When Does the Lord’s Day Begin?

“Then the same day at evening, being the first day of the week, when the doors were shut where the disciples were assembled for fear of the Jews, came Jesus and stood in the midst, and saith unto them, Peace be unto you.”

John 20:19

“And upon the first day of the week, when the disciples came together to break bread, Paul preached unto them, ready to depart on the morrow; and continued his speech until midnight…  When he… had broken bread, and eaten, and talked a long while, even till break of day, so he departed.”

Acts 20:7

“They came and saw where He dwelt, and abode with Him that day: for it was about the tenth hour.”

John 1:39

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Order of Contents

Recommended
Collection of Historical Quotes
Articles

Quotes

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Recommended

Fentiman, Travis – The Biblical Sabbath is from Dawn to Dawn  2018  100 pp.

In the most comprehensive treatment to-date on the subject, Fentiman, in this academic article, demonstrates from Scripture that the Sabbath has always been from dawn-to-dawn since Creation throughout the Bible, without exception.

‘Morning’ in Gen. 1 is more accurately translated as ‘dawn’, the phrase signifying that each day of Creation ended with dawn, with the next day beginning therefrom. The Old Testament speaks of days starting from the morning or dawn in over 30 verses. The Israelites kept the Sabbath morning to morning in Ex. 16 and the rest of Old Testament history is consistent with this reckoning.

The New Testament throughout its pages likewise reckons days to start in the morning.  The Temple in the New Testament counted the hours of the day from 6 A.M.  The disciples’ buying of spices in the evening after the death of Jesus is shown to be inconsistent with an evening-to-evening reckoning of the Sabbath.  The Resurrection accounts of Christ rising from the dead at dawn assume continuity with the Old Testament reckoning.  Christ celebrates the Lord’s Day in Jn. 20:19 with the disciples in the evening of the 1st day of the week, which the apostles continued to practice in Acts 20:7-11.

The corruption of the Sabbath by Jewish traditionalism in keeping the Sabbath from evening to evening likely started in the inter-Testamental era and was preserved in their Talmuds. A very full survey of the inter-Testamental and extra-Biblical literature is surveyed on the issue, as well as reformed history.  Make your heart assured on this Scriptural subject and make the Sabbath a delight (Isa. 58:13-14)!

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A Collection of Historic Quotes

Myers, R. Andrew – When Does the Lord’s Day Begin?  2010, a one page introduction with 33 excerpts from puritans and other historic, reformed writers

A very helpful collection of quotes from puritans and reformed figures on the subject.  The majority puritan view was that the Sabbath in the Old Testament was from evening to evening, though some held it to be from midnight and others from the morning. 

In the New Testament, the vast majority of puritans held that the Lord’s Day begins in the ‘morning’ (the peculiar evening-aspect of it falling away with the Old Testament, the Day reverting to natural days). The ‘morning’ was often specified to start at midnight, though sometimes it was held to start at dawn.  Often the start of the Lord’s Day was considered to be indifferent according to civil reckoning.  For the fullest survey of reformed history on the question to-date, see Fentiman’s article above.

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Articles

1600’s

Richardson, John – On Gen. 1  See on Gen. 1:5  in Choice Observations and Explanations upon the Old Testament, containing in them many remarkable matters, additional to the large Annotations made by some of the Assembly of Divines  d. 1654

Richardson was reformed and printed this only a few afters the second edition of the English Annotations (which were nicknamed the Westminster Annotations as 6 of the 11 commentators were Westminster divines), to which it was designed as a supplement.

Durham, James – An Exposition of the Ten Commandments, p. 247-251  1676

Durham held the Sabbath to be from midnight to midnight in both the Old and New Testaments.

Keach, Benjamin – ‘When the Lord’s Day Begins’  1700  5 pp.  in The Jewish Sabbath Abrogated, or, The Saturday Sabbatarians Confuted in two parts  

Keach was a calvinistic baptist.  He follows, and summarizes, Owen on the topic, who held that only daylight hours constituted the length of rest of the Sabbath.

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Contemporary

Price, Greg – When Does The Sabbath Begin?  Morning or Evening?   1995, 38 paragraphs, with an Appendix 23 paragraphs long

Price answers the question as ‘morning’ and has correct view of the Creation Week in Gen. 1. His article is succinct, brief and helpful, though he defines ‘morning’ to start at midnight.  For the argument against the midnight view, in preference for the dawn-view, see Fentiman’s article above.  

Note:  Price’s article is very helpful, though do be aware that he is part of the Reformed Presbytery in North America (General Meeting), which group of a few churches are Steelites.  The Still Waters Revival Bookstore (which name is more well-known) is loosely associated with them and holds to the same doctrinal distinctives.  Steelites (from David Steele) have unBiblical views regarding covenanting and separatism, which are very spiritually dangerous.

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More Quotes in addition to those in Myers’ article above

William Perkins  1558-1602

A Digest or Harmony of the Books of the Old and New Testament, in The Works of William Perkins, Volume 1, ed. Stephen Yuille, Reformation Heritage Books, 2014, p. 9-10

A Hebrew day is either natural or artificial.

A natural day is the space of 24 hours, containing also both the morning and the evening.  The morning and the evening are the bounds of every day, and the evening is of two sorts.  The first is from the ninth hour [counted from 6 am, that is, 3 pm] to the setting of the sun.  The second is from the sun-setting [roughly 6 pm] unto the shutting in of the night.  “In the first month and the fourteenth day of the month, between the two evenings shall be the Passover of the Lord” (Lev. 23:5).

A natural day according to the diverse uses thereof is either a work day or a holy day.  A work day is that which is appointed for our civil business, and (as it seems to me) this day among the Jews, lasted from the sun-rising to the sun-rising, that is, it began at the morning: “Why sittest thou thyself alone, and all the people stand about thee from morning to even?” (Ex. 18:14).  “In the end of the Sabbath when the first day of the week began to dawn” (Matt 28:1).  It is not likely that Matthew spoke these things after the manner of the Romans, seeing that he wrote his gospel especially for the Hebrews.

A holy day is that which is appointed for holy uses.  A holy day is only made by God to whom only it belongs to bless and hallow the times.  A holy day begins at the evening and ends at the evening: “From even to even shall ye celebrate the Sabbath” (Lev. 23:32).  The holy day common to all ages is the Sabbath, which according to the moral law is a certain seventh day set apart for divine worship.  Here is to be noted that sometimes the word Sabbath is put for the whole week: “I fast twice a Sabbath” (Luke 18:12); “The first of the Sabbath” (1 Cor. 16:2).

An artificial day is the space of time from the rising of the sun to the setting (John 11:9-10), wherefore it is longer in summer and shorter in winter.

[Perkins above, speaking of the Sabbath being kept evening to evening, has specific reference to the Old Testament economy, as his book deals primarily with the Old Testament.  See also volume 2 of Perkins’ Works, as quoted in Myers’ article above, where Perkins argues that the Lord’s Day follows natural days and is to be kept morning to morning.]

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Related Pages

Change to the First Day of the Week

The Whole Day is Sanctified 

The Lord’s Day