The Complete Testimony of the Fathers of the First Three Centuries Concerning the Sabbath and First Day


Testimony of Hippolytus Bishop of Portus

Hippolytus who was bishop of Portus, near Rome, wrote about A. D. 250. It is evident from his testimony that he believed the Sabbath was made by God’s act of sanctifying the seventh day at the beginning. He held that day to be the type of the seventh period of a thousand years. Thus he says:- TFTC 88.3

“And 6000 years must needs be accomplished in order that the Sabbath may come, the rest, the holy day on which God rested from all his works. For the Sabbath is the type and emblem of the future kingdom of the saints, when they shall reign with Christ, when he comes from Heaven, as John says in his Apocalypse: for a day with the Lord is as a thousand years. Since, then, in six days God made all things, it follows that six thousand years must be fulfilled.” - Commentaries on various Books of Scripture. Sect. 4, on Daniel. TFTC 89.1

The churches of Ethiopia have a series of Canons, or church rules, which they attribute to this father. Number thirty-three reads thus:- TFTC 89.2

“That commemoration should be made of the faithful dead every day, with the exception of the Lord’s day.” TFTC 89.3

The church of Alexandria have also a series which they ascribe to him. The thirty-third is thus given:- TFTC 89.4

“Of the Atalmsas (the oblation), which they shall present for those who are dead, that it be not done on the Lord’s day.” TFTC 89.5

The thirty-eighth one has these words:- TFTC 89.6

“Of the night on which our Lord Jesus Christ rose. That no one shall sleep on that night, and wash himself with water.” TFTC 89.7

These are the only things in Hippolytus that can be referred to the Sunday festival. Prayers and offerings for the dead, which we find some fifty years earlier in Tertullian, are, according to Hippolytus, lawful on every day but the so-called Lord’s day. They grew up with the Sunday festival, and are of equal authority with it. Tertullian, as we have already observed, tells us frankly that there is no Scriptural authority for the one or the other, and that they rest on custom and tradition alone. TFTC 89.8