Historical PROOF Christians KEPT Saturday NOT Sunday

By your “NOT” following MIStranslations!

The Didache and the Sabbath

This is the first part of a multi-part series explaining why certain early documents that are claimed against the seventh-day Sabbath are misunderstood and not actually against it.

Many on the internet and elsewhere, have pointed to some basically 19th century translations of certain ancient documents in an attempt to support their contention that Sunday was observed early on by the original Christians. But do they?

The Didache, also known as the Teaching of the Twelve, is an ancient letter that may have been written near the time of the Apostle John’s death. Many consider it to [wrongly] contain the earliest indirect reference to Sunday worship by Christians.

The late French Cardinal Jean-Guenole-Marie Danielou is amongst those who have [wrongly] claimed that it supports Sunday observance by early Christians [1].


But, does this document support the observance of Sunday?

1.      To determine that, we will include some of the original Greek to demonstrate what the early writings actually teach.

Early Writings

Before getting to those the Didache, there are two other writings that perhaps should be mentioned first.

The first is the alleged Epistle of Barnabas. This anonymous document is sometimes cited as proof for Sunday worship, but scholars do not believe that Barnabas wrote it [2]. It is not a truly “Christian” writing. It essentially claims God wanted the ‘eighth day’ instead of the seventh-day Sabbath in the Book of Isaiah (even though terms for eight or eighth are never mentioned in Isaiah). Like some other heretical writings, it relies heavily on allegory to interpret the Bible.

There is also a quote allegedly from Ignatius’ Letter to the Trallians. However this “quote” is from verse 9 in the ‘longer version’ of that letter, which scholars discount as not authentic–it was lengthened much later by someone else—the shorter version, whose authenticity is widely accepted, says nothing about Sunday or “the Lord’s Day” [3].

The Didache

The Didache has been cited as the earliest non-scriptural “proof” of Sunday worship by those who profess Christ [4], although it does not ever use the word Sunday nor the expression ‘first day of the week.’

However, verse 14.1 is often cited as proof of Sunday observance by promoters of Sunday observance. The Greek expression in verse 14.1 in the Didache, is:

Κατὰ κυριακὴν δε κυριου [5].

The Greek word κυριακὴν above is transliterated as kuriaki/kyriake.

Here is something from a Catholic priest and scholar on the meaning of it:

… the Greek kyriake, meaning “belonging to the Lord (kyrios),” from which the English word “church” is derived. [6]

Basically kuriaki means the Lord’s way. I believe I have translated verse 14.1 in the Didache, properly below (with two options):

According to the Lord’s way, even the Lord’s. or

According to the Lordly {way}, even the Lord’s.

However, it has normally been incorrectly translated by many Protestant scholars. Here are two examples:


[INCORRECTLY] “On the Lord’s day of the Lord,” by Kirsopp Lake [7].

[INCORRECTLY] “But every Lord’s day,” by Hall and Napier [8].

There are at least two reasons that the above by Lake, as well as Hall & Napier, can be shown to be mistranslated.

The first is that the translators should have realized that the Greek term for “day” (ἡμέρᾳ) is missing in verse 14.1 [9] and is not required by the context.

The second is how each of them began the translation of this particular verse. The beginning in both translations is in error and is inconsistent with the translators other translations in this letter.

The Greek word translated in verse 14.1 as “On the” by Kirsopp Lake and “But every” by Hall and Napier (Κατὰ) truly does mean “According to” as I have translated it. Κατὰ should not be translated as “On the” or (sic) [but instead] “But every.”

The Greek word Κατὰ is translated as “according to” by Kirsopp Lake five times (1.5, 11.3, 12.4, 13.5, and 13.7 [10]) and “with respect” one time (4.10) in the same document. The other times Lake used the term “on” (verses 1.4, 7.3, 8.1a, 8.1b, 11.12, 16.8 [11]), it was NOT a translation from the Greek term Κατὰ.

Also the one time the Didache uses “on” with a day (which is in the translations of both Lake and Hall/Napier), it does not use Κατὰ, but it does include the Greek term for day (verse 8.1b) [12].

It may be of interest to note that in the KJV New Testament, Κατὰ is translated as “according to” approximately 110 times, and the only time (Acts 8:36) it is inaccurately translated as “on” it is not translated as “on” in the NKJV or NIV.

Hall and Napier translated Κατὰ as “according to” the six other times it is translated that SAME letter (see verses 1.5, 4.10, 11.3, 12.4, 13.5, and 13.7 [13]) and never translated it as “But every.” The one other time Hall and Napier used the term “But every” (verse 13.1) while translating the Didache it is not translated from the term Κατὰ [14]. Also, it may be of interest to note that the KJV never translated Κατὰ as “but every.”

Hence it appears that several translators intentionally exercised bias when translating verse 14.1.

The context of this portion of the Didache suggests that it may be referring to the Christian Passover (compare with 1 Corinthians 22:23-29) or some other gathering (compare with Acts 2:42), but only a forced and inaccurate translation would suggest Sunday (which is what many Sunday advocates suggest). The belief that this refers to Passover is centuries old. F. Coneybeare reported it was a belief of the Paulini c. 7th century:

But the Paulini also keep the feast of the Pascha on the same day (as the Jews), whatever be the day of the full moon, they call it Kuriaki, as the Jews call it Sabbath, even though it be not a Sabbath. [15]

Since the Protestant translating scholars of the Didache did not observe an annual Christian Passover and tended to be Sunday observers, this may explain why they did not translate it literally. Instead they used terms that have, sadly, misled multitudes.

Irrespective of why, the reality is that the Didache did not do away with the seventh-day Sabbath and replace it with Sunday.


[1] Danielou, Cardinal Jean-Guenole-Marie. The Theology of Jewish Christianity. Translated by John A. Baker. The Westminister Press, 1964, p. 343
[2]Holmes M. The Apostolic Fathers–Greek Text and English Translations, 3rd printing 2004. Baker Books, Grand Rapids (MI) p. 271

[3] Ignatius. Letter to the Trallians. Verse 9. In: Holmes M. pp. 164-165

[4] Slater T. Sunday. Transcribed by Scott Anthony Hibbs. The Catholic Encyclopedia, Volume XIV. Copyright © 1912 by Robert Appleton Company. Online Edition Copyright © 2003 by K. Knight. Nihil Obstat, July 1, 1912. Remy Lafort, S.T.D., Censor. Imprimatur. +John Cardinal Farley, Archbishop of New York

[5] The Didache. Verse 14.1. In: Holmes, pp. 250-269

[6] Pixner B. Church of the Apostles Found on Mt. Zion. Biblical Archaeology Review, May/June 1990: 16-35,60

[7] The Didache. In Apostolic Fathers. Kirsopp Lake, 1912 (Loeb Classical Library) © 2001 Peter Kirby

[8] The Didache. Translated by Isaac Hall and John Napier. Revised by K. Knight. Excerpted from Ante-Nicene Fathers, Volume 7. Edited by Alexander Roberts & James Donaldson. American Edition, 1886. Online Edition Copyright © 2004 by K. Knight. Note: The Greek is from Holmes, above.

[9] The Didache. Verse 14.1. In: Holmes, p. 266

[10] The Didache, Verse 14.1. Lake.

[11] Ibid

[12] The Didache. Verse 8.1. In: Holmes, p. 258[13] The Didache. Hall Napier.[14] Ibid
[15] Conybeare F.C. The Key of Truth: A Manual of the Paulician Church of Armenia. Clarendon Press, Oxford, 1898, p. clii

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