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Dateline Sunday U. S. A.


Warren L. Johns

Issued with the author's permission

[204] (Picture moved)


Chapter 17.                     THE FOURTH





The most obvious and easily recognized time definition is "day." One complete rotation of the planet earth on its axis, although varying in length from sundown to sunrise, is one day.

So far, so good!

The orbit of the earth around the sun opens the door to a definition of another time period. Varying angles of the earth's surface to the sun produce temperature and climate reactions, and seasons are the result. The cycle of seasons is another logical category of time – the year.

As the moon circles the earth, the sun's light strikes the moon from different angles (as seen from the earth), which produces a changing sequence of shapes ranging from the slim crescent to the full round man's "face" chiseled in "green cheese." This continuing cycle suggests a means of measuring a time component intermediate between a day and a year – the month.

Creating an accurate chronology of history is confounded in mathematical attempts to blend these three categories of time measure which are tied to motions of orbiting masses. A year requires just under 365 1/4 days. Moon orbits around the earth are fewer than thirteen but more than twelve full revolutions per year.

[206] The day, the month, and the year were comprehensible independent of each other. But how to devise a calendar integrating all three in a convenient package, when one year equals 365-plus days, or 12-plus months? The problem defies exact solution.

All three methods of measuring time shared one common denominator: They were tied to motion in space. The day was measured by the rotation of the earth; the month by the orbit of the moon; and the year by the orbit of the earth around the sun. However, the week was unrelated to space motion except by its accumulation of days. Napoleon thought the week should be ten days long. Russia tried a five-day week in 1927 and junked it for a six-day week in 1931, which was likewise abandoned shortly. Human experience for centuries seems to have demonstrated that the ideal weekly cycle is seven days, a maximum of six days for ordinary occupations relieved by a seventh day to serve as a change of pace. Physical health, psychological refreshment, mental relaxation, social expression, and spiritual dividends are derived from one day's rest in each consecutive seven-day period. And unlike the longer measures of time, the seven-day week was recorded in the Genesis story as part of the creation of God. It was not tied to a space movement per se as in the case of the day, month, and year.

Thus, the seven-day weekly cycle carries spiritual overtones and connotations beyond simple scientific measurements of space orbit. Any attempt to chronicle time outside the scope of this natural-law cycle outlines a blueprint for failure. The seven-day week is the core of chronological reckoning.

Julius Caesar came up with a calendar plan in the first century before Christ. He measured years in 365 days, with the excess time accumulated making a 366-day year every fourth year. Full-moon months were not the dominant consideration, and the year was limited to a twelve-month period, with no precise tie to lunar orbit. Julius gave his own name to the month of July and shortened February to twenty-nine days so his month could have a "lucky" uneven number of thirty-one days. [207] Augustus Caesar followed suit, taking another day from February to give thirty-one days to his namesake, August. The leftover leapyear day was then added to February every fourth year.

The Julian calendar preserved the seven-day Genesis week. The only trouble with this calendar was that the full day added every fourth year made each year overflow its precisely allotted dimensions of 365 days, 5 hours, and 49 minutes. By the sixteenth century the Julian calendar was ten days off the normal season sequence, and Pope Gregory XIII determined to correct the widening gap.

In 1582 an Italian astronomer devised a formula which designated a leap year when the number of the year can be divided by four – except in cases where it can also be divided by a hundred. In that case, it is never a leap year unless the year's number can also be divided by 400.1 This formula works to keep the seasons in pace with the years.

To put the year back on schedule, the Julian calendar October 5 was simply renumbered October 15. Although the old October 5 now had a different numerical designation, it remained the identical day of the week. The historic weekly cycle was not upset in the slightest by Pope Gregory.

The Gregorian calendar was still in vogue when the Supreme Court ruled on blue laws in 1961. Thus, the weekly cycle which exists today coincides exactly with the seven-day week of Julius Caesar. Resurrection Sunday is still the first day of the week, just as it was at the time the resurrection occurred. Similarly, the seventh-day memorial of creation on the twentieth-century calendar matches the seventh day on which Christ entered the synagogue to worship "as His custom was."2

Recent attempts have been made to revise the Gregorian calendar. Several of these attempts threaten to upset the seven-day cycle. [208] One idea would cut the year to 364 days, making up thirteen months of 28 days each. Another would also adopt a 364-day year, making use of four equal quarters composed of three months containing 31, 30, and 30 days respectively.

Both these plans would destroy the weekly cycle by inserting an extra day each year and two extra days on leap years. These "blank days" would be sandwiched into a "no-man's-land," independent of any calendar-designated week or month. Thus, when the blank day hits following a normal weekly cycle, it would not be the first day of the week but would dangle clumsily in space, with uncertain identity. What would have been the second day of the interrupted weekly cycle would now become the first day of the out-of-kilter calendar week. What would have been the first day would fall into a "blank day" pigeonhole. Specifically, if what should have been the first day, or Sunday, is given blankday status, the former second day, Monday, would then be labeled Sunday and so forth, until the next blank day appeared when the weekly cycle would be thrown even farther out of kilter.

This would continue at least once a year, and twice every fourth year, until finally there would be so many blank days around that only the most astute chronologist could calculate which day is really Sunday, the true first day of the week.

Some calendar revisionists suggest a formula which would doubly compound the confusion. "Why not," they ask, "rename Sunday the seventh day of the week and rename Monday the first day of the week?"

Those Christians who insist on honoring the resurrection on the first day of the week would be confronted with a serious dilemma. Should they go to church on the original "first day," now called the seventh, or should they worship on the so-called "first day," now Monday? Or maybe they should join those who observe the memorial of creation on the original seventh day, now called the sixth. Whatever their choice, before long the old "blank day" nemesis would appear, necessitating yet another adjustment. [209] A world already split by language and ideological barriers can do without the added confusion stemming from a distortion of time.

Christians concerned with the precise day of Christ's resurrection look to the first day of the week – the Sunday of the Gregorian calendar. If Christ's resurrection is to be memorialized by weekly observance on the identical first day, the cycle of the week which now brings that day on Sunday should not be upset. The same thing applies to Christian observers of the seventh day as a memorial of creation. The Gregorian calendar preserves a weekly cycle which allows worship on the same seventh day which Christ observed. A blank-day calendar would distort that sequence so the actual seventh day would fall on Friday one year, Thursday the next, and so on.

The Vatican Council went on record as being open to calendar revision subject to one basic contingency: "The Church has no objection only in the case of those systems which retain and safegard the seven-day week, so that the succession of weeks may be left intact, unless there is question of the most serious reasons.3

Efforts to streamline the calendar and at the same time effectively meet the interests of religious groups are displayed in the "World Week Calendar." Under this plan the year would be reduced to 364 days, divided into twelve months. Quarters would carry ninety-one days each. The first month of the quarter would always have thirty-one days and the last two months of each quarter would always have thirty days each. Birthdays, holidays, and other special events would fall on the same day of the week every year.

The resulting bonus time of one day, five hours, and forty-nine minutes each year would be accumulated until there was enough time for a full seven-day sequence – a "World Week." "World Week" could be incorporated between December 31 and January 1. Unlike the blank day, it would not upset the weekly cycle. Neither would it play havoc with calendar computations. [210] From a business standpoint, it would fit in well with the New Year's holiday and year-end bonuses. And "World Week" would come only once every five or six years.

After a "World Week" the following Sunday would still be the first day of Biblical days, and the following Saturday would still be the seventh day.

Is the observance of a certain day of the week obsolete in the space age? Not at all, provided an individual's choice of a day of rest is a spiritual rather than a legal concept. For example, Christian observers of the seventh-day Sabbath as a memorial of creation believe it is meaningless apart from spiritual values. It was made for man, and was to be a "delight."4 Secular benefits are incidental.

Spiritual relationships concern the individual and his God. In this sphere government is an unnecessary, interfering intermediary. Religion's acceptance of government coercion to achieve spiritual goals is an admission of spiritual weakness. An elevated spiritual purpose can be degraded by mechanical administration of the state, and the looked-for incidental secular benefits resulting from primarily spiritual observances can be obscured.

Sabbath observance is a personal symbol of loyalty and allegiance to the Creator of the universe. Once a week, the conduct of the Sabbath-keeping Christian tells the world, "We didn't just evolve by chance; we are here through divine power." To him, to accept another day for the observance as a mere matter of custom and tradition is to subvert divine authority to a level of personal convenience.

This is why the Christian uses the calendar to follow the weekly cycle in an effort to reflect the custom, example, and command of the One whose teachings he accepts. The Christian Sabbath keeper is conscience-bound to observe the seventh day of creation as Christ observed it, within the dimensions of personal environment and capability. [211] This is why there is a spiritual significance in putting a label on time and answering the question, "When is the seventh day?"

And this is why the seventh-day-keeping Christian objects to Sunday laws on two counts: First, he believes they symbolize a union of church and state incompatible with the religious freedom essential to a free society and the free moral exercise of the individual. Second, apart from the distasteful connotations of state action, laws commanding observance of Sunday honor a doctrine tied to a questionable tradition. Belief in God as the Creator can most effectively be expressed by a commitment to the fourth commandment. The Sabbath is permeated with spiritual symbolism which cannot be shrugged off in an age when the very existence of God is being attacked by philosophies of atheism.

A weekly Sabbath memorializing the creative power of God is a bulwark against atheism. It is a roadblock to the pseudo-scientific hypothesis of an accidental evolution. And its elimination by theological theoreticians from the ten rules for better living sets the pace for a nonchalant social response to the remaining commandments. This in turn can contribute to a vague respect or disrespect for civil law.

Some nineteenth-century American jurists would have been jolted to discover that the Sunday laws they backed for purely religious rationale did not in fact honor the Sabbath day observed by Christ. Obsolete traditions relegating seventh-day Sabbath observance to sectarian Judaistic ritual, while concurrently exalting first-day religious exercises as a Christian substitute for this worship concept, ignore reality.

Christ worshiped on the seventh-day Sabbath "as His custom was." The disciples of Christ worshiped on the seventh-day Sabbath while Christ was in the tomb. And Christ's counsel to postresurrection Christians facing a prophesied siege in Jerusalem was to pray that their flight be not "on the Sabbath day."6

[212] Romans led by Gessius Florus penetrated to the north wall of the Jerusalem temple in A.D. 66 and then mysteriously withdrew. Christians heeding the warning of Christ given more than thirty years before, fled to refuge in Pella and Perea and escaped the massive destruction by Titus that leveled the city in A.D. 70.

The Sabbath day of Christians living after the resurrection was the identical seventh-day Sabbath that had been observed by Christ and His disciples. It is a vain quest to look to the practice or teaching of Christ for authority to substitute Sunday for seventh-day-Sabbath observance.

Dr. Ernest R. Palen, pastor of New York's Middle Collegiate Church for more than thirty years, created a stir by proposing in a sermon delivered March 13, 1966, that Protestants and Roman Catholics join in a return to observing the seventh day instead of Sunday as the Sabbath. A Reformed Church in America theologian, Dr. Palen startled listeners by quoting from Exodus 20:8 and suggesting "It should not be too great a break for us . . . to observe the same Sabbath day that Jesus Himself observed."

In the view of Dr. Palen, "If the Jews and Christians would join forces and have a common day to keep holy, we shall have taken the longest stride toward religious unity that our civilization has yet known." Observance of the seventh day as the Sabbath by Jews and Christians alike, Dr. Palen declared, would it place a stamp of greater sincerity on our pleas for ecumenicity."

He added, "one day of the week really kept holy by Catholics, Protestants, and Jews would give an uplift to the moral tone of our day that nothing else could do."

Dr. Palen proposed that Pope Paul VI take the initiative. He predicted that if the pontiff designated "the seventh day – the historical and Biblical Sabbath – as a day to keep holy," most of the major Protestant bodies would "go along."7

Today's realities demand a reexamination of the practicality of blue laws, as well as reexamination of the religious traditions which produced the blue-law concept.

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See Bertha Morris Parker, "Calendar," The Golden Book Encyclopedia, Vol. III (Golden Press: New York, 1960), pp. 237-239.


Luke 4:16.


See Dr. Sidney B. Hoenig, "The Days That Never Were – But Will Be," pageant, December, 1964.


See Mark 2:27, 28; Isaiah 58:13, 14.


Luke 4:16.


Matthew 24:20.


George Dugan, "Christians Urged to join Jews in Observing Saturday Sabbath," New York Times, March 14, 1966.






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To ancient SDA's ............ To "What's New?"