ONLINE CHURCH BULLETIN
Should Christians Follow the Jewish clock, Part 1
Allen Webster, Glad Tidings of Good Things, Vol. 14, Mar. 20, 2008, page 2
A Jewish day runs from sunset to sunset instead of midnight to midnight. Thus, in general terms, Jews begin their days at 6:00 P.M., whereas we begin ours at 12:00 A.M. (the modern world having followed the Roman reckoning of time).
The Jewish day is modeled on the Creation account and is of no fixed length, except generally the day was considered to be twelve hours and the night twelve hours (John 11:9). Based on the reference to "the evening and the morning were the first day" (Genesis 1:5), the Jewish day starts in the evening instead of the middle of the night.
Accordingly, standard times and time zones have no place in the Jewish calendar. However, the steady progression of sunset around the world and seasonal changes results in gradual time changes from one day to the next based on observable astronomical phenomena (the sunset) and not on man-made laws and conventions.
Some have concluded from this that Christians may worship on Saturday nights and be as scriptural as those who worship on Sunday mornings. Is this the case?
First, let us note that the first_ day of the week is the Christian day of worship. Wayne Jackson2 points out how easily this can be seen in the Scriptures:
1. Early on, the disciples began meeting together on the Lord's day (John 20:26). Robertson says this, passage "seems to mean that from the very start the disciples began to meet on the first (or eighth) day" (339). It is interesting that the disciples were not meeting on the Sabbath as had been the Jews' custom for fifteen hundred years. Why the sudden change from Saturday to Sunday? Jesus rose from the dead on Sunday!
2. The church was established on Sunday, thus its first worship services were on the first day of the week (Acts 2:1), Sunday was the day the Holy Spirit descended on the apostles, and therefore was the day the church of Christ began on earth (Mark 9:1; Acts 1:8; 2:1-47).
3. The congregation in Troas was meeting on Sunday (Acts 20:7) when Paul visited there. During this third missionary journey, Paul was in such a hurry to get to Jerusalem by Pentecost that he did not have time to make a trip inland to Ephesus (Acts 20:16). However, he waited seven days in Troas to meet when the disciples met "to break bread" on the first day of the week (Acts 20:6-7). Why? That is when they would all be present for the worship service. Specifying the "first day of the week" implies a weekly meeting. If the text read, "And at evening when we met to break bread," it would have signified daily meetings. If it said, "And on the fifteenth day of the month when we met to break bread," it would have indicated a monthly meeting. If it said, "On the first day of the new quarter when we met to break bread," it would have shown a quarterly assembly. If it said, "On the twenty-fourth day of the seventh month, when the disciples met together to break bread," it would have shown an annual meeting.3 Thus, this passage clearly shows that the early church worshipped each Sunday.
4. There was a regular contribution into the church treasury "every first day of the week" (1 Corinthians 16:2, Greek Text).
5. For the first several centuries of the church's existence, the written testimony is uniform that Christians met for worship on Sunday. "All Christians were unanimous in setting apart the first day of the week, on which the triumphant Saviour arose from the dead for the solemn celebration of public worship.4" In the Didache5 (xiv) the injunction is given: "On the Lord's Day come together and break bread. And give thanks (offer the Eucharist), after confessing your sins that your sacrifice may be pure." 6 Ignatius7 speaks of Christians as "no longer observing the Sabbath, but living in the observance of the Lord's Day, on whit also Our Life rose again." The Epistle of as (xv) reads: "Wherefore, also, we keep the eighth day (i.e. the first of the week) with joyfulness, the day also on which Jesus rose again from the dead." Although Sunday was a workday in the ancient world, the disciples set it apart for worship. It became known as "the Lord's day" (Revelation 1:10).
Second, a strict observance of following the Jewish example would require adjusting our clocks to Middle Eastern time.
When it is 6:00 P.M. on Saturday night in Jerusalem, it is 10:00 A.M. on Saturday here. And, of course, it could vary up to twelve hours depending on where one is on the globe. Jesus recognized this truth relative to His second coming: It will be both day and night when He comes back in the twinkling of an eye (Matthew 24:40-41; Luke 17:34). If one is going to adjust to Jewish time and worship on Saturdays at 6:00 P.M., then he is obligated to adjust to Jerusalem time as well. Again, we see the wisdom of God saying only to worship on the first day of the week, and allowing each to understand that phrase within his own world.
(To continue to part 2, click here.)