Jewish Sabbath and Christian Sunday in Early Modern England

  • David S. Katz
Part of the Archives Internationales d’Histoire des Idées / International Archives of the History of Ideas book series (ARCH, volume 138)


A Frenchman, writing home in 1659, confessed that he had failed to understand why the English Calvinists believed themselves to be following a form of that religious doctrine laid down in Geneva. “The religion of England,” he remarked, “is preaching and sitting still on Sundays.”1 This observation points to one of the most distinguishing features of English religious life, the English Sunday, devoted to religious edification and complete abstinence from ordinary weekday activity. The strict English attitude towards the Sabbath was and always has been radically different from that which prevailed even in Protestant areas on the Continent. Indeed, it has been argued that Sabbatarianism is perhaps the only important English contribution to the development of Protestant theology in the first century of its history.2 Strict Sabbatarianism was also one of the permanent effects of the Puritan rule in seventeenth-century England. Even after the Restoration of the king in 1660, when the two decades of the Cromwellian period were regarded as a time of temporary national insanity, the almost Judaic observance of the Sunday rest continued to be a deeply rooted part of English life and culture. Most importantly, the general question of Sabbath observance itself reflects the way in which the biblical text and Jewish religious observance were understood in post-Reformation England.


Seventeenth Century Biblical Text Religious Edification Protestant Theology Constitutional Document 
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© Springer Science+Business Media Dordrecht 1994

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  • David S. Katz

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