Pagan Sun Worship and Catholicism
The Keeping Of The Sun Day

As an introduction to this article, it will be helpful to first read-

Sunday is NOT the Sabbath.
Rome's Challenge.
A Tract on the Sabbath.

The reason for this, is I am going to assume you now know that Sunday has no biblical foundation for its being kept as a replacement for the Saturday Sabbath, that it is a day commanded only by Roman Catholic Tradition. So, if you are unsure of this, then please read the preceding articles.

Since the Bible from Genesis to Revelation recognizes only the Saturday Sabbath as the weekly day of rest, then how did the practice of Sunday worship come about? What is its origin? No doubt Christians felt Sunday should be observed to commemorate the resurrection, but where in the Bible do Jesus or the disciples make such a statement? Who sanctioned the replacement of the Sabbath with Sunday or claims to have done so? Many books have been written on this subject, and I can only hope to scratch the surface here in this short article, but I hope it will prompt the reader to do further research on this topic. Here are just a few extracts -

Emperor Aurelian begins new Sun cult. (274 A.D.)

[p. 55] In 274, Aurelian … created a new cult of the “Invincible Sun.” Worshipped in a splendid temple, served by pontiffs who were raised to the level of the ancient pontiffs of Rome, celebrated every fourth year by magnificent games, Sol Invictus was definitely promoted to the highest rank in the divine hierarchy and became the official protector of the Sovereigns and of the Empire… He [Aurelian] placed in his new sanctuary the images of Bel and Helios, which he captured at Palmyra. In establishing this new State cult, Aurelian in reality proclaimed the dethronement of the old Roman idolatry and the accession of Semitic Sun-worship…
[p. 56] This sidereal theology, founded on ancient beliefs of Chaldean astrologers, transformed in the Hellenistic age under the twofold influence of astronomic discoveries and Stoic thought, [was] promoted, after becoming a pantheistic Sun-worship, to the rank of official religion of the Roman Empire.

Source: Franz Cumont, Astrology and Religion Among the Greeks and Romans (reprint; New York: Dover Publications, Inc., 1960), pp. 55, 56.

First Sunday Law enacted by Emperor Constantine -
March, 321 A.D.

On the venerable Day of the Sun let the magistrates and people residing in cities rest, and let all workshops be closed. In the country, however, persons engaged in agriculture may freely and lawfully continue their pursuits; because it often happens that another day is not so suitable for grain-sowing or for vine-planting; lest by neglecting the proper moment for such operations the bounty of heaven should be lost. (Given the 7th day of March, Crispus and Constantine being consuls each of them for the second time [A.D. 321].)

Source: Codex Justinianus, lib. 3, tit. 12, 3; trans. in Philip Schaff, History of the Christian Church, Vol. 3 (5th ed.; New York: Scribner, 1902), p. 380, note 1.

Transition from Pagan to Christian

[p. 122] This legislation by Constantine probably bore no relation to Christianity; it appears, on the contrary, that the emperor, in his capacity of Pontifex Maximus, was only adding the day of the Sun, the worship of which was then firmly [p. 123] established in the Roman Empire, to the other ferial days of the sacred calendar…
[p. 270] What began, however, as a pagan ordinance, ended as a Christian regulation; and a long series of imperial decrees, during the fourth, fifth, and sixth centuries, enjoined with increasing stringency abstinence from labour on Sunday.

Source: Hutton Webster, Rest Days, pp. 122, 123, 270. Copyright 1916 by The Macmillan Company, New York.

Yes, the title Pontifex Maximus is pagan, derived from the Sun worshipping Roman Empire, and the source of the papal title of Pontiff.

Pagan Festivals and Church Policy

The Church made a sacred day of Sunday … largely because it was the weekly festival of the sun; for it was a definite Christian policy to take over the pagan festivals endeared to the people by tradition, and to give them a Christian significance.

Source: Arthur Weigall, The Paganism in Our Christianity, p. 145. Copyright 1928 by G. p. Putnam’s Sons, New York.

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 (314–335) 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 Lord’s 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 Lord’s 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 at major universities to confirm the Latin sentence quoted in footnote 8 above, in which Rabanus Maurus attributes the change to Sunday rest to Pope Sylvester I.

Brepols Publishers have recently reprinted Migne's Patrologia Latina, and Volume 107 (quoted from above) can be purchased individually for about $105.00 (91.00 Euros).

Dies Solis - The Day of the Sun.

Q. What is Sunday, or the Lord's Day in general?
A. It is a day dedicated by the Apostles to the honour of the most holy Trinity, and in memory that Christ our Lord arose from the dead upon Sunday, sent down the holy Ghost on a Sunday, &c. and therefore is called the Lord's Day. It is also called Sunday from the old Roman denomination of Dies Solis, the day of the sun, to which it was sacred.

Source: The Douay Catechism, (An Abridgment of the Christian Doctrine) of 1649, by Henry Tuberville, D.D., published by P. J. Kenedy, Excelsior Catholic Publishing House, 5 Barclay Street, New York, approved and recommended for his diocese by the Right Rev. Benedict, Bishop of Boston, April 24th, 1833, page 143.

Easter, Sunday and Paganism.

[pg. 808]
    Now, the church uses three names to designate the Easter day and season; one an English name, one a Latin name, and one a Hebrew nameEaster, Resurrectio, Phase. Some have never thought it worth while to inquire why this season is called Easter-tide.
    Just add the letter "N" to the word, make it "Eastern," and we have the solution. Some, indeed, derive from "Eastra" the Goddess of Dawn; this season being dedicated to that goddess in pagan, Anglo-Saxon days. But these have only pursued the inquiry half way. Why was the Goddess of Dawn called Eastra? Because the dawn of day is in the EastMorgenlandas the musical, mystical Germans call itmorningland.

    The church took the pagan philosophy and made it the buckler of faith against the heathen. She took the pagan, Roman Pantheon, temple of all the gods, and made it sacred to all the martyrs; so it stands to this day. She took the pagan Sunday and made it the Christian Sunday. She took the pagan Easter and made it the feast we celebrate during this season.
    Sunday and Easter day are, if we consider their derivation, much the same. In truth, all Sundays are Sundays only because they are a weekly, partial recurrence of Easter day. The pagan Sunday was, in a manner, an unconscious preparation for Easter day. The Sun was a foremost god with heathendom. Balder the beautiful, the White God, the old Scandinavians called him. The sun has worshippers at this hour in Persia and other lands. "Some of you," says Carlyle, "may remember that fancy of Plato's. A man is kept in some dark, underground cave from childhood till maturity; then suddenly is carried to the upper airs. For the first time he sees the sun shining in its splendor overhead. He must fall down, says Plato, and adore it." There is, in truth, something royal, kingly about the sun, making it a fit emblem of Jesus, the Sun of Justice. Hence the church in these countries would seem to have said, "Keep that old pagan name. It shall remain consecrated, sanctified." And thus the pagan Sunday, dedicated to Balder, became the Christian Sunday, sacred to Jesus. The sun is a fitting emblem of Jesus. The Fathers often compared Jesus to the sun; as they compared Mary to the moon, the beautiful moon, the beautiful Mary, shedding her mild, beneficent light on the darkness and the night of this worldnot light of her own; no Catholic says this; butlight reflected from the sun, Jesus.

Source: PASCHALE GAUDIUM, by Willliam L. Gildea, D.D., in The Catholic World, Vol. LVIII., No. 348., March, 1894., published in New York by The Office of the Catholic World., pages 808-809.

Church decrees Sunday sacredness-
Council of Laodicea (343-381?)

[p. 310] Can. 16. “On Saturday [Greek sabbaton, “the Sabbath”] the Gospels and other portions of the Scripture shall be read aloud.” …
[p. 316] Can. 29. “Christians shall not Judaize and be idle on Saturday, but shall work on that day; but the Lord’s day they shall especially honour, and, as being Christians, shall, if possible, do no work on that day. If, however, they are found Judaizing, they shall be shut out [Greek anathema] from Christ.” …
[p. 320] Can. 49. “During Lent, the bread shall not be offered, except on Saturday and Sunday.” …
Can. 51. “During Lent, no feast of the martyrs shall be celebrated, but the holy martyrs shall be commemorated on the Saturdays and Sundays of Lent.”

Source: Charles Joseph Hefele, A History of the Christian Councils, Vol. 2, trans. and ed. by H. N. Oxenham (Edinburgh: T. and T. Clark, 1896), pp. 310, 316, 320.

Councils of the Church enforce Sunday observance.

[p. 105] The Council of Orleans (538), while protesting [p. 106] against an excessive Sabbatarianism, forbade all field work under pain of censure; and the Council of Macon (585) laid down that the Lord’s Day ‘is the day of perpetual rest, which is suggested to us by the type of the seventh day in the law and the prophets,’ and ordered a complete cessation of all kinds of business. How far the movement had gone by the end of the 6th cent. is shown by a letter of Gregory the Great (pope 590–604) protesting against the prohibition of baths on Sunday.

Source: M. G. Glazebrook, “Sunday,” in James Hastings, ed., Encyclopedia of Religion and Ethics (New York: Scribner, 1928), Vol. 12, pp. 105, 106.

If as many suppose, Christians as a whole observed Sunday in place of the "Jewish" Sabbath from resurrection Sunday forward, then why was it necessary for the church to enact ecclesiastical laws to enforce Sunday worship as a day of rest? Simply put, the issue to the Catholic Church has always been one of authority, authority to declare binding holy festival days. It is a mark of their authority to institute such days, even appropriating previously pagan days and declaring them obligatory, and that one commits a sin if you do not attend services on those days. The Bible is quite silent on Sunday sacredness, so the "Bible Only" Protestants contradict themselves by observing it as a replacement for the Sabbath.

Sabbath keepers denounced as Antichrist
by Pope Gregory I (590-604)

[p. 92] Gregory, servant of the servants of God, to his most beloved sons the Roman citizens. It has come to my ears that certain men of perverse spirit have sown among you some things that are wrong and opposed to the holy faith, so as to forbid any work being done on the Sabbath day. What else can I call these but preachers of Antichrist, who, when he comes, will cause the Sabbath day as well as the Lord’s day to be kept free from all work. For, because he pretends to die and rise again, he wishes the Lord’s day to be had in reverence; and, because he compels the people to judaize that he may bring back the outward rite of the law, and subject the perfidy of the Jews to himself, he wishes the Sabbath to be observed.

Source: Gregory I (Pope, 590–604), Selected Epistles, bk. 13, Epistle 1, trans. in NPNF, 2d series, Vol. 13, pp. 92, 93.

Pope Gregory I was alluding to the following passage in Daniel, which is speaking of the little horn, the AntiChrist-

Dan 7:25-
And he shall speak great words against the most High,
and shall wear out the saints of the most High,
and think to change times and laws: [of the most High God]...

The AntiChrist will attempt to change the very times and laws of God. Is this not precisely what the Roman Catholic Church has done with regard to the Sabbath? Why, they even boldly proclaim this fact-

Church authority to substitute Sunday for the Sabbath-

    Q. Have you any other way of proving that the Church has power to institute festivals of precept?
    A. Had she not such power, she could not have done that in which all modern religionists agree with her;—she could not have substituted the observance of Sunday the first day of the week, for the observance of Saturday the seventh day, a change for which there is no Scriptural authority.

Source: A Doctrinal Catechism by Stephen Keenan, Imprimatur by John Cardinal McCloskey, Archbishop of New York, Copyright 1876 by T. W. Strong, p. 174.

Catholics on changing the Sabbath Commandment-
(third by their reckoning) -

The Third Commandment Expounded.

Q. What is the third commandment?
A. Remember that thou keepest holy the sabbath day.

Q. When did the Sabbath begin to be kept?
A. From the very creation of the world; for then God blessed the seventh day, and rested on it from all His work.—Gen. ii. 2.

Q. When was this commandment renewed?
A. In the Old Law, when God gave the commandments to Moses on mount Sinai, written with his own finger in two tables of stone.—Exod. xx. 1, &c. xxxi.

Q. Why was the Jewish Sabbath changed into the Sunday?
A. Because Christ was born upon a Sunday, arose from the dead upon a Sunday, and sent down the Holy Ghost on a Sunday—works not inferior to the creation of the world.

Q. By whom was it changed?
A. By the Governors of the Church, the Apostles, who also kept it; for St. John was in spirit on the Lord’s day (which was Sunday)—Apoc. i. 10.

NOTE: Catholics themselves have maintained that scriptural evidence for the Lord's day being Sunday is non-existent. See Rome's Challenge. See also Did the Apostles Keep Sunday?

Q. How prove you that the Church hath power to command feasts and holydays?
A. By the very act of changing the Sabbath into Sunday, which Protestants allow of; and therefore they fondly contradict themselves, by keeping Sunday strictly, and breaking most other feasts commanded by the same Church.

Q. How do you prove that?
A. Because by keeping Sunday, they acknowledge the Church's power to ordain feasts, and to command them under sin; and by not keeping the rest by her commanded, they again deny, in fact, the same power.

Source: The Douay Catechism (An Abridgment of the Christian Doctrine) of 1649, by Henry Tuberville, D.D., published by P. J. Kenedy, Excelsior Catholic Publishing House, 5 Barclay Street, New York, approved and recommended for his diocese by the Right Rev. Benedict, Bishop of Boston, April 24th, 1833, pages 57-58.

So in 600 years the Sabbath which was kept by Jesus and His disciples and, based on scripture, never nullified by Sunday observance, was gradually eclipsed by both civil and ecclesiastical laws. Yet even Pope Gregory I, by his very condemnation of Sabbath keepers as antichrist, is offering proof that Sabbath observance stubbornly endured. Sabbath keepers look to the word of God for their instruction, and not to the laws and decrees of men. A time is soon approaching when Sunday laws will again be enacted, and the apostate church will again try to assert it's presumed authority to enforce holy days by legislation. Those who know the truth from the word of God will not be moved off of the Seventh-day Saturday Sabbath day then either, and God will bless them for it:

If you have not done so already please now read -

The Seal of God and the Mark of the Beast.
Celebrating the Birth of the Sun.