper was observed each Lord’s Day (14:1). Herein may lie the origin of the term. Because the first day of the week was the day on which the early Christians celebrated Lord’s Supper, it became known as Lord’s Day, the distinctively Christian day of worship.
Holman Bible Dictionary, “Lord’s Day.”

The earliest account of a first-day worship experience is found in Acts 20:7-12. Here Paul joined the Christians of Troas on the evening of the first day of the week for the breaking of bread (probably a reference to the Lord’s Supper). The actual day is somewhat uncertain. Evening of the first day could refer to Saturday evening (by Jewish reckoning) or to Sunday evening (by Roman reckoning). Since the incident involved Gentiles on Gentile soil, however, the probable reference is to Sunday night.
Holman Bible Dictionary, “The Lord’s Day”

My thoughts:
The observance of the Lord's Supper at Troas was on the first day of the week. Whether this was determined by Jewish time (Saturday night) or by Roman time (Sunday night) is at question here. While we do not seek to be dogmatic, there is not enough evidence to convince this student that Acts 20:7 could only be speaking of Saturday night.

The fact that John 20:19 (written by John and likely from Ephesus) speaks of the evening of the first day of the week as "that day" that Jesus arose, shows to me that as time passed the apostles reckoned and wrote of time in the way the Romans did rather than the way Jews did. Would the church at Troas (a Gentile port not far from Ephesus) have operated on Jewish time?

The suggestion that we may partake of the Lord's Supper on Saturday evening actually lies on a very shaky foundation--perhaps sand, not rock.

Let's think this one through before we launch an effort to make Saturday night into Sunday--at least based on Acts 20:7.



D said...

Great Research!

Paula Harrington said...


Thank you for this blog. I just can't understand why Christians want to wander away from Scripture. If it isn't a matter of pride, than what else could it be? Ignorance? I wrote about a congregational split on my blog. Things like this are destructive to the Lord's church. It's so sad.


Tom Shiflett said...

Acts 20:7
This is what it says:
On the first day of the week, when we were gathered together to break bread, Paul talked with them, intending to depart on the next day, and he prolonged his speech until midnight.

This is what it does not say:
You must have the Lord's Supper every Sunday and only on Sunday.

Acts 20:7 have the words "break bread". The words "Lord's Supper" is not in there.

It is just as simple as that.

Tom Shiflett

Phil Sanders said...

Virtually all scholars agree that the phrase "break bread" in Acts 20:7 is a reference to the Lord's Supper. A quick check to Thayer's, BGAD, and other lexicons will substantiate this.

The Lord's (kuriakon) supper (deipnon) and the Lord's (kuriake) day (hemera) are linked together. The word for Lord's is only used in these two places (1 Cor. 11:20 and Rev. 1:10). Virtually every use of this term in the second century unalterably linked the Lord's supper to the Lord's day, the first day of the week.

Ferguson makes the point that this was the universal and unquestioned practice of the church in the earliest centuries before they changed the memorial meal into a mass. This is not merely a human tradition. They did this because it was what was passed down to them (1 Cor. 11:23) orally and in practice by the apostles.

When people seek freedom from the divine traditions, they are really advocating (not freedom) but rebellion from the King.


Anonymous said...

Phil Think about this fact, our God in the entire Bible does not have a day of the sun god or Sunday. there are a world of scholarly men, many who are of you own persuasion, who teach truth about Acts 20;7 can be no other time but on our modern Saturday night. False translators add artificial time to the Bible records and scramble this record and the records of the resurrection of Jesus. See this web site on this subject under hot topics