Hope of Israel Ministries (Ecclesia of YEHOVAH):
The Sabbath Series 3
The Marriage of Pagan and Christian: No Man Can Part Asunder
The Council of Nicæa was the culmination of many years of compromise with paganism. It climaxed in legislation which outlawed the only calendar by which the true seventh-day Sabbath, and also the true date of the resurrection, may be found. Counterfeit worship requires a counterfeit calendar and the Council of Nicæa provided it. Biblical calendation was supplanted by pagan solar calendation, and the planetary week replaced the Biblical week which depended upon the moon. When the historical facts of the Julian calendar are understood, it becomes clear that Sunday is not the only worship day founded upon paganism. Saturday, dies Saturni, as the original first day of the pagan week, is also a counterfeit. As the seventh day of the modern week, it is a counterfeit for the true seventh-day Sabbath of the Bible.
by eLaine Vornholt & Laura Lee Vornholt-Jones
Constantine the Great (c. A.D. 272 – May 22, 337) is widely known as the first Christian emperor. His "Sunday law" is viewed as the religious act of a recent convert to honor his new day of worship. Roman Catholics and the Greek Orthodox have canonized him, while Saturday sabbatarians accuse the Roman Catholic Church of influencing Constantine into changing the Sabbath from Saturday to Sunday. They denounce the Catholic Church for deceiving all Christendom into believing that Sunday is the proper day of worship.
This is neither accurate nor is it fair to the Roman Catholic Church.
* Constantine had not yet converted at the time of his "Sunday law."
* The Roman Catholic Church has always been open about their role in this legislation.
* Most significantly, the "Sunday law" was actually civil legislation which outlawed the
Biblical luni-solar calendar and enforced Julian calendation upon Christians and Jews.
Constantine's "Sunday law" laid the foundation for a massive deception: Sunday as the day on which Christ was resurrected; Saturday as the Bible's seventh-day Sabbath.
Constantine the Convert?
Constantine's veneration of the "day of the Sun" was not a religious act as a Christian, for he would not "convert" for two more years.54 His decision in October of A.D. 312 to paint a Christian symbol55 on the shields of his men at the battle of the Milvian Bridge was not a conversion. As with all his acts, it was politically motivated. Even after officially converting in 323, he postponed his baptism until just before his death in 337. Furthermore, he retained the office and title pontifex maximus, head of the state religion which he had assumed in 312, for the rest of his life.56
"Christianity was made by him [Constantine] the religion of the state but Paganism was not persecuted though discouraged. The Christianity of the emperor himself has been a subject of warm controversy both in ancient and modern times, but the graphic account which Niebuhr gives of Constantine's belief seems to be perfectly just. Speaking of the murder of Licinius and his own son Crispus, Niebuhr remarks,57 "Many judge of him by too severe a standard, because they look upon him as a Christian; but I cannot regard him in that light. The religion which he had in his head must have been a strange compound indeed. The man who had on his coins the inscription Sol Invictus, who worshipped pagan divinities, consulted the haruspices, indulged in a number of pagan superstitions, and on the other hand, built churches, shut up pagan temples, and interfered with the council of Nicæa, must have been a repulsive phænomenon, and was certainly not a Christian. He did not allow himself to be baptized till the last moments of his life, and those who praise him for this do not know what they are doing. He was a superstitious man, and mixed up his Christian religion with all kinds of absurd superstitions and opinions....To speak of him as a saint is a profanation of the word."58
It is intriguing that this quote refers to Constantine's involvement with the Council of Nicæa as "interference." Do not doubt it: Constantine's "Sunday law" was civil legislation enacted to unite his empire via a single calendar.
Constantine: The Consummate Politician
Constantine was foremost a politician and a military strategist. He issued at least six decrees relating to Sunday observance, but all were for purely political reasons. These decrees were:
1) March 7, 321: A law commanding townspeople, courts and trades to cease from labor on the day of the Sun.
2) June, 321: Emancipation and manumission of slaves allowed on the day of the Sun.
3) Christian soldiers allowed to attend Sunday church services.
4) Pagan troops required to recite a prayer while on the drill field on Sunday.
5) Sunday declared a market day throughout the entire year.
6) A decree supporting the Council of Nicæa's decision that Christ's resurrection should henceforth be observed on the day of the Sun (Easter Sunday) rather than commemorating the death of Christ on the actual crucifixion Passover date of Nisan (Abib) 14.
Constantine wanted a unified empire. With his eastern counterpart, Licinius, he had issued a decree in 313 known as the Edict of Milan which granted Christians protection under civil law. This did not promote Christianity above paganism as much as "level the playing field", allowing Christians equal rights.
"For the first time Christianity was placed on a legal footing with the other religions and with them enjoyed the protection of the civil law. Licinius was a pagan, and this law grants no privilege to the Christians that is not allowed to the heathen. It is another evidence of Constantine's policy of maintaining peace in the religious world."59
Constantine was no saint. He was a tyrant guilty of murdering his own son. His motivation for a united empire was not prompted by a desire for peace. Constantine's drive for a unified empire was founded upon his desire for greater power. Some historians connect Constantine's tolerance of Christianity with a desire to be able to enlist Christians as soldiers, thus increasing the size of his army. (Up to this point, Christians avoided enlisting.) All of Constantine's "religious tolerance" acts should be viewed in the light of a dictator seeking uniformity, and thus greater control, in his empire.
Renowned church historian, Philip Schaff, cautioned against reading too much into Constantine's "Sunday law":
"The Sunday law of Constantine must not be overrated. He enjoined the observance, or rather forbade the public desecration of Sunday, not under the name of Sabbatum [Sabbath] or dies Domini [Lord's day], but under its old astrological and heathen title, dies Solis [Sunday], familiar to all his subjects, so that the law was as applicable to the worshipers of Hercules, Apollo, and Mithras, as to the Christians. There is no reference whatever in his law either to the fourth commandment or to the resurrection of Christ."60
Constantine was an equal opportunity monarch. While Christians hailed him as "the servant of God" and called him the "blessed Prince", pagans regarded him as their Supreme Pontiff. Constantine demanded unity. He forced compromise in an unexpected way: calendar reform.
J. Westbury-Jones highlights the purposeful ambiguity of Constantine's law:
"How such a law would further the designs of Constantine it is not difficult to discover. It would confer a special honor upon the festival of the Christian church,61 and it would grant a slight boon to the pagans themselves. In fact there is nothing in this edict which might not have been written by a pagan. The law does honor to the pagan deity whom Constantine had adopted as his special patron god, Apollo or the Sun.62 The very name of the day lent itself to this ambiguity. The term Sunday (dies Solis) was in use among Christians as well as pagan."63
Of all Constantine's edicts, the one that had the greatest and most lasting effect on Christendom was his legislation supporting the Council of Nicæa's decree establishing the observance of Easter. "By the time of Constantine, apostasy in the church was ready for the aid of a friendly civil ruler to supply the wanting force of coercion."64
"The time was ripe for a reconciliation of state and church, each of which needed the other. It was a stroke of genius in Constantine to realize this and act upon it. He offered peace to the church, provided that she would recognize the state and support the imperial power."65
All of Constantine's acts had the ulterior motive of political gain and the Council of Nicæa was no exception.
Biblical Calendar Annihilated
The significance of the Council of Nicæa is found in the fact that the decree outlawed the Biblical calendar.
"Since the second century A.D. there had been a divergence of opinion about the date for celebrating the paschal (Easter) anniversary of the Lord's passion (death, burial, and resurrection). The most ancient practice appears to have been to observe the fourteenth (the Passover date), fifteenth, and sixteenth days of the lunar month regardless of the day of the [Julian] week these dates might fall on from year to year. The bishops of Rome, desirous of enhancing the observance of Sunday as a church festival, ruled that the annual celebration should always be held on the Friday, Saturday, and Sunday following the fourteenth day of the lunar month.66 In Rome, Friday and Saturday of Easter were fast days, and on Sunday the fast was broken by partaking of the communion. This controversy lasted almost two centuries,67 until Constantine intervened in behalf of the Roman bishops and outlawed the other group."68
The point of contention appeared deceptively simple: Passover versus Easter. The issues at stake, however, were immense. The only way to determine when Passover occurs is to use the Biblical luni-solar calendar, for only by observing the moon can one count to the 14th day following the first visible crescent. Because the seventh-day Sabbath was also calculated from the first visible crescent,69 a ruling in favor of Easter being observed on a Julian date would also affect the seventh-day Sabbath. Prior to this time, true Christians commemorated Passover, ignoring the pagan Easter.
"Up until the Council of Nicæa, the Christian Easter, especially in the East, had been celebrated for the most part at the time of the Jewish Passover, and 'indeed upon the days calculated and fixed by the Sanhedrin in Judæa for its celebration.'70 On the contrary, in Europe, 'some earlier, some later, were intercalating the months...the Europeans were placing their cycle at the equinox, and were celebrating the Passover on the next full moon after the equinox.'"71
"These contentions had agitated the churches of Asia since the time of the Roman bishop Victor, who had persecuted the churches of Asia for following the "14th-day heresy" as they called it, in reference to the Passover.72 But at the Council of Nicæa, "the last thread was snapped which connected Christianity with its parent stock."73 The future Easter observance was to be rendered independent of Jewish calculation according to these words, which have been attributed to Constantine:
"Henceforward let us have nothing in common with this odious people; our Saviour has shown us another path. It would indeed be absurd if the Jews were able to boast that we are not in a position to celebrate the Passover without the aid of their rules."74 75
This is civil legislation enforcing the pagan Julian calendar. Calendars calculate time and at the Council of Nicæa it was decreed that Christians were to remain independent of Jewish calculation because the paganized Christians did not want to be associated with the Jews in any way. The Council of Nicæa accomplished three goals, all of which are still in effect today. The decree served to:
1) Standardize the planetary week of seven days making dies Solis the first day of the week, with dies Saturni the last day of the week.
2) Guarantee that Passover and Easter would never fall on the same day.
3) Exalt dies Solis as the day of worship for both pagans and Christians.
By establishing Easter on the Sunday following the full moon after the vernal equinox, the Roman Catholic Church guaranteed that it would never fall on the Jewish Passover. At this time, the Jews were still using the luni-solar calendar of Creation. Because the seven-day weeks of the Biblical lunations cycled differently than the pagan solar calendar, Passover, the sixth day of the Biblical week, would fall on different days of the Julian week. Likewise, First Fruits, the true day of the resurrection on the first day of the Biblical week, appeared to wander through the Julian week, sometimes falling on dies Martis, or dies Veneris, etc., and only rarely coinciding with dies Solis.
Vestiges of the resulting confusion when attempts are made to reconcile a solar calendar to a luni-solar calendar may still be seen. Easter is never on the same date of the Gregorian calendar from one year to the next. The Israelite feast of First Fruits, when calculated by the Biblical calendar, always falls on the 16th of the month, a First Day. Easter, however, because it is linked to a corruption76 of lunar calculation does not fall on any specific date, as does Christmas, nor a specific day of the month, such as Thanksgiving in the United States, which always falls on the Thursday of November. Thus, while the true date of the resurrection always falls on the same day of the week and the same date of the month, Easter on the Gregorian calendar appears to "float" through the month.
The long-term effect was that "Easter Sunday" entered the Christian paradigm as The Day of Christ's resurrection. The corollary to this realignment of time calculation was that the day preceding Easter Sunday, Saturday, became forever after The True Bible Sabbath. This is the true significance of Constantine's "Sunday law" and it laid the foundation for the modern assumption that a continuous weekly cycle has always existed.
The fall-out from this edict was immediate. The law made it illegal to use the Biblical calendar and it persecuted those who still tried to use it. David Sidersky says, "It was no more possible under Constance to apply the old calendar."77
"In subsequent years, the Jews went through "iron and fire."78 The Christian [papal Roman] emperors forbade the Jewish computation of the calendar, and did not allow the announcement of the feast days. Graetz says, "The Jewish [and apostolic Christian] communities were left in utter doubt concerning the most important religious decisions: as pertaining to their festivals."79 The immediate consequence was the fixation and calculation of the Hebrew calendar by Hillel II."80
The Jews Worship on Saturday: Isn't That the Bible Sabbath?
A common assumption made by Saturday sabbatarians is that Saturday must be the Bible Sabbath because it is the day kept by the Jews. The reasoning goes: "The Jews would never worship on any day except the true Sabbath. Therefore, Saturday must be the true Sabbath because that is when the Jews worship." A sterling example of circular reasoning.
It is true that the Jews have never lost track of the true Sabbath. However, by their own admission, the Jews deliberately and knowingly changed their calendar by which the true Sabbath was calculated. The persecution following legislation which forbade the "Jewish computation of the calendar" was so extreme that, in the end, the Jews gave up their calendar handed down from Creation through Abraham and Moses and adopted a calendar "fixed" by the vernal equinox.
The Jews are very open that their original calendar was set aside under the Roman persecutions which followed Constantine's calendar legislation. "Under the reign of Constantius (337-362) the persecutions of the Jews reached such a height that...the computation of the calendar [was] forbidden under pain of severe punishment."81 They also freely admit that the original Sabbath was linked to the phases of the moon:
"The New Moon is still, and the Sabbath originally was, dependent upon the lunar cycle...Originally, the New Moon was celebrated in the same way as the Sabbath; gradually it became less important while the Sabbath became more and more a day of religion and humanity, of religious meditation and instruction, of peace and delight of the soul."82
"Intercalations [of the calendar] were determined at meetings of a special commission of the Sanhedrin. But Constantius, following the tyrannous precedents of Hadrian, prohibited the holding of such meetings...How difficult the fixing of the annual calendar consequently became may be judged from an enigmatic letter addressed to Raba...and preserved in the Talmud....
"Almost the whole Diaspora depended for the legal observance of the feasts and fasts upon the calendar sanctioned by the Judea Sanhedrin; yet danger threatened the participants in that sanction and the messengers who communicated their decisions to distant congregations....As the religious persecutions continued, Hillel determined to provide an authorized calendar for all time to come, though by so doing he severed the ties which united the Jews of the Diaspora to their mother country and to the patriarchate."83
As a result of the extreme persecution associated with any attempt to use the Biblical calendar, Hillel II, the last President of the Sanhedrin, created a reformed calendar, tying the New Year to the vernal equinox, and adopting the continuous weekly cycle of the Julian calendar. The traditions of men, preserved in the Talmud and against which Christ sought to free the people, teach that it is not sinful to break the Sabbath so long as one does not know when it is. Under such circumstances, one's only obligation is to keep one day in seven. By establishing a fixed calendar based on his authority as president of the Sanhedrin, Hillel II set aside the original calendar and established Saturday as the modern Jewish day of worship, thus "freeing" the Jews from the condemnation of the law since they did not know when the true Sabbath occurred.
The original calendar of Creation, used by Christ, the apostles and apostolic Christians, was set aside by the Jews themselves due to the intensity of the persecution following Constantine's politically driven efforts at calendar reform:
"Declaring the new month by observation of the new moon, and the new year by the arrival of spring, can only be done by the Sanhedrin. In the time of Hillel II [4th century A.D.], the last President of the Sanhedrin, the Romans prohibited this practice. Hillel II was therefore forced to institute his fixed calendar, thus in effect giving the Sanhedrin's advance approval to the calendars of all future years."84
This is no secret among the Jews. Louis Finkelstein of the Jewish Theological Seminary of America, in a letter to Dr. L. E. Froom, dated Feb. 20, 1939 readily admitted, "The present Jewish calendar was fixed in the fourth century."85 Maimonides and most other Jewish chronologers agree that the modern Jewish calendar is based upon the "mean motions of the sun and moon, the true [calendar] having been set aside."86
The Creator's calendar is very accurate. It is also very "user-friendly". The weekdays and Sabbaths of every month always fall on the exact same dates of every month.87 When Hillel II "fixed" the calendar, certain problems arose. The new moon would sometimes fall on a day of the Gregorian week which threw off the feasts. As a result, rules of postponement were established – something that was never necessary when the original calendar was in use.
"The decrees of Nicæa, 'destroyed the Temple of the Law in Judea,' as it were, and the ancient regulation of Moses for harmonizing the course of the moon with that of the sun was ultimately replaced by calculations involving the vernal equinox,88 after which the nearest full moon was chosen to be the paschal moon. From this equinoctial point, the [Catholic] church built up her ecclesiastical calendar and its Easter feast. It is easy to gloss over the real significance of the Council of Nicæa and its bearing upon the Jewish system of time, for though the church desired to depart from Jewish calculation, and to adopt a movable feast,89 yet in the end, it turned out that both the Jewish and Roman Catholic festivals came to be computed from the same point of time -- ...the vernal equinox."90
The controversy over calendars was not resolved with Constantine's edict. Rather, it opened the door for religious persecution of Christians, by Christians. Those who were convicted by conscience that the Passover (as well as the Sabbath) should be observed by the Biblical calendar were unwilling to accept civil legislation in the realm of religion. These continued to use the luni-solar calendar in the face of intense persecution.
Christians on the fringes of the Roman Empire used the Biblical reckoning centuries after Constantine. When Catholic princess, Margaret, married Scottish king Malcolm III (1031-1093) in 1070, she was instrumental in establishing Catholicism in Scotland. Prior to that time, Scottish priests still married, still observed Passover on Nisan 14 (regardless of the Julian date) and still worshipped on the seventh-day Sabbath -- likely by the Biblical calendar as well, as they were observing Passover by that calendar.
The Council of Nicæa was the culmination of many years of compromise with paganism. It climaxed in legislation which outlawed the only calendar by which the true seventh-day Sabbath, and also the true date of the resurrection, may be found.
"The spirit of concession to paganism opened the way for a still further disregard of Heaven's authority. Satan, working through unconsecrated leaders of the church, tampered with the fourth commandment also, and essayed to set aside the ancient Sabbath, the day which God had blessed and sanctified (Gen. 2:2, 3), and in its stead to exalt the festival observed by the heathen as 'the venerable day of the sun.'"91
Counterfeit worship requires a counterfeit calendar and the Council of Nicæa provided it. Biblical calendation was supplanted by pagan solar calendation, and the planetary week replaced the Biblical week which depended upon the moon.
"This planetary week was paganism's counterfeit of the true, Biblical week instituted by the Creator in the beginning of Earth's history. In the counterfeit week employed in ancient paganism 'the venerable day of the Sun' was esteemed by the heathen above the other six days because it was regarded as sacred to the Sun, the chief of the planetary deities...Just as the true Sabbath is inseparably linked with the Biblical week, so the false Sabbath of pagan origin needed a weekly cycle. Thus we have found that the planetary week of paganism is Sunday's twin sister, and that the two counterfeit institutions were linked together...."92
When the historical facts of the Julian calendar are understood, it becomes clear that Sunday is not the only worship day founded upon paganism. Saturday, dies Saturni, as the original first day of the pagan week, is also a counterfeit. As the seventh day of the modern week, it is a counterfeit for the true seventh-day Sabbath of the Bible.
"In 321 A.D., Constantine, emperor of Rome...by civil enactments made 'the venerable day of the Sun,' which day was then 'notable for its veneration,' the weekly rest day of the empire...The enforcement of the weekly observance of Sunday gave official recognition to the week of seven days and resulted in the introduction of it into the official civil calendar of Rome. The Romans passed that calendar down to us, and in it we have still the ancient planetary titles of the days of the week."93
The aftershocks of the Council of Nicæa are still felt, world-wide, today. Of any direct or indirect attack against the truth of God, this one act has had the most profound and far reaching affect. All the world has united in using this calendar in its modern, Gregorian form. Entire churches base their religious observance off of this pagan calendar. The foundation laid by Constantine's "Sunday law" is the reason why Saturday and Sunday keepers worship on the days they do. The decrees of Nicæa legislated into place an entire counterfeit system of religion with its pagan solar calendar. Thus the knowledge of the Creator's calendar with His true seventh-day Sabbath has been buried under the accumulated weight of centuries of continuously cycling weeks.
54) R. L. Odom, Sunday in Roman Paganism, (TEACH Services, Inc., 2003) p. 177.
55) The monogram known as Chi-Rho, the first two Greek letters of the word "Christ."
56) Various inscriptions as recorded in Corpus Inseriptionum Latinarum, 1863 ed., Vol. 2, p. 58, #481; "Constantine I", New Standard Encyclopedia, Vol. 5, p. 792; C. B. Coleman, Constantine the Great and Christianity, p. 46, as listed in Odom, op.cit.
57) See History of Rome, Vol. V, p. 359.
58) A Dictionary of Greek and Roman Biography and Mythology, (Sir William Smith, ed., Three Vols., AMS Press, 1967, reprint of 1890 edition), Vol. 1, p. 836, emphasis supplied.
59) Odom, op.cit., p. 181.
60) Philip Schaff, History of the Christian Church, (New York: Charles Scribner & Co., 1870) Vol. II, p. 380, emphasis supplied.
61) The paganized Roman Christians had long been worshipping on Sunday by this time.
62) Constantine's personal motto remained Soli Invicto even after his "conversion".
63) J. Westbury-Jones, Roman and Christian Imperialism, p. 210, emphasis supplied.
64) Odom, op.cit., p. 175.
65) Michael I. Rostovtzeff, The Social and Economic History of the Roman Empire, (Biblo & Tannen Publishers, 1926), p. 456.
66) This insured that the Catholic Easter would never fall on the Jewish Passover.
67) The controversy rose in the second century and reached its height during the time of Victor I, around A.D. 198.
68) Odom, op.cit., emphasis supplied.
69) "The New Moon is still, and the Sabbath originally was, dependent upon the lunar cycle" ("Holidays", Universal Jewish Encyclopedia, p. 410.)
70) Heinrich Graetz, History of the Jews, (Philadelphia, 1893), Vol. II, p. 563.
71) Joseph Scaliger, De Emendatione Temporum, (Francofurt, 1593), p. 106.
72) Op. cit.; see also Eusebius, Ecclesiastical History, Book V, Ch. 24.
73) Op. cit.; Graetz, Vol. II p. 563.
74) Graetz, Vol. II, p. 564; see also Eusebius, Life of Constantine, Book III, Chapter 18.
75) Grace Amadon, "Report of Committee on Historical Basis, Involvement, and Validity of the October 22, 1844, Position", Part V, Sec. B, p. 17, emphasis supplied; Box 7, Folder 1, Grace Amadon Collection, Andrews University, Berrien Springs, Michigan.
76) The corruption of lunar calculation was in tying Easter to the vernal (spring) equinox. The law of Moses intercalated months off of the barley harvest, not the vernal equinox. Calculation off of the equinox was a purely pagan method. (We do not agree with this statement -- Hope of Israel Ministries).
77) David Sidersky, Astronomical Origin of Jewish Chronology, Paris, 1913, p. 651, emphasis supplied; as quoted in Amadon, op. cit., p. 8, footnotes.
78) Sidersky, ibid., p. 640.
79) Graetz, Vol. II, 571, op. cit.
80) Amadon, op. cit., pp. 17-18, emphasis supplied.
81) "Calendar", The Jewish Encyclopedia, emphasis supplied.
82) "Holidays", Universal Jewish Encyclopedia, p. 410.
83) I. Singer and S. Mendelsohn, "Hillel II," www.JewishEncyclopdia.com.
84) "The Jewish Calendar and Holidays (incl. Sabbath)": The Jewish Calendar; Changing the Calendar, www.torah.org, emphasis supplied.
85) Box 6, Folder 4; Grace Amadon Collection (Collection 154), Center for Adventist Research, Andrews University.
86) Maimonides, Kiddusch Ha-hodesch, Tr. Mahler, Wein, 1889, emphasis supplied.
87) This explains why, whenever the date of a seventh-day Sabbath is given in the Bible, it always falls on the 8th, 15th, 22nd or 29th of the Hebrew month.
88) Sidersky, op.cit., p. 624.
89) Christopher Clavius, Roman Calendar, p. 54.
90) Grace Amadon, op.cit., p. 18, emphasis supplied.
91) E. G. White, The Great Controversy, (Review & Herald Publ. Assoc., 1888), p. 52.
92) Odom, op. cit., p. 243-244, emphasis supplied.
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