THE RIGHT AND WRONG INTERPRETATION OF
After Colossians 2:16-17 and Galatians 3:16-29; 4:9:11,ex-Seventh Day Adventist Pastor Taylor submits
Romans 14:5-6, as the next text to support his abrogation view of the Sabbath.
reads: “ One man esteems one day as better than another, while another man
the days alike. Let every one be fully convinced in his own mind. He who
day, observes it in honor of the Lord. He also who eats, eats in honor of the
he gives thanks to God; while he who abstains, abstains in honor of the Lord and
thanks to God” (Rom 14:5-6). Pastor Taylor quotes the text from the KJV which
phrase “he who does not observe the day, to the Lord he does not observe it.”
phrase is omitted in modern translations like the RSV and NIV, because it is not
the most ancient manuscripts.
Without examining the nature of the conflict addressed by Paul in these verses,
Pastor Taylor jumps to this conclusion: “the sacredness of days is no longer an
Christians. . . Paul makes the Sabbath a non-issue for New Testament Christians.
instructions have some strong implications for those of us who have, in the
Sabbath a ‘saving truth’ and one that we judge the ‘loyalty’ of others by. I had
to take a
hard look at some of the things I have taught in the past.”
This conclusion misrepresents the Adventist understanding of the Sabbath and
grossly misinterprets the Pauline passage. The Adventist Church has never made
Sabbath a “saving truth” in the sense that its observance secures salvation. We
saved not by observing a day, the Sabbath, but by accepting Christ’s atoning
However, honoring the Savior on His Holy Day does reveals our loyalty to Him,
the way we use our Sabbath time is indicative of our priorities.
Three Major Flaws
Pastor Taylor’s claim that in Romans 14:5-6 Paul teaches that “the sacredness of
days is no longer an issue for Christians. . .the Sabbath [is] a non-issue for
Testament Christians,” is faulty for three major reasons. First, Paul is not
question of the Mosaic law in general or of the Sabbath in particular. The
the “weak” and the “strong” over diet and days cannot be traced back to the
The “weak man” who “eats only vegetables” (Rom 14:2) and “esteems one day as
[apparently for fasting] than another” (Rom 14:5) cannot claim any support for
convictions from the Old Testament. Nowhere does the Mosaic law prescribe strict
and a preference for fasting days.
Similarly, the “strong man” who “believes he may eat anything” (Rom 14:2) and
who “esteems all days alike” is not asserting his freedom from the Mosaic law
pagan superstitious beliefs about the astral influence on the days of the week.
predominant Gentile composition of the Roman congregation (Rom 13:11),
favored these pagan superstitions.
It is unfortunate that Pastor Taylor ignores that the whole discussion is not
freedom to observe the Mosaic law versus freedom from it's observance , but
about concerns over “unessential” scruples of conscience dictated by
sectarians superstitions. Since these differing convictions and practices did
the essence of the Gospel, Paul advises mutual tolerance and respect in this
That the Mosaic law is not at stake in Romans 14 is also indicated by the term
“koinos—common” which is used in verse 14 to designate “unclean” food. This term
radically different from the word “akathartos—impure, unclean” used in Leviticus
(Septuagint) to designate unlawful foods. This suggests that the dispute was not
meat which was unlawful according to the Mosaic Law, but about meat which per se
lawful to eat but because of its association with idol worship (cf. 1 Cor
regarded by some as “koinos—common,” that is, to be avoided by Christians.
Superstitions Over Astral Influences on Weekdays
It might be helpful to point out that the letter to the Romans was written to a
predominantly Gentile community. Paul himself says: “I am speaking to you
(Rom 11:13). The Gentiles had developed numerous superstitions regarding astral
influence on the days of the week. This development occurred just before the
Christianity, when the Romans adopted from the Jews the seven-day week we use
today. Prior to that time the Romans had used an eight-day week, known as
This question is discussed at great length in chapter 8 of my dissertation FROM
SABBATH TO SUNDAY.
When the Romans adopted the seven-day week, they decided to name each day
of the week after the planet-god which allegedly controlled the day (Sunday for
Monday for the Moon-god, etc.). The Jewish custom was to designate the days of
the week by number (that is, first day, second day, etc.). Only the sixth and
had a name, namely, “Preparation” and “Sabbath.”
The popular belief that each day of the week was controlled by a planet-god, led
to the development various practices. People preferred certain days for
business practices, abstained from certain foods on certain days and even wore
rings set with the stone favored by the planet-god controlling the day.
In researching for my book CHRISTIAN DRESS AND ADORNMENT I was
surprised to discover how many superstitions existed in ancient Rome about the
the week. For example, wealthy people wore a different ring each day in
the stone preference of the planet-god controlling that day. Apollonius of Tyana,
Pythagorean philosopher of the first century, offers the following list of
finger rings set with
different precious stones, to be worn on the proper planetary day of the week to
the favor of celestial influences:
Day Gem of the Day Talismanic Gem Astral Control
Sunday Diamond Pearl Sun
Monday Pearl Emerald Moon
Tuesday Ruby Topaz Mars
Wednesday Amethyst Turquoise Mercury
Thursday Cornelian Sapphire Jupiter
Friday Emerald Ruby Venus
Saturday Turquoise Tourmaline Saturn12
Christians were influenced by the pagan superstitions about the days of the
week, as indicated by the frequent condemnation of these by church leaders. For
references and a discussion of this problem, see FROM SABBATH TO SUNDAY pp.
252-253. There were also sectarians movements which promoted ascetic practices
certain days of the week to court divine help. It is within this context of
sectarian superstitions about the days of the week, that Paul’s statement about
preference given by some to certain days of the week must be understood. After
was writing to a community composed predominantly by Gentile Christians (Rom
who were influenced by societal practices.
A second point to note is that Paul applies the basic principle “observe it in
of the Lord” (Rom 14:6) only to the case of the person “who observes the day.”
never says the opposite, namely, “the man who esteems all days alike, esteems
honor of the Lord.” In other words, with regard to diet, Paul teaches that one
can honor the
Lord both by eating and by abstaining (Rom 14:6); but with regard to days, he
even concede that the person who regards all the days alike does so to the Lord.
Paul hardly gives his endorsement to those who esteemed all days alike.
Finally, if as generally presumed, it was the “weak” believer who observed the
Sabbath, Paul would classify himself with the “weak” since he observed the
and other Jewish feasts (Acts 18:4, 19; 17:1, 10, 17; 20:16). Paul, however,
himself as “strong” (“we who are strong”—Rom 15:1); thus, he could not have been
thinking of Sabbathkeeping when he speaks of the preference over days.
Support for this conclusion is also provided by Paul’s advice: “Let every one be
fully convinced in his own mind” (Rom 14:5). It is difficult to see how Paul
the observance of the Sabbath, to a matter of personal conviction without ever
explaining the reason for it. This is especially surprising since he labors at
great length to
explain why circumcision was not binding upon the Gentiles.
No Controversy Over the Sabbath
If Paul taught his Gentile converts to regard Sabbathkeeping as a personal
matter, Jewish-Christians readily would have attacked his temerity for setting
Sabbath law, as they did regarding circumcision (Acts 21:21). The fact that
there is no hint
of any such controversy in the New Testament indicates that Paul never
Sabbathkeeping or encouraged Sundaykeeping instead.
The preference over days in Romans presumably had to do with fast days rather
than feast days, since the context deals with abstinence from meat and wine (Rom
6, 21). Support for this view is provided by an early Christian document, called
(ch. 8, dated about A. D. 100) which enjoins Christians to fast on Wednesday and
rather than on Monday and Thursday like the Jews.
Paul refuses to deliberate on private matters such as fasting on certain days of
the week, because he recognizes that spiritual exercises can be performed in
ways and at different times by different people. The important thing for Paul is
what makes for peace and for mutual upbuilding” (Rom 14:19).
Endtime Issues No. 78 Page 9 of 21
If the conflict in the Roman Church had been over the observance of holy days,
the problem would have been even more manifest than the one over diet. After
habits are a private matter, but Sabbathkeeping is a public, religious exercise
whole community. Any disagreement on the latter would have been not only
but also inflammatory.
The fact that Paul devotes 21 verses to the discussion of food and less than two
verses (Rom 14:5-6) to that of days, suggests that the latter was a very limited
for the Roman Church, presumably because it had to do with private conviction on
merit or demerit of doing certain spiritual exercises such as fasting on some
A modern day equivalent would be the private conviction of some Christians who
remember Christ’s birth on December 25—the pagan date for the celebration of the
birthday of the Sun-god. As long as the honoring of Christ’s birth on December
25 is a
private matter, and not made an official Holy Day that every church members is
to observe, Paul would recommend tolerance on this matter.
In the Roman world, as noted earlier, there were superstitious beliefs about
certain days being more favorable than others for undertaking specific projects.
the help of supernatural power, people adopted various superstitious practices.
leaders frequently rebuked Christians for adopting such a superstitious
Possibly, Paul alludes to this kind of problem, which at his time was still too
deserve much attention. Since these practices did not undermine the essence of
Gospel, Paul advises mutual tolerance and respect on this matter.
In the light of the above considerations, we conclude that Pastor Taylor’s claim
that in Romans 14:5 “Paul makes the Sabbath a non-issue for New Testament
Christians,” is without textual and contextual support. He is reading into the
own gratuitous assumptions. The diet and days promoted by what Paul calls the
believers, are foreign to the Mosaic Law. They were most likely influenced by
pagan/sectarian superstitions about astral influence on certain days of the
week—superstitions which Christians adapted to their own beliefs, as indicated by
superstitious practices connected to Easter and Christmas. This process is well
documented in the annals of church history.---by Dr. Samuele Bacchiocchi