Scholars have long debated how the first day of the week—Sunday—came to be adopted by a majority of Christians as the day of rest and worship in place of the Biblically-prescribed, seventh-day Sabbath. (In Hebrew, the seventh day is called Shabbat from which the English word Sabbath is derived).
The classic explanation, as stated by Thomas Aquinas, is that “the observance of the Lord’s day took the place of the observance of the Sabbath not by virtue of the [Biblical] precept but by the institution of the Church.”1 In other words, the adoption of Sunday observance has been traditionally attributed to ecclesiastical authority rather than to Biblical or apostolic precepts. This has been the position of most historians who have studied the question.
Recently, however, some scholars have argued that Sunday observance has a Biblical or apostolic origin. According to these scholars, from the inception of the Church, the Apostles themselves chose the first day of the week in place of the seventh day in order to commemorate the resurrection or Easter appearance of Jesus three days after his crucifixion.2
My own assessment of the sources is that this thesis is wrong—on two counts. First, the change from Saturday to Sunday occurred sometime after 135 A.D. Second, the change originated in Rome, not Jerusalem.